Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Your Choice Barnets first year crisis- Part 1 - A report by Professor Dexter Whitfield for CADDSS

The following is part 1 of a report on Your Choice Barnet, prepared by CADDSS - a pressure group campaigning for better support services for disabled people. We will publish the rest of the report over the coming week.

The London Borough of Barnet set up Your Choice Barnet (YCB), a subsidiary of The Barnet Group that includes Barnet Homes, manager of the Council’s housing stock, on 1st February 2012. This was preceded by an options appraisal of Adult Social Care In-House Provider Services prepared by consultants Care and Health Solutions Limited in July 2010, which recommended formation of a LATC. A business case for a LATC was published in February 2011 followed by a ‘high level’ Business Plan for the Barnet Group in November 2011. The Barnet Group Ltd Business Plan was submitted to Cabinet and Cabinet Resources Committee in January 2012.

Financial crisis
YCB was operating at a loss within six months and this increased to £70,118 by 31 March 2013 in the draft 2012-2013 financial statement. This was a complete reversal of the £85,338 surplus forecast in the LATC business plan in January 2012. Furthermore, YCB had achieved only a small increase in new users and revenue.

The restructuring proposals
Your Choice Barnet issued a Consultation Paper on 1 March 2013 with a 90-day consultation period ending on 31 May 2013 to meet the requirements of Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. In other words, it was a formal consultation with trade unions and did not involve service users, carers and community organisations, because the YCB maintained that the restructuring would not affect the scope or quality of services.

The bulk of the document, pages 7 – 85, contains a proposed new management restructure
with significant changes to staffing levels, jobs and terms and conditions and how these
changes will be implemented. The YCB Consultation Paper proposed:

• Divide existing services into two sub-divisions, Specialist Services (Rosa Morrison, Flower Lane and Valley Way) and Community Services (CommunitySpace, Barnet Independent Living Service (BILS) and Supported Living) including a merger of CommunitySpace and BILS.

• Deletion of 11.5 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Team Leader posts and replaced by 8 Community Service Coordinator posts at a higher pay grade.

• Deletion of 8 (FTE) Support Workers and 4.8 (FTE) Night Support Workers and replaced with 20.5 Assistant Support Workers on a 23% lower salary grade.

• Loss of 5 Independent Living Facilitator posts and 2 Assistant Independent Living Facilitator posts.

• Deletion of enhanced payments for all staff and introduction of a 7-day week.

• Benchmarking of terms and conditions with market rates, which could result in 30% wage cuts, and the introduction of a new salary structure.

Barnet UNISON published a separate critical response to these proposals (Barnet UNISON,

The YCB Board announced a series of decisions on 17 June. The planned co-location of CommunitySpace and BILS will not proceed; changes in Supported Living and Valley Way are on hold pending consultation with carers and families; the removal of enhanced payments was also put on hold; senior and middle management changes to proceed as planned. The Board rather belatedly “requested a more robust approach to engagement and consultation with parents, carers and service users and an improvement in direct communications.”

An update on the consultation process announced limited plans to invite families to personal meetings for Valley Way and Supported Living services. Failure to engage with service users and carers The March 2013 Consultation Paper took the untenable position that there would be little or no impact on service users and carers. Thus YCB made no attempt to consult to service users, carers and community organisations about the nature and scope of the planned changes in service delivery, including the quality of services, other than to send them letters notifying them of the changes.

Yet YCB accepted the fundamental importance of their services: “…a number of customers rely on support across their whole life. There is a need to become a more flexible organisation and to respond to the needs and aspirations of our customers whenever and however they require our support” (YCB Consultation Paper, 2013). Service users and carers formed the Campaign Against the Destruction of Disabled Support
Services (CADDSS) in September 2011. In May 2013, supported by Barnet Alliance for Public Services, launched a campaign to challenge YCB’s failure to engage service users and carers in the consultation process.

Service users and carers, Barnet Alliance for Public Services and Barnet UNISON attended
the YCB Board meeting in May 2013, but the Board refused to discuss the service and staff

YCB eventually agreed to ‘consult’ with service users and carers following the initiation of legal action against YCB by four service users on the failure to consult. The YCB Board responded:

“The Board has decided in principle to proceed with the front-line changes to supported living, salary enhancements and the change to waking night arrangements both within supported living and Valley Way. However, the Board is of the opinion that before making any final decision it needs more information on the effect on service users their families and wider stakeholders and to hear people’s views on any alternatives. To that end the Board intends to consult further, and Your Choice Barnet will shortly be
drawing up proposals for the consultation exercise …” (YCB Board letter to Irwin Mitchell, solicitors, June 2013).

The Board also agreed for legal reasons “…not to proceed for the moment” with the colocation of CommunitySpace and BILS and give the 25 staff who have been offered and paid redundancy the choice to proceed with redundancy or not. By mid July 32 staff had left via a combination or compulsory or voluntary redundancy and resignation.

YCB’s approach to engagement is examined in more detail in Part 2, but the tone of the Board’s letter indicates they believe this is a ‘concession’ to service users and carers in the belief that there is no need to consult them about the restructuring proposals. The consultation is also framed as a ‘gathering information exercise’ with no sense of responsibility or policy to engage implied despite earlier reports to the Board (see Part 2); and there is a clear message that they intend to proceed as planned and will not countenance
criticism or alternatives.

Failure to fully assess the impact of restructuring proposals The YCB Consultation Paper does not contain an impact assessment of the restructuring proposals on the quality and scope of services and how this may affect service users and carers. However, a separate Equality Impact Assessment was recently released, which is discussed in Part 2.

Very little financial information has been released, except for the list of savings achieved in 2012-13, in particular the financial impact of the £1m three-year repayment to Barnet Homes. Hence, it is difficult to determine the financial impact of restructuring and the impact it may have on YCB’s financial forecasts.

The Consultation Paper did not contain a new risk assessment, which is particularly serious given that the restructuring introduced several new risks and increased some existing risks (see Part 3).

Your Choice Barnet services

Barnet Independent Living Service: Specialist support to adults with a range of physical and sensory impairments. Supported Living: Helping people with learning disabilities to live as independently as possible in their own home.

CommunitySpace: A day service offering community support, activities and care for adults with a
wide range of learning disabilities.

Flower Lane Autism: A specialist support service helping people on the autism spectrum to gain
confidence and become more independent.

Rosa Morison: A day service for adults with profound and complex learning and physical

Valley Way Respite Service: A specialist respite service for adults with complex learning
disabilities, physical disabilities, autism or challenging behaviour.

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