Council social workers to have registration fees covered as unions agree pay deal in Scotland

UNISON, Unite and GMB members agree pay rise of 5% or £1,925 - whichever is higher - and additional day's leave for social workers and other council staff in Scotland

Fee cut
Photo: Nuthawut/Adobe Stock

Council social workers and care staff in Scotland will no longer have to pay registration fees after unions agreed a pay deal with employers for 2022-23.

Following a protracted dispute that led to strikes by education and waste services staff, the main unions, UNISON, Unite and GMB, agreed to an improved offer from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), after it was approved in ballots of their members.

The deal, backdated to 1 April 2022, involves a rise of 5%, or £1,925, whichever is larger, for staff earning up to £60,000 a year, including social workers. Some care staff will receive a £2,000 boost accorded to employees on the lowest grades, while all council workers will also gain an extra day’s leave.

Social workers to have registration fees paid

In addition, staff who need to be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to perform their role will have their annual fees paid for by the Scottish Government, at an estimated cost of £2.2m  this year. These are currently £80 a year for social workers.

The details are yet to be finalised, with COSLA and the Scottish Government in talks about how the scheme will work. But it is expected that staff will register, and renew their registration, as they do currently, and their fees will be paid by their employers.

The news follows Social Work England’s announcement that it will review the £90-a-year fee it levies on social workers during the term of its next three-year strategy, 2023-26.

In a snap online poll of Community Care readers in respose to the news, two-thirds said social work regulators should be fully funded by government, with no income taken from registrants.

How should social work regulators be funded?

  • Fully through a government grant (67%, 176 Votes)
  • Mostly through a government grant, with some income from registrant fees (17%, 45 Votes)
  • A roughly even split between government grant and registrant fees (10%, 27 Votes)
  • Fully through registrant fees (4%, 10 Votes)
  • Mostly through registrant fees, with the rest through a government grant (2%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 262

Loading ... Loading ...

The agreed Scottish pay offer, issued at the start of September, was a significant increase on the 2% initially proposed by COSLA, and followed the intervention of the Scottish Government in providing authorities with £240m to increase their proposed settlement and to persuade the unions to suspend strikes.

Strike action ‘forced improved offer’

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland’s head of local government, said: “UNISON members have spoken and voted overwhelmingly to accept the improved pay offer and we will now press COSLA to get this money into members pay packets as quickly as possible.

“But let’s be very clear – it was only because UNISON members took, and were prepared to take, industrial action that this improved pay offer was even made. If they hadn’t stood up to their employer they would have been forced to accept a derisory 2% increase. It was their collective strength that forced the Scottish Government to accept they had a role to play and come up with more money but it should never have got to that.

“The lesson the Scottish Government needs to take from this is that they need to fund local government, and the workers that serve our local communities, properly and UNISON will continue to lead the campaign for investment in councils and for staff to get the pay, reward and recognition they deserve.”

COSLA, which had long called for ministers to provide more funding to improve the settlement they could provide, said councils would need to find a further £140m themselves to fund their final offer, which it said would impact on services.

A report by spending watchdog the Accounts Commission earlier this year said that real-terms funding from the Scottish Government to councils had fallen by 4.2% from 2013-14 to 2020-21, once Covid-19 related resourcing was excluded. It also said authorities faced uncertainty over their long-term resourcing because of the use of short-term and ring-fenced funding by the Holyrood government.

Funding settlements ‘limiting councils’ ability to be fair work employers

COSLA said this week that these trends made it increasingly difficult for authorities to offer staff meaningful pay deals, a situation that had been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

COSLA’s resources spokesperson, Katie Hagmann, said: “Sadly, the reduction of funding settlements and the introduction of one year budget cycles has severely restricted the ability of councils as employers to offer and agree meaningful pay deals that look to address the critical recruitment and retention issues faced across all levels of our workforce.

“Local government plays an essential role in the fabric of Scottish life and the current situation impacts on our ability to be fair work employers and restricts our ambition to lead the way as a public sector exemplar.”

She added: “It is critical that Holyrood and Westminster act now and recognise local government as a partner with a vital role in helping stem the effects of the cost crisis, including for our workforce as well as the wider people within our communities.”

The pay settlement in Scotland comes with the situation for social workers in England and Wales still unresolved, following an improved offer from employers of an £1,925 increase in 2022-23, worth 5-6% for social workers.

UNISON members have backed the offer, but ballots of staff belonging to Unite and GMB are still ongoing. At least two of the unions need to agree the offer – which also applies to council staff in Northern Ireland – for it to go through.


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.