UNISON calls for urgent action over chronic shortages of frontline Mental Health social workers.
Earlier this month Barnet UNISON met with senior managers in Adult Social Care to try to secure an agreement as to how to deal with the chronic and dangerous shortage of frontline Mental Health social workers across the two Mental Health social work teams.
Barnet UNISON presented evidence of unsafe staffing levels across the two teams where, in both teams, over 50% of the workforce are newly qualified and almost 40% are agency workers, most of whom have barely 2 years’ experience of working in Barnet. The situation has been brewing over the last 9 months and has reached a point where staff are demanding the Council must act to both try to retain the existing staff and recruit and retain new and experienced staff.
Barnet UNISON has been asking for the implementation of the Council’s Recruitment and Retention Policy (RRP) as a short term solution to try to hold on to existing staff whilst developing a more comprehensive plan to make Barnet Mental Health social work service one in which staff want to stay. The RRP has been used in Family Services social work for the last 6 six years and has recently increased the rate up to 25% in recognition of the serious RR issues in some parts of Family Services.
Unfortunately, the response from senior management has been disappointing and, whilst an agreement to meet again soon was made, it appears they are underestimating the scale of the problem and the impact it is having on the morale of the workforce.
On 16 March 2023, Barnet UNISON made a formal request for a JNCC meeting at which we will table our trades dispute over RRP. Barnet UNISON has stated we are open to negotiation, but time is running out. The impact on morale and the health and wellbeing of our members working in Mental Health Services is paramount.
“I really don’t know what they are looking at when they look at the staffing levels for the two frontline Mental Health Social work teams. Our local reps explained concisely the levels of stress and anxiety being felt by the workforce and the inevitable consequences if the Council don’t act now. At the time of our meeting two senior social workers had already handed in their notice, yet it did not feel that management understood the seriousness of this news for the remaining staff. If the Council don’t work with us, I can see another exodus of staff. In the meeting I informed the management that we carried out an indicative ballot whereby 100% voted for strike action if the Council did not agree to RRP. Its nearly two weeks since we last met and I have had no approaches from the Council to meet.” (John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON)