Send us news by text, start your message Globe News and your send photos and videos to 80360
SPECIAL REPORT: Four-week care delay inquiry branded a 'whitewash'
A WIRRAL man whose late mother was caught up in the council’s ‘four week care delay’ has branded an inquiry into the policy as a whitewash.
And a former social worker who blew the whistle on the care delay system has today added to the gathering storm by revealing he was never interviewed by the consultant who carried out the investigation.
The furore centres around an examination of the council policy of building in a four-week delay before providing social services' home care packages for elderly and vulnerable Wirral people.
The review was revealed exclusively by the Globe yesterday and exonerates senior council officers of any wrongdoing.
It says the delaying strategy was a reasonable and responsible way to manage and prioritise care packages while staff struggled to control a huge overspend in the Department of Adult Social Services' budget.
The probe was ordered last March by Cllr Jeff Green, who was then leader of the council, after the highly-controversial system came to light.
Carer James Robinson from Birkenhead was given a letter of apology by Cllr Green after the death of his 79-year-old mother Esther, who slowly deteriorated while home help services were cut from her care package and her assessments were delayed.
Mr Robinson, who was so moved by Cllr Green’s letter that he placed it at his mother’s graveside, said the investigation's findings are an insult.
He said: “Wirral Council seem to think all they have to do is pull out a report that’s favourable to them and all is well and good - no-one ever seems to challenge them.
“I was happy with the apology and I know my mum would have accepted it.
"But this is like kicking someone when they’re down.
“I feel the whole thing has been a whitewash".
He continued: "Jeff Green’s apology could not have been more sincere. I believed he meant what he said and that he would try to sort it out.
“But of course an election happened and he was no longer in power, so everything went back to normal; it was business as usual.
“There was talk of me being involved with adult social services and helping them to improve - but that all went out of the window.
“No-one who was affected by the delay policy, including myself, was approached by this so-called independent reviewer and it seems it was only those giving the council’s view who were asked to take part.
“But that’s Wirral Council for you – they want to cover each other’s backs.”
At the time of Cllr Green's crackdown in 2012, social services whistle-blower Andy Campbell gave an exclusive interview to the Globe in which he said: "I feel angry the public have been so badly let down by the very officers charged with looking after our most vulnerable people, and that they and their families have suffered unnecessarily as a result of this unofficial policy.
"Surely the managers who were at that fateful budget meeting when the policy was decided in 2008 cannot now be trusted to be part of this investigation?"
Today he told us: "So it's finally undisputed there was a four-week delay - which to me and many of my colleagues was a policy that was inhumane and indefensible, purely designed to make managers look good in terms of saving money.
"Unfortunately, due to the pronounced culture of fear and collusion within adult social services, it was simply impossible to challenge such a policy.
"I was not interviewed as part of this review - but note that the managers who implemented the policy were.
"Why didn't the independent investigator interview front-line social workers about their perception of the four-week delay?"
He continued: "I am greatly disappointed in the belated publication of this report - which seems to be deliberately vague and full of obscure 'management-speak'.
"The facts are that people suffered, people may have died, and yet not a single council officer has ever been held accountable."
Graham Hodkinson, Wirral’s director of adult social care, said: ‘We have held an independent investigation and the resulting report has been publicly available for a number of months on our website.
"It was published in accordance with usual council policy.
"We did not include Mr Robinson in the publication of the four-week delay report because there was no link between his case and the four-week delay.
"We have met Mr Robinson to go through his concerns in detail, and
concluded that his mother’s death was outside the investigation.
"We would be happy to meet Mr Robinson again to discuss his case, and
extend our sympathies for his loss."
Consultant Rob Vickers' report states: “Adult social services managers were endeavouring to respond in a responsible manner to demographic pressures and budgetary constraints that while in-year could equally be set against a backdrop of a recurring structural deficit.
“Advice afforded by Wirral officers would also indicate people were waiting for domiciliary care prior to the implementation of the four-week delay, which had lacked the rigour associated with the four-week delay allied to prioritisation, delegations and authorisations.
“In effect, the four-week delay introduced a managed process of managing demand for domiciliary care from independent sector providers.
"The four-week delay was one of 18 complementary budget related actions...to correct a projected in-year overspend.
"This position was reported to the strategic leadership team as a clear steer to seek to achieve the over-riding policy perspective of a balanced year-end budget for adult social services."