The Barnet One. There’s Only One Nicky Mahn!

Barnet UNISON received notice today that one of our dedicated reps has died. Nicky Mahn worked as an Assessment and Enablement Officer (AEO), formerly titled Community Care Officer. She never hesitated in her support for the union and other workers or hesitated in her support for workers in dispute. She had the biggest heart which meant rather than protect herself, she would want to protect others first. She was a rep for over 20 years.

There is a strong and understandable inclination for colleagues in trouble at work to want to keep it private and deal with it with minimum fuss and attention. However, sometimes a case can highlight a larger injustice and if a colleague agrees then we can turn their issue into a campaign to expose the injustice at hand and improve matters such that no other colleague has to go through the same. Nicky understood this and in 2017 agreed, along with her colleagues, that what she was being targeted for, needed to be campaigned about. In essence her case was the way in which colleagues generally were being told to pump out the work and accept allocations with scant regard for whether it was realistic to complete all the necessary recording of actions.

Nicky avoided being dismissed thanks to this campaign and her part in it.

There is an echo in this issue within the Mental Health strike today and of course Nicky supported this dispute as much as she could before she went off sick.
Much more could be said about Nicky but hopefully this conveys a snapshot of the essence of her and what her loss means to our movement.

Our condolences to her family and colleagues. Nicky Mahn RIP.

Big Solidarity from Southend UNISON

Thanks Southend UNISON for your solidarity message below:

Hi Barnet

Apologies this is late I have been ill as have others– Tuesday we had one of our festive socials and donated our raffle prize £80  plus an extra £200 (to be ratified at the executive.)

in  solidarity to Barnet social workers and applaud their on going, solid fight. Making a brilliant stand against the miserly bosses

There were over 40 of our members applauding and agreeing to send this money as they know how important this strike is, it’s a strike highlighting  the serious pressure  Social workers have to  work under, with reduced resources reduced pay and yet higher case loads.

The photo is a clear message that this branch stands in solidarity with Barnet MHSW   and will continue to support where we can

Respect to Barnet Strikers!”

London Living Wage and The Barnet Group

The lowest paid group of workers in The Barnet Group are the workers who will go through the whole of 2023 without an increase in pay. This is thanks to a decision by The Barnet Group to pay the London Living Wage increase in May 2024. Barnet Council could end this terrible state of affairs by agreeing to make payments to The Barnet Group which would enable the London Living Wage to be paid immediately. However, between two employers which can afford 2 Chief Executives, duplicate staffing of directors and support services, they have decided to withhold this money to balance the books.

It’s good to know Barnet Council is continuing a well-trodden path of making the poorest pay the most for a crisis.
Barnet UNISON is meeting with members over the next couple of weeks to hear the views of our members. If you want to be involved in a meeting and don’t know where to go, please write to

Statement from Mental Health social workers in Barnet

We are deeply disappointed that despite two years of social workers raising increasing concerns regarding the safety and sustainability of mental health social care, Barnet Council continues to deny that there is a recruitment and retention problem in mental health social work.

42% of social workers within the Mental Health Social Care Service have left within the past year whilst more still have formal plans to leave the teams within the next few months, meaning this figure is closer to 50%. Furthermore, the majority of workers who have left have been those with by far the most experience, with many of these workers previously working their entire careers in mental health services within Barnet. When looking at information regarding the mental health experience of permanent staff members, one team has lost 75% of the experience within their team in less than one year. The result is that social workers who are recently qualified make up the bulk of the teams.

The loss of experienced social workers has significantly contributed to increasingly high waiting lists. The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman consider it reasonable for a person to wait 4-6 weeks for an assessment. The waiting list within Barnet is now up to 15 months. This time last year it was 6 months, demonstrating the significant detrimental impact that not retaining experienced social workers is having on the service.

Mental Health Social Workers continue to express concerns that, as they are not able to assess and meet the needs for residents in a reasonable time, people with severe mental ill-health are not receiving the support they need to remain well and live in the community. This can lead to otherwise avoidable, or delayable, deterioration to mental health and can result in the person’s compulsory admission to hospital on a mental health ward. Social workers have been raising that this is not fair on those who experience mental ill health, nor those who support them, such as family and friends. It is also not in line with the principles or ethos of the Care Act 2014, which is underpinned by a responsibility for local authorities to promote wellbeing and to prevent, delay, and reduce a person’s needs for care and support.

The teams require a stable team comprised of permanent and experienced staff. This cannot be achieved when staff are leaving at such high rates. Mental Health Social Workers have therefore been asking Barnet Council to apply a Recruitment and Retention payment which is already in place for social workers within Family Services.

Alarmingly, despite all the evidence provided to Barnet Council, it continues to report inaccurate information regarding recruitment and retention, claiming much higher rates than are true. This has resulted in continued dismissal of the concerns raised by the workers.

According to the British Association of Social Workers, Social Workers have a responsibility to promote and work to the Code of Ethics, which has underpinned social work practice since 1975. The code sets out that social workers are expected to bring inadequate resources to the attention of their employers and that they should be prepared to challenge ineffective procedures and practice. Social Workers are regulated by Social Work England which sets out professional standards for all social workers in England. These standards state that social workers should raise concerns about unsafe practice and should challenge practices, systems, and processes where necessary.

Social workers therefore have a duty to raise concerns and advocate for those whom they serve. Mental health social workers in Barnet have been meeting these responsibilities throughout the two years they have been raising increasing concerns. We see industrial action as a necessary extension of our responsibilities as social workers to advocate for those we serve, particularly those who may not be able to advocate for themselves.

We are challenging the lack of a safe service and the unreasonable and increasing waiting lists which put the residents of Barnet at risk of harm. We are asking for a recruitment and retention payment to maintain a stable and permanent workforce of experienced staff. We will continue to advocate for the residents of Barnet and unless Barnet Council implements a reasonable recruitment and retention payment to keep experienced staff in Barnet, we will continue to return to the picket line come rain, shine, or more rain, to raise awareness and fight for residents.

Why? Because we are social workers and THIS is what social work looks like.




Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers.

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