Tuesday 18 July 2023

How covid victims' families are being ignored by Baroness Hallett and how people with disabilities were failed during the pandemic

I haven't blogged for a while as I have been a bit unwell but I received an email yesterday from someone in Barnet who I admire immensely and I feel compelled to pass on his story. 

John  & Ida Sullivan had a daughter, Susan, who I met on a number of occasions at various campaigns and marches about the Barnet Council under the previous Conservative regime. Susan, who had Downs syndrome, was a very lively and cheerful person. I didn't know until I listened to the podcasts, just what a talent Susan had as a swimmer, winning numerous medals at the Special Olympics. Sadly she caught covid at the very start of lockdown in March 2020 and died shortly after. What is shocking are the details John reveals in two podcasts:



What I learned from these podcasts is how people with disabilities were treated differently and inhumanely during covid, how hospitals ignored the knowledge, experience and wishes of carers. According to research 6 out of 10 people who died from covid were disabled. John and his family discovered that because Susan had Downs syndrome and a pacemaker she was denied access to the ITU at Barnet General and deemed "not for resuscitation" even though her family had asked for her to be resuscitated and until covid she had been in excellent health.

John wants to give his evidence of how Susan was unjustly treated to the Covid Inquiry chaired by Baroness Hallett but sadly he will not be able to do so but instead a large amount of personal evidence will be 'amalgamated' by a research company into 'Every Story Matters' where "stories will be collated, analysed and turned into themed reports, which will be submitted into each relevant investigation as evidence. The reports will be anonymised". John doesn't want Susan's story amalgamated and anonymised. All Baroness Hallett was asked to do by the legal team for the bereaved families, was to hear the witness statement of just 20 families, and she refused. Making time for those 20 families seems entirely reasonable and fair in an inquiry where public hearings are scheduled to concluded Summer 2026. Surely there must be room to hear those 20 families in such a lengthy timetable.

At one point in the podcast John says "The only voice my daughter has got is me. I will, to my dying breath, fight to give Susan that voice, and all the other Susans, at the Inquiry."

I hope that Baroness Hallett thinks again and allows the victims' families to give their experience to the Covid Inquiry in person so that the real story of how so many disable people died during covid can be heard and lessons learned.

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Latest spending figures from Barnet and a 'blast from the past'

 Latest supplier payments are out and as the Capita Re contract draws to an end we see how much we are still paying Capita. In February we paid them £2.77 million on the CSG contracts and £503k on the Re contract. That brings the total to date to £641 million and we still have some payments to go. The Re contract has just ended so hopefully we will see the final payments at the end of the month when they are published. Barnet have extended the contract for a number of elements for the CSG contract so we will have a further three years of payments on that contract.

The spend on agency staff remains high and with one more month to go before year end it looks like we have already exceeded last year's spend at more than £17.3 million and are on course to hit the highest level since the peak in 2016/17. I hope someone is keeping a very close eye on this spend.

I was also interested to see a name I recognised from some while ago. Impower Consulting are, I believe, the same company that, alongside Agilisys, previously provided advice to Barnet on the mass outsourcing of services back in 2012 for the Capita contracts. They are definitely the same company who, in 2015, helped outsource the education services including school meals. Sadly the school meals ended up being sub-contracted out to another company so that the Council had no direct contractual relationship with the school meals provider and the education services contract was handed back to Barnet as soon as Covid hit in 2020, three years ahead of the planned contract expiry date. You can read about it here. This year to date we have paid Impower £133,692.96, a not inconsiderable sum. I hope it represents genuine value for money.

We have also spent £110,528 with a company called Peoplescout, a 'talent solutions' company which I think means recruitment. With all of the Re contract being brought back in house I suspect the cost of recruitment companies will be higher than normal but is something I will keep an eye on.

Finally is Brent Cross, where so far this financial year Barnet have spent £50.6 million. This follows on from £77.1 million spent in 2021/22, £70.8 million in 2020/21 and £45.5 million in 2019/20. I hope that all this expenditure is going to be worth it in the end.

I continue to keep an eye on Barnet's spending.

Thursday 2 March 2023

Latest Capita Spending

 Latest spending figures are out and the Capita contract continues to cost us a fortune. In January Capita billed an additional £3.2m on the CSG contract and £620k on the Re contract. The latest running total is £638 million.

The spend on agency staff continues at a worryingly high level and looks like it will hit £18.7 million by the financial year end (31 March).

Monday 13 February 2023

Capita continuing to disappoint in the death throes of the Re Contract

 Apologies for not having posted a blog for a couple of months but I am still monitoring Barnet and the Capita contracts.

The latest spending figures show that Barnet have now paid Capita £634 million which is £273 million more than the contracted value even though some services included in the contract value have already been brought back in house such as Finance.

I watched the Audit committee in January where Capita were requested to attend to talk about their performance. You can watch the Audit Committee meeting here and the part where the director from Capita participates starts at 27 minutes 20 seconds into the meeting. What is most disturbing is that now the contract for Re is coming back in house at the end of March Capita seemed to have given up on rectifying problems that already existed. Performance failure and the inability to meet deadlines was repeatedly raised. At 41mins 14secs, one of the independent members of the Audit Committee does some plain speaking about Capita's performance which has been poor and is definitely worth watching.

While the Capita Re contract will come back in house on 1st April there are still significant elements of the Capita CSG contract will continue to be operated by Capita for another three years and that fills me with serious concerns. Barnet is a case study in how not to outsource services, with overly complex contracts and weak monitoring. I will keep watching Capita's performance.