Independent Sage meeting Friday 15 January 2021
Barnet UNISON COVID19 Update: Support for your Mental Health
Dear Barnet UNISON members,
The lockdown is clearly having an impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
Below is a service called Able Futures who provide some excellent services for staff, some of our Barnet UNISON members are already using and providing some positive feedback.
Able Futures delivers the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service which can give nine months support from a mental health professional at no cost.
If staff are experiencing issues such as anxiety, depression, grief or stress, or are struggling to deal with problems such as debt, disrupted sleep or relationship breakdowns that may be affecting mental health, Able Futures can help you build resilience, tackle issues, feel better and learn new ways to manage your mental health throughout the ups and downs of life.
There’s no waiting list and you can apply online or by calling 0800 321 3137.
Below are some Able Futures resources and information from other agencies.
Able Futures continue to offer a service, adapted to offer all telephone and online support now to avoid contact.
If you are furloughed, you are still entitled to support, as well as any family members that may be eligible.
Signing up is just a few clicks and only takes a few minutes via the Able Futures website:
You may also find excellent resources and advice on the following websites:
Young Minds for the younger people in our communities:
This organisation can offer training and awareness:
Mental Health Foundation, some excellent information:
The Council’s New Housing Strategy – Increase rents by £100 a week
An extra £100 a week on rents for new build council homes and re-let council homes being transferred to Open Door Homes (ODH) – the Council’s housing development company.
The plan will mean council tenants in new and re-let homes owned by ODH will have to pay £209 a week for a 2-bedroom home compared with £109 a week currently charged for a council home.
Exploiting the most vulnerable in our community – people in need of Housing may no longer be able to afford this – a disgrace – The Barnet Group is an experiment that needs to be brought back in house and do what they are supposed to do – PROVIDE COUNCIL HOUSING!!!!
In the Labour Group’s submission to the draft Housing Strategy consultation, Labour’s Lead on Housing – Cllr Paul Edwards said: “Barnet Homes (Open Door) is a social landlord and should be providing social rent homes at rates in line with the Mayor’s plan. So, the rent should be no more than 50% of market rates, which is a more socially just rent to ask for than 65% and is in line with the Mayor’s plan.
“The high 65% social rent is the main reason Barnet Council were not able to secure more grant from the GLA – why would the Mayor invest in building new social rent homes that are not going to be affordable to those on low incomes?”
Cllr Edwards also criticised the lack of ambition to deliver more affordable homes across all development, and called for the affordable homes target to be increased from 40% of all new homes to 50%. The Conservatives voted against this as well.
1. The Council’s new Housing Strategy can be found here (Agenda Item 8):
Press Release: Barnet UNISON respond to “Worse Choices for People with Disabilities”
Press Release: Barnet UNISON respond to “Worse Choices for People with Disabilities”
Look at the line E6 on this chart and you may start to understand why disabled activists are going to get extremely angry. Barnet UNISON will support community activists and workers fighting to keep the standards high for people with disabilities.
The struggle and fight for disabled people has always been about “How I can keep in control of my life?”
For a number of years local authorities, including Barnet, have been trying to get people with disabilities out of residential care homes and into a variety of supported living settings. Along the way there have been a number of arguments about whether this is a cost saving exercise (it was always approved if it did save costs) and about whether the quality of support could match that in residential care homes.
Residential care homes always struggled to match their residents’ aspirations to live a “normal life” – to make the kind of choices most of us take for granted, such as when to pop out for a social visit. They now often struggle to match the aspiration of providing quality basic care.
This is the background against which Barnet and other local authorities are looking to save money again, but this time by seeing who they can “persuade” or “encourage” to move into a residential care home. Whichever way it’s looked at, this is about cutting costs and forcing people with disabilities to manage with less, which will limit their aspirations in a way which is wholly unacceptable for the rest of the population.
If there is money to keep ploughing into the pockets of Capita, to keep an extensive and expensive senior officer group running, then there has to be money available to continue offering residents of Barnet a degree of choice and control over how they are supported.
Remember – people with disabilities are any one of us. Most disabled people were not born so, they acquired their disability in later years. What would we choose for ourselves or our parents or our children? This is why we will show solidarity with those campaigning for quality services and defend those providing quality services.
“When I saw the headlines my heart sank. Comrades started contacting me on social media to get our reaction to the very scary proposal outline in the Budget Cuts report which was agreed at Barnet Council meeting on 5 March 2019. I am not surprised this attack on people with disabilities is a direct consequence of the decision of the Council to keep funding the two big Capita contracts. Barnet was contracted to pay Capita £252.2 million by this time however with all the extras they have in fact paid Capita £386.71 that is an extra £134.17 million of taxpayers money. Our branch will be doing our utmost to work with our community to ensure no one is forced into residential care it’s the least we can do. John Burgess, Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.
Notes to Editors
Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: email@example.com
Concerns over Barnet Council’s social care plans
Tory council set to force disabled people into residential care to cut costs
Barnet Homes Fire doors not up to standard
Below is an extract from the Housing Committee Thursday the 21st of June, 2018
Fire safety and the Council’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster
Further developments – Manse Masterdoor
23.On the 15th March 2018, the Government released a statement regarding potential
issues identified with door-sets produced by the company Manse Masterdoor.
Further testing of these doors was undertaken and an updated statement made on
the 16th May 2018. An excerpt of this statement is as follows:
“The expert panel has concluded there is a performance issue with these Manse
Masterdoor fire doors, which do not consistently meet the 30-minute fire resistance standard. Nevertheless, the National Fire Chiefs Council has advised the expert panel the risk to public safety remains low”
24.The full statement can be viewed at;
The statement also confirmed that the MHCLG is
writing to affected customers. The affected doors were supplied between 2013
25.There is a total of 1,183 of these doors on Barnet Homes properties. All affected
residents have been written to confirming the steps are being taken to replace the
door-sets, whilst also confirming the Governments advice that the risk posed
26.In addition, Barnet Homes has arranged for the fire risk assessments to blocks
containing these doors be updated in light of this matter. This will be completed by
29th June 2018. These fire risk assessments will form the basis for prioritising the
door replacement programme.
27.The estimated costs for replacing these doors is in the region of £1.5m, however Barnet Homes are engaged in positive discussions with the contracted party that
installed the doors in order to mitigate any cost implications to the Council
Worryingly, the same document details a fire at a block of 20 flats in Graham Park Estate.
18.In early April 2018, a serious fire occurred at a small block on the Grahame Park
Estate. Although nobody was hurt, the whole block of 20 flats is now uninhabitable,
and residents have been provided with alternative accommodation. Following this
fire, Barnet Homes instructed an intrusive survey of the communal areas of the
block which highlighted the need for some improvements to the fire separation
measures within areas not generally accessible through the Fire Risk Assessment
process, such as within enclosed riser ducts and suspended ceiling void spaces.
Surveys were undertaken to blocks of a similar construction on the same estate,
which highlighted the need for similar improvements. Arrangements have been
made to implement works to address these matters.
19.Whilst the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 focuses on communal
areas, Barnet Homes have piloted some surveys which go over and above these
requirements and include areas within dwellings. Within some properties areas for
further improvements have been identified of a similar nature to that of the highrise
20.It is therefore recommended that Barnet Homes extend its programme of fire safety works to include all blocks of flats.
This would include;
Surveying of sample properties internally as part of an extended fire risk
The installation of enhanced fire detection and alarm systems within all
That measures identified as part of the extended fire risk assessment surveys
are undertaken through a programme of works to be developed as the surveys
21.Until the surveys have been undertaken to all blocks it is difficult to accurately
estimate the cost of undertaking the arising works. The next fire safety update to
the Housing Committee will include more a detailed and costed programme along
with proposals for funding these works.
22.Barnet Homes will make use of existing capital budgets to address any urgent
works identified that need to be dealt with prior to the October 2018 Housing
Committee up to a value of £200,000.
Barnet Homes ASSIST
Barnet Group ASSIST proposals
Barnet UNISON is currently in negotiations with The Barnet Group in relation to the recommendations below.
Needless to say, Barnet UNISON is opposed to cuts to this vital front line service and opposed to the night operator service being outsourced.
The proposed recommendation to move to bench marked salaries would have grave implications for ALL Barnet Group staff irrespective of whether they are employed on a traditional Barnet Homes contract, which is protected by the 2006 TUPE agreement from LBB, or, a TBG Flex contract.
If Barnet Group Management continue with the intention to break with the current nationally agreed pay structure in the Barnet Homes and the TBG Flex paystructure, Barnet UNISON will be left with no alternative other than consult with ALL employees that would potentially be effected.
The Barnet Homes Board approved the following on Monday 18th June.
It is fully acknowledged that Assist is an essential and greatly valued service and the focus will be on how the service is supported to grow. However, the current cost base does not support the services ability to bid for new business and cannot continue to be provided in its existing form if the growth aspirations are to be achieved.
The proposed changes are not made to cut costs just to make the numbers balance, but are made to modernise the service. The result of the changes are lower costs as we plan to combine our call centre functions and tender the current night operators service. Jobs will be offered in the call centre where they are available but they will be different.
The measures that need to be taken if Assist is to continue to provide an operator and mobile response service to its current customers and to win additional services to support the growth imperative are stated below.
There have been 4 different options that have been consulted on with the Assist staff and following feedback the following is recommended.
- The Assist service provides a limited operator service during office hours and buys in the out of hours call monitoring.
- All Assist daytime operators, mobile response officers, management and admin teams will be matched to the bench marked high rate salaries, aligned to NJC Outer London Spinal points.
- Enhancements and shift allowances will no longer be paid.
- 3.3 full time equivalent operator posts (125 hours) will be co-located to work within the contact centre carrying out the same duties as they currently do, during office hours (8am-6pm), this option will add another facet to the Barnet Homes Call Centre further supporting the diversity of work that this service area carries.
- The current night operators will be consulted with and will either be TUPE’d to the procured provider, be redeployed within The Barnet Group, or be made redundant.
- Where the impact of the changes to individual’s salaries and contractual obligations are impacted negatively by -10% (gross) or higher they will be offered redeployment or redundancy if a suitable alternative cannot be found.
- All mobile response officer (MRO) work patterns will be reviewed to ensure that there is full cover for the service and capacity for growth
- There will be a reduction of one senior post
- The standby rate will remain at £26.76, this will be cost neutral for the Barnet MRO’s and an increase for the Brent MRO’s
- Removal of the car allowance with all mileage paid at 60p per mile.
For A Better, Fairer, Democratically Accountable Barnet.
Barnet UNISON has been involved with many campaigns involving the Community over the years. We do not see a contradiction between the provision of good services and good terms and conditions for the workers we represent. Our members often use the services our colleagues provide. Our key campaign has been the opposition of outsourcing which we warned would deliver inferior services to the Council, with a higher cost to residents and with less accountability for the money spent.
Unfortunately we appear to have been proven right. The following quote is from the Council’s own recent External Audit report:
“As at 31 March 2017, the Council has a prepayment balance of £44.7 million in respect of its Customer and Support Group (CSG) contract. This contract covers a number of front line and back office services including finance, ICT, HR, customer services, revenues and benefits, procurement, estates, and corporate programmes. As this is a significant prepayment, we challenged management with regard to its basis“.
Barnet UNISON has agreed policies we would like to see implemented by the next Council administration. We may alter or add to these policies and positions following discussions in the coming months.
Barnet UNISON (Local Government Branch) calls on those parties and candidates contesting the local Council election in May 2018 to support (and implement if elected) the following:
- End the Council’s over reliance on agency staff and consultants, replacing these with Council employees.
- Review Unified Reward and consider returning to GLPC.
- Adopt UNISON ethical care charter.
- Address and alleviate the problems caused by the forthcoming relocation of Barnet Council and Partner organisation staff to the new Colindale Office building.
HEALTH & SAFETY
- Bring all the Council’s Health & Safety responsibilities back in to in-house control and monitoring.
- Review Health & Safety arrangements in the Borough.
- TBG Flex employees to be employed on Local Government T&C’s, Pay with access to Local Government Pension Scheme.
- The Barnet Group to be brought back in-house.
- End short term 2 & 5 year tenancies and reintroduce secure life time tenancies for all tenants.
- End or limit Right to Buy and the subletting of Right to Buy properties
- Increase Council home building.
- Widen the availability of social housing within the Borough.
- Resource the monitoring of housing where necessary to ensure it is fit for habitation.
- Restore the pre-April 2017 level of staffed opening hours, with sufficient Library workers (in numbers, qualifications and experience) and resources.
- Review the use of lost Library space with a view to returning to Library use.
- Bring the Partnership Libraries back in-house.
- Work with all stakeholders in the Library Service to produce a strategy that will maintain and improve the quality and accessibility of Barnet Libraries.
- No more Council services to be outsourced.
- Work towards bringing services already outsourced back in-house including NSL.
- Review Capita and other contracts with the aim of bring services back in-house.
- Ensure that while outsourcing contracts are running they are properly overseen and these services are provided to the contracted level without incurring further cost to the Council.
- Support the Trade Union (UNISON, GMB, Unite) NJC PAY CLAIM 2018 – 2019
- Ensure that Council, partner organisation and contractor employees are paid at least the London Living Wage.
- End Performance Related Pay.
- 52 week contracts for TAs and other support workers.
- Oppose the establishment of academies.
- Instigate a search within the Borough for a site (or sites?) for a depot (depots?) suitable for all Street Scene’s long-term needs?
- Commit to the retention of Street Scene services in-house.
Barnet UNISON initial response to Ofsted report for Family Services
It is really disappointing and disturbing to read this damming Ofsted report.
I have been working in the London Borough of Barnet for 22 years.
I have a long history of knowledge of our social services.
Back in 2008 our Council celebrated being a five star Council. They actually hung the stars from the high ceiling in our Atrium (posh for staff canteen).
At this time we did not have any serious issues in social work. Barnet had a good reputation for social work and had no reliance on agency workers.
In May 2008 something changed.
The Council announced a major policy change called Future Shape later to be known as “easyCouncil” then “One Barnet” and finally “Commissioning Council.”
Barnet UNISON quickly recognised this change as mass outsourcing ideology.
Barnet UNISON has written much on what has transpired over almost a decade of ideological obsession with mass outsourcing.
For this press release it is not the outsourced contractors that we are focussing on, but the impact on those remaining Council services, in this case Family Services.
Over the past decade to ensure delivery of the outsourcing programme the senior management had to change.
I watched as managers who were good at delivery were replaced by strategic managers. Often they were replaced by interims who would later become permanent. The Council then looked to consultants to prepare services for outsourcing. This led some to argue the Council was becoming “consultant dependent.”
Corporate knowledge was not seen as a positive.
What has happened in Family Services is, in my opinion, a long time coming.
This is why I would say to those looking for heads to roll, to reflect on those architects that have long since left.
Where is the accountability for those who have left and those who took their eye off the ball?
What needs to happen now? Barnet UNISON has already begun discussions with our members in Family Services and the Council.
We want to make Barnet a safe place to work which will translate into better services for children.
This means a change and recognition that staff and UNISON need to be fully involved in changes in Family Services.
There must be no repeat of past mistakes.
Barnet Council must listen to the workforce and their representatives.
The life of the child must and always be at the heart of Family Services.
To achieve this you need a highly motivated skilled workforce that is well supported.
The next 12 months are going to be critical and Barnet UNISON is going to make sure we are there for our members and those children who need Family Services.”
(John Burgess Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON).
1. OFSTED inspection findings
2. Inspectors rap ‘inadequate’ Barnet Council children’s services
3. Barnet children’s services condemned as inadequate by Ofsted: ‘Serious failings put young at risk of harm’