Saturday, 1 June 2013

Guest Blog - Your Choice Barnet flies under the flag of convenience for Barnet Conservatives - By John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,
Your Choice Barnet LATC  (I am informed is known as a  Teckal company ) formed by LBB to wash their hands of the responsibility for vulnerable and disabled people in Barnet , is purely a front for the decisions of local councillors. This particular board of puppets rather than afford concerned parents carers service users and Barnet residents three or four minutes to read out a short statement, chose to cause further  controversy and  bad feeling by walking out on service users parents family carers and concerned Barnet residents stating " This is a board meeting of a private company, it is not a local authority meeting therefore that right does not extend ". These same people had been carping on for an hour about how they were not a private company in fact, at a recent parents information meeting on 27th March the CEO Tracey Lees made a particular point of shouting me down, and telling others present YCB is not a private company, obviously until it suits them.  In essence the YCB board of directors are little more than council employees introducing policies driven agreed and insisted upon by the local councillors, to cut service quality provision and therefore the cost of service provision, probably in order to hide the councils shame at what they are up to from the electorate.

However you have to understand that the six figure salaried T Lees has to comply with her political masters demands as she has a lot to lose if she fails to do so. Of course this decision to walk out on us, like all decisions of YCB was doubtless approved by these political masters at Barnet council (who are the shareholders of the company). Note " The constitution of a Teckal company must ensure the local authority has decisive influence and control over all decision making" furthermore " The council must control the company and its activities in the same way as they do their own departments and activities " therefore the YCB board were acting on orders – if they weren’t then they were breaching their constituion.  In fact virtually every question that was asked of them at a meeting on Tuesday 28th May they answered  with "that is to do with the LBB ", prompting me to ask what is the point of this meeting with YCB when we should be meeting with LBB if we want any answers. In truth the board meeting followed the same track, and I sat there wondering what is the point of this board anyway which was a rather silly really , because the point is obvious.    

It is for the councillors who make up the cabinet of Barnet Council, to make unsavoury and odious  decisions that affect the most vulnerable people in our community, without the underhanded nature of their activities being put at their own doorstep . The proposed changes of the March 1st document, that I will explain later,  is a banker bet to hit the skids in a few months time, and finish up in a car crash like the business plan that launched YCB.  Just before a local election the Conservative administration want somebody to point the finger at rather than take the hit for their activities in undermining and destroying support services for the most vulnerable disabled people in the borough. This is definitely not a vote winner even in this day and age.  That brands every disabled or sick person a scrounging skiving layabout , which any decent person knows to be rather dishonest and despicable.  Neither YCB or LBB want to consult with service users and family carers they prefer to walk out rather than face the music, so just for the record  it worries me not who reads this guest blog, here is my view on the incompetent and I believe to be underhand way the local councillors act through YCB.

Let me  be clear about where I am with regard to Your Choice Barnet . LBB decided to wash their hands of the responsibility of all and any disabled people in Barnet in the same way they washed their hands of responsibility for the elderly when they handed care of the elderly to Fremantle.

The Fremantle business plan was challenged  and those challenges were ignored and the ignoring of those challenges apart from the distress created for service users and staff, allowed an incompetent  ill considered business model to be forced through. On top of the costs in the original business plan, The council ended up being sued for “lost profits” by the contractor, at a cost to Barnet tax payers of over £10 million above and beyond the contracted amounts.

The Your Choice Barnet business model was subjected to in depth scrutiny by the academic Professor Dexter Whitfield who highlighted a myriad of floors in the business plan and challenged the refusal  to consider an in house option. Professor Whitfields concerns were ignored . If you look now a year into the future from his evaluation of this seriously flawed business plan, you find  he got it absolutely right, and the highly paid so called consultants for LBB  ( close on £7 million on OBP  to date ) got it completely wrong.
 For Councillor Sachin Rajput LBB Cabinet member responsible)  and co to claim that everything is going to plan at YCB belies an attitude either divorced from reality or with total contempt for the people who elected them.

So now having witnessed the failure of the original business plan that was riddled with holes and was nothing more than a shot in the dark fingers crossed attempt , at the privatisation of adult services for the disabled in a desperate bid  for profit.  We now have the same incompetents that have come up with a plan B that they launched on March 1st for staff consultation, yet again riddled with doubts, that is again predicated on a fingers crossed exercise, strangely enough  similar to the DRS contract just handed to Capita, that obviously no councillor has bothered to read properly.

As a parent I have watched the disaster unfold regarding the formation of  Your Choice Barnet, I have seen parents family carers long term and short term staff ignored. some staff  and parents even feeling threatened if they say anything out of fear of  losing their job or the services they are provided with stopped , a similar anti whistle blower mentality we are witnessing in the NHS and sadly as happened at Winterbourne View. I have watched LBB & YCB ignore the advice and concerns of the coal face staff through their union representatives, the ignoring of Dexter Whitfield the academic, the ignoring of Andy Mudd of APSE ( Association of Public Service Excellence ) a company that represents councils across the country of all political colours. I have watched in many ways the dramatic deterioration of support services for disabled and sick people in Barnet predicated not on the individual needs of the service users as is claimed , but in so many ways  these days on the need to make cuts or profits rather than the quality of care being provided being the main focus as was the focus when services were in-house.

LBB & YCB listened to no one except tame highly paid consultants with a vested interest. These consultants have got it wrong. Those who have a vested interest in the health safety and well being of the services users and the long term viability of these vital public service have been proven right. What beggars belief is LBB  via the YCB board of director still refuse to listen to or properly consult those that have a proven track record of getting it right. Not only that but they use a sanitised version of the March 1st consultation document , having refused to provide all affected parties with a copy of this document making informed debate impossible they are now referring to information meetings as a consultation for service users and family carers.

 Invitations to some of these meetings stated there will be " NO CHANGE " to the service provided the implication being that no change was in perpetuity,  therefore  many  people never bothered to attend the meetings . We now learn from a YCB board member  subsequent to those invitations being sent out, that those no change undertakings cannot be guaranteed beyond six months, which begs the question how many would have attended had they known the true facts.

There has been considerable disquiet with parents and family carers of Community Space who object to the merger of Community Space and BILS as do many Bils service users ( called co-location by YCB ) for a myriad of reasons. Yet whilst this dispute was raging the YCB people knew full well they had not mentioned the fact that they also intended to form an outreach group for Flower Lane services users at Community Space as well, which can only add to the concerns being raised. 

 They want to dump disabled Barnet residents out of their established environment at Flower Lane to make way for "new customers" from outside of the borough to boost their profits, but they never mentioned it at the meetings, I wonder why?.  They have repeatedly denied the claims of family carers and service users that the plans to devastate the working conditions and incomes of skilled workers and replace them with unskilled workers , with a further effect on all staff when the benchmarking report is  acted upon resulting in further cuts in staff wages would have an effect on staff morale, yet in their presentation to the board they make exactly those points, the points they have repeatedly denied.

" So now you know why I got angry at this board meeting, and in my situation so would you".
When this disaster waiting to happen business model was launched  there was an undertaking that in the event of commercial failure the services would be brought back in house, the business model has failed it has failed disastrously and they have lost a great deal of money and the fundamental foundation of that business model the recruitment of customers ( yes Customers ) from outside of the borough has failed abysmally, yet  they want us to take their word again that this is a possibility. We asked the question then and we ask the same question now, " what possible reason would a significant number of parents or carers have to add to the journey time of their loved one traipsing them backwards and forwards on a daily basis to Barnet, away from their community hub and friends" and why should  the provision of services for our wards be affected to accommodate them " . Yet again they refuse to listen to the pleas and concerns of the service users parents and family carers  , the concerns of Mr Reasonable a local blogger with huge experience in the field of outsourcing of public services, Professor Dexter Whitfield,  Andy Mudd and everybody else.  Apart from the now proven to be incompetent highly paid consultants with only one vested interest and that is to line their pockets, no matter what happens to the people that need the support services. ( I remind you again close on £7million on consultants to date).

It might happen to you because public services  also caters for people that have led a healthy life and been stuck down by injury or stroke or a sudden debilitating health issue, so let me ask you if you were in my position would you just lay back and think of England whilst being shafted ? Or would you,like me,  stand your ground and demand that the human rights of your daughter be respected and valued, would you make every effort to ensure the long term  viability of the services your daughter relies upon.
Would you demand the right to be meaningfully consulted on the implications of the proposed support services or cross your fingers and toes and accept the risky changes in the March 1st proposals ?  Would you demand that the opinions of academics such as Dexter Whitfield and experts in the field such as Andy Mudd, who have a track record of getting it right be invited to assess the implication of these proposals on your behalf regarding the future health and well being of your loved one before they are implemented?
Many are saying “what's the point,  they will do what they want in any event. They don't care what we think or how we feel. As far as I am concerned, my daughter is more important than that. I will always put my head above the parapet to protect my daughter from those who put ideology above need , who believe service users parents  and family carers have no rights to be consulted on changes that could devastate them. These changes have a massive impact on their physical and mental health ( along with my own  physical and mental health). They want us yet again to trust their judgement a judgement that has been proven to be devastatingly flawed before.  Would you trust the future well being of a family member to people that are such proven failures

 Who can possibly believe Barnet Council take consultation seriously? The consultation finished on Friday the 31st May and the decision was to be made two days later on Monday 3rd June. As they had no intention of working over the weekend, so much for any serious attempt at  vetting and considering the opinions of others that you are supposed to have meaningfully consulted with. Via legal action I have managed to agree the delay of the decision on the March 1st proposals that was to be pushed through on Monday 3rd  June whilst the legality of what LBB and YCB are doing is quantified, and had it delayed by one week until Monday 10th June. But it does go to show how bogus the consultation with staff has been.
Contrary to the opinions of Councillors Cornelius, Rajput  and what can only be described as a YCB Board of puppets,  who choose to gamble with the lives of real people rather than listen to all opinions, particularly from people who have proven they are far more competent in this field. I believe my daughter  and her peers have the human right to be consulted and have the benefit of the opinions of those that do not have a vested interest other than the future well being of my daughter and her peers such as Dexter Whitfield and Andy Mudd. So I will fight until my dying breath to demand that right, and if  I am proven wrong by opinions across the piece I will accept her fate because I have no other option, because I have a YCB gun at my head as does Susan and her peers.

We all learned an expensive lesson this week about the whole One Barnet programme that YCB is the phase one failure of, and that is you no longer have rights because YCB is a private company and where even bigger companies such as Capita are concerned,  many issues can be deemed contractually sensitive.  Therefore  Barnet residents, get yourselves prepared for being told you are not entitled to any answers to your questions, to be advised that Barnet is now a democracy free zone and any enquiries or concerns you have about public services are contractually sensitive and none of your business,  and if you demand answers the board are perfectly entitled to walk out on you because your democratic rights no longer apply.
I am aware disabled people have few rights in this world and the law does little or nothing to protect them from ideologues like Councillors Cornelius and Rajput therefore I have no idea whether  Susan has the human right to be consulted, or whether consultation is any longer the right of disabled people . My attempt to seek  help from the legal system and demand the right of Susan and her peers to be meaningfully consulted may fail miserably, but as a parent truly in fear of what these incompetent ideologues are doing to adults services, I am obligated to at the very least try my best to protect her and her peers.

So I ask the question - " WHAT REPRESENTS PEACE OF MIND TO YOU ? " do you even know, well let me  tell you what peace of mind is for me. For more than thirty years my daughter Susan has relied upon in house adult services. In all that time, there was never one year that huge deficits were created, neither was there ever a need to downgrade and deskill vital support staff placing service users at potential risk as so horribly witnessed at Winterbourne View.  Yet in one year of outsourcing the opposite applies making the case for service to be brought back in-house indisputable. Making "PEACE OF MIND "for many service users parents and family carers a return to in-house services a priority, coupled with an end to the failures and risky business plans of  LBB/YCB . An end to the hand washing of responsibility for disabled people by Cornelius and his crew of ideologues ,and their buck passing to the puppets on the walk away from the reality YCB board , and a return to the democratic right to be meaningfully consulted  by the LA in Barnet.
Whilst these things would restore my " Peace of Mind " and that of many other parents family carers and service users, I am aware there is more chance of me getting nappy rash, however  I am by the very nature of my being have a need to try.


Janet - CADDSS said...

I was present at the Board Meeting and can completely understand John's despair at the way service users and their families are being treated.

The members of the board discussed the need to involve parents in Your Choice Barnet, including inspection of services. However the meeting was conducted as if there were no parents or service users there. I cannot see how the Board has any desire to consult with parents or service users when at the Board meeting they acted as though the parents and service users were not sitting in front of them.

tw said...

I too was at that shameful board meeting, and I too agree that it is clear Your Choice Barnet directors, are implementing Barnet council's contemptuous attitude towards their service users and residents. It seems they are set on destroying adult social services, which any of us may need now or in the future, and to hit service-users, their families and professional care workers staff with the same blow - to undermine and subdue them. It will make life much easier for the private company (not owned by the council) that will take over when the services will be run down to the ground and we will all remain dependent on the vultures that seek to make a profit from our disabilities.

Accountability? Transparency? - don't make me laugh.