Posted by: Helen Giles19/11/2010
A friend of mine working for a community project recently went round picking up elderly people from their homes to take them on a day trip. When he arrived to pick up a resident from a home run by the care subsidiary of a large group RSL he was shocked to find what he did. The elderly man sitting looking forward to his trip but unable to go as he was soaked in urine where he clearly hadn’t been changed for hours, the care staff nowhere to be found and, when they were found, an attitude of non-interest and non-committal. When he went in to the old man’s room he saw and smelt a scene of squalor which told him that leaving residents unchanged and unclean was the order of the day.
This is an example of the shoddy standards that are to be found in all too many services for vulnerable people within our supposedly caring and professional sector. And I can guarantee that the most cursory of investigations into what’s going wrong will reveal a home or a hostel where there are – perhaps - one or two reliable and committed staff who are totally overworked in teams where there is a great deal of wrongdoing going on among their colleagues. Some of those colleagues are seldom in work and when they are they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. Much of the available management time is diverted into dealing with specious grievances and half-cocked disciplinary investigations (the latter often ditched when management loses its bottle in the face of vexatious counter grievances).
One of the most common scams is the staff who have two jobs (or more), often both full-time, running over concurrent hours, in two different organisations. This particular brand of fraud is endemic in the care and supported housing sectors. In many cases these staff get away with it for years, begging the question why service managers and HR don’t spot the signs and start some close undercover investigation the minute they have any grounds at all for suspicion. Or why the hard-working staff who must have their suspicions don’t feel able to report these.
These are some of the things you need to be alert to:
• The candidate whose references shows a pattern of intermittent persistent short-term and longer-term absence, and shouldn’t therefore be taken on in the first place. Or conversely Word Art or other fake references compiled by friends which show a suspiciously over-clean record of attendance along with other tell-tale signs. Line managers and HR staff must be trained to spot dodgy references.
• The worker who is forever swapping shifts and coming up with last minute excuses for inability to attend work or certain activities. And then goes off with a long-term illness.
• The person who is absolutely inflexible about changing their pattern of work in any consultation around changes to service provision, often citing their responsibility for a dependant as the reason. Honest, hard-working people with carer responsibilities are always prepared to consider some flexibility.
• The behaviours above are frequently accompanied by a specially cultivated style of interpersonal aggression, framed around the language of harassment or discrimination, designed to make managers back off asking any awkward questions about absence.
Where you see any of these signs, you should start making discreet enquiries to get to the bottom of what’s really going on, hiring a private investigator if necessary.
Moonlighting to draw down two salaries while not putting in a full week’s work with either employer may be as old as the world of work itself, but in social care it leads to abuse, neglect and death and as a sector we have a duty to stamp it out.
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