Cuts causing ‘climate of fear’ among social workers

Social workers are living in a “climate of fear”that they will lose their jobs and thousands more are being forced to accept reduced terms and conditions as councils begin making cuts.

BASW/CoSW’s Advice and Representation(A&R) Service is dealing with a rising number ofcalls from people who have been told they willno longer be entitled to a car user allowance and others are losing up to £6,000 a year as a result of job reviews under single status agreements. Dave Allen, senior A&R officer, said:“There’s a climate of absolute fear out there.People are terrified of losing their jobs.”

He said in one council social workers were being told they had to complete timesheets,accounting for every 15 minutes of their workingday, as part of a job evaluation. “It is scandalous in all sorts of ways. A one week snapshot does not reflect a social worker’s workload, which varies week to week. We have been told that the cuts will not affect frontline workers. But it’s already happening and it’s going to get worse,”he said, adding that problems were evident across the UK.

Southampton City Council has told staff earning between £22,000 to £35,000, including social workers, that they must accept a 4.5% paycut, no increment for two years and a car allowance worth just £20 a month or face dismissal. Andy Straker, regional organiser at Unison, said: “This will do nothing for staff morale. They have been told that they will be sacked and reemployed on new terms and conditions. We will be seeking legal advice.”

BASW/CoSW member Janet Foulds, a socialworker at Derby City Council, which removed car allowances worth £98.25 a month in July last year, said staff concerned about uncertain futures were choosing to leave. But she added that BASW members had met politicians locally, aspart of a campaign to see social work protected.“We have told politicians that they need to remember social workers do not grow on trees. It takes a long time to skill them up and we don’t want to lose them,” said Ms Foulds.

“People are fed up. My message to socialworkers is: get up and lobby the politicians. If you care about the people you work with you have to stand up and speak and tell people what the impact of the decisions will be on them.”

BASW/CoSW has been campaigning for the protection of social work services since the spending review last year. In October 2010, chief executive Hilton Dawson wrote to directors asking them to protect social work from cuts and in December BASW Cymru launched its Care Miles campaign, asking social workers in four affected local authorities to track the miles they are driving in the course of their work without being remunerated by their employers. BASW/CoSW is taking part in the TUC March for the Alternative rally against cuts on 26 March and is urging members to support its presence.

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