Category Archives: Public Services

​CAMDEN TRADES COUNCIL PUBLIC MEETING

camdenSCRAP THE TORY PAY CAP – DEFEND OUR PUBLIC SERVICES
WEDNESDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 6.30pm
Camden Town Hall
Judd Street WC1H 9JE
Speakers:
JOHN MCDONNELL MP, Shadow Chancellor
ROGER MCKENZIE Assistant General Secretary Unison
LUCY MASOUD Fire Brigades Union
MARK DOLAN CWU balloting for national strike action
BARTS HEALTH hospital strikers
 
There will be a huge demonstration in Manchester at the Tory Party conference on Sunday 01 October. Usually people from all over the UK travel to London to march, but this time it is us who has to get on a coach to join the demonstration!! The details of the local coach are below.
CENTRAL LONDON COACH TO #TORIES OUT DEMONSTRATION 
AT TORY PARTY CONFERENCE IN MANCHESTER

£5 waged/ £3 students/ unwaged
Leaves Eversholt Street, NW1 (side of Euston Station) at
6.30am Returns from Manchester at 4.30pm Book your ticket here:

Our council: Austerity for the many not the few!

Barnet TUC notes with some alarm the advert below for a new CEO of the Barnet Group which manages Housing Services and Services for vulnerable adults for the London Borough of Barnet.
 
This advertised Salary represents an increase of at least 15% on the when the role was previously advertised in 2015.
 
Local Government workers are facing a Pay Cap of 1% imposed by the Tory Government
 
At the same time front line Housing Services like ASSIST and Caretaking Services are being cut and Terms and Conditions and wages of staff are being slashed.

Your Choice Barnet workers, who were amongst the lowest paid workers in the Barnet Group, had their salaries reduced by 9.7% 
 
Every Service we provide is constantly under review looking for savings.
 
Every service in the Barnet Group is suffering from under funding and is understaffed.
 
The Barnet Group has set up a company, TBG Flex, for new workers in Barnet Homes and Your Choice Barnet – with less pay and state statutory minimum Terms and Conditions, a longer working week and no access to the Local Government Pension Scheme. So we have a two tier workforce operating in a council owned entity.

All in the name of Austerity.
 
This is a disgrace and cannot continue – TBG Flex staff must be transferred back to Local Government Terms and Conditions.
 
The waste of money in having the Barnet Group as a separate Local Authority Trading Company, where senior managers are paid over inflated salaries awarded by the Boards which in themselves are an administrative nightmare and an added expense –
 
Barnet Group Board
Barnet Homes Board
Your Choice Barnet Board
TBG Flex Board
Open Door Homes Board
 
Board members are paid £5k a year for on average 8 days work a year.
 
Austerity for the many not the few!
 
This is all unnecessary – Return Housing Services and Your Choice Barnet back In House and go back to a Director of Housing – The savings made could be put back into the front line Housing Services.

SERTUC Public Service Committee support: Exhibition – The Private Finance Initiative. How come we’re still paying for this? – starts Monday 18 September 2017

Mon 18 Sep 2017 – 09:00 to Wed 27 Sep 2017 – 19:00TUC
TUC Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, London
FREE ADMISSION

Exhibition: The Private Finance Initiative. How come we’re still paying for this? 

Starts Monday 18 September 2017 and closes Wednesday 27 September 2017

Opening times: Monday – Friday (09:00 to 19:00) 

The exhibition illustrates the range of PFI deals across different sectors in the UK, including schools, health, roads, prisons, housing, and refuse into power schemes. It provides an overview of the extent to which PFI has swallowed up public funds and channelled money into corporate coffers. The exhibition is accompanied by a more detailed booklet.

Please support People vs PFI Exhibition 

Marion Macalpine is a London-based photographer who combines art photography with community and political issues.

After a career in critical management research and teaching in the public and voluntary sectors, she is now using photography to raise and communicate critical concerns. These include the reconstitution of our public terrain as a marketplace, and how consent to this process has been managed, exemplified in the sell-off of the NHS.

Information about the venue:

Congress House is a fully accessible building

Contact for further information:

sertuc@tuc.org.uk or 020 7467 1220  

A Response to the CELS Report

Dear Sir

 ttendance at council meetings often opens the lid on how our Councils are run. The Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding committee of Barnet Council on 18 July was no exception.

 1                     The order paper ran to 260 pages. Clearly this committee is overburdened with responsibilities. It needs to be subdivided. “Children” included a damning indictment by an Ofsted report of Barnet’s acknowledgedly inadequate children’s services. Pages 240/241 described the council’s aim to deliver quality services, the statutory duties of the Council and the risk management necessary. Thus councillors are informed of the appalling risks being taken by pursuing illegal policies. Yet they have been doing this as part of a mistaken library strategy since 2002, unchecked by either the Secretary of State for Culture or by rumblings from opposition councillors, the media or the Four Barnet Bloggers who, in response to the Ofsted revelations, have called upon the Chair Reuben Thompstone to resign.

2                     The meeting dwelt at length on the Ofsted report. Chris Munday, the Strategic Director for Children and young People, was questioned by members of the committee on current plans to improve services.

3                     The imminent time bomb was left ticking of how library services, arguably in breach of the council’s statutory duty under the 1964 Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service, are currently the subject of a report by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to the Secretary of State for Culture Karen Bradley. Watch this space.

4                     Clearly lots to do. Islington in contrast to Barnet received an Ofsted report on its outstanding leadership, so good models are at hand.

5                     The CELS committee has four co-opted members. It would benefit hugely by co-opting pillars of the community with local experience rather than employing expensive consultants without such local knowledge.

Keith Martin

Press Release – A joint statement from the Barnet Bloggers

“There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Barnet. Inspectors identified a legacy of widespread poor practice and ongoing systemic failures and services that neither adequately ensure the safety, nor promote the welfare of children and young people”. 

Ofsted Inspection Report on Barnet Children’s Service July 2017

Over nearly a decade of scrutiny by Barnet bloggers, we have investigated and reported the seemingly endless sequence of scandals, blunders, and political folly created by Barnet’s Conservative councillors. The incomprehensible tale of the MetPro fiasco, the disgraceful confiscation of travel passes for disabled residents, the cutting of vital respite care for children at Mapledown School, which cares for children with profound disabilities, the illegal CPZ parking charges, are only some of the many examples of administrative incompetence – and worse – that we have exposed and pursued.

 In all this time, in response to all of these disastrous situations, not one Conservative member has taken responsibility for the failure in services to what are very often the most vulnerable members of our community.

No one could be more vulnerable than a child: especially a child in care, whose well being has become the responsibility of the local authority, standing as a corporate parent.

Yet now we see the emergence of a most damning report from OFSTED, one that slates the provision of care services in Barnet for such children: a report that should shame any local authority, and would – anywhere else but in Barnet.

“The vast majority of care planning is ineffective. There is a lack of focus on measuring progress for children or their outcomes. When there is no progress, this is not re-evaluated or escalated effectively. This leads to drift and delay. This is particularly stark for a significant number of children who are victims of chronic long-term neglect and emotional abuse, who do not have the impact of this risk recognised, responded to or reduced, despite spending long periods subject to child protection planning … ”.

“Young people who go missing from care receive a poor service, because social workers do not find out enough about the risks to them. This means that young people who go missing are not always kept safe enough from dangers, such as gangs or adults sexually exploiting them”.

In any circumstances where there has been proven wrongdoing, or a failure in standards, it is usually the case, in Barnet, that officers are held responsible, and those elected members tasked with the responsibility – and paid generous allowances for those duties –of overseeing the enforcement of their own policies remain distanced from the consequences of their actions. We believe that this is wrong, and that councillors should be held accountable.

In this case, we believe, the fault lies in a serious failure in leadership, oversight and scrutiny by the Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committee, chaired by Conservative councillor Reuben Thompstone.

The same committee was responsible for the Mapledown cuts – later reversed, after protests from parents, and a public outcry; and was also the instrument of approval for the devastating programme of cuts to our library service, presented to residents as mere ‘refurbishment’, but which has seen the closure of children’s libraries, and the removal of access for under sixteen year olds from any library operating the newly unstaffed hours.

It seems to us that under this Conservative administration, children are seen not as our most precious asset, but an easy target for cuts, and the lowering of standards meant to ensure their protection, and wellbeing.

In 2014 Tory members approved a cost cutting restructuring of Family Services which has resulted in the use of agency social workers soaring from none in 2013, to £3.05 million per annum in 2016/17.

With the average agency social worker staying just 202 days, there has been a constant turnover of staff, and throughout this period, Children’s Services have been under constant pressure to meet the budget savings forecast.

We believe that pressure on budgets for local social workers responsible for ensuring the safety of young people has lead to the near destruction of the service, and a situation where there are simply not the resources to ensure vulnerable young people are given the life chances they deserve.

This cannot possibly be in the best interests of the children of this borough.

We therefore make the following suggestions:

1.     That there must be a full open, transparent, and independent public inquiry into what went wrong.

2.     This inquiry must include a forensic audit of all correspondence between the Conservative administration and officers, regarding Children’s Services, to ensure that political interference has not, and cannot in future, prejudice the standard of care.

3.     This inquiry should be concluded prior to May 2018, to allow the people of Barnet to pass their own judgement on the administration.

4.     We call for the resignation of the Councillor in charge of Children’s Services, Cllr Reuben Thompstone.

Signed,

Derek Dishman (http://lbbspending.blogspot.co.uk/)

John Dix (http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/)

Theresa Musgrove (http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/)

 

Notes to Editors.

  1. This blog has been jointly written by the four Barnet bloggers in response to the recently released OFSTED report into Barnet Council childrens services.
  2. All four Barnet Bloggers are listed as  Guardian Top London bloggers – https://www.theguardian.com/uk/series/dave-hill-top-london-bloggers  – and their work as “armchair auditors” has been recognised by the former local government minister Eric Pickles.

All queries : Roger Tichborne 07754 910425 or for individual queries by email to the bloggers email listed in the CC line

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

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