Yo Ho Ho: Join Barnet UNISON Festive Mental Health social worker picket line

Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers begin a week of strike action on Monday 4 December.

Please see details of the location and times of our picket line.

What can supporters do?

1. Visit our picket lines all week commencing 4 December to 8 December

between 8- 12.30 pm (see attached graphic).

2. Please sign #BarnetUNISON email campaign to Barnet Council Chief Executive Please click on the link and follow the instructions. https://action.unison.org.uk/page/135744/action/1 Let us know when he replies.

Please send a solidarity message to our strikers by emailing our office at contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

3. If you are on social media, you can help by liking/sharing or commenting on our many posts. Here are our social media sites.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/barnet_unison

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarnetUNISON

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/barnetunison/

4. Please write by email or by letter to:

John Hooton, Chief Executive of Barnet Council John.Hooton@Barnet.gov.uk

Address: London Borough of Barnet; 2 Bristol Avenue; London NW9 4EW

Cllr Barry Rawlings, Leader of Barnet Council Cllr.B.Rawlings@barnet.gov.uk

Address: London Borough of Barnet; 2 Bristol Avenue; London NW9 4EW.

 

Solidarity

Barnet UNISON.

End.

Background:

  1. Open letter to Executive Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/16/open-letter-to-executive-director-of-adult-social-care-mental-health-social-work-dispute/

  1. Open letter to Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/16/open-letter-to-director-of-adult-social-care-mental-health-social-work-dispute/

  1. Open letter to Cllr Barry Rawlings Leader of Barnet Council

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/15/open-letter-to-cllr-barry-rawlings-leader-of-barnet-council/

Invitation to House of Commons debate on why social workers are voting to strike

Why are Barnet Council Mental Health social workers taking strike action?

Mental Health Social Workers in Barnet have taken 12 days of strike action and another 14 days are planned in the coming months. But Barnet isn’t the only local authority in which social workers are saying enough is enough. Earlier this year South Gloucestershire social workers became the first branch to successfully ballot for strike action with Barnet, Brighton, Swindon and Leeds social workers all having declared strike action in the following months. Similar issues are being raised by strikers across the country including high caseloads, under-staffing, unsafe services, and unfair pay policies.

13 years of austerity have resulted in huge cuts to local authority statutory services while the impact of covid has contributed to increases in referrals to social care that are forecast to continue for years to come. In such an environment and with no clear political priority being placed on fixing social care, this panel discussion considers topics like the role of social workers in championing better public services and fair pay for workers.

The session will be held on 5th December 2023 at 6.30pm in Committee Room 17, House of Commons.

The event is free, and all are welcome but please book your place by emailing contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Co- Chairs: John McDonnell MP and Kerie Anne

Panellists:

  1. Kristiana Heapy
  2. Dan Smart
  3. Corinna Edwards-Colledge
  4. Nana Yabbey-Hagan.

Kerie Anne, Chair of UNISON National Social Care Forum, Branch Secretary, Tower Hamlets UNISON and Families social worker.

Corinna Edwards-Colledge is joint branch secretary of Brighton and Hove UNISON and has worked in local government for over 20 years.  She is also a campaigner and a writer, and is currently leading adult social workers in Brighton on their very first strike action over pay parity.

Kristiana Heapy Kristiana is the Unison team rep in Barnet’s Mental Health Social Work South Team which is currently undertaking strike action. Kristiana qualified as a social worker in 2022, prior to that she worked in the voluntary sector in a number of public policy, campaigning and service delivery roles. In her spare time Kristiana has held voluntary positions for charities focused on access to green space, equality and supporting people experiencing mental ill-health..

Dan Smart is Branch secretary, UNISON South Gloucestershire and an Adulst social worker.

Nana Yabbey-Hagan is a Qualified Social Worker for Children and Families of 10 years. Nana is currently a Team Manager for a Looked After Childrens Team, previously a Team Manager for a frontline Children Protection Team. In addition, Nana is a Practice Educator for Bachelor’s, Masters, Step Up Students/ASYE assessor for Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW), University Lecturer and Co-Host of the Social Worker and The Mentor Podcast.

***Please note Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers are taking a whole week of strike action starting Monday 4 December to Friday 8 December.

You are welcome to join our Festive Barnet UNISON Picket line details of location are below.

End.

Background:

  1. Open letter to Executive Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/16/open-letter-to-executive-director-of-adult-social-care-mental-health-social-work-dispute/

  1. Open letter to Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/16/open-letter-to-director-of-adult-social-care-mental-health-social-work-dispute/

  1. Open letter to Cllr Barry Rawlings Leader of Barnet Council

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/15/open-letter-to-cllr-barry-rawlings-leader-of-barnet-council/

 

Open letter to Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute

Dear James Mass,

 

We are writing to you today, in the absence of any response to us so far, following our 9 days of strike action. We are deeply disappointed that you have chosen not to acknowledge the strike and, in many ways, feel that we are being treated with contempt. It unfortunately feels in keeping with a wider dismissal of the distress workers have voiced to you in the past 18 months of this dispute. We have always appreciated that in Barnet, senior management regularly interact regularly with practitioners. However, when coupled with the contrast of complete silence during our strike action, the inevitable result has been a deep sense of alienation, frustration and undervaluation.

 

The past 18 months, and the 14 staff members who have left our teams, demonstrate the dangerous potential of this undervaluation. 1 staff member has already handed in their notice since strike action began, more have formal plans to leave and anecdotally many others have expressed that the lack of response from senior management means they are seriously considering whether to stay. Put simply, your silence has led staff members previously very committed to Barnet to feel that they are in a service which does not make an effort to recognise their worth to the council or the difficulties they are bringing to your attention. We are incredibly concerned about the current recruitment and retention crisis spiralling out of control, leaving remaining social workers unable to provide a service at all, let alone one which is safe for service users and the social workers of whom we have been bereft of since the transformation of mental health social care in 2021. We are therefore urging you to commit to meeting with our representatives and engaging in meaningful dialogue about how we can resolve this situation.

 

The absence of any negotiation leaves us to reflect on previous responses from you to the conditions which led to this dispute.

 

We feel dismissed when you deny that our service is in crisis when it is us as practitioners who have to deal with the realities of an up to 15-month waiting list for individuals in mental distress. We are the practitioners assessing individuals whose needs have clearly deteriorated since their referral; who are either referring for Mental Health Assessments or undertaking these assessments at much higher numbers and who are putting in care as urgent hospital discharges for people who have been on our waiting list for months prior to their admission. We know first-hand that this means the care we need to put in place is much more significant than if we had been able to support them closer to their referral. We also know that we are in no position to regularly review and reduce this care, to provide least restrictive support, due to the number of service users needing acute, crisis interventions. Quite simply, unless individuals are presenting in crisis, we are unable to prioritise their care. It is subsequently difficult not to feel that we are in a failing service.

 

It was therefore also a profound insult to be told that that there is no retention crisis after 14 valued staff members (2 more social workers have handed in their notice since the strike began) , many of whom have been in Barnet for years, have left and told us this resulted from intolerable stress of being part of such a struggling service. We know that current conditions lead to intense anxiety, low satisfaction with work and a pressure to overwork, as quite simply; this is our daily reality. We know this is a recipe for burn-out and that when faced with burn-out, practitioners vote with their feet and leave the service. Subsequently, it is bordering on offensive to dismiss these conditions during a time when the council wishes to prioritise employee well-being as demonstrated by the communication on Mental Health Awareness day. We know the jobs practitioners have taken when leaving Barnet: these are better paid and more adequately resourced/staffed both in and outside of the statutory sector. Barnet has been a big proponent of the Think Ahead graduate scheme as a means of training social workers and encouraging them to stay in Barnet. Yet in the last two years, half of one cohort and 2 out of 5 of the current cohort will have left less than 6 months after finishing their ASYE. This scheme is failing because participants do not want to remain in a service with the current level of stress and chaos. We urge you to listen and prioritise the voices of the social workers that you employ over your own statistics to understand this retention crisis and the way out of it.

 

It was yet more disappointing to see that you felt our announcement of strike action was asking for special treatment for mental health social workers and pitted us against other social workers and Occupational Therapists in the council. This could not be further from the truth. We value highly the work of our colleagues in Adult Social Care, many of whom shared invaluable knowledge during the transformation to fill the gap of any targeted training for practitioners previously working outside of statutory teams. You are aware of the context for our organising and its genesis in this transformation which initiated our destabilising turnover and resulting spiralling waiting list. To deny this and again attempt to stoke division within social care perpetuates a sense that we have not been listened to. Throughout the dispute we have encouraged other social workers and OTs to take action if they are experiencing similar recruitment and retention problems and will continue to do and support them if they wish to organise. If this does take place, we urge you to learn from our current dispute and engage in the meaningful negotiation that we attempted over and over again prior to our strike action to prevent further disruption to social care.

 

Not one social worker out on strike wants to be in this position. The decision to strike, and to continue striking, is one which brings intense anxiety given that we know our own workloads, waiting lists and stress levels increase with each day that we are withdrawing our labour. We are in this profession because we want to support vulnerable people experiencing mental distress. You have seen how passionate we are about this work, in reviewing our care plans for panel and shadowing us on visits. You know then, that to take time away from this work is a last resort. However, it is this same commitment and value-base which has made us feel that striking is a necessary extension of our advocacy for service users who are not receiving the standard of care they need.

 

Each day we are out on strike we are hoping that you will meet with our UNISON reps in order to secure a resolution that will bring this dispute to a close.

 

Yours sincerely,

Barnet Mental Health Social Workers

 

End.

 

Breaking News: Urgent: Mental Health Social Work Crisis increases to 66%

pictures of 4 social workers

 

“66% of Mental Health social workers in post since 1 January 2023 will have left Barnet Council within the space of last 12 months”.

Day 76 day since UNISON issued Barnet Council with official notice of strike action for Mental Health social workers working across three acute Mental Health social work teams.

To date there has been no approach from Barnet Council to try and reach a resolution despite UNISON proposing several possible solutions.

Today, Barnet UNISON was informed that another one of our strikers had handed in their notice. This means that in the space of 11 months of 2023 16 social workers will have left the Mental Health Teams involved in this dispute.

What has alarmed our members has been the ‘macho approach’ to this dispute. Instead of seeking to find a way to resolve the escalating social work crisis management have taken a strategic approach which amounts to ‘burying their heads in the sand’ with the hope that it will all go away. The following statement was reported in Community Care Magazine 31 October 2023:

“In a statement to Community Care, Barnet’s cabinet member for adult social care, Paul Edwards, said that 30 of the 31 posts were already filled, by 26 permanent staff and four locums.

The above statement implies that there are 31 social work posts across the 3 Mental Health Social Work Teams. This is incorrect there are in fact only 21 social work posts across the three social work teams which means that with the 14 staff already gone that represented 66% of the social workers in employment on 1 January 2023 had left the above teams before UNISON issued the strike notice on 1 September.

Another two more social workers have handed in their notice, meaning that 66% of the social workers in post since 1 January 2023.

The question UNISON has for Barnet Council is this:

“How many more social workers need to hand in their notice before you come to the negotiating table?”

The only people who lose are Mental Health service users living in the London Borough of Barnet where there is a 15-month waiting list.

The clock is ticking.

End.

When will the National Pay award be paid?

Earlier this month UNISON National issued a statement to say:

“UNISON met with the other trade unions (Unite and GMB) earlier this week, and we did our best to encourage a resolution to the 2023 pay dispute – emphasising the need for members to receive their pay rise as soon as possible. Ultimately, the outcome of the meeting was to reconvene in late October, after the current GMB industrial action ballot closes. Unite are currently taking industrial action in some local authorities. Since the process cannot move forward unless the NJC trade union side has reached an agreement, we cannot proceed until this is the case.”

Barnet UNISON will report back to members as soon as we find out what happened at the meeting with UNISON, Unite and GMB.

The table above shows the NEW GRADES IN YELLOW.

If you don’t know what Grade you are on please contact your supervisor or email Barnet UNISON at contactus@barnetunison.org.uk or leave a voicemail message on our office number 0208 359 2088 (the voicemail is checked every day).

Once the National Pay offer has been agreed, it will be back dated to 1 April 2023.

End.

Industrial relations hit a new low in Barnet Council.

Barnet UNISON will always speak up for our members regardless of employer. We are a trade union, and our role is to organise and support members in the workplace. The last 13 years Austerity policies have had a detrimental impact on our members. Many of our members are exhausted, overworked, stressed out and the cost-of-living crisis is plunging many of our members into debt.

Our branch has organsied many strikes over the last couple fo decades.

However, in our recent strike of Mental Health social workers there appears to be a change in approach towards Barnet UNISON. This is surprising and disappointing that we are now under a Labour Administration. Many of our members are expecting things to be different than when the Tories were in power. Its 17 months since the last election and by 12 October, Barnet UNISON will have taken 20 days of strike action which is more than we had under the last 6 years of the Tories.

To those who keep asking, Barnet UNISON has tried to keep an open dialogue with Barnet Labour Party.

Below are a list of concerns:

1. Barnet Council have refused to talk to Barnet UNISON about life and limb cover. This is the first time in 28 years of being a Barnet UNISON rep in Barnet Council that this has happened. “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”

 

2. Barnet Council emailed staff before the strike asking members to respond if they were taking strike action. Whilst the employer can do this, this is the first time they have done this in the last  28 years . “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”

 

3. Barnet UNISON wrote to the Chief Executive pointing out the email to members was intimidatory and that senior managers should approach me about Life and Limb cover. Barnet UNISON was assured that senior managers would contact me. We have had three days of strike action and another 3 days of strike action this week and to date no one has contacted me. “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”

 

4. Managers have sent several managers to one of the workplaces to in our view to try and intimidate our members. These managers never go to this workplace, and they don’t work in Mental Health Services. This is a childish act which is backfiring. However, the message is clear that management in Adult Social Care are trying to sidestep having to deal with Barnet UNISON. This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.

5. Barnet UNISON has seen an email sent by a senior manager to a UNISON member who was on strike and therefore unable to respond, asking if they were taking strike action. This email shows that senior managers had no plan for life and limb cover. We know because some of our members were contacted on the picket line. This is a shocking lack of respect for the service but towards Barnet UNISON. This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.

 

Before Barnet UNISON members took strike action Barnet Council had been claiming for 9 months that there were no recruitment and retention issues.

On the eve of the formal strike ballot Barnet Council changed their minds and said that there was a recruitment and retention issue but not just in Mental Health but across Adult Social Care. They made an offer of 2.6%.

Barnet Council have consistently denied that they need recruitment and retention payments but last year in a report on Mental Health services they agreed to a recruitment and retention payment (6.2%) for one job role.

Barnet Mental Health social workers rejected the 2.6% deeming it an insult.

Barnet UNISON members working for Adult Social Care have rejected the 2.6% and Barnet UNISON will be registering our claim in a formal meeting on 11 October. If an agreement cannot be reached the issue will be escalated to a meeting with the Chief Executive. If we do not reach an agreement at this meeting a formal dispute will be raised, and Barnet UNISON will be requesting a lawful strike ballot for these members.

Our members are clear that the only way for the service users to receive they urgently need is for the Council to address the chronic staffing issues.

  • Already the wait for an initial screening, which should be completed in 5 days as per the policy is now 12 weeks.
  • The waiting list is now up to 14 months.

The service is in crisis, but managers are in denial.

Each day of strike action increases the waiting lists. The longer senior management fail to take this seriously pushes the service deeper into crisis.

Since 1 September 2023 two staff have already left and there are more planning to leave if things don’t change.

Now is not the time for macho politics. Senior management need to come to the table with a sensible offer. If Family Services can pay up to 25% on top of basic, then Adults need to match it.

End.

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