Stop the Witchhunt of Social Workers.

You will be aware that in the weeks leading up to Christmas the Sun newspaper has managed to whip up a massive campaign against social workers blaming the individual social worker for the death of Baby P. It delivered a petition demanding the sacking of the social workers and managers involved in the case. Since then any child death reported in the media seems to be scrutinised for potential involvement by social workers and then discussed in terms of the failure to intervene.

 

Why? Could it be social workers try to work and understand people who are disadvantaged in society instead of simply labelling them as “scroungers” as one Sun journalist on the Today programme referred to people living on the estate in Dewsbury where Shannon Matthews lives?

 

The effect of the campaign against social workers will make it more difficult to recruit and retain workers in the profession – particularly in Child Protection work. It has overnight also pushed up the cost of caring for children as rather than take risks there has been an increase of some 36% of children being taken into care. In turn the work which relies on trust between the social worker and families has been damaged, potentially increasing the risk for vulnerable people. Well done the Sun and its readership!

 

UNISON issued a press statement before the Sun petition was handed in and pointed out the difficulties social workers face in their line of work. It was critical of the attacks by the popular press. This statement was accessible on-line.

 

In our Branch we have discussed the statement at a variety of meetings (latterly our last Branch Executive) and in each case our members agreed for our Branch to forward solidarity greetings to Haringey UNISON which is involved in defending social workers bearing the brunt of the attacks.

 

Leo Boland’s (our former Chief Executive) statement to all council workers (15.12.08 First Team) was helpful as far as it went, but we think he could have gone much further. For instance there needs to be a serious commitment to cutting down the bureaucracy which is tying our workers to the computer instead of them having more contact with families. He could also have pushed for the 2 extra annual leave days in recognition of our 4 star status for all council staff as a measure of goodwill.

 

We do not have to feel helpless in the face of this attack on social work and social workers. The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) has an on-line petition. If people want a meeting or further discussion about this and related issues, we can organise this – contact us.

 

Finally let’s be clear: if the Future Shape delivers privatisation of Children’s services this will do nothing to protect our children but will put more children at risk and result in more frustration for our social worker members.

 

Helen Davies                        Maggi Myland

Branch Chair                        Social Services Convenor

Joint Trade Union FUTURE SHAPE Meetings 2009

Environment & Planning Services

Thurs 15 January 2009, Danube, Building 4

Tues 3 February 2009, Willows, Building 4

Wed 25 February 2009, Training Room5, Building 2

Thurs 26 March 2009, Conference Suite, Building 2

 

Resources and Corporate Governance

Wed 21 January 2009, Training Room 6, Building 2

Thurs 12 February 2009, Conference Suite, Building 2

Tues 3 March 2009, Danube, Building 4

 

Adults & Children’s Services

Thurs 29 January 2009, Training Room 2, Building 2

Tues 17 February 2009, Training Room 6, Building 2

Tues 17 March 2009, Training Room2, Building 2

 

Barnet House for all services 12–1.30 pm

Thurs 22 January 2009, Committee Room 2

Wed 18 February 2009, Committee Room 1

Thursday 19 March 2009, Committee Room 1

 

 

 

Status Quo… Barnet Press – Front Page

In Barnet Press Mike Freer, leader of the council said “The status quo is not an option” Status Quo were on BBC this morning, 40 years in the business and still ‘rocking and rolling over the world!’ They have just released a Christmas record, not bad, but have to agree they are not an option for services for Barnet residents! Here is how the Barnet Press described it-

Future Shape – Branch meeting

National Secretary for Local Government

Heather Wakefield

Is coming to our Branch meeting.

16 December 2008, 12—2 pm

Conference Room, Building 2, NLBP

Guest speaker – Heather Wakefield, UNISON National Secretary Local Government

Agenda – Future Shape & Council Budget

Xmas Buffet is being provided

Time off for members to attend has been requested

UNISON response to Future Shape rally

400+

It was an incredible response from staff & Barnet residents on a bitter cold December evening……….hot drinks, mince pies and carol singing all helped fight off the cold.

So what happened in the meeting?

Well some of you may have seen or heard reports on the local TV & radio.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/tv/television/latest_stories/

And a link to photos taken at the rally – http://photos.snapsthoughts.com/p352281318

It appears from listening to the Leader both on the TV and in the Cabinet Committee that the Trade Unions have jumped the gun.

The new public service model which is described in the report is “NOT about mass privatisation of the Council!”

That is good news….but it really is not clear in the report….we are not the only ones to apparently misunderstand the report. A Barnet resident sent the Cabinet report to the Plain English Campaign and this is their response:

Plain English Campaign’s assessment of Future Shape report discussed at Cabinet 3 December 2008:

 “I think your suggestion that the council is planning to introduce outsourcing is correct although when they couch their plans in such gobbledygook, it is hard to be certain.

 “Paragraph 4.3 seems to suggest that they are thinking of using ‘organisations other than the Council’ while paragraph 5.3 suggests staff could be transferred to other employers. And, the Council also seems to have considered the legal implications of what it is doing.

“In answer to your question about whether it is in plain (enough) English to serve the public interest, the answer is definitely not. From a plain English point of view, it is an awful document. It is so full of jargon and management speak that the message is hard to find. It is quite possible to write complicated stuff like this in plain English – in fact, as everyone is entitled to receiving information in plain English, it should be common practice to write clearly.

“Whether the Council is writing in this style to try to disguise what it is considering, or whether it is just a case of not thinking about the residents of the borough I can’t say. What I would do however is ask for the information in an appropriate style so that you, and all the other residents of the borough, are aware of quite major changes that could affect the way your council is run. And, as there seem to be huge implications for staff, I am sure they particularly need to be kept notified of what is happening.”

Councillors reaction

Barnet residents & Trade Union members came up to me and complained that they felt the councillor’s comments were rude and playing to the gallery. I am afraid that this has been a feature of both local and national politics for a long time. It is not surprising that there is such poor responses to consultations with the communities.

Wednesday 3 December 400 people felt motivated to find time to come along and take part in something we call democracy. Democracy means the right for individuals and organisations to lobby and give their views. Just because you don’t like what you read is not grounds for disrespecting other people’s views. What we saw tonight was deliberate misrepresentation of the trade unions’ report.

Clearly there is a serious lack communication not just with the trade unions but with staff and most importantly residents, I hope that rather than retreating behind party political jibes we are able to sit down and play an active part in the Future Shape programme. I would ask ALL staff not to feel disheartened but to take up the challenge and request YOUR Future Shape meeting in your workplace. According to the time table we have just under 5 months for the Council to thoroughly assess what it is doing now and how it might change?

Staff, residents and the Trade Unions are waiting for the next phase of consultation to begin!

Future Shape – Putting the record straight

Workforce Issues

One of the key issues for staff is what would happen to their terms and conditions of they were privatised.

We have raised this issue in our weekly meetings and have published Briefing 3 (amended) seeking a commitment to TUPE Plus. To date we have not had a formal response to our TUPE Plus proposal. The longer there is no response the greater the anxiety for staff.

We have had some comments made about potential future employment in particular this statement on the Councils Future Shape web page

Question: “The Council’s only signed up to TUPE, not TUPE plus.”

Reply: “This isn’t the case. The Council is committed to only working with partners that have admitted body status, or can offer a pension scheme better than the local government one. It is also committed to the Code of Practice on Workforce Matters, which means that staff transferring under TUPE to a partner will receive the same nationally negotiated pay awards as they would have received had they remained in local government. Both of these are TUPE plus as they are not covered by TUPE and they serve to protect the pensions and terms and conditions of staff.”

First of all we need to deal with the sentence “It is also committed to the Code of Practice on Workforce Matters,”

The simple fact is that the Council have not monitored or enforced the Code for staff who have been previously transferred. For the past three years the Trade Unions have been trying to ensure the Council takes this matter seriously, promises have been made but nothing has been done.

If the Council wants to allay staff fears of what may happen to them if they are privatised they need to formally respond to our Briefing 3 (amended) and ensure that the Council start enforcing the Code now.

Trade Union consultation

We do meet weekly and we have had a lot of discussions about various types of provision. Over the past two months we have published 6 Briefings but have not had a formal response to any of them.

Our Briefings relate to staff, service provision, contract monitoring etc. For some reason we have had no formal feedback which is undermining the consultation process and creating unnecessary anxiety amongst the workforce.

If there is nothing to hide then we need more openness.  

If the Cabinet agree the recommendations in the Cabinet report they need to ensure that communications are dramatically improved.

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