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Weekly Message from the Chief Executive

Weekly guest message from Executive Director of Children's and Family Services Chris Munday: Barnet goes back to school

Chris Munday Executive Director of Children's and Family Services

“The happiest day of my teaching career,” was how one Barnet headteacher described the first day of the term when hundreds of smiling pupils, who had not been in school since 20 March, came back excitedly through the school gates and into their classrooms. Yes, things looked very different to them; the schools had spent a lot of July writing their risk assessments for the full re-opening and a lot of the summer holidays ensuring their control measures were in place and were appropriate and effective.

Schools uploaded videos on their websites showing parent/carers and the pupils what to expect when they returned and our Communications team ensured the Back To School campaign featured prominently on our own website, on social media, around Barnet with posters in streets and bus stops and in the 8 page pull out in Barnet First magazine.

Our colleagues from Public Health, Health and Safety, Education and Family Services have been working together extremely effectively to both support schools with the full re-opening before term started and, with schools back fully open, to support them in dealing with the challenges that they face and new situations and issues that occur. When schools broke up for the summer there were approximately 8,000 pupils going to school each day. That number has risen to over 50,000 each day this term and that increase has been carried out in a controlled, measured and extremely carefully planned out way. The challenges continue, but what has been shown is that Barnet's schools, and the council teams that support them, are resilient and determined to make this work. Our happy, smiling pupils are the beneficiaries of all this.

Our new education company Barnet Education and Learning Service, BELS, started on the 1 of September, so thank you to all the staff across Education and Skills, Family Services and corporately, who made this happen so quickly and without an interruption in service delivery to schools and families in Barnet.

In Children’s Social Care we are prepared for increased numbers of referrals following the return to school as some children may have experienced hidden harm over the period of lockdown and school absences. Staff across the service have been continuing to deliver services to a range of vulnerable children and I would like to thank them all for the commitment and creativity during challenging times.

OFSTED, the Children’s Service regulator, is beginning to operate again. We have agreed to be part of Wave 1 of Special Education Needs Assurance visits which will take place in mid-October.

Finally, I would like to wish Shanah Tovah (a sweet and happy new year) to our Jewish colleagues and residents who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah this weekend, which marks the start of the High Holy Days. Sadly, as we know, it isn’t going to be possible for people of the Jewish faith to celebrate Rosh Hashanah as they usually would, but I hope you have a good weekend and stay safe while celebrating.

All the best and have a great weekend,

Chris


Weekly message from Chief Executive John Hooton: COVID-19: we all need to stay vigilant

Here in Barnet, infection rates have been steadily increasing for the last three weeks and are now approaching the national ‘watchlist’ levels. The majority of positive tests are from young people and working age people, and while this is not leading to a significant increase in hospital admissions yet, there is a big risk that this higher rate of spread leads to infection of older and more vulnerable people soon. I would really call on everyone reading this to make sure we continue to adhere to the Government’s guidance on social distancing, testing and self-isolation. Now is really not the time to be going to large private gatherings, parties or anything else that is not in accordance with social distancing guidance. Please make sure you are passing this message on to your friends and family! This is the only way we can avoid bigger rises in numbers and increased infections and deaths in the elderly and more vulnerable population.

We all need to do what we can to keep rates low, so we can continue to meet friends and family in person. Remember: members of two households can meet together indoors, or at a restaurant or pub, but you should maintain physical distance while visiting. Members of two households or up to six people from different households can meet outdoors, again maintaining physical distance when doing so. Please refresh your memory on the social distance guidance

If you have returned from abroad, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days unless you have returned from a country on the exempt list. Even if you get tested negative for COVID-19 during this period, you will still need to complete the self-isolation period. Remember, too, if you do develop symptoms, self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible.

With children going back to school, it is important to ensure that they follow the guidelines outside the school as well as in school. If they have been tested COVID-19 positive, they will need to self-isolate for 10 days. If they were identified as contacts of a COVID-19 positive friend, they will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Even if they test negative during self-isolation, they would still have to complete the full 14 day isolation period. Find out more at barnet.gov.uk/testandtrace.

From next Monday, we are beginning the second phase of allowing access to the Colindale office. While we will be able to accept more people into the office than we have done over the past six months, the absolute maximum capacity is still just 30% of ‘normal’ occupation. Especially in light of the recent upward trend in infection rates, I would urge staff to only consider coming into the office if it is essential, and remember that head of service approval is still required. All staff intending to attend the office must also complete the visitor section on the Facilities Management portal, by the day before your planned visit. Refresh yourself on all the regulations in place, including one-way systems, limits on lift use and desk availability, by checking out last week’s message

Finally, I want to say a big congratulations to Giovanna Louca, Information and Enquiries Co-ordinator in the Parking Service. She is our latest Customer Service Star of the Month, for the month of August. I am really pleased that we have restarted this scheme after pausing it during the first months of our COVID-19 response, and it was wonderful to read so many examples of delivering for our residents. Giovanna stood out for her response to a range of parking enquiries during July. The nomination highlighted her ‘speedy follow-up, excellent communication and five-star resolution’. As we know, working in parking services can sometimes be a thankless task, but making the process of applying for permits, vouchers and paying penalties as smooth and joined-up as possible is what is important to our residents. I am looking forward to virtually meeting Giovanna soon to thank her directly. Well done Giovanna! We are now accepting nominations for September’s Customer Service Star – check out the process and how to nominate

Enjoy the weekend

John.


Weekly message from Chief Executive John Hooton: Get involved in our virtual Workplace Wellbeing Month     
    

As we approach a long Bank Holiday weekend, all eyes are looking ahead to September. It is undoubtedly going to be a busy autumn as we continue to respond to the changing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as all the ‘business as usual’ – from business planning to developing our revised Corporate Plan and much more.     
    
So, I was very pleased to see that we are once again running a Workplace Wellbeing Month, which this year will be taking place almost completely virtually. Among the options for you to sign up for are guided meditation, yoga and tai chi – all great options to help find some calm in our busy lives.


The schedule has been co-ordinated by colleagues in Public Health and Communications, based on the feedback received from more than 160 of you in a survey run earlier this summer. Lots of the ideas put forward by staff are incorporated into the calendar of events, from quizzes, to craft sessions, cook-a-longs, virtual workouts and more. There are several challenges taking place throughout the month, including a photo competition, a seated dance challenge and a pedometer step challenge.

Check all the information, joining instructions for week 1’s activities and more 

A dedicated Yammer group for Workplace Wellbeing Month has been set up too, and I would encourage you to join it here. And don’t forget, if you want to start off September in the right way, don’t miss the 6.30am workout on Tuesday morning! Access the links to join it


September will also see the inaugural meetings of some more of our sub-groups set up through the Barnet Equalities Allies. At the beginning of June, I gave a personal commitment to ensuring that we put in place real change to make Barnet a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

There have already been some great innovations, including the launch of equalities workshops with senior managers which started in July and will continue next month, and a very well attended listening workshop for all staff at the beginning of July, following the progress made through the Black Lives Matter movement. Feedback from these sessions and our Equalities Allies have revealed a desire to have a number of targeted groups that focus on specific equalities areas. We have already seen the LGBTQ+ network and Women’s Network start to meet during August. The Black Staff Resource and Action Group will have their first meeting on 9 September and the Disability Network will meet on 15 September. Find out more about all of these networks and other groups planned to start soon.

I also want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to the Barnet Equalities Allies for all the hard work that has taken place over the last few months.


Finally, next week will also see a return to school for children and young people – for many, for the first time since schools closed at the beginning of lockdown. Our Getting Barnet Back to School campaign has produced a wealth of resources to help parents, teachers and young people as they prepare to return to some form of normality. Visit barnet.gov.uk/backtoschool for links to videos, podcasts and articles, all aimed at promoting you and your children’s wellbeing. A short film is also available featuring young people explaining what to expect when they return to school in September.

The film covers the fact that the return to school in September will be compulsory for all, the changes students can expect to see around school, what bubbles mean, where to go for support, a reminder on good hygiene and how to get to school safely.


Enjoy the long weekend
John.

     


Weekly message from Chief Executive John Hooton: Keep safe – COVID-19 has not gone away     

As we go into the final weeks of the summer, we have very much seen a trend of people trying to return to as much of a normal life as possible. This includes travelling, using local businesses and shops and returning to the office and very shortly, schools and colleges.     
     
Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not gone away for good yet, so we need to remain vigilant and keep to the current guidelines on remaining safe and continue to socially distance.


There has been a rise of COVID cases in parts of the borough over the last week, and our Public Health Team have been working hard to contain the spread of coronavirus locally.


The number of cases per 100,000 remains relatively low, at 11.5 cases per 100,000, but the increasing trend is obviously of concern. Public Health is collaborating with several other departments in the council and the NHS to increase our activity to try to flatten this trend.


Public Health have been increasing track and trace/testing in Barnet and reinforcing messages in the community about washing hands, wearing face coverings and keeping to social distance measures. Also, all the prevention messages about keeping safe by not meeting in large groups outside of the members of your household you live with, all still stand.


As well as increasing our communication around social distancing and encouraging people to get tested if they have symptoms, we are using additional messaging in areas where there have been clusters of cases. We are working closely with local community groups and asking for their support to get safety messages out.
Whether you are borough residents or not, please do make sure you are adhering to public health guidance and please reiterate these messages to friends and family as we can all make a positive difference in limiting the spread of the virus.


Public Health, the Adult Social Care Quality Team and the London Coronavirus Response Centre are continuing to support care homes where routine testing identifies either staff or residents with COVID. Public Health will continue to review the situation daily and adapt its approach in response to any change in the number of cases.
In terms of our office working patterns, the message remains that you should continue to work from home if you don’t have any need to work from the office. However, from September, we are expecting that teams will start coming into the office more and we are encouraging teams to begin catching up face-to-face more regularly. We are also advising people to come into the office more regularly if this is necessary to deliver our services most effectively. More guidance on this will be coming out through your departmental management teams over the next couple of weeks.


Finally, I just wanted to remind everyone that our Customer Service Star of the Month campaign is the perfect opportunity to nominate one of your colleagues for the exemplary customer service you see them doing every day.


We’ll announce August’s winner in next week’s message - looking through the Customer Service Star of the Month nominations also gives me the chance to find out in detail some of the ways you go the extra mile to support people in Barnet.


Enjoy your weekend, stay safe and encourage others to do so, too.
John


Weekly message - a thank you to our COVID-19 Unsung Heroes from Deputy Chief Executive Cath Shaw

Weekly Message from Deputy Chief Executive

So many colleagues have done such an incredible job supporting our communities in Barnet over the last five months that I wanted to use this week’s message to highlight some more of our unsung heroes, following on from John’s weekly message at the beginning of July. I am sure you will join me in thanking all of them:

Street Scene: • Dennis Fortis – Dennis is the cleaner at Oakleigh Depot. He has tirelessly worked throughout the pandemic looking after all the Street Scene colleagues who have had to come into the office to carry out essential tasks, paying particular attention to work spaces and eating areas. Interim Operations Manager Michael Neale commented: “Dennis cleans to a thorough standard and the facility is always in an immaculate condition when he is on duty.”

Family Services: • The Barnet Integrated Clinical Service (BICS) – with little fuss, the team has adapted creatively with the highest professional standards in these unusual circumstances to reach out to the Barnet community (for example, through support lines, virtual platforms, podcasts etc) whilst many have been personally affected and/or known loved ones affected by coronavirus. Dr Anindita Sarkar, Clinical Lead for BICS, said: “It has been a pleasure being their clinical lead and to see how they are valued through the compliments they receive.” • Belen Bueso-Alberdi – Belen is a 0-19 practitioner who came forward to offer assistance to other parts of Family Services during the lockdown period and continued to deliver high quality Early Help in her own role. Alongside her own job, she worked part of the week supporting face to face delivery in other parts of Family Services.

Adults and Health: • Dianne Martin - Dianne played a significant role in dealing with public health funerals – funerals paid for by the council when no relatives can be found or they are unable to pay. During the three months from April to July we received three times more cases than we normally deal with in an entire year. Just before this wave of cases, the officer that was assigned to this role left the council and Dianne led on this on top of her normal role. She never mentioned that this is not “her job” and liaised with families of the deceased with the highest level of professionalism. During this process, she went to the office several times and even delivered documents to funeral directors, executors or family members so that funerals would not get delayed • The Brokerage Team – this team, managed by James Hallifax, has provided an excellent service throughout the pandemic. They’ve worked incredibly hard with hospital teams to arrange care for people who were being discharged from hospital. They’ve helped support hundreds of people out of hospital, getting them safe care within the community. The team has been flexible, adopting new processes in a really short time period, working seven days a week from 8am to 8pm for months to support clients, with many staff working a lot of overtime to ensure seven day coverage. They’ve not complained and just got on with ensuring that they help get people safely home from hospital. James Hallifax, the Brokerage Team Manager, has consistently gone above and beyond and provided excellent leadership of the team.

The Barnet Group: • Bob Thompson – Bob and the West Hendon caretaking team have shown an outstanding positive attitude towards their work despite the situation during lockdown. Bob Thompson has gone the extra mile and has been looking out for vulnerable residents at Silk House • Jorden Moffett - in addition to performing all the activities performed by the other Accommodation Solutions Officers, Jorden has deputised for her manager, and played a key role supporting the procurement of the large number of units needed to accommodate singles and rough sleepers during lockdown. She spent a lot of time scouring the internet to identify potential providers. This helped put us in a good position in the race to procure units for clients following the COVID-19 directives from the Government.

This week has also seen the publication of A-level results, although in a very different way to other years. It has been an incredibly challenging time over recent months for students, teachers and anyone involved in the education of our young people, but I really hope if you are the parent of a teenager receiving their results this week that your child’s hard work has paid off. As corporate parents to our care experienced young people, they are also in our thoughts this week. Teams across Family Services and other parts of the council, as well as Live Unlimited, have done a great job during lockdown in ensuring that these vulnerable young people are as well supported as possible during a difficult time for all of us. Don’t forget that if some extra support is needed this week, we have also partnered with Kooth, a free, anonymous and 24/7 online counselling service for young people between ages 11 and 24 – a campaign has launched across the borough this week. You can also read about the experiences of some students and teachers from a range of Barnet schools in our press release

Finally, you may have seen in the news late last night that France and Holland, as well as several other countries, have from tomorrow morning been added to the list of countries where visitors who return to the UK will need to quarantine for 14 days. If you are planning to travel abroad, please ensure that you are aware of our approach to quarantine, and the conversations you should have with your teams and managers. You can find all the details on Yammer

Enjoy the weekend

Cath

 


Weekly Guest Message from Greenspaces and Leisure, Matthew Gunyon

Weekly Guest Message from Greenspaces and Leisure

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown showed just how important access to parks and open spaces is and although we didn’t close any of our parks during the lockdown, it was necessary to close some facilities in order to control the spread of the virus.  It was heart-breaking to see our children’s play areas and other outdoor facilities closed off and it’s great to see all of the spaces/facilities back in use – having had a really good, deep clean!

Lockdown meant that gyms and other leisure facilities had to close, this meant there were few options available to residents but to go the park.  As a result, the numbers of people using our parks for exercise or just to get some fresh air significantly increased during lockdown. Lockdown might have eased but, I hope that residents continue to come to our parks.

Just prior to the start of lockdown, we had completed the £5m refurbishment of Silkstream Park and Montrose Playing Fields as the first phase of the Colindale Parks Project (Phase two of the project will pick up Colindale and Rushgrove Parks). Both parks have had a huge facelift in terms of environmental enhancements. These include opening up access to the Silkstream River that runs through both parks and the creation of a raft of brand new parks facilities that include playgrounds, a fantastic skate park (as an ex skater I am a big fan) and sports facilities that include the boroughs first Parkour area.

I want to say a huge thank you to the Greenspaces and Leisure Team and the Grounds Maintenance Team for all their hard work over the last few months in ensuring the parks were clean and safe, and for their resilience in embracing the changes that came as guidance changed and restrictions were lifted. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Parking Client Team and their contractor NSL as well as the Community Safety Team and their contractor Kingdom, who together helped to patrol our parks at the start of lockdown ensuring the government guidance was followed.

Our parks continue to be busy and even with regular visits by our litter teams keeping on top of the litter and the rubbish piled up next to bins, there are also the fire risks posed by barbeques, which in Barnet are not permitted. All these factors are proving to be a real challenge for the Parks Team. 

From today and throughout the weekend, most of London is on heatwave and high air pollution alert, so make sure you take care, especially if you are spending a lot of time outside enjoying the sunshine.

Please do go out and enjoy your local park with your friends and family, but please follow the government guidelines, if the bins are full, take your rubbish home and always check if barbeques are allowed in your local park.

Finally, the Public Health team have also asked me to let you know that cases of COVID-19 in Barnet continue to be low overall, though we are seeing some sporadic cases suggesting the virus has not gone away. As part of our overall Public Health campaign, we are now publishing weekly dashboards so that our communities can be alerted to any infection spread: Barnet COVID-19 dashboard and local outbreak control plan

Since we have launched the campaign, we have seen an increase in testing across the borough which is positive news.

Please continue to adhere to the guidelines, stay safe and enjoy the weekend.

Matthew Gunyon


In his latest Weekly Message, John Hooton talks about: Adapting the ways we work

Back in May, we were already starting to look at developing a recovery plan on how the ways we work might look in the future.

Barnet is beginning to emerge from lockdown with many of our high street shops, leisure centres and gyms reopening.

While we remain concerned and plan for another wave of Coronavirus, we hope that we will not have to lockdown again and we can continue to work on our recovery plan for the future success of the borough.

The strength of our community response will be vital in our recovery work, and as an example of the initiatives we are taking, we have given £50k to Crowdfund Barnet to help fund ideas from residents to build an even more resilient community.

This week we received a lovely note from Hendon Mosque ahead of Eid this weekend, who are happy to be able to open their doors again – having put social distancing measures in place. I would like to take this moment to wish a safe and happy Eid Mubarak to those colleagues who are celebrating it over the next few days.

Internally, I can’t stress enough how proud I am of the way everyone across the council have pulled together, deployed staff/teams to work on our response (a lot of the time picking up completely different work) all while still delivering services to the people of Barnet.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at how will we be working in the future. The message for staff up until now has been to continue to work from home, where possible, until September. I am extremely appreciative of staff whose roles have meant they have had to maintain some presence in the office and other workplaces throughout the COVID crisis and of course, frontline teams who have continued to do their usual work out in the community.

From September onwards, depending on the type of roles or services a team delivers, we expect some staff will be going into the office more regularly, and this will particularly be in teams where you need to be in the office to be able to deliver the most optimal services for residents. Managers in your services will be talking to you over the coming weeks about what those working patterns might look like. In parallel, Facilities Management, Health & Safety and HR will be reviewing the current COVID secure arrangements in all of our buildings to ensure they are a safe, as well as pleasant environment to be in.

Many of us will still be working for the most part from home, and it is important to make sure we all have the correct equipment to work safely. Staff should complete a Home Working Assessment form and discuss any additional requirements with your line manager and complete an equipment loan request form from the facilities portal.

Our priority is the health and wellbeing of our staff, and we recognise from the COVID-19 Staff Survey that the interaction we get from the working in the office has definitely had an impact and is missed by many of us. So while we are recommending that people continue to work from home in the most part, we are also recommending that those teams who will be mainly home based, have some of form of physical meeting with their teams, safely, at a regular slot that suits everyone.

We are still constrained on space in the office as a result of COVID-19 at the moment, but if we emerge from the pandemic next year, in the longer term I hope that we can combine the benefits of working from home in terms of less travel, flexibility and an improved work life balance, alongside coming into the office for part of the week for example to meet with colleagues and in teams.

I hope that you take some time to have a break at some point over the summer where possible. Everyone has been working extremely hard, so please don’t forget to take some annual leave.

Enjoy your weekend and the remainder of the summer. 

John


John Hooton: Celebrating services we deliver for the people of Barnet  

 
We are restarting our Customer Service Star of the Month scheme this week and there have been so many examples of how we have been delivering services to our residents over the past few months.  This has ranged from delivering critical services, delivering food and essentials to people, providing telephone support and advice, and continuing to keep our borough safe and clean. I am looking forward to reading many inspiring stories from across the business.     
    

Nominate your Customer Service Star of the Month and find out more about the Our Stars awards

Another vitally important job has been continuing to make sure we safeguard our most vulnerable children and young people – a challenging task at the best of times, but even more so during COVID-19. On Tuesday this week I had a chat to the children’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team at Colindale, who have continued to work throughout the pandemic, through a mixture of remote working and working in the office while observing social distancing and COVID-secure guidelines. The team do an amazing job in very difficult circumstances, and it was great to hear about how they have adapted to working differently while making sure that the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people in Barnet remains our absolute priority. 


I also went to Montrose Park on Tuesday, which is now fully open with restrictions on play areas and outdoor gyms lifted. With our leisure centres also opening again this weekend and COVID-19 infection rates continuing on a downward trend nationally, people’s lives are beginning to return to some sort of normality again, which is encouraging and positive to see after the months of restrictions we have all had to live through since March. You can read all about the reopening of our leisure centres and all the work that has gone into making them safe and secure to use in this week’s First Team interview with Cassie Bridger, our Assistant Director for Greenspaces and Leisure. It is important to remember, though, that COVID-19 has not yet gone away – new rules come in today requiring the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets, in addition to the existing law to wear them on public transport. Check the rules, and exemptions on Yammer.


Finally, I would like to send my best wishes to Steve Leader, the Fire Brigade borough commander for Barnet, who has announced that he is moving on after eight years in the role. Steve has served the people of Barnet so well in such an important role. He will be moving on in early August, and will be replaced by Kevin McKenzie.

Enjoy the weekend
John.


Weekly Message -  conversations, and actions, on Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion from John Hooton

BEA John Hooton

It’s been six weeks since I sent my last message on addressing equalities and diversity issues across our organisation, following the Black Lives Matter protests. We have been working to start the organisational changes needed to tackle inequality, particularly in terms of racial inequality, and create a more inclusive workplace. I have set out some updates on this below.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) Listening Workshop on the 8 July received a huge response from our staff and partners. More than 130 people attended the listening workshop and it was great that so many people engaged and shared their experiences. The feedback of attendees will be used to help inform us on some of the actions we need to take to achieve our goals. There are plans for more listening workshops and the Barnet Equalities Allies are meeting next week to confirm when the next events on the Diversity Calendar will be happening. The full feedback document from the listening workshop can be accessed

 

We have already kicked off several pieces of work that we want to progress rapidly to improve opportunities for the recruitment, development and progression of BAME staff. Some of these things are already underway, including providing training to our senior managers to increase their awareness of structural racism and help to avoid unconscious bias. This started last week. Other things, such as BAME representation on interview panels, undertaking an ethnicity pay gap audit, and establishing a programme of reverse-mentoring, will be up and running shortly. We are also listening to the suggestions of the Barnet Equalities Allies to ensure that we really understand what needs to be done.

I’d like to thank colleagues from the Equalities Allies for their hard work on this agenda. I am very clear that we must empower the BEA group to challenge us and collaborate with us to do things better and differently, and to champion important causes, but also that as a council we need to step up and take on much of the work on equalities that I have referred to above.

These actions, and much more, will be included in an updated Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion policy for the council which will be taken to the Communities, Leadership and Libraries (CLL) Committee on the 16 September for approval.

It is important you know that we are working on changes that aren’t about one-off events, but will confirm the commitment we have made to address equalities here at Barnet. As someone mentioned to me recently, this is a movement, not just a moment!

Less than half of staff (31%) who were asked at the listening workshop felt that they could raise issues relating to diversity and equality in the council, so clearly there’s still a lot of work to be done. What is really positive is that since my last message with the Barnet Equalities Allies went out, more staff have joined and are taking an active part in not just the Black Lives Matter issues, but also setting up other groups, such a Women’s network, to further empower staff.

Much of what I have updated on above refers to our work internally in the council. There are also very important ways in which we need to engage with our community in Barnet on these agendas, which we will also be taking forward in our health and wellbeing strategy, our community engagement and many other places. I will keep updating you all on this in future messages.

Finally, I just wanted to confirm that regarding council working patterns, we continue to advise that all staff should continue with their COVID-19 working patterns until at least September and only come into the office if it is essential (and with Head of Service approval).

Thank you for your continued support and hard work.

Have a good weekend. John

 


Weekly message - a thank you to our COVID-19 Unsung Heroes from Chief Executive John Hooton

Barnet Council's Unsung COVID-19 Heroes

It has been amazing how many people have done such an incredible job supporting our communities in Barnet over the last four months since COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic, creating so many challenges and changing our lives so significantly.

 

Our teams have been there to ensure essential services continue and our most vulnerable residents continue to be cared for. That’s why this week, and again at the beginning of August, I am dedicating my weekly message to some of Barnet’s COVID-19 Unsung Heroes. I am sure you will join me in thanking all of them:

 

Family ServicesImran Ahmed and The REACH Team – the team continues to work virtually with children and young people throughout this period. However, there has been one member of the team that has had to undertake all the face to face home visits to our young people and support them in court and at the police station. Imran Ahmed joined us a few days before lockdown so had limited time to get to know the team and our young people. He has been outstanding in carrying out visits to our most vulnerable young people and their families, building relationships and supporting them during this time • Children’s Social Workers in Assessment, Intervention and Planning - the visibility of many vulnerable children has reduced along with the support structures that are usually available for them. To ensure that children and young people who are vulnerable to abuse and neglect, exposed to violence in the home and at risk of exploitation are safeguarded from harm, social workers in the Assessment, Intervention and Planning Service have remained on the frontline. Their diligence and determination has been evident as they undertake home visits to children on Child Protection Plans to effectively manage risk and work in partnership with families and professionals, often in creative ways, to ensure assessments and interventions continue to keep children safe • Faith Robertson and her Positive Activities Team – the team have worked tirelessly in developing and delivering a range of online activities and resource packs – they have gone from 0-90 in a very short space of time so that we could deliver positive activities for our children, young people and families. They have worked evenings and weekends to film and deliver sessions and have really taken up the challenge of creativity in these times • Debra Davies - for her exceptional work in ensuring online children’s centre activities, and the development and delivery across the borough of resources for under-5s.

 

ReThe Cemetery and Crematorium Team - during the height of the pandemic, under enormous pressure and in extremely difficult circumstances, Re’s Cemetery and Crematorium staff, alongside a number of redeployed colleagues, successfully continued to provide a vital service for the residents of Barnet. The team provide a critical service to Barnet’s residents and experienced very high demand for funerals throughout April, May and June. In early April, the existing Cemetery and Crematorium Team made a request for additional resource for support to assist with funerals, funeral arrangements and to take calls from customers to ensure provision of the service. In total, six Re colleagues from a variety of services such as Pest Control, Customer Service Hub, Highways and Planning volunteered to assist. The redeployed staff worked part time on shifts with the existing team at the Crematorium and, once trained, used their transferrable skills and a great deal of empathy to provide invaluable assistance to the existing staff. We are extremely grateful to the whole team for their dedication and support during this time. The staff at Hendon Cemetery and Crematorium look forward to a time when they can welcome back all of the bereaved families and friends who attended limited funerals or were unable to attend funerals during this time, due to the lockdown.

 

The Barnet GroupAlex Manaseh - Alex mobilised the Emergency Accommodation Team to do an incredible job of housing a large number of rough sleepers during the emergency drive to get people off the streets and into accommodation • Apthorp Care Home staff – the team did an amazing job of looking after the home and keeping things running. They have gone above and beyond in their commitment to the residents, staying late, coming in early and working extra shifts • Alison Rodgie - for stepping up and taking on the project management and roll-out of new software to Housing Options, Income Collection and WRTF whilst continuing to juggle the day job and the delivery of improved quality of the customer care team through the implementation of a daily dashboard. Alison has delivered business solutions to meet the needs of these challenging times.

 

We will be highlighting more unsung heroes at the beginning of August. Get in touch with First Team if you want to highlight any teams or colleagues that deserve a mention. Finally, it’s not just been council colleagues that have been unsung heroes during these unprecedented times, the Barnet community has also stepped up to help each other. Monday sees the launch of the next phase of Together, we are Barnet – a celebration of the diverse communities who call Barnet home. Watch and read about some of our fantastic local organisations who have supported Barnet residents through recent months, and if you know of any unsung heroes who have brought their Barnet communities together, please do encourage them to share their stories on engage.barnet.gov.uk/barnettogether.

 

Enjoy the weekend

 

John.


Guest Weekly Message from Chief Executive of The Barnet Group, Tim Mulvenna

Dear all,

I hope you are all keeping well at this time. I'd like to thank Barnet Council for giving me the opportunity to share a bit about what The Barnet Group does, and why we're all so proud of what we do.

For those who don't know, The Barnet Group was established in 2012 to unite Barnet Homes and Your Choice Barnet into one family. Since then, we have been on a period of sustained growth, increasing both our turnover and staff numbers year on year. We employ over 1,000 people and deliver a wide range of services across Barnet.

There are so many aspects of our business I could share with you, each as important and diverse as the other, but here are some key aspects of what we do every day.

  • We manage council housing. Barnet Homes manages almost 14,000 homes, as well as the council's homelessness service. We help Barnet residents when they are in most need, and help build stronger communities. In 2014, we built the first council homes in the borough for some 20 years, which kick-started an ambitious development programme, building homes for those who need them most. In 2017, we launched Opendoor Homes, our registered provider of social housing, which is building homes for affordable rent in new and innovative ways
  • We look for new ways to adapt and respond to the housing crisis, so in 2018 we launched Bumblebee, an online-only lettings agency
  • We support the most vulnerable. Your Choice Barnet manages six services for people with learning disabilities. Your Choice Care looks after older people in three care homes, and those living with dementia at our new purpose-built facility at Ansell Court in Mill Hill. Our Assist service provides life-saving telecare and emergency responses. PA Choices, our Floating Support service, and Your Choice Enablement provide one-to-one care for some of the most vulnerable people in our community
  • We help people get into work and training. Our BOOST service provides essential support at several locations across the borough to help people get back on their feet and part or full-time work, training or volunteering.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to provide a service to our customers which we can be proud of, and we continue to grow.

On Wednesday, we took the next step on our journey when we launched our new in-house repairs service, welcoming almost 50 new staff to our Barnet Group family. This comes at the end of months of hard work from colleagues across the business and means we will be able to deliver a person-centred service to our customers.

Everyone at The Barnet Group is so excited for what the future holds, as we continue to grow and develop our services for the people of Barnet.

Take care,

Tim.


Weekly Message from John Hooton: reflecting on sad news     
 

This week, I was very saddened to hear of the deaths of Jane Keep, the manager of New Park House children’s home, and Dave Hill, who was Director of Children’s Services at Surrey County Council and who was the Chair of the Barnet Children’s Services Improvement Board from 2017 to 2019.     
 

I first met Jane back in 2017 soon after I started this job when she showed me around one of our children’s homes, and I was struck by her enthusiasm and dedication to children in our care. Speaking this week, her colleagues described Jane as extremely loyal and supportive to her team at New Park House. Together they achieved so much over the years and had such an amazingly positive impact on the lives of children and young people in Barnet. Jane always provided valuable guidance and support to her team and was a very well respected manager. Jane was devoted to her mother, her niece, her nephew and her wife Tracy.  She was a good friend to many and known for her wonderful sense of humour. A tribute to Jane has been paid on Yammer, which you can read and contribute to.

Dave Hill was one of the most respected people in local government. He had a number of Director of Children’s Services roles, most recently in Essex and Surrey, specialising in turning round failing services and creating some of the best performing teams in the country and, most importantly, making such a difference to the lives of so many children. He was also a Government-appointed commissioner in a number of councils, and in Barnet he was the chair of our improvement board for two years. Dave was a truly inspirational person, and one of the nicest and friendliest people I’ve worked with. He provided me with a huge amount of valuable advice for which I will always be grateful. I know that Chris Munday, Tina McElligott, Brigitte Jordaan and their teams greatly appreciated Dave’s support and guidance. My condolences to Chris who has lost a friend and colleague he has known for 17 years. I am sure all of you will join me in paying our respects to the family and friends of Jane and Dave this week.

This week has also seen some inaccurate reporting from the BBC about the council’s financial position as a result of COVID-19. Due to misunderstanding our recent report to Policy and Resources Committee, a BBC journalist named Barnet as one of the councils that may struggle to balance its budget if the COVID-19 emergency continues. As I said yesterday, this is not the case. We are not planning to issue a Section 114 notice and are not in danger of ‘running out’ of money. Having said that, all councils in the country are being hit hard by the financial impact of COVID-19 and I hope that further Government funding will be forthcoming over the coming weeks and months. We are continuing to lobby the Government on further funding while colleagues across the council are working hard to plan for future years’ budgets. We will continue to keep you updated on the financial situation over the coming months.

Managers this week will have received details of COVID-19 staff risk assessment forms, which any staff who fall into ‘high risk’ categories or have concerns should fill out as we look to continue working on service recovery plans across the organisation. Please discuss this with your managers if you have any concerns. In terms of working location, we are continuing to advise that all staff should continue working from home unless it is absolutely essential to come into the office.

Finally, thank you to all of those who have got involved so far in marking Pride Month here in Barnet. There was a successful quiz on Wednesday evening, and I really appreciated First Team’s focus on Assistant Director Ashley Hughes, about his lived experience of being a gay man in the workplace. Don’t forget that there is a discussion on Microsoft Teams on Monday about the film The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson.

John.

     


Celebrating our diversity: a message from John Hooton

This week saw our first meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and the first ever ‘virtual’ one. There were several important papers debated, including reports on our financial position and the framework that we are putting in place to shape our COVID-19 recovery plans.     
     

There was also a really important discussion about the disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities and strong political commitment from all parties that we need to do more, both in terms of our recovery and more widely as we look to embed a real focus on equalities and in particular tackling racial inequality. The committee invited the Barnet Equalities Allies back to a future meeting, and I look forward to working with colleagues and Members over the coming months on this important agenda.


As you will have seen in this week’s First Team, we are currently in Pride Month – a time to celebrate our LGBTQ colleagues. While there won’t be a parade in London this year due to COVID-19, many organisations are looking at ways to celebrate the month in different ways. Here in Barnet, we are encouraging colleagues to watch The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson on Netflix over the next week, ahead of a discussion about it with colleagues on Microsoft Teams on Monday 30 June. The Barnet Equalities Allies are also running an LGBTQ quiz open to all on Microsoft Teams from 5pm next Wednesday (24 June), and I am looking forward to seeing an interview with Finance Assistant Director Ashley Hughes in next week’s First Team about his reflections on LBGT issues in the workplace based on his career and lived experiences. Click here to read everything we are doing to mark Pride on Yammer.


Monday is Windrush Day – the day when we celebrate the arrival of Caribbean people in Britain between 1948 and 1973, and again there are lots of ways that this can be celebrated remotely. Check out all our ideas on Yammer and, if you have parents or relatives who were part of the Windrush generation, we are asking you to share old photos and memories 


Finally, in the week where we have launched our ‘Barnet thanks you’ campaign across the borough, I want to say one more thank you to everyone for all of your hard work over the last three months. The challenge was unprecedented and the efforts that have been put in are truly remarkable. As we are now gradually easing out of lockdown, we are starting to return to delivering more of our services and picking up important projects again. I am conscious that this is happening while we are still running a lot of additional services as part of our Covid response – so it is a very busy time for many people! It is a tricky balance to strike, how we step up our services while we gradually scale back our response, and I appreciate everyone’s hard work and understanding over this time. 


Enjoy the weekend
John.


Recognising carers in Barnet: a thank-you from John Hooton  
     

This week has been Carers Week. The COVID-19 crisis has shone a light on the amazing work that carers – paid and unpaid – do to look after the elderly, vulnerable and ill in our communities. Carers Week is particularly about recognising the role of unpaid carers – like many of you who may not even think of yourself in that way, but who carry out caring responsibilities for elderly parents, relatives or friends.     

We heard from Marielle Molette, who works in our Joint Commissioning Team but also cares for her mother with dementia, in this week’s First Team and stories like her’s really help to show what an important job so many of you do. Yesterday a number of staff joined an online live Q&A with Mike Rich, Chief Executive of Barnet Carers Centre, where he provided helpful advice and gave pointers to resources available for unpaid carers in the borough. If you missed the Q&A, watch it again You can also read all about Carers Week on Yammer.

It has been incredible to see the efforts of so many staff and residents who give to others during their spare time, which was focused on through last week’s Volunteers Week. Looking across the borough, we see people helping out at food banks and through a range of roles in community groups, and we have also been able to get resident volunteers involved in the work of the Essential Supplies Hub, loading and unloading delivery trucks and packing food and essentials to help our most vulnerable and shielding households across Barnet. Don’t forget that as a council we offer all LBB staff two days of Employer Supported Volunteering – head to the Volunteering Barnet site to find out more about the opportunities available and how you can get involved. And watch this YouTube video which recognises the contributions of all the volunteers who are making a difference in the borough, with a special appearance from the Mayor of Barnet.


Despite the challenges of the last few months, it has been so positive to see so many people coming together to support people across Barnet. Many of these stories are highlighted in a special issue of Barnet First magazine, released this week, which reflects on the impact of COVID-19 and celebrates how council staff, keyworkers and communities have worked together to keep Barnet safe. This coming Monday is also the launch of our ‘thank you’ campaign, an opportunity for us all to take a moment to say ‘thank you’ to someone who has helped us through this difficult time and share our messages online using #BarnetTogether. Today I have also (virtually) met and passed on my thanks to our borough’s Integrated Discharge Team – a joint effort between the council and the NHS which works together to help people transition smoothly from hospital to home. As with so many staff across the organisation, their role has been key to dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and they have done a fantastic job.


Finally, I wanted to give you another reminder of the restrictions currently in place in terms of the Colindale office. It remains our position, in line with Government guidance, that everyone who can work from home should continue to do so at least until September. We understand that some of the restrictions we have had to put in place, such as the one-way system, guidance around lifts and meeting rooms and the closure of kitchenettes, are causing an inconvenience to people who do have to be in the building. We are not just doing this to be annoying, we have a deadly disease that is still circulating in the country, and we are advised by experts on how to minimise the spread of infection in our buildings. We will keep looking at how we improve facilities, including access to water, tea and coffee, over the coming weeks. In the meantime, please only come into the office if it is absolutely essential, and thank you again for your continued support during this difficult period.


I hope you enjoy the weekend.
John.

     
 


Chief Exec John Hooton and the Barnet Equalities Allies: How #blacklivesmatter can inspire us to improve Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Barnet

Black Lives Matter message from John Hooton

The events of the past two weeks following the death of George Floyd in America and subsequent protests all around the world have certainly made me think about racial injustice and equalities issues, and I want to take this opportunity to say that I support the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Of course these issues of injustice and inequality are not just something that we see on the news from the USA, they are issues that directly affect the UK and Barnet. The protests and the outcry against police brutality have arrived right at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also disproportionately affected BAME people in this country.

I also realise that signalling support for a movement is one thing, but for it to be meaningful it has to be backed up by action and change.

We have been looking at how to embed equality and diversity across the council and in our local communities, but one commitment I want to make now is instilling a different approach to how we recruit and to how we lead and manage the organisation. I know that in management across Barnet Council, we are not as diverse as we should be and this is something that needs to change. I am committing to immediately work with our HR team to ensure that our recruitment processes, mentoring and development programmes address this lack of diversity.

I am also conscious that as a privileged white man, who is committed to listening and learning, I want to share my platform to amplify the voices of those with lived experience.

I have asked our Barnet Equalities Allies to use the second half of my message this week. In respect of changes to our HR policies, how we support and develop BAME staff, and other aspects of work to tackle racial inequality, I will be asking our Equalities Allies for recommendations and will be implementing them. If this is a matter you feel strongly about, please feel free to email me directly, or contact our Equalities Allies, to feed in your views.

John

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Equalities message from the Barnet Equalities Allies:

We are a group of colleagues who are passionate about being part of creating an inclusive environment in Barnet. As a group of volunteers with strong links in the community and representation at Barnet EDI steering group, we are in a good position to bring forward input from staff and service users in Barnet on Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion. The events of the past weeks have inspired us to step up our efforts to raise the profile of equality, diversity and inclusion at our workplace. We definitely want to encourage more of you to join us and get involved with our activities.

We are really encouraged that our Chief Executive John Hooton has been so supportive of the principles of Barnet Equalities Allies and that he values our contribution to help shape the narrative of a more inclusive workforce - we are all part of #teambarnet. We delivered some equalities training to managers two years ago and some useful developments came out of this as a result.

Earlier this year we sent out a Barnet Equalities Allies (BEA) survey. The top three areas you said you would like to see us work on more were: events/activities that champion and celebrate diversity; staff feeling able to challenge discriminatory behaviour in the workplace; and more training and development for staff.

Previously, our work has included marking cultural and inclusive events such as International Womens Day and Black History Month. Now we want to encourage colleagues to show their solidarity with #blacklivesmatter because it is having such a huge impact on many of us and so many people around the world. There are no barriers to making a contribution, neither should these discussions be limited to certain groups of staff. The survey has told us that there is an appetite to create some specialist sub-groups to help raise awareness and support for staff with disabilities, LGBTQ staff and part-time staff, and we will be sharing more information on these groups in the coming weeks.

We have a Barnet Equalities Allies Yammer Group which we are keen to promote as a safe, welcoming space for all staff to be able to raise any issues, or start a conversation about equalities, diversity and inclusion at Barnet. We really encourage you to use this as a platform to share experiences that we can all learn from and keep this conversation going – we will certainly be sharing some of our personal experiences and insight on equalities in the workplace and welcome comments/feedback on this from any of you who want to join in.

BEA is open to all staff who want to make a contribution to helping shape relevant plans and strategies around Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion. If you would like to join Barnet Equalities Allies or have any suggestions for us please contact: BarnetEqualitiesAllies@barnet.gov.uk

Thank you


 

22 May 2020

Weekly Executive Message from John Hooton: Supporting care homes across Barnet     

The Care Quality Team and Public Health have been continuing to work very hard to support care homes in the borough throughout this crisis and I wanted to start today by highlighting the important initiatives happening.     

We’ve increased financial support for providers and to residential and nursing homes to help the team implement several strategies to further keep staff and residents safe in care settings. This includes delivering Personal Protective Equipment at no personal cost to providers. We’ve also intensified the support we offer to care providers and staff with weekly webinar training sessions on infection prevention and control for providers, virtual GP and Pharmacy appointments for care and nursing home residents. Most importantly, we created early access to staff testing through local NHS testing sites in addition to the national testing programme. Thanks to all Council and NHS teams who are working in partnership on these initiatives.

Everyone has been brilliant at adapting your roles and in many cases, taking on new ones – but juggling this with life at home under lockdown I know comes with many challenges. Which is why we know that the impact on your health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. One way we are addressing this is through asking everyone how we can support you with your mental health and wellbeing in the COVID-19 staff survey. The deadline for the survey has been extended to Wednesday 27 May, so there is still time to fill it out if you haven’t already.

It was really positive to see Kindness Week, (as part of Mental Health Awareness Week), at Barnet take off. The Public Health Team were able to use this as a platform to remind people of all the mental health and wellbeing packages we support and encourage our staff to take up. Our Mental Health First Aiders also held a live discussion to encourage people to approach them for help if they need to and the session also revealed that many colleagues benefit from the support of each other. There is a growing mental health and wellbeing community on Yammer and the intranet, which are both now being regularly updated with useful resources. I hope that lots of you continue to share positive stories about your teams every Friday as part of #ThoughtsforFriday, as it is so uplifting for teams/individuals to know they have made a difference.

Speaking of supporting each other, Barnet hosted its first virtual multi-faith iftar on Wednesday. Community leaders from the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths talked about how they can facilitate the community effort to build relations across faiths during, and after, COVID 19. Iftar is the meal that the Muslim community share with family and friends to break the day of fasting during Ramadan, which ends this weekend with Eid. I hope that colleagues have a happy, healthy and safe Eid, although it will be observed very differently this year.

Finally, I would like to wish everybody an enjoyable bank holiday weekend – although the message is still to stay alert, stay at home and not make any unnecessary journeys. The same goes for returning to work on Tuesday. If it is essential that you come in to deliver services - social distancing measures, desk cleaning and handwashing will need to be followed strictly as per the national guidelines. Our advice to all staff is to continue to work from home if you can.


Thank you

John.


     

Friday 15th May 2020

Weekly Message from Chief Executive John Hooton: Your feedback is a vital part of how we’ll plan our next steps

Positive news to report is that within recent weeks, we have seen a real decrease in the number of local COVID cases, suggesting that we are well over the peak and moving into the next phase of the pandemic. Care settings in Barnet have not reported any new infections or deaths for over a week. This is testimony to all the hard work and systems our Public Health and Adults teams have put in place, as well as people respecting social distancing and lockdown guidelines.

We have been working very closely with Public Health England and the local NHS and have had a number of interventions in place over the last two months to support care settings as we know that COVID is here to stay for a while. Our Infection Control team has also been scaled up, as well as support from local GPs and a multidisciplinary health team that will start on Monday to provide support such as physiotherapy, mental health support and occupational therapy for our residents.

In line with COVID-19 cases falling nationally, the Government has set out a phased reopening of society over the coming months, conditional on a number of factors.

What does this mean for us over the coming months? I wrote to everyone yesterday about how we are planning for the next phase

Yesterday we released the COVID-19 Staff Survey to find out your views on how working life has been impacted by the challenges the pandemic has bought.  I appreciate everyone is very busy at moment, but I would really encourage as many of you as possible to take some time to fill out the survey.  Whilst you’ve all been fantastic at adapting your roles to make sure critical services continue, myself and the Senior Management Team know that the lockdown will have had a major impact on your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Therefore, it is vital you complete the survey, as your feedback will form an important part of planning the next phase for the organisation, as we emerge from lockdown.

As well as frontline services, other teams have also been working hard to ensure business continuity. COVID-19 presented particular challenges for the Governance team and our democratic process. On Wednesday 13th May, Barnet Council held its first virtual public planning committee, which considered, and approved, the reserved matters application for the detailed design of the new Brent Cross West Station. The approval of the design of the new £40million Brent Cross West Station is another significant milestone in the delivery of our Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration programme. The state-of-the-art station will provide a new transport gateway to our vibrant new town centre Brent Cross South, and communities already living in Brent Cross. The work continues to progress on site - have a look at this clip of a massive fuel tank being craned in to place. You can find out more about the Brent Cross Cricklewood project at TransformingBX.co.uk.


Regardless of where you are working from, or what role you do – if like me, you have been following the weekly stories about colleagues in First Team one thing has stood out – that colleagues and teams have definitely been boosted during this time through supporting each other. Now we can all further show our endorsement of #TeamBarnet by supporting Kindness Week (in support of Mental Health Awareness Week) in Barnet which begins in Monday. Every day will have an activity to help colleagues with their mental health, including a Q&A with the Mental Health First Aiders. The main point of Kindness Week is to help colleagues think about something positive and share something good about a colleague next Friday on Yammer using another hashtag #thoughtsforFriday.


Have a great weekend.
John

 


    

Thursday 14th May 2020

Update for staff from Chief Executive John Hooton – planning for the next phase of COVID-19 and remote working  

The last two months have seen the organisation transform its ways of working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On behalf of all of the senior management team, I would like to thank all of you for adapting to these changes and dealing with these challenges so well while still managing to deliver critical services for residents. We have worked hard together to protect vulnerable communities and staff, kept our sickness absence very low and levels of infection in the borough have reduced to minimal levels.

Following the latest announcement by the Prime Minister at the weekend, I wanted to update you on how this will impact the council over the coming weeks and months.

The Government has set out a phased reopening of society over the coming months, conditional on a number of factors and the continued suppression of the COVID-19 virus. The first step begins this week where national advice states that those who cannot work from home, should go to their workplaces, if open. Those who can work from home, should continue to do so. There is also some relaxation in rules as to who we can meet with and ability to have unlimited exercise in open spaces. The second step (which will be no earlier than the beginning of June) anticipates the beginning of the phased reopening of non-essential shops, the phased return of schools and the restart of some sporting and cultural events with social distancing restrictions in place. The third step (no earlier than the beginning of July) will see the reopening of some of the hospitality industry and public places such as leisure facilities.

For the time being, we are asking everyone across the council to maintain their existing working arrangements. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be kicking off a process to review all of our service areas and buildings so that we can begin the phased restoration of those services that are currently restricted. This process will involve undertaking COVID-secure health and safety risk assessments for any changes that are made. Senior Managers' involvement with this process will be crucial. Please note, all staff who can continue to work effectively from home should continue to do so for the medium term. In terms of timing, we are seeing this as being at least until September 2020.


We understand that there may occasionally be a requirement for you or colleagues to come into the office. The main office headquarters at Colindale and the office at Oakleigh Depot will remain open. In this case, social distancing measures, desk cleaning and handwashing will need to be followed strictly, as per national guidelines. Please also take note of the guidance on public transport if and when you do need to travel into the office. This advice is that, when travelling, everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact.


If you have any concerns about the new advice and guidelines, or need to discuss bespoke arrangements, please speak in the first instance with your line manager. Any other questions should be directed to first.team@barnet.gov.uk and the appropriate department will respond to you.

Stay safe and healthy.

John.
      


Thursday 7th May 2020

Weekly Message from the Chief Executive: Community Groups supporting people across Barnet

This week I know that the hard work across the organisation to support residents very much continues. I have been particularly impressed with the way we have been supporting hundreds of children and families in the borough, managing to achieve some significant outcomes in such a short space of time.

Our partnership with community groups has been excellent and has succeeded in benefiting the community through the Community Help Hubs and partnership working with Barnet Together.

Firstly, on Wednesday, I visited the UNITAS Youth Zone to meet Tony Lewis and see what was going on there. Less than a year into its operation, the centre has had to close, but this hasn’t stopped them from continuing many of their activities for young people online and embarking on outreach work in the local area. UNITAS have also stepped up their food distribution to those families who really need it and getting their food supplies from the Help Hub. They are also building up links with another community group, One Stonegrove, who I visited today. They are using their café to cook meals for families across Barnet and this week they expect to be delivering more than 2,000 meals. It is an amazing operation and I was really impressed by everything that Gus and the team were doing. These are just a couple of examples of the many community groups doing such great work in the borough.

Colleagues in Children’s Services have been working hard to ensure that children and their families are supported while schools are closed. This includes the delivery of computers, supporting online learning and making sure mental health services to children, young people and their families continues. This is just a small snapshot of the co-ordination of services that we are providing. Social care teams are continuing to visit families, and support disabled children and young people and shielded groups. Library Services have increased their digital offering and include eAudio books, which are free and have been getting really positive feedback.

We are all waiting for the Prime Minister’s announcement of the plan to exit lockdown which is expected on Sunday. Everyone has adapted brilliantly to working in different ways, and right now I don’t want to speculate on what may happen in the future. Whatever the announcements are over the weekend, we will take sufficient time to plan any changes. This will involve developing risk assessments and prioritising the health and safety of our residents and our staff.

So for Monday, please don’t change your usual COVID working pattern. Returning to normal working life will take careful planning to ensure we are able to ensure effective social distancing and keep people safe. Given that we are delivering many services well remotely, we will also make sure we retain some of the changes that have worked well over recent weeks, from more home/flexible working to greater use of things like video calls.

Finally, we are planning to send out an all staff survey early next week which will get a sense of how people are feeling about a range of issues, from changes to working arrangements, IT, staff welfare and so on. There have been some great examples of how we have managed really well over the past few weeks but I am also conscious that there have been some challenges and we want to understand this better. Look out for a link in First Team next week.

I hope everyone enjoys Bank Holiday Friday and what looks like it will be a sunny weekend!

John


Friday 1st May 2020

Weekly Message from the Chief Executive: A huge thank you to everyone in the council and our partner organisations

For the past few weeks, I have been seeing and hearing all the great examples of the work that has been going on to deliver services as part of the COVID-19 emergency response. The amount of change and work everyone has been doing has been absolutely incredible. I am grateful for all you have done and I know our residents are too. Thank you.


I have visited a number of places across the borough this week, including the Oakleigh Road Depot, the Essential Supplies Hub, and Victoria Park in Finchley, where the Park's Enforcement Team and partners have been making sure social distancing continues in our parks and open spaces.


Here is a picture with me and colleagues from the team and police  – it looks a bit odd with us all standing apart but at least we are socially distanced!


Across the board, all our frontline services have done an incredible job to adapt and continue to deliver services despite this challenging time. This includes our Environmental Services Team, including our Waste and Recycling Team and our Social Work Team who continue to visit children, families and vulnerable people across the borough. Everyone in back office has transitioned so quickly working in different ways, working from home and taking on different roles to support the organisation.


We’ve set up a Parks Enforcement Team to enforce social distancing, this involves people from StreetScene, Community Safety, and our contractors Kingdom and NSL. The Essential Supplies Hub is now delivering food to more than 400 vulnerable residents each week, as well as delivering to 14 food banks, hospitals, Homeless Action Barnet and Burnt Oak Women’s Group. We have also really stepped up our work with voluntary and community organisations in Barnet, which has been great to see.


Our Public Health Team have had an incredibly busy few months and have done an amazing job, providing advice and support to our organisation and people across the borough, delivering PPE to care homes, and leading the overall response to the pandemic. We’ve also been very well supported by our Borough Emergency Control Centre (BECC) which is co-ordinated through our emergency planning team but is staffed by volunteers from across our organisation.


Everyone in our wider team in Barnet has played an important part in our response, and it has been really appreciated by people in the borough we serve. I’ve posted a video and some pictures on Yammer.
I’d also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the support we have been getting from our partner organisations during this time who have continued to deliver essential services for our organisation and the borough, as well as redeploying staff to assist with our community support work.


Further good news for the COVID-19 response effort, is that we are making a contribution of £50,000 to the Barnet Community Response Fund and will match (up to £25,000) any public donations. Speaking of fundraising, I know that hundreds of pounds were raised by those of you in The 2.6 Challenge last weekend, which will also go to the response fund, so well done for everyone that got involved.


Over the past few weeks (going into week seven of lockdown) we have had a really challenging time, but the way that the whole organisation has pulled together during this time has been nothing short of incredible. #TeamBarnet is going strong!


I hope everyone has a good weekend.
Thank you everyone,
John


 Friday 24th April 2020

Chief Executive's Weekly Message: Join in with the 2.6 Challenge     
  

As we know, a lot of work over the past weeks has already been done to support older and vulnerable people living in Barnet. From the Food Distribution Hubs to the Community Help Hub, which also brings local charities, faith groups and businesses in to help, too.       

The outcomes have been nothing short of fantastic. However, the lives of young people have also become very unsettled with schools, colleges and universities being closed, exams cancelled and very limited opportunity to socialise with their friends.

This is why I am so pleased that the publicity for the Live Unlimited GiveADongle campaign to help young care leavers has raised more than £4,500. It means that many young care leavers have already received dongles, media tablets and sim cards. I am sure, particularly at the moment, that most of us can’t imagine life without being able to communicate with colleagues, family, friends and the outside world. Just think, most of our care leavers already live alone and struggle to stay connected to outside world with very limited data. They need that data to keep updated with their college work, contact social workers and keep connected with friends.


Some of our care leavers featured in The Big Issue this week and spoke about how much getting a dongle and/or tablet through the LiveUnlimited campaign has meant to them.  Further good news is, on top of receiving requests for dongles and tablets, there’s been a huge increase in applications to the Imagination Trust, a scheme helping looked after children follow their interests and hobbies.


As we enter the fifth week of the lockdown, I want to offer a continued big thanks to everyone continuing to deliver essential services, particularly those who have deployed into other frontline roles. Cath visited the hub last week and I certainly agree with her when she said, ‘The way they have set a completely new service up from scratch is awesome.’ 


As you would have seen in the government briefing last night, testing is now available for all frontline and critical workers. There was an email sent out earlier today to explain this process and how you can arrange your test. Please ensure that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 that you report these to your manager so you can be sent for a test within the critical three day window.


I was glad to see our continued focus on mental health this week. I particularly appreciated getting some insight in this week’s First Team from Karen Morrell, our Head of Mental Health and her service on how they support the community with their mental health, as well as encouraging us all make sure we support each other. Don’t forget there are our Mental Health First Aiders who have a rota to make sure they are available to be a listening ear to staff who need it.


However, our physical health is just as important, and although many of us are working from temporary offices at home (that might not too comfortable) for just a little while longer, the 2.6 Challenge might be just the thing to get started on the fitness trail again – I see from Yammer that many of you are using it as an opportunity to do the 2.6 challenge as a team activity, which is brilliant. Please remember to refer to the working from home checklist to ensure you are working as safely as possible.

Whatever challenge you decide to do, any donations you are able to give will go to support Inclusion Barnet who have set up a fundraising page on behalf of the partnership between Young Barnet Foundation, Volunteering Barnet and Inclusion Barnet, and they work together to support Barnet charities. Every penny raised will go to the Barnet Community Response Fund.


The 2.6 Challenge starts on Sunday, but if you are unable to participate over the weekend, we have until 10th May to do a challenge. I will definitely be giving it a go.

Enjoy your weekend, I look forward to seeing your efforts from the 2.6 Challenge next week.

John


Monday 20 April 2020

A special message of thank you to all our staff - from Barnet's Group Leaders and the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government:

As we continue our response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Group Leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Barnet are today sending a message of thanks to all of you for your efforts.

Councillor Daniel Thomas, Leader of the Council and Leader of the Conservative Group, said: “On behalf of all our Members and the residents they represent, I would like to thank all of you for your hard work over this unprecedented and challenging period. You are giving the people of Barnet comfort, support, and in many cases, your hard work is helping to save lives.”

Councillor Barry Rawlings, Leader of the Labour Group, said: “The Labour Group would like to thank all staff and partners working through the pandemic to ensure vital services continue and local residents are protected and supported. Your time, effort and dedication to the borough is extraordinary, you are a lifeline to many and we are really grateful.”

Councillor Gabriel Rozenberg, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “COVID-19 is the biggest global event of our lifetimes. Each of us is shocked and saddened by the loss of life, and no one is free of fear for their families and for themselves. In these extreme circumstances, I can only applaud those who run to help, both in the back offices and on the front line, sometimes at real personal risk. You are the best of us. Thank you for everything you do.”

-------------------

Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government, has also written to all local government staff across the country to thank them for their efforts. His letter in full is reproduced below:

To all who work in local government, I am writing to you today, the unsung heroes in local government, to thank you for working to support your communities during the coronavirus pandemic. This is understandably a challenging time for everyone and the work you are doing has never been more vital. You are keeping the country moving, helping to protect the NHS and enabling them to save lives.

You are getting vulnerable people the care and support they need, mobilising volunteers, keeping essential services including waste collections running and making sure your residents have the latest information about staying safe. Many of you are making significant personal sacrifices as part of this national fight, while also being concerned about your own family and friends. Through the sacrifices you are making and the public service you are offering, we will get through this and come out the other side.

In an operation the scale of which we haven’t seen since the Second World War, what has been achieved in the last few weeks has been truly incredible. We have delivered over 250,000 parcels of essential supplies to those shielding due to underlying health conditions, helping to ensure that the people that need to be by themselves at home do not feel that they are alone.

More than 5,400 rough sleepers – over 90% of those on the streets and in communal night shelters at the beginning of the crisis and known to local authorities – have been offered safe accommodation. Working hand in hand with the NHS, you have helped to free up over 30,000 vital hospital beds, meaning more lives can be saved. Businesses in your area are receiving the financial relief they desperately need, because you have made sure that happened swiftly. Schools are being kept open for key workers and vulnerable children kept in contact with, to ensure they are safe and well.

I’ve spoken to colleagues up and down the country, hearing some amazing stories of the work going on in individual councils. Hundreds of thousands have volunteered to work in hubs to get supplies to the vulnerable. Some have created virtual libraries, supporting adults and children who are at home. In some areas, traffic wardens are delivering food parcels and gardeners and highways workers are collecting the bins. All across local government people are going the extra mile for their communities. It’s truly humbling. You are doing all of this and more and we thank you.

My role as Local Government Secretary is to make sure you have everything you need to carry out this vital work. I have already made available £1.6billion of additional funding to councils and today I am confirming another £1.6 billion will be provided to councils to help to deal with the new responsibilities we have asked of you. I said that I would ensure you had the resources you needed to do the job, and I meant it. I promised that I would champion your cause and fight your corner as we work together, and I meant it.

I have been meeting regularly with council leaders and officers at all levels so I can understand local challenges and also address concerns, and through this I have seen the local leadership, from councillors and officers alike, supporting communities you know and love. Some of your achievements in recent weeks have been heroic. Others are small mercies, modest acts of care and compassion, which together make this period more bearable and more humane.

I would like to thank you on behalf of everyone. When this is done, which it will be, you should be rightly proud of the part you played.
   


Friday 17th April 2020

Chief Executive's Weekly Message: Recognising more of our amazing frontline staff     
     

As the COVID-19 emergency has progressed, I have been consistently struck by how wide-ranging our response as a council and as individuals has been, as we work to help the most vulnerable in our communities while ensuring that critical services continue to run effectively.     
     
Some of those stories were shared in First Team this week. It was inspiring to read of the great work being done by many of our carers across Your Choice Barnet, with elderly and vulnerable clients as well as people that have just left hospital, and those with learning difficulties. 

Our carers do a challenging job during normal times, but the importance of what they do is being felt even more acutely as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. I was also proud to see the hard work being put in by the NSL parking enforcement officers who were reassigned to monitoring our parks to ensure social distancing was observed over the warm Easter weekend, and our drivers from the Passenger Transport Service who have been delivering food and essential supplies from our hub to locations across the borough. Residents have been so pleased to receive their food parcels - feedback received has included: "I am totally overwhelmed, thank you so much, I never expected that" and "this is a very worrying time and I am really grateful to know that someone will be looking out for my brother and his wife."

Look out on Yammer and in next week’s First Team for more stories of our frontline and back office heroes who are helping us all to get through this situation. And if you want to highlight your team’s work, get in touch with our Internal Communications team by emailing first.team@barnet.gov.uk.

Nationally, this week’s big news has been the extension of the country-wide lockdown for at least another three weeks. This makes the work of our staff deployment programme all the more important, as more and more of you are likely to be needed to take on different roles. The council is able to move staff into different roles where it is necessary to make sure that critical services are adequately supported. More than 100 people have already put themselves forward and the response has been fantastic. If you haven’t yet offered your skills for the programme, please consider doing so; you can fill in the application form and access the latest FAQs on Yammer.

Finally, to update you on performance reviews this year, I can confirm that rather than giving pay increases based on appraisals, we are, for this year only, awarding a flat-rate percentage increase to all those who would normally be entitled to receive one (this excludes those who are already at the top of their pay band, new starters, recently promoted staff and those who are not on Unified Reward contracts). We have agreed this will be a 2.25% increase to all those eligible, subject to no one exceeding the top of their band. We expect this to be paid in the July salary payment, backdated to 1 April 2020, but will confirm the pay date in due course.

Enjoy the weekend, and remember to stay home as we continue to work to protect the NHS and save lives.

John.


10th April 2020

Chief Executive's Weekly Message: Looking after mental health

To begin with today – I wanted to thank everyone for the incredible efforts going in across services and the community in Barnet, it has been really impressive. We are supporting care homes across the borough, delivering personal protective equipment to various care settings, working with the NHS on discharge from hospital, delivering food to food banks and vulnerable people staying at home as well as keeping all our critical services going for residents and businesses across the borough.     

It is amazing to know that we have such dedicated people in Barnet and I am very grateful for all your hard work! 
It was only just over a week ago that we launched our Staff Deployment programme, and we have had over 100 staff respond to the call out to assist with the frontline COVID-19 response effort. Credit must go to people who are stepping up outside of office-based jobs, and in many cases, taking on completely different roles.

The Essential Supplies Hub has already delivered nearly 200 food packages to our vulnerable residents as well as supporting food banks and voluntary organisations such as Homeless Action Barnet with food and supplies. In addition to this, more or less everyone in the council has had to adapt the way we work to not only focus on COVID-19 related matters, but to carry on the critical council services.


We cannot underestimate the impact that COVID-19 will have had on people’s mental health and wellbeing, given the constant pressure that we are all under. Our mental health services in Barnet have been working hard to ensure that individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable, are kept in contact with. Systems have been set up to help them keep in contact with people who need our support. It is certainly a challenging time for health colleagues who are having to prioritise the people who are inpatients and are unwell and people requiring crisis intervention.

 

Our colleagues in the voluntary sector have been creative as well, for example, the Wellbeing Hub, based at the Meritage Centre, is managing to provide lots of group activities remotely, from Chair Yoga to Tai Chi. 
I want to also take this opportunity, as we head into the Easter weekend, to remind you that it is vital you all make sure you look after your mental health and wellbeing.

I have been heartened to see that teams have been very supportive of each other and are managing to stay connected through Skype video calls, virtual tea breaks and generally reaching out to each other if we need it.  There are mental health support packages we offer, including the Employee Assistance Programme and Good Thinking.  We’ve also recently relaunched our Time to Change campaign and the Brewlette initiative is going from strength to strength, although the coffee breaks have become virtual. You can find out about these initiatives on our mental health and wellbeing pages here and wellbeing community on Yammer, where people have also been finding it therapeutic to talk about each other’s pets…


When we do go back to business as usual, it will be great to meet Linda Samy, another frontline services star, who works in Parkfield Children’s Centre who was our Customer Services Star of the Month from March. Well done Linda. Read more here.


Finally, I hope you all enjoy the Easter weekend and Passover celebration. For those of the Christian and Jewish faiths, it is going to be difficult not be able to attend church or go to the synagogue. It will also be a challenge for all of us as it is a natural time to want to go and visit family and friends, but please adhere to the government message which is stay home, stay safe and protect the NHS.

John.
 


3rd April 2020

Chief Exec's Weekly Message: Staff working in non-critical services can now support the frontline response to COVID-19 through new deployment scheme

The current COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything any of us will have experienced working in local government. It is an extraordinary emergency situation, which requires an extraordinary response – by central government, but also by local authorities and by communities pulling together.     

We are having to adapt quickly to make sure we can keep critical services running and provide the necessary support to everyone in our community, but particularly those who are more vulnerable. To respond to this, we have this week launched our staff deployment programme which is asking those of you who are not already working in critical services to volunteer to support the organisation – and our communities here in Barnet – in whatever ways are required as demands change.


There are a range of roles available, which will look to utilise the wide range of skills and knowledge that you all have. Among the roles available, we are looking for people to provide logistical support for our community response work, and others who can play a part in contacting vulnerable residents.

A particular need has also arisen for support in providing personal care to vulnerable adults. This will enable us to discharge residents from hospitals at the rate required in order to support the NHS. We are also seeking staff that could be deployed into caring roles. All staff applying for these roles would be given a rapid training programme based on the essential elements of the Care Certificate and support would be available. Find more information about the roles available and how to get in touch

It’s great that more than 80 of you have already volunteered, but I urge as many of you as possible to get involved with the programme. This week the way that staff across the organisation have pulled together to continue to deliver a service to residents, particularly our more vulnerable ones, has been nothing short of inspirational. I encourage you to continue to support our efforts over the coming weeks.


This week we have also released more specific guidance for those frontline staff whose roles include visiting clients. Read the guidance in full. For the many staff working from home, colleagues in Health and Safety have also released a detailed checklist and top tips for making the most of remote working. Read the guidance on how to work effectively at home, but as safely as possible (scroll down the page to view).  


Finally, don’t forget you can access the latest information for staff related to COVID-19 and our response right here at www.barnet.gov.uk/internal.


And remember this weekend: Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.  

John.
 
 


27th March 2020 Weekly Message from the Deputy Chief Executive

 "I’m so proud of how hard you have worked to respond to the COVID-19 crisis"

It’s been another week of extraordinary effort from every single person in this council.  I'm so proud of how we have come together to develop our response to the COVID-19 crisis and kept focused on delivering services for our residents, communities and businesses. This week’s message is a little longer than usual, as there’s so much going on – but please do take the time to read it.


I’ve also filmed a thank-you video to all of you, please follow this link to watch my message in full with a particular thanks to all of our frontline staff who are out working across the borough to support our most vulnerable and keep delivering critical services.


We have now gone live with the Community Help Hub. It’s been a fantastic effort to get to this point. The Hub will provide support to the most vulnerable in our community, who do not have support from other sources, (whether this is a temporary gap because usual family carers are ill, or if it is a permanent gap).   Working with the Voluntary Community Sector (VCS), we’ve now established a process for providing that support and are finalising the logistical details on how that will work.


Alongside this, we have been continuing our work to identify who might be able to be redeployed and /or do Employer Supported Volunteering to support the Community Help Hub and other critical council services, if required. A form has been developed and will go live early next week – please look out for it if you’re able to help.


We are expecting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the NHS, as well as additional stock purchased by the council, to be delivered today. Availability of PPE will be prioritised for care providers with low or incomplete stock, social care workers and those staff that are either treating or visiting COVID-19 positive or COVID-19 symptomatic residents. This is in line with current Public Health England guidelines on appropriate use of PPE. If you feel your team needs PPE as part of their role, then please contact Covid19@barnet.gov.uk.


Many of you are now working from home, and I know this has been a bit of struggle, as we’ve had to adapt to additional roles and different working practices.  You have my particular sympathy if you are also trying to juggle work with home schooling!   Homeworking has placed enormous strain on the IT systems, including our intranet. 
IT colleagues have done a fantastic job in exceptionally difficult circumstances to keep it going, but there is a lot we can do to minimise pressure on the system and make our lives easier.


We know that not everyone has access to the Intranet, so we're in the process of creating a staff microsite on our external website: www.barnet.gov.uk/internal.  You’ll have to follow this link, or type it into your browser, because this area won’t be linked to from the front page or come up on Google.


This means that from next week, all staff will be able to access information on council activities and internal arrangements in response to COVID-19. We’ll be updating this page regularly, so do keep an eye on it for the latest updates. And although we are working from home, we still need to remember health and safety guidelines, keeping information secure and to take away tips on how to manage working in isolation. All of this information is available on Yammer.


CMT had previously agreed that the annual appraisal process would continue, but considering the escalating challenge, we’ve decided to postpone this until later in the year. Rather than giving pay increases based on appraisals, we are, for this year only, awarding a flat-rate percentage increase to all those who would normally be entitled to receive one (this excludes those who are already at the top of their pay band, new starters, recently promoted staff and those who are not on Unified Reward contracts). We will advise you what the percentage increase will be shortly. This is in addition to the national pay award which is negotiated separately, and which everyone receives.  Also, please note that we’re continuing to welcome new staff into the organisation.  HR has produced a note on how this will work


In light of the COVID-19 crisis, we've decided to postpone the annual Staff Awards event.  It’s a shame to lose such a fantastic event, but we hope to reschedule for later in the year. Any nominations received so far will be retained, but if people could refrain from making any new nominations until further notice, that would be helpful.  Staff are making outstanding contributions during the current emergency, and it is important that we celebrate these too.
We’re taking a similar approach to the Customer Services Star of the Month. With so many people going the extra mile for residents at the moment, it would be impossible to identify a clear standout.  This month, everyone is star of the month. 


That just leaves me to say, once again, a very heart-felt thank you to you all for your hard work this week. I hope you manage to get some rest over the weekend or find some virtual events to keep you going through the first weekend of the lockdown.


Cath
 

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