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These are the words Ken Loach uses to describe the proposed cuts to our last 2 Welfare Rights Advisors.
Shockingly this proposed cut is not about saving money! One of the biggest user groups of the service are those with Mental Health problems.
Of course it’s great that famous people are joining in to break the taboo of talking about Mental ill-health but what is the point if we just then kick these people in the face by removing access to an important service!
Barnet UNISON welcomes the proposal going to the Environment Committee Thursday 11th May at 6.30pm:
“That Environment Committee approves option E as set out in section 1.15 to 1.29 for the Street Scene Delivery Unit services including; recycling and waste, street cleansing, and green spaces maintenance (Lots 1-3) to revert to a full In–House service
That Environment Committee note and agree to the timescale, to revert to a full In–House service as set out in section 1.27, and agree that the Streetscene ADM project has concluded and that an implementation project will now commence”
Please join us in Hendon Town Hall on this historic occasion of watching an in-house model being proposed to our local councillors.
This election like no other represents a fork in the road for the future development of our society and public services. If you are not registered, you cannot vote. If you have more people over the age of 18 in your household – are they registered to vote? Closing date is 22nd May. Register here https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
As a result of consultation we have now learnt that the two welfare rights advisor workers 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.
“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.
- Welfare Rights Unit (Barnet Council)
- 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
- CAB also used to operate a home visiting service which has also ceased.
- Barnet Law Service (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
- Mary Ward Legal Services (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
- East Barnet Advice Services
- Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet
- Mencap (substantially reduced service since 2013) This service refer to the two Welfare Rights workers for Appeals and complex cases
- Jewish Deaf Association Barnet (substantially reduce services now drop in sessions only on Tuesdays morning for people with hearing impairment)
- Mind Barnet
- 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 two 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.
- 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
- Employment Advisors do not specialise on welfare benefits, their remit is employment
- Shelter specialise in Housing and debts. They do not provide Welfare Rights Advice
- 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.
Barnet UNISON on Tuesday 9 May at the Family Services JNCC 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.
You would think that at my time of life and my experience of cuts that I would become immune to the brutality of Austerity cuts.
But today, my head exploded as I attended a statutory consultation meeting which is proposing to delete the only two welfare benefits advisors we have left in the Council.
I will post greater details about this proposal but needless to say the two staff concerned are highly skilled, motivated and totally committed to advocating for some of the most vulnerable families in our community.
Welfare Benefits is a nightmare to navigate even social workers refer to our welfare benefits advisors as do the few remaining voluntary organisations that are left after a series of cuts to the voluntary sector.
Our two members are providing service to vulnerable families with complex mental health problems. Mental Health appears to be attracting a lot of attention, a lot of warms words, but it is this sort of cut that exposes the words are empty.
The proposals to replace these vital two posts with a ‘Financial Inclusion Coordinator”.
I kid you not that the service is going and this post will sign post vulnerable to services, but the thing is there are no equivalent services for these families.
When Ken Loach refers to “conscious managed cruelty” I think I can understand what he means, who in their right mind in social services would want to do this or even think this is a good idea.
What makes me even angrier is the amount of money this proposal will save is negligible when compared with the amount of money Barnet Council is spending on agency and consultants. Since 2012, spend has risen incrementally from £7.73 million to just under £20 million by 2017.
Read it for yourself here http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/is-anyone-monitoring-capita.html
What about the damage to the families who will no longer receive the support they are currently being provided.
Before anyone says there are other agencies that can provide the same services. No there are not.
This proposal is appalling and must be stopped.
Barnet UNISON and our members will do our utmost to stop this from happening. The benefit system is too complex, there is no other provider we can’t let this cut destroy more peoples lives.
We need to save this service.
You can send messages of support to Barnet UNISON office at email@example.com