Thursday, 30 May 2013

Your Choice Barnet Board Meeting - Is bankrupcy Inevitable?

Last night I attended the Your Choice Barnet (YCB) Board Meeting and came away with a very real fear that this is an organisation in terminal decline.

It was a rather restrained and stage managed affair, which never really got down to the big issues which will impact the future survival of this organisation. YCB are currently proposing cuts to staffing, reduction in staffing skills and have already made massive increases to some charges to meet the financial shortfall they face this year. Barnet Council have up until now paid YCB through a block grant, guaranteeing a revenue stream to fund services. However, as from the start of this financial year in April Barnet Council have been paying on for services actually taken. Now while this may sound fair, it shifts all the risks of non attendance and providing a comprehensive and seemless service onto YCB.

Last night we saw details of which elements of the service are operating at a profit or a loss and the scale of the losses in some services are quite shocking.The biggest problem appears to be the Supported Living which made a loss of £513,042 last year. According to YCB's website supported living:

"Helps people with learning disabilities to live as independently as possible in their own home.
By offering service users support in all areas of living, we help them to enjoy life to the full, both at home and out and about. We encourage people to develop and maintain purposeful and meaningful skills.
It is important to us that people are secure and happy. That's why we ensure people live in neighbourhoods that they like and that meet their needs. We offer 24-hour support where needed."

Valley Way Respite Service also made a loss of  £195,209 and based on the discussions last night this seems to be because the facility is fully booked at weekends but under occupied during the week.

What also came out last night is that YCB are providing services which the Council are not funding. One of these included escort services on coaches, something which I would have thought was essential for the safety and well being for everyone on the coaches.

With the shift this year to payment only for services provided the situation looks incredibly difficult. In a SWOT analysis of the business going forward some of the threats include:
  • More spending cuts to come in 2013/14;
  • Competition in care and support market increasingly fierce - driving down prices;
  • Low morale of staff following on from restructure;
  • Care managers not referring people to YC services seen as too expensive and /or not offering choice; and
  • Continuing local pressure for YCB to back in house and impact on staff/relatives/carers.
 The budget monitoring report has a very serious conclusion when it says:

"YCB is currently a loss making organisation and to ensure its viability in the long term it needs to embark on a cost cutting programme so as to increase financial security. The company has received a £1 million loan to ease its liquidity issues however, it is imperative that if costs are not reduced and income streams not increased, there is a risk of further liquidity crisis in the future. The main source of income for the company is from the Council and as it is now based on usage, there are income and liquidity implications if the company does not work towards increasing centres usage by clients. This risk is greater because the company's costs are largely fixed."

This should have massive alarm bells ringing at Barnet Council but I get the impression that actually they just don't care. Last night one of the board members asked if someone from Barnet Council could attend the next board meeting to give an indication of how much budget they had. I felt like shouting out "Why the hell aren't they here now", but I know the answer already. Barnet Council have very neatly shifted all responsibility for adult social care to someone else and washed their hands of the problems that will arise.

YCB see taking the service back in house as a threat - I see it as an inevitable conclusion and the sooner it happens the better. Prolonging the financial misery will inevitably impact on service users carers/relatives and the care staff all of whom will suffer from cuts in services, pay rates.

At the end of the meeting last night carers, relatives and services users wanted to express their views but the curtain came down on this tragedy and the actors flounced out. This is  a situation which needs to be addressed now, today, and unless it is the most vulnerable in our society will pay the price.

1 comment:

  1. Mr Reasonable what can I say other than thank you for keeping me awake. In addition to Maria Nash and many others I wish I also had you and Mr Mustard around way back in 2000.

    The problem with YCB is some of the inept Barnet Homes Board. Almost all of whom, would struggle in those same posts within the private sector.

    I would like to suggest that YCB was created as a subsidiary to make Barnet Homes a viable enterprise in addition to selling their property management and maintenance services to other organisations, due to a falling income from a decreasing stock, once the Decent Homes Standard was fulfilled. No doubt you have noted that YCB's board members also appear to be board members of Barnet Homes, a company registered at Companies House and, dependant wholly on the Government and income from tenants rents.

    How does Barnet Homes and it's inept board of friend's housing and other public service nepotists come to offer a loan to it's subsidiary YCB, is a question they should answer? Note that the Chairman of YCB and Barnet Homes are both members of the Chartered Institute of Housing whom represent the interests of Housing Associations, nearly all are registered at Companies House.

    Everything you state about shifting responsibility and accountability to YCB was also stated 10 years ago regarding Barnet Homes. I do believe I could find enough witnesses to verify the words of the Tory Councillor whom held the housing portfolio at that time, when he suggested that it was built to fail and at some future stage, cut loose. Since then, even Statutory functions regarding the homeless and the housing register has also passed to Barnet Homes in addition to Management and Maintenace account. In short the Council's Statutory Housing Function.??

    As for taking YCB back in house within full council control, I would agree. This measure should have applied to Barnet Homes (also viewed council control a threat) once the Decent Homes Standard was fulfilled. I quote the same Tory Councillor above whom 10 years ago also said, ”The ALMO Barnet Homes could be taken back in house subject to a ballot of all the tenants.” We did not hear him say, “subject to a ballot of Barnet Homes Directors”

    Barnet Council simply does not care about anybody. It gave up caring in 2002 and endorsed that with Future Shape that became One Barnet. Dare I say in addition to One Barnet there is more being considered for Judicial Review.