Social workers to stage one-hour walkout over working conditions

The move is part of a long-running dispute over issues around agency social workers, pay and conditions in an 'inadequate' council

Photo: Blend images/Rex/Shutterstock

Children’s social workers in Kirklees will leave their posts for an hour in protest over working conditions at the ‘inadequate’-rated council.

The walkout, which will take place at 3pm on Thursday 2 March, is part of an ongoing dispute between the council and Unison over caseloads, pay and IT systems.

The council was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in November 2016, and currently has a commissioner reporting on whether children’s services should be moved to an independent trust.

In January, the union called off a planned one-day strike after officials and council leaders agreed to talks.

Paul Holmes, the local Unison branch manager, said little meaningful action had been taken since and his members would be staging the walkout tomorrow to show they “mean business”.

“The council gave out a whole series of dates to meet with them…They were at three week intervals over four months. We said it’s far more urgent than that,” he said.

Holmes claimed there had been little meaningful improvement since Ofsted’s report, and agency staff usage had increased. A director of children’s services appointed last year had also left, he added.

He said a number of social workers were considering quitting the local authority for agency work because “they just can’t deal with it”.

The council said Unison’s explanation for the walkout was “misleading”.

Erin Hill, lead member for children’s services, said: “The schedule and length of meetings between management and union officials to discuss this issue was agreed only the other week – if they thought this was insufficient, I am confused as to why they agreed to it.”

She added: “I want to reiterate my continuing support to staff, whose sterling efforts, under difficult circumstances are hugely appreciated by the council’s leadership. It’s disappointing that Kirklees Unison appear not to share this appreciation.

The council believe that ongoing negotiations will result in agreeing a way forward that offers the best possible outcomes for both the staff involved and families in Kirklees.”

18 Responses to Social workers to stage one-hour walkout over working conditions

  1. Terry Unicorn March 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    Most social workers that I know turn up an hour late!

    • anon 1 March 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

      I always try to ensure that I am never late. However, if I am in a position where there is a crisis from a family during a routine visit, or a child is making an unexpected disclosure – then these have to take a priority and can sometimes mean a very late working day for the social worker who can be out to the early hours of the morning. I am sure I am speaking for many social workers when I say that sometimes despite all of our best efforts we do run late or have to cancel visits because we work with people. I cannot count the amount of times I have been in the process of leaving a house or school when some very concerning information is shared that needs urgent and immediate attention.

  2. Joe Z Mairura March 1, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    Firstly, I’d like to start off by supporting the need for manageable caseloads, the necessary tools and systems to do our jobs and yes Social Workers need to be paid a decent wage for a decent day work.
    There is no shame, in the ‘Information age’ and all the advantages in IT to expect Social Workers to work with outdated or in many cases ‘not fit for purpose IT systems. This is just a reasonable expectation and I can’t fathom why any organisation with any credibility can purport to argue to the contrary.

    Social workers cannot put their soul into their work and work to empower vulnerable children,adults and their families living on pittens. This is not about avarice, it simple fair pay for fair day’s work.

    We are making decisions daily that have long lasting consequences, for children adults and their families some of these decisions have life and death implications for the individuals concern but sadly social work pay doesn’t reflect the Above level of responsibility.

    We train, qualify and are licenced to practice like any other professional out there. So we should and are well within our rights to EXPECT for our remuneration to reflect the levels or responsibility and accountability.

    The professional respect and value we accord to practicing social work practitioners, is I dare suggest, an indication of the value we accord our clients. Harsh? I know, but before you start hurling things at me,quietly look yourself in the mirror, and in the ‘cold light of day’ make a case to the contrary.

    We shouldn’t have to justify our above expaectations We can’t work to support others if we can’t pay our way…. it’s just a no brainer.

    And in the absence of a SW professional body( Not an Association) it makes such matters harder to deal with head on. We as a profession must take some responsibility for this state of affairs; but that’s a topic for another day.

    And now to Agency Social Workers.

    I’m sick and tired of this prevailing attitude suggesting that somehow Agency Social Workers are second class professionals. THEY ARE NOT.
    They are not the enemy.
    They are not any less Social Workers than their employed colleagues.
    They are not the source of the problems I have commented on above.

    Let’s get get back to basics:
    1. They have undergone tthe same type and level and training like their employed colleagues in the land
    2. They carry exactly the same qualification as their employed counterparts
    3. They are Licenced/ Registered to practice like their employee counterparts
    4. They stand for the same values as their employee counterparts
    5. They are subject to the same professional scrutiny as their employed counterparts
    6. They are NOT any less capable or competent than their employee counterparts

    So I ask you why the vilification and scapegoating?

    The only difference is they choose not to be employed but to work independently under contract,to their client LA. That’s the only difference.

    That’s their choice and they are entitled to exercise that choice..

    The last time I looked, there is no legal basis or statute prohibiting them working independently, they just choose to provide their services under different arrangements from their employed colleagues; who by the way CHOOSE to be employed. It doesn’t make you any better or better or worse that your independent social worker. We just choose different paths

    And yes because of the risks they take to be their own masters under contract, they should attract the level of remuneration to reflect this. It’s fair and equitable.

    And please don’t harp back to the age old and tired unsubstaiented argument that they “cost” more.
    They DONT; and I’m talking here of the “Actual” comparable total cost.
    It might as a shock , but as an employee, you cost ( actual cost) your employer far much more than they do.

    So please lay off the vilification of so called Angency”Workers.

    Having laid out my 6 contentions above( they are not the only ones), once agiain I want to invite you to look yourself in the mirror and in the cold light of day and ‘stone cold honesty’ask yourself.

    WHY DO I RESENT INDePENDENT/ AGENCY SOCAL WORKERS?

    You might find you might struggle trying to put together a defensible argument

    All I ask is that you are truly honest with yourself, it won’tserve you deceiving yourself..”.Stone cold honesty” is all I ask of you.

    Our profession is in a bad enough place at the present time. It’s much more important and better use of our time and enrgies to focus on standing for and reclaiming our authority and professional credence than scapegoating fellow professionals.

    I have left my email address and I,m happy for community care to make it available, if people want to respond to me directly…. courteous and respctiful evidence- based responses. If you are not prepared to do that, then do not bother to respond.

    P. S.

    I have typed this rather quickly, so apologies in advance for any spelling ‘bloomers’

    Respect

    Joe

    • Longtime SW March 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

      In a previous response to the situation in Kirklees I commented that vilification/scapegoating of Agency/LA social workers is a classic ‘divide & rule’ tactic used by employers and governments

      I also commented that the future aim will be to have all SW’ers, (adult’s or children’s,) working for agencies/themselves and then rates will be driven down to less than they are now (especially if LA’s are allowed to ‘exempt’ themselves from some current Statutory obligations) – so I would say that Agency SW’s could perhaps quietly/loudly support their colleagues as, Agency or LA, we are in this together – the work is the same, responsibility’s the same, whatever route you receive your pay.

    • Stuart March 2, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

      I didn’t see anybody criticising agency social workers. They are a valuable resource for helping cover gaps and spikes. I know, I’ve employed some.

      But the best of them can’t offer the benefits of a permanent member of social work staff and the relationship he or she can develop over a long period.

      As I understand it, the issue in Kirklees and elsewhere is not the individual people occupying the Agency Social Worker job, it is the fact that when they comprise more than a (very) small proportion of all social workers their presence is an indicator – a crude and partial indicator but one nevertheless – of malaise in the employing agency.

      The exact nature of the malaise in question can be discussed separately but it is unquestionable that Local Authorities only employ high, underscore ‘high’, numbers of agency social workers when they have no choice and the fact that they have no choice indicates big problems.

    • Tom Hatton March 2, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

      They are undermining, for their own financial gain, the welfare state and should be ashamed of themselves. Stripping resources that should be used for vulnerable children and being a part of the private money takeover that will destroy any hope of rebuilding a system that meets the needs of vulnerable children. Shameful.

    • Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 6:10 am #

      I couldn’t have said it better myself Jo. Well done!

  3. Sid the Social Worker March 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

    And most that I know get to work an hour early and don’t leave until well over an hour late each day.

  4. SW and proud March 1, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

    I have every empathy for workers at Kirklees – but alienating agency workers doesn’t help. If the agency workers all left Kirklees the situation would be worse for everyone – agencies are already warning workers about working there and if no-one will go then caseloads and pressures will be ridiculous. Don’t alienate your professional colleagues – they are not your problem. But a handy scapegoat to deflect the problems.

  5. JO March 2, 2017 at 8:04 am #

    Working in a non – statutory agency in Portsmouth I hear all to often how my collegues in Statutory Agencys work long hours with little support. We are asked all the time by Children’s Services Workers if we have any jobs going because they can no longer cope with the long days and weekend working to catch up. I fully support any statutory workers whoose hours are above and beyound the call of duty, where by stress and exhaustion appear to be the outcome.

    Good Luck Kirklees.

  6. Anne March 2, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Sorry but as an agency social worker I typing up assessments weekends and evenings to keep up, I have no holiday pay, including compulsory bank holiday’s, no pay if I am ever off sick, which I very rarely am (compared to many permanent staff who go off months at a time), no LA pays generously into my pension, I do not get car allowance, I can be asked to leave at less than a weeks notice and often spend my time supporting inexperienced permanent staff. My pay, well, after tax, insurance, all of my expenses, including a percentage of running my car, around £400 per week. Let me tell you, it’s not a lot for 60+ hours and less pay than my son in law who is 25 and a labourer.

  7. Miss Taylor March 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    Well said Joe Z Mairura.

    WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY

    I do work that many others can’t or won’t. I get on with it then move on.

    I am free to do as I please and work where I wish for how many days I wish and how many holidays I wish (unpaid) this IS a country of freedom is it not?

    Getting fed up with the oppressive dictat. Focus your woes on your management and systems rather than bully us. If they were tip top performers maybe they would be able to keep staff and you’d be better rewarded.

    • Anonymous March 3, 2017 at 6:15 am #

      Well said Miss Taylor. Regarding your comments on management have a look at one of the recent article (about a judge naming social worker for changing the report 12 days before court) on the responses for more information!!

    • Stuart March 3, 2017 at 9:29 am #

      I don’t think anybody said you are the enemy.

      The enemy is the situation that causes such a high need for you and so many social workers to feel that agency work is their only escape.

  8. Rosson March 2, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    Reminds me of the situation regarding independent practice educators. No pay rise for 12 years and a 33% pay cut 3 years ago. Still have to pay tax, insurance, car upkeep and petrol and admin costs.
    No holiday or sickness pay.
    What price social work training never mind when qualified.

  9. Su March 2, 2017 at 9:53 pm #

    The discussion here seems honestly frank and open … disempowerment, bullying, unpaid hours propping up toxic systems and career-management – that’s a foundation for empowering families how exactly????

  10. Claire March 5, 2017 at 11:55 pm #

    Having been a permanent member of staff with 2 LA’s in my 10 years of practice; i have just recently moved to agency work. My reasons for doing so are more flexibility and an opportunity to try different areas of SW. I can honestly say that i am no less committed, i still put in the same hours, possibly much more. I honestly feel that perm members of staff do get a better deal overall. I get no sick pay, no pension contrubutions, no maternity pay etc…whilst as a perm member of staff i would have looked forward to bank holidays now i just think great ive lost a days pay lol the problem isnt agency workers its the LAs not paying perm staff a fair wage or treating them with the respect they deserve. I would hate to think my colleagues feel some resentment toward me as an agency worker but if that is the case then i would have to say you are free to leave and go agency.

  11. anon 1 March 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    If Local Authorities had not and do not continue to bully, blame, over work and underpay their staff, perhaps many social workers would have remained permanent members of staff. Sometimes the only option left is to vote with your feet. A lack of trust in Local Authorities is for me the main reason I remain a agency worker.