A whistleblowing social worker forced to resign for exposing the overcharging of adults with learning disabilities has been offered his job back by the council after a report found he was bullied by managers.
Wirral Council overcharged 16 people with learning disabilities in supported living services between 2000 and 2003. It then failed to comply with the government’s fairer charging guidance in 2003 and continued to overcharge residents until 2006.
Social worker Martin Morton, then a supported living development officer, told managers about the overcharging, but was forced to resign in 2008. He later exposed the scandal in the press.
Now an independent investigation has concluded that the council had abused its power when handling Morton’s allegations, which led to him being denied due process, and that staff had bullied him.
The report was considered by Wirral Council’s cabinet last week.
“We should stick by the people who do the right thing for our residents,” said Jeff Green, the Conservative leader of the authority’s Tory-Lib Dem coalition, which last May ended 24 years of Labour rule in the borough.
“A report we considered tonight confirmed he was treated disgracefully,” Green wrote on his blog. “I want the people responsible for this shameful, disgraceful episode in Wirral’s history to be disciplined.
“On behalf of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, I apologise for the mistakes of the previous administration to both Martin Morton and the people we ripped off.”
“I had no expectation of this,” said Morton, who has not decided whether to take the council up on its offer of employment. “I had not really had time to recover from the intense shock.”
Morton said he hoped that other whistleblowers would feel more empowered to come forward after his actions had been shown to be right. ”I see whistleblowing as part of the armoury of safeguarding, I would like it to be seen as a positive.”
He said the government’s emphasis on councils assessing their own and each other’s performance made whistleblowing more important as a means of identifying and changing bad practice.
An earlier internal investigation into the handling of Morton’s case had found no misconduct on the part of the council. But Wirral did pay the residents nearly £250,000 to compensate them for the overcharging.
Last week’s report has not been published by the council to prevent bias to any disciplinary action against those responsible for the overcharging and the treatment of Morton’s complaints. Green said he wanted the report to be published as soon as possible.
A further report into wider cultural problems in the adult social services department, by consultant Anna Klonowski, is due for publication soon, Green said.
Managers dismiss whistleblowers’ concerns
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