Joint Trade Union Response – Phase 15
The proposal in phase 15 is to combine Children and Families, Adults Services and Voluntary Sector Commissioning into a Joint Strategic Commissioning Team. It suggests that posts at PO3/4 are deleted, and that PO4 posts are re-created at PO3. In addition, all posts below PO3 are deleted; 2 scale 5 and 1 SO2 post.
Unions note that of the 2 Manager posts affected one is proposed for a downgrading, from PO8 to PO7 one is proposed for an upgrading from PO6 to PO7, and the remainder of the PO level is being aligned to PO3. This is not comparable to posts in Corporate Procurement who are PO4 grades with no supervisory responsibilities.
Amongst this group of staff are several that were already affected by the proposals in phase 4, some of which have only just got their contracts for that particular phase. Although the council has stated that areas that have been restructured are not protected from future restructures, this is unfair to those affected just a few months ago, as well as being wasteful in time, cost and effort.
The Unions have long asked for the council to slow the pace of these restructures so that they can be thought through and implemented better, making better use of staff in the department to contribute to the actual proposal rather than having a 30 day rush to come up with an alternative. In addition, we have asked for proper, relevant Impact Assessments to be carried out in each phase rather than a few lines of text within the proposals.
Thorough Impact Assessments will highlight risks to staff, workload, service requirements and point out structural issues. This can prevent the need to implement “rolling restructures” that are costly, stressful for staff, and bad practice.
In the Unions’ consultation meetings staff have argued that this is not a complete joint commissioning service, Education and the wider Voluntary sector have been included but not services such as Environment, Community Safety, Arts, Sports and others. There does not seem to be any logic in pulling Voluntary sector into a Families Commissioning Service, and if the Commissioning Service was to be Joint then it should include all Commissioning services.
Unions are also concerned as to why Waltham Forest are reducing the capacity to support Voluntary sector commissioning by two thirds at the same time as launching a strategy likely to require just such resources to progress it.
Our members feel that the current Residents First contracts which include Welfare benefits/debt, Immigration and employment advice, money advice and debt prevention, community banking amongst others, may not be prioritised in a Families Commissioning service when they come up for re-commissioning in 2013.
Another staff concern is the new job descriptions. Staff will be required to have a CIP qualification as an ‘essential’ criterion. It has been confirmed by the Head of Strategic Commissioning that none of the staff currently employed and affected by phase 15 have this qualification; staff feel that this will exclude them from assimilation or ring fencing.
Another requirement of the new post is social care experience. This would exclude individuals from Voluntary Sector posts.
Concerns have also been raised about the Children’s commissioning being joined with Adults services commissioning. Again, the job description point 14 says ‘Ensure that the safeguarding of Adults and Children is embedded in Provider practice’, Staff in Children’s commissioning Services feel that child protection issues could become compromised. There is a specific procedure for dealing with safeguarding children that is totally different to Adults Safeguarding. This includes conforming to the Pan London Child Protection Procedures which have not been mentioned in the job description. The procedure for reporting concerns is aligned to the first response teams, not a Safeguarding Officer in Adults.
The Unions believe that overall the proposals and job descriptions are not robust and clear enough and have not taken into consideration all of the Commissioning functions. Alternative proposals have been presented that Unions would support to make further saving’s, provide a flatter structure; provide support to the PO3/4 posts in Commissioning and save lower graded posts.
Again; this seems to be the by-product of a hastily put together proposal, with the main aim of cutting costs being put before the service this council provides our residents. For example, with more time and care put into these proposals, Job Descriptions can be written up with staff input so that they are reflective of the post and duties carried out, whilst extra duties or additional workloads can be assessed for their impact on the service.
If the plan is to provide a joint commissioning service then all commissioners should be line managed in the same directorate with a clear management line to Corporate Commissioning. We would suggest that the proposals should be withdrawn and a flatter structure, more joined up commissioning and a direct report line with support to the Commissioning Officers posts be considered.
(letter dated 13.9.11)