Sixteen Liverpool striking social workers, and their supporters from London and Surrey, picketed the General Social Care Council’s conference in London on 27 November.
Speaking at the event was Tony Hunter, the new President of the Association of Directors of Social Services. Until they met the Liverpool pickets, delegates may not have realised that he is also the Director of Social Care at Liberal Democrat controlled Liverpool City Council, where more than 120 child care social workers have been on all out strike since August.
The strike is of relevance to all social workers in Britain, because it is about the core values and principles of social work. As social workers leave the profession in droves due to demoralisation, stress, burn out or having been blamed and sacked for a tragedy, authorities like Liverpool want them to cut corners, putting children at even greater risk.
Liverpool social workers tell of children being kept at home when the social worker has assessed a high risk of physical abuse; “looked after children” being returned home to their parents when no negotiation with them has taken place; and social workers being repeatedly instructed to “leave children on the doorstep”.
After the dreadful tragedy of Victoria Climbie’s death, the social work profession has tried to give itself a boost by introducing 150 new procedures to safeguard children, and by setting up a professional body for social workers, which they must all register with by April 2005. This body, the GSCC, is set to uphold standards in social work and social care.
This sounds fine except there are not enough social workers to carry out the work — its estimated there are 50,000 too few.
Liverpool Unison branch has now voted to support the strikers and ballot for all out action. This will help to bring the dispute to a head. All Unison members need to give Liverpool their full backing.
We also call on Unison Social Services Forum (Committee) and Local Government Committees to organise a national conference for social workers to discuss the issues including the national shortage of social workers and the direction of the profession.
Contact the strikers at Liverpool Unison - firstname.lastname@example.org or 0151 236 1944.
By Pauline Bradley