FOR THE ATTENTION OF:
Frank Field MP
Thursday 22 September 2011
Dear Frank Field,
I wrote to you back in February about Wirral Council and VS [the Voluntary severance scheme,] within that email I gave the view that Wirral Council and in particular DASS was and is toxic dysfunctional and not fit for purpose.
On top of this there were and are a myriad of other issues. My concerns were numerous, and at the risk of overwhelming you with detail I feel the time has now come for these concerns to be looked at seriously
1) Background – Wirral became one of the first authorities in the country to ‘lose’ posts due to personalisation and at least 29 experienced Social Workers and qualified workers left to make way for unqualified ASO’s [Assistant Support Officers] ( as reported by Community Caring – http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2010/05/19/114517/the-impact-of-personalisation-on-adults-social-workers.htm ) With a nice quote from Rick O’Brien.
2) The ASO training was extremely poor, something CQC picked up on in their damning report. Due to demand/pressure/ lack of Social Workers / incompetence, managers allocated ASO’s who are inexperienced and unqualified complex work to do which in turn gives the ‘customer’ a much poorer service, and potentially puts them at risk. This also has the knock on effect of causing stress in the ASO’s as they are ill equipped to do the work. Many ASO’s are required to do a high volume of complex work with many openly saying leaves them feeling ‘out of their depth ‘ and having to present ‘High cost packages’ and ‘residential and nursing packages’ to ‘panel’.
3.ASO’s report that they regularly have cases refused at decision making ‘panels’ often as they are asked questions about the cases that they simply can’t answer. This is partly because they are unqualified and inexperienced, received poor training and also because of the volume of cases allocated they have very little time to go into things in detail. (Surely someone who is unqualified and inexperienced shouldn’t be given complex cases in the first place, and if for some unknown reason they are given complex cases then they should be given plenty of time and support to sort things out). All in all ASOs generally feels stressed and made to feel inadequate by what they feel is unreasonable demands made on them . Many ASO’s for various reasons won’t speak out. ( as mentioned in AK’s report) – fear of looking inadequate, wanting to ‘get on’, wanting to please management, fear of bullying and intimidation etc. etc. As soon as you speak out your ‘capability’ is questioned. It’s you, not poor management or bad practice – And we all know were capability ends up in Wirral Bully Council.
My line managers always maintained that a case suggesting an admission to permanent care wasn’t ‘complex’. As a Social Worker told me and I quote “Total BS. Only a sociopath careerist would say something so wrong”. Permanent care is a life changing decision, would the families really be happy if they knew unqualified administrators are presenting these cases to a ‘panel’
4) Management will mitigate by saying ASO’s are given ‘supervision and support’. This is bogus. Most of the time the managers don’t know what to do themselves. One manager has a reputation for avoiding supervision with people and when they get it they say she is next to useless. , another team manager is an Occupational Therapist. How can she give ‘professional supervision’ to social workers? I have my supervision record, about 4 in 18 months.
At least qualified social workers have their training and experience to fall back on which can mitigate against poor / lack of professional supervision. ASO’s haven’t got that that to fall back on which puts them under undue pressure.
5) Institutionalised delays to meeting needs. Well ‘panel’ is one way of delaying meeting needs. Give an inexperienced and unqualified ASO lots of cases to present to ‘panel’ Tell him he hasn’t given enough evidence for a high cost package or residential / nursing placement and to go away and come back with more ‘evidence’. And in the meantime give him more and more work to do so as to slow him down even further and stress him out more.
6) introduce a 4 week delay before brokerage even starts to look for a ‘package of care’.
7) Performance Indicators. Getting staff to fill out a huge amount of bogus forms and reports which don’t actually reflect whats happening in DASS just needed by senior management to ‘evidence’ how well they are doing.
In the light of Anna Kolonski’s damning report into WBC’s practices I demand, as an ex employee, AND a Wirral resident AND tax payer that my Whistle-blowing concerns are dealt with properly I have evidence and corroboration, yet still WBC deny this was practice. I suggest the people responsible are now held to account and you as my MP should ensure an independent review is undertaken.
The Council finally agreed to my VS and paid my and additional 25,000 so as not to take them to court for Disability Discrimination over their failure to make reasonable adjustments under the Equalities act in my place. This, it appears was preferable to addressing my concerns about work place practices. Add this to EVR of 20,000 and holiday pay AND six months on full pay whilst off sick with work related stress and they effectively have paid me 50,000. A small amount when you consider they have damaged my health and ruined any career. However there was no gagging clause with regard to my compromise agreement. Their response to my Whistle-blowing concerns has been lamentable.
The Council must get it’s act in order because it is the vulnerable people of Wirral who continue to suffer.