A whistle-blower who experienced bullying and harassment while working at Wirral Council after he tried to flag up a variety of abuses has received an undisclosed financial settlement, 5 years after he first blew the whistle.
In 2008 social worker Martin Morton raised concerns about financial mismanagement in the council that was leading to the overcharging of vulnerable adult service users for rented accommodation, to the tune of over £240,000.
Following this, Morton says he was subjected to a campaign of bullying and harassment on a “corporate, departmental and personal level” that ended in him resigning.
“It’s taken years after the council decided they wanted to recompense me for the bullying and harassment for the case to be resolved,” he says. “Any chance I had of rehabilitating has been dashed by these tortuous legal processes. The consequences for my family and me have been catastrophic.”
But even now that his claim, which was settled out of court in July, has been resolved, he doesn’t feel that justice has been served.
“I was asked by the investigator of my case, Anna Klonowski, what I wanted out of this – money or getting my job back,” he says. “There’s not enough money in the world to recompense me for what my family went through, and why would I want my job back to return to that abusive environment?
“I don’t feel any kind of justice was served to me because there was no accountability. The people bullying me, the people who stood by and covered up abuse – their careers have thrived. Until there’s true accountability, the outlook for whistleblowers in social care is bleak.”
Following an independent review of Morton’s claims, the Local Government Association (LGA) set up an improvement board to supervise changes in the council, but Morton doesn’t “buy the council’s improvement claims one iota.”
Morton says: “Naively I thought the issue of protecting vulnerable people would transcend politics but it’s been estimated that my case alone has cost the council upwards of £30m which could be spent on direct frontline services.
“I think the situation is with regards to whistleblowers now is even worse than before. Now I have to try to reconcile not only what happened to me as a consequence of my whistleblowing, but what happened to me subsequently- it’s going to take a long time to process it.”
Graham Burgess, chief executive, Wirral Council, said: “We have publicly and personally on a number of occasions, expressed extreme and sincere regret for what happened to Martin, and I hope that there will come a time when, having been instrumental in exposing faults in the culture of Wirral Council at that time, he can start to find closure.
“I regret that he feels there has been no change in Wirral Council but many independent experts would disagree with him. I am aware that there is still a great deal to improve, but I am confident we are making progress and that major improvements are having an effect.
“We have reached a financial settlement with Martin, and funded his legal fees relating to this case. We have also offered him a job back with the council, but he has told us that this is something he does not wish to progress.”
Morton says the offer of resuming his position was “never a realistic proposition” because “not only would I be working with people who were implicated in my bullying but also those implicated in the cover up of abuse”.
“I would be asked to go and work with these people whose careers have flourished in the meantime and I would be accountable to them.”