Demand for sackings follows review that has shamed Wirral Council

VULNERABLE adults claimed they were subjected to violence, sexual abuse and the theft of their benefits by some of the organisations Wirral Council paid to care for them a shocking report has revealed.

The findings have so appalled the leader of Wirral’s Conservative group that he has called for senior officers to resign.

The allegations – and the slap-dash approach the council took to them over many years – are raised in the much-anticipated report into the treatment of council whistleblower Martin Morton, a former manager within the borough’s Department of Adult Social Services.

Mr Morton approached the Wirral Globe in November 2008 to tell how he had been bullied out of his job with DASS and paid £40,000 to keep quiet.

He came to us because of his serious concerns that the poor treatment of the vulnerable adults – and the fact he was repeatedly ignored when raising them to his superiors – were being swept under the carpet.

Those concerns – never before revealed – included:

* Men with baseball bats turning up at a home run by an independent, unregistered “service provider” demanding money, involving “an individual who had previously investigated by the police for drug money laundering;

* An allegation that a member of a “service provider” staff had a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon;

* An allegation of rape made by one of the vulnerable adults;

* Bank accounts being set up in the names of vulnerable adults and their benefits then removed from those accounts without permission.

The 250-page report by independent consultant Anna Klonowski took six months to prepare and cost Wirral taxpayers £250,000.

Its partial publication – the names of the “service providers” and all individuals involved at Wirral Council, apart from Mr Morton, have been removed – follow the departure “by mutual consent” from the authority of two key figures in the saga just two days ago.

The pair were originally suspended from duty in 2008 after our exclusive articles revealed the claims made by Mr Morton.

A full investigation was carried out at the time and found they were innocent of any wrong-doing; the two senior managers were then exonerated and reinstated.

The findings in the report have “shocked and appalled” the leader of the borough’s Conservative group.

Councillor Jeff Green, who commissioned the independent report during his 12 months as leader of the council, says it is time for officers involved to be dismissed.

He also demanded that politicians running the borough at the time must accept their responsibility for allowing it to happen.

Councillor Green said: “What we have seen, from the day I commissioned this investigation,is a number of councillors wriggling on the hook.

“Time and time again we had previously been prevented by Labour councillors from digging too deep into DASS as the council attempted a cover up.

“We saw Martin Morton bullied, belittled and browbeaten.

“His claims were too quickly dismissed by councillors Foulkes and McLaughlin. Now the whole borough can see how the council has treated its staff and the people it was supposed to be caring for.

“The Klonowski report requires a further change of personnel – not just in a few unknown council officers walking the plank but those who were elected.

“What is clear is that Cllr Foulkes and his administration were asleep at the wheel, politicising all our attempts to highlight the appalling treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Councillor Foulkes said: “Clearly, the report is highly critical and action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

“The actions are in place for improvement and we want to start a new chapter and new era for the department.

“To our shame and Martin Morton’s credit these issues were highlighted and should have been dealt with better.

“We now have to find how, as an organisation, we can better deal with whistle-blowing and complaints.

“I think we should see complaints as mechanisms for improving the delivery of services rather than immediately become defensive and making excuses.

“We need to use all the lessons learned but not use them as a political tool or a political football.

“We apologise to Martin Morton, as we have done in the past, and also to those vulnerable people and their families for letting them down.”

Mr Morton had originally exposed to the Globe a “special charging policy” that saw vulnerable adults in the care of the local authority paying more for their accommodation than they should.

It is only now that we can reveal the further allegations of abuse that he raised along with the “special charging” issues.

In her report, Ms Klonowski highlights how at Wirral Council “the abnormal has become the norm”.