The Problems Faced by Whistleblowers
The issue of whistle blowers in the public sector - or in either sector - remains problematic. How can one have the courage and security to follow one's conscience in highlighting (potential) problems, without fear or prejudice?
It is more or less universally agreed that in order for issues, improvements, inefficiencies and injustices to be flagged up it is necessary for 'ordinary workers', indeed, all workers to dispose of a clear, non-discriminatory and, preferably, anonymous system by which they can raise systemic failures which would otherwise go unnoticed and unchecked. But this ideal is often very different from practice.
And even when an issue has been raised, how does one ensure that it is dealt with in a fair and thorough matter?
This post deals with this very subject. It deals with a recent example of a whilsteblower - this time in the private sector - in the specialist area or residential care for the vulnerable, some old and some young.
Between the 17th and 22nd June, a job was advertised in the J.E.P. for the position of Manager of a residential care home, which we will (very originally) call 'x'.
X is a private care home which takes in a wide range of individuals, including of all ages, with various and wide ranging needs. It is of particular interest to me, as a States Member, as x is a care home into which the States are moving many individuals currently in the care of Health and Social Services.
Whilst it is not the job of this post to explore the pros and cons of public vs private care, it is incumbent on any right minded individual to want to know that vulnerable members of the community are being given the best care, or at least treated with basic dignity.
At the end of June, I was contacted by friend who was aware of a particular individual employed in a care home who was uneasy about some of the practices/conditions in the home in which he worked.
I arranged to meet the carer, who was accompanied by the friend, to hear his concerns; the issues were various, and whilst they did not relate to abuse, per se, the criticisms did relate to '(benign) neglect' - a lack of suitable tailored provision for the social, physical and emotional needs of the residents, in addition to the absence of adequate training, induction and background checks being given and carried out on new members of staff. This list is by no means exhaustive, but explains some of the issues that our whislteblower wanted to bring to the fore.
On 2nd July, we both attended Le Bas Centre, to lodge an official statement with officer 'A', who is an inspector for care homes in the island. He seemed to take the complaints seriously, and recorded a statement which was approved by the whistleblower and witnessed by me.
An investigation took place which, according to the H & SS Minister, was completed on 23rd July, although the first draft, also completed by officer A, was 'presented to the Team Leader of Registration and Inspection on the 4th August'.
Meanwhile, officer A, applied for the post of manager of X, the same care home for which he was still drafting his report);
On 26th July, he was interviewed for the position on 29th July and received written confirmation offering him the post on 5th August. He tendered his resignation the same day.
A copy of the final draft was sent to our whilstleblower on 20th August .
When asked in a written question whether she was 'satisfied that there was no conflict of interest on the part of the officer who carried out the inquiry and that there was no risk of the report not being objective or impartial?' (written question 12 October 2010) -she replied:
I am satisfied that the utmost probity has been undertaken by the officers of the Health Protection Service. In the course of the investigation, an interagency approach was used with evidence being presented directly by social workers and other allied professionals via the home’s records. The investigation was not conducted solely by one officer. The head of the service has as part of overseeing the process ensured that the appropriate level of investigation has been undertaken, the process has ensured that the report and its findings have been scrutinised by the investigating officer’s line managers as part of due diligence.
But the real question that needs to be asked, but sadly which is difficult to verify, is at whether Officer A knew that he was going to apply for the advertised job whilst he was conducting the investigation.
He certainly knew, whilst writing the report, that he might be taking the job.
But questions still remain.
What is certain, is that the whistleblower is to be commended for his actions. Irrespective of whether the report was a whitewash or not, the issues have been flagged up and are now being acted upon.
I wish officer A Bon Courage and bonne chancein his new position. We will be following progress in the home with interest.