Standfirst: Whistleblowing in care homes could make a real difference to the lives of both residents and staff and improve standards, says whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work.
Care staff won’t need reminding of the issues currently facing social care in England – undervalued, underfunded and on the brink of collapse. Regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) says almost one in four care homes are inadequate or require improvement, while Age UK says 1.2 million people over 65 had some level of unmet care needs in 2016-17.
Whistleblowing experts, Public Concern at Work, the charity I work for, helps whistleblowers safely raise concerns about wrongdoing, abuse or poor practice. Our Advice Line offers free confidential advice, we also work with organisations to help with their whistleblowing arrangements, this includes training managers and consultation work.
Staff are the eyes and ears of an organisation and can act as an early warning system of potential risk or malpractice. Staff who feel comfortable raising a concern, or whistleblowing, may possibly save lives or complex litigation down the line. But care home staff need to feel supported and know they will be listened to.
We work with Care UK and independent care homes. Our advice line receives about 2,500 cases a year (400 of which come from the care sector), and our recent findings show:
- Care staff are often left unsupported by their employer, with one in three saying their whistleblowing concerns – often a safeguarding or patient safety issue – were ignored.
- More than half of whistleblowers also reported some kind of victimisation, with 23% saying they have been dismissed after raising concerns.
We can only speculate, but we believe whistleblowing culture amongst England’s 1.5 million care home staff homes is poor.
Top tips for managers handling concerns:
If you are a manager and a member of staff has asked to meet you to raise some concerns about abuse, wrongdoing or poor practice.
Handling the concern:
- What information do you need from the whistleblower? E.g. the who, what, when and where
- Can you investigate? Do you who should be informed so an investigation can take place?
Handling the care home whistleblower:
- Thank them for coming forward
- Manage expectations. Do you know what outcome the whistleblower is expecting and if it’s realistic?
- What assurances do you need to make? This will usually be around victimisation towards the whistleblower and their confidentiality.
- Keep records of serious concerns raised – anonymising where necessary
- What feedback can you provide to the care home whistleblower?
Q: What is whistleblowing?
A: A worker raising a concern about wrongdoing, risk or malpractice with someone in authority either internally and/or externally (e.g. regulators, media, MPs)
At Public Concern at Work (PCaW) we believe whistleblowing is a good thing and we work hard to encourage organisations to get staff to feel comfortable speaking up over wrongdoing – and thank them for doing so.
Q: What is a concern, and what is a grievance?
A: Put simply, a grievance is a personal matter, such as a care worker being angry over the way a manager has spoken to them. Whereas a concern that may cause risk to others whether that’s residents, co-workers or the general public is whistleblowing.
Public Concern at Work whistleblowing in care home survey
Whether you are a care home worker, nurse or manager, we would like to hear your views in our very short survey, which is open until the end of June.
The results (email addresses and names will not be captured or featured in this survey) will help PCaW campaign for stronger whistleblowing in care homes.