Monday, 4 March 2013

One Barnet Flagship Project Needs £1m Bailout

Barnet Cabinet members have repeatedly said that the outsourcing mistakes of the past will not be repeated. "We have a team of experts" they say "we are getting professional advice". Well Friday saw the public airing of a problem that has been rumbling for some time. It has become clear that Your Choice, the Local Authority Trading Company (LATC) providing Adult Social Care is in deep financial difficulties. I blogged about this back in November when board papers revealed that the forecast surplus of £263,000 for the year 2013/14 was now being forecast as a loss of £700,000.

On Friday a consultation document was issued which made it clear the financial situation is difficult.
Your Choice Barnet are currently projecting a loss for 2012-13 of approximately £60,000. This amount would have been higher but as illustrated at 3.4 below some efficiency savings have been achieved. There is also currently a query from the Council in respect of £345k that has been paid in respect of growth and the projected loss does not take account of any monies that might need to be repaid. If no changes are made with regard to efficiencies, the change from a block contract to payment-by-actual would create a gap of approximately £1m.

It goes on to says: "Barnet Homes has agreed to provide a 3 year loan to Your Choice Barnet. This loan has been agreed by the Barnet Homes Board and is subject to commercial interest rates. It will be repayable by lump sum payments at the end of each year of the term of the loan".

As a consequence of these financial difficulties Your Choice are proposing to implement a series of measure which include: 
  • Review the structure which will result in 6.8 posts being deleted and the introduction of a new management structure
  • Deletion of enhanced payments and introduction of a 7 day week
  • Benchmarking of salaries with similar organisations and the introduction of a new salary structure in line with the findings of the benchmarking exercise
They are cutting 3 part time night staff from a residential respite care unit, they are downgrading 17 support worker staff to assistant support workers, (meaning a cut in pay) and enhancements for working nights, weekends and public holidays will be scrapped. Instead of having two staff on duty at night it will be reduced to one and as they so delicately put it:
 "For continence issues, those who require changing in the night do not require the use of hoists as they are already in bed".  
On this subject I can speak from personal experience. In the last few days before my mum died she was bed bound and had 'continence issues'. The care home had put her in nappies but she became very distressed. She had always been a most fastidious person and the thought of going in a nappy was a ghastly thought for her. She asked for a bedpan. Because we had chosen a care home where they were not under pressure to be "competitive", they did as she asked. It took two staff to help her but that simple act allowed her to settle down and helped her maintain her dignity to the end. Often organisations talk about 'business units' and 'resources' but these are people, someone's flesh and blood, someone's mother, father, brother or sister and they deserve the very best.

What these cuts means in practice is that staff who are not well paid now will be paid even less in the future so as to remain "competitive" and win new "business".  When staff are caring for the most vulnerable, personally, I do not necessarily want them to be competitive in terms of price nor do I think of caring for vulnerable people as 'business". I want them to be the best possible person for the job, because they are dealing with our nearest and dearest, our family members, our neighbours, who need the best possible attention.

Back in 2011 a business case was prepared for this One Barnet Project and was presented to the Cabinet Resources Committee - you can read the business case here. This document was prepared by the Council's One Barnet Implementation Partner (Agilisys/iMPOWER) who have so far been paid £5.8 million.

The business case was optimistic and incomplete. Unison put forward a clear and detailed critique of the business case identifying its shortcoming but, as ever, this was simply ignored. Sadly Unison were right and the business case has now been proved to be flawed. Some staff will lose their jobs, some will get even lower pay and the most vulnerable will see the quality of their care reduced. That is unacceptable.

Perhaps Richard Cornelius, Dan Thomas and the other cabinet members will now see why so many people are concerned at the validity of the entire One Barnet Outsourcing project given that the business case was prepared by exactly the same team of consultants who prepared this flawed model. But most of all think about the users who will suffer those moment of indignity and lack of care, all for the sake of competitiveness. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

1 comment:

  1. The predictable and predicted consequences of these irresponsible decisions are tragic for some of those involved - and I am not thinking of the Councillors who will be deservedly scourged in the coming Judicial Review.