Local Government Service Group Conference
17th/18th June 2007
Asylum guidance for social work staff across
Branch members were in action at the Local Government Conference
as delegates backed Scotland's call for guidance for UNISON members
who work with asylum seekers, based on the guide, "child's welfare
paramount?" This was produced by UNISON Scotland and the British
Association of Social Workers after this branch raised the issue
at UNISON's Scottish Council.
Ramsden, Branch Chair, told conference how UNISON Scotland had
come to produce the guide. She slammed the appalling practices of
the immigration services and the inhumane way they treat asylum
seeker families and their children.
"We have been very clear that our members should not collude with
such practices," she said. "However, we believe that our members
should provide a service to these vulnerable families as they would
to any other."
She went on, "We believe that the worst aspects of immigration
and asylum law can and should be challenged by social work laws.
However asylum and immigration is a reserved matter. Most asylum
seekers live in England and it is our social work members there
who, every day, are having to deal with these issues and provide
support to vulnerable asylum seekers. These members need and deserve
guidance and support from their trade union."
Revie, Branch Secretary, speaking in his role as a member of
the Service Group Executive, the ruling body of UNISON's Local Government
Service Group, welcomed the proposal and commended UNISON Scotland
for its excellent work on this issue.
"We agree completely that our members must work within social work
law and professional codes of practice when providing services to
asylum seeker children and vulnerable adults, and we accept fully
that we must provide support and guidance for our members working
in this difficult area," he said.
Conference also set policy on a number of key issues which had
UK relevance. The equalities agenda had a high profile, and conference
pledged to ensure that all aspects of the equality duties laid down
by government are implemented by Local Authorities and other employers
to the benefit of our members, as employees and service users. Duties
in respect of gender; disability; race and sexual orientation are
all now in place and UNISON will have a key role to make sure that
they address discrimination in the workplace and more widely.
urged branches to ensure that all workplaces have in place policies
to address the widespread but still often hidden problem of domestic
abuse and called for support systems for the victims of domestic
And it called for greater investment in the social care sector
and proper and adequate funding for the community and voluntary
sector, both to improve the working conditions of our members and
to ensure quality services to those who need them.
The conference also heard about UNISON Scotland's work on Direct
Payments. Spearheaded by the Social Work Issues Group, a joint statement
has been agreed between the union and key Scottish disabled peoples'
organisations, with an aim to empower disabled people to live independent
lives, and to provide good conditions of employment to those providing
the services, including the right to join a trade union.
Fringe meeting on social work issues
Kate Ramsden was one of the speakers as around 80 delegates
from across the UK packed into the Scottish Fringe meeting on the
Sunday evening to hear about the work of Scotland's Social Work
Issues group, with a focus both on the Direct Payments statement
and the Asylum Guide. Click
here for a full report.
Despite the devolution agenda, however, much of
the business continued to have greatest relevance for our colleagues
in England. Conference set key policies on pay, pensions and education,
but these were focussed on the situation in England and Wales. Scotland
has its own bargaining machinery (and indeed its own parliament)
and negotiates pay and pensions separately.
Your branch delegation believes that this conference has an
important role to play in developing UK wide policies on a range
of matters, but should be divided so that one day is devoted to
business with a UK relevance whilst the other focuses on the issues
relevant to England and Wales.