Easy Council! – Special offer all council services on offer for One Penny closing date 27th August!

“Tories adopt budget airline service model”(Guardian 28April 2009)

Today Barnet Council was Front Page news in the Guardian newspaper see link


For those staff still not registering the implications of the Future Shape consultation, perhaps this will mark the beginning of discussions in team meetings across Council.  

Further links to EasyCouncil story can be found here  

·         http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/27/tory-borough-barnet-budget-airline 

·         http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/27/barnet-council-conservative-party 

·         http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/27/barnet-ryanair-pricing-model 

·         http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/aug/27/localgovernment-conservatives 

·         http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/6102167/Barnet-council-adopts-easyJet-and-Ryanair-business-model.html  

Phoney War

Since the 6th July 09 when Cabinet approved the move to Phase Three there has been a ‘Phoney war’ feel about Future Shape. There has been no details on the next Phase, no meetings in which we can begin to try to understand and consult over proposals for services.  

Then this!

Comparisons with Easy Jet and Ryan Air I believe are dangerous & unhelpful in that they play to residents & staff fears that services are going to sold off to the lowest bidder. Using a low cost airline as benchmark for public services does not feel right when you are talking about public services.  

What do you think?  

The last four weeks I have had the privilege of going back into social work teams in both adults & children’s services. I can report now that from the little I have seen staff are doing a brilliant job; working under incredible pressure & public scrutiny.   

I saw first hand the need for some of the Future Shape ideas such as avoiding duplication of tasks (form filling) using an IT system which all social workers and their fellow professionals can access. To address this issue we will need investment and pooling of budgets across other public sector bodies. There is nothing ‘Easy Jet’ about sorting this important issue for social services!  

I understand that this project has been dubbed ‘Easy Council’ catchy, good newspaper headlines but sending out the wrong message for the thousands of hard working staff trying to deliver efficient, quality services across the borough.  

In one of the links above a Barnet Councillor is quoted saying  

“With council tenants, and I’ll admit I am putting it crudely it has been a lot of ‘my arse needs wiping, and somebody from the council can come and do it for me.’ That attitude is dying out now.”

I am concerned that an elected councillor in Barnet has this view. The increasing pressure on spending on Social Care has led to ever more stringent criteria to access services. According to the Council’s Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) you need to meet substantial/critical criteria to get a service which will involve lengthy & detailed assessments.

What next?

Early next week we should be receiving details on the implementation plan for Future Shape. We will be discussing the plan with our members at our branch meeting on

Monday 12 October 12 – 2pm. Conference Room, NLBP

Make sure you come along  

Health Warning: “Don’t get old!”

“Don’t get old! “

That’s the message after watching Panorama on Monday 24th August. Listening to 89 year old Fred O’Donnell you could help but admire his optimism and fight after everything he has been through. Sad to hear him refer to council as the enemy, for a soldier who survived imprisonment during WW2 it was a powerful statement.  

You can view the programme by clicking on this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00mbvn3/Panorama_Gimme_Shelter/

500,000 people live in sheltered housing, I wonder which political party is going to wake up and see that votes at stake. 

I have spent many years working with older people, so it was great to see them standing up for their rights. Usually it is difficult to get older people to speak out for themselves, they often they fear services will be removed if they complain. 

In Northampton the Council attempted to marginalise the campaign Fred and his friends are organising by claiming there were 3,000 residents who are happy with the new service. When Panorama went out to meet these ‘happy’ residents it was all to clear they were not happy, they had accepted that there was nothing they could do, ‘so what is the point complaining?’  

If we know older people are frightened to complain why do we treat them like this?  

Social Workers often claim their clients are not seen as a priority, with more focus on children’s services. It is hard to ignore these claims when you look at the state of services for older people. If Panorama had the time and money to go to every council what would they uncover in home care, residential & nursing home services? 

If we don’t die young, we will all old get old,  and in today’s society where we no longer live within walking distance from our parents, uncles, aunties etc so it is important we have services that reflect needs of the community. 

What Councils & Commissioners are missing is the security aspect of a warden living on site. In Barnet and across the country it appears that this is not seen as relevant or important, yet in the consultation in Barnet it was one of the most popular issues raised by residents.

We might all agree it is unacceptable, but people are increasingly frightened about going out in the communities they live. It is perfectly understandable that for residents this is a serious issue.  

Watch some of these video diaries to hear for yourself


On the programme last night a statement from the government was read out. I have an idea for the Government.  

Why not ask the 500,000 residents living in sheltered housing the following questions 

“Would you like a live in Warden Service?” 

“Would you prefer a floating support service?” 

Once the results are gathered, you will know what services you need to commission. 

In Barnet, we are talking about a ‘new relationship with residents’. These are bold, brave words, but I am not confident everyone understands what this means. What would happen if we take those words and applied them to older people living in Barnet?

What would their response be to the above questions? 

I already can hear some scoff at my naivety, we don’t have the funding. But that should not stop these questions being asked. If we have funding issues let’s deal with them knowing what our residents want. We can’t have a new relationship with residents if we change the rules or don’t make it clear what the parameters are. All this does is ‘turn off’ residents from bothering. Apathy is the biggest enemy of democracy, politicians have an opportunity to re-ignite local democracy, but will they? 

Welfare Rights – Joint Trade Union report

Members will know that the Unit was down in the Budget for closure year. There has been widespread support for the Unit from members working across Adults & Children’s Services. UNISON has been lobbying Councillors, resulted in the decision being deferred to Cabinet Committee 1 September.

To view all 151 pages click this link


The appendices are 134 pages most of which make the case for keeping the service. We are concerned about the impact it will have on the social workers who use the service. Earlier this year we had hundreds of emails from social workers supporting the work of the Unit.

The Cabinet Committee report is recommending closure of the Unit.

If you are a social worker and have used the Unit:

·         What are your social work teams plans to replace this service for you and your clients?

·         Will this have an impact on your work?

·         Has this been discussed?

If not, then put in on the agenda at your next team meeting. Even better , if you are a social worker, community care officer, why not come along to the Cabinet Committee meeting on 1 September starts 7pm (Hendon Town Hall) and hear why Cabinet are being told that this decision is not going to have a adverse effect on service users & carers.

The Trade Unions have tabled a final report requesting the Council to keep the Unit

To view our report click here



Panorama – Sheltered Housing

Tonight at 8.30 BBC Panorama is reporting on the mass closure of sheltered housing services across the UK. One of the places they filmed was Barnet, so make sure you are sitting in front of the TV tonight.  To give you an insight into what is going on read this http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8214000/8214172.stm

Did you read the above story?

How does democracy work, we are consulted and say we don’t want this, then they still go ahead…..Politicians just don’t get it ……! 

One of the positives of this campaign is the growth of Sheltered Housing UK ,a resident led organisation, opposing the mass closure of on site wardens across the UK 

SHUK have managed to get on to the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Every hour someone else gets to stand on the plinth for one hour.  

On 26 August at  6pm, Viv Todd will stand on the 4th Plinth you can view her live by clicking on this link http://www.oneandother.co.uk/



Thank You is good but is it enough?

“His genuine interest and care provided some comfort, and his advice relating to care options gave us strength to pursue some that we may otherwise have given up – or not even been aware of…….He must be new, we thought; otherwise why has he not become jaded? It turned out we were wrong and he has been doing the job for over twenty years. It must often be a difficult job; always working in unhappy circumstances, with worried people, and with limited resources. To remain optimistic and positive must require some inner strength…”

I have deliberately kept the colleague’s name out of this quote from a Thank You letter as I think so many of the colleague’s I have worked with have also received Thank You letters as well as expressions of verbal gratitude. I am often proud to be working in the profession of social work and social care because of the dedication and commitment I see in my colleagues. This is also why I and others in the union team have been arguing over the proposed grades on the new role profiles.


These role profiles acknowledge the changes and proposed changes to our jobs but we believe this is not reflected in the pay. The pay does not acknowledge the inherent risks our colleagues are up against (unfortunately not all contacts we have with the public result in Thank You letters) nor does it acknowledge the physical effort our colleagues will be undertaking carrying out Occupational Therapist assessments.


We have just sent out ballot papers to consult with colleagues in Adult Social Services regarding their pay. Colleagues should have received their papers by now. Closing date for the return of the ballot form is 4.9.09. If you are reading this and believe you should be balloted but have not received a form, please contact the UNISON office immediately (020 8359 2088).


£5.73p per hour the “invisible workforce” nobody speaks about.

(The name of the worker have been changed for this article )

Gloria is a cleaner and earns £5.73p per hour. £5.73p is the legal national minimum wage, however it has been long recognised that cost of living for London residents means that there should be a London weighting added. On his election as London Mayor, Boris Johnson has honoured & championed (“Johnson said pay below this rate meant people were living in poverty even after benefits and tax credits were taken into account.”) the London Living Wage which stands at £7.60p per hour for all contracted staff. If Gloria was earning £7.60p per hour it would have a significant impact on the quality of life for her and her family. 


Gloria rises each day at 5 a.m. in order to catch a night bus into Barnet to begin what will be a 14 hour day which will see her work in a number of public sector buildings.


Her first job is in a school before the school opens, children start drifting into school while she is still working. The only person who will speak to Gloria is the caretaker. He will speak to Gloria about any changes to her normal duties and take up any issues about the standard of work she has done. No one else will notice or speak to Gloria, she is part of the school, yet she is not. She is in a school but has not had any training. In the event of a child making a disclosure, Gloria has no idea what she should do. In the time before privatisation the cleaning staff were part of the schools staff team and Gloria would have taken part in the Safeguarding training.


After finishing her shift Gloria has a few hours to kill as her next job is as a catering assistant in another school. She lives too far from home to return and so has to find somewhere to go to have something to eat as it is 5 hours since she left home.


A quick change into her uniform and Gloria is at work in the school kitchen. The catering service was privatised five years ago she is on the minimum wage and working for the next four hours. The work is hard and physically demanding. She is on her feet for most of the time, the work never seems to end.  


Gloria is leaving the school and heading for a college where she works for a different cleaning contractor, but still on £5.73p per hour!


For the next three hours she is cleaning classrooms, toilets, hallways….despite the fact she has been working there for a couple of years nobody says hello, she is invisible. ….


It’s 7 pm and Gloria is off her home it will be almost 9 pm before she arrives home.

In eight hours time she will be leaving for work!


What are the branch doing?

Barnet UNISON is part of the North London Citizens steering group, which is working towards the launch of North London Citizens. Lobbying both the private and public sectors to ensure that staff are at least on the London Living Wage is likely to be one of the aims of the organisation.


In Barnet our cleaners were privatised several years ago and unfortunately TUPE Plus was not on the negotiation table. The former ex council staff have been replaced with new staff on the minimum wage.


Our branch recently formally raised the issue of the cleaners pay & conditions with our employers and expect an update at our next meeting with our employers on 14 September.


Our branch believes cleaners should at least be on the London Living Wage and we are going to help make that happen.


We agree with the Mayor statement in the Guardian on 22 May 2009


“During these testing times, it is vital that we invest in order to pay Londoners a fair and decent wage,” Johnson said. 

“It also brings wider social benefits, tackling poverty, making work pay, and improving the quality of life for families……City Hall is leading by example, and we will certainly be paying the new London living wage across the GLA group as appropriate … I urge all London businesses to invest for the future by paying it too.”


What do you think?

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