Wales

Carmarthenshire inquiry call over Delyth Jenkins complaints

The founder of a care charity has called for a public inquiry into how a council dealt with complaints of alleged abuse made by a whistleblower at a day centre for vulnerable adults.

Eileen Chubb, from Compassion In Care, says the Welsh government should look at what she called a "scandalous failure" in Carmarthenshire.

The whistleblower Delyth Jenkins says she feels she was unfairly treated.

The council said its procedures had changed since the case six years ago.

Speaking on Tuesday's edition of BBC Wales current affairs programme Taro Naw, broadcast on S4C, Ms Chubb, from Compassion In Care, says all councils in Wales could learn lessons from what happened.

"I think nationally, and locally, it needs to be looked at in detail. There needs to be an official government inquiry into this case," she said.

Carmarthenshire council was first informed about the alleged abuse at Johnstown Social Activity Centre in Carmarthen in the summer of 2005.

In June 2005, Mrs Jenkins, who worked at the day centre as an administrative officer, witnessed one member of staff, referred to as Officer B, "yank" a woman with severe learning disabilities off the ground and push her into a toilet, where another member of staff heard Officer B slap the woman.

'Catastrophic' failures

She also complained about other alleged incidents of psychological abuse involving Officer B such as denial of food and verbal outbursts.

But she felt the council failed to deal with her concerns, and she took her complaint to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

"I didn't feel the council took my complaint seriously, and I should have had regular feedback, but that didn't happen," she said.

"Within two days of taking the case to the ombudsman I was told that he would look into my complaint."

A few weeks after that, in July 2006, Mrs Jenkins and other workers at the centre witnessed the same disabled woman - referred to as 'Sally' - being slapped across the head by another care worker, who later resigned.

In September 2009 the ombudsman published a damning report and concluded that Carmarthenshire council was guilty of "catastrophic" failures in its handling of the case.

After a year of stress-related illness, Mrs Jenkins resigned from her post.

She then prepared a case for constructive dismissal against the council but agreed a settlement with the authority in July last year.

Mrs Jenkins says she still feels she was very unfairly treated, claiming she was isolated by some within the council after making her complaints.

She feels she had to leave her job, while the officers who dealt with her complaints still work for the council and some, she says, have been promoted.

Employment status

"I'm worried that things won't really change at the council whilst the people who failed to deal with my complaints are still in their posts, " she said.

"I feel that people should lose their jobs over this from the top down."

Carmarthenshire council refused to be interviewed for the programme but issued a statement to Taro Naw.

It said: "The authority is disappointed by the attempts to keep this matter in the public eye some five to six years after the events, as if to suggest that the situation remains unchanged.

"The authority took the justifiable criticism of the failure of its safeguarding processes back then extremely seriously and has taken all appropriate steps to ensure that such a failure would not happen again.

"The authority continues to work with all stakeholders, including parents, carers, advocacy groups, partner organisations and regulators, to ensure the ongoing development of the service for its clients."

Taro Naw asked the council if the officers criticised in the ombudsman's report for the way they dealt with Mrs Jenkins's complaints were still employed.

A spokesperson for the council said it was "not prepared to enter into any discussion regarding the employment status of any of the officers involved in the ombudsman's case".

Taro Naw is broadcast on S4C at 21:00 GMT on Tuesday, 20 March.

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