Children’s services: Ofsted, IPEH, 20% payments & more

Please read the full news item for information on:

  1. UNISON members’ meetings: June 3, 4, 5, 6
  2. WSCC Retention payments
  3. The Ofsted debate at Select Committee
  4. The IPEH debate at Select Committee

1. Children’s Services: UNISON members’ meetings

UNISON has booked meeting rooms so we can meet with you to discuss all these urgent matters. If you work in Children’s Services, please come along. UNISON is in regular dialogue with John Readman and Kim Curry, so it is important we meet face-to-face with members to inform those discussions. UNISON Officers and reps will be present to answer your questions.

  • Monday 3 June: Horsham, 1.00-2.00pm, Parham Room
  • Tuesday 4 June: Crawley, 1.00-2.00pm, Bill Buck Room
  • Wednesday 5th June: Worthing, 1.00-2.00pm, Conference Room 4
  • Thursday 6th June: Bognor, 2.00-3.00pm, Conference Room 1

2. Retention payments

UNISON has a number of concerns about the ‘20% offer‘ made to staff with social work qualifications who work in a children’s social work role. We have relayed these to the Director of Children’s Services and the Executive Director at a meeting, and in writing. You can read the concerns we submitted here in full. In summary:

  • There was no discussion with UNISON despite the known problems with the £3,000 offer and how that was communicated. UNISON took up significant concerns about the previous £3,000 offer with management on behalf of the Child Disability Teams as they had been excluded from it.
  • It is unclear what framework the council is using for the payments – the policy referred to in the document is entirely missing.
  • There is a significant lack of clarity in a number of regards about the payments.
  • We have raised concerns on behalf of non-eligible staff.
  • We have concerns about both the extension of contractual notice – and the intention to reclaim the 20% payment from leavers within the last three months of employment. This could leave staff destitute through no fault of their own. UNISON is concerned that staff are not sufficiently aware of this and the impact it could have if they do decide to leave and have spent the retention payment.

In response we have:

  1. Asked WSCC to extend the deadline for signing up to the payments.
  2. Asked for clarification on all the points we have raised.
  3. Asked WSCC to make clear to staff that they would be well advised not to immediately spend the payment, due to the payment terms and the resultant risk to staff of not being able to pay their bills or feed their families. We are asking for the repayment terms to be reconsidered.

We are advising members who take up the offer not to spend it immediately, but to put the payment aside for 18-months until they know they will not need to re-pay it from their final 3 salary payments.

There is a commitment from the Director that we will meet with him to discuss these matters further. We will keep you updated.

3. The Ofsted debate at Select Committee

UNISON attended the Ofsted debate at Select committee on 15 May. It was webcast, but the first 30 minutes was not broadcast due to a technical problem. In that first 30 minutes, UNISON was very concerned and disappointed to hear the Head of Children’s Social Care speak about the need for action to be taken against some social workers.

Sarah Daly said that there were some children’s social workers who would not be able to do the job no matter what support was on offer from the employer. She stated that WSCC would be working to identify those staff and that management had already started to work closely with HR to take assertive action. UNISON understands this can only mean disciplinary and/or capability action.

UNISON believes this statement was unnecessary and unfair. Social workers are working under ever-increasing pressure and without the resources or support to deal with increasing demand and needs. There was very little reflection, if any, within the Select Committee on the failures of strategic leadership which Ofsted identified in their inspection and which have brought us to this point. It is too early to be talking about targeting individual social workers whom management deem to be under-performing, when the structural, process, resource and leadership factors have not been evaluated and remedied.

UNISON also wants to make clear that we will fully support any member who is targeted in this way. As a branch, we have a long and proud record of standing up for our members.

Now is the time for all members to encourage any remaining colleagues who have not yet joined, or are in BASW, to join UNISON West Sussex.

UNISON also has concerns that the council’s disciplinary policy is currently being used in an unfair way. The council currently is adjusting practices within disciplinary procedures, regardless of what its own policy says. This has greatly increased the length of disciplinary processes and has caused staff to go off sick with mental health problems as a direct result. We will be communicating more about this next week.

Without a rep to support them, staff without UNISON membership are running considerable risks.

4. The IPEH debate at Select Committee

Our Branch Secretary Dan Sartin asked to speak at the CYPS Select Committee on 15 May on the IPEH review. When UNISON originally asked for this speaking slot, we were expecting the Committee to scrutinise plans (developed within 6 weeks flat) for a restructure to achieve £5million cuts. We had major concerns that this was not viable and would damage the service, and had raised this previously with the Director.

Since then, the restructure was deemed ‘no longer financially driven’, and had been reigned in to a more reasonable pace. Plans to restructure the service were no longer a part of the Committee discussion. Therefore, Dan focused his presentation on:

  • the weaknesses of WSCC decision-making that had led to this point;
  • a request on behalf of UNISON members for the Committee to recommend removal of the £5m savings target from the budget line.

To listen to Dan’s presentation to the Committee, click here. [3 minutes length]