Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Unison and Hackney clash on children's staffing reforms

From Communitycare.co.uk

Hackney Council’s Unison branch is threatening to strike over a restructure of children’s social work in the east London local authority.

Under the plans introduced in May, social work “units” will be created with small teams of “consultant” social workers and other professionals with the aim of reducing management and bureaucracy.

In July, Steve Goodman, deputy director of children’s services at Hackney, told Community Care the units would mean “an end to social work teams” and give social workers the authority to make decisions on cases without referring them to team managers.

The council is currently recruiting for 50 jobs in the units, with top salaries for different roles between £40,000 and £50,000. The first unit is due to be set up in November.

While the council has been keen to promote what they call “reclaiming social work”, Unison says 80 social workers are being forced to “jump through hoops” to reapply for their jobs, with 30 or more at risk of redundancy.

Andrew Williamson, Unison’s co-convenor at Hackney, claimed consultation on the restructure, which began in May, was “an utter farce” and said the assessment process for the new positions was “more than usually required of external candidates”, including psychometric tests.

“Staff are being denied their contractual rights, given offers of alternative employment that are unreasonable and forced to reapply for their jobs,” he said.

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