Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Voices of workers in Children's Services!

After the media circus of the last few days, Doncaster UNISON felt that you would like to hear from some of the e-mails that have been sent to both the Branch office and to the BBC to comment on the crisis (of DMBC's own making!) in Children's Services.

All of these e-mails have had to be submitted anonymously, in itself a savage indictment of the climate of fear under which employees of the Council have had to work in recent years. Now would be a good time for DMBC to give a real and lasting commitment to listen to the voices of it's staff and to ensure that raising comments and criticisms of the way services are delivered is seen as a vital ingredient of improving services rather than evidence of people not being team players.

"Someone needs to look back to 4 years ago, Martin Winters and Susan Law are responsible for robbing the budgets which mean that all children's support services, and namely social services run with either antequated or no resources and with minimal staff, and less than adequate managers, this resulted in a huge turnover of staff being off with stress which impacted on the already skeletal staff cover.

Martin Winters is morally responsible for the deaths of the 7 children which was at the expense of Martin sanctioning the building of the new football stadium, building the new race course to name but a few of the projects Martin excitingly pursued- surely the budgets could of being better utilised.

Unable to give name as I still work for DMBC." - (Social Worker - Children's Services)

"For a number of years I was involved with the Early Years Childcare and Development Partnership (EYDCP) in Doncaster. This organisation was the predecessor of Children's Trusts and other changes in the way local authorities provide Children's Services which central government demanded be put in place following the Victoria Climbie report.

From my point of view the changes seemed to be handled very poorly in Doncaster. This did not appear to be because of any failings of the staff most directly concerned with work with young people but because of structural change and tensions in the most senior management of the Council and the local politicians.

The views of qualified/experienced frontline staff most directly involved were often disregarded - even occasionally held up to ridicule. Naturally many of those who could left to work elsewhere where their contribution was valued.

Culturally the management structure of the Council seems to be one where no one can tell the emperor (Mayor Winter) that he has no clothes; you have to follow the official line and say his clothes are beautiful. No officer can tell his or her boss that the system is not working properly. If you try you are labelled as not a team player and end up being sidelined. This atmosphere pervades the whole Council.

Mayor Winter's public statements always stress how his first priority is providing ever better services and facilities and he has stated that "accountability to the people of Doncaster is the first principle I abide by" (Doncaster News September 2008)

Now that things are patently falling apart in many areas within Doncaster Council - not just in Social Services - he seems busy trying to lay the blame elsewhere; especially on officers/staff trying to do their best against a culture of bullying.

The Audit Commission in their Public Letter in May 2008 gave the Mayor and the newly appointed Managing Director 12 months to sort matters out. They should reconsider that deadline and move in now.

At the time my involvement with the Early Years Partnership ceased I expressed my concern that someone would die by falling through the cracks in the system. How tragic it is that I appear to have been proved right." (Ex DMBC employee)

Someone who wanted to remain anonymous told us:

"It is categorically not true that Mayor Winter did not know about the state of children's services in Doncaster. He has known for several years. Several high level managers in Doncaster have resigned because the Mayor would not take their advice and comments seriously and invest in children's services. Education Welfare officers have been complaining about this situation for at least four years."

Another employee who wanted to comment anonymously said;

"Please listen to us! My colleagues and I have been pleading for over 4 years to have the madness of the way in which we work altered: we do 90% paperwork in the name of government statistics. Social workers and health visitors need to be managed by people who have practiced and know about risk and appropriate resources not just money and tick boxes."

Craig in Thorne near Doncaster texted saying: "The mayor should be made to resign as he hasn't done enough to prevent the deaths of those 7 children."

The stress and pressure that Children's Services workers must be feeling at this time must be overwhelming. Much of this will feel like an unnecessary distraction from trying to do the jobs that you have all dedicated yourselves to to improve the lives of children and families in Doncaster. The problems in DMBC are not of our making and no Social Care worker should be victimised or face any recriminations for speaking out about unsafe practice in safeguarding children.

Doncaster UNISON will shortly be organising a meeting for Children's Services workers to ensure the best possible response to this crisis - watch this space!

Jim Board on ITV defending Childrens Services workers

'Too much pressure on children's services'
'Too much pressure on children's services'

Jim Board responds to the situation with children's services in Doncaster Council on Look North


Jim Board speaking in defence of childrens services workers to Sky News

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Unite Against Fascism - National Conference 2009

Unite Against Fascism - National Conference 2009.

Saturday 21 February 2009 9.30am - 4.30pm
TUC Conference Centre, Great Russell Street, London WC1
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road (Dominion Theatre exit)

Special guests and speakers include: *Ken Livingstone * John McLure aka ' The Reverend' from Reverend and the Makers * Glyn Ford MEP * Billy Hayes Communication Workers Union * Megan Dobney Southern and Eastern Region TUC* Dr Abdul Bari Muslim Council of Britain * Edie Friedman JCORE * Weyman Bennett UAF and Anti Nazi League * Sabby Dhalu UAF and National Assembly Against Racism * Martin Smith Love Music Hate Racism

Doncaster UNISON is a proud supporter of Unite Against Fascism and would encourage all members who oppose the BNP and other far right political groups to attend this conference.

Over the last decade racism and Islamophobia in society have grown including a rise in racist violence and attacks on multiculturalism culminating in the rise of the far right and fascist parties in particular the British National Party (BNP).

The British National Party (BNP) will be targeting the European Parliamentary elections and the local elections across Britain in June 2009 . Recent votes received in several regions including the North West (where Nick Griffin is heading the BNP list), Yorkshire and Midlands indicate a real danger of the BNP gaining European Parliament seats in these and other areas.

This would represent a major electoral breakthrough and would allow them huge resources, influence , greater respectability, and the ability to work with other far right and fascist parties in Europe.

The BNP have recently launched a racist campaign with a pamphlet " Racism Cuts Both Ways" in an attempt to build what they hope will be a racist agenda during the forthcoming economic crisis.
Where multiculturalism is celebrated, a positive climate is created in which every-one's contribution is welcomed and the BNP's policies of racism and scapegoating challenged. This would be undermined if the BNP were elected to the European Parliament.

The BNP is a fascist organisation. As history shows, fascism stands for the total annihilation of whole communities, freedoms and democratic rights.

Active campaigning can stop the BNP. In the 1930s the Jewish and Irish communities, trade unions and others defeated the fascist Blackshirts at Cable Street, in the 1970s the National Front was defeated by mass anti-Nazi campaigns. More recently the BNP was defeated in Millwall and Oldham. Learning lessons from these campaigns is crucial.

In 2004 Unite Against Fascism campaigned hard to mobilise the anti racist and anti fascist vote and to highlight the threat of the BNP in the European elections. The past year or so has seen a big increase in anti-fascist campaigning with Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Love Music Hate Racism groups becoming more active in opposing to the fascist BNP.

Many Doncaster UNISON members were proud to support these campaigns and attended the fantastic Love Music, Hate Racism gig in Rotherham last year along with 4000 people protesting against the election of two BNP Councillors in the town. This was an outstanding success and gave a massive boost to those who wanted to oppose the fascist BNP in gaining a foothold in South Yorkshire.

This conference will be an important event and will discuss strategies that have been successful in defeating fascism and organising activity across the country to stop the BNP in these elections.

The event will bring together sections of society that oppose fascism including trade unions, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other faiths, black, Asian, lesbian, gay and disabled communities.

Last year's conference was extremely successful with over 500 people to discuss the way forward in opposing the politics of hate and division that the BNP represent.

We urge you to join us in stopping the BNP in 2009.

" The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." - Albert Einstein. Refugee to Britain from the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

Other anti- fascist activists from Doncaster will be attending this conference and will be arranging transport to this event. Please contact Jim Board at the Branch Office to book your place.