As the Government response to the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffs hospitals is published, the Social Workers Union has echoed the call for whistle blowers to be protected, and said that directors of social services must take more responsibility to root out the culture of bullying and fear experienced by many social workers employed by local authorities.
Giving the Government’s response, health secretary Jeremy Hunt says a new statutory duty of candour will be introduced for providers rather than individuals. Placing a focus on individuals was a key recommendation of the Francis report
Responding to a question in the House of Commons by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Mr Hunt said that NHS staff already have a contractual duty of candour. He added that he had not yet decided to accept Francis's recommendation about the legal duty of candour applying to individuals, and will wait for the outcome of an on-going review before reaching a final decision. Mr Hunt is concerned that individuals might not speak up if they think they might be prosecuted.
One anonymous social worker told BASW: “Saying it’s too much earns you a ‘reputation’. I’ve raised all my concerns and now I’ve been asked to attend an investigation interview. I feel like I’m being punished for speaking up.”
David Allan, Acting General Secretary of the Social Workers Union (SWU), said: "Everything is in place to make the system better but social workers are being bullied and intimidated for speaking up. Management can be reluctant to accept responsibility for problems, and often take the view that it is more important to protect the organisation than the service users.
“Rather than management saying that workloads are unrealistic and standing up to politicians against this overload, staff are being bullied into working ever harder and this is driving many social workers to the point of mental and physical breakdown.
“Addressing this toxic work culture has to start at the top. Directors and managers have to say we will not do this and we commit to protecting staff and rooting out bullying.”