Union activists have called on members to campaign against spending cuts in local government, which they warned would damage communities throughout the UK.
Delegates at Unison’s National Social Care and Home Care Conference in Manchester repeatedly raised concerns about the adverse impact of cuts on jobs and services during the recession.
With a general election due in the spring, Glen Williams, a branch activist from Sefton, Merseyside, said members had a “moral duty” to raise awareness of the issue among service users at a local level.
“Political parties might promise to avoid raising taxes or only raise them in line with inflation so that people will save 30p a week on council tax,” said Williams, an out-of-hours social worker.
“But in fact they will be taking 45p a week out of meals-on-wheels or day care services, for example, to compensate. This is a false economy that’s being promoted by the three main parties.”
The message was echoed by Matthew Shepherd of Unison’s Swansea branch. Urging delegates to adopt “grassroots” measures, he said he and fellow activists had campaigned against job cuts and the closure of care homes.
Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, began a speech to the conference by warning that social care “would face the brunt of the cuts that were going to come from whichever government that comes into power”.
Dawson, who spent eight years as a Labour MP, said of the current government: “They have already said they are going to protect those vital services in health, police and education, which absolutely leaves out social care and social work. These are services that reach out fundamentally to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society. It’s outrageous.”