UNISON Highland ASN Survey

In response to a growing amount of casework involving abuse by ASN children, UNISON Highland conducted a survey of its PSA and EYP members. We received a good response and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who completed the survey. Whave contacted the Council with the full results along with several actions (listed on the second page) that we want the Council to take.

The Main Findings

• 88% have experienced physical and/or verbal abuse from children.
• 66% had not seen the risk assessment for the ASN children in their school.
• 38% of the risk assessments seen did not address the risks that ASN children pose to staff.
• 67% felt that schools were often reluctant to do anything to address these risks and seemed to want to sweep the problem under the carpet.
• 64% had been told that there was nothing that could be done to address the risk posed by ASN children as they must be included.
• 70% have not been offered support immediately after the incident (once the child was safe).
• 94% are asked to do some form of intimate care, with 88% doing toileting, 30% catheterisation with 21% doing full insertion of a catheter tube.
• 65% have had concerns that these intimate care procedures are not safe or appropriate.

In their own words

• A girl threatened to put a pencil through my eye. Punched me, kicked me and threw items of the classroom around.
• One boy tried to spray board cleaner in my eyes.
• A pupil not happy with something decided to sit on the floor, pull off his shoes and socks, and blow snot at me from his nose.
• Boy with real anger issues has kicked, punched and head-butted me also called me names and spat at me.
• ASN pupils swearing at me and using bad language, this is a regular occurrence.
• He picked up a pair of scissors, opened them and held the blade at the side of my neck/beneath ear....then the threats began.
• You can't f***ing tell me what to do you f***ing bitch" is a favourite.
• Spat at, kicked, punched, swearing, goading with pencil in stabbing motion, water thrown at me, glasses grabbed from face, scratched, toes stamped on.


What is UNISON asking for?

1. Clear statement from the Council that the policy of inclusion does not override the right of staff under the Health and Safety at Work Act to a safe working environment. 
2. That PSAs/EYPs should have both access and input to the risk assessments that concern ASN children. Such risk assessments should have clear measures in place to keep staff safe as well as the children. This should also apply to risk assessments concerning intimate care procedures. There should be a regular review process so that staff can look back at how the child has been behaving, what has been tried and what worked/didn’t work.   


3. When the school meets with experts in the child’s condition, PSAs/EYPs should be present. Despite being the ones who spend the most time actually working with ASN children, PSAs and EYPs will generally not be there when the child’s condition is discussed.


4. Given the high concern about children making false accusations, schools should always aim to have 2 staff present during intimate care procedures. This would protect both the child and staff. If a particular child is known to make such accusations, this should be detailed in a risk assessment and having 2 staff present during intimate care should be mandatory.                                


5. That there should be provision of a recovery break of at least 15mins after incidents of severe violence or aggression by pupils (once the child is safe) to allow the members of staff to recover and refocus.


What can you do?

1. Pass this information on to your colleagues.
2. Ask to see the risk assessments for ASN children and make suggestions if you feel they are not adequate (you can ask us for advice if you’re unsure how to do this or what to say).
3. If you raise concerns and are told that nothing can be done – contact Alasdair Vickers.

For more information about this or any other issue, please contact Alasdair Vickers (details below).


John Gibson - Highland Branch SecretaryAlasdair Vickers - Local Organiser

01463 715 89101463 723 965 / 07415 650 800



UNISON Highland News - December 2016
Council CCFM Staying In-house
The Highland Council had proposed to transfer its CCFM (catering, cleaning and facilities management) school staff out to High Life Highland (HLH). Though UNISON is a recognised union with HLH, we had concerns about the transfer - HLH has no experience of providing these types of services, it would double their workforce and it's not obvious what the benefits to the service would be. As a union we put our concerns to the Council and we are pleased that the elected members have subsequently decided to keep CCFM in-house.
For CCFM staff there will still be a change as the service will be moving from the Care & Learning service to the Development & Infrastructure service. We expect this change to come into effect on 1 April 2017. For most staff this change will be business as usual, the main practical effect is that you will have a new line manager who will be a FM Team Leader. For day to day issues though you will still liaise with your Head Teacher.
The main group of staff who will be seriously affected are those in the Janitorial service who will be consolidated into the FM service. This will involve formal one-to-one consultation with all current janitorial staff and UNISON members are entitled to representation at these meetings. We will contact all our janitorial members in the new year but feel free to get in touch earlier if you have questions you would like to ask.
College Strikes - We Won!!
UNISON has been involved in a long running pay dispute with colleges in Scotland. We have been forced to take strike action over their unequal treatment of support staff when compared to lecturers and senior management. In the Highlands, members in North Highland College and Inverness College have been out on strike. As result of the sustained action by UNISON members, the employers have finally made an offer that we have accepted. The offer is a flat rate of £550 for all staff, meeting UNISON's demands for equality.
UNISON would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU and WELL DONE to college members for a highly successful Pay Campaign 2016!! Pay 2017 looms large and there is much to do on pay and grading, terms and conditions moving forward, but we start now from a hugely different and better place, thanks to all your efforts. 
Is Your Annual Leave Pay Correct?
In 2014 UNISON successfully changed the law regarding how your annual leave pay should be calculated. In the employment tribunal case of Lock v British Gas we successfully argued that your annual leave pay should be based on your 'normal' week's pay. This affects staff who regularly receive 'extra' payments such as sleep-ins, unsocial hours, regular overtime etc. Previously, when such staff took annual leave, they would only have received their basic pay with no extras. Now you should be receiving your regular extra payments as well. This would apply to staff who work regular unsocial hours, regular overtime or receive regular stand-by / on-call payments.
UNISON has become aware that the Highland Council is not paying annual leave on this basis, at least not in all workplaces, and we think that this will be the case with other employers as well. If you think that this issue affects you, contact Alasdair Vickers
UNISON Inverness Area Retired Members Section
At the start of 2016 the number of retired members in the Inverness Area Section reached 434. We run a number of activities and events and are looking to encourage more retired members to take part. Those who come always gain much enjoyment from taking part. We recognise that the issue of loneliness and isolation is a matter of concern for some older people and we know that coming to our events to meet former work colleagues and make new acquaintances gives them something enjoyable to look forward to and can make a big improvement to their lifestyles.
Our existing office bearers have now served us well for many years, but they have now intimated that they intend to stand down and we are anxious to have them replaced at our AGM next March. Our management group consists of a Convener, Vice Convener, Secretary, Treasurer and Welfare Officer. The tasks they undertake are not unduly arduous and can be rewarding in so many ways. Expenses are paid to meet any costs they incur. 
We would hope therefore that our appeal for recently retired members to be nominated to fill the vacant posts next March will be successful so that we can continue to give good useful service to our members. Our annual report on all our activities throughout the year will be issued near the end of December. - Alastair Owens, Secretary
Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI)
WASPI is a campaign that fights the injustice done to women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) regarding the changes to their state pension age.​​ They started the campaign with just five ordinary women who in 2015 got together and decided to fight it.
The 1995 Conservative Government's Pension Act included plans to increase women's SPA (State Pension Age) to 65, the same as men's. WASPI agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented - with little/no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans. Retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.  To find out more about WASPI and to see what local events they are running, go to We would also encourage you to check your retirement age by going to
Is your employer a living wage employer?
UNISON Scotland is campaigning to get as many employers as possible accredited as Scottish Living Wage employers. The Scottish Living Wage is currently set at £8.45 an hour and is different from the Government's new so-called living wage of £7.20 an hour, which is not calculated based on the cost of living and is only payable to over 25s. To find out if your employer is Living Wage accredited, go to If your employer is currently not accredited, let us know!

UNISON Highland ASN Issues

UNISON has become increasingly concerned about the high number of incidents involving abuse by children who have Additional Support Needs (ASN). We have more and more cases of children being either physically or verbally abusive to staff and we are worried that it is increasingly seen as being ‘part of the job’.

School and nursery staff have the right to a safe working environment and abuse is never acceptable. Though UNISON is supportive of the Council’s Inclusion Policy – schools should do all they can to support children with ASN - we are concerned that the Council tends to hide behind this policy and uses it to stop staff raising concerns about safety. 

There should be a risk assessment in place in the school that addresses the risks that staff may face from ASN children. You have a right to see these risk assessments, to have input into them and to enforce their recommendations. We would encourage all PSAs / EYPs to ask to see these risk assessments. These should be reviewed and, if necessary, adjusted after each incident. 

If you feel that you are being asked to do something that would leave you unsafe, the following is what you should say to your (Deputy) Head:

1) I can evidence that I feel unsafe or threatened
2) Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, I have the right to a safe working environment. I feel that this taskdoes not provide me with that environment
3) Being asked to do something that places me in a potentially unsafe situation does not amount to a reasonable management instruction
4) I will continue to come to work and perform all other duties as normal


Also, always make sure that all accidents / incidents are written down and recorded – if it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen!

We would also ask you all to complete our survey on these issues, available at . This is to provide us with evidence about how serious and widespread the problem is for us to take to the Council. We would particularly like some actual examples or stories of situations that you’ve faced. Be assured that the survey is completely anonymous.

We have further concerns about PSAs being asked to do a range of intimate care duties, ranging from toileting to catheterisation. Similar principles should apply here: any such duties should be done in a way that staff feel safe and it should be risk assessed for both the child and the staff. 

It would be helpful if you can pass this onto your colleagues and encourage as many as possible to complete our survey, it’s open to both members and non-members. For information about this or any other issue, please get in touch with Alasdair, details below. 

John Gibson - Highland Branch Secretary  01463 715891      Alasdair Vickers - Local Organiser   01463 723965

                                                               07415650800                                                  ​

Changes to PSA hours

Between now and the end of term is the time when the Highland Council does its annual allocation of PSA hours in each school. The changes to the hours allocated to each school are made to reflect the changes to the pupil roll of the school, the requirements of children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) and as a result of the cuts to the Council’s budget.

What happens if the hours in my school decrease?

The Highland Council does have a degree of flexibility to vary PSA contracts, either to change your workplace or to make relativelysmall changes to your working hours. This is known as a variation of contract. If the reduction of hours is equivalent to or greater than any one post then this becomes a redundancy situation and the Council must then follow the Redundancy and Redeployment policy.

If your school’s allocation has decreased there is a process, agreed by UNISON, which the school should follow. Firstly your Head Teacher should arrange a meeting with all the PSAs to let them know of the decrease in hours. The reasons why the hours are decreasing should be given and you should be informed of the ways in which the change in hours could be met, for example through staff voluntarily choosing to reduce their hours or moving to another school.

A voluntary change

At this point staff can volunteer to make a change to either their hours or location. It must be a completely voluntary decision; staff should not feel like they have to do something they don’t want to,nor should they be told that the reduction of hours is a problem for them to sort out themselves. In the past there have been instances of PSAs being told that the hours must reduce and they have 30 minutes to agree amongst themselves how to reduce those hours.That is not acceptable. Any changes at this stage must be voluntary and if a voluntary change cannot be agreed it becomes a management decision to make, not one to be made by the PSAs themselves. If you feel pressured to make a decision you’re not comfortable with, get in contact with UNISON.

If changes cannot be made voluntarily

If a voluntary change cannot be agreed management will then arrange individual consultations with PSAs. Union members are entitled to representation at these meetings. At these consultations management will propose changes to your contractThe PSA will then have an opportunity to give their personal reasons why they feel unable to make a change, for example they are unable to move school as they don’t drive and there’s no available public transport.Your union representative will help you to prepare and help you toput your case across.

What if there is an increase in hours?

If the hours allocated to your school, UNISON will be making a strong argument that those hours should be first offered to existing members of staff before advertising them outside.

If want to get in touch with UNISON, please contact either John or Alasdair, details below


John Gibson - Highland Branch Secretary​                                Alasdair Vickers - Local Organiser

01463 723 95301463 723 965 / 07415 650 800​


Issue 13 – January 2016 
Draft Budget 2016/17 
The big loser in the draft budget is local government. The budget is cut by 3.5% or £500m in cash terms. On top of that there are additional commitments like the NI increases that could double that cut. CoSLA calculates this will cost 15,000 jobs or ‘the equivalent of 50 Tata Steelworks’ – but don’t expect a taskforce! There is the prospect of some additional funding for social care routed through the NHS budget, but it remains to be seen how much reaches these services when the NHS is under pressure and political scrutiny. This emphasises the importance of local government speaking up for council services that are just as important to our communities. 
We need to expand the budget envelope not just shunt austerity to councils. The Council Tax freeze is simply unsustainable and there are indications that the public agrees. The Commission on Local Tax Reform has again run through the options, but a local income tax would be a whole new headache. 
Trade Union Bill – thanks for your support 
Many thanks to those councils who have passed motions of support for the campaign against the ‘Anti-Union Bill’ and for the very helpful CoSLA statement. The UK government is desperate to ignore the devolved consequences of the Bill that will allow the English local government minister to dictate how industrial relations operate in Scottish councils. The Bill also conflicts with devolved and council duties under human rights and equality legislation. 
In Brief..... 
We need to have a grown up conversation about local taxation. Dismissing the Bed Tax out of hand isn’t it. Public services must meet complex needs and technology has a central role to play in that. But as the UNISON 
Scotland survey of ICT staff shows, staff are not listened to and shortcuts simply lead to failure. School libraries need professional Librarians to support young people in the information age as our evidence to 
the Scottish Parliament shows. Our survey of public library staff indicate similar concerns. 
The Commission for the Provision of Quality Care in Scotland supports UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and a real living wage for all care workers in Scotland. New Statutory Guidance means this can be delivered by all councils.

Suspension of Industrial Action 21 October 2014
Following a meeting of UNISON’s Scottish Local Government Committee today, the committee has taken the decision to suspend strike action planned for 21 October and consult our members on new proposals put forward by the Scottish Employers (CoSLA).
The proposals concentrate on three areas of our dispute: the future participation in the agreed bargaining machinery; consolidation of the living wage; and the deletion of spinal column point below the level of the living wage. 
The view of the Scottish Local Government Committee is that these proposals represent a significant change to the current award. In line with our agreed procedures UNISON is consulting members on the revised pay offer from the employers and a full consultative ballot will now take place.
The ballot will open on Monday 20 October 2014 and close on Monday 3 November 2014. 


Hour cuts & unmet need:

At the end of the last school session, UNISON supported many PSA members across the Highlands who reported drastic cuts in hours & income. We continue to support & represent members in unresolved situations.

Many cuts were imposed with a minimum of consultation, in a terrible atmosphere, with poor communication from school & ASN management & with little or no PSA input in care assessment. 

Many members are also reporting a growing disconnect between the results of the ‘matrix’ used to assess pupil need (& staff hours) & the real, tangible need in the school. UNISON shares the concern of many that damaging service cuts (& cuts to our PSA members’ incomes) are occurring through the unfair tweaking of an opaque, complex process. 

Our bottom line is that staffing must address need, for the good of both our members & the service.

After challenging Council Officers & some elected members, UNISON has secured a review of the way PSA hours & roles are managed & adjusted. 

We are seeking evidence from the ‘coal face’ so this review can be as comprehensive as possible. This can be given ‘off the record’ if members do not feel comfortable speaking out. 

Intimate care collective grievance:

UNISON, with the input of our PSA shop stewards, is seeking a clarification of intimate care responsibilities & associated grading issues. 

The initial grievance ‘carrying’ this issue stalled due to a change of circumstances in the school concerned. We are now pushing the Council for a review to provide a resolution. We hope to have more to report on this before long. 

Blurring of job roles & ‘good will’ tasks:

We have received reports that some PSAs (& indeed some clerical staff) have been asked to take on roles outwith their job description on a semi-regular basis. In some cases, this has been linked to a change in the role of janitorial staff.

Reasonableness & good will are an essential part of the running of any school, but constant, unpaid work is a form of exploitation. If you are in this situation, get in touch. 

Ensuring a safe workplace:

UNISON is hoping to mount a series of union health & safety inspections of Highland schools quite soon. Having a role involving contact with children does not mean you are exempt from the right to a safe working environment. 

If you feel your workplace could benefit from some scrutiny of its health & safety practice, let us know. Again, this can be done ‘off the record’. 

Re-deployed nursery hours:

As part of the flux involved in the recent changes in nurseries, UNISON & GMB negotiated the protection of earnings for existing staff. One of the remedies was the redeployment of some nursery hours into the school, particularly in P1. The Council gave the unions assurances that these hours would be supernumerary; that existing PSA staff would not suffer a detriment or be displaced. If you believe this is happening in your school, let us know. 

If we’ve missed something...

Please let us know! Contact details for the UNISON office are listed below. If you would like a meeting in or out of the school, that can be easily arranged. 

As there are so many issues cropping up in this service, across such a large geographical area, we would love to have more volunteer PSA shop stewards. In a time of squeezed budgets & political opportunity, we desperately need more leadership, experience & insight from the grassroots. We’ll give you training, support & will not force you to do anything you don’t want to do. Union duties & training are paid work time & childcare costs can be re-imbursed. 

If you received this in error, you may still be in our records as a PSA, LSA or Classroom Assistant. Please contact our Inverness Office so we can amend our database. We hope to send similar updates to your non-PSA colleagues very soon.

Finally, your union’s ability to negotiate for your benefit is affected by how many members we have. Although we have hundreds of PSA members across the Highlands, our mandate is stronger with every additional member. Please encourage colleagues who aren’t in a union to join.

In solidarity,

Lorcan Mullen

Area Organiser (on behalf of the Highland Branch)

01463 723965


Please find a link below to the Spring  issue of Futures, the newsletter for people who care about public services.


Here is a link to it on the UNISON Scotland website.




Customer Services Review (26/02/14)


The Highland Council’s Finance Housing and Resources Committee has agreed by 13 votes to 9 the recommendations of a review of the way it delivers customer services to reflect modern trends of contact by phone, online and outwith normal working hours.

The Council currently operates 35 full and part-time Service Points throughout the Highlands, which provide advice and information through face to face contact with customers.  This service complements the Council’s Customer Services Centre at Alness, which deals with all general telephone enquiries from the public, as well as the Council’s web site: which provides a growing number of online services.

The committee agreed to move the emphasis to demand led customer contact, this will mean a major upgrade to its website to make it easier for the public to book and pay for services, increase staffing at its Service Centre, increase the number of community facilities with self-service provision as well as provide a mobile outreach service to those customers not able to visit a Service Point.

In doing so members agreed to reduce the number of Service Points to 12 full-time community hub offices, with effect from June 2015. The Service Points targeted for replacement are those that attract less than 100 customers per week. Those which will remain open are: - Wick, Thurso, Golspie, Tain, Alness,  Dingwall, Ullapool, Portree, Fort William, Inverness, Nairn and Aviemore.  All will provide a registration service.

In locations affected the proposals to, there will be facilitated self service points, mostly in libraries. These facilities will be provided in all 40 libraries across the Highlands, meaning that people will have access to self service in more locations than the current service, and in most cases, for longer periods, including, for some, Saturdays and/or evenings.  In some communities there may be other more suitable solutions e.g.  at a Visitor Information Centre, school or with other partners.

The review was carried out in order to deliver a savings target agreed by the Council as part of the Council’s budget setting process in February 2013.
Council Leader Drew Hendry gave three pledges at the meeting.  He said: “Firstly, no member of staff will face compulsory redundancy as a result of this process.

Secondly all new contact facilities will be in place before any existing services are removed.  And, thirdly, anyone who either needs – or wants – a face to face contact within those communities, where a change is to be made, can make an appointment suitable to them”

He also confirmed that he had been advised that, though a limited number of staff involved in the changes would be re-graded to reflect new duties, that they would not see any changes to their terms and conditions as a result of the process.

Councillor Dave Fallows, Chair of the Finance Housing and Resources Committee, said the outcome of the review focused on customer footfall and analysed the changing behaviour of customers, away from face to face and more to web, phone and email.  He said: “The existing model of customer services was appropriate at the time that the network was established in the early 1990s.  But we have to move with the times and recognise the way our customers wish to do business and at a time which most suits their lifestyles. The review presents an opportunity to use new technologies to make it easier for customers to pay bills, report faults and book services. The review has included consultation with partners particularly Police Scotland, Visit Scotland and High Life Highland, to ensure an agreed joint approach to the new service delivery model.”

He said it was proposed that the changes be implemented over an extended time period between June 2014 and June 2015, allowing time for a phased programme of replacement and allowing the Customer Services management team to work with staff to maximise redeployment opportunities. 

The projected savings, he said,  will be £355,000 with £195k being reinvested into new jobs in the remaining community hubs, service centre and website management and then £160k returned as savings to the Council.