UNISON is aiming to help staff through challenging times
A support network for stressed social care workers has been launched.
Trade union UNISON has launched a support group for workers in social care who have been working under extreme pressure throughout the pandemic with their situation becoming increasingly difficult.
The Lanarkshire group is in response to growing concerns about the crisis facing the sector where the majority of workers are women.
Staff shortages through sickness, workers leaving because they have had enough, and problems filling vacancies have all added to the pressures faced by remaining staff at care homes and those providing care at home services. Certain employers have also indicated their intention to dismiss staff who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine, creating even more pressures.
Three UNISON branches in Lanarkshire have joined forces to create a support group for workers, so they can share experiences and use their collective voice to speak about problems at work.
Stephen Smellie, depute convenor of UNISON Scotland and secretary of the South Lanarkshire branch said “It’s important for workers to join forces and stand together to raise concerns about their jobs, their pay, their conditions and the people they care for. If their voices are to be truly effective, they need the support of a union like UNISON.
“We are holding regular drop-in sessions facilitating discussions and providing information and training sessions to help them progress in their work and, if they want, in UNISON.”
UNISON member May Leggat*, who works at a care home in North Lanarkshire, said it was a regular occurrence now to turn up for work and find staff shortages. “We are worried these staffing levels could compromise our own and residents’ safety. We are also worried about our professional registration if something bad goes wrong because of inadequate staffing levels. No one is picking up overtime because we are all burnt out. Everyone is at rock bottom at the moment. We just aren’t able to give residents in our care the care and attention they need because we are so short staffed.
“People don’t want to do the job any more because of the pressure. We have already lost several colleagues and everyone is looking elsewhere.”
Liz Smith*, who works at a South Lanarkshire home, added “We’ve always had to work hard but now staff shortages are so bad that nurses and care workers are being told to mop the floors and wash the dishes on top of all the other tasks. We are really worried about staffing levels and how much more we can take. We are having to cover shifts with less than half the usual staff and we’ve only got time to provide the most basic care. We don’t have time for breaks or any quality time with residents in our care. It’s heartbreaking and I don’t blame people for wanting to leave.”
The Lanarkshire Social Care Workers in UNISON group meets on the third Wednesday of each month with virtual surgeries, discussions, training, and information sessions. It is hoped members will be interested in becoming more active in UNISON with representation within the proposed new National Care Service structure, once it is introduced playing a part in sectoral bargaining for better pay, training and working terms and conditions.
UNISON is the largest union representing workers providing public services and services to the public with around 1.3 million members, 150,000 of them in Scotland.
*Names have been changed to protect identity