Full report here: INS2-4699435949
“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.
Derek Dishman (http://lbbspending.blogspot.co.uk/)
John Dix (http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/)
Theresa Musgrove (http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/)
Roger Tichborne (http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/)
Notes to Editors.
- This blog has been jointly written by the four Barnet bloggers in response to the recently released OFSTED report into Barnet Council childrens services.
- 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
I have been working in the London Borough of Barnet for 22 years.
I have a long history of knowledge of our social services.
Back in 2008 our Council celebrated being a five star Council. They actually hung the stars from the high ceiling in our Atrium (posh for staff canteen).
At this time we did not have any serious issues in social work. Barnet had a good reputation for social work and had no reliance on agency workers.
In May 2008 something changed.
The Council announced a major policy change called Future Shape later to be known as “easyCouncil” then “One Barnet” and finally “Commissioning Council.”
Barnet UNISON quickly recognised this change as mass outsourcing ideology.
Barnet UNISON has written much on what has transpired over almost a decade of ideological obsession with mass outsourcing.
For this press release it is not the outsourced contractors that we are focussing on, but the impact on those remaining Council services, in this case Family Services.
Over the past decade to ensure delivery of the outsourcing programme the senior management had to change.
I watched as managers who were good at delivery were replaced by strategic managers. Often they were replaced by interims who would later become permanent. The Council then looked to consultants to prepare services for outsourcing. This led some to argue the Council was becoming “consultant dependent.”
Corporate knowledge was not seen as a positive.
What has happened in Family Services is, in my opinion, a long time coming.
This is why I would say to those looking for heads to roll, to reflect on those architects that have long since left.
Where is the accountability for those who have left and those who took their eye off the ball?
What needs to happen now? Barnet UNISON has already begun discussions with our members in Family Services and the Council.
We want to make Barnet a safe place to work which will translate into better services for children.
This means a change and recognition that staff and UNISON need to be fully involved in changes in Family Services.
There must be no repeat of past mistakes.
Barnet Council must listen to the workforce and their representatives.
The life of the child must and always be at the heart of Family Services.
To achieve this you need a highly motivated skilled workforce that is well supported.
The next 12 months are going to be critical and Barnet UNISON is going to make sure we are there for our members and those children who need Family Services.”
(John Burgess Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON).
1. OFSTED inspection findings
2. Inspectors rap ‘inadequate’ Barnet Council children’s services
3. Barnet children’s services condemned as inadequate by Ofsted: ‘Serious failings put young at risk of harm’
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 evening
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.
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.
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.
The Barnet Group – A New Legal Entity
The Barnet Group, Barnet Councils Local Authority Trading Company – incorporating Barnet Homes [the wholly Council owned Arm’s Length Management Organisation] which manages Barnet Council housing stock and Your Choice Barnet [the wholly Council owned care provider which offers support to adults with a range of physical and learning disabilities] have announced plans to set up a New Legal Entity within the Barnet Group.
Barnet UNISON are currently in consultation with the Barnet Group in regard to the proposals to set up the New Legal Entity.
The ‘Entity’ will be used as the sole future employer within the Barnet Group. All vacancies will be recruited to the New Legal Entity on reduced pay and terms and conditions to existing staff within the Group.
Future employees of the ‘Entity’, whose sole shareholder will be the London Borough of Barnet, will not be able to join the Local Government Pension Scheme.
If current employees of the Barnet Group seek promotion or are restructured, then they will be offered employment via the New Legal Entity on the lower pay scale and with reduced Terms & Conditions including longer working hours.
The proposals to set up the New Legal Entity are scheduled to go forward to the Policy & Resources Committee on the 14th of October.