Cabinet 14th April 2011 – Department of Adult Social Services – Report of the Independent Investigator

Although the covering report about the independent investigator’s report into Social Services (despite multiple requests by myself) was not circulated to those present at the meeting, it has since been published on on Wirral Council’s website.

It makes interesting reading. A few quotes about how Wirral Council treated its former employee Martin Morton:-

“Mr Smith concludes that there were three examples of personal behaviour which he believed were inappropriate and which resulted in Martin Morton being bullied.”

“Mr Smith concludes that there were seven examples of collective behaviour which he believes were inappropriate; and which resulted in Martin Morton receiving detrimental treatment.”

“Mr Smith concludes that there were three examples of what he believes to be inappropriate behaviour/abuse of power at the departmental level in DASS; and which resulted in a denial of due process by the Council as an organisation.”

“Lastly, Mr Smith finds that there were three examples of inappropriate behaviour/abuse of power at corporate level, which he believes resulted in a denial of due process by the Council, as an organisation, in its consideration of
Martin Morton’s grievance claims.”

By my count that’s 16 examples of where things went wrong. There are many recommendations including:-

“Mr Smith’s final recommendation, Recommendation 6, is that, in the light of the investigation findings, the Council should consider its obligations to Martin Morton; and determine whether it should consider an appropriate remedy for the manner in which the Council has treated him.”

Basically things need to change at Wirral Council and although what’s in the 270 page report of Mr. Smith can be guessed at and will be made public there are various questions this raises:-

a) What role did individual councillors have in this? Are there lessons to be learnt on a political level (for all political parties)?
b) What role did individual officers have in this? Are the failings within Social Services part of what led to it being scored by the Care Quality Commission as one of the worst Social Services department in the country?
c) Although Wirral Council have apologised, what is an “appropriate remedy” for Martin Morton?

The whole thing comes across as confirming some things in political parties that people knew already about:-

problems in councillor/employee relations (or Member/Officer relations as its usually referred to)
management failings within Social Services
confusion by its employees over internal policies
prejudice towards the client group (vulnerable adults with a disability)
workplace issues
what role council employees play in the political process

I could write a very, very long list and await the publication of the report with interest! I admire Martin Morton for the principled stand he took (and was ultimately victimised and hounded out of a job for doing the right thing).

Some of those involved have left DASS, but some are still working there.