Are Ealing Council wasting our council tax money?

This open letter is addressed mainly to the community of the Borough of Ealing, although I am sure it reflects a nationwide discontent.

As residents of Ealing Borough we should be able to trust the local authorities to spend our taxes carefully and with consideration. One of the things we are promised as constituents, is the provision of vital social services to the young and the elderly in our area. Tens of millions of pounds are spent on this each year in Ealing. But the services do not exist. Our money has been put aside in part to provide for the security and care of our loved ones. But that money has disappeared.

Where is the money going?

Over the last twenty four months I have been engaged in a long and difficult debate with Ealing Council. This has revolved around the mistreatment of my elderly mother by several members of the local council. I have had to learn a lot of uncomfortable truths about the failings of the social care system in Ealing. To emphasize the severity of the situation I would like to bring to your attention several incidents in which the misuse of council money has been shown to result in the suffering or death of council constituents in the UK.

Well known victims have included children such as:

Peter Connelly in 2007 – Better known as Baby P. In whose case both social workers and specially assigned medical professionals failed to follow up on and account for multiple injuries concurrent with child-abuse and were therefore unable to prevent his violent death. After whose case multiple local council managers were removed from their positions by order of central government under allegations of negligence and malpractice.

Victoria Climbié in 2001 Another fatal victim of child abuse whose abuse was never acted on and whose case was reviewed by Lord Laming after the death of Peter Connelly. Lord Laming drew specific attention to the persistent failures in the implementation of social care services provided by local authorities throughout the UK.

Well known adult victims have included more recent cases such as:

Muriel Price in 2013 – Who suffered abuse at the hands of her appointed carers not limited to: premeditated negligence, incompetence, intimidation and verbal assault. CCTV footage became available in which care agency employees were shown to act in manners which evidenced disdain for their positions – such as their failure to perform necessary tasks – as well as general malpractice. The care provision agency responsible was forced to suspend all trade as a result and was subsequently placed under investigation by the UK Homecare Association.

Gloria Foster in 2013 – Who was abandoned because of “an administrative mistake” by her local council and was later found so severely ill at her home that she had to be transferred to the hospital in which she later died. The UK Border Agency were soon able to confirm that the care agency responsible for providing services to Gloria Foster was both operating fraudulently and employing illegal immigrants. Further investigations were launched into the poor administration of the social services provided by Surrey County Council.

These few names are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a terrible truth behind their media sensationalism. These few victims made the news – but these things happen every day. Instances in which local authorities and their social care policies are found to be in-part responsible for the suffering of innocent and vulnerable people are becoming more and more common. They are becoming ordinary. The same is happening here in Ealing.

There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to turn to others for support and it is shameful that we are being lied to by our local authorities: the money we invest in our futures when we pay our council tax is simply not being invested properly by local councils. It is instead being spent on huge executive salaries by an entirely self-serving bureaucracy.

Every year, a handful of executives and directors at Ealing Council take home salaries worth almost £1.5M. Meanwhile our libraries, rubbish collection, road works, schooling and social care are all suffering. And what about the support of the local politicians who are sworn to look out for our best interests? Should we also thank Mr V. Sharma MP? Many voted for him but I would like to let you know that Mr Sharma has never done anything to assist me despite multiple requests including a direct appeal issued by the House of Lords – by Lord Leitch. Even the councillors responsible for overseeing processes at Ealing Council have failed to open an inquiry into the misuse of public funds in the Borough of Ealing. So where does it leave us? Perhaps we should turn to charities and national support networks for help?

Sadly this is not the case – as I have found out over the last eighteen months. Organisations and charities are supposed to be there to help. It is true that they can put political pressure onto authorities in certain areas but I have found out the hard way that they have little to offer in terms of practical support for carers and victims. On July 3rd, 2014, there was a meeting in Ealing called “Caring for Carers”. Mr. Steve Shrubb (Chief Executive of the West London Mental Health NHS Trust) took to the stand to explain that there are many improvements still to make to care provision and that his door was open to anyone wishing to contact him. Three more speakers followed:

–  Jamie Reed MP (Shadow Health Minister). Sadly no one understood Mr Reed because of his low tone of voice and incessant muttering.

– Paul Burstow MP (Vice Chair for All Party Parliament Group of Carers). Mr Burstow came across well as his speech was excellent. However he also made a lot of promises (and as he is a politician it would pay to remember that he almost certainly does not mean what he says).

–  Dr Ann Mulroy (Clinical Champion for Carers Royal College of G.P.). She and her team also offers a lot, apparently to other GPs,  but they are hardly known to the medical community.

After that, four carers stood up in turn to explain that they had all encountered serious problems when trying to care for their loved ones; that not enough assistance was provided to them by the authorities and that they were not granted even basic assistance and “simple aid” by Ealing Council. These testimonies were met with political discussion from the speakers but this was of little practical use to the families involved and was ultimately entirely non–constructive.  As much as I wanted to stay for the afternoon session, I couldn’t really afford to waste more of my time listening to political babble. I left at the mid-point and as such I missed an appearance by Lucy Hammer (CQC). However – considering that her organisation has ignored all of my correspondence for over two years now – I suspect that any more issues I might have raised with her would have fallen on deaf ears. The same would probably have been true had I been able to speak to Ms Hilda Hayo (Dementia U.K). As is the case with so many charities, her organisation are very good at sending pamphlets out but seem to be uninterested in providing real aid and practical advice. The truth is that this is a trend in the UK. No one in power really wants to help the vulnerable.

So what about support from Europe? The victims of malpractice and negligence within the social care system are by legal definitions also the victims of human rights violations and should therefore be protected by the EU. Indeed this is true. But are the EU capable of forcing hands in the UK? Of course they are not!

I have now spent months and months dealing with the Directorate General of the EU Commission whose office has contacted Ealing Council and demanded an explanation for its failings in the field of care provision. At a first glance this seems like a fantastic thing. However there is a problem: this demand has been termed an “investigation” by Europe but it has amounted to no such thing. No evidence has been provided by Ealing Council. No one in Europe is prepared to act any further on this. At the end of the day they have ticked all the appropriate boxes for not chastising Ealing Council. They do not need to act any further. What Ealing Council does next is out of the hands of the European Commission. So once again we see people suffering because of a bureaucracy that is at best inept and at worst entirely corrupt.

It is already hard enough for us to organise proper care for our children and parents; and just a few years from now we will be in the same situation ourselves. Our local authorities argue that they cannot cope financially. However I have seen huge sums of money go to waste as a result of poor coordination and expensive corner-cutting on the part of Ealing Council.

A good example involves the employment of recent and poorly vetted immigrants with limited spoken English. My mother has seen over thirty different carers over the last twelve months. Almost all of them have problems when understanding or communicating with people in English. Although recent immigrants will often work for a low rate, the cost of replacing carers with inadequate language skills is extremely expensive. Imagine a world in which we cannot communicate with our future carers… How will we be able to ask for a drink or a tissue or something to eat when our carers cannot understand us? Why are they not vetted properly in the first place to save the waste of public funds?

Whenever I have tried to raise this issue with the council I have been met with resistance. Principally from the office of Mr Stephen Day who is Director of Adult Social Services at Ealing Council. He has held this position for many years and is paid an annual salary worth more than £100,000. There have been a number of deeply worrying and often traumatic shortcomings in the service we have received from members of staff in the department of Adult Social Services. Not only has his office failed to implement the system of timely and adequate care that has been promised to a constituent whose health has been proved to be in a state of rapid detrition – as is their legal obligation as our local authority – we have also been subject to specific instances of abuse which can be attributed to Mr Stephen Day. A great many of the letters I have received from Mr Day have contained shockingly offensive material – including racial slurs and intimidation in the form of legal threats.

As someone who has had to deal with abusive letters on behalf of a vulnerable individual, I feel that something must be done about this situation before others fall victim to the same oppressive attitude that my mother and I have encountered. Due to the severe nature of the threats issued in the letters I have mentioned above, it is my opinion that Mr Day’s office should be placed under investigation at the soonest possible opportunity.

Ealing Council have also spent a great deal of public money on solicitors bills after having chosen to threaten me with legal action when I lodged my initial complaints about the quality of service I had received. Surely this money could have been used more effectively in the first place: to provide a suitable and uncomplicated service. Instead it has been wasted on an incompetent campaign, the principal goal of which seems to have been the intimidation of an elderly woman. I believe that this is evidence of unethical practice.

Despite my attempts here I cannot properly express in writing the prolonged anguish that my mother has entered into when dealing with Ealing Council. Nor can I convey my own emotions any more strongly than in saying that I am deeply disappointed with the people to whom I have paid taxes as a citizen of the United Kingdom. The disgraceful behaviour of individuals and departments has brought to my attention a deep-running problem with the social care system in the UK. If we do not take heed of situations such as mine then we will damn ourselves and our children. We will condemn future generations of vulnerable people to depression and abandonment. Further to that: we will also allow our local authorities to steal our taxes. We have two choices: action or inaction.

I only ask that you act on these words in whatever way you see fit. If you have any advice or if you know anyone in a similar situation, please feel free to contact me.