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Responding to the health secretary's ...
Responding to the health secretary's plansfor social services, Unison senior national officer Owen Davies said:

'Alan Milburn is starting to move away from his 'one size fits all' approach. Perhaps he is starting to recognise that there is no simple structural solution to a very complex set of problems.

'The government is still placing too much emphasis on structural solutions when the underlying problems aren't failures in structures but workforce issues like inadequate funding, under-staffing and low morale.

'Difficult problems that can't be solved by moving the deck chairs from one room to another.'

Unison reiterated its concerns about the government's plans to penalise councils over hospital beds being taken up by older patients.

Mr Davies added:

'Local authority resources to provide care in the community have been stripped back over the past 20 years. They need to be given time to rebuild their home care capacity before there can be any question of financial penalty.

'This sting in the tail has the potential to make social services departments feel even more vulnerable and under even more financial pressure.

'It also invites the potential for cost shifting between the NHS and social services departments unless genuine partnerships are developed. We do not want to see valuable funds spent sorting out disputes between the NHS and social services.'

Social workers are the lowest paid group when compared with teachers, nurses and police officers. Recent initiatives on cost of living supplements, location allowances and other targeted payments have assisted those other groups but have by-passed social workers.

Despite a serious national staffing shortage, the government has targeted funds only at an advertising campaign and a new bursary system for social work students. Unison is calling on the government to invest in employing more staff and improving salaries.

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