Forty per cent of whistleblowers in social care say their concerns were initially dismissed by managers, research shows.
Public Concern at Work, which runs a helpline for employees who witness crime or wrongdoing in the workplace, also revealed figures showing half of all calls from social care were about the abuse of vulnerable adults. In half of all cases where other staff knew about a risk, they were too scared to speak up.
Cathy James, the charity’s acting director, said the evidence proved there were “systemic deficiencies that prevent care workers from speaking up effectively to protect vulnerable adults”.
She called on employers to improve arrangements for whistleblowers, including training for managers on handling concerns and “zero tolerance of whistleblower victimisation”.
Public Concern at Work’s report, Speaking Up For Vulnerable Adults: What the Whistleblowers Say, is based on statistics relating to 1,180 cases over eight years.
The report said: “In 40% of cases whistleblowers’ concerns were either ignored or denied by management.”
In an in-depth analysis of 100 randomly selected cases, the most common concerns identified were physical abuse, vulnerable adults not being treated with dignity, and neglect.
In one case, a social care worker witnessed a carer hitting a resident across the back of the head. He raised his concern with his manager but no action was taken, so alerted the care regulator. In the meantime he found himself ostracised by colleagues after the manager had revealed the worker’s identity. A subsequent investigation by police and social services took place but was inconclusive. The care worker said he felt unable to return to work.
The report said the case showed how organisations failed to protect whistleblowers and missed opportunities to capture information at an early stage, and “ultimately protect vulnerable adults”.
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