Aberdeenshire UNISON

Community & Voluntary Sector Update Dec 2006

Problems Continue for Voluntary Sector

Local situation

National picture

UNISON's position

Local Situation

Voluntary Sector organisations in Aberdeenshire have been forced into terminating contracts with the local authority because of funding problems.

In November Ark Housing terminated a contract with the council to provide support to 54 people with complex needs. The service was costing the charity in the region of 500,000 more to deliver than the council was able to pay. Inspire (formerly Partnership), who provide support services for adults and children with learning disabilities throughout the north-east, also terminated a number of smaller contracts with Aberdeenshire on the same grounds. Cornerstone, another voluntary sector provider with services in Aberdeenshire, is also believed to be reviewing contracts with councils because of spiralling deficits.


National Picture

This is not just a local problem. At the end of last year, Turning Point in Glasgow decided to call time on the services it had been providing for six years to vulnerable adults. It was reckoned that they were losing a quarter to half a million pounds each year for the past three years. In a recent article in the Glasgow Herald, Annie Gunner of Community Care Providers Scotland (CCPS), which speaks for the sector, said: "Two or three other very large national providers are also in the position of potentially withdrawing from the market. People are very worried and bluffs are being called. You end up in the position where organisations are having to subsidise or prop up public services using their own resources."

Most organisations in the Voluntary Sector would contend that the services they provide are delivering government policy and delivering services that otherwise would have to be provided by the local authorities themselves - and, in the main, delivering them cheaper than their statutory counterparts. Add to that the costly demands on organisations from central government in terms of better regulation of services and better training and qualifications for staff and the problems worsen.

Many voluntary organisations agree they could deliver cheaper services, but at a cost - and that cost would be in paying staff at minimum wage and forgoing training and development. As it is workers in many voluntary agencies are falling even further behind their local authority counterparts doing similar jobs in terms of salaries and terms and conditions.


UNISON Position

UNISON, Scotland's biggest union for Community and Voluntary Sector(CVS) workers, says that the Scottish Executives vision of the CVS providing more services must include reforming conditions of employment in the sector which it says are Dickensian. Focusing on overtime payments and sleep over working, UNISON Regional Organiser Matt McLaughlin said: "Scotland's social care employers receive millions of pounds from the Scottish Executive and local councils to enable them to provide support and assistance for people with disabilities living in their own community.

"UNISON members will have 'slept over' in someone else's home on Christmas Eve for as little as 25.00 for the entire night. Plus some UNISON members will have worked Christmas Day for as little as 6.10 per hour for a 12 hour shift. Some of them will have been away from their families for as much at 28 hours." Matt added: "Recently the Scottish Executive launched a five year vision for change, designed to give the Community and Voluntary Sector a greater role in the provision of public services.

Whilst UNISON welcomes that commitment, the Executive, local councils and employers in the sector really need to stop talking about making change and get on with it. Eradicating terms and conditions that Scrooge would be proud of should be an important first step."