Thursday, 19 December 2013

Your Choice Barnet Week - Safeguarding? - By Barbara Jacobson

By Barbara Jacobson,

I was proud to read part of John Sullivan’s statement to the Safeguarding Overviewand Scrutiny Committee on 27 November, and to deliver a comment of my own. John speaks eloquently for himself and on behalf of his daughter, Susan, and other service users and carers. I am not disabled nor am I a carer for a disabled person, but you don’t need to be to be concerned about the way Your Choice Barnet is run and how it affects service users and their family carers. I listened to their concerns and I read the Task & Finish Group report, and here is what I said to the Safeguarding Committee that night.

‘You came here tonight to scrutinize the Task & Finish Group report on the inquiry into Your Choice Barnet; the residents sitting behind me have come because they have done so and found the report wanting. The questions that have been asked and the comments that have been or will be made make three points crystal clear.

‘1 The Group did not investigate all the issues it sets out on page 1 of the report; specifically it did not consider evidence
from parents and service users about their experience of the services
• or from staff and relevant groups on what impact the proposed restructure is likely to have on services.

‘2 The report contains no evidence for any of the assumptions, statements and recommendations it makes. Yes, there are tables about the financial plan but, crucially, no explanation of how a plan that failed the first time around will miraculously succeed on repetition.

‘3 The service users and their carers are worried – some of them literally sick with worry – about the future of adult social care services, about the future safety and well-being of their loved ones, and they want those services brought back in house to ensure their accountability, and the quality and continuity of care.

‘Points 1 and 2 demonstrate that this report, like the inquiry it represents, is disappointingly unsatisfactory. Its lack of thoroughness, which would not be acceptable in a sixth-form student’s essay, exacerbates the worries of the service users and their carers, some of the most vulnerable people in our society and in our community. These are real people, with real needs, real hopes and very, very real fears.  

‘Our humanity means that each and every one of us has a responsibility to them. Family members exercise that responsibility to their disabled relatives by being carers and by fighting to protect the services their loved ones need. Those of us who are not disabled or carers for a disabled person exercise our responsibility to them by supporting their campaign, by coming here to make their voices louder so that you will hear them.

‘All of us here tonight, representing some who cannot speak for themselves, are asking you to examine the matter before you with empathy and the knowledge that it is your responsibility, too, to use your power to protect adults with disabilities. After all, you are the ‘safeguarding’ committee. While you might not have the power to order, as we demand, that adult social services are brought back in house, you do have the power to find that this report is only a first draft and demand further, more substantial work. And so we ask you to do that.’

After I finished and had answered the questions from Cllr Kath McGuirk about the need from more pre-scrutiny of policies, Cllr Kate Salinger made the following statement:
‘I think it is very true to say that no one sitting around this tabled failed to be moved by what we’ve heard tonight … . And it may be that the Safeguarding Committee, in my opinion, needs to look further into some of the issues that have been raised tonight and I would be happy for future meetings of the Safeguarding Committee to bring up some of those issues.’

Oh, what hopes were raised in the public gallery. Here was a Tory councilor, the deputy chair of the committee, agreeing that at least some of the issues needed further investigation. It needed only one Tory vote to stop the rubber-stamping approval of this incomplete report.  And so what disappointment when Cllr Kate Salinger voted the party line to endorse the report only minutes later.

What are people to think? Can we believe that councillors were moved by what they heard? Or should we believe what we see: that they give lip service to our concerns, say how much they care, and then fail to act accordingly?

Look at the various YouTube clips from that night and watch the councillors.

1.Your Choice Barnet - Public Questions Part 1
2.Your Choice Barnet- Public Questions Part 2
3.Your Choice Barnet - Public Questions - Part 3
4.Your Choice Barnet - Barnet UNISON - Public Comments 
5.Your Choice Barnet - Janet Leifer from BAPS & CADDS
6.Your Choice Barnet - John Sullivan's statement read by Barbara Jacobson
7.Your Choice Barnet - Philip Rackham
8.Your Choice Barnet - Barbara Jacobson
9.Your Choice Barnet - Tirza Waisel
10.Your Choice Barnet - Councillor Arjun Mittra
10a.Your Choice - Councillor Brian Gordon on Unions
11.Your Choice Barnet - Report, Councillor Brian Salinger
12.Your Choice Barnet - Final Part

Why is Cllr Perry, the chairperson, always in conversation with the officer to her right? She claims to be listening to the resident speaking but you cannot hold a conversation and give your full attention to a speaker at the same time. She was so amazed that the majority of councillors voted to allow a union representative to speak that she reminded them what the vote was about and made them vote again. Her patience with democracy was limited: she interrupted Cllr McGuirk in the middle of asking a question, and she stopped all discussion without letting Cllr Hutton speak. And she was so sure that the report would be accepted no matter what issues were raised that she tried to move to the next item of business without taking a vote.

Look for Cllr Gordon, at the top right side of the table in the video; does he sometimes appear to be dozing? He had no questions for the speakers but he was certainly fully awake when he delivered an angry rant on unions. Should we believe he cares at all about the disabled when his contribution for the night was to rail against the union for criticizing the failures of Your Choice Barnet?

What about Cllr Alison Cornelius? Why did she have nothing – no question,  no comment, nothing – to say? Shouldn’t we expect all councillors on a scrutiny committee to contribute to the scrutiny?

Maybe you can see Cllr Brian Salinger at the table on the left when he delivers his defense of the report. It might be difficult because he doesn’t seem to want to look anyone in the face. Too embarrassing, perhaps.

How can we believe that services for disabled adults in Barnet will be of the required quality if the safeguarders are physically or mentally asleep on the job,   embarrassed by trying to defend the indefensible, and ready to silence criticism even from their colleagues?
Barbara Jacobson is a Barnet resident. Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

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