Branch Secretary :

St Mungos: Chance for new start after deportation scandal

New CEO: Chance for new start after Home Office information sharing scandal


The appointment of a new St Mungo’s Chief Executive, Steve Douglas is a chance to make serious moves to restore the reputation of St Mungo’s.


The involvement of homelessness agencies in information sharing and joint street patrols with the Home Office has damaged the reputation of agencies such as St Mungo’s in recent years.


Deportations of the EU rough sleepers concerned were found to be unlawful and St Mungo’s has published an internal report. 


But distrust remains; the report lacks credibility and it is far from clear that the necessary lessons have been learnt.


Unite warnings


St Mungo’s Unite members repeatedly warned senior management that their actions were unethical, likley to be found to be unlawful and would damage the reputation of the organisation.


Branch members at high court demonstration


Through Unite, staff explained to senior management that these actions would make ‘hard to reach’ client groups still more difficult to work with and could have serious health and safety implications if our workers became associated with immigration enforcement teams.


The Unite housing workers branch responded to the widespread concern in the homelessness sector with a campaign on the issue. Many staff at all levels in other agencies feel that their work has been made more difficult by St Mungo’s approach.


Senior management dismissed our appeals. They said that they would only discuss matters narrowly related to pay and conditions with union reps and even pointed to the importance of winning contracts as a response to our concerns. We pointed out that compromising key values of the organisation in order to win contracts was short sighted even from a business point of view.


Internal report


The fact that the internal report, written by the current ‘Executive Director of Services’ fails to mention staff concerns repeatedly expressed through Unite is suffiecent to demonstrate its inadequacy.  


On several occasions representatives of other agencies have approached us in the Unite housing branch about how to protect ethical standards while working with St Mungo’s. While we can assure them that frontline staff are a committed team who care passionately about their work it remains hard to give full assurances to other agencies.


Rather than listening to staff concerns, management have invested in consultants with whom they apparently discuss how to degrade the union’s support.  This is a terrible use of grant funding or charitable donations.


Crude approach


We hope the chance will be taken to open up a positive dialogue with Unite about how to improve the reputation of the organisation and the morale of its staff.


Unite has expressed the concern of members working at St Mungos at the role of senior management in EU migrant deportations, draconian disciplinary measures, victimisation of union activists, discriminatory employment practices and for adopting a crude and inappropriately commercial approach.


The new Chief Executive has the chance to engage positively with staff, and their union Unite about both pay and conditions and wider staff concerns, we hope he will take that chance.


Paul Kershaw


June 26th 2020


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