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Industrial Action involving Mental Health Officers

Issued: 18 Jul 2007

The Council employs 41 Social Workers with a mental health qualification, who provide a Mental Health Officer service, including to the Mental Health Tribunal.

Their duties include-

  • giving or withholding consent for emergency and short term detention
  • preparing applications, reports and care plans for Compulsory Treatment Orders
  • preparing Social Circumstances Reports
  • providing advice and information to patients and others
  • attending Mental Health Act Tribunals
  • Criminal Justice responsibilities relating to mentally disordered offenders
  • applying to the Mental Health Tribunal in the case of unlawful detention and applying for warrants to enter premises

In recognition of new duties required by The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 which came in to effect on 5 October 2005, the Council approved a re-grading for 19 main grade MHO staff. This amounted to an extra £2,370 per year or £45 per week.

Their contracts explicitly state the following requirements:

  • to practice as MHOs in accordance with the legislative requirements
  • to participate in any emergency out of hours rota
  • undertake any specified training
  • keep up to date with legislation, policy and practice
  • to meet any prescribed continuous professional development (CPD)

MHOs who already hold promoted posts did not receive a pay increase.

The trade unions have made four requests, including one that all MHO qualified social workers should receive an extra £5,000 per year which they claim is in line with salaries paid by other Scottish local authorities.

This request was rejected by the Council's Appeals Committee, who recognised that 19 main grade MHO staff had been given a salary increase of £2,370 before ruling that the grading issues relating to duties of promoted members of staff would be addressed through the job evaluation scheme. They also agreed that immediate steps be taken relating to out of hours call outs; and that out of hours call level be investigated and any payment due be made to staff in accordance with current Council policy for Social Work staff.

Jon King, Head of Operations (Community Care), said that it was too early to report how many of the 41 MHOs would be taking indefinite industrial action. He will be closely monitoring the effect of this.

He said the Council would be working with NHS Highland, the Mental Welfare Commission and Northern Constabulary to meet its minimum legal requirements, although disruption to normal working could not be ruled out.

He said: "A system has been set up to co-ordinate calls and information relating to ongoing work and requests so that the Social Work Service can as far as possible plan and manage responses with resources which are available. Regular meetings have also been scheduled with NHS to monitor the impact of action for the NHS."

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