Sheltered Housing – the end of an era?

Reading the report going to Cabinet Committee

I was struck by the numbers of responses. Clearly this issue has been taken up by residents, relatives, providers and the community. The question of whether services are being targeted to those in need was lost when the proposal was presented as a budget cut.

What we can see in the report is the strength of feeling about the proposal. I have copied a section near the end of the Council report which details the concerns. Reading them it is hard to see how they could be disregarded. Residents are afraid and it is not clear from the report how this fear is going to be addressed.

The Main Issues and Concerns Raised 

Loss of Scheme Manager Service

  • Security
  • Safety
  • Having to rely on alarm service
  • Community and social life
  • Individual emotional support and pastoral care
  • Loss of Scheme Managers knowledge of residents and their situations
  • Support planning
  • Health emergencies
  • Disabled, older or frail residents need consistent support by someone they know and trust
  • No monitoring or preventative work carried out
  • Maintenance and repairs – support in reporting/chasing up/allowing access
  • Practical problems – lost keys, residents stuck in lifts etc
  • Health and safety issues
  • Liaising with and monitoring other services
  • Will lead to strain on residents if younger/fitter have to help others, inappropriate as not trained 

Floating Support

  • Lack of operational detail, unconvinced it will work
  • Inappropriate – adds to security concerns
  • No social or community aspect – isolation will increase
  • Difficulty accessing by phone
  • Cannot cope with high levels of need/chronic conditions/dementia
  • Is the funding enough to cover all needs?

Alarm Service  

  • What will happen about communal areas if assessed individually?
  • Cannot respond as promptly as on site staff
  • Slow response

No longer Sheltered Housing

  • Younger people moving in
  • Potential for ASB and other crime – less secure and easily identified as scheme housing some vulnerable older people

Effect on Other Services

  • Increased demand so longer waiting times and higher costs
  • More bed blocking and demand for residential and nursing homes

Longer Term

  • Planned move into sheltered as long term solution, needs will not be met
  • Older people in community will have no incentive to give up larger properties
  • Funding for Floating support being cut

Reasons for and Context of Residents Views
Many of the reasons for and justifications of residents’ views are reflected elsewhere in the report but can be summarised as follows.

  • Sheltered housing currently provides a cost effective service that is highly valued, the proposals would effectively end that.
  • The security and safety of a vulnerable group will be compromised.
  • The assessment process meant the vast majority of residents had identified support needs when they entered sheltered housing, these have not reduced but rather have grown so sheltered housing is sustaining the oldest and frailest people partly as a result of this, there is no evidence the support is not wanted or needed.
  • Sheltered housing meets both general and specific needs e.g. language, cultural and religious, disability and ill health.
  • Staff have invaluable knowledge of residents and are trusted by them, cannot be replicated by Floating Support.
  • Many examples of a responsive on site service assisting promptly with illness, falls and other emergencies whereas delays were anticipated re alarm service response.
  • The preventative role will be lost, the social and community life will suffer and this is often important in maintaining health and well being. Daily checks help pick up signs of ill health or deterioration that residents themselves may not be aware of.
  • Services can be delivered/monitored effectively as there is a concentration of older people
  • Lack of evidence that Floating Support works, those whose needs are too great currently referred by Floating Support to sheltered housing
  • Independence can be maintained with low level but consistent support and prevents the use of more expensive residential care
  • Reasonable expectations and contractual obligations to continue the service will be broken. This point was emphasised by residents who had freed up large accommodation to move into sheltered accommodation for support.

Despite the attempts of the report to try to address some of the concerns rasied in the consultation it is clear from above that residents/relatives don’t believe it will deliver.

When a report has been published it usually means the decision has been made and it is a rubber stamp exercise.


Residents/relatives will be attending the Cabinet Committee, maybe …just maybe members of Cabinet may reconsider. It would be a revelation…….never happened before…… but when politicians ask the community for their view …sometimes…they hold up their hands and recognise they got it wrong……..could this happen on Monday night?

Will Barnet be the first?

The Right Honourable…?

Just some of the claims

£4.47 for dog food, £115 for 25 light bulbs, £305.50 to “cure noise problems”, with her boiler, £312 for the fitting of mock Tudor beams, £600 for hanging baskets and pot plants, £765 claim from Ikea, £768 from Marks and Spencers for a bed, £1,350 in house repairs, £1,500 gardening bill, £2,000 to replace a leaking pipe under a tennis court, £2,074 for furniture and £2,339 for carpets, £3,194 bill for gardening, £9,000 a year for gardening, £13,000 in moving costs, £14,553 solicitors fees and stamp duty, £30,000 for doing up his £120,000 constituency, £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster £35,000 in mortgage interest payments,

The former Prime Minister used his parliamentary expenses to remortgage his constituency home for £296,000 – nearly 10 times what he paid for it – just months before buying a west London house for £3.65m.

The prime minister paid his brother, Andrew, £6,577 for arranging cleaning services for his Westminster flat for 26 months

You can view it all online BBC website here.

Rank hypocrisy… politicians want to take your pension and hand you over to the private sector in order to bail out the inefficiency and gross negligence of the financial sector

I recognise not everyone is a Local Government Anorak. The day before the Budget the Treasury Department released a report ‘Operation Efficiency Programme – Final Report’ view it here.

It is clear whoever wins the General Election next year, the Government will get in!

Local Government is set to face hardship it has probably not had to face in over a generation. I know Council workers will ask what they have done to deserve this doomsday scenario of council services. The answer is nothing. In Barnet Council staff have delivered almost £60 million in savings and delivered a Four Star service.

What can’t happen is that Council Services across the UK are decimated in a crude attempt to offset £billions of debt bailing out the financial sector.

The role of the trade unions, staff and residents will be key to how council/public services are delivered in Barnet.

Make sure you make time to attend the rally at the Future Shape Cabinet Meeting on Monday 6 July 2009

Future Shape – Newcastle Story…

Members will have heard about the Newcastle story. It is a real life story of staff, managers, elected members and residents coming together to design & deliver first class services and deliver efficiencies.  

Here are two links to national papers out today

Read in Guardian Today

Read in the Independent

Whilst what is done in one council can never be easily transplanted to another Council, there is still a lot that we can take from Newcastle to help address the financial challenges facing public services in Barnet. What I found key was unlocking the potential of the staff  to help design services for the future. All too often public services will call on the services of the big consultancy companies such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloittes etc  at a considerable cost.

Tonight I will be going to:

Public Service Reform…but not as we know it!

Debate alternatives to privatisation
18:00 to 19:30, 05 May 2009, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Speakers: Hilary Wainwright (author); Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, Communities and Local Government Secretary; Jon Cruddas MP; Heather Wakefield of UNISON and Kenny Bell, UNISON

UNISON loses a great branch secretary

“An empty seat at UNISON Conference, Stamford Bridge, Tolpuddle”

On Monday 27 April I took a call from Jon Rogers to say that Malcolm Campbell had died. I don’t have the sufficient literacy skills to articulate how I feel and describe how special Malcolm was. My heart goes out to his partner, family and friends because there is going to be a big hole in everyone’s lives now he has gone. Malcolm was a mentor as well as a friend to me. Being a branch secretary is not an easy role to take on, but Malcolm seemed to be able to maintain a calm, which sometimes I find difficult. He was good to sound ideas off and you always knew he would give his honest opinion. He was staunch, a real trade unionist. I feel angry at his loss. There are not enough Malcolm Campbells in UNISON.

I am also sad that he did not get elected as Regional Convenor. He would have made a bloody brilliant convenor. He would have done the work, he was member led he wanted to see things done.

I could see the social worker in his approach to issues. He would always look to see what could be done rather than look at how or why things couldn’t be done. He demonstrated an empathy towards others that was natural not trained. Malcolm was able to fit in so much into his life, when he wasn’t busy in his UNISON role he was active in his Trade Council, or off to follow Chelsea, drinking awful real ale! I know he would have been so happy at the result last night. In fact when I was with him last Friday he was considering putting a bet on Chelsea to do the treble, FA Cup, League and the Champions League! 

But he was also mad about live music, I remember talking to him about the Ting Tings……a couple years ago, I had never heard of them, but that was Malcolm he just liked music. The Festival season is about to start and I know there will be a lot of sad people who would have been going to festivals with him this year. 

Croydon and Barnet are as far apart as you can get. I used to joke with him that I would like to work in Croydon because he seemed to be so organised. You just felt if Malcolm was representing you, you were not alone, you were safe. 

Well Malcolm, I said that you were leaving a big hole, but just from speaking to so many of your friends, I think there will be more than enough stories regaled about you to help go towards filling our loss.

Malcolm was a big supporter of our Fremantle Care Worker Campaign , I have put together a short tribute to him and you can hear and see him speaking about Fremantle here

UNISON colleagues have set up a BLOG

John Burgess  Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON & Friend

Council Cabinet Committee – Local Health Services

I would like to refer our members living in Barnet to item

7. Healthcare for London consultation on Stroke and Major Trauma Services

This all comes on top of the recent announcement that a judge has overturned the previous decision to allow a Judicial Review into the closure of 24 hour A&E and maternity services at Chase Farm Hospital. See press release here

It is well documented that we have a growing & ageing population; which makes it all the more important that we have the necessary infrastructure in place and the best place is local. In relation to Strokes everyone knows that positive outcomes are determined by how quick you receive treatment, any delays are just not acceptable. I would suggest any Barnet residents reading the article take the matter up with the local MP immediately.

Tales from the Private Sector – Ashes to Ashes?

Angry workers occupying their workplace sounds like something from the 70’s (or a scene from the BBC 1 series Ashes to Ashes!)… but it happened and not too far away…Enfield in fact. 

The workers at Visteon UK, formerly a part of Ford, about 560 of them, were made redundant without notice. They had contracts mirroring those of Ford workers, but, with Visteon going into liquidation, will only receive minimal statutory redundancy terms. They are upset and angry, and have done the only thing they could that would get them a hearing: refused to leave their former workplace. Their demand: better redundancy terms (not much to ask for after years and in some cases decades of loyal service).

When the Trade Unions say they are concerned about any staff being transferred out of Council ownership you don’t have to look too far away to see why.

Future Shape – When will we learn our lessons?

Members will be familiar by now with the name of Fremantle & their partner Catalyst Housing

Read excerpt below

“8.2 In 2006 and 2007, two ‘Deficit Claims’ were received from Catalyst; both were subsequently rejected by the Council, and in 2008 these were formally referred by Catalyst to Arbitration. Given the size of the substantive claim, the Council’s legal advisers have recommended that an expert who has experience of outsourcing the management of care homes be appointed by the Council, to give evidence as to how an experienced provider should manage the Care Contract, to support the Council in the preparation and presentation of its case by Counsel and other consultants.”

Find the whole report online here


I am one of the few still around from when the decision to privatise all our care homes and day services was made. It was clear that councillors were rushed into an ill thought out decision that has now back fired. Those Officers responsible have long gone……isn’t it always the case!

In terms of the report it is good news that the Council is seeking expert advice to support them with the arbitration process. Whatever the outcome of the decision valuable resources have been wasted over the last couple of years just dealing with the claim. If there is one lesson to be learnt it is don’t rush into decisions without making sure you have robust procurement and contract monitoring.

Money wasted on trying to clean up badly procured contracts is a waste of public money…money we are told we don’t have.

Five months ago the Trade Unions submitted a report on suggested improvements to our Procurement and Contract monitoring…we are still waiting to begin discussions.

Future Shape – ‘Quick wins’ begins

It has been widely reported that the Trade Unions are being consulted throughout the Future Shape process. The Joint Trade Unions want to make it clear that they have had no part in the decision to privatise these services

Last week the Trade Unions were informed that Cemetery & Cremations services were going to be privatised (read public report here

Pages 74 – 80

The background papers can be found here

10.1 London Borough of Barnet – Barnet Cemetery and Crematorium Option Appraisal – October 2008 – Sector Projects)

The Consultants were Capita. Their report was conducted between August and October last year. Yet the Trade Unions and staff were not told that the report was being conducted?

The report was written before the recession.

Do you remember this?

This appeared in January 2009 as part of Phase Two of the Future Shape. Cems & Cremas are clearly defined as a Quick Win. Clearly someone knew something the Trade Unions and staff didn’t.

Cems & Crems Timeline

August – October 2008 Capita Report produced (Trade Unions & staff not informed).

January 2009 Cems & Crems appears described as a ‘Quick Win’ in Future Shape Document

14 April 2009 TU’s told for the first time that a report recommending privatisation of Cems & Crems is going to Cabinet Resources Committee

23 April 2009 Cabinet Resources Committee make a decision on Cems & Crems

The Trade Unions are seeking an urgent meeting with the Director responsible for these Services


Future Shape – What do you want?

There are currently Seven Future Shape working groups looking at how public services could be configured in the future. Whatever the outcome of these meetings it is going to mean change. In the case of Future Shape it could mean significant change for you as staff.

It is no secret that a number of models of service provision are being looked at and ultimately costed.

This should be no surprise to public sector workers. In the 80’s and 90’s we had contracting out of public services under Thatcher & Major. The colour of the government changed but under Blair & Brown (New Labour) we have seen an increase in privatisation of public services. The difference with New Labour is that instead of the using ‘privatisation’ they used ‘outsourcing’ and introduced the friendly cuddly third sector i.e. voluntary bodies and charities. In Barnet we have seen a disastrous model of privatisation using the ‘third sector’. Our older people homes and day services were taken over by Fremantle & Catalyst. Not content with decimating our members’ terms & conditions they have only provided 3 out of the 5 brand new homes they were supposed to provide. To top it off they are in Arbitration over a claim against the Council for £8.672 million! 

We expect the Groups will be looking at

  •  Privatisation
  • Joint Ventures
  • Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs)
  • Social Enterprises
  • In house services

For each service they will look at the above models and see if there is a business case. The Trade Union concerns are how these business cases are costed. This is not rocket science. The biggest cost to all Services are staff costs i.e. your terms & conditions. It is now widely acknowledged that the privatisation has meant a deterioration in terms & conditions and pensions for staff.  

We are literally two months away and we have not been able to discuss these issues. We are concerned that if any business cases are presented to Cabinet on 8 June or any other Future Cabinet that they have to include TUPE Plus and Secondment costings.

TUPE does not protect the workforce after transfer which is why we submitted our employment charter to the Council in September last year. 

Make sure you make time to come along to the public  

Lobby of Barnet

Council Cabinet Committee on

8 June 2009


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