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Councillor fired for raising concerns about social worker caseloads attacks ‘inaccurate’ report

Cllr Malcolm King was removed from his post but says he won’t stop until child protection is truly a priority

by Rachel Schraer on December 3, 2014 in Careers, News workforce, Workforce

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A Wrexham councillor sacked for blowing the whistle on high social work caseloads has attacked the “inaccurate” report that led to his firing.

The council used a report into his claims, produced by independent investigating officer Helen Ryan, to remove King from his position as lead member for finance on the council’s executive board, saying he had made false allegations against the Children and Family Assessment Team (CAFAT).

In a letter obtained by Community Care, fired councillor Malcolm King outlined to the leader of the council his unhappiness with many aspects of Ryan’s report.

“Critically, the data and evidence referenced throughout her report actually clearly supports most of the concerns raised in my report.”

Cllr King submitted a list of 16 concerns to the former leader of the council, Cllr Neil Rogers, last autumn including high caseloads, high staff turnover and pressure being placed on social workers by managers to close cases early.

Ryan’s independent report, seen by Community Care, verifies that the average caseload of 40-50 is significantly above the national average of 21 in children’s services.

King had raised concerns about the level of experience in the team, with nine out of 13 social workers having less than three years’ experience between them.

Ryan’s report said out of a list of 23 staff members including agency staff, 13 had no post qualifying experience.

“The remaining 10 workers on the list had 43 years’ experience between them,” the report said. This would mean an average of just over four years’ experience each for the most experienced members of the team.

However Ryan concluded Cllr King’s “allegation is not supported by the evidence and lacks credibility.”

King told Community Care the independent report had also implied the concerns he brought up were his own, rather than concerns relayed to him by four separate social workers.

He said: “My purpose in writing the original report was to use my more protected position as councillor to raise the concerns of social workers who were afraid that their employment would be jeopardised if they raised their concerns directly.

“It is slightly ironic that I now appear to have been sacked for what I have done.”

Ryan said the fact that the four social workers would not reveal their identity cast doubt on the claims’ credibility.

“The ‘four social workers’ have not engaged in this investigation and Cllr King’s suggestion that to do so would put their future careers at risk is not convincing.

“The unwillingness of these workers to engage with the investigation calls into question their integrity and motivation,” Ryan said in her report.

Cllr King said in an interview with Ryan she informed him that in her experience no whistle blower had ever suffered as a result of their whistleblowing, a statement King described as “literally an incredible assertion”.

Cllr King said the council would be meeting tomorrow to review their whistleblowing policy and remove the clause that would allow elected members to blow the whistle.

“Not all elected members were informed of this review and given the chance to object,” he said.

A council spokeswoman clarified that the whistleblowing policy was never intended to be used by elected members, who have recourse to their own confidential reporting procedure.

Cllr Mark Pritchard in an executive board meeting last month said to Cllr King: “Your persistence and seemingly relentless questioning of the team has a significant impact on staff morale.”

Responding to the allegations of inaccuracies in Ryan’s report, Cllr Pritchard said: “I am confident that we have an excellent group of social workers and managers.

“We must stop this relentless focus on historical information about safeguarding.”

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