On Friday 1 September 2023, Barnet UNISON notified Barnet Council Chief Executive that Mental Health Social Workers voted 100% for strike action with a 78.95% turnout.
The strike ballot is in relation to the chronic staffing issues across frontline mental health social work teams in Barnet Council.
Barnet Council has had a long and proud history of Mental Health Social Work pioneering the crisis intervention model in the 1970’s long before Care in the Community legislation.
Barnet Mental Health Social work teams were sought after workplaces full of experienced social workers, but sadly there has been a long drawn-out neglect towards mental health social work which has led to this current crisis. The demise of Mental Health Social Work Teams can be traced back to Barnet Council’s obsession with the “One Barnet mass outsourcing approach” to service delivery. The focus was on commissioning rather than delivering.
The final nail in the coffin for Mental Health Social Work Teams was in 2016 when Barnet Tories agreed the senior management proposal to delete social work posts and replace them with non social work qualified roles. Barnet UNISON in our report: “Unsafe & Unsustainable” UNISON response to Mental Health Restructure 2016 https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-10-12-UNISON-response.pdf” warned the Council of the consequences of pursuing this ideological change. However, as often, when we submit reports we were ignored.
“This result confirms the strength of feeling amongst our members that the offer submitted to staff is unacceptable. Family social workers are, as a minimum receiving 15% with other social workers receiving 20% or 25%. Staff feel undervalued, insulted, and angry. They are working at the coal face of Mental Health services. A service that has been grossly underfunded by the Tories for 13 years. The levels of stress in the workplace are off the scale. Social workers are voting with their feet. During the period of the strike ballot we lost another social worker who chose to leave for a less stressful job in a university and more money. If the Council doesn’t act now to this crisis, then more staff are likely to leave and that will deepen the crisis within the workplace and impact on the services to service users.” John Burgess Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.
Notes to Editors.
Contact details: Barnet UNISON on 0208 359 2088 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Breaking News: Barnet Council Mental Health social workers to be balloted for strike action.
2. UNISON calls for urgent action over chronic shortages of frontline Mental Health social workers.