Care chief Mike Wardle is suspended over complaints backlog

The head of a social care regulator has been suspended after a backlog of complaints meant more than 20 social workers continued to work despite posing a potential risk to the public.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the General Social Care Council (GSCC) chief executive Mike Wardle had been replaced while the “matter of serious concern” was investigated.

In a statement to MPs, he said the Government was told on July 2 that there was a backlog of 203 complaints against social workers and four days later that in 21 of those cases “the allegations, though unproven, suggested that there could have been an ongoing risk of harm to members of the public”.

By July 17, he said, the GSCC confirmed that the employers of all of those they had been able to establish were still working as social workers were aware of the complaint and managing the risk.

But a fresh inquiry had found “a small number” of further cases that were being investigated, he said.

“Ministers are seeking urgent further assurances that every possible step has now been taken to ensure that none of these individuals present a current risk,” Mr Burnham said.

“The fact that a backlog of conduct referrals, some of which had not been adequately risk assessed, has built up is a matter of extreme concern.

“We understand that GSCC has therefore suspended its chief executive while it looks into how the issue arose. As an interim measure, Paul Philip, currently deputy chief executive at the General Medical Council is joining GSCC as acting chief executive.”

Mr Burnham said he had ordered a wide-ranging review “to establish what further action is needed to ensure that Ministers, Parliament and the public can have confidence that the GSCC is effectively carrying out its statutory duties to promote high standards of conduct and practice in order to protect the public”.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “This is another example of a poorly-run quango headed by a New Labour crony.

“It is clear that the performance of the General Social Care Council has been unacceptable and it is worrying that vulnerable people have been put at risk.

“Mike Wardle’s suspension is yet another embarrassment for the Government.”