South Ayrshire Branch sent delegates to the UNISON Local Government and National Delegates conference in Liverpool this year. This is a chance for branches to vote on issues relating to our work as a union, and to you as a member. This year’s conference raised some powerful and emotionally charged issues, sparking debate and discussion from branches across the UK.
Crisis in Social Care
UNISON delegates in Liverpool today spoke of the continuing crisis in social care, whose workers are “almost universally underpaid, largely undervalued and often exposed to exploitation”.
They vowed to continue the union’s campaign on behalf of the sector, its clients, and the people who work tirelessly to keep it afloat.
Although social care has been relatively protected compared to other council services, care spending per adult resident has fallen substantially since 2009-10.
The union believes that the sector faces a “perfect storm” in which the impact of years of chronic underfunding has been worsened by increasing demand and the knock-on impact of cuts to other key public services, such as housing and welfare.
Nearly 90 people die each die while waiting for social care. There are 8,000 fewer care beds than three years ago. And a record 1.4 million older people do not receive the level of care they need.
Despite the cuts, the union believes that were it not for the ongoing dedication and commitment of the social care workforce, “the sector would have imploded completely”.
With an ageing population, many elderly people, including UNISON retired members, are dependent on social care to enable them to have dignity in later life. Properly funded social care would also enable people to remain in their own homes.
The inquiry has recommended that the Scottish Government support a new sector body ensuring a voice for the sector and collective bargaining.
The union agreed to campaign with the Labour Party, charities and others for:
- Social care to finally receive the proper funding it deserves, particularly from the 2019 Spending Review, as part of a longer-term plan to ensure parity with the NHS in terms of access of services and its status within society.
- Any spending boost to be accompanied by meaningful reform of service delivery – to improve the system for staff and those they care for.
- Highlight the current plight of care workers and service users, particularly women.
- Social care workers to be recognised as highly skilled professionals entitled to decent pay and working conditions, proper support and supervision, high quality training and clear pathways to career progression.
It was also agreed that social care remain an organising and recruitment priority for the union.
The LGBT group received unanimous support in favour of a rule of change to include the plus into their abbreviation, future proofing the self organised group for future inclusion.
Adding the ‘+’ sign to LGBT would takes into account the way in which people identify in different ways – such as viewing themselves as ‘queer’ rather than LG or B – but “it does not change the remit of this group”.
Pointing out that definitions have changed down the years, Judy Richards from the national Black members’ committee recalled the fights for equality, including the struggle to change the group from being LG to LGBT.
The motions were passed unanimously. The name change will require a rule change, which needs a 2.3 majority vote to back it at national delegate conference.
Thousands of UNISON members are being hit by universal credit chaos.
On the last morning of national delegate conference, Ms Hamilton voiced her contempt of the Conservative politicians who “smile as they visit food banks ” yet don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge how the massive rise in food bank use relates to the damage being done by their party’s policy of universal credit.
“It’s time to put a stop to the devastation of universal credit and put in place something that is fit for purpose.” she told delegates.
It was reported that some individuals are down income by as much as £400 per month with no change to their circumstances.
In backing the motion, conference instructed the NEC to campaign on a number of points, including:
- ending the five-week wait for a first payment;
- the extension of protection to those that ‘naturally migrate’ to universal credit, to honor the commitment made in the 2010 white paper;
- measure that ensure the financial independence of women;
- repealing the two-child limit;
- removing the freeze on benefit increases.
Anyone wishing to read about any of the motions mentioned or any others at conference can go onto the website: https://www.unison.org.uk/policy-motions