Barnet UNISONs ‘Right to Reply’ – Mental Health social workers

Barnet UNISON Mental Health social worker began the next phase of strike action on Monday 15 April 2024. They have now taken 32 days of strike action with another week of strike action week commencing 22 April 2024.

This is the longest running Mental Health social worker dispute in UNISONs 30-year history.

Our members feel they have been subjected to gaslighting by Barnet Council and not treated with the respect they deserve.

On Wednesday 17 April Barnet Council senior management chose to send an email to all their workforce which our members felt was a direct attack on their integrity.

Today, 19 April 2024, which is Day 32 of their strike action Barnet UNISON sent out their ‘Right of Reply’ to the communication sent by management.

 

Below is Barnet UNISONs ‘Right to Reply’

 

 

1. What is the strike about and who is striking?

The strikes that have taken place since September 2023 are being carried out by staff in three of the council’s six mental health social work teams based in Communities, Adults and Health. The industrial action is taking place due to a dispute on pay, where mental health social workers are calling for a 20% recruitment and retention payment to be paid to the mental health social workers in the three teams taking action. Their claim is that there are significant recruitment and retention issues in these teams.

UNISON RESPONSE

The industrial action is not due to a dispute in pay. Senior management are aware that the significant risks resulting from under resourced teams have forced staff from three mental health teams (Mental Health Social Care North, Mental Health Social Care South, and the AMHP team) to take industrial action.

Staff have been raising concerns since the restructure to mental health social care, which took place approximately 2 years ago. Unfortunately, senior management have not addressed the concerns raised, which has resulted in waitlists increasing from 4 to 17 months for a Care Act Assessment. This leaves residents with significant mental ill-health vulnerable and without necessary care and support. Increasing and persistent pressures have lead to a critical recruitment and retention crisis where staff are leaving the teams in high numbers.

There are 23 social worker and lead practitioner posts between the Mental Health Social Care North and South teams. In the past 18 months, 19 staff have left, with an additional worker who handed in her notice this week. Furthermore, the majority of the leavers were the most experienced staff members. In one of these teams, the figures demonstrate that when looking at the years of mental health experience of permanent staff, the team has lost 75% of the experience in the past year alone. The impact is that these teams are disproportionately comprised of social workers with very little, if any, mental health experience.

Our social work colleagues in Children and Families services have faced a similar recruitment and retention crisis in the past. Barnet Council has a recruitment and retention policy in place for such situations and this has been used to effectively stabilise the children’s social care workforce. Children’s social care receive a recruitment and retention payment, paid at three different levels varying between 15%, 20% and 25%, depending on the severity of their recruitment and retention problems. We are therefore simply asking for this policy, already in place for social workers in children’s services, to be equally applied to social workers in adults services. We have consistently demonstrated that we meet criteria for the policy to be applied and our view is that this will help stabilse our workforce in the same way it stablised children’s social care.

 

2. How long has the strike been going on for and what are the future strike plans?

The first strike action took place on 26 September 2023, and there have been 27 days of strike action up until this week. Unison is intending to increase the number of strike days over the coming months, beginning with a two-week strike that started on Monday 15 April. There are then plans for a three-week strike and four-week strike between now and mid-July.

UNISON RESPONSE

This is accurate. Unfortunately, as Barnet Council continue to dismiss the significant risks to Barnet residents, we have no alternative than to escalate the industrial actions. The British Association of Social Workers sets out that social workers are expected to raise awareness where resources are inadequate. Furthermore, Social Work England, the regulatory body for Social Workers, sets out that Social Workers should raise concerns about unsafe practice and should challenge practices, systems, and processes where necessary.

We see industrial action as a necessary extension of our responsibilities to advocate for those we serve and to take steps to protect them from harm and promote their wellbeing. We will continue to take this responsibility seriously and are committed to continuing our industrial action until Barnet Council negotiates to provide a stable and safe service.

 

3. What has the council done to negotiate with the unions on this issue?

The council has been open to negotiation with Unison on this issue. We have recently had two days of ACAS-facilitated negotiations and we are more than willing to continue to work together to find a solution. The council is of the view that the recruitment and retention challenges affect all social worker and occupational therapist recruitment and that this is a national challenge. Last year we offered to spend slightly more than would be needed to meet the payments requested by the mental health social workers, to pay all social workers and occupational therapists a £1,000 recruitment and retention payment. Through negotiations, the council has offered to increase this payment and / or fund additional social work posts. We are currently planning to resume talks with Unison on these matters.

UNISON RESPONSE

It took over six-months and 27 strike days for the council to go into ACAS talks with the trade union. Meanwhile, Barnet Council has threatened to use the Tory anti-trade union legislation against the workers and Unison at various times. Our view is that we have had two ACAS meetings, the first of which Barnet Council came to without any preparation and the request was therefore for them to return with the relevant data. At the second meeting, our view is that the data they brought had deliberately been grouped together to hide the issues and the request from the strikers was simply for Barnet Council to ungroup the data, which they have not done. We feel this request is reasonable and would be in line with the information kept and shared by senior management in children and families.

We feel that the data would demonstrate that the teams meet the criteria set out in the recruitment and retention policy, which is already applied to Children and Families social care.

To date, Unison has not been approached by any members other than mental health social care to say that they have recruitment and retention issues. What we do know is that we have conducted anecdotal conversations with our members across all the teams, all of whom who has responded have stated that they do not have recruitment and retention issues in their teams. If anybody reading this does have information that their teams are experiencing a recruitment and retention crisis, please contactus@barnetunison.org.uk.

 

 

4. Is the council employing agency workers to ‘break’ the strike, as reported in some media?

No. We are not employing agency workers to cover the strike action. We are concerned about the impact prolonged strike action will have on vulnerable residents and so have been looking at options to provide ‘life and limb’ capacity in ways that are fully in compliance with relevant legislation and guidance.

UNISON RESPONSE

Unison have been informed of the number of staff required for ‘Life and Limb’ capacity, and senior management are aware that there are more than this number of staff who remain in the teams whilst other staff are taking industrial action. There is therefore no legal justification for commission an agency to undertake this role.

Senior management emailed mental health social care workers on 10/4/24 stating that Barnet Council are temporarily commission an agency to “provide the mental health duty and triage function for a period of 3-4 months” to “mitigate” against industrial action. This is a role that is ordinarily fulfilled by permanent mental health social workers within the teams. The agency commissioned pulled out on 14/4/24 after Unison brought this to the agency’s attention. Since then, mental health social care were informed by senior management, whilst staff were taking industrial action, that Barnet Council are continue to seek other providers to outsource this work.

We see this as a way to undermine the strike and cannot understand why Barnet Council prefer to pay what senior management stated was an “extortionate” amount of money rather than resource their social care teams. Furthermore, this is known as “strike breaking” and the High Court has ruled that the legislation that allows employers to use agency workers to replace those on strike is unlawful, unfair, and irrational. You can read more here.

 

 

5. Is the strike having any impact on mental health services to residents?

We are committed to providing a safe service for our residents and we are grateful for the dedication and commitment of all our mental health social workers, who provide excellent support to our residents at a challenging time for adult social care nationally. We will ensure that regardless of industrial disputes, our services continue to support people with mental health needs.

UNISON RESPONSE

Our view is that the strike is impacting mental health social care to residents and we implore Barnet Council to negotiate with us. Taking the decision to strike is not something that any of us took lightly and is the last resort available to us to advocate for a safe service for our residents. We are in solidarity with our residents to protect and fight for the safe service that they need. We have received incredible support from our service users whilst taking industrial action, including from one service user group who not only have consistently joined us on the picket line, but have also wrote us songs for our strikes, and even created us T-shirts (which you can buy here!). You can read more testimonials from Barnet residents in our newspaper.

 

6. Why won’t the council agree to the request for a recruitment and retention payment for the three mental health teams taking action?

We simply don’t accept that the recruitment and retention challenges in these teams are worse than the overall situation for qualified social workers and occupational therapists or see that there is a market condition that would necessitate such a payment.

Looking first at vacancy levels, there are currently very few vacancies in the mental health locality teams (all but one of which are covered by agency members of staff) and none in the AMHP team. Other social work teams in adult social care have significantly higher vacancy levels. We know that the social work and OT recruitment market is tough and that other councils have very similar challenges with vacancies. The mental health teams are not in a worse position than others and it is great that agency workers have chosen to remain in the teams on permanent contracts and staff from other teams have chosen to transfer into mental health locality teams.

We also collated salary benchmarking data from 12 other outer London boroughs and our local mental health trust which showed that our pay is competitive. None of these councils had an extra payment for mental health social workers. Different pay arrangements exist for AMHPs, but ours are some of the most generous with all AMHPs on the social work grade paid at the lead practitioner grade. The average tenure of staff in the teams is at the average level for adult social workers in English councils according to the Skills for Care State of the Workforce 2023 report.

UNISON RESPONSE

Whilst the posts are filled, the salient points that the workers have been highlighting to senior management are that Barnet Council cannot retain social workers in the mental health social care teams and that the staff who they do recruit do not have sufficient, if any, mental health experience to work in a specialised mental health team. This contributes to increasing waitlists and significant unmanaged risks.

Our view is that whilst there is considerable pressure amongst all our colleagues in health and social care, the impact of the rushed mental health restructure which took place around 2 years ago continues to cause increased challenges for our teams. There are 23 social worker and lead practitioner posts between the Mental Health Social Care North and South teams. In the past 18 months, 19 staff have left, with an additional worker who handed in her notice this week. Furthermore, the majority of the most experienced staff members are those who have left. One of these teams alone has lost 75% of their mental health experience. This means that the teams are largely comprised of social workers with very little, if any, mental health experience.

Whilst the AMHP team currently has no vacancies, we know that 50% of their team are due to leave to take up roles in the NHS in the coming months. Furthermore, the AMHP service is staffed 24/7 by workers, including those within the Mental Health Social Care teams, and has been greatly impacted by the high turnover of staff within these teams. It is therefore currently run by very newly qualified workers. Furthermore, Barnet Council are training AMHPs but are not able to retain these workers.

Our colleagues who have left have largely left for positions which offer significantly better pay, reduced case loads, and a safer service. Barnet Council’s view is that their competitors are other outer-borough Councils, however, their competitors include: the NHS, which offers better pay and more progression; Agency work, which offers rates between £60-66k; and Universities which offer direct work with clients without statutory responsibilities, to name a few.

Read this extract, written by one of our colleagues who left this year in an open letter to the Chief Executive highlighting some of these areas:

“….In my new role as a social worker in an NHS specialist mental health team my salary is 10% higher than it was in a community team while my caseload involves working with fewer adults at risk of serious harm and in which risk is shared among a multi-disciplinary team including psychiatrists, psychologists and community nurses who have decades of mental health experience between them. This experience safeguards the adults we work with and reduces the likelihood of individual practitioners feeling overwhelmed and stressed which is a leading cause of staff burnout in Barnet.

Alongside improved pay, more manageable caseloads, better resources and being able to learn from experienced mental health practitioners I also currently benefit from specialist training, better lone working practices and team administrative support. When I worked for LBB one of the arguments managers gave as to not provide a recruitment and retention payment was that social workers experience the same issues wherever they work and conditions and pay are the same everywhere. This is something said to keep social workers in their place and to stop them asking for improvements. I am proof that it is not true.

In the two months since I left LBB my mental health, physical health and work/life balance has improved. My colleagues who remain do so because they are trying their best to create working conditions that will enable them to stay in their jobs so they can support residents of Barnet but so far management seems to be against its workers and against supporting adults in Barnet who would benefit from the expertise and support of specialist, experienced community mental health social workers.

Read the full letter to the Executive Director

 

7. What will happen next?

The council will continue to negotiate with Unison to try and bring an end to this dispute. During this strike period, we will ensure that there is a minimum level of staffing in place and will consider the different legal options available to us to do this.

UNISON RESPONSE

Barnet Unison continue to implore senior management to take this dispute seriously and meet with us with accurate data. We continue to invite Barnet Council to meet with us and are hopeful that they will take the risks of the residents of Barnet seriously and commit to addressing the issues in order to provide a stable team and a safe service.

In the meantime, strikers will be out in the community raising awareness of the issues. We will be handing out 10,000 newspapers focusing on the strike, which you can read here.

 

Barnet UNISON information below as to how you can find out more about our campaign and what you can do to help.

How you can stay up to date or find out more

Please visit our dedicated webpage here or visit Community Care who have been giving us considerable coverage

How you can help advocate for the residents of Barnet to receive a safe service:

If you would like to join the cause in calling for a safe service for Barnet residents who have severe mental ill-health, and for those that support them, then we share some options around how you can help below:

Twitter          Facebook            Instagram          Website

  • Sign Barnet UNISON’s email campaign to Barnet Council Chief Executive https://bit.ly/barnetunison2024. Please let us know when he replies!
  • Make a Donation

Please donate money to our Industrial Action Fund:

Account Name:           Barnet UNISON Industrial Action Fund

Account Number:       20039336          Sort Code:   608301

End.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barnet UNISON Mental Health social worker began the next phase of strike action on Monday 15 April 2024. They have now taken 32 days of strike action with another week of strike action week commencing 22 April 2024.

This is the longest running Mental Health social worker dispute in UNISONs 30-year history.

Our members feel they have been subjected to gaslighting by Barnet Council and not treated with the respect they deserve.

On Wednesday 17 April Barnet Council senior management chose to send an email to all their workforce which our members felt was a direct attack on their integrity.

Today, 19 April 2024, which is Day 32 of their strike action Barnet UNISON sent out their ‘Right of Reply’ to the communication sent by management.

 

Below is Barnet UNISONs ‘Right to Reply’

 

 

 

 

  1. What is the strike about and who is striking?
  2. The strikes that have taken place since September 2023 are being carried out by staff in three of the council’s six mental health social work teams based in Communities, Adults and Health. The industrial action is taking place due to a dispute on pay, where mental health social workers are calling for a 20% recruitment and retention payment to be paid to the mental health social workers in the three teams taking action. Their claim is that there are significant recruitment and retention issues in these teams.

UNISON RESPONSE

The industrial action is not due to a dispute in pay. Senior management are aware that the significant risks resulting from under resourced teams have forced staff from three mental health teams (Mental Health Social Care North, Mental Health Social Care South, and the AMHP team) to take industrial action.

Staff have been raising concerns since the restructure to mental health social care, which took place approximately 2 years ago. Unfortunately, senior management have not addressed the concerns raised, which has resulted in waitlists increasing from 4 to 17 months for a Care Act Assessment. This leaves residents with significant mental ill-health vulnerable and without necessary care and support. Increasing and persistent pressures have lead to a critical recruitment and retention crisis where staff are leaving the teams in high numbers.

There are 23 social worker and lead practitioner posts between the Mental Health Social Care North and South teams. In the past 18 months, 19 staff have left, with an additional worker who handed in her notice this week. Furthermore, the majority of the leavers were the most experienced staff members. In one of these teams, the figures demonstrate that when looking at the years of mental health experience of permanent staff, the team has lost 75% of the experience in the past year alone. The impact is that these teams are disproportionately comprised of social workers with very little, if any, mental health experience.

Our social work colleagues in Children and Families services have faced a similar recruitment and retention crisis in the past. Barnet Council has a recruitment and retention policy in place for such situations and this has been used to effectively stabilise the children’s social care workforce. Children’s social care receive a recruitment and retention payment, paid at three different levels varying between 15%, 20% and 25%, depending on the severity of their recruitment and retention problems. We are therefore simply asking for this policy, already in place for social workers in children’s services, to be equally applied to social workers in adults services. We have consistently demonstrated that we meet criteria for the policy to be applied and our view is that this will help stabilse our workforce in the same way it stablised children’s social care.

 

 

  1. How long has the strike been going on for and what are the future strike plans?
  2. The first strike action took place on 26 September 2023, and there have been 27 days of strike action up until this week. Unison is intending to increase the number of strike days over the coming months, beginning with a two-week strike that started on Monday 15 April. There are then plans for a three-week strike and four-week strike between now and mid-July.

UNISON RESPONSE

This is accurate. Unfortunately, as Barnet Council continue to dismiss the significant risks to Barnet residents, we have no alternative than to escalate the industrial actions. The British Association of Social Workers sets out that social workers are expected to raise awareness where resources are inadequate. Furthermore, Social Work England, the regulatory body for Social Workers, sets out that Social Workers should raise concerns about unsafe practice and should challenge practices, systems, and processes where necessary.

We see industrial action as a necessary extension of our responsibilities to advocate for those we serve and to take steps to protect them from harm and promote their wellbeing. We will continue to take this responsibility seriously and are committed to continuing our industrial action until Barnet Council negotiates to provide a stable and safe service.

 

 

  1. What has the council done to negotiate with the unions on this issue?
  2. The council has been open to negotiation with Unison on this issue. We have recently had two days of ACAS-facilitated negotiations and we are more than willing to continue to work together to find a solution. The council is of the view that the recruitment and retention challenges affect all social worker and occupational therapist recruitment and that this is a national challenge. Last year we offered to spend slightly more than would be needed to meet the payments requested by the mental health social workers, to pay all social workers and occupational therapists a £1,000 recruitment and retention payment. Through negotiations, the council has offered to increase this payment and / or fund additional social work posts. We are currently planning to resume talks with Unison on these matters.

UNISON RESPONSE

It took over six-months and 27 strike days for the council to go into ACAS talks with the trade union. Meanwhile, Barnet Council has threatened to use the Tory anti-trade union legislation against the workers and Unison at various times. Our view is that we have had two ACAS meetings, the first of which Barnet Council came to without any preparation and the request was therefore for them to return with the relevant data. At the second meeting, our view is that the data they brought had deliberately been grouped together to hide the issues and the request from the strikers was simply for Barnet Council to ungroup the data, which they have not done. We feel this request is reasonable and would be in line with the information kept and shared by senior management in children and families.

We feel that the data would demonstrate that the teams meet the criteria set out in the recruitment and retention policy, which is already applied to Children and Families social care.

To date, Unison has not been approached by any members other than mental health social care to say that they have recruitment and retention issues. What we do know is that we have conducted anecdotal conversations with our members across all the teams, all of whom who has responded have stated that they do not have recruitment and retention issues in their teams. If anybody reading this does have information that their teams are experiencing a recruitment and retention crisis, please contactus@barnetunison.org.uk.

 

  1. Is the council employing agency workers to ‘break’ the strike, as reported in some media?
  2. No. We are not employing agency workers to cover the strike action. We are concerned about the impact prolonged strike action will have on vulnerable residents and so have been looking at options to provide ‘life and limb’ capacity in ways that are fully in compliance with relevant legislation and guidance.

 UNISON RESPONSE

Unison have been informed of the number of staff required for ‘Life and Limb’ capacity, and senior management are aware that there are more than this number of staff who remain in the teams whilst other staff are taking industrial action. There is therefore no legal justification for commission an agency to undertake this role.

Senior management emailed mental health social care workers on 10/4/24 stating that Barnet Council are temporarily commission an agency to “provide the mental health duty and triage function for a period of 3-4 months” to “mitigate” against industrial action. This is a role that is ordinarily fulfilled by permanent mental health social workers within the teams. The agency commissioned pulled out on 14/4/24 after Unison brought this to the agency’s attention. Since then, mental health social care were informed by senior management, whilst staff were taking industrial action, that Barnet Council are continue to seek other providers to outsource this work.

We see this as a way to undermine the strike and cannot understand why Barnet Council prefer to pay what senior management stated was an “extortionate” amount of money rather than resource their social care teams. Furthermore, this is known as “strike breaking” and the High Court has ruled that the legislation that allows employers to use agency workers to replace those on strike is unlawful, unfair, and irrational. You can read more here.

 

  1. Is the strike having any impact on mental health services to residents?
  2. We are committed to providing a safe service for our residents and we are grateful for the dedication and commitment of all our mental health social workers, who provide excellent support to our residents at a challenging time for adult social care nationally. We will ensure that regardless of industrial disputes, our services continue to support people with mental health needs.

UNISON RESPONSE

Our view is that the strike is impacting mental health social care to residents and we implore Barnet Council to negotiate with us. Taking the decision to strike is not something that any of us took lightly and is the last resort available to us to advocate for a safe service for our residents. We are in solidarity with our residents to protect and fight for the safe service that they need. We have received incredible support from our service users whilst taking industrial action, including from one service user group who not only have consistently joined us on the picket line, but have also wrote us songs for our strikes, and even created us T-shirts (which you can buy here!). You can read more testimonials from Barnet residents in our newspaper.

 

  1. Why won’t the council agree to the request for a recruitment and retention payment for the three mental health teams taking action?
  2. We simply don’t accept that the recruitment and retention challenges in these teams are worse than the overall situation for qualified social workers and occupational therapists or see that there is a market condition that would necessitate such a payment.

Looking first at vacancy levels, there are currently very few vacancies in the mental health locality teams (all but one of which are covered by agency members of staff) and none in the AMHP team. Other social work teams in adult social care have significantly higher vacancy levels. We know that the social work and OT recruitment market is tough and that other councils have very similar challenges with vacancies. The mental health teams are not in a worse position than others and it is great that agency workers have chosen to remain in the teams on permanent contracts and staff from other teams have chosen to transfer into mental health locality teams.

We also collated salary benchmarking data from 12 other outer London boroughs and our local mental health trust which showed that our pay is competitive. None of these councils had an extra payment for mental health social workers. Different pay arrangements exist for AMHPs, but ours are some of the most generous with all AMHPs on the social work grade paid at the lead practitioner grade. The average tenure of staff in the teams is at the average level for adult social workers in English councils according to the Skills for Care State of the Workforce 2023 report.

UNISON RESPONSE

Whilst the posts are filled, the salient points that the workers have been highlighting to senior management are that Barnet Council cannot retain social workers in the mental health social care teams and that the staff who they do recruit do not have sufficient, if any, mental health experience to work in a specialised mental health team. This contributes to increasing waitlists and significant unmanaged risks.

 

Our view is that whilst there is considerable pressure amongst all our colleagues in health and social care, the impact of the rushed mental health restructure which took place around 2 years ago continues to cause increased challenges for our teams. There are 23 social worker and lead practitioner posts between the Mental Health Social Care North and South teams. In the past 18 months, 19 staff have left, with an additional worker who handed in her notice this week. Furthermore, the majority of the most experienced staff members are those who have left. One of these teams alone has lost 75% of their mental health experience. This means that the teams are largely comprised of social workers with very little, if any, mental health experience.

Whilst the AMHP team currently has no vacancies, we know that 50% of their team are due to leave to take up roles in the NHS in the coming months. Furthermore, the AMHP service is staffed 24/7 by workers, including those within the Mental Health Social Care teams, and has been greatly impacted by the high turnover of staff within these teams. It is therefore currently run by very newly qualified workers. Furthermore, Barnet Council are training AMHPs but are not able to retain these workers.

Our colleagues who have left have largely left for positions which offer significantly better pay, reduced case loads, and a safer service. Barnet Council’s view is that their competitors are other outer-borough Councils, however, their competitors include: the NHS, which offers better pay and more progression; Agency work, which offers rates between £60-66k; and Universities which offer direct work with clients without statutory responsibilities, to name a few.

Read this extract, written by one of our colleagues who left this year in an open letter to the Chief Executive highlighting some of these areas:

“….In my new role as a social worker in an NHS specialist mental health team my salary is 10% higher than it was in a community team while my caseload involves working with fewer adults at risk of serious harm and in which risk is shared among a multi-disciplinary team including psychiatrists, psychologists and community nurses who have decades of mental health experience between them. This experience safeguards the adults we work with and reduces the likelihood of individual practitioners feeling overwhelmed and stressed which is a leading cause of staff burnout in Barnet.

 

Alongside improved pay, more manageable caseloads, better resources and being able to learn from experienced mental health practitioners I also currently benefit from specialist training, better lone working practices and team administrative support. When I worked for LBB one of the arguments managers gave as to not provide a recruitment and retention payment was that social workers experience the same issues wherever they work and conditions and pay are the same everywhere. This is something said to keep social workers in their place and to stop them asking for improvements. I am proof that it is not true.

 

In the two months since I left LBB my mental health, physical health and work/life balance has improved. My colleagues who remain do so because they are trying their best to create working conditions that will enable them to stay in their jobs so they can support residents of Barnet but so far management seems to be against its workers and against supporting adults in Barnet who would benefit from the expertise and support of specialist, experienced community mental health social workers.

 

Read the full letter to the Executive Director

 

  1. What will happen next?
  2. The council will continue to negotiate with Unison to try and bring an end to this dispute. During this strike period, we will ensure that there is a minimum level of staffing in place and will consider the different legal options available to us to do this.

UNISON RESPONSE

Barnet Unison continue to implore senior management to take this dispute seriously and meet with us with accurate data. We continue to invite Barnet Council to meet with us and are hopeful that they will take the risks of the residents of Barnet seriously and commit to addressing the issues in order to provide a stable team and a safe service.

In the meantime, strikers will be out in the community raising awareness of the issues. We will be handing out 10,000 newspapers focusing on the strike, which you can read here.

 

How you can stay up to date or find out more

Please visit our dedicated webpage here or visit Community Care who have been giving us considerable coverage

How you can help advocate for the residents of Barnet to receive a safe service:

If you would like to join the cause in calling for a safe service for Barnet residents who have severe mental ill-health, and for those that support them, then we share some options around how you can help below:

 

 

 

 

  • Follow us / Share on social media

Twitter          Facebook            Instagram          Website

 

 

  • Make a Donation

Please donate money to our Industrial Action Fund:

Account Name:           Barnet UNISON Industrial Action Fund

Account Number:       20039336          Sort Code:   608301

 

End.

Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Worker Strike Solidarity Wall

Barnet UNISON Mental Health workers began strike action on pay in September 2023.

This is a live wall which is continuously updated as messages of solidarity are sent to our branch. SEE BELOW 

Leeds Teaching Hospitals Branch Committee would like to send you this message of support and solidarity to all members involved in the social work strike.

To hear that you are taking this action as a result of the strain of working in under resourced teams is a theme sadly familiar to ourselves in the Health service. Your members have raised concerns as set out by their professional conduct, they are advocating for the people they serve, and are seemingly being ignored.

The continuing action the members are taking is inspirational and is a model for us all fighting cuts and falling standards as a result of underfunding.

UNISON Leeds Teaching Hospitals Health Branch

Leeds Unison sends it support and solidarity to everyone involved at the Barnet branch, in particular those involved in this dispute.

Well done for achieving 100% in favour of strike action, a marvellous achievement. It sounds like you have a really determined bunch of members and activists, and we at Leeds are convinced you’ll succeed in your aims.

Leeds UNISON

I wish you all the best with your ongoing strike action and hope the dispute will be resolved soon. The letter from an ex-employee is very powerful so I hope LBB will finally take heed and give you what you are asking for.

Barnet UNISON Libraries Rep

On behalf of Portsmouth City UNISON Branch, our Branch Committee voted to applaud the resilience and courage of the Mental Health Social Workers in Barnet UNISON. Your struggle for effective recruitment and retention payments is completely justified and essential for the safety of workers and service users. Barnet Council must act now to ensure Metal Health Social worker pay in Barnet is competitive so there are sufficient workers with sufficient experience to run this frontline service. That you have taken 27 day of strike action and re-balloted with a 100% vote for further action on a 91% turnout shows how committed and determined you are. All Social Workers should follow your example and take action to ensure their employers provide them with safe staffing levels and safe workloads.

Our best wishes for your next 15-26 April strike and we hope Barnet Council comes to its senses and meets your demands in full so that your planned strikes in May, June and July are not required. Your campaign for “Safe service, no waiting lists, fair pay” is inspirational. You deserve the full support of UNISON and the wider trade union movement. Please let me know how we can donate to your hardship fund.

Solidarity and Victory to the Barnet Mental Health Social Workers!

Portsmouth City UNISON

At the recent Local Government Committee AGM, it was agreed to send a message of support and solidarity to the Barnet Mental Health Social Workers who are taking strike action.  We are sure Helen has fed this back already but we wanted to put something in writing also.

Could you please pass on to the strikers the Committee’s message of support for the solid strike action they have taken so far and continued support and solidarity as they now embark on further sets of escalating strike action.  They have shown great strength and determination in their struggle while faced with an employer who seems determined to ignore their rightful calls for decent pay.

Helen Reynolds (Regional Manager and Head of Local Government)

Sean Fox (Chair Regional Local Government Committee)

 

Southwark UNISON sends solidarity greetings to mental health social workers continuing strike action for fair pay and a safe service.

Southwark UNISON members were enormously inspired to hear from striking social worker  who spoke at our Branch Annual General Meeting in March. The courageous action from young social workers is an inspiration to all local government workers struggling in this cost of living crisis with low pay and the severe cuts to local government services.

Therefore, we are appalled to hear that the Council has now engaged agency workers to cover the work of the strikers. This is unlawful and as you have noted UNISON defeated the government in the High Court last year over strike-breaking legislation.

‘The High Court has ruled that the legislation which allows employers to use agency workers to replace those on strike, was unlawful, unfair, and irrational.’

This is a shocking way for a Labour Council to behave. And as you have said instead of trying to bully and intimidate the strikers, management should be talking to UNISON and coming up with a decent offer to settle the dispute.

We note your next round of strike action is 15-26th April with a mass picket on 15th April. We are urging our members to join the picket line for one of these days.

Victory to Barnet UNISON social workers!

Southwark UNISON

 

Sending solidarity to these wonderful workers who deserve far more understanding and respect than they are currently getting.

For a council that purports to promote mindfulness and wellbeing it seems rather paradoxical to not engage with our mental health professionals in a way that is meaningful and timely.

Barnet UNISON Steward Libraries

This is just a quick solidarity message from the Branch Committee at Norwich City branch to yourselves, wishing you all the best in your fight with Barnet Council on behalf of your Mental Health professionals, all of who give vital support to some of the most vulnerable residents of Barnet.  Tewsday Hannant raised your plight at our last meeting and it was agreed to offer this message along with an offer of assistance, if we can give it.  Please let us know.

Norwich City UNISON (April 2024)

 

Barnet UNISON Library Reps wish every success to the Barnet Mental Health Social Workers industrial action and ongoing campaign for fair pay and in defence of an essential service. These workers perform a vital and highly stressful role helping the most vulnerable members of our communities and the Council should recognise this and act accordingly.

Solidarity

Hugh Jordan

 

Good luck to you all in your dispute. I apologise but I can’t get to the picket line this week but intend to come to the rally outside Hendon Townhall.

Keep up the fight,

Solidarity!
John

(Lord Hendy KC)

Good luck with your industrial action for the rest of this week and I convey both solidarity and respect to your branch from PCS MOJ Northern Wales branch. All the best.

 

Hi John

We’re sending you our messages of solidarity from across our nations and regions and particularly from our branches in the North West.

That was a fantastic result with 100% voting for strike action. What Barnet Unison Mental health social worker did it is the perfect and strongest messages for the rest of other health workers that :

I QUOTE

It is the ” U ”

And the “I ” in the UNION

That makes us

STRONG.

Congratulations

The Labour movement was the principal force that transformed the misery and despair into hope that progress. Yes, we can win

Once again Congratulations

In solidarity

Julia Mwaluke

Black Members Reserved Seat, NEC

UNISON Vice President

 

“I want to congratulate every one of the Barnet Unison Mental Health Social Workers who sent back their strike ballot. 78.95% returned ballots with a 100% vote for strike action is an incredible victory against the Tory anti trade union laws and a victory for the collective unity of the workers. United we are strong.

This action from Unison members is in defence of their jobs and to protect the communities  services under attack from further cuts and profiteering.

Your fightback is inspirational and sends a clear message that enough is enough.

Congratulations once again and solidarity. Libby Nolan, UNISON President.

 

“Social Workers do a difficult but essential job, providing a service to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Working in Local Government we’re all too familiar with the impact of cuts to funding – we have less resources and less people to try to provide the same level of service. And we know that austerity impacts on people’s mental health, meaning at times like we have now, your service is even more critical.

We also know that we can provide a better service if we are paid and treated properly. But the government and too often our bosses don’t value us – although they never seem to have a problem paying themselves more money!

In a society that is increasingly divided, where we have more billionaires than ever before, it’s disgraceful that important workers like you aren’t paid properly. Your ballot result was amazing – smashing through the Tory anti-union threshold and having 100% in favour of action is brilliant!

We currently have a group of our branch members out on indefinite strike – they too voted 100% for action – and Barnet UNISON has consistently supported our members. It is a privilege to be able to return the solidarity and support you. If you end up needing to take action, we will be visiting your picket lines and looking at how else we can show our support.

In solidarity, Liz Wheatley Branch Secretary Camden UNISON

 

Dear Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers,

I want to take a moment to express my wholehearted support and solidarity with you as you make the courageous decision to go on strike. It’s clear that Barnet Council has not adequately recognized the serious understaffing problems within your frontline Mental Health social work teams.

Your dedication to providing crucial mental health services is truly admirable, and it’s disheartening to see your concerns go unaddressed. It’s essential for all workers to have safe and manageable workloads to deliver the best care to those who depend on your services.

I applaud your commitment to standing up for your rights and the well-being of your clients. It’s a challenging step to take, but your actions are a testament to your unwavering dedication to the welfare of the community you serve.

Please know that many people, both within and outside your community, are behind you during this difficult time. Your fight for better conditions and staffing levels is just one, and I hope that Barnet Council will listen and take action to address these critical issues promptly.

Stay strong and resolute in your cause and may your strike lead to positive changes that benefit both you and the individuals who rely on your essential services.

In solidarity, Mohamed, Barnet Unison

 

I have heard you are out on strike. I am a school nurse leader in Tameside, Greater Manchester but I used to work in Barnet 2005-2012. I want you to know you have my full support. We will never get experienced staff to stay unless we pay them better and it is patients and service users who lose out when they are not there. We have precisely the same issue in school nursing and health visiting – plus I see Tameside social workers are nearly always agency because they can’t afford not to be. I see them burn out within months and have families on my caseload who have had 6 social workers in 12 months. It isn’t good enough and it isn’t the fault of the workers, or even their management. Loads of complex issues but, if you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they need to start at the bottom and recruit and retain staff in order to start to make inroads on the other issues. Sending you the best of luck with your strike and hoping someone ‘who can’ sits up and takes notice. Natalie Jones ,School Nurse Practice Education and Development Lead Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

 

Hello, I’ve heard that social workers are striking. I’m a discharge team nurse at UCLH and want to say that I appreciate all that you do and totally support your action.

Dani-Louise McMahon 

 

Just wanting to send a message to striking social work staff, we’re all on the same side and the public support is there. We’re not backing down, not for this government nor the next one.

Enough is enough. Graham.

 

Can you please pass on this message of support and solidarity to the mental health social workers taking strike action?

I have worked for over 30 years in mental health services in Salford. I have the greatest respect for my social work colleagues in mental health services, and I am aware of the stress they work under, with high caseload numbers and low pay. Our most experienced staff are becoming burnt out, as they try and work under these testing conditions.

There is a severe shortage of mental health front line staff, and your inspirational action is the most effective way to deal with these issues. Our branch will be supporting your campaign, and we will encourage other branches to get involved in your struggle.

Solidarity

Kevin Corran UNISON NEC (Health) Assistant Branch Secretary Gtr Manchester Mental Health Branch UNISON

 

Hi to all the striking social workers in Barnet mental health teams.

I am a mental health worker in Manchester and want to offer you both my and my colleagues full support in your fight for recruitment and retention premiums. Low pay for what we do is endemic across the public sector. And the work is hard and stressful. We will never retain experienced staff if we don’t pay them properly and its users of our services, their carers and the wider community and mental health workers who suffer when we are given responsibilities above our experience levels.

The money is there to pay you. I’ll is still one of the richest countries in the world and profits continue to rise, 75% since the beginning of the pandemic. Why didn’t our wages go up the same??

This government wants to cut out pay and our services. You are standing up for both. You are an inspiration. We are trying to run a similar campaign right across our inpatient and CMHT staff groups. If you win this will encourage our staff.

All the very best. We will discuss a donation to your hardship fund at our next meeting.

Karen Reissmann, Vice chair greater Manchester mental health unison branch

 

I’m a medical student with the BMA, having worked as an HCA with the RCN the previous year. I just wanted to send a massive message of solidarity for turning out on strike in the coming weeks. Across the health sector workers and patients have been brutalised and exploited. Standing up as you are is vital, not just for yourself but for all those who work, use, or believe in public healthcare free at delivery.

You, and millions of other healthcare workers in the UK and beyond, all deserve massive pay rises and far better conditions. Without pay, we have no staff. Without staff, there is no NHS.

Strike to win!

Elliot

 

I stand by all the social workers who have to strike in order to get their voices heard.

Katherine Benford

 

On behalf of Hendon School Unison support staff we would like to say we offer our

support to the Social workers at Barnet Council in their dispute as we fully appreciate

how hard and what a difficult job you do, and the dedication you need to support

Children and adults in need in the community.

David – Unison Rep – Hendon School.

 

Solidarity from all at Kirklees Unison for your Branches Mental health social workers on strike tomorrow.

In solidarity

Mick Donoghue Branch Secretary Convenor Kirklees Unison

 

Sending support and solidarity to Barnet’s adult mental health social workers from union members at Tudor Primary School. Wishing you strength and determination for a swift victory with an outcome that meets your demands and recognises the need for the service to be well funded and fully staffed, with a stable workforce that can meet the needs of your clients.

Workers in schools know, from our daily experience at work, the importance of good mental health support and social support for our local community. Workers providing these services must not be taken for granted.

Solidarity for your struggle for decent pay and staff retention!

David Ball, Unison rep at Tudor Primary School, Finchley 

 

“Support and solidarity from Leeds East in your fight for fair pay. You do such vital work and it needs to be recognised and fairly remunerated. Solidarity! Richard Burgon MP”.

 

This one is from Ian Byrne MP Sending solidarity from Liverpool West Derby for your fight for fair pay and conditions. Your fight is our fight  & we are all behind your struggle. Ian Byrne MP

 

This one is from Graeme Morris MP Top Solidarity and every support for your just cause for fair pay for the vital work you do from Grahame Morris MP for Easington and Chair of the Unite Group In Parliament.

 

This one from Andy McDonald MP “Solidarity from Middlesbrough. Yours is just cause.  Huge thanks for the vitally important work you do for us all. You have the respect and admiration of the whole country but dignity at work can only be secured if it is founded on fair and proper pay. We stand with you in your struggle”

 

This one from Ian Mearns MP Respect and solidarity from Gateshead. Your cause is just and true appreciation is not about banging pans on the doorstep but standing side by side with you in your struggle for a fair and decent wage!

 

This one from Ian Lavery MP Massive Solidarity from Wansbeck. This constant fight for simple justice for decent wages terms and conditions alongside the real issue of respect in the workplace should be basic human rights. Your fight is our fight too. Respect and solidarity Ian Lavery MP.

 

This one from Rebecca Long Bailey MP “Solidarity from Salford. Your role holds our NHS together. Full support in your fight for the pay and respect you deserve”

 

This from Apsana Begum MP “Solidarity from East London. Keep up the good fight and thank you for looking after the most vulnerable of people in our society. Apsana Begum MP, UNISON member.”

 

This one from Kim Johnson MP Support and solidarity  from Liverpool Riverside, long time member and former rep, your fight is our fight✊🏽

 

From Christine Blower Labour member of Lords “Solidarity in this struggle for the pay you need and deserve.’

 

From Shami Chakrabarti Labour House of Lords “Total solidarity in your struggle, not just for your own pay, conditions and dignity but for the defence of the vital health services of us all.” – Shami C

 

From Kate Osborne MP Please pass on my solidarity.

 

Please send my colleagues a message of solidarity from me and I will try and join the picket line for a while on 4th and 11th October if I can.

I understand all your frustrations about pay and working conditions and that these need to keep pace with Family Services. Our work serves the community equally and should be acknowledged as of equal value. Burnt out workers is too high a price to pay!

See you on the picket line!

Kind regards. Liz Shaw  

 

Sending our mental health social work colleagues my support, in what are already challenging times, in more ways than one.  Thinking of you all in these very difficult times. You all do an amazing job!!

Kind Regards Fiona Wood

 

I fully support the action you are taking. It is terrible how a job that is as important as yours is under paid and therefore completely undervalued. We need social workers and I am really sorry you have been treated so shoddily.

Anna Cane.

 

Congratulations, your first day looks fabulous. We work in a mental health NHS trust and are looking to mirror your dispute. Safe Staffing does not exist anywhere and will only be solved when they pay staff enough to recruit more of us.

Well done for today, solidarity from Greater Manchester mental health unison, we are sure you can win and hopefully will inspire more fight backs

Karen Reissmann GMMH Unison.

 

Can I on behalf of Unison’s Medway Health Branch  ( Gillingham, Kent ) pass on our solidarity and best wishes to all involved in your industrial action. Stay strong, what you are doing is an inspiration and gives confidence to us all.

In Solidarity, Andrew Travers, Branch Secretary, Unison.

 

Dear colleagues,

I regret that I can’t be with you today, and I hope to join your picket line in the next strike days.

So for the time being, I am sending you my sentiments of admiration for your determination to resolve the impossible working conditions you are experiencing, your determination to resolve it for the sake of your service users as much as for your own sake.

As a social worker myself, having worked in Early Intervention in Psychosis as well as with people living with mental illnesses and dementia, and as someone whose nearest and dearest need and benefit from mental health services, I know only too well the crucial role of a mental health social worker.

No one but you is there to really SEE your service users in their pain, confusion and suffering. You are the ones who see their whole person, in their environment and unique circumstances, and you are the ones who can bring their voice to the attention of the medical staff in multidisciplinary teams, and advocate for them. Every one of your clients NEEDS you – need a social worker!

Without you it would be only the medical model that prevails, to the frustration of so many service users.

And we all know that often people disengage from mental health services out of frustration, as they feel unseen and unheard in the face of the medical approach that sees only the illness.

You are the ones who understand your users and can keep them engaged with the service.

They need you to be able to do you work properly!  Barnet Mental Health Services needs you! Our community needs you! Our society needs you!

So thank you for taking action, thank you for making this difficult decision to strike – I am sure that your clients know you are fighting for them too. And so should your bosses know!

Best of success in your strike – I hope it will not need to be long…

Solidarity!

Tirza Waisel, Barnet resident and social worker

 

Please pass on my message of solidarity to the striking social workers. I hope the strike goes well and has a great outcome for them (and ultimately the people they serve).

Although I now work for the CQC, I used to be a community mental health nurse working in an integrated health and social services team. Community mental health staff had a tough job, which must be so much harder now after over a decade of austerity (I left in 2012).

I am sorry I can’t get to a picket line – Barnet is a rather long way from Dorset and I am flat out at work (and as a union steward), so can’t take the time off.

All the very best, Alison Mesher (Member and activist of UNISON Dorset)

 

In an ever-changing world and with all the challenges we have to face every day, this is not an easy job to work in. There is an increasing need in this area especially after the pandemic and the more awareness which is being sent out about Mental health.

Sending all lots of positive energies and strength they can achieve a good outcome and resolution ; just so unfortunate people are having to go on strike to make themselves heard .

Good Luck 😊

Deepti Rattan

 

Dear Comrades,

I am sending you greetings and a message of support from the Whittington Hospital Branch of Unison. We are pleased to let you know that we have agreed to donate £150 to your strike fund at our Branch Committee Yesterday.

We believe that your fight for pay equity is completely just and should be honoured by Barnet Council. Working in the NHS we fully understand the need to pay staff fairly and equally for what they do – this goes a long way to retain and recruit people. There are enormous pressures on staff who work in mental health who often do long hours unpaid, and like staff in the NHS experience burnout. Your decision to take strike action for pay equity with Barnet’s Family Service Social Workers must be supported.

We hope to bring our banner to any rallies that you may be holding and show our solidarity……!!! This is a fight that you must win!

On Behalf of the Whittington Hospital Branch of Unison,

In Solidarity, Claire Dixon, Whittington Health UNISON Branch Secretary,

 

I live in Barnet, and I’m a long-term mental health service user. I didn’t know that social workers in Barnet are on different pay grades, this is completely unacceptable, and I have written to Barnet council to urge them to equitably apply their recruitment and retention policy and to demonstrate that they value mental health community services as much as Children and Family Services.

 

Due to my poor mental health I can’t stand with you on the picket line today but you have my full support for your strike action, and I am with you in spirit. Thank you for all the great work you do.

 

Solidarity, Janette

 

 

 

Dear Barnet Hounslow colleagues

I am Bill Reed, Secretary of Hounslow LG Unison Branch. Solidarity and our full support to your members in Mental Health social work on their dispute and recent strike action. We in Hounslow are appalled by what we read of your Labour Council’s attitude to the strike but support the resolve of your members to get a fair settlement of their dispute.

Hounslow Unison has a Committee meeting on Wednesday 18 October, commencing at 4.30 pm, and we would like to invite a speaker from your Branch or from the dispute, to tell us the full picture of the way this dispute arose and the way the Branch has responded.

You may have received these requests from Ian Clements who is Chair of the Trades Council. If there is duplication I apologise.

We hope to give material support to your cause at both meetings.

Many thanks Bill Reed

 

Dear Barnet UNISON,

 

I am writing on behalf of Lambeth UNISON to express our support and solidarity for your social work strike. Your action is essential for your social workers, social workers across the country and service users who need to see an improvement.

 

We hope hoped you would be able to arrange a speaker (in person or via zoom) to speak to our social work members about your action.

 

In solidarity, Ruth Cashman

 

Gabby Lawler Branch Secretary of Havering UNISON sending solidarity to all Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers who begin their strike action.

Good luck with your dispute and as a union activist I and all of Havering UNISON Branch are standing with you.  Social Work is a tough job in any climate but after the many years of austerity and cuts in social care as well as local government funding the role of a Mental Health Social Worker has become challenging and in some local authorities unsafe by way of case numbers.  Recruitment and Retention is essential in keeping residents safe and your fight for pay equality is justified and Havering UNISON wish you every success in your strike, stand tall and stand together.

We are with you every step of the way.

Gabby Lawler Branch Secretary of Havering UNISON

 

I’m sorry I can’t be with you today – I had a prior engagement meeting with Higher Education activists to discuss their own fight for better pay. But I’d like to send my full support and solidarity to Barnet and Brighton social workers in this crucial dispute. I know none of you will have taken lightly the decision to take strike action – you’re doing it because you need to. And I am with you all the way.

 

Social work is a vital profession. You do enormously difficult work, supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, and you do it in the face of a kind of media and political scrutiny which is completely unwarranted. The majority of local authorities are struggling to hold onto the social workers they have, and it’s not surprising, given what you have to put up with.

Please know that all of UNISON stands with you in your fight for better pay and conditions. Solidarity and best wishes.

Mike Short – head of local government

 

 

Dear Workers

Just to let you know, there are PLENTY of right-minded people who support your action & wish you success.

Kind Regards, Des

 

 

Dear Unison

Please pass the message of Solidarity to the Mental Health Workers and let us hope that Barnet council respond to your strike. You are a valuable resource for the Council.

Kind regards Zeenat Syed TUC and NEU Barnet

 

 

Good afternoon

I am writing in my capacity of Chair of the South West UNISON Regional Local Government Service Group to stand in solidarity to the members within your Branch who have been forced to take strike action in order to defend their rights, pay and jobs. We know that in local government, and in social work, this is an extremely difficult stance to take and one that is not taken lightly. Many of our Committee are experiencing issues with recruitment and retention of social workers within their own employers, who believe market supplements and other unfair and unsustainable methods will help them in their cause. Instead, as you have shown, it is making members angry, upset and concerned to the point that they can do nothing else but take this type of action. You and your members are inspirational to us all, and we wish you the greatest support with all future negotiations

Kind Regards

Kerry Gray Chair UNISON South West Local Government Service Group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking News: Barnet Council Unlawful use of Agency Workers to break our strike.

10 April 2024.

Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers received an email earlier from the Director of Adult Social Care stating that he had engaged the services of agency workers supplied by Flex 360 https://www.flex360.co.uk/

No one appears to have advised the Director of Adult Social Care that use of agency workers by an employer during industrial action is unlawful.

Last year UNISON defeated the government in the High Court over strike-breaking legislation that was introduced last summer. The High Court has ruled that the legislation which allows employers to use agency workers to replace those on strike, was unlawful, unfair, and irrational.

Read more here https://www.unison.org.uk/news/2023/07/high-court-rules-strike-breaking-agency-worker-regulations-unlawful/amp/

UNISON has written to Barnet Council Chief Executive asking him to advise the Director of Adult Social Care to withdraw from this ill-advised course of action.

In the meantime, feedback from our members, who make up 95% of the workforce, is that they are furious at this crude attempt to bully and intimidate them only days before they begin nine weeks of strike action over a 13-week period.

Barnet UNISON Mental Health strikers are due to start the next phase of strike action on Monday 15 April. Our strikers have already taken 27 days of strike action and by the end of this next phase they will have taken 72 days of strike which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13.050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

“In 28 years of being a Barnet UNISON rep I have never experienced the amount of anti-union rhetoric coming from senior management. UNISON has reached out several times to offer to resolve the dispute only to be met with machismo style management which has no place in the workplace and especially a workplace which is now a Labour controlled Council.

Our UNISON family of 1.4 million members is right behind our strikers, furthermore news has just come in to say UNISON Industrial Action Committee has increased strike pay to £70 per day.

My message to the Council is stop the bullying and come back with an offer which our members would be prepared to accept.” John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.

End.

 

Ex Barnet Council Mental Health social worker explains why she had to leave.

For the past two years Barnet UNISON has tried to engage with senior management in Adult Social Care to address the chronic exodus of experienced Mental Health social workers from the frontline Mental Health teams. There has been a catastrophic failure to understand the fundamental risks both for service users and staff because of the ongoing turnover of staff.

Our strikers have already taken 27 days of strike action and by the end of this next phase they will have taken 72 days of strike which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13.050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

Below is a email which was sent by an ex Mental Health social worker. I will repeat what I have repeatedly said to senior management: “Don’t listen to me, listen to someone who actually works in these services, they are the ones who know what is happening and how bad it is.”

After you have read the email below, I hope you can do one of the following:

  1. Visit the picket line outside Colindale on Monday 15 April between 8-10 am
  2. Send a message of support to contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Best wishes

John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.

“Dear Executive Director Adult Social Care

I am writing to you as an ex-Barnet mental health social worker in the hope that when you read my experience it will encourage you to meaningfully negotiate with striking social workers.

I left because the conditions that social workers were working in were unsafe for workers and unsafe for service users. I was part of efforts to alter this for 2 years. These efforts started as hopeful conversations with managers in which we expressed our concerns and were promised changes and ended with strike action as the situation worsened and none of the promises made by managers were fulfilled. In my first couple of weeks as a student mental health social worker in LBB I remember the Director of Adult Social Care asking me if I hoped to stay when I qualified. I replied that I couldn’t see a reason to leave as the location was good, the work interesting and the team supportive but after trying my best to stay, I realised that doing so would be to the detriment of my health and wellbeing due to under-resourcing, a reliance on junior staff for exceptionally complex work and huge waiting lists growing ever longer (to name just a few reasons).

The community mental health social work teams work with adults with some of the most complex and enduring mental health needs. They work with adults whose mental health has impacted their ability to complete the activities everyone needs to do in order to survive such as eating, safely using their homes, taking medication and attending essential medical appointments. They also work with adults where there are safeguarding concerns including concerns about self-neglect which is the most common category of abuse found in adult safeguarding reviews. However despite the complexity and risk involved in community work, it is viewed as “non-specialist”.

In my new role as a social worker in an NHS specialist mental health team my salary is 10% higher than it was in a community team while my caseload involves working with fewer adults at risk of serious harm and in which risk is shared among a multi-disciplinary team including psychiatrists, psychologists and community nurses who have decades of mental health experience between them. This experience safeguards the adults we work with and reduces the likelihood of individual practitioners feeling overwhelmed and stressed which is a leading cause of staff burnout in Barnet.

Alongside improved pay, more manageable caseloads, better resources and being able to learn from experienced mental health practitioners I also currently benefit from specialist training, better lone working practices and team administrative support. When I worked for LBB one of the arguments managers gave as to not provide a recruitment and retention payment was that social workers experience the same issues wherever they work and conditions and pay are the same everywhere. This is something said to keep social workers in their place and to stop them asking for improvements. I am proof that it is not true.

In the two months since I left LBB my mental health, physical health and work/life balance has improved. My colleagues who remain do so because they are trying their best to create working conditions that will enable them to stay in their jobs so they can support residents of Barnet but so far management seems to be against its workers and against supporting adults in Barnet who would benefit from the expertise and support of specialist, experienced community mental health social workers.

Please meaningfully negotiate with UNISON before all the mental health social workers leave or become unwell. It is your responsibility to work with social workers towards a solution but at the moment it feels senior management are hiding their heads in the sand which feels insulting to the social workers whose health is being put on the line trying to provide the service that Barnet residents deserve.

Yours sincerely,

Ex Barnet Council Mental Health social worker.”

End.

***Strike preparations commence for 15 April***

8 April 2024.

Dear Supporter

Barnet UNISON Mental Health strikers are due to start the next phase of strike action on Monday 15 April.

Our strikers have already taken 27 days of strike action and by the end of this next phase they will have taken 72 days of strike which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13.050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

We have had two meetings with Acas where we have established that Barnet Council have confirmed that they do have twice the funding they would need to settle this dispute. It is now clear that thus dispute is not about the money and as each day that goes by it feels like this is an attempt by senior officers to break UNISON.

On behalf of our members, I am requesting all our supporters to join us on our picket line this Monday 15 April between 8-10 am.

The following speakers are currently:

  1. Libby Nolan UNISON President.
  2. Jo Galloway Regional Secretary, UNISON London Region.
  3. John McDonnell MP
  4. Lord John Hendy KC
  5. Shelly Asquith Health & Safety TUC
  6. Sam Gurney Regional Secretary London, East and South East TUC
  7. Kerie Anne Branch Secretary Tower Hamlets UNISON
  8. Liz Wheatley UNISON NEC rep and Branch Secretary, Camden UNISON.

More speakers to be announced later.

The Location of our picket line is 2 Bristol Avenue, Colindale, London NW9 4EW. Colindale station on the Northern line is the nearest station to our picket line. It is a 5-minute walk, turn first left out of the station.

Solidarity

John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.

End.

BREAKING NEWS: Two more experienced Mental Health social workers due to leave this month.

Two more experienced Mental health social workers are about to start work in the NHS this month which is devastating news for the service and the morale of the workforce. Barnet Council have failed to acknowledge that they have a problem reciting social workers with Mental health experience to the team which has meant the exodus of experienced mental health social workers is having a critical impact on the remaining workforce.

The chronic turnover of staff across our acute Mental Health teams is plunging the service into a deeper crisis as Barnet Council refuses to submit a reasonable proposal to resolve this long-standing dispute.

UNISON has repeatedly urged the Council over the last nine months to take this matter seriously by doing the right thing and working with UNISON to stop the mass exodus of social workers from these acute Mental Health social work teams.

UNISON has warned the Council that if senior officers continue to take an adversarial approach to negotiations, then a nine weeks strike action over a 13 week period will begin on Monday 15 April.

If our members do take part in the next phase of strike action, it will mean that Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers will have taken 72 strike days which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13,050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

The power to end this dispute is in the hands of Barnet Council.

End.

Barnet UNISON National Pay Meeting : Wednesday 24 April 6.30- 7.30

Wednesday 24 April 6.30- 7.30

Join Barnet UNISON  Zoom Meeting using the link below.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89074206415?pwd=OEo0L1NkQmFPSSsxU3dGemlvR0xyUT09

Meeting ID: 890 7420 6415

Passcode: 779562

Barnet UNISON is organising a series of Pay meetings over the next three months to update members on the National Pay Negotiations.

UNISON proposal is as follows:

  • £3,000 or 10%.
  • Two-hour reduction of the working week without financial loss.
  • One additional annual leave.

UNISON, Unite and GMB are in negotiations and will report back once they have had a formal response from the National Employers.

It is likely that UNISON will conduct a strike ballot of their members. It is important that all Barnet UNISON members are ready to VOTE. Last year Barnet UNISON was 6 votes short of a successful strike ballot.

This time we intend on delivering a massive VOTE on National Pay.

 

End.

1 2 3 21