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latest update 12 February 2010

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Wirral Council overcharging the vulnerable and shooting the messenger

ConservativeHome / Local Government

Wirral Council, a Labour/Lib Dem coalition led by Cllr Steve Foulkes, a Labour councillor. They seem to adopt the same approach as Haringey towards whistle blowers who expose failings in caring for vulnerable residents.

Martin Morton, a council officer in Wirral, found that the Council was massively overcharging vulnerable residents, most of whom could not read or write. But rather than sort out the problem the Council tried to shut him up.

Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column includes an item on it in their current issue:

A 10-year campaign by a whistleblower who uncovered serious overcharging of vulnerable people by Wirral Council's adult social services has ended with the authority admitting it should repay almost £250,000 in excess charges.

Sixteen people were found to have been overcharged up to £100 a week by social services under the supported living scheme, in which people are helped to live in their own homes.

The item concludes:

And has Morton received a herogram - or at least an apology? ot exactly. For continuing to insist on exposing the truth he was, he claims, bullied, driven out of his job and at one point hospitalised with stress. In 2008 he received a payoff of £45,000 and was asked to sign a gagging clause. Happily, he has chosen to ignore it.

Indeed he has. In an article for the Wirral Globe, he says:

The paragraph on the Globe website, which had me heading for the beta-blockers, read: "Cllr Foulkes said the affair had proved that anyone within the council with a complaint - 'or a whistleblower, as the term has been used in this case' - would have their grievances properly investigated and acted upon."

This reinforced the experience repeated over the last few years of living in a parallel universe where wrong is right, bad is good and lies are truth.

Had I not taken my serious concerns to the Audit Commission this matter would have been buried as deep as nuclear waste - proof positive of the catastrophic failure of Wirral Council to address my

I chose to "go public" only because I witnessed lies, denials, and attempts at a smokescreen at several Audit and Risk Management Committee meetings.

What is particularly significant about Mr Morton's comments is his analysis that the culture on Wirral Council has not really changed. The problem is still there. Consequences for wrong doing "are still missing as the reinstatement of two officers implicated in the cover-up proves."

Mr Morton concludes:

The dangerous message Wirral Council gives the staff is this: "Play the game and no matter how incompetent you are we will reward you. Whistleblow about abuse - and we will destroy you.”


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

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Two new FOI requests

Veridici has made two Freedom of Information requests at What Do They Know, as follows:

Dear Wirral Borough Council,

Please provide the following information in accordance with the FOIA:

1. As of today's date, how many current tenants of Bermuda Road, Curlew Way, or Edgehill Road have personally submitted claims for reimbursement in accordance with Cabinet resolution 256 (3)&(5) of 14 January 2010?

2. As of today's date, how many Appointees have submitted claims for reimbursement in accordance with Cabinet resolution 256 (3)&(5) of 14 January 2010, on behalf of tenants, former tenants, or deceased tenants of the above properties, together with names and job title of the Appointee if they are a Council employee?

3. As of today's date, how many Attorneys have submitted claims for reimbursement on behalf of tenants or former tenants of the above properties, in accordance with Cabinet resolution 256 (3)&(5) of 14 January 2010?

4. As of today's date, how many next of kin have submitted claims for reimbursement in accordance with Cabinet resolution 256 (3)&(5) of 14 January 2010, on behalf of former or deceased tenants of the above properties?

5. How many next of kin have been contacted in accordance with Cabinet resolution 256 (4)?

Thank you

Yours faithfully,



Dear Wirral Borough Council,

Please provide the following information in accordance with the FOIA:

1. The total number of adults for whom the Council, or its employees, hold DWP Appointeeships, broken down by area.

2. The name and job title of each individual Council employee, or details of each department, which holds DWP Appointeeships for the adults in question 1, together with the date or dates on which these Appointeeships were made.

Please note, I am not asking for any personal details of the adults in question 1.

Yours faithfully,




© copyright Veridici.


Does the abuser investigate the abuse?

A series of emails from an individual who wishes to remain anonymous, using the name 'Anna', with permission to use them on this site. They have been arranged so that they read chronologically.

From: 'Anna'
Date: Mon, 8 Feb 2010 11:43:39 +0000
Subject: Financial abuse, and attempted defrauding, of people with learning disabilities

I would prefer to remain anonymous as I am responsible for a vulnerable adult who is indirectly affected by this case.

Wirral Borough Council has recently been compelled by the persistance of a whistleblower to pay back a quarter of a million pounds to fifteen people with severe learning disabilities, although the true figure they were unlawfully charged by Adult Social Services is nearer half a million pounds.
The next of kin of the people concerned only learned of the unlawful overcharge and reimbursements from the local newspapers. When they contacted DASS they were told that this is nothing to do with them. Their request for a meeting of all the next of kin with the Council has been denied. Now the Social Services department is claiming that IT holds Power of Attorney over their relatives' financial affiars, and the Public Guardian has been informed of these claims.

The fifteen vulnerable people who were financially abused by the Council live, or lived, in Moreton, Wirral.

There has been a massive cover-up by Council officials, and a handful of Councillors, over the last nine years, and it's still going on. Calls over the years for a full independent inquiry and/or a police investigation have been continually denied by the ruling parties.

Over the last weekend each of the vulnerable people affected by this received a letter from Wirral Council. It was couched in language that is almost unintelligible to the average citizen, let alone those who can neither read nor comprehend, and it would seem that no attempt was made by the Council to explain the contents to the individuals.

The letter contains dire warnings that claiming the refund may affect their benefits, which is an outright lie, as DWP has stated that the refund would be disregarded for a MINIMUM of 52 weeks, as it is the result of official error.

Due to two different calculating "errors", considerably less than half of what they were actually unlawfully charged is being offered, and the Council are now UNLAWFULLY charging them, retrospectively, under Fairer Charging, despite them not having been assessed under either that or the former Special Charging Policy.

The Director of Law has already ruled that it would be unlawful to make such a retrospective charge in the case of hundreds of people in exactly the same type of accommodation and situation who were charged NOTHING during the same period.

None of those affected have been offered any advocacy despite that having been part of the Council decision on this matter. The letter does say that advocacy is available, but only after they are told they should "sign the attached form" and return it in the stamped, addressed envelope if they wish to claim the reimbursement. Remember, none of them can read or write!

Wirral Council will stop at nothing to minimise its repayments, either by only paying back less than half of what it owes, or bullying vulnerable people they have aready abused financially into not claiming anything at all. That cannot be allowed to happen.

If this does not fall within your remit I would be grateful for any advice on who can do so.

All press reports and Council documents are accessible from the following website:

Thank you

[Veridici's note: thank you Anna for linking to the blog.]

From: Jones, David N. (Social Services QAU)
Date: Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 4:51 PM
Subject: RE: info

To: 'Anna'

Dear ‘Anna’

I write further to your e-mail to the Safeguarding Unit on 8 February which has been passed to me, as the Complaints Manager, to consider your points in accordance with our complaints process.

It is unfortunate that you wish to remain anonymous, however let me re-assure you that if you choose to shed your anonymity there will be no detrimental affect on the adult you are responsible for. It may also assist in adding perspective to what is a complex issue, and may allow the Director to address the issues in their appropriate context.

As you will be aware there has been a full investigation into the issues you raise, and it appears you are not satisfied with some of the outcomes from that investigation, and allege continuing malpractice. If you choose to remain anonymous it is difficult to address these concerns without context; as such it may be more appropriate for you to raise your concerns with the Audit Commission, the Local Government Ombudsman or the Care Quality Commission. The details for these organisations are readily available on the internet, but if you have any difficulty contacting them please let me know.

Please contact me if you wish to discuss further any of the points raised in my e-mail


David Jones
Complaints Manager
0151 666 5205

From: Anna
To: Jones, David N. (Social Services QAU)
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 12:41 PM
Subject: Re: info

Dear Mr Jones,

Thank you for your letter. I contacted Safeguarding People as I am concerned at the ongoing organised and multiple abuse of vulnerable adults. It is totally inappropriate for Social Services Director or Complaints Manager to be involved in this. Does the abuser investigate the abuse?

I shall pursue this through higher channels.


© copyright 'Anna' . Reproduced with permission.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Ombudsman - Wirral Council "at fault"

The text of a letter from the Local Government Ombudsman to Wirral Council has been made available to this site. Edited to protect the privacy of those concerned, it proposes that the Council send "a suitably senior officer" to apologise in person for the distress caused.

It states that the Ombudsman thinks the Council is at fault on two counts, thus causing "an injustice". Compensation for this has not yet been set, although it is understood that no compensation was sought by the complainant.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman thinks that the complainant "has been put to avoidable time and trouble in pursuing the complaint" The Ombudsman's original suggestion of £200 compensation was increased to £250 due to the Council's tardiness in dealing with the matter. Again it is emphasizes that the complainant did not seek any compensation for this element.

Wirral Council has twenty working days in which to accept the Ombudsman's proposals.

© copyright Veridici.