Whistleblowers claim Wirral Council operated ‘illegal’ delay on care

TWO “whistleblowers” last night claimed Wirral Council social services department operated an “illegal” delay in providing care to vulnerable people.
Former social services employee Andy Campbell accused Wirral Council of operating the four-week wait to save money.
The council last night disputed the allegation, saying internal and external advice confirmed its arrangements complied with the law.
But senior social worker Kevin Neate, who still works for the authority, backed his former colleague’s allegations, saying it was “common knowledge”.
Their allegations came after the council was attacked by an outside investigator called in to examine its treatment of former social worker Martin Morton.
He blew the whistle on an illegal overcharging policy and was forced out of his job.
Independent consultant Anna Klonowski was appointed by former council leader Jeff Green to look into Mr Morton’s case and then widened her inquiry, eventually saying the authority’s “corporate governance” – how it is run and managed – was in crisis.
Her report said there was a “corrosive impact on the basic levels of trust that need to exist between a council, its members, staff, residents” and warned the council it remains at risk of “external intervention”.
But former assistant support officer Mr Campbell, who left the authority last month, insisted the council’s continuing denials about the delays in care indicated little had changed since Mr Morton had left.
He said: “Every practitioner in the department is going to have emails about this. There would have been thousands of cases.”
Several emails passed by Mr Campbell to the Daily Post refer to a month-long delay and the need for a “waiver” from a senior manager to bypass it.
One email from the brokerage team – which identifies care providers – said: “Hart [a team which helped people return to their homes after illnesses] are unable to assist with this care package. This means the care package will be on hold for four weeks unless your principle manager waivers the four weeks.”
Another email to Mr Campbell, who had requested care for a client, said: “I have to inform you that this request has not been taken on by Harts and it will now be put on a four-week hold. This may be waivered by a second authorisation by your principal manager.”
Mr Campbell, who left under the council’s voluntary severance scheme, said there was a “culture of bullying and intimidation” in the “dysfunctional” social services department, echoing Mr Morton’s allegations.
Mr Neate, who has worked there since 2000, said the delays were “common knowledge”, adding: “I am quite happy to confirm there was an official policy of an illegal four-week delay.”
He said: “Once a person’s needs had been assessed and identified, then the authority should make all efforts to meet those needs.
“But before the brokerage team were even allowed to look for a care plan, there was the delay unless you had a waiver from a principal manager.”
He said the delays were no longer in place, but estimated they were for “a couple of years”, until late 2010.
Mr Neate said: “To impose an artificial four-week delay is illegal because the authority is failing in its duty to meet the assessed need.
“The likely impact is the individual will suffer for longer than they need to.”
Interim social services director Howard Cooper said the authority uses a “triage” system, prioritising people according to their needs.
He said: “Between April and September this year, 74% of care packages were processed within two weeks and we are now one of the quickest councils in the region for arranging care packages for people discharged from hospital.
“The small proportion of cases where more than four weeks are taken to complete assessments arise only when people have complex needs.”