Public sector support staff at ‘tipping point’, says union

24 Sep 18

A majority of support workers in health and local government believe services they help provide are deteriorating, a trade union survey has found.

Three quarters of staff in the NHS (75%) and councils (72%) said they thought services were getting worse, with some even highlighting safety risks as they are being asked to take on tasks without training, according to a Unison poll.

Almost 1,000 public sector support staff, such as teaching assistants, hospital porters, caretakers and cleaners were surveyed.

Of these, 37% worked in healthcare, 19% in local government, 35% in education, 4% in police and justice and 5% in other public services.

A large majority (77%) said they were working harder than the year before, while more than a third (35%) stated public sector cuts had made them less productive.

Eight out of ten said they morale had collapsed with most citing a lack of support from managers.

A third (30%) of respondents said they were actively looking to leave their job, while another third (33%) were considering doing so.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Support staff such as healthcare assistants and catering workers are among the lowest paid in public services. All too often they’re overlooked by politicians, despite the vital jobs they do.

“It’s no wonder they feel overworked and undervalued. Many are facing intolerable pressures because of cutbacks, which have triggered staff shortages.”

Unison’s report, We Can’t Go On Like This, was produced by the Smith Institute and included an analysis of employment data.

It suggested support staff in the public sector have reached a “tipping point”.

Collectively, support workers are putting in more than 40 million hours of unpaid overtime a year, equivalent to 25,000 extra public service staff working full time.

  • Vivienne Russell
    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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