UNISON Scotland launched a report today (25th June) – The Cuts Don’t Work: The impact of ‘austerity’ cuts on Scotland’s public services – showing what’s really happening to public services across the country.
The report highlights that Scotland’s budget is being slashed by more than £6 billion in real terms. Around 50,000 public sector jobs have already gone with a further 60,000 expected jobs expected to go over the next 5 years. And local authorities have little choice but to put up charges for services like school meals, burials and cremations, day care and home care rates as they attempt to balance the books as a result of the ongoing council tax freeze.
While the cuts affect everyone in Scotland, it is the most vulnerable who are hardest hit, as services are cut back, jobs go, pay is cut and living standards fall.
Lilian Macer, UNISON’s Scottish Convener, said: “It’s impossible to take this level of funding and staffing out of public services without serious problems arising over time. And 60 per cent of the cuts are still to come. It’s a major assault on services everybody relies on.
“Some problems may become visible suddenly and dramatically if something goes wrong, for example in food safety, or hospital cleaning where lives can be put at risk. Others may not be noticed in headline news, but are also deeply damaging to the people affected, their families and communities.
“It could be local libraries closing, or the rushed - and very impersonal – 15 minute care visits your grandmother gets, or children whose lives could have been helped and turned around with proper social work support and intervention. Then there is the isolation of people who relied on day care centres that have closed down.”
The report also looks at how the cuts are piling on pressure to overworked, underpaid staff across Scotland including in hospitals, schools, police support staff, colleges and the voluntary sector and it is bringing public services to breaking point. Some of the comments included:
o “If I was given the time and energy to apply to the families that I work with I could change their lives forever, but currently we stick plasters on wounds that need stitches.” Social worker
o “Growing workloads are a real problem. We often have to work through breaks, or work late, just to do the job properly and deliver the right level of care.” Community midwife
o “It’s getting worse. I don’t know where it’s going to end, no one cares about the patient or client anymore.” Home carer
Lilian Macer continued: “This report shows the damage cuts do to local communities, local economies and the fabric of our society. They are the result of decisions and choices made at every level of Government; local, Scottish and UK.
“We can afford public services. Cuts are neither necessary nor inevitable and UNISON will continue to campaign for the properly funded and accountable public services our society needs.”