Council hired investigators to follow careworkers as they went on their rounds

A COUNCIL has been accused of Big Brother spying after investigators followed staff to work in their cars. Care workers said they were left in fear after being monitored as they drove to visit elderly patients.

One woman said she almost crashed her car as she became frightened when she was tailed by officials while she drove to a home visit.

Flintshire County Council in North Wales has denied “spying” on its staff, but admitted “monitoring” them for efficiency and quality of care reasons.

Yet its tactics have been blasted by councillor Bernie Attridge who is calling for an investigation.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance blasted the spying on staff as “sinister”.

“It’s astonishing that Flintshire County Council has resorted to these sinister measures to keep an eye on staff,” she said.

“It’s also deeply worrying that it thinks this is a legitimate way of monitoring frontline workers.

“If the authority has concerns then it should carry out inspections, not creep behind employees in cars like something out of a spy novel.

“This practice is both disruptive and intrusive and certainly not the sort of thing our councils should be wasting staff time on.”

Mr Attridge told how he had been contacted by two frightened members of staff in the past fortnight complaining about being followed.

He said: “One lady was very upset. She has worked for the council for more than 20 years and has never been involved in any disciplinary action or had much time off sick, so to be spied on like this is a disgrace.
“It’s getting dangerous as well. One lady said she’s had near misses in her car because instead of concentrating on the road she was looking at who was following her.”

Council bosses admitted they do monitor staff, but denied it could be classed as spying.

Susie Lunt, Flintshire’s service manager for older people, said: “The council has to ensure the service being delivered is meeting the required care standards, under Care Standards and Social Work Inspection Wales regulations.

“The council does monitor the quality of service provided to individuals.

“This is done in a variety of ways including service or individual reviews whereby social workers, homecare managers or contract monitoring officers visit individuals in their own homes or monitoring officers visiting the provider service office.

“We gather information, gain the view of the service user on how well the service is going and determine if it is meeting their assessed needs.”

She added: “The council does not employ anyone to spy on its staff, whether they be in-house staff or staff employed via an independent contract.”

But Mr Attridge hit back at the council’s official statement, adding: “The council says it’s not spying, but that’s exactly what it is.

“The council is supposed to be open and transparent, but there’s nothing open and transparent about sneaking around when employees are at work.

“If it was part of a disciplinary [procedure] then I could understand, but to follow all home care assistants and try to catch them out is appalling.”