Statement by Barnet Alliance for Public Services

A letter from Councillor Rajput, the Cabinet Member for Adult Services, was sent to voluntary sector organisations on 24 October, aimed at ‘all Barnet residents who have an interest in social care services’, asking ‘for their thoughts about what we should include in our first local report on adult social care services.’ He asked for replies by 19 November!

A ‘Local Account’ is actually a non-statutory self-assessment of the council’s performance, according to guidelines dictated by the national Department of Health. If the Council is indeed so serious about this exercise, why do they not explain that this is its purpose? And why do they give us so little notice? Sutton council, for example, have published their Local Account back in June…

Indeed, Cllr Rajput’s letter would have the appearance of democracy, if only the deadline for response was not so short – less than 4 weeks for responses that need to be collected through the organisations’ own networks, publications and focus groups. This time scale is certainly unrealistic if one has genuine intentions to listen to the public, including hard-to-reach communities.

However, when there is such a strong sense of deep discontent as evidence is accumulated to the deteriorating quality of life of users of social services and their carers following the cuts, the charging for and reduction of services; and when these are brought about by the same people who appeal to the public ideas for the Local Account, we may be right to suspect the motives of this box-ticking exercise. We may be right to feel this is disingenuous and aims to simply APPEAR democratic. We may be excused if we suspect that the Local Account report which will come out of such a rushed exercise will look much rosier than the reality that people with disabilities suffer lately. It may even aim to seek the public’s confirmation for further budget cuts to children’s and adults’ social services and preventative care.

That is why we, BAPS, decided we would not collude with this empty gesture.

Instead we asked the following questions at the Barnet Council cabinet’s budget meeting on 3rd November:

Public Questions relating to Appendix 4 para 9.2.4 of the report to the cabinet:
About the statement –
‘Investing in early intervention and prevention to reduce the number of children and families experiencing complex problems.’

• How will you implement this objective with less children centres, as we are aware of 8 children centres to be closed or their services reduced or outsourced?
• How many families are using the children centres now and how many will be able to access them after the change?
• How many staff members council employees are currently employed in them?
• Will any of these be made redundant if children’s centres closed or privatised?
• What will be the implications on the range of services and accessibility if children’s centres be outsourced?
• Are you going to consult the parents who are using early intervention and prevention facilities about the changes? If you are, how will you ensure you hear the opinions of hard-to-reach families?

About the statement –
‘Promoting greater independence, and a positive experience of care and support for carers.’
1. How will this be achieved when there are less services available to service-users, thus putting more pressure on family carers, when people cannot afford the same level of service as before now that they are being charged for services?
2. What support do carers get at the moment to make their experience of care positive?
3. At the moment there is only one carers’ nurse in the borough. Is her post guaranteed?
4. What other provisions are planned in order to ‘promote the positive experience of care and support for carers’?

About the statement –
‘Improving health and well-being, providing better outcomes for service users.’
1. How will the improvement of service-users’ well-being be achieved when people are forced to give up services due to Fairer Contribution policy, or to give up other elements of their quality of life in order to retain the level of services suitable for their health needs?

About the statement –
‘Promoting personalisation of services and enhanced quality of life for social service users.’
• How do you monitor the quality of life of social service-users?
• How do you monitor the impact of recent changes in social care policies on service-users quality of life?
• You previously promised that service-users will not suffer reduction in how their care needs are met; are you monitoring this? What are the figures for service users using services (home care and day services) before the changes of the last year and now?
• What will be the implications of the planned redundancies of social workers on the quality of life of service-users, their chance to be assessed for services and their ability to access them?
• What is the time scale for Care Needs Assessments, Carers’ Assessment and Contingency Plans now, and what will be the time scale with reduced numbers of social workers following this proposed redundancies plan and following the transfer of LD to the LATC?