In-house, out-house? The Fate of Street Scene

No 2 Outsourcing

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.

URGENT UPDATE “SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE” Update Welfare Rights

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.

  1. Welfare Rights Unit (Barnet Council)
  2. 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
  3. CAB also used to operate a home visiting service which has also ceased.
  4. Barnet Law Service (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  5. Mary Ward Legal Services (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  6. East Barnet Advice Services
  7. Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet
  8. Mencap (substantially reduced service since 2013) This service refer to the two Welfare Rights workers for Appeals and complex cases
  9. Jewish Deaf Association Barnet (substantially reduce services now drop in sessions only on Tuesdays morning  for  people with hearing impairment)
  10. Mind Barnet
  11. 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.

  1. 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
  2. Employment Advisors do not specialise on welfare benefits, their remit is employment
  3. Shelter specialise in Housing and debts. They do not provide Welfare Rights Advice
  4. 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.

Next actions:  

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.

Links:

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2017/05/04/simply-unbelievable-update-welfare-rights/

 

 

 

 

“I am bloody angry”– The Cruellest Cut to Welfare Rights advisors

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 contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Barnet Council Group Appeals for school staff

To: Barnet UNISON members working in Barnet Council community schools.

We are currently supporting individual staff in unique roles with their issues.

However there are a number of staff who are in roles which are covered by what are referred to as Group Appeals.

What is a Group Appeal?

This is an appeal for a job where there are a number of post holders such as Teaching Assistant, ICT technician, Nursery Nurse, School Business Manager.

The impact of a Group Appeal directly impacts on all post holders in that role.

Before Barnet UNISON requests an Appeal we will organise meetings and send out invites for members to come along in order we can explain the process.

We have already had a series of successful meetings with Nursery Nurses who provided UNISON with valuable information about the work they do in the classroom. It is important that if you receive a request to attend a UNISON meeting after work that you try to attend one of them.

What is a formal request for an Appeal?

Barnet UNISON will notify Barnet Council to begin the ballot of members about the Appeal. Barnet Council will send a letter to all staff in that specific role asking staff if they support the Appeal request (a simple Yes or No)

It is really important that all members respond immediately that they want the Appeal to go ahead. Barnet UNISON will notify our members the ballot has begun in order we get a high turnout (we need more than 50%)

Just recently UNISON requested an Appeal for Nursery Nurses and we quickly managed to get over 80% of our members all voting YES to supporting our request to take their case to an Appeal Hearing.

What happens in an Appeal Hearing?

The Appeal hearing will be heard by a member of Human Resources (HR) and a Trade Union rep.

Barnet UNISON reps with the support of the Branch Secretary John Burgess will prepare and present the group appeal for our members.

Barnet UNISON will be submitting Stage 2 Appeals for the following roles:

  • Nursery Nurses
  • Teaching Assistants level 2
  • Teaching Assistants level 3
  • Teaching Assistants level 4
  • Breakfast Club/After Club Level 3
  • Mealtime Supervisors

Before Barnet UNISON officially requests the Stage 2 Appeals we need to discuss the grounds with as many of our members as possible.

In order to try and ensure maximum participation we will invite members to attend a number of meetings in the summer term 2017.

If you are in doubt about the process then please do not hesitate to contact the Barnet UNISON office at contactus@barnetunison.org.uk or ring 0208 359 2088 or go onto our website http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/

Download flyer here sCHOOLS leaflet 1

 

NEC election now on!

UNISON National Executive Elections are open now. You should receive your ballot paper in the post. If you do not receive it by April 11th contact the ballot helpline before 25th April on 0800 0857 857. The ballot closes 28th April 5pm.

Members not on the UNISON central membership system on 3 January 2017 will not be eligible to vote in these elections. Only full members are eligible to vote in this election.

This is the highest body of lay representatives in the union. It is the body which holds the union to account and gives it direction. It also scrutinises the union’s business. This is an important election so USE YOUR VOTE.

Our branch has nominated the candidates listed below as we believe these people have shown the most commitment to creating a fighting union and will seek to link disputes rather than leave branches to fight the effects of Austerity politics on their own.

Local Government Seats
Paul Homes – LG General Seat
Paul Gilroy – LG Male Seat
Andrea Egan – LG Female Seat
Jane Doolan – LG Female Seat

Greater London Seats
Sonya Howard – GL Female Seat
Helen Davies – GL Female Seat
Sean Fox – GL Male Seat

National Black Members Seats
April Ashley – Female Seat
Hugo Pierre – Male Seat

Disabled Members Seats
Roger Lewis – General Seat
Pam Howard – Female Seat

Community Seats
Kieran Grogan – General Seat
Janet Bryan – Female Seat

Young Members Seat
Josie Runswick – Young Members Seat

Street Scene ballot result : Massive “In-House” vote – Barnet UNISON

On 15 March 2017, I attended Barnet Councils Environment Committee where an outsourcing decision was to be discussed.

You can view the meeting online here https://youtu.be/Y24Lm5s-afM

In the meeting one councillor referred to a staff consultation in which only 15 out of over 400 staff responded.

The next day Barnet UNISON Street Scene reps decided to carry out our own consultation.

This time we gave Street Scene staff the opportunity to vote for the In-house option something which had been omitted from the consultation.

In just three days we had 279 responses the results were as follows:

243 staff ticked Strongly Support Street Scene Services run fully by In-House staff.

243 staff ticked Strongly Opposed all other options.

1 member of staff ticked Strongly Support Barnet Group running the service and employing all of the staff.

There were 35 spoilt ballot papers.

Now we wait until Thursday 11 May 2017 to hear their fate for our members working in Street Scene.

 

Robot Wars: Barnet Libraries on the Eve of Destruction

Humans not Machines

What was once one of the finest public Library Services in the UK is about to undergo a transformation that will see it left in ruins. In 2002 Barnet won a Beacon Council award for libraries as a community resource, but since then successive restructures have seen staff numbers and service points cut. The decline will reach an all-time low in April 2017 when the newly restructured Library Service comes into operation.

In April the Library workforce will be reduced by almost half. The Council alleges that their skills, knowledge and experience can be replaced by volunteers and self-service machines.

Four Libraries will be handed over to charities and resident groups to be opened for only fifteen hours each a week.  The people of Mill Hill, South Friern, East Barnet and Childs Hill will lose direct access to a professional library service.

The Council will give these partnership libraries between £352,000 and £384,000 in grants for the first 3 years, money that would be better spent providing a service staffed and run by librarians and other real library workers.

The remaining Council-run libraries will have staff present only for a few hours on most days. Some days will be completely unstaffed. Under 15-years olds not accompanied by an adult will be unable to enter the libraries during these hours.

The Council seems unconcerned how this will affect the public, although aware that;

“The reduction in staffed opening hours will mean less support available in the library to get advice, information and to utilise the resources in the library. This will have the biggest impact on those who may require support to make best use of services at static library sites or are less able, or confident at using libraries without library staff support

 Barnet Future Library Service 5.9.10)

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s30694/Barnets%20future%20Library%20Service.pdf

The Council claims that CCTV monitored from a control centre in Cardiff will be sufficient to maintain the safety and security of people using the Libraries. Barnet UNISON disagreed, and continues to disagree, with the Council, citing incidents of anti-social behaviour, physical and verbal abuse and theft that have occurred in libraries, the number of which would be far higher if library staff had not been on site to prevent them.  Barnet UNISON remains unconvinced that the emergency response systems the Council plans for unstaffed hours will be sufficient.

Libraries are also to be reduced in size by up to 90%, as space is hived off to be offered for rent to commercial and community groups. This will leave inadequate study, computer and events space in most libraries. With only a few days to go before the restructure the Council has confirmed only one organisation interested in renting.  Since 2014, when this plan was first announced, Barnet UNISON has been pointing out that the Council’s estimated rental income of £546,000 by 2019/20 is very unlikely to be met

The Council claims it is being forced into reducing Library staff numbers, space and direct control of all libraries because of the need to save £1.6 million from the Libraries Budget by 2020. But the Council allocated over £6.5 million to implement the changes. In December the Council made known it was allocating over £14 million for “library procurements”. On the 8th December 2016 Barnet UNISON asked the Council a number of questions regarding this “procurement” spend. Because the Council did not answer our questions in full we resubmitted them on the 16th January 2017 and on the 14th February 2017. We still await a meaningful response

This is a lot of money to be spent on reducing the assets, efficiency, accessibility and safety of a service.

Barnet UNISON and the Save Barnet Library Campaigns have argued with the Council for over two and a half years that a machine and volunteer dependant Library Service would lead to a decline. The Council’s own consultations with the public found little if any support for their plan.  But the Council has consistently failed to address these arguments instead repeating the mantra that no libraries in Barnet were being closed and that opening hours were being extended. But when the new Library structure is implemented in April opening hours will not be any longer than at present.  The promised extended opening hours are now being postponed until the autumn. Only five of the Council-run libraries will be open while building work to reduce library space is carried out and the four “partnership” Libraries will stagger their hours between them.

In April the people of Barnet will find their library service much reduced. It is likely that many current and potential library users, particularly children, will find Barnet Libraries hard to access, information and advice difficult to come by, containing very little study space and the range of stock and services a shadow of what was once on offer.  This is likely to lead to a decline in use and an excuse by the Council to close Libraries

Our members working in libraries will continue as they have done in the past to try and provide the best service they can. But their low numbers, limited staffed opening hours and lack of space will be insurmountable barriers. Barnet UNISON will strongly oppose any attempts by the Council to place blame on library staff for the decline in the Service and any attempt to shift responsibility for any harm resulting from unstaffed opening hours.

Our members will be the first in line to face the frustration of the public with the restructured Library Service, but those responsible are the present ruling administration of the Council. Public dissatisfaction with the Library Service is likely to grow and may well have an influence on how Barnet residents vote in the next local elections.

Barnet UNISON will continue to campaign for a restoration of the Library Service. The people of Barnet need and deserve a professional library service staffed by real library workers.

Barnet UNISON call on the Council to stop the restructure and work constructively with those people working in and using libraries and with the wider community to build a Library Service that can once again rightly claim to be one of the best in the UK.

Further details on the Library changes and the Barnet UNISON’s campaign to stop it can be found on.

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/?s=libraries

 

 

 

 

 

 

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