Ofsted report: a message to staff in Children’s Services

The Ofsted report published on Wednesday 8 May provides a number of very serious challenges to the county council.

The UNISON West Sussex branch is clear that staff are not to blame for this state of affairs which has developed over many years, and primarily because of lack of central government funding.

UNISON will resist any efforts to attribute blame to staff. You have been working as hard as you can to deal with a society in crisis.

Support individually and collectively

UNISON will also be there to support staff as individuals, and collectively if restructures are proposed as a result of the Ofsted report. UNISON will work with members to ensure we do not see an unwarranted increase in performance and disciplinary processes which target individual staff, rather than dealing with the resource, process and leadership issues Ofsted identified. UNISON has significant concern that disciplinary processes are too often excessively delayed and are managed by HR in an unfair way. We have already tabled this with the Chief Executive and will report back to you after we have met.

Harmful linking of pay to performance

WSCC has pursued recently two significant initiatives designed to drive a ‘performance-related’ regime. One has been to link incremental progression to appraisal outcomes. The other was for HAY managers and sought to link their cost of living pay award to appraisal outcomes, though this was abandoned due to staff opposition.

Both of these have been and are unnecessary and divisive distractions, which WSCC should never have pursued.

UNISON will resist any further efforts to embed a target-driven culture which would have punitive financial impacts on staff or send signals to staff that they ‘are not working hard enough’. This will not be the answer to getting from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’.

Social Work Recruitment and Retention Offer

UNISON was not consulted about this or even forewarned, despite having a meeting with both Kim Curry and John Readman during the week the announcement was made. This beggars belief given the harmful way the messages were communicated on the previous offer, and how UNISON responded in detail to communicate what lessons needed to be learned. We have a number of questions about the offer, which we are sure you do as well. We will be taking this up with management. Amongst these are that:

  • It is unclear what has happened to the previous 5-year offer;
  • The uncertainty of possible restructures may inhibit take-up;
  • It is unclear if enhancements paid to staff are included in the offer;
  • What the detailed terms and conditions of the offer will be.

A culture of listening is required

UNISON is the representative voice of staff, but too often we have been ignored by the council. There has been a systemic failure to listen to staff or your trade union. Listening to the workforce and its union representatives will be key to driving the change we need to see. The council needs to show it can do this.

UNISON’s challenge

As part of dealing with the Ofsted report and its consequences in the coming months and years, UNISON also needs to reflect on how we are organised within Children’s Services. One way we can improve is by having more workplace representatives. Even the busiest of teams needs a UNISON rep within it and we invite members to come forward.

We also need more members. There is strength in numbers and we invite any remaining non-members to join UNISON. UNISON is there to support you and to make life at work better. Now is the time to join and to get involved with your branch.

Please contact the branch office or your workplace rep if there is anything you wish to raise with us at this point.