Monday, 24 November 2008

Investment needed in social services

The following is an interview with a social worker from this weeks 'the Socialist', paper of the socialist party.

What was your reaction when you heard about the case of 'baby P'?

I was not surprised, although deeply frustrated and distraught. I have been a social worker for a year and a half in a team that deals with children who have been brought into care. I believe many of the children that my team deals with should have been brought into care years earlier to avoid situations like Baby P.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt finances determined choices rather than need?

I am not directly involved in the decision making processes for assessing whether children should come into care, but even when they are in care the support and resources for children are not available. Senior managers are only interested in cost implications, regardless of the risk to the child.

What would you say about social workers to those who are upset about Baby P's death?

It is totally understandable that people are upset and, believe me, the vast majority of social workers are too. I have 14 children on my case load and others have similar numbers. Nearly all my cases are teenagers who are prone to continuous placement breakdowns. This is endemic with children that have been neglected and/or abused.

We are short of around 12-14 social workers, which is totally unsustainable and leaves children at serious risk. There are newly qualified social workers, such as myself, who are given some seriously difficult cases.

In the assessment teams, some social workers have up to 100 cases, sometimes more. This is extremely dangerous and must not continue. The majority of social workers work extremely hard in very difficult circumstances. Senior management do not support staff with the necessary resources, thus leaving children at serious risk.

Do you have to deal with privatised bodies now - and does that cause problems?

At the moment the only private bodies I deal with are the private agency foster carers and private residential placements. We use them when we have exhausted all other placement options within our own resources. Although the foster carers in general are good, the agencies are there to make profit. Their own supervising social workers play a limited role in safeguarding children.

The cost is ridiculous. For example, I have a sibling group of four placed with foster carers in a different county and the projected cost until the youngest is 18 runs into seven figures! It is £700 a week, with £350 going to the agency and £350 to the foster cover for each child. If these children were looked after by our own foster carers it would be around £300 a week per child.

Similarly, with the residential units, we could be charged up to £5,000 a week for each child. Our own resources were sold off and the council will not build any more, which would save us more money in the long run and only cost around £900 a week. If we did not have any private resources, we would not have enough placements.

However, if the council had more resources, then in the long run we would save considerable amounts of money. The free market, pro-privatisation approach cannot provide sufficient support for young people and costs huge sums to the detriment of other children who desperately need help.

What demands do you think socialists should be fighting for in terms of protecting the welfare of children?

We must demand a huge influx of cash to build up public resources to support and protect children from harm. This must include spending on employing more social workers on decent wages to make sure that children have enough social workers to be effective.

Investment is needed in early intervention services to spot and ultimately prevent the situation with Baby P from happening again. We must demand an end to the budget cuts being imposed by councils across the country.

We must definitely say no to the privatisation of any public services, especially fostering agencies and residential placements for young people.

I can vouch myself how bad value for money privatised residential care placements are. For example, in my last work placemnt 9 residents 'bought in' £9000 a week between them! Of course, most of the workforce was on minimum wage as well. How people can claim this is good value for money is beyond me, what we need is a well funded nationally integrated health care system, put under control of the people who work for it.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Unison Branch Report

Please note that I'm writing this in a personal capacity.

Well, yesterday was my first branch meeting for North Staffs Community Care Unison Branch. The branch is one of the largest in the midlands with over 3000 people on the books. I was very impressed with the turnout with around 25, the split was roughly 50/50 men to women.

First up on the agenda was the vote to see if I should be youth officer or not. I'm pleased to say the vote was passed unanimously in my favour, which seeing as I was the only person under 35 there it is not surprising.

Second- we had James, a representative from Lealta who was trying to sell the branch discount cards. Apparently Unison tried doing something similar for themselves a couple of years ago, but it fell through earlier this year. The card would offer at least a 10% discount on a lot of high street chains and local restaurants as well.

While I can see this as being a good supplementary recruiting tool, especially for student nurses, I'm against the principle of the union outsourcing anything. The cards would cost the branch £6000 a year, and it would be a 2 year contract, so £12000 all together. I'm sure if we pumped that much money into a mass recruiting campaign then we would probably see more recruits as a result. We vote on this next month.

The third item worth of note was a meeting between our branch secretary and a consultant north staffs combined health care have hired. The meeting a was a renegotiation of our recognition agreement. The consultant wanted a no strike clause in the agreement as well as the deliberate union breaking tactic of allowing non-union members to have union representatives in tribunals/ disciplinary action. The meeting ended in a stalemate, and they agreed to meet next month for round two.

It was the secretary's opinion that the consultant was trying to push it as far as he could in order to show other trusts his union breaking credentials when he sought employment with them. She also noted that the consultant was on about as much (pro-rata) as our chief executive.

The last Item was the unison health care conference coming up in april next year. One idea was putting a motion about the recent 'top up drugs' legislation coming in, which would allow people to top up their NHS treatment with private healthcare, effectivly creating a two tier NHS- one for the poor and one for the rich.

Looks like there is plenty for me to get my teeth into.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


I'm off to my first unison branch meeting tonight, so I'll be doing a full report back some time tomorrow or the day after.

here's some Jesu to keep you going in the mean time. Justin Boardrick is pretty awesome, and this song always gives me shivers down my spine.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Socialism 2008 Videos

Just in case you missed it the opening rally, here's the link to the video for it.

here and the closing rally here

[edit: bad link]

The NHS at 60

As a new NHS employee I decided to turn up for the discussion on the NHS at 60. socialist party councillor Dr Jackie Grunsell led off an excellent discussion on the state of the NHS. Needless to say her indictment was damning, anyone with even a passing interest in the NHS can see how despite a massive increase in funding from New Labour, the NHS remains a bureaucratic monster well on the way to privatisation via the back door.

Jackie described the effects of having PCT's and running them as businesses. The effects are plain to see, with demonstrations and campaign groups being set up the length and breadth of the country. Of course the government won't privatise the NHS overnight, instead we have the creeping privatisation of auxiliary and administration services, and of course now the option to 'top up' our hospital visits with private health care.

I won't go into generalities about the NHS, I'm going to post about my experiences within the NHS and private health care.

I've worked for private health care companies all my working life(7 years now), both in the care sector and the education sector. All these jobs involved the provision of support for people with learning difficulties and/or Autism. I can honestly say that in those seven years I've noticed a degradation in work conditions in each successive job I've had. In my last job (before the NHS one) I was on the minimum wage supporting some people who weren't far off being sectioned, so severe was their behaviour. Of course though, as Marx said 'conditions determine conciousness' these residents had to deal with a high turn over of staff and a demoralised workforce. The company used migrant agency workers on 6 month contracts in order to maintain a semi-stable workforce.

I contrasted this with my experience working for the NHS. I've had a 50% increase in pay, I have lots less responsibility and the staffing levels are about twice what I'm used to. Don't get me wrong it's not perfect- far from it in fact, but it's almost a utopia compared to what I'm used to. I've become active in the union, being elected youth officer for my unison branch and shops steward at my work place, it's quite refreshing organising in the open, rather than covertly as I had done in other work places.

Imagine my horror, on my first day to find out that my workplace is under threat of privatisation! Yep North Staffs Combined Healthcare wants to ship out all of it's Learning difficulty units out to the private sector (except the Assessment and Treatment unit) obviously not profitable enough to warrant keeping. Needless to say, I'll be bringing this up at the union branch meeting on the 18th.

Monday, 10 November 2008

I'm back! Socialism 2008 and other musings

Well, I've decided to resurrect this blog. I have returned, very much enthused, from the socialist party's annual Socialism event down in London.

I'll give a quick overview of my impressions of the weekend.

Stoke branch of the SP managed to get a record amount of people down to socialism this year, packing out a 16 seater mini-bus. The combination of hungover students and a lack of sleep on my part did not help matters, and despite the bus being a Mercedes it was most uncomfortable. Luckily the company was good, even though the conversation was a little muted because of the factors mentioned.

We arrived down at the ULU for about midday, and had a three hour wait to kill before the sessions started. Luckily there was the socialist book shop set out for me to spend my hard earned cash on. £30 seemed to evaporate within about ten minutes. I bought Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, NHS plc by Allyson Pollock, a CWI beer glass and some vegan goodies from the coffee shop down stairs.

I turned up for a very interesting discussion on the NHS at 60 (I'll be posting about that later) led off by socialist party councillor Dr Jackie Grunsell.

The evening rally at the good old friends meeting house was, as ever excellent. In my estimation about 1100 turned up as the main seating area was rammed as well as most of the balcony area. There were a few speakers of note, Nikos a comrade from Greece gave a short talk about the CWI's work there, Fang Guoli from China gave a talk on how their work is progressing and their perspectives for the Chinese working class in the upcoming recession. Also a short report from a ford transit worker on their fight against job cuts in their Southampton factory.

After the rally I accompanied A very public Sociologist, sister A and brother G to Euston Station to watch them refuel on a murder king. Many bad and sick jokes ensued. The social, as per usual was rammed full, the bad situation was made worse by the really loud music. Honesty, all people want to do after the rally is catch up with people who they haven't seen in ages, have a few beers and relax in good company (or maybe that's just me, and maybe I'm getting old).

5 of us Stoke comrades made our way to the hostel in the pouring rain, after a minor (read: huge) navigational fuck up, we finally got there. I crashed out in my room at about midnight, only to be rudely woken up at 3am by some SP members trying (and failing miserably) to have 'quiet sex', cringing I tried keeping the pillow over my head to block out the noise, only to hear those dreaded words 'want to do anal?' whispered. In a show of stamina and prowess (for both included) this continued for another 40 odd minutes. I'd be surprised if she could sit down for any of the Sunday sessions after that. If you're reading this, you know who you are- and yes someone could hear!

Anyway, I went to the sessions on Greece and marxism and the big bang on sunday- reports to come from them later.

Achieving an almost impossible feat of endurance I stayed awake for all the sessions, even the closing rally when I found myself flagging after 5 hours of sleep.

All in all it was, as always, a very enjoyable weekend, I learnt lots of new stuff, had some quite frankly harrowing experiences in the hostel, and a good laugh on the way back from London.

More to follow...

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Some things never change...

Yeah I know that’s a bit un-dialectical but it's true. I found this quote today by a USA senator in 1894

"I firmly believe that when any territory outside the present territorial limits of the United States becomes necessary for our defence or essential for our commercial development, we ought to lose no time in acquiring it." Orville Platt of Connecticut

Kind of sums up US foreign policy for the past 100+ years doesn’t it?