Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Guest Blog - Your Choice Barnet Update - By John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,

I bring to those interested in the retention of high quality disability support services for seriously disabled and impaired people in Barnet , provided by the what has now been found to be the bogus provider "Your Choice Barnet "my latest update. YCB a  company formed to be little more than a front for the activities of the elected councillors of London Borough of Barnet in the form of a Teckal company that councillors actually control and call all  the shots for.  Just to remind you, local councillors make all of the major decisions regarding the policies and direction of travel of YCB the majority of which are currently controversial, that might be described as the bullets, and the so called directors of YCB  who are little more than council employees are there purely to fire them., As previously stated , in my opinion to hide from the electorate the underhand and odious decisions the councillors are making from their electorate. Because even in this day and age where the branding of these groups as scrounging skiving layabouts by central government is acceptable to some, it is not the accepted perception of the majority, and  destroying the quality of life of the most vulnerable people within our community is not seen as an acceptable activity or a vote winner.

Juts to make the point our local councillors brag about not raising council taxes which in reality is putting off the inevitable in the name of politics that will come back to haunt us in the near future , se e Mr Reasonable
What they fail to do is explain the reality of their political games and the impact freezing council tax may have on the most vulnerable in our community amongst others .Take for example the latest decisions to just slice one million pounds from the  budget to provide for the service users of YCB , no debates no discussions no consideration of the damage it might do to their quality of life, and most definitely no attempt to consult with them , their parents or their family carers on the possible impacts of this massive unqualified and unjustified  cut in funding. They claim to have consulted with staff, however any cursory visit to the reality and the terms of those so called consultations would seriously question the Oxford Concise definition of the word consultation, which to the uninitiated is the bogus( this is what we are doing whether you like it or not )  LBB form of  consultation. The most sickening thing is that council taxes at some stage will have to rise, to suggest otherwise is an irresponsible political  game . To avoid the current proposed destruction of quality of support services for these groups , the making of redundancy the best option to valuable staff, the huge cuts to staff wages , the deskilling of staff, the replacement of skilled staff with unskilled staff , the reduction in staff numbers, the freezing of staff training budgets, all of which could have a profound and damaging impact on their  quality of life would cost you the Barnet tax payer just ( 20)PENCE per week, not £20 or £200 or £20,000 but TWENTY PENCE PER WEEK. Once these invaluable staff are gone they are gone forever.
It is a strange thing  to note that when we talk about public services so many people have had their minds trained by Conservative central office and the media to see an ugly monster in the shape of a trade unionist, or pubic services as second rate that will always be provided to a higher standard by the private sector. However the reality is for many of these like minded people, when age or illness or infirmity strikes  them or their loved ones down, they suddenly realise the value of public services and public servants, they suddenly realise these folk are not ugly monsters but real people, caring people special people that should be valued, people with a vocation and a special characteristic the ability to care for the most vulnerable , they suddenly realise to late that  they have been misled.
High quality competent care support workers do not grow on trees and cannot be replaced by any Tom Dick or Harriett, as central government and our local conservative councillors would have you believe . In many ways they are irreplaceable,  and having been witness to the coming and going of many skilled care support workers over more than 45 years,  like many parents and family carers with  a family member with a serious disability, we know the value of our support staff in Barnet and we truly value them, unlike the YCB board of directors and our local councillors. I think we parents and family carers can speak with the voice of a little bit of experience.  In fact my wife and myself  alone collectively have nearly one hundred years experience at the coal face of dealing with a child, teenager  and now a grown woman of nearly fifty years of age with a learning difficulty. Do you know that collectively among us parents and family carers and the mentally able service users of YCB, we have hundreds of years of coal face 24/7 experience of dealing with all aspects of disability catered for by YCB. Yet we were not invited to the table to consult on the proposed changes to service provision for our loved ones our family members or ourselves, because cutting the bills , destroying service quality and blind austerity come first second and last. Had we family carers and service users been invited to the consultation table we would never have sanctioned the unjustified and unprecedented attack  from all angles on the frontline staff that we rely upon, that care for our family members and loved ones that we value so  highly and are in no way valued by YCB/LBB.

As many of you  know we took our concerns to a YCB board meeting  with a prepared statement to read to the board after we had wrongly  assumed we would have  the opportunity to ask some pointed questions on the content of the document being discussed at that meeting, or at the very least be able to take up less than five minutes reading our prepared statement. Again as you know we were not heard,in fact the board of directors including the supposed carers and service users board representative , walked out on us and ushered  in were burly security guards to evict us from the premises. It would appear that the CEO of YCB Tracey Lees has had time to reflect upon that walk out and decided to send a letter to staff members the day after the board meeting, followed up by a letter to my wife and I and  I presume all family carers and service users that arrived on Tuesday 4th June.  Letters that are typical of LBB/YCB in the attempts at the use of smoke and mirrors, to attempt to put a gloss on the realities'  . I would like to challenge the content of these what I feel are highly dubious letters, in a reasonable manner and  include both factual realities that are so conveniently omitted that I hasten to add is standard practise for LBB/YCB.  That attempt to imply that the opinions of staff , parents, carers and service users are valued and their views are respected, and that staff are valued. Furthermore the letter I just received  from Tracey Lees inviting us to a meeting that basically says   . " We  invite you to a meeting at the most inconvenient time of the day possible, and by the way your attending will make absolutely no difference to our decision, because we are still refusing to consult with family carers parents and service users and sticking to our guns regarding our bogus consultations with staff . And also by the way although we are giving out the impression we value your opinions in an attempt to cover up out contempt for your opinions ". What actually beggars belief is the timing of the meeting, I mean what planet is T Lees on , is she not aware many  service users are either at centres between 3 & 5pm or on route home. Or being cynical is she well aware of this fact and ensuring that by her timing , practically nobody will be able to turn up. To be honest I would not bother anyway, they have made up their minds and it would simply be another talking shop another farcical meeting claiming meaningful consultation.

Tell you what, don't take my word for it just read the letters yourself.

I will add the draft of  a proposed letter to CQC as Tracey Lees makes an issue of the CQC report

I think this is a balanced and reasonable response to the CQC issue raised by T Lees?.
We have all heard the expression, " You don't value what you have until its gone ", well in this instance the family carers service users and parents do value what we have and that is why some of us are fighting to retain valuable staff that are leaving in droves . The author of the March 1st proposals resigned, ,more than twenty skilled staff have accepted voluntary redundancy because they do not support the claim the changes will have no impact on service users, r their ability to do their job safely and competently, many other valuable staff are demoralized and considering leaving  and they cannot all be wrong. It makes a nonsense of the implied cooperative and compatible consultation with staff claimed by T Lees, when so many staff have left and so many more are considering leaving. Even in their own  Your Choice Barnet Operational Plan presented to the board last week they make it clear at page 62 1.2  regarding Implementing the new staff structure " "There will be a lot of vacancies within our services during this period which will need to be filled with "temporary staff " whilst recruitment is taking place.
 They are losing valuable experienced and skilled staff because they do not accept the changes and the cuts in wages,  yet expect to replace them with staff of equal quality, it just makes no sense.  If the current skilled staff are unhappy why would new people be encouraged to join a company that in no way values the skills of its staff, leaving us with what they call temporary staff the any Tom , Dick or Harriet I referred to earlier. These proposals are a gamble with the lives and physical and mental well being of every YCB service user, it is yet another fingers crossed approach by LBB who want nothing other than to wash their hands of the problem. This is a car crash waiting to happen and before  all these valuable staff  are all lost forever in the name of blind austerity coupled with blind short sighted ideological stupidity, and contempt for the quality of life of YCB service users, an example of blind  austerity gone mad, we must challenge the proposals before it is to late.

The question is what if they have got the recruitment gamble wrong, how long will we be left with temporary unskilled staff looking  after our children and our family members, how long will we have to take a risk with Tom, Dick and Harriet, and more importantly why should we agree to putting our loved ones at potential risk with temporary Tom, Dick and Harriet, in this fingers crossed gamble that they have refused to consult us service users family carers and parents about. More importantly how can they possibly with any substance or rationale, claim that there will be no impact on service users ,furthermore  how can they possibly provide a bona fide Equalities Impact Assessment  based on what is nothing more than a fingers crossed shot in the dark gamble with the lives of vulnerable people  plain and simple.

I am aware I have gotten carried away at stages  but that's just me, but I have attempted to stick with the truth and I hope you will agree that the CADDSS letter to CQC challenges the presentation of  T Lees in a constructive and reasonable manner, I think you will agree that the challenge against the claim of valuing staff is a reasonable one, I think you will find the determination of YCB not to consult with parents family carers and services users has been confirmed in a reasonable manner, and challenging the timings of the meetings could not be more reasonable considering the times chosen could not possibly be more unreasonable.

Talking of reasonable and reasonableness and reason , let me take our back to local blogger Mr Reasonable who has exposed the failings of LBB councillors time and time again and got it right, and as is standard practise for LBB councillors they always ignore the views and opinions of Barnet residents . Incidentally Mr Reasonable is the man that christened the One Barnet Programme  " The One Billion Pound Gamble " that the failed Your Choice Barnet car crash is a part of . Mr Reasonable ( John ) specialises in the field of outsourcing public services, that is what he does for a living day in and day out, which implies he knows a lot more about outsourcing  than your bog standard LBB councillor.

It also implies he knows more than most that might bother to read this blog, and as he is a Barnet resident, this is where he lives , this is where his children are growing up, he naturally has a very personal and  vested interest in the long term well being of all Barnet residents. He cannot be accused of opposing  the outsourcing of public services  which is the mantra of local conservative councillors against any opposition to outsourcing, because as stated that is what he does for a living. So I thought I would end this blog which is just for the record, with the reasonable ,impartial and educated opinions of Mr Reasonable on YCB to afford you  some food for thought.

Like Mr Reasonable and all at CADDSS ( Campaign Against Destruction of Disability Support Services )  Cads for short, with the support of many YCB parents carers and services users and our friends at Baps ( Barnet Alliance for Public Service ) we are seeking to have YCB services brought back in-house to protect the vulnerable from the avarice and greed of the market place. We might be fighting to protect you or one of your love ones you never know, because none of us know what awaits us in life, our lives can change at a stroke, and if it suggests to you that not only are the current people in need of YCB services worth 20p per week , but so are you are  your loved ones, then I have made my point.

That is why I am asking you  to support our campaign to bring YCB services back in-house.

Finally as you are aware a small group of parents family cares including myself have sought legal advice on this matter and await advice, but it would appear we might  have right on our side so keep watching !.
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