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Stand up and represent

LARs play a fundamental role in bringing about real change for their profession, workforce and services, and form the backbone of the unions work nationally
Kin Ly
Assistant editor

to represent her colleagues: At first, I found it difficult to develop partnership working with senior management. We felt things were being imposed upon us without any consultation or joint working. However, I managed to get myself voted onto our local joint negotiating consultative committee (JNCC), which is attended by senior management. This allowed me to bring things to the table that otherwise might not have come to light. She adds: Our local branch meetings have expanded in numbers of attendees, we now meet once a month. These meetings have helped in reducing isolation and stress that some members were feeling. Being a representative has been helpful in uniting members to campaign for improvements in childrens services. It is empowering and it gives me the opportunity to ensure that managers are listening to what frontline staff are saying.

rewarding aspect of being a representative is being able to support colleagues, and to help bring about change that is essential for improving the working conditions of school nurses. If you want to make a difference then becoming a representative is the first step.

Being a representative has been helpful in uniting members to campaign for improvements
Not only will being an LAR put members in a better situation to combat workplace problems, but it could also provide other benefits. Denise Hopkins states: Being a representative could help improve your personal and professional development. There is a lot of training available, and it helps to keep you up to date with policies, both nationally and locally. Barbara Evans agrees: This has been very good for my confidence I have learnt to communicate with a greater range of people at all levels, and have developed transferable skills that may be useful in other job roles.

started their health visitor training. I was able to tackle this and help put them back on the correct grade. She adds: I am now working to get some of our newly-qualified band-6 clinical practice teachers on the right grade. Some have only been given a band 6 when they should be a band 7. Ian Maidlow says that Cambridge LARs have made a huge difference locally: We now have regular forum meetings with NHS management to look purely at the resourcing for our members this is down to the hard work of our representatives. He adds: We are very close to starting a campaign around parking tickets in Cambridge. In the past, health visitors had dispensation and now they do not. Without the input of our LARs, we would not have been able to make this possible.

Unite local accredited representatives (LARs) are vital in representing the needs of the membership and in tackling many workplace problems. With threats to public spending and increased privatisation and fragmentation within the NHS, Unite is encouraging more members to take on this fulfilling role.

Unite provides support for its members on working conditions, which include pay, grading, health and safety and equal opportunities, both individually and collectively.

Backbone of the union Unite Health Sector lead officer for nursing Barrie Brown states: Our workplace representatives are the backbone of the union and without them, Unite could not be the effective campaigning union in the NHS that we are. Members who are prepared to consider becoming a LAR should not hesitate. The NHS is facing major challenges, and members who become LARs will greatly assist the unions strategy in meeting those challenges. He adds: LARs are not alone. If advice and support is required including legal advice or campaigning materials this can be obtained from the Unite regional officer who has responsibility for an LARs workplace. It is their role to ensure that

The NHS is facing major challenges and members who become LARs will greatly assist the unions strategy
Unite regional officer for Cambridge Ian Maidlow reinforces the important role of LARs, and says that they have a lot of influence: Representatives can effectively point out to the employer that without adequate resources, there is a serious risk to children and the public. They are the ones who can help increase staffing numbers and give voice to the important role of community nursing.

NHS. Major changes were taking place and yet we did not have any local representatives or a local branch, and we were feeling very vulnerable. Members were going though a lot of issues, but no one addressed them and problems persisted. It soon became evident that in order to get some partnerships working with the management, I needed to become a LAR and I have not looked back since. She adds: Other members followed, some were interested in specific roles, so we managed to get a health and safety representative, two general representatives and a learning one. This helped us to share the workload. I believe that if you have a problem then either do something about it or accept it, and I am the type of person who will do something about it!

Addressing members needs NHS North Yorkshire and York health visitor and LAR Sarah Hughes explains why she feels the role is important: There were rumours of privatisation within the

Voice of the membership Many decide to become a representative in order to provide their colleagues with a voice, and with community practice lacking resources, there is even greater need for members to become LARs. Sarah Hughes says that she is in a better position
January 2010 Volume 83 Number 1

Professional representation Unite LARs come from a range of professional backgrounds, including health visiting, school nursing and community nursery nursing. Their LAR role helps them to raise awareness of specific problems affecting their discipline. Talking about health visiting, Ian Maidlow states: There is increasing pressure on individual health visitors to adopt a tick-box approach, with managers concerned about litigation from the public. Health visitors who become representatives can campaign against problems in the workplace. There is a lot of job satisfaction, particularly in helping those who have been unjustly accused of doing their job incorrectly. Unite/CPHVA Community Nursery Nurse (CNN) Forum chair and LAR Barbara Evans states: I am able to advocate for the services I represent within JNCC meetings a voice that would not otherwise have been heard. With other representatives across the county, we have been able to help halt the development of social enterprises. She adds: As an LAR, I am able to deal with problems affecting CNNs and advise colleagues within the health visiting team on issues that are very specific to them. Newly appointed Unite/CPHVA School Nurse Forum chair and LAR Denise Hopkins says that being a representative provides her with a stronger voice to represent school nurses: The most
January 2010 Volume 83 Number 1

Achieving as an LAR LARs have been instrumental in driving foward many of Unites campaigns, and helping to address issues around staff shortages. Unite/CPHVA LAR of Year Award winner Sue Day says that she was able to convince management to commit to improving the health visiting service: I presented a paper at a JNCC meeting about the state of health visiting in North Somerset, highlighting the low health visitor numbers. Now the locality manager for health has agreed to look at a business package and identify how we can get more money into the service. She adds: I will be notifying primary care trust executives and non-executives of the Action on Health Visiting programme, and making them aware of what we are looking at locally with our numbers. Sue Day has accomplished a lot in her role as an LAR, most notably she has helped to address issues around banding levels: I find it very rewarding supporting my colleagues, particularly around pay conditions. Some newly-qualified health visitors have been appointed at the bottom of band 6, when they were at the top of band 6 before they

Rewards overcoming difficulties Some LARs do encounter difficulties, mainly around balancing their workload, but they seem to agree that the rewards counterbalance these. Sarah Hughes states: At first, it was difficult to get my voice heard. Not all managers understood the role of the LAR. There have been many challenging meetings along the way. However, with the support of the professional officers we are getting there. She adds: Time management has always been an issue, and fitting my union work around my health visiting role has been very challenging. The new Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) rules have helped, and I am hoping to incorporate them into our local facilities agreements. Manchester PCT LAR Margaret Koller, who has been a representative since 1989, notes: The difficultly about becoming an LAR is fitting this in around a full caseload, but the rewards and job satisfaction overcome any difficulties. A way of dealing with this is having a team of good supportive colleagues. Though it may be difficult to balance the work involved as an LAR with the commitments of community practice, many representatives continue in their role because the job is so rewarding and they believe that it will help bring about the changes that are needed so much. Members should contact their regional officer for details on becoming a LAR.