Making Plans For Wirral

Javid letter 010

Following yesterday’s masterful Masterplantastic story we bring you an immaculately timed letter from  Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing , Communities and Local Government which tells us what happens when a council has ‘visions’ rather than ‘plans’ !

As you may remember last November we brought to your attention Wirral Council’s failure to produce a ‘Local Plan’ and Javid’s warning that there would be government intervention if Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies couldn’t get his house in order : Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail .  Wirral Council was one of 15 council’s who received such a warning with  Javid making this sabre rattling statement :

…today is the day that my patience has run out.

Those 15 authorities have left me with no choice but to start the formal process of intervention that we set out in the white paper.

By failing to plan, they have failed the people they are meant to serve.

The people of this country who are crying out for good quality, well-planned housing in the right places, supported by the right infrastructure.

They deserve better, and by stepping in now I’m doing all I can to ensure that they receive it.

Now it would appear that Wirral Council has excelled themselves by being one of only 3 remaining councils who now face intervention for “persistent failure over many years to get a Local Plan in place”  For further details : Three councils

The full shameful letter from Javid to Pip can be read here :

Wirral Plan

Meanwhile a Wirral Leaks commentator going by the name of ‘HeadBallRoll’ writes to us to say :

After a series of mealymouthed excuses as to why highly paid council officers and their political paymasters couldn’t actually cut and paste something resembling a Local Plan by 31st January 2018 – as they were too busy hiding behind their 20/20 Vision and pledges rather than meeting a statutory requirement by which they can be held to account . Maybe the chosen few were too busy scoping golf courses, closing children’s centres, farming out council houses to private property developers … or simply not paying attention? So it’s been around a while, ending up with 15 councils warned by the angry Slaphead Javid.  But even nearly three years’ notice wasn’t enough for the senior, blind, bumbling incompetents shuffling around lost, bumping into each other, muttering, tripping over files, in the dusty, unused Wirral planning office.

And let’s face it, 33 months is  nowhere near enough notice to get their shit together (after 13 years of not having a ‘Local Plan’ !)  Presumably the other dozen LAs scraped through because they had enough about them to focus, gather the remnants of good practice and apply the last surviving vestiges of planning nous into cobbling some crappy document together in time.

But not here.  It seems they’ve sat around, twiddled their thumbs and hoped the horrible Tories would either go away, forget, or not go through with it.

Despite the BIG proclamations, the BIG egos, the BIG senior salaries, they’ve messed up BIG style.  It’s one BIG cock-up.

This being Wirral though, where abject failure and disaster have long become customary bedfellows, like night follows day, or falling off a log, it doesn’t soften the blow.

But hey, as long as those bumper salaries are not cut off and continue to come in on pay day, where’s the incentive to do your jobs, lol?

So chaos is now expected and planned for at ‘most improved’ Wirral. (Who remembers the Children’s Services OFSTED catastrophe that overpromoted social worker and CEO Eric Robinson  knew about months in advance, only to dive under his desk, head in hands, dribbling and doing bugger all to stave it off?)

And what of the grafting junior staff of the Planning Department, doing their utmost to at least be professional and hold the fort?

Monday morning will arrive, and they’ll find themselves intercepted, scapegoated, placed into the line of fire and reaping the consequences of years of failure by their bosses and councillors – who will have had just enough prior notification to give it all a timely body swerve…. That’s the type of ‘planning’ they’re very good at. Avoidance measures, whilst junior bods and lackeys are left to pick up the pieces. 

So it’s not just Children’s Services, Social Services, Highways Services that have collapsed into an abject, irretrievable mess.We can now add the Planning Department to the long list of shame.

Of course the upshot of all this is that Wirral’s ‘Local Plan’ could now come under the auspices of the Liverpool City Region as Javid warns in his letter:

 

My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting the Combined Authority for the Liverpool City Region to prepare a Local Plan for Wirral and on the possibility of directing an accelerated Joint Plan, as part of considering whether to use my statutory powers and if so which ones.

Could this have been part of  Pip’s ‘Masterplan’ all along ?  To evade accountability for an unpopular ‘Local Plan’ and subsequent planning decisions – ” It wasn’t us who approved a golf resort etc;  – it was the Liverpool City Region!”

 

Pit of Despair

Pit 1

After all this week’s talk of Wirral Council’s ambitious plans we thought it be a good time to bring them down from their ivory towers/skyscrapers/ drug-fuelled (?)hallucinations and remind them they need to walk before they can run (up a big bill to be paid for by us).

We say this as we publish this salutary tale about what it’s like to try and report safety concerns about a Council run facility and ask the question as to how, as a society, did we reach the point where someone who wants to raise genuine concerns about the health and safety of children is afraid to do so in case there are repercussions for their family and reprisals for Wirral Council staff? Not for the first time – we despair!

The specific concerns are as follows were originally reported to the local press and local MP ( Margaret Greenwood) :

As a concerned parent of a two year old girl I would like to bring to your attention a concern I have had for a number of weeks now.

I use the swimming facility with my family at Woodchurch, have done for many years. I sometimes, like most parents lift my daughter out of the water and on a count of 3 she jumps into my arms.

On the occasion in question, I was stopped by the lifeguard, he came over to me, asked not to allow my daughter to stand on the side, on the grounds of Health and Safety I initially thought he was stopping me , ridiculously having my daughter jump into my arms and I took issue with the person.

He then pointed out a large drop that runs the length of the pool, highlighting that if she fell she would be seriously hurt. My stomach churned and I felt physically sick. I thanked him.On leaving we highlighted the concern to a staff member, who just stated  : ” Yes I know, its terrible isn’t it? Living local we often see staff out and about and we always exchange pleasantries. On this occasion my husband took it upon himself to further discuss the large drop at the back of the pool. The staff member confirmed it’s a problem , further offered up information that staff on duty are terrified of it also and have been complaining about it for years,also that there have been numerous incidents and accidents and still management will not do anything about it. We asked why, the reply was ” They are all D heads” and also that it will get sorted one day, but it will be too late then.Could you please warn the public of this, as it terrible, It’s just a case of finding the right vehicle to channel a public safety concern , whilst protecting yourself and we have done enough now. Hopefully something will get done.

It’s a sobering thought to think that we’re considered a right vehicle for such concerns – but it would appear we are. For obvious reasons we’re not confident that this issue will be resolved as it has now been raised by a third party as a ‘safeguarding’ concern with Wirral Council social services . However we are reassured that the external agency the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are now involved.

When we asked our source how they wanted to cover this story they replied :

It’s up to you.It’s all true and don’t want to get staff in trouble by giving too much information as they have already started asking who said what.However everyone is talking about it know . HSE have been out I am informed and condemned it also. So that’s all I can tell you really. Do it if it helps to get it sorted – run it. It’s cost I am told. Cost to protect people just by a cover. Ridiculous!.

When we asked about about our sources thoughts about how difficult it is to raise genuine concerns in the public interest they replied :

Sad society we live in I am afraid .

And so it would appear that giving a damn about children’s safety remains a problem and especially the case if you live or work on Wirral !

Pit 2

 

 

The Never-ending Story

what you allow 3

Now if there’s one area of council business we receive more complaints about than any other it’s social services (be it children’s or adult services and particularly the transition between the two). Of course this might be expected. It’s an important component of public services and is a difficult area of work as it involves the most vulnerable people in our community and the involvement of statutory services is often required at times of crisis and distress.

With the push towards more integrated working with the NHS , includes moves to create an All-Age Disability Service – which we hear is not going down too well with staff as it it as seen as another way of undermining professional expertise and status of social workers – we are left to pity the poor carers and service users out there who find themselves all at sea trying to deal with what are now called ‘care navigators’ .

Earlier this week at the Wirral Council Cabinet meeting we had councillors  Christine Spriggs, Chris Jones and Phil Davies extolling the virtues of integrated working and how it would prevent carers telling their ‘story’  over and over again in an attempt to acquire a service to which they are legally entitled. Needless to say Cllr Bernie Mooney waded in to blame everything on Tory cuts but reassured everyone she had written to everyone she could think of to protest about how unfair it all was. This included a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May. You can imagine the consternation in 10 Downing Street can’t you? as a special adviser whispers in the PM’s ear : “Psst ! Theresa – you’d better drop the Brexit negotiations and forget about that bit of bother you’ve got with Priti and Boris and Damian and Michael and whoever the next errant Tory is – Cllr Bernie Mooney is on the warpath and you wouldn’t like it when she gets angry!”

So what we’d like to do here is to provide a case study which is typical of the many complaints we receive from carers and which suggest the problems that Wirral Council have are not just about money it is, as ever ,about the CULTURE  of Wirral Council.  How about they look more closely at why they can’t recruit and retain quality staff and have to spend a fortune on consultants and agency staff.   Talking of which we hear a social services big hitter may soon be on their way out……we’ll bring you more when we get it.

Meanwhile read this never-ending story and weep :

I could fill a book about this but, in short, my severely autistic and learning-disabled son (aged 19) and I have just lost our second second social worker in 15 months.

Last August (2016) I got a call out of the blue from our social worker to say “I am going on secondment and I won’t be seeing you again.” 3 weeks earlier she had said, without prompting, that she would be “right beside you” for at least another year, as my son went through his last year at school and made crucial preparations for college and work placements. When I objected she said “Here’s the number of my immediate boss. Take up your concerns with him.” I kept phoning, over a good two weeks, only to get voice-mail. I left a message that wasn’t picked up, etc. Eventually it turns out that her immediate boss had already been on “indefinite sick leave” for quite a time already, something she must have known when she suggested I ring him.

My son still asks what happened to this social worker and wonders why she didn’t say goodbye.

A new social worker arrived from another borough in Sept 2016. (As did another person to replace the person who was on indefinite sick leave.) In January, the second of these two people gave a week’s notice and went back to South Wales, clearly defeated by Wirral Council’s complete inability to organise. . .anything. Our new social worker kept saying to me “We need to work with each other on the basis of trust.” I have tried for a year now to get my son’s respite dates guaranteed to me in writing by Wirral Social Services. I have been in contact with the MP about it, and she has tried repeatedly to be in contact with them. They are usually on voice-mail, or don’t respond to emails, hers or mine. I still have no written guarantee.

The social worker, after lots of meetings/phonecalls with me, assured me at the start of June that my son’s two work placements would start this September. September came: no work placements. It turns out that the work placements hadn’t received the necessary paperwork from the social worker to enable my son to start work; Social Worker insisted that they had the necessary paperwork. Then she and I and the work placement people (Wirral Evolutions) have a meeting in which it is agreed that my son needs one-to-one support at both of the placements. “Don’t worry, I’ll get these sorted” social worker tells me. This was at the end of September. Yesterday (November 3rd), having heard nothing, I phoned the social worker to ask what the delay is. I get a person on the phone who says “Social Worker doesn’t work for Wirral Council anymore. She left 2 weeks ago. Who are you?” This person was, apparently, a receptionist, someone I’d never dealt with before, left with the task of telling x number of people that they have been abandoned.

Wirral Council/Wirral Social Services are grossly incompetent. They are rude. They have no regard for their clients and their clients’ families. They don’t even show the most basic courtesies or consideration. In due course, I daresay I’ll get a call from whoever the replacement social worker is, and the replacement will say “We need to work with each other on the basis of trust.”

Basically, it is the same thing over and over and over: incompetence, very poor communication (with me, but also with other agencies and between themselves), rudeness, poor or non-existent note-taking, people leaving at short notice and with no proper explanation, etc etc. It just goes on and on.

When the Klonowski enquiry produced its damning report, I briefly hoped that the people found to be grossly incompetent (and, in some cases, corrupt) would be removed. Disheartening, to say the least, to see people like Steve Foulkes still in place. Where is the accountability? There simply is none.

It beggars belief that Wirral Council has not been placed in special measures. I daresay the reasons behind that are political. The Tories asking for it are being hypocritical because part of the problem is chronic underfunding from central govt but I do think that being placed in special measures would be the best thing. The only thing, actually, that would give people like me and my son the chance at least of a semi-decent service. I know special measures are not a panacea but they would be our best chance.

Apparently the new person to whom my son and I have been allotted is going to be in contact “in due course.” Big deal. The “leader” of the “integrated” (!) team for disabilities at Wirral Social Services since January is someone who clearly does not lead. When I told him at that point (no-one had told us the previous man had left, I found out by chance) that Wirral Social Services is a shambles, he replied with “But that’s just your opinion.”  No-one with a shred of conscience can stay working with these people for any length of time: they either go off sick, having had some kind of breakdown, or they are “let go.” The people there for any significant length of time are, almost by definition, dead wood.

When my son is going to get his work placements is anyone’s guess. Ever? SW who has just gone was saying to me most of the past 12 months “It’s very important that your son gets a 5-day week”. .. I know, I had never suggested otherwise!”

Esther’s Easter Message – “Opportunism Knocks…”

The Esther Bunny

The Esther Bunny

We mentioned the political opportunism and frankly the sheer desperation in our commentary of Esther McVague’s frantic electioneering (or more likely , her agents) during the Hillsborough Memorial. SEE HERE

However we suggest that the shy and retiring Ms.McVague has an inglorious record of political opportunism. Witness her appeal to Dyno Rod Dave at Prime Ministers Question Time following the publication of the “shocking” (her words) Independent Review of Wirral Council undertaken by “Anna Klewinski” (who she?) and published in 2012 which investigated claims made by Whistleblower “Martin Morton (& Others)” – we always wondered who these “others” were by the way.

As you can see McVague implores the PM to make “sure those responsible are brought to account and never work in adult social services again”.
Dyno Rod Dave mutters something about a “very serious matter” and says he’ll get some bigwig in Department of Health to speak to Our Esther. So how did that go?  Perhaps the newly appointed Right Honourable One can clarify for us.

Was anyone ever brought to account?   Were those responsible prevented from working in adult social services ever again? Our understanding is that Wirral Council made considerable pay-offs to Council staff  implicated in the Independent Review’s findings and still rigorously protect their anonymity. We also understand that  a manager of one of the dubious “care” companies, who were once again anonymised in the Independent Review , actually went on to win an award at the North West Care Awards in 2012!.
We believe that the company that he managed had links to an organised crime group and were involved in the infamous “baseball bats” saga.
So much for being brought to account!

What’s more soon after this impassioned speech McVague was made Minister for the Disabled – as they say it’s an ill wind…..

Meanwhile, as far as we understand, Mr.Morton remains out of work. We’re not sure about the “others.”  We presume their anonymity saved them from a fate worse than Morton.

Under the circumstances is it any wonder that McVey’s opportunism is further called into question as displayed here in the this submission from a valued Wirral Leaks contributor:

“Esther McVey’s insensitivity on the timing of her ‘Hillsborough’
tweet should not be a surprise. After all as Disability Minister
her job was to denigrate and punish the sick and disabled
along side Iain Duncan Smith. Her reward was to be promoted
to Employment Minister and to hand out the same sanctions
to the unemployable. I sent her and the other monsters an
‘Easter Greeting’ which you might like.
 
To: <officeofesthermcveymp@parliament.uk>
Subj: HAPPY EASTER

Ms McVey given your excellent work as disability minister and now
employment minister I thought you should share the ‘Easter card’
which I sent to your boss, Iain.

    P.S. it has gone out to several disability activist sites who I trust
    will find a use for it in future protests. It went down well at the
    Birkenhead ATOS demo.”

No wonder McVague beat a hasty retreat during her recent visit to Ingeus offices next to Hamilton Square station. Ingeus are an organisation helping unemployed people back into work and are situated adjacent to Remploy – an organisation helping disabled people access work with whom she has an acrimonious history. SEE HERE

Eggs-cellent work Esther!

Crucifiction31

DASS – Key Priorities

You can have a look at the usual depressing blather about “The Vision” for the Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) for the next 24 months. HERE

After #DELAYGATE point 6.1 –  Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework is perhaps not the most sensitively worded goal.

Delay and reduce the need for care and support.”

Wirrals Not So Hot Line

Why not publicly an announce setting up a hot line (see HERE)  and then not answer it ?  In most places this would be madness, but in Wirral Council, it’s the norm.

When Is A Social Worker Not A Social Worker?

Below are examples of why Wirral Social Services is one of the worst in the country. Myopic to the point of being unable to see the wood for the trees.

Back in 2010 ASO’s replacing Social Workers was seen very much  as Branch head of Assessment Rick O Brien’s “baby”- So let see what he said in Community Care magazine(below)

*****************

 19/05/2010

 Our 2008 survey found 27% of practitioners expected to see a reduction in the number of social workers in their own teams, 44% expected an increase in staff without a social work qualification, 14% more staff from a health background and 17% no change.

 That survey followed Wirral Council’s decision to cut 29 social work posts and increase the number of non-qualified staff by 26, with social workers focusing on managing complex cases and non-qualified staff taking on the assessment of users with lower-level needs.

 Two years on, the level of change anticipated by the 2008 survey has not taken place. One in eight 2010 respondents has seen a reduction in social workers in their teams while 16% have seen an increase in the number of non-social work qualified staff and 7% an increase in health staff; 53% have seen no change.

 Cartwright says we should have seen more workforce change by now, given that “personalisation was supposed to be a revolution”. Hawkins say the results indicate that councils are avoiding some of the “tough issues” on reconfiguring staff, evidence that personalisation is “starting to stagnate”. He adds: “There should be a different skills mix and fewer social workers.”

 Unsurprisingly, Cartwright disagrees, saying the importance of social workers’ unique skills for delivering personalisation ought to result in more professionals.

 However, Rick O’Brien, head of branch, access and assessment at Wirral Council, says that since its reorganisation the authority now has a “fairly balanced workforce” in terms of the number of social workers and other staff. Social workers, he argues, are better deployed now, managing complex cases and handling safeguarding.

 Despite their reduced numbers, he says personalisation is opening up new opportunities for social workers. For instance, he says care reviews would previously often be carried out by non-social work staff, but because they are now more focused on outcomes, social workers are more involved.

 http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/19/05/2010/114517/the-impact-of-personalisation-on-adults-social-workers.htm

********************************

 Now fast forward to 2012. The new head of Social Services Graham Hodkinson, it appears has completely the opposite view..

7/03/2012

Graham Hodkinson, director of Adult Services at Wirral Council,  emphasised the importance of social work in the local authority’s future performance.

 Commenting on Mr Hodkinson’s views, set out in a Community Care interview, Ruth Cartwright, BASW England manager, said: “Social work with adults is ill defined and, as such, more at risk. BASW is campaigning to have this work respected and protected.

 “Two years ago, we listened with concern to news from members that social workers had been made redundant from Wirral Council but today we can take heart from the fact that Wirral has realised it needs social workers and that getting rid of them was a false economy – 16 new posts have been created and there will be greater professional support for social workers.

http://www.basw.co.uk/news/wirrals-about-turn-is-a-warning-to-others-on-the-risks-of-cost-cutting/

****************************************

NB. And so Wirral in their infinite wisdom got rid of  29 social workers, and  replaced them with lower paid unqualified ASO’s. Yet The ASO’s have been increasingly given complex work. Word reaches us that ASO’s in at least one team on the Wirral have allegedly put in a claim for a pay increase.

 Apparently they have put  a compelling case to their manager (let’s call him Peter.)  He tried to argue the ASO’s aren’t doing complex work, but the ASO’s pointed out that the only thing Social Workers do that they don’t is adult protection.

Apparently Peter has passed this matter to the Head Of Branch , lets call him Rick.

You couldn’t make it up. And we haven’t.

Wirral Social Services Media Statement.

The new Director Graham Hodkinson’s reaction to the “Smoking Gun” in the illegal 4 Week Delay debacle is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears shouting “lalalalalalala” and then adopting the Klaus Barbie defence ” well we don’t do that NOW .”

Or possibly Graham is channeling the spirit of LP Hartley  “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” No old bean, this is Wirral Council, a kind of bizarre public sector version of Royston Vasey and THEY do things very differently here.  Welcome aboard Graham, to a world were the abnormal is normal, where wrong is right and were abuse and bullying appears to be endemic.

with regard to his dismissive media statement he simply reiterates the obvious and says NOTHING because there quite clearly WAS a system in place that delayed care. Nobody has alleged that this is still in place, but questions need to be asked as to why these senior officers thought it ok to do so in the first place….

MEDIA STATEMENT FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL

March 6, 2012

 

Graham Hodkinson, Wirral’s Director of Adult Social Services, said: ‘I understand that the minutes are a bullet-pointed version of a conversation that took place in 2008 and at the time, would have been supported by other documents when the department was drawing up guidance around care package timescales.


‘We have previously apologised for the unclear guidance that was issued around timescales, which was later clarified and re-issued. I have only been at Wirral a matter of months but am satisfied that our assessment times are now very good, and services are delivered in a timely way reflecting that there is no policy of delay in place.’

Ends

Nothing to see here, move along….


And Leader Jeff Green had this to say


Subject: Four week delay response

 Leader of Wirral Council, Councillor Jeff Green said:

“This is yet more evidence of a department that was in disarray and a prime example of why we are appointing an ‘independent ombudsman’ to investigate concerns raised around Council practices, particularly in the Department for Adult Social Services.

“As the new Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Social Care and Inclusion, I have asked the new Director to provide me with all of the documents and emails that surround this issue as a matter of urgency. I have also asked for a categorical assurance that there are no dubious or illegal processes in place leading to delays when vulnerable people are seeking care from the Council.”

Ends

WBC – Roll Of Shame

Wirral Council does like to control it’s news and add a thick coat of  spin in an attempt to gloss over the cracks ( gaping chasms would be more apt) to it’s unintentionally hilarious press releases.

Alas as the “footballer who cannot be named,” Bryan Griggs discovered you can’t control twitter.   Massive kudos to the journalist who first broke the Martin Morton story, Justin Dunn who has started to name the main players in the Wirral Council debacle. Super injunction anyone ?

Here’s the tweets thus far :  

“Maura Noone and Mike Fowler are the two senior managers to leave #WBC. There. Named. #OutInTheOpen #PleaseRT

They went under ‘compromise agreements’ – pay offs – signed hours before the Klonowski report was made public, albeit redacted

Superiors who knew for years allowed to leave first with handsome cheques.

#Including former chief exec Steve Maddox, ex DASS bosses Kevin Miller and John Webb #WBC #NameAndShame

Serious question mark over knowledge of current chief exec Jim Wilkie, his spin chief Emma Degg, and mayor Moira McLaughlin #WBC

Degg of #WBC infamously briefed Globe that Martin Morton was “a bit mad”.

Degg advised that her “Martin mad” nudge was to protect press from making fools of themselves #WBC

Degg, in charge of supposed impartial #WBC spin, used to be a Labour cllr in Chester”

WBC – Roll Of Shame

Aside

Wirral Council does like to control it’s news and add a thick coat of  spin in an attempt to gloss over the cracks ( gaping chasms would be more apt) to it’s unintentionally hilarious press releases.

Alas as the “footballer who cannot be named,” Bryan Griggs discovered you can’t control twitter.   Massive kudos to the journalist who first broke the Martin Morton story, Justin Dunn who has started to name the main players in the Wirral Council debacle. Super injunction anyone ?

Here’s the tweets thus far :  

“Maura Noone and Mike Fowler are the two senior managers to leave #WBC. There. Named. #OutInTheOpen #PleaseRT

They went under ‘compromise agreements’ – pay offs – signed hours before the Klonowski report was made public, albeit redacted

Superiors who knew for years allowed to leave first with handsome cheques.

#Including former chief exec Steve Maddox, ex DASS bosses Kevin Miller and John Webb #WBC #NameAndShame

Serious question mark over knowledge of current chief exec Jim Wilkie, his spin chief Emma Degg, and mayor Moira McLaughlin #WBC

Degg of #WBC infamously briefed Globe that Martin Morton was “a bit mad”.

Degg advised that her “Martin mad” nudge was to protect press from making fools of themselves #WBC

Degg, in charge of supposed impartial #WBC spin, used to be a Labour cllr in Chester”