Previous blog posts ‘Service User Involvement in North Wales’ and ‘We Control All The Outcomes’ describe how there is no effective or genuine representation for ‘services users’ and carers in north Wales and indeed never has been. If anyone at any time had ever ‘listened to’ a service user or carer the ‘services’ would simply not be in this state. For years, ‘service user involvement’ was left to completely ineffective bodies like the ‘Independent Advocacy Service’ or the ‘Gwynedd and Ynys Mon Users Forum’ (which were staffed and managed by people who were terrified of the staff and managers of the lethal services whom they were supposed to be holding to account), or Unllais (whom I knew were refusing to make representation regarding the mental health services even when they were being told of the most serious abuses). Until March 2016 Unllais held the contract for service user involvement in north Wales. Considering how hopeless Unllais had been at representing and involving service users, the ending of their contract would have been the most wonderful opportunity for the Betsi to begin some real ‘service user and carer involvement’. Readers will know that this never happened and instead a new nightmare is promised, as the ‘contract’ was subsequently given to CAIS/Hafal, who have now formed another vehicle, CANIAD (please see blog post ‘Introducing Caniad!’). So Dr Dafydd Alun Jones and Lucille Hughes, who sit on the Board of Trustees of CAIS, are now responsible for ‘service user involvement’ in north Wales. We can assume that the outcome from this will therefore be truly grim. Many of my previous blog posts describe the unethical and criminal behaviour of Dafydd Alun Jones – and Lucille Hughes was named in the Waterhouse Report as knowing that a paedophile ring was operating in Gwynedd Social Services whilst she was the Director of these ‘Services’ but that she was failing to act. Dafydd and Lucille are now in their eighties, they have never protected the interests of service users and carers before and I very much doubt that they are going to start now.
As soon as I heard that CAIS/Hafal had landed this ‘contract’ from the Betsi, I was interested to find out exactly how this had happened, particularly as there seems to massive conflicts of interest in many other ‘contracts for services’ being handed out by the Betsi. Blog post ‘A Total Lack of Transparency’ details how the whole process has been shrouded in secrecy.
So I recently put in a FoI request to Wrexham County Borough Council (who were inexplicably allowed by the Betsi to ‘lead’ on this whole travesty) in an attempt to find out exactly how CAIS had landed this contract and the identities of the people involved. Last week I received a reply from Wrexham Council which didn’t answer all my questions but did provide a lot of enlightening information. Wrexham Council told me that I wasn’t allowed to reproduce ‘copyrighted’ information without permission and although I’ve written to them requesting this permission I haven’t received a reply. So I cannot reproduce the wonderful information that I have been provided with in it’s entirety, but I can blog about the salient points within this information.
The first surprise that I got was how much this ‘contract’ was worth. It was worth 1.5 million. That’s right, the Betsi have channelled 1.5 million quid to Dafydd et al for five years worth of ‘service user involvement’. The Betsi are currently nearly bankrupting the Welsh Govt so bad is their financial position. But CAIS have been given 1.5 million. The information given to me also confirmed that a grand total of FOUR unidentified service users were ‘involved’ in this process. And I bet they won’t see much of the 1.5 million that has been handed over – indeed, I was sent a rather simplistic ‘presentation’ allegedly designed by one of the ‘service users’ regarding what ‘involvement’ means to him and he mentioned that he was able to claim his expenses. So he gets his bus fare and the price of a lunchtime sandwich reimbursed and Dafydd et al net 1.5 million.
The information provided told me that there were only two ‘bids’ put in for the ‘tender’, one from Unllais and one from CAIS/Hafal. The fact that ‘service user involvement’ was subject to a ‘tendering’ process alone excludes nearly all service users and carers. How many patients and carers are ever going to ‘bid for a contract’? How many even knew that all this was happening? I didn’t and I actually try to keep aware of what is going on in the mental health services in north Wales. But people on the ‘professional’ networks will have known all about it, because the information sent to me revealed that ‘from January 2014 onwards, the Health Board’s Commissioning Manager…attended all the Local Planning Groups in North Wales’. Well you won’t find many service users and carers in them, but ‘professionals’ know all about these planning groups, who sits on them and when they hold their meetings. It was also mentioned that the Commissioning Manager attended ‘Third Sector’ networks (CAIS is a Third Sector organisation) and Service User and Carer networks. Now in a region that was not blighted by corruption and criminal activity in the mental health services, the Commissioning Manager attending Service User and Carer Networks would be a positive sign. But in north Wales, most ‘service users’ experiences of the ‘services’ are so bad that when they finally wave goodbye to the services (if indeed they ever manage to obtain a service in the first place) they want no more to do with them. They do not join a ‘service user network’. Furthermore, in my experience the ‘service user networks’ in north Wales have always been manipulated or indeed completely controlled by the ‘services’ themselves or the lame third sector organisations such as MIND who have for years colluded with the abuses of the mental health services. And some of the service user groups are run by CAIS. So it’s highly unlikely that any grassroots service user and carer groups would have encountered the Commissioning Manager who was allegedly publicising the commissioning process.
But what if north Wales happened to have a really enterprising group of service users and carers who did know that a commissioning process was happening and who were even prepared to form a group to bid for this contract? Well the information provided to me suggests that they would have found such bidding very difficult indeed. For a start, the information regarding the bidding process and what needs to be done to land the bid successfully is littered with acronyms with are never explained. I have a PhD and a research background in social policy and sociology in the Welsh context and I didn’t know what most of those acronyms meant. But it gets worse. Even if a group of service users had managed to plough through all this and somehow decipher it, at the ‘Meet The Buyer Event’, in the ‘procurement information’, provided by Rachel Glynn-Thomas (‘category manager’) there was a reference to a preference for the bidders to make use of technology – specifically to submit the bid via e procurement, ‘utilising the Bravo Solutions etenderWales software hosted by the Welsh Government’. Well that will be familiar to every service user and carer in Wales won’t it, they’ll use it daily. Service users wanting to bid will have needed a good accountant as well, because they had to complete one of the most taxing spreadsheets that I’ve ever seen, worse even than the spreadsheets that I used to complete when I wrote research bids for the research councils that fund academic research (and I had the University accountant to help me). Now, even if our hypothetical service user group did contain a social policy expert, an accountant, someone who was familiar with procurement procedures used by the Welsh Govt as well as someone who knew how to install and use the specialised software used by the Welsh Govt for procurement, there was something interesting about when the ‘Meet The Buyer Event’ was held. I don’t remember seeing it being advertised anywhere. But if I was someone who might have been looking out for an opportunity to bid for a Welsh Government contract and was familiar with the procedure of bidding for these contracts, I’d have been looking at the website Sell2Wales. The contract was advertised on Sell2Wales – but not until nearly a month after the ‘Meet The Buyer Event’ had been held. So anyone attending that ‘Meet The Buyer Event’ (the only opportunity to receive information and ask questions) could have only known about it from an inside contact.
The ‘Meet The Buyer’ event was held in the Boardroom of Optic St Asaph, a location virtually impossible to get to by public transport – so interested service users who did know about it will have needed their own cars to get there. The people making up the panel at the ‘Meet The Buyer’ event included Wyn Thomas (Assistant Director, Community Partnership Development, BCUHB), Vicky Jones (Regional Substance Misuse Commissioning and Development Manager), Jane Jones (Partnership Manager, BCUHB), Rachel Glynn-Thomas (Category Manager, Wrexham Borough County Council) and Sion ap Glynn (Business Support Wales). These are not the sort of people that your average service user would know – but I bet people from CAIS knew them, particularly as CAIS already provide ‘substance misuse services’ on behalf of the Betsi and thus work ‘in partnership’ with them.
There were also two ‘service users’ on this panel, a David Holmes and an Andrea Hughes – however at least one of the powerpoints supplied to me allegedly presented by the ‘service users’ contained a number of highly complex flow charts. I have yet to meet a service user who would ever include such things in a presentation on ‘What Involvement Means To Me’. These managerialist flow charts were also noticeably inconsistent with the rest of the presentation material from the ‘service users’, which pivoted around claiming expenses, supporting others, feeling like a valuable human being, undertaking an entry level education course and no longer being sectioned. I suspect that the managerialist flow charts had been added to those presentations by someone else.
The information supplied to me also suggested that someone might have been expecting a bid from CAIS/Hafal. The information is littered with references to ‘substance misuse services’. Indeed mentions of ‘substance misuse services’ were being prioritised – again and again they were mentioned in the remit after ‘service user involvement’. But there are other rather big clues as well. One slide sent to me in response to my FoI request was a presentation by Jane Jones, Partnership Manager, BCUHB. She certainly seems to gearing up for a partnership with CAIS/Hafal – her presentation states that ‘we would welcome bids from a consortia or partnership but partners must be clear about their partnership arrangements before submitting an application’. No doubt Jane Jones wanted to ensure that any such partnerships contained the word ‘CAIS’ in their ‘arrangements’. The biggest clue however is contained on the slide prepared by Rachel Glynn-Thomas regarding ‘procurement information’: ‘WCBC [Wrexham County Borough Council] on behalf of the Six North Wales Authorities represented by the Area Planning Board for Substance Misuse and with the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board…’ So at the very heart of the ‘procurement process’ was the Area Planning Board For Substance Misuse – who are presumably the people who have already commissioned CAIS to provide ‘substance misuse services’ and know them well. Rachel’s slide mentions the need to ensure ‘best value’ and that a marketised commissioning process is the best way of achieving this – ah, so that’s how 1.5 million found its way into the pockets of Dafydd Alun Jones, Lucille Hughes et al…
The dirty deed has now been done, the dosh has gone to CAIS/Hafal and now Dafydd, Lucille and their mates are dictating what ‘service user involvement’ in north Wales looks like. One of the slides sent to me gives some ‘facts and figures’ regarding the region covered by the Betsi. It mentions that there are 1,600 staff employed in the Mental Health Division. So ‘service users’ who dare to complain are faced with 1,600 people sticking together like glue. (It’s tempting to suggest that there are probably more staff employed in the Mental Health Division than patients successfully obtaining a service.) And now they’ve got CAIS to represent their interests against the 1,600 people.
Whilst reading through the information supplied to me in response to my FoI request, any, many questions sprung to mind. But the biggest question of all surely has to be that if CAIS have been given 1.5 million for five years worth of ‘service user involvement’ how much are they raking in for providing all their other ‘services’? As Private Eye would say, I think we should be told…