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latest update 12 February 2010

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Suspended workers return

Council officers involved in Globe’s financial abuse report back at department

Wirral Globe - by Justin Dunn

TWO senior officers in Wirral Council’s social services department – suspended from work for nine months after a Globe report into an alleged cover up of serious financial abuse of vulnerable people – are set for a return to work last week.

The suspensions followed our exclusive front page article on November 5 last year about an Audit Commission report into claims by a council whistleblower that adults in supported living accommodation may have been routinely overcharged for several years.

Moreton Conservative Councillor Simon Mountney believes the overcharging of vulnerable people by the council could amount to around £1m.

He described the two officers returning as “a classic example of a large organisation closing ranks”, and added “I’d like to know what they would have said if they had been dismissed.”

An email was circulated to Department of Adult Social Services staff last Tuesday, written on behalf of director John Webb, advising them of the officers’ return to work on Friday, July 24.
The email, obtained by the Globe, says the pair will “take some time to get back up to speed on issues and developments within DASS and across Wirral”.

The Globe understands that the news has been met with a mixed response, with some staff happy at their former colleagues’ return to the DASS HQ at Westminster House in Birkenhead, while others have threatened to resign – though this is denied by Wirral Council.

In November, the council whistleblower had claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds “at least” were owed to some of the council’s “service users” – vulnerable adults in contracted-out supported living accomodation.

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

The council has refused to confirm that the pair are back at work – only that a ‘unanimous decision’ has been reached over their futures.

It also refused to answer a number of questions, notably whether there had been admission of misconduct, any punishment handed out, or if the officers would be returning to their previous roles.

A spokesman said yesterday: “Wirral Council is committed to acting on the findings of the Audit Commission report of last year.

“We are also committed to ensuring the issues raised are examined by councillors in an open and transparent way.

“The matter will be discussed, in public, at a special meeting of the audit and risk management committee as soon as possible.

“However, while we understand the high level of public concern about this matter, we are not able, legall, to disclose the outcome of individual disciplinary cases because they are confidential”

  • See next week’s Globe for the latest from the whistleblower.

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


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