Category Archives: Public Services

Messages of Solidarity for “Barnet Two” email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

18342733_10155078055521206_1978186995523180223_nPLEASE SUPPORT.

As a result of consultation we have now learnt that the two welfare rights workers (now to be referred to as the “Barnet Two”) are not being sacked in order to make CUTS, they are being sacked because vulnerable families will get a better service without them!

Before I address the issue of why it is so wrong to sack the Welfare Rights workers I want to highlight this scene in Ken Loach’s BAFTA Award winning film “I, Daniel Blake”

This scene shows the daily humiliating life experiences people in need are facing.

I’m referring to this scene, because the Barnet Council proposal is to move away from helping to sign posting. It sounds good in the highly paid consultancy circle world. BUT the grim reality this is not just a cut for two workers it is a cruel cut that will deny access to the vital information, advocacy and support for the most vulnerable families in Barnet.

Before Barnet UNISON found out that this was NOT a financial saving, we would have referred the Council back to the uncontrollable Agency/consultancy worker costs which have gone from a round £7.3 million in 2012 to 19.8 million by March 2017.

“I have heard of Barnet Council’s sackings of welfare rights officers and the closure of job centres. Does the Council have any idea of the cruelty of the treatment of vulnerable people? The DWP’s procedures are set up to trap and punish those who need support and advice. By these cuts, the Council is colluding in this conscious brutality. In solidarity, Ken Loach.”

On behalf of the Barnet Two and our branch I would like to once again thank Ken for his message of solidarity and support for the “Barnet Two” and his condemnation of the planned closures of job centres in Barnet.

“Why will this proposal cause hard to vulnerable families?”

In the past seven years there have been many changes in the way Advice in the London Borough of Barnet has been delivered.

The following organisations have either closed down or no longer do Welfare Rights Advice.

  1. Welfare Rights Unit (Barnet Council)
  2. Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has closed five of their offices (a) Avenue House (b) Grahame Park (c) Finchley (d) Edgware Hospital (e) Dollis Valley hub. Currently, the New Barnet Office is only open on Mondays morning and is due to totally shut in October 2017. The only remaining CAB is the Hendon one which is also only opened three days a weeks
  3. CAB also used to operate a home visiting service which has also ceased.
  4. Barnet Law Service (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  5. Mary Ward Legal Services (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  6. East Barnet Advice Services
  7. Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet
  8. Mencap (substantially reduced service since 2013) This service refer to the two Welfare Rights workers for Appeals and complex cases
  9. Jewish Deaf Association Barnet (substantially reduce services now drop in sessions only on Tuesdays morning for people with hearing impairment)
  10. Mind Barnet
  11. Due to the Legal Aid cuts no Solicitors in Barnet do Welfare Rights Appeals.

The two Welfare Rights workers are the only service that still provides comprehensive/ impartial benefits Advice up to Appeals level in Barnet. Both statutory and non-statutory organisations refer to the above workers.

In consultation it has been put to Barnet UNISON that the service could be picked up by other organisations. What is clear is that the report does not appear to know what is being provided out there in our community.

Below are some of the organisation mentioned who could pick up the work left as a result of sacking the two welfare rights workers.

  1. Welfare Rights Task Force – Benefit Advisors only support clients affected by the benefit CAP and assist them with income and expenditure in order for them to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment
  2. Employment Advisors do not specialise on welfare benefits, their remit is employment
  3. Shelter specialise in Housing and debts. They do not provide Welfare Rights Advice
  4. DWP is unable to help the majority of our clients as there may be a conflict of interest. We support client in taking cases to the Tribunal against DWP. There would be a conflict of interest, should the DWP provide welfare benefits advice. Welfare Benefit Advice exists to ensure that clients are made aware of their legal rights and represented in the event of disputes and maladministration of benefits.

Next actions:
On Tuesday 9 May at the Family Services JNCC Barnet UNISON declared a ‘failure to agree’ in response to the proposed sacking of the two welfare rights workers.

The matter has now been escalated to a meeting chaired by the Chief Executive.

If the proposal to sack the workers is not withdrawn the matter will be raised at General Functions Committee on 28 June where we will address the Leader of the Council.

Solidarity
John Burgess
Branch Secretary
Barnet UNISON

Messages of support and solidarity to contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

“Unsafe & Unsustainable”- Barnet UNISON speech to Barnet Councillors

barnet-unison-logo-e1462368170626The following speech was delivered to General Functions Committee,
on Tuesday 6th December at 7pm in Hendon Town Hall

“Dear members of the committee

I addressing you as both the branch secretary of Barnet UNISON, but also speaking as a service user of mental health services, indeed without the support I was given and the ongoing support I still receive today there is a strong likelihood I may not of been speaking to you this eveningjohn-t-shirt

It is also worth noting much quoted statistic that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

I therefore speak not only as a worker but from personal experience of using mental health services.

I also want to make this point that I believe is often missed by elected members. I speaking to you all as employers not politicians. It is as an employer I am wanting to address our members, your staff concerns about the proposal before the committee this evening.

Firstly, I can confirm we are not opposed to the staff being brought back into the Council and we are fully supportive of the proposed social care model of intervention.

However when travelling across the borough it is impossible not to see the number of housing developments; and with it the increase in population; and with that the increased need for schools, NHS provision, social services to name but a few public services.

It is therefore highly dangerous to be proposing to cut Mental Health services at a time when the population is growing.

It is our view that the proposed cut of mental health social workers coupled with the increase in responsibilities will NOT lead to a safer service for service users, families and carers.

Barnet UNISON is extremely concerned about the reduction of social workers and the introduction of Assessment Enablement Officers (AEO).

In mental health staff are working with extremely complex and high risk individuals in situations where you need qualified experienced and knowledgeable staff.

Currently mental health social workers have significantly high caseloads (which includes the work connected to their statutory responsibilities in their Approved Mental Health Practitioner roles.

The cut in social workers will lead to greater pressure upon an already pressured staff group increasing the risk of more Serious Untoward Incidents (SUI) happening.

You will no doubt have been briefed that the Council is not making any social workers redundant, which is true; and you will have been told that the new proposal to replace qualified social workers with AEO’s will provide a better service.

With respect this premise is nonsense.

The proposal to cut mental health social workers is directly driven by NEED.

However, not by the NEEDS of service users and carers, but by the NEED to make Austerity cuts.

Lessons learnt

I would like to remind the committee that it was only two years ago when I addressed this same committee about the now infamous Family Services restructure. At that meeting I tried to convince members of the committee to extend the period of consultation as I was concerned the changes had been driven through in haste and that I feared there would be consequences for the service and the staff.  Unfortunately the committee chose accept the advice of senior officers who are now no longer working for the council. However I can report that the restructure had to be revisited as I predicted, there was a high turnover of experienced social work staff which then resulted in the recruitment crisis you now have in children’s social work.

 

Sometimes it is worth listening to UNISON.

 

We’ve been here before 18th February this year, Adults brought a similar proposal to cut social work posts, and use non-professionally qualified workers.

My members, your staff, describe feeling they are “flying by the seat of their pants”

The rationale put before this committee for cutting social work posts was that new Capita IT database “Mozaic” would deliver efficiencies. Well 10 months later this is not happening because “Mozaic”, once again has been pulled. There have been so many false starts with Mozaic if they had been a sprinter they’d have been disqualified from the Olympics by now.

 

Consultancy spend

I want members to take a look at agency/consultants spend.

Last year the council spent £18.2 million on agency/consultants. This figure is larger than the year before which was £17.9 million, which was significantly larger than the previous year which was £15.5million, which was previously larger than the previous year £13.7million which was previously larger than the previous year £12.5million.

In the last two quarters of this year the Council has already spent £13.7 million on agency/consultants which if the current pattern continues could see the Council break £20million.

It is our view that the Council needs to address this agency/consultancy uncontrollable spend in order to protect vital front line services and in this case drop the proposal to cut social work posts.

 

John Burgess

Branch Secretary

Barnet UNISON

TSSA says re-open ticket offices after Travelwatch report published

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Responding to the publication of Travelwatch’s Review into the impact of the ticket office closure programme on the Tube.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said:

“We welcome the urgency which with London Mayor, Sadiq Khan wants to tackle the serious shortcomings identified in TravelWatch’s report. The truth is that Boris Johnson’s ill-conceived and badly executed ticket office closure programme has created many problems for passengers and for our members. Put simply, there is not enough staff on our Tube. We hope that TfL now address this without further delay.

“This report rightly highlights London’s passengers have been severely short changed by Boris Johnson’s culling of tstaff numbers on our Tube. Customer service has been thrown out of the window and the safety of passengers and staff alike has been severely compromised. We completely agree with TravelWatch’s conclusion that there must be a consistently visible staff presence in stations They also say that to do this, London Underground (LU) must introduce a focal point in every station where passengers know that staff can be located. We use to have this, it was called a Ticket Office. It’s time now for LU to reverse Boris’s short sighted and damaging closure programme and reopen the ticket offices!”

“Fighting tooth and nail” – a Barnet UNISON Film

John Burgess writes:

Whilst we have tried hard to support and represent our members the last 9 years have been painful, fun, tiring but invigorating but most of all it has been a privilege to have belonged to Barnet UNISON branch.

Austerity introduced mass outsourcing to our members and residents. I have never been prouder than when I have been at committee meetings with hundreds of residents or with residents with hundreds of questions.

Our members have had the courage to give it a go. To get up off our knees and at least stand up for what is right.

Sometimes we have lost and sometimes we have won, that is the way it is in Barnet UNISON.

But we can always look back and say that we have not gone missing.

We don’t leave anyone behind, even when we lost the big outsourcing to Capita and hundreds of our members were later made redundant as their jobs were scattered to the four winds. We stayed and supported, represented our members and we won some compensation for some of those who lost their jobs.

We can always say we didn’t avoid difficult decisions and we don’t run from a fight, we organise and we lead but always it must be the members who decide when and for how long we fight.

Outsourcing and job cuts has had a detrimental impact on worker and I have observed the workplace has become toxic environment. I point to the consultant’s catch phrase “More for less” as one of the most insidious and unhelpful jargon to emerge over the last decade.

“More for less” has in my opinion has contributed directly to “unsustainable and unsafe” work places; we are only just beginning to see the impact on workers mental health and wellbeing.

Over the past decade we have seen a high burn out of UNISON reps simply because the challenges and pressures that mass outsourcing brings are too much.

I have always believed in taking responsibility where you can and for me that has been in the London Borough of Barnet.

I have worked with so many wonderful and creative people both inside and outside UNISON. I have gained so much more from being in their company and most importantly listening and learning to what they have said or done.

It is in recognition of this experience and in an attempt to reflect on what has happened and think about my future and the future of the branch I have put together a film montage of the last decade in the life of Barnet UNISON. The film opens with Fremantle Care workers and campaign that shocked me and a campaign that still troubles me deeply nearly 9 years after it began. Their fight and the draconian cuts were later to be followed by the heroic Care UK 90 day strikers and our very own Your Choice Barnet care workers campaign.

Anyway enough from me.

The short film is just under 20 minutes long so make sure you have a nice drink, comfy seat you might have a few surprises from a few guest appearances.

 

Unions Lead Protests Against Rip-Off Train Fares

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Rail fares have risen twice as fast as wages since 2010, according to TUC research. Rail workers lead public protests at stations round the country.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said:

“Our rail fares are already the highest in Europe and today’s increases will only make that record worse. It’s time that ministers gave rail passengers a break and actually froze fares in real terms.

“Fares on the most popular routes have jumped by more than 245% since rail was privatised 20 years ago. Running a publicly owned railway would end this annual mugging of passengers and give us a network run in the interests of passengers and staff.”

Remember, remember…

NationalLibrariesMuseumsGalleries

 

It’s the demonstration every Library & Museums campaigner has been calling for and now it’s on. The march will start from the iconic British Library and end outside the House of Commons for a Rally. Jeremy Corbyn is supporting the protest.

Public Libraries and Museums remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, history, art, information and enjoyment. Libraries are, or should be, trusted public spaces for everyone. They play a crucial role in improving literacy, in combating the digital divide and in widening democratic involvement. BUT, in the UK since
2010, we’ve LOST:
• 8,000 paid and trained library workers;
• 343 libraries (600-plus including ones handed to volunteers); and
• One in five regional museums at least partially closed.

We’ve also seen:
• Libraries’ and museums’ opening hours cut;
• Budgets, education programmes and mobile/ housebound/specialist services slashed;
• An escalation in commercialisation and privatisation;
• A 93% increase in the use of volunteers in libraries;
• Income generation become the priority for almost 80% of museums.

This is a crisis and not an opportunity. Users, staff, campaigners and unions need to unite and fight before it’s too late. PCS Culture Sector, Unite the Union, Barnet UNISON & Save Barnet Libraries, and Campaign for the Book have been calling for a national demonstration to highlight the ‘clear and present danger’ to our national Library service. Support the protest on 5th November!

JEREMY CORBYN, Leader of Labour Party says: “I give my 100% support to this demonstration. The Tories have devastated our public services using austerity policies as justification. I promise that a Labour Government will act to ‘in-source’ our public and local council services and increase access to
leisure, arts and sports across the country. We will reverse the damage the Tories have done to our communities in the cities, towns and villages.”

REJECT the Council accommodation review – STOP the move to Colindale, NO to the £50million squander

PROTEST AT THE COUNCIL MEETING: TUESDAY 26 JULY, 6pm
Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, NW4 4AX

Tory Barnet councillors and Capita are planning to move council services from the North London Business Park and Barnet House into a new purpose built accommodation in Colindale.

This will cost Barnet residents  £50 million and no savings are expected for 50 years while Capita, it is believed, will receive a 14% fee!

The council has not fully secured or identified the resources needed to make this work. At time of massive cuts, including making 46% of library staff redundant, this will make cuts to front line services even worse.

This decision for new accommodation will be as dangerous and costly as that to sell off Mill Hill depot when no alternative had been secured. Now vehicles servicing Barnet are to be stationed further away in Harrow and at Abbots Road, creating more traffic and more pollution. The location in Colindale is remote, and the access to it will be as difficult and frustrating as are the Barnet’s call centre and website.

PROTEST AT THIS WASTE OF £50million

REJECT THE ACCOMODATION REVIEW

Protest called by Barnet Trades Council, Barnet UNISON, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Barnet Momentum.

Barnet resident refuses to volunteer & take jobs away from Library staff

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Background

For those unfamiliar with the Barnet Libraries debacle please watch this short animation which details the plans for our fantastic Library Service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3XfibjbJuA

Keith Martin for local government worker, resident and long standing Libraries campaigner wrote a response to the Local Times newspaper survey “Have your say over Barnet future Library service”http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/14528718.Have_your_say_over_Barnet___s_future_library_service/

Keith has given permission to share his response with our members in the Library Service.

“Would I volunteer?”

“Mrs Angry expresses my views succinctly in her Broken Barnet blog.

http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/the-eve-of-destruction-act-now-or-wave.html

and here http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/barnet-libraries-capita-it-crash.html

  1. Half the staff will be losing their livelihoods,
  2. You cannot replace professional library staff with volunteers,
  3. The proposals amount to the virtual destruction of the library service,
  4. Shrinking libraries, halving the book stock, the highly risky use of unstaffed DIY libraries. All are dangerous, stupid gambles.
  5. What next?
  6. Why not instead cut the massive allowances and perks received by councillors?
  1. Now the view from me. I have been a library volunteer at Friern Barnet Community Library for nearly four years now, initially at the invitation of Phoenix and the squatters who began their occupation on 5 September 2012. My experiences are recorded in my book Friern Barnet – the library that refused to close. I was a co-defendant with the squatters in the action by Barnet Council for their eviction in December 2012, and one of the original band of trustees appointed by the community to run the library in succession to the squatters.

Would I volunteer for Reuben Thompstone’s plans to reshape the library service; to harness Barnet’s community spirit?

Would I thus be a party to putting chartered librarians and other professional library staff on the dole, after they have attempted to train unskilled volunteers such as myself to replace them? Would I be a party to actions which have as their goal the closure of libraries and the wrecking of educational opportunities to schoolchildren which generations of library users have benefitted from as their birthright?

No, I would not.

This is why I am active in the campaign to save not only libraries in Barnet but throughout the United Kingdom.

Best wishes

Keith”

Solidarity message from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

Solidarity message from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

Solidarity message from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell“I want to send a message of solidarity and support to Barnet UNISON members, and the many community campaigns who have been fighting Barnet Council as it carries out its relentless ideological war against public services,the disabled and their own staff. I cant be with you with you on your protest on Tuesday 24 May, keep fighting your all are an inspiration” John McDonnell MP Shadow Chancellor

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