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 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 things you can do to support Barnet Mental Health social worker strikers

What can supporters do?

  1. Visit our picket lines all week commencing 15-19 January between 8- 12.30 pm see details on our web site here

 

  1. Please sign Barnet UNISON 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

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

 

  1. Request for your name to be added to the Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Worker Strike Solidarity Wall https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2023/11/28/barnet-unison-mental-health-social-worker-strike-solidarity-wall/ by sending an email to contactus@barnetunison.org.uk requesting for your solidarity message to be added to the Solidarity Wall.

 

  1. 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/

  1. 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.

 

  1. Make a donation to the Barnet UNISON Industrial Action Fund. Email the office at contactus@barnetunison.org.uk for details.

 

Please let the branch know what you can do in solidarity for our Barnet UNISON strikers.

Solidarity

Barnet UNISON.

 

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 Executive Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.

Dear Dawn

As a registered social worker, you will be aware of the professional standards set out by our regulatory body, Social Work England, and the expectation that social workers should raise concerns about unsafe practice and should challenge practices, systems, and processes where necessary. We implore you to act on your responsibilities within the social work profession and also those set out within the framework of the law.

The Care Act 2014 is underpinned by the responsibility for local authorities to promote wellbeing and to prevent, delay, and reduce a person’s needs for care and support. We have been reporting that we, on the front line, do not feel that we are meeting this statutory responsibility and are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the residents of Barnet, the impact on ourselves as regulated professionals, and the impact on Barnet Council. Whilst you will be aware, through our consistent reporting, of our areas of concerns, this open letter stresses a number of the key areas:

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman consider it reasonable for a person to wait 4-6 weeks for an assessment. In August 2022 we were raising concerns about staffing levels and that our waiting list for an assessment under the Care Act was up to six months. Since then, the situation has continued to become far more critical, with 14 staff members leaving within a year and the waitlist more than doubling. The staff who left were often the staff members with the most experience, many working their entire 20-30 years careers as social workers within Barnet mental health. This means that our teams have been left without an experienced workforce. In one team, 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 our waiting lists have now drastically increased, reaching up to 15 months, and alarmingly continue to grow. Based on rates of increase, without adequate intervention, we predict that the waiting list will reach two years in 2024.

 

It should be stressed that these are not people with low level needs for whom it is safe to wait for an assessment. People with high and complex needs are frequently waiting up to 15 months. Without adequate support, people with serious mental disorders are at significantly increased risk of deterioration to their mental state. Far too often our work becomes crisis management, which statutory guidance is clear cannot achieve wellbeing. The Care Act emphasises the need to not wait to respond until people reach crisis point and the need to focus on preventing and delaying needs for care and support, which we are not doing.

When people are left to deteriorate, unmanaged risks to their health and wellbeing put them at significant risk of harm, and even death, whilst awaiting an assessment. This is particularly concerning given that the people we work with have serious mental disorders, which already elevates risk. We further see this in complex presentations of self-neglect owing to a deterioration in mental state. It is particularly concerning that people on our waiting list are deteriorating to such a degree that the risks to their health and wellbeing falls under the scope of safeguarding.

On the subject of safeguardings, the London Multiagency Adult Safeguarding Policy & Procedures set out the target timescale for safeguarding enquiry actions as being undertaken within 20 days. However, in Barnet mental health social care we do not always have capacity to even allocate the case to a worker within this timeframe, let alone undertake enquiry actions. The result is that safeguarding enquiries have, at times, become held by duty workers, which we feel is unsafe, or worse yet, left on the waiting list awaiting capacity to be allocated.

 

Returning to deterioration, we are all too aware that deterioration means that people’s needs are much greater at point of assessment. We do not see leaving people to deteriorate for up to 15 months as being in line with the responsibility to promote wellbeing nor to prevent needs. It also increases the input needed from workers and much time becomes spent working diligently to engage people who are unwell and to work collaboratively to reduce serious risks to the person’s health and wellbeing. Needing to work so intensely with people means that the progress of work is much slower and this subsequently creates further delay in workers having capacity to pick up new cases. This adds yet further pressure to the waiting list.

The Care Act specifically states that reviews should be undertaken, at a minimum, of every 12 months. However, in Barnet mental health social care, people are not receiving regular reviews in line with this statutory requirement. It is rare that we undertake reviews within this timeframe and Mosaic evidences that many people have not had a review in several years, prior even to the existence of the mental health social care teams. Only those who contact social services to request a review are being added to the active waiting list, though they too join the up-to 15 months wait.

 

Many of the vulnerable people we work with do not have informal carers and their needs are simply going unmet whilst they await input. However, for those who do have informal carers, we have seen that the significant waiting lists are placing high levels of stress on the carers, which is resulting in carer breakdown or carers not being able to engage in areas central to their own wellbeing, owing to increased pressure on their caring role. This too, we feel is not in line with the responsibilities we have for carers under the Care Act.

The Care Act sets out pathways for young people approaching transition to adult services. However, despite children’s services bringing young people to our attention six months prior to their 18th birthday, we do not have the capacity to allocate these young people a social worker and they are not receiving assessments before they turn 18, which is not in line with the Care Act.

We have been told that there is no money within Barnet Council. However, current practice is costing Barnet Council significantly more money than necessary and reorganising of funds would likely be beneficial in helping to achieve responsibilities under the Care Act. For example, as people are being left to deteriorate for up to 15 months, their needs for care and support are increasing. The subsequent increased packages of care and placements in care homes costs Barnet Council more money than timely care and support that reduces, delays, and prevents a person’s needs. The fact that we are not able to undertake timely reviews means that people who were placed in supported accommodation or care homes as a temporary measure are not receiving input to step them down and promote their independence. This too means Barnet Council is paying for more care than needed, often for many years, at which point the person has become dependent on this care.

As people with severe mental ill-health are not receiving the support they need to remain well and live in the community, they are at increased risk of avoidable, or delayable, deterioration to mental health, which can result in the person’s compulsory admission to mental health hospital. This too has financial implications for Barnet Council in regard to the increased need for Mental Health Act assessments undertaken by Approved Mental Health Professionals. Furthermore, if a person is compulsorily admitted under relevant sections of the Mental Health Act, Barnet Council has financial responsibilities to meet the person’s needs under S.117. Again, as these are not being regularly reviewed, Barnet Council is overspending on care which should not be necessary.

We have been told that there are similar issues across adult social care. However, we have been informed by our colleagues in the non-mental health social care teams within Barnet Council that their waiting lists are nowhere near 15 months. In the absence of any statistics provided by Barnet Council we have no other option than to resort to anecdotal evidence. We have also spoken with our social work colleagues in other London Boroughs who also inform us that their waiting lists are nowhere near 15 months, with one worker, who left Barnet this year, informing us that the waiting list at the London council she now works for is only up to 6 weeks.

The remaining staff are desperately trying to plug the gaps and the result is a significant impact on staffs’ own wellbeing, with staff reporting poorer physical and mental health. When surveyed, 100% of staff who responded stated they had considered leaving the service. We remain deeply concerned for the vulnerable residents of Barnet who we serve, and continue to challenge the lack of a safe service and the unreasonable and increasing waiting lists which put Barnet residents at risk of harm, and even death. We feel that Barnet is not meeting its statutory responsibilities and we are asking for a means to provide a stable, experienced, and permanent workforce. To do this, we are asking for a reasonable recruitment and retention payment, already in place for Family Services, to promote staff to remain in Barnet rather than leave for better paid and lower stressed positions. We ask that you please engage in negotiations so that we may all come together to meet our statutory responsibilities and the needs of Barnet residents.

Yours sincerely,

Barnet Mental Health Social Workers

 

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