Personalisation compromises workers’ rights, Unison forum hears

Personalised support schemes are breaching the employment rights of care assistants, Unison has warned.

A Scottish study by the union revealed that some employees were failing to benefit from the minimum wage, statutory leave or maternity pay.

Evidence from self-directed support schemes in Scotland showed care assistants hired by disabled people using personal budgets worked under conditions which broke employment law.

The survey of 29 service users and 27 care workers also found the service users or “employers” managing the assistants were sometimes left without support if their usual care worker went on sick leave.

The Scottish Personal Assistants Employers Network, which provides advice to personal budget users about indemnity insurance, criminal record checks, and other human resources issues, also took part in the study.

The manager of Spaen, Peter Brawley, who is also a service user, told Unison’s local government conference in Bournemouth yesterday that people should be trained about the responsibilities that come with managing a care budget before they receive it.

“It’s a big step for people from being the passive recipient of social care services to becoming a manager of people in your care,” he told a seminar. “Who became a manager overnight?”

Feedback from an In Control pilot in Oldham also revealed that some agency workers employed under the scheme were poorly trained, while local authority staff had their working hours cut.

Ann Mitchell, convener of the Unison branch in Oldham, said individual budgets were used in supported living houses for elderly people, some of whom had dementia.

“In one house the personal assistants included an ex-car salesman and an ex-chef. These people started with an agency and became Independent Living Fund staff within a week,” she said. “They’re providing services to people who have very complex needs, and had to be trained in things like hoists and slings which have the potential for disastrous consequences if things go wrong.”

Sonya Howard, service conditions officer at the Kensington and Chelsea Unison branch, expressed concern that the programme was being rolled out across the country before results from the pilots had been properly assessed.

Mandy McDowall, regional officer for Unison in Scotland, said of the union’s study: “The findings are quite stark. We would like to see more publicly-funded research into employment conditions and work practices to gain a bigger picture.”

In response to the personalisation reforms, Unison has called for a code of practice on the employment of personal assistants and a framework for pay and conditions.

Unison’s local government conference concludes later today.

More information

How will personalisation affect social work? Have your say on CareSpace


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