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Public meeting to bring Your Choice Barnet back inhouse

via Barneteye and Barnet Alliance for Public Services:

Tomorrow night, Thursday 11 April at 7pm at the Greek Cypriot Centre, Brittannia Road, Finchley, London, N12 9RU, there will be a public meeting to launch a campaign to bring Your Choice Barnet back inhouse.

Your Choice is a "local authority trading company" - a profit-based venture that was set up by Barnet council to to run social care services for adults with physical and learning disabilities.

To the horror of people who use the service and their families, an announcement was made recently that careworker salaries and jobs at Your Choice will be slashed.

One of the Your Choice cuts proposals is to reduce the number of waking night staff. The consultation document on the proposals discussed by Unison branch secretary John Burgess here says that: "For continence issues, those who require changing in the night do not require the use of hoists as they are already in bed. (consultation document paragraph 4.3). It takes two staff to safely use a hoist." If this cut is implemented, Burgess says, the implications are that if a service user is incontinent during the night, they will have to wait until the morning before they can be helped.
A Your Choice Care worker said here that:

"There is a sinister undertow to these proposals. The people who will lose out as always are the vulnerable service users who take second place in what is now a business not care provision."
As Rog T at Barneteye says:

"Tomorrow night's meeting has been called following the £1 million bailout of Your Choice Barnet by the taxpayer. The organisers of the meeting believe that the business case for the restructured organisation will provide a shoddy service which is not fit for purpose and will expose vulnerable people to risks and dangers.

I have been forwarded many concerns about the new Your Choice Barnet structure. Here is an extract from one typical letter on the subject.

a) If the council has already saved £180,000 in the current financial year, we fear that all possibilities of efficiency savings might now be exhausted, so that further expenditure reductions will only be achievable at the expense of the quality of the services. We even wonder whether at some point the assessed needs of our relative will cease to be met completely, even though the law is explicit that this must be avoided whatever the cost.

b) In particular, we are unsure how it will be possible to reduce staff costs and still maintain quality of service provision. Reducing staff salaries is surely likely to affect staff morale and productivity, while gradually replacing current staff with new employees on lower pay risks a loss of skills and experience that will again reduce the quality of service delivery. 

The current quality aspect that we are especially afraid of losing, just when we have learned about some age-related health and safety challenges facing our family member, is the familiarity that the Council’s carers have with both our relative’s situation and ourselves. Consistency of staff has been a major factor in the development of this understanding.  We are not suggesting that low-cost staffing would create the kind of difficulties that the BBC’s Panorama programme exposed at Winterbourne View, but we fear that even a small step in that direction would be undesirable.

c) We also worry that reduced expenditure will affect your commitment to 'personalisation', as the necessary client choice will surely be less.

d) We welcome the use of properly prescribed Telecare devices, as we know that these are a useful tool in helping people to remain independent.  However, we are concerned that Telecare devices might be used purely as a cost-saving measure, replacing some of the human interaction with care workers which we feel our relative requires for such purposes as minimising social isolation.

e) Finally, you have suggested that there is no other way to ease the financial burden. We would suggest that an increase in Council Tax, though ideologically difficult for a Conservative council, might be one way to tackle this problem.

These are genuine concerns for anyone in adult social care or with a relative in adult social care. I urge everyone involved or with an interest in adult social care in Barnet to attend the meeting and support the campaign."

Barnet blogger Mrs Angry has a very good post which backgrounds the Your Choice fiasco here.


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