16/03/2008

Hierarchy of Need

I haven’t posted about the Shelter staff dispute until now, partly because I was hoping it would be resolved and partly because I had little to add.

I have been prodded into posting by a comment by Mark P. As he observes, Shelter management are in the vanguard of the NfP sector in ‘ensuring competitiveness’ in the chase for future competitive bidding for LSC franchises. Shelter’s management rather disingenuously argue that as the frontline services are the major recipient of state funding, it is frontline services that should bear the brunt of the ‘efficiencies’ (link goes to a .doc, courtesy of Nik Nicol).

What Shelter are doing today will inevitably be a model or rationale for the NfP sector (and quite possibly private firms as well). It is therefore of much broader significance than ‘just’ Shelter, if that wasn’t enough.

After 2 days of strikes (4 and 10 March), things have clearly got nasty, with tales of high pressure individual interviews pushing the new contracts under threat of dismissal.

But there is still amusement to be had. Witness Adam Sampson, Shelter CEO, claiming support, via a link, to be found in a post by Bridget Fox, Lib Dem candidate for Islington South. Then note that Fox’s post doesn’t offer support for Shelter management, it just opposes Ken Loach’s call to stop donations. Next, observe Fox backing frantically away from having to say anything contentious in the comments to the post as she is confronted by a couple of Shelter staffers explaining the dispute and highlighting heavy-handed treatment by management.

It appears that this was the most supportive link that Mr Sampson could find.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

4 Comments

  1. housinganger

    Spot on I reckon in that the LSC are trying to turn away from old style advice provision to new style glorified call centres probably run by Crapita, sorry Capita, who can come up with impressive statistics of how many thousands more clients they have ‘helped’ (helped being rather a subjective word here).

    If no one speaks for the Homeless who are denied there approaches, help, benefits, a chance in life etc, then what’s to stop a statistic obsessed government pushing forward reforms that will see the provision of quality AND effective advice and assistance being reduced.

    I guess the likes of Shelter can either decide to stand up to these reforms and form a united front with other advice providers such as the CAB and other Law Centres or just decide not to bite the hand that feeds them and be further manipulated by el governmento!

    In my nightmares I can see an 0845 number for all Civil Legal Advice!

    ‘Got a problem, just phone ‘Housing Advice Direct’ where our regionally trained operatives will answer YOUR problem’.

    Reply
  2. Ben

    There’s an interesting series of comments here: http://www.labourhome.org/story/2008/2/26/163659/702 (Labourhome of all places!) where someone wades through the Shelter annual reports looking at top-end salaries. Seems that salaries at the top of the organisation may not be subject to the same pressures as those at the bottom.

    Love the blog – keep up the good work.

    cheers,

    Ben

    Reply
  3. Nearly Legal

    Thanks Ben. Interesting stuff and a familiar argument from the Shelter managment. One must pay more to get top-end staff, to be competitive with the private sector. Yet to be competitive with the private sector in getting contracts one must cut the pay of (skilled) junior staff. One can only presume that there is no need to attract or retain skilled staff at the front-line level.

    Reply
  4. jane

    hi,

    just wanted to let you know that Shelter staff unfortunately have no option but to strike again for two days next week. Many staff who feel strongly about this feel that they cannot afford to strike, others feel pressurised to ‘conform’. Rumours are circulating that Union notices have been ripped off staff notice boards. Management offered staff a derisory £150 each( taxed) if they signed their contracts before a certain date.

    Management are trying to divide and rule (1/management sending messages by email to staff who didnt strike only 2/ not allowing union stewards to email updates to all staff, only union members).

    in our area staff are holding firm and are committed to the industrial action. Both for ourselves AND our clients, despite how selfish Adam Sampson, chief Exec at Shelter seems to think we are.

    thanks

    Reply

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