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latest update 12 February 2010

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


Wirral Globe – By Justin Dunn

A COUNCIL whistleblower who raised serious concerns over alleged financial abuse within Wirral’s adult social services claims he was paid £45,000 to “go away and keep quiet”.

The whistleblower claims hundreds of thousands of pounds “at least” are owed to some of the council’s “service users” – vulnerable adults in contracted-out supported living accomodation.
An Audit Commission report into his allegations was being discussed at a meeting of the council’s audit and risk management committee as the Globe went to press on Tuesday evening.

The commission’s report addresses the whistleblower’s concerns that there was a “special charging policy” which cost vulnerable people extra money dating back as far as 1999 that had not been approved by the council and was “excessive and unlawful”.

In its findings, the commission report says it had “confirmed that a charging policy was applied at some supported living establishments” and that “it is not clear from discussions with [council] officers the extent to which the charging policy was in place or whether it was approved by members [of the council]”.

On the issue of whether vulnerable people are still paying more than they should several years after a new policy was implemented, the commission notes: “There remains a substantial risk that users receiving services from one of the council’s service providers are being charged unfairly.”

It says that despite a request from the council, one contractor had still “not arranged for the completion of financial assessment forms for service users”.

The report also states: “The council does not always know the actual contributions that the provider requires service users to contribute… Consequently, the council is not in a position to know whether the aggregate of charges levied on service users by the council and contributions required by the provider are in compliance with the guidance” on fairer charging.

It adds: “It is not clear who is currently ensuring that these service users are receiving adequate protection from the risk of financial abuse.”

Conservative councillor Simon Mountney, whose call for a debate on the report has been deferred until December, said he believed the report amounted to the exposure of a “cover up”.

He told the Globe: “This is a damning report into the way in which vulnerable people in our council care have been open to abuse of their finances and how that was covered up.
“I also want to know why the person who raised the concerns was paid off with £45,000 and told to go away and keep quiet.”

A Wirral Council spokesman said it took the findings “very seriously” and was “committed to implementing with immediate effect all the recommend-ations identified”, adding: “The council debate was deferred to ensure considerations by Audit Committee, that will examine the findings of an Internal Audit investigation, and to ensure further consideration by Cabinet are not prejudiced.”

© copyright Wirral Globe. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

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