Emergency duty social workers pause strike over safety concerns

Practitioners halt walkout for second time after union claims council failed to respond to urgent safeguarding calls in their absence

Swindon social workers on strike (credit: GMB)
Swindon social workers on strike (credit: GMB)

Emergency duty service social workers have paused strike action following concerns that urgent calls were not being responded to in their absence.

The Swindon council practitioners returned to work on Monday (11 September) after their union, the GMB, reported that safeguarding concerns had not been dealt with by the authority.

It claimed that calls from the police raising concerns about a woman vulnerable to exploitation, from a local hospital about a child using recreational drugs and from a nurse about a young person with a worrying presentation all went unanswered.

And the union said that the council had rebuffed its offers to negotiate cover for the social workers while they were on strike.

Community Care has approached Swindon council for a response to the claims but it had not provided one at the time of publication.

Emergency calls ‘missed’

“Our members are dedicated professionals,” said GMB branch secretary Andy Newman.

“Last week, they became aware that emergency calls had been missed during strikes, despite assurances from the employer that adequate cover was in place. Four calls that were missed were very serious concerning child safeguarding, and a vulnerable female at risk of exploitation.

“Staff raised their concerns with management, in an appropriate manner, but got no reply.”

This is the second time practitioners have paused strike action since they first walked out on 31 August on what was due to be a two-week strike.

Dispute over removal of out-of-hours payment

The seven social workers voted to take action in response to the removal of a 20% annual supplement to their salaries that they received for working out of hours, following a pay and reward review commissioned by the authority.

Though staff members earned different amounts previously, the GMB said that this would amount to a loss of £8,400 for practitioners on average, based on a representative salary of £42,000 a year.

As part of the review, Swindon also proposed increasing base pay to £46,549 and offering a 30% allowance for hours worked between 10pm and 6am, which the authority said would be worth at least £4,000 to practitioners.

Social workers ‘would be at least £3,000 a year better off’

It has since agreed to increase base pay for the seven practitioners to £49,590, which it said meant a representative staff member previously earning £42,000 a year would be £3,000 better off annually than under the old system.

However, despite the GMB saying that the offer was “broadly acceptable”, practitioners have persisted in taking action over concerns that the money was not guaranteed.

The council has rejected this, saying that the changes to pay are permanent and cannot be removed.

The GMB said it has proposed referring the dispute to conciliation body ACAS to achieve a resolution.

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8 Responses to Emergency duty social workers pause strike over safety concerns

  1. A senior social worker September 13, 2023 at 8:14 pm #

    Going on strike over a few thousand pound whe some staff earn a fraction of what you’re being paid. I have little support for this.

    • Social worker who knows about EDT work September 19, 2023 at 11:27 pm #

      You clearly have no idea whatsoever of the demands on EDT staff and the health concerns associated with out of hours work including disruption to circadian rhythms and domestic circumstances. I suggest, with respect, that you say nothing unless you have something useful to say…or you can say with some conviction that you actually know what you’re talking about.

  2. Dawn September 14, 2023 at 4:17 pm #

    ED social workers need to be financially compensated for a very demanding hard job dealing with crisis after crisis. Social work generally is underpaid and we should advocate for our own rights and wellbeing…we spend plenty of time doing that for others.
    Child protection court work and safeguarding attract higher salaries due to the nature of the job. Not everyone would do it so those that do should be paid accordingly.
    Everyone in social work knows this.
    Health go on strike and get their pay deals but I have said this time and time again throughout my career social work is not as a profession seen in the same status as our health colleagues and it needs to stop.
    Strike I say and get the money you so rightly deserve in line with a risky job you do

    • B September 18, 2023 at 8:51 pm #


  3. Karen Jane's ex edt September 15, 2023 at 9:32 am #

    Working nights has a real effect on you health increasing the risk of many serious conditions in causing cancer.Its right they should get more.Also they are working with little or no access to management guidance it’s dangerous and truly hard work

    • ChrissyK September 18, 2023 at 2:03 pm #

      Totally agree. I worked for EDT for 12 years. It is a demanding and stressful job with usually no managerial back up. Anyone with any sense would give it a wide berth now. They absolutely deserve a salary in excess of other social workers.

  4. Kieran Dunne CQSW September 16, 2023 at 3:17 am #

    Invoice councils past 5.30 work this will cost them more if they fail to pay Class Action in Court

  5. R September 19, 2023 at 6:42 pm #

    So the strike was planned and the LA failed to find cover for striking workers? So the strike was called off and yet again an unsafe system is held together purely by the goodwill of individual professionals? Sounds familiar.