“COVID-19: How to make your workplace safe” Zoom meeting

Barnet UNISON as part of our Know Your Rights at Work campaign are hosting a

ZOOM meeting with NEU and GMB entitled:

“COVID-19: How to make your workplace safe”

Wednesday 27 May 6pm

Guest Speaker: Janet Newsham, Chair Hazards Campaign, sitting member of Employment Tribunal for past 25 years.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82640214991?pwd=cW01ZzhtTTJoeStjNWVVcGJSaEhqQT09

Meeting ID: 826 4021 4991

Password: 363400

 

Housing Services Restructure

HOUSING MEMBERS

 

As you are well aware the situation in regard to Corona Virus is changing on daily basis, I have done my best to consult with UNISON members on the latest set of proposals from management.

 

In general, the opinion is, that given the crisis we are all facing, this would not be an expedient time to launch a dispute – UNISON members are more concerned with service  delivery to our vulnerable tenants.

 

However,

 

There is still an ongoing concern that there are issues with the restructure that have not been addressed and will need to be scrutinised by UNISON members before implementation.

 

So although UNISON are not declaring a dispute at the present time, due to the unprecedented circumstances we all find ourselves in, we are reserving the right to revisit the issues which are still outstanding and should UNISON members decide, declare a dispute before the full implementation of the proposals or when circumstances have returned to ‘normal’  [whenever that is]

 

 

 

LATEST – Management position on Leasehold, Neighbourhood, Rental Income, Customer Contact Centre

Hello All,

Earlier this week I confirmed that that all interviews have been suspended up until 1 June and that this would not affect any applications for voluntary redundancy. I also stated that I would provide an update to everyone as to the implementation of the wider CEP recommendations before the end of this week.

The CEP recommendations will continue to be implemented but with some changes to account for the suspension of the interviews. Please note that these dates are subject to review in light of the ongoing COVID-19 issues. I would like to thank everybody for their continued efforts over this difficult period and I have tried to give an overview of how this will impact on each service below over the coming months and up to 1 July:

 

Changes 13 April 2020
 

1 – Income Collection Services

  • New Income Collection Service goes live with all Rental Income Team staff & functions transferring into the new service area
  • Recruitment for new Income Collection Service Manager post to be suspended in line with wider TBG approach
  • Leasehold Housing Manager and 5 x Leasehold Housing Officers transfer to the new Income Collection Service as a separate Income Collection Team (Leasehold). The Leasehold Housing Manager will report directly into Head of Housing Management
  • Leasehold Housing Officers will retain responsibility for managing leasehold management enquiries but will not be responsible for the Right To Buy process.
  • Leasehold duty line to close and be redirected to CCT

 

 

2 – Housing Management Services

  • New Housing Management Service goes live with all Neighbourhood Housing Team staff & functions transferring into the new service area
  • No change to role and responsibilities of staff as all Leasehold Management functions and the management of RTB will not be added to this service area at this point
  • All ‘at risk’ staff members (2.5 x Housing Assistants) to be retained pending interviews currently scheduled for 1 June
  • Neighbourhood duty line to be retained – to be transitioned to CCT by 1 July 2020
  • Regeneration Service to be set up over the course of April – May 2020

 

 

3 – Leasehold Development Team

  • Leasehold Development Team to be transferred with all existing staff and resources from Leasehold Services to Property Services
  • Leasehold Development Team Manager to report direct to Head of Property Services

 

 

4 – Leasehold Management Functions & Right to Buy

  • Leasehold Housing Officers will retain responsibility for managing leasehold management enquiries but will not be responsible for the Right To Buy process.
  • 1 x Leasehold Housing Assistant to be retained pending interviews currently scheduled for 1 June
  • Sections of the RTB process (e.g. RTB application pack) to transfer to the CCT
  • Assistant role to report into the Leasehold Development Team Manager
  • The Leasehold Development Team Manager will be given additional hours to lead on developing the approach to transferring all leasehold management and RTB function into the Housing Management Service
  • All transition activities regarding leasehold management and RTB functions will be reported to Head of Housing Management

 

 

Changes 18 May 2020
 

1.       Income Collection Service

  • 0.5 resource (LHO) to move out of the Income Collection Team (Leasehold) to join new transition team focussing on leasehold management enquiries
  • Responsibility for all leasehold management enquiries to transfer to new transition team

 

 

2.       Housing Management Services

  • No further change

 

 

3.       Leasehold Development Team

  • No further change

 

 

4.       Leasehold Management Functions & Right to Buy

  • To recruit 1 x FTE agency staff member to join Leasehold Management Transition Team to be joined by 0.5 resource from the Income Collection Team (Leasehold) and 1 x Leasehold Assistant
  • 1.5 x Officer resources to lead on leasehold management functions. 1 x Leasehold Assistant resource to lead on RTB and admin functions
  • Team to be managed by the Leasehold Development Team Manager

 

 

Changes 1 June 2020
 

1.       Income Collection Service

  • Interviews planned for this date – to be kept under review

 

 

2.       Housing Management Services

·         Interviews planned for this date – to be kept under review

 

 

3.       Leasehold Development Team

  • No further change

 

 

4.       Leasehold Management Functions & Right to Buy

  • 1 x FTE Housing Officer to join the transition team from Income Collection Service
  • This will allow 2 x FTE Officer resources to lead on leasehold management functions.
  • 1 x Leasehold Assistant resource to lead on RTB and admin functions will need to be replaced by agency member of staff up to 1 July

 

 

Changes 1 July 2020
 

1.       Housing Management Services

  • On 1 July all leasehold management services and RTB functions to transfer into the Housing Management Service dependent on meeting key criteria (e.g. development of key processes; training provision; IT system improvements)
  • If all criteria met the transitional team closes down and Leasehold Co-ordinator post reports into the Housing Management Service Manager post
  • If extension required must be authorised by the Head of Housing Management

 

 

2.       Leasehold Development Team

  • No further change

 

 

3.       Leasehold Management Functions & Right to Buy

  • If all criteria met transition team closes and all function move to the Housing Management Service
  • 1 x FTE Housing Officer to join the Housing Management Service
  • Agency post to be ended
  • Leasehold Co-ordinator post reports into the Housing Management Service Manager post

 

 

I will be keeping this plan under continuous review and its successful implementation is dependent on a number of factors not least having feedback from everyone about what is and what isn’t working.

 

If you do have any queries about the above, please let me know.

 

Kind regards

 

 

 

Stuart Coleman

Housing Restructure Update

Dear member,

I hope you and all your loved ones are well.

See attached or below.

This is the latest update from management in regard to the ongoing Consultation in Leasehold, Neighbourhood, Rental Income and Customer Contact Centre.

I have not been able to consult with you on these proposals or call a meeting with you to discuss whether these proposals change the position agreed upon the last time we met on the 11 March 2020.

The position then was for a dispute to be lodged at JNCC and thereafter enable an indicative ballot of members effected by as to what industrial action you are prepared to take.

Obviously the Corona Virus has markedly changed priorities.

The next scheduled JNCC is on the 3 April 2020 – so given that management have moved their position, put some further risk mitigating measures in place and moved the interview dates for ‘at risk’ staff to the 1st of June

Should UNISON lodge the dispute?

Or wait and continue further dialogue?

Please reply to this email and indicate either 1 or 2.

  1. LODGE DISPUTE NOW
  2. DO NOT LODGE AT THIS TIME

Let me know your thoughts –

In solidarity

Stay safe

Patrick Hunter

UNISON Convenor for The Barnet Group

 

 

 

 

 

Good News: Housing options staying in Barnet House.

Last week staff working for Barnet Homes were informed that the Housing Options service would not be moving to Colindale.

This is a sensible decision. This service is probably the most high profile and potentially volatile work environment. Due to the brutal crushing impact of austerity those who need this service have often been refused access to services. They are desperate and very vulnerable. Last year we had a fatality. It was a tragedy and it had a profound impact on many of the staff who were working there that day. This is a service that need space for residents and their families to be able to speak to staff in a safe environment.

The space allocated at Colindale was never going to be suitable.

For the time being the service is remaining at Barnet House in which case it does need some money spent on it to make it a better environment for all that use and or work there.

End.

Call out in solidarity for local democracy in Barnet 30 July 2019

On Tuesday 30 July 2019, 7pm in Hendon Town Hall, Barnet Council will vote on a proposal that in will restrict Barnet residents’ ability to ask questions and speak at future Council Committee meetings.

The London Borough of Barnet has a wealth of community activism which includes Barnet Bloggers (Mr Reasonable, Mrs Angry, Mr Mustard and Barnet Eye) and Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) to name just a few.

Their contributions over the last decade have largely been supportive of the services our members provide.

However, their contribution to future committees will virtually cease if the proposed rule change is passed at Full Council on 30 July 2019.

Barnet residents have responded by setting up a petition entitled “Stop Barnet Council From Gagging Residents”

You and read and sign in solidarity by clicking on this link here

https://t.co/P7sb0e3KNU?amp=1

Barnet UNISON is asking members to show solidarity by joining Barnet residents on Tuesday 30 July outside Hendon Town Hall from 6 pm onwards.

Colindale office UNISON H&S Inspection

 

Colindale office UNISON H&S Inspection

Background

Barnet Group to move staff and operations from Barnet House to new office site in Colindale. Move to commence June 2019.

UNISON representatives from the Barnet Group undertook a Health and Safety Inspection of the new site 12/4/19.

 


Housing Options Reception

 

Current arrangements – Barnet House

Client’s visiting Housing Options are initially held on the ground floor.

This means they can be searched away from Housing Options staff, and for security to confirm who has an appointment.

If there is an incident on the 2nd floor, clients can be held downstairs.

There is also space for client’s to wait and call Housing Options if they don’t have an appointment (as Housing Options is appointment only), although in some cases clients use phones on the second floor to contact benefit advisers etc.

UNISON notes that part of current security arrangements mean that when clients initially arrive at the building they can only gain access to the 2nd floor prior to being searched, and that the one member of reception staff on the ground floor is behind protective glass.

Current statistics on Barnet House anti-social, verbal and physical abuse incidents are too low – UNISON is concerned that there is a culture where abuse of staff is tolerated and incidents not recorded.

Proposed arrangements – Colindale

The proposed new reception has entrances straight from the street with clients queuing up and being searched in the reception area.

UNISON has been informed that there will be no barriers by the entrance, however there will be a reception desk with one or two security guards [to be confirmed], and a side room for more extensive searches.

Total security presence on the ground floor Housing Options Reception area has, as yet to be identified.

Concerns:

 

  1. As there is no protective barrier between clients and staff, clients could throw objects or liquids at staff without/before being searched.

  1. A violent client can push past security and gain access to staff without being searched.

  1. Customers in winter will not want to queue outside meaning they will be in the reception and potentially have access to staff without being searched.

  1. If there is an incident that requires security staff to deal with a violent client, there is no provision to stop other clients from entering the building.

  1. No way of stopping the flow of people to the entrance from outside the building whilst an incident is being managed.

  1. Housing Options regularly have violent clients who need to be removed from the building, there will be a safety issue in removing a disruptive client if other clients are queuing at the entrance.

  1. Housing Options clients include a high proportion of very vulnerable people, including children, who can be waiting the majority of the day for temporary accommodation – this will be unmanageable in the small space provided.

  1. Housing Options staff deal with many victims of domestic violence who may be fleeing violent and abusive partners. At the moment the proposed seating arrangements for people waiting for temporary accommodation mean that clients would be visible from the street through the large glass walls. This could potentially put both the victim of abuse and staff and other clients in danger if the perpetrator of the abuse sees them and would be traumatic for the vulnerable client.

  1. If a client doesn’t have an appointment there appears to be no place where they can call Housing Options to be triaged and assessed prior to seeing a member of staff. This needs to be resolved.

  1. General issues of safety in such a small space given that on a busy day Housing Options staff can have up to five or six families waiting to be seen by staff at any time, as well as families waiting for temporary accommodation.

  1. There does not seem to be any thought been given to the ‘maximum’ number of people that can be in the Housing Options Reception area at any one time.

  1. The Housing Options reception will be shared with Officers from Rental Income, Neighbourhood Housing, Antisocial Behaviour Officers and Leasehold Officers as the only secure interview space for staff to meet with customers. This will lead to severe delays in clients being interviewed. Staff may be tempted or feel pressurised into interviewing clients elsewhere in an unsafe environment due to lack of resources.

  1. Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers have not been given the opportunity to complete a joint inspection with UNISON.

  1. As there will be very limited space/privacy, clients visiting the interview area may be put in the position of having to disclose personal information and details which could be overheard by other members of the public, breaching Data Protection guidelines.

  1. There seems to be a lack of toilet facilities for clients in the Reception area and none in the waiting area.

Fire Safety

 

  1. Fire safety – Number of Fire Points. No fire safety documentation has been provided, as yet, in regard to the number of fire call points in each area.

  1. Disabled access – Unison request more details on this, particularly emergency procedures and evacuation protocols.

  1. UNISON is in ongoing dialogue with the Council and facilities in regard to evacuation protocol and PEEPs [see attached Appendix]

 

 

General Building Health and Safety Concerns

  1. No details available/provided of the building Temperature Control system.

  1. Toilets – at least one single gender toilet should be provided – Cubicles seem quite small for those who may need to wash upper bodies before prayer also wash hand basins are very small. Disabled toilets (public) Access? Mobility WCs should have grab aids on both sides of pan – not all users transfer from same side.

  1. Security arrangements for main building – can this be confirmed and Risk Assessments shared.

  1. Currently no provision where other Barnet Homes staff [not Housing Options] will be able to interview visitors. Lease Hold Services currently have visitors who drop off Right to Buy applications and attend RTB interviews and financial interviews. Rental Income Team, Neighbourhood Housing and Antisocial Behaviour Officers will need access to secure interview areas. Operations guidelines for these services need to be identified and fully Risk Assessed before the service is implemented.

  1. Main reception – the entrance doors partially obscured by stairs to 1st floor and a pillar, what security provision has been made to cover the ‘blind spot’?

  1. Roof garden – railings on the roof are low and easily accessible.

  1. Originally staff were advised that teams would have designated areas of work and on plans these were shaded in. UNISON has now been informed that all areas are hot desks. Does this mean that those who work from 10am will never get a desk?

  1. Cycle parking seems to be very limited – not under cover and just the metal hoop types – as the Barnet Group and the Council is encouraging staff to cycle to work more will need to be provided.

  1. Car parking Areas are located some distance from the main building – staff safety in walking to these areas needs to be Risk Assessed and shared.

  1. Car parks – need to be inspected for adequate lighting – it is unclear if any other safety measures will be put in place [such as CCTV] before the building becomes operational.

 

 

Risks

 

As there is no filter system for members of the public on entering the reception area clients will have to disclose personal details to security/reception and be overheard by other members of the public. The Barnet Group may be in held in breach of General Data Protection Regulations should a member of the public/client make a complaint.

Safeguarding of vulnerable clients visiting the Housing Options reception area is a priority – if victims of domestic abuse don’t feel safe to access council services and be seen by an Officer without the possibility of the perpetrator of the abuse seeing them then they won’t do it.

 

There is an overriding detrimental concern for Barnet Group staff Health and Safety putting the Barnet Group in legal jeopardy.

In addition, the Health and Safety of the Public could be put at risk leaving the Barnet Group open to litigation.

Staff in Housing Options have made it clear to UNISON that the proposed reception area is fundamentally unsafe.

As previously identified the recording/reporting of incidents at the Barnet House Reception is poor – This cannot continue at the new site.

UNISON is given to understand that many of these issues have been raised by staff and line-managers across the whole of Housing Options, but as yet the concerns have not been addressed.

If frontline staff are essentially expected to work in a dangerous environment UNISON will be left with no alternative other than to act on members concerns, inevitably leading to a breakdown in Industrial Relations, if the identified risks are not addressed before Housing Options reception becomes operational.

 

Recommendations

 

  1. Meaningful dialogue between UNISON, management and staff in regard to Housing Options reception to resolve the issues identified and the suitability of the Colindale site.

  1. Security provision to be identified and established, (including lines of reporting and training) and fully Risk Assessed before the building becomes operational.

  1. Public access procedures identified and fully Risk Assessed.

  1. Anti-social behaviour policy in regard to prospective clients to be produced and a zero tolerance of abuse towards staff to be implemented.

  1. Risk Assessments for the reception and interview areas, including those for violent and abusive members of the public to be completed.

  1. A further joint UNISON Health and Safety inspection in conjunction with Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers to be arranged to assess risks to staff and the public before the building becomes operational.

  1. UNISON to work in conjunction with Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers to encourage staff and managers to record/report any incidents of physical and verbal abuse. UNISON and Barnet Group H&S to co-operate, investigate cases of concern and produce joint recommendations.

  1. Safeguarding of vulnerable clients to be acknowledged and addressed contacting  the Safeguarding team at the Council about the risk to  vulnerable adults, children and the victims of domestic abuse visiting the Colindale site would be recommended.

  1. General Data Protection Regulation issues to be acknowledged and measures put in place to minimise risk.

  1. UNISON suggests that Housing Options clients use the main council reception when they first arrive, enabling clients to be filtered to the Housing Options reception once it has been confirmed that they are due to be seen by an Officer. This would significantly reduce the flow of people through the main Housing Options front entrance, It would also have the bonus of freeing up space as clients could wait in the main reception for temporary accommodation and the officers from the TA team (soon to be Housing Solutions team) come straight down in the lift to the main reception area . This would be a better solution for clients as there is a Costa Coffee in the foyer for their use while waiting to be seen.

Conclusion

Given the unpredictable nature of Housing Options operations as the tragic incident on the 2nd floor last year demonstrated – UNISON recommends that the concerns of staff, managers and Trade Unions should be fully addressed and the suitability of the proposed Colindale site fully assessed before the Housing Options Reception Area becomes operational.

 

 

The Council’s New Housing Strategy – Increase rents by £100 a week


 An extra £100 a week on rents for new build council homes and re-let council homes being transferred to Open Door Homes (ODH) – the Council’s housing development company.

The plan will mean council tenants in new and re-let homes owned by ODH will have to pay £209 a week for a 2-bedroom home compared with £109 a week currently charged for a council home.

Exploiting the most vulnerable in our community – people in need of Housing may no longer be able to afford this – a disgrace – The Barnet Group is an experiment that needs to be brought back in house and do what they are supposed to do – PROVIDE COUNCIL HOUSING!!!!

In the Labour Group’s submission to the draft Housing Strategy consultation, Labour’s Lead on Housing – Cllr Paul Edwards said: “Barnet Homes (Open Door) is a social landlord and should be providing social rent homes at rates in line with the Mayor’s plan. So, the rent should be no more than 50% of market rates, which is a more socially just rent to ask for than 65% and is in line with the Mayor’s plan.

“The high 65% social rent is the main reason Barnet Council were not able to secure more grant from the GLA – why would the Mayor invest in building new social rent homes that are not going to be affordable to those on low incomes?”

Cllr Edwards also criticised the lack of ambition to deliver more affordable homes across all development, and called for the affordable homes target to be increased from 40% of all new homes to 50%. The Conservatives voted against this as well.

Ends.
Notes:
1. The Council’s new Housing Strategy can be found here (Agenda Item 8):

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g9740/Public%20reports%20pack%2001st-Apr-2019%2019.00%20Housing%20Committee.pdf?T=10

Barnet House: East of Borough Hub?

 

Barnet UNISON wrote to the Council last year asking if there was a possibility that part of Barnet House could be an East of Borough Hub for staff and residents.

We set out details in our post below. http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2018/11/02/barnet-house-hub-proposal-barnet-unison/

Our proposal was not accepted.

However on reading the responses to Mr Reasonable questions at Financial Performance and Contracts Committee, Monday 11th March, 2019 7.00 pm

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51645/FPC%20-%20Public%20Questions%20and%20Comments%20-%2011%20March%202019.pdf )

Barnet UNISON believes that the proposal could have some legs and here is why.

Mr Reasonable aka John Dix asks the following question:

“After June 2020 where will the family services be located in the East of the Borough and what reassurances can you give that funding for a permanent East Hub will be allocated?”

Council response:

“The provisional plan is for a Family Friendly Hub to be created in the East Barnet Library, once the partnership library moves to the New Barnet Leisure Centre in the Summer. The allocation of funding and confirmation that East Barnet Library is a viable solution is subject to a successful capital bid and supporting business case, which is currently being developed.”

Mr Reasonable aka John Dix asks the following question:

“Given that last week I was told that an exit from the Barnet House lease had not yet been agreed, why wasn’t this identified as a risk in the report at section 1.16.7 and what is the scale of the financial risk – i.e. how many months will we have to keep paying rent for Barnet House once it has been vacate?”

Council response:

“The business case for the move to Colindale assumes that LBB will continue to pay for the Barnet House lease all the way through until the end of that lease in 2032. This is because there are no breaks in the lease so surrendering the agreement is subject to negotiations with the landlord, which are by no means guaranteed to be successful. Nevertheless, reducing running costs and / or sub-letting the building is expected to result in significant savings.”

Barnet UNISON response:

In light of the recent news the Council has budgeted to continue to pay the lease (£750k a year) until 2032 which we estimate is around £9.750,000, Barnet UNISON has written to the Chief Executive to ask if the Council will consider leasing part of Barnet House for an East of Borough Hub.

Watch this space.

 

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