Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Individualised Budgets – the UNISON story week 3.

At last UNISON has been given dedicated facility time to deal with this issue as it is of huge importance to so many of our members (and the community as a whole). This facility time began 22.5.08 and we have 2 days/ week.

Already quite a lot has taken place in these 3 weeks. I meet on a weekly basis with Ed Gowan, the project manager, where we discuss where we’re at and the issues being raised. We have managed to establish what I believe is a positive and constructive working relationship such that we can be clear and honest about the problems.

UNISON members in Older Adults made their concerns known, already in the first week of me taking up this role, at a UNISON lunchtime meeting where anger boiled over. New job descriptions and roles are being developed alongside existing ones and not surprisingly members are comparing these and noticing significant discrepancies which is leading to demands for regrading on all current roles. Colleagues there are not prepared to have current care brokers shadowing them until they can get reassurances their own posts are not at risk i.e. care brokers are not going to be used to undermine the need for social workers in Adults teams. UNISON has already approached the management team for a statement regarding this which should be coming out imminently (if it is not already out). We have already indicated the need for reviewing the grades and job evaluations of workers in this service area in relation to the care broker job description.

Similarly at a meeting with care brokers frustration was expressed by them at not being able to work to their job description. They believe they are being under used. They had applied for their jobs with the understanding they would be providing a direct service to service users. So far this has not materialised. Mencap is providing the care brokerage service for the pilot in Barnet. Our care brokers are frustrated they have not been invited to shadow this, nor are they being asked to do any of the work coming from the pilot.

It seems that the information on progress and where the restructuring is going is patchy when it filters down the ranks (as it were). Everyone seems to have a different idea on what is going on. This is exemplified by the way in which at the UNISON meeting with Older Adults people were wondering how Leo Boland’s comments on the Future Shape of the Council fit in with the Individualised Budgets project. On the whole people are tending to see privatisation written all over it.
UNISON is unable to allay those fears. However, the Individualised Budgets project is in and of itself not a tool to deliver privatisation although it is easy to see how this may happen. On the union side we will be continuing to argue that for reasons of good quality, accountability and better workforce employment conditions services should be delivered in-house. Where we are unable to maintain this position we will be trying to get the best deal possible for our members.

I have also spent some time contacting UNISON reps in the 13 local authorities which have been piloting The Individualised Budgets Scheme. Generally I am told the pilot scheme has worked well although there are no official reports. There are concerns how in-house services will be affected e.g. home care and day services. In Manchester the care brokerage service is being run by in-house staff who help service users set up care once they have their direct payment.

We believe there has to be coherence in the information (at least) in order not to alienate the workforce right from the start. One role the union can play is contributing to this coherence. We also need for colleagues to let us know what they think, state their concerns, wishes and also where you see things developing in a positive way in order to get to grips with what is going on. If we are deluged with requests/ comments etc then so be it. It is possible we will be unable to deal with every single point but they would be valued as I think they would contribute to a greater understanding of where we’re at and what questions need to be answered. I look forward to hearing from you.

In addition I will be organising meetings with other groups throughout Adult Social Services.

You can also approach: Tom Mahoney, Liz Thomasson, Maggie Guy and Peter Wright.

Helen Davies: helen.davies@barnetunison.org.uk

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Helen

I think that we should be very cncerned about the bigger picture. It is clear that New Labour and the New Tories pretty much agree that local authorities should not in the future provide direct services. Hazel Blears has indicated that Local Authorities should commission services from the private and voluntary sector. Yesterday David Cameron indicated his view that charities are the preferred choice to run services. The DWP staff for example are being sidelined in the provision of support to the unemployed. The unemployed it would seem are being privatised, sold off to private profit making companies who will then be paid by results. We see no direct investment in DWP staff, their future can only be joining the ranks of the unemployed. The problem with the third sector as we know is the current structure of their funding. Mostly they have 3 year contracts and have to have funding reviewed. Transfer of full time Council staff to this sector will mean job insecurity for staff who will have no longterm job security. I also believe it will break the power of UNIONS to defend workers rights and terms and conditions of employment. We are facing a full frontal attack on the very idea that Councils should directly provide anything at all. We are seeing this also in the NHS with the possibility that large private health companies might take over the contracts of GPs effectively making them corprate employees not semi independent GPs contracted to the NHS. The Indivudulised Care budget agenda will in my opinion prove to be the begining of the end for social work with the elderly for many social workers. My feelings are that this is an opportunity for the employers to downsize social work staff and to force many of us out into the brave new world of 19th century charities who might well be our new employers. The UNION needs to allert the press to the current plans quickly and start a campaign to retain services in house, while we still have time