Wirral Council launches probe into ‘illegal’ care delays

A CONFIDENTIAL document has forced Wirral Council into reopening an investigation into alleged illegal delays in providing care for vulnerable people.

Former social worker and whistleblower Andy Campbell first raised the concerns last year – but the authority insisted it was just a case of “unclear” advice to employees.

The council refused to investigate further, despite emails appearing to prove the claims.

However the Wirral News has obtained confidential minutes of a meeting dated Thursday October 23, 2008, involving senior social care managers, which was held “to identify additional proposals to manage increasing costs of community care budget”.

After the document was passed to the council, the authority’s leader Cllr Jeff Green was forced to take action, adding: “Everyone who should be held to account will be.”

As revealed last year in our sister paper the Daily Post, former social services assistant support officer Mr Campbell said the “illegal” policy of delaying care was common knowledge in the department. His claims were also backed up by another social worker, Kevin Neate.

They estimated the delays were in place for “a couple of years” to around 2010 and could have affected hundreds of people seeking care.

Several emails passed by Mr Campbell to the News refer to a month-long delay and the need for a “waiver” from a senior manager to bypass the delays.

Mr Campbell has battled since to convince the council to investigate his allegations. He said despite having emails confirming his claims, the authority never asked him for them.

At the time, 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.”

The council denied wrongdoing but the document – obtained by a Freedom of Information request and passed to the News – said among the actions agreed was a “four-week delay in commissioning care from independent sector”.

After the document was passed to the council for comment, Graham Hodkinson, director of adult social services, said: “We take any allegation that we have compromised the care of vulnerable people very seriously and I have ordered an immediate investigation.

“The document you have brought to our attention dates from 2008 so it is important that I speak to everyone concerned to determine the facts.”

Mr Hodkinson, who was only recently appointed to lead Wirral’s social services department, added: “I have a full understanding of the issues which are concerning people and am making it my business to turn the department round.”

After the News brought the documents to the council, Cllr Green said it was “more evidence of a department that was in disarray”.

He added: “After a series of denials from the department, I am giving my personal guarantee that everyone who believes they have been let down by the council will be given the opportunity to have their cases properly considered and dealt with.”