An adult social services outrage on a par with the Baby P tragedy is bound to happen without urgent reform to the current system, Britain’s largest public-sector union has warned.
Unison said that services for vulnerable adults were under severe strain and pointed to a survey of social workers that showed almost two-thirds believed their departments were more poorly resourced than five years ago.
It said 86% of respondents reported increased caseloads, while 61% said their department had vacancy levels above 10%, and one in 20 respondents said that up to 40% of posts were unfilled.
Cost cutting and prioritising paperwork over people means it is only a matter of time before we are confronted with a ‘Granny P’ tragedy
Helga Pile, Unison
Helga Pile, Unison’s head of social services, said social workers dealing with vulnerable adults needed to have their cause championed in the face of the ageing society and growing numbers of dementia sufferers.
“The Government has promised that people who need care will have a right to more independence and control over how it is provided,” she said.
“But the reality on the ground, where Tories control the majority of councils, is very different.
“Tory-controlled councils are more interested in penny pinching even if this means that social workers don’t have the necessary resources to get on with the job.
“Cost cutting and prioritising paperwork over people means it is only a matter of time before we are confronted with a ‘Granny P’ tragedy, unless urgent action is taken.”
Ms Pile warned that despite the current divisions between children’s social services and adult social care, real life dividing lines were “not neat and clear”.
The survey of care workers found fears that individual budgets and the Government’s personalisation agenda could damage safeguarding advances by “casualising” care arrangements.
Additionally, 96% of respondents said they were overburdened with paperwork.
Barnet LBC social worker Helen Davies said it was “incomprehensible” that the Government and its consultants had increased the amount of bureaucracy involved in the job.
“The Baby Peter case has highlighted the enormous levels of bureaucracy and administration social workers undertake working in children’s services, in this respect there is no difference to working with adults,” she said.
Unison has produced a 10-point Charter for Change in adult social care, based on the survey’s findings.