The Vaughan v London Borough of Lewisham case highlighted systemic problems and operational issues in Lewisham Council’s Youth Support Service.
In its Tribunal pleadings Lewisham Council made reference to many systemic issues which had prevented it from running its Youth Support Service properly.
Lewisham Council also made reference to these systemic issues in its response to my Equality form questionnaire.
My covert recordings of team meetings also capture staff and management discussing these systemic issues.
The Defendants’ stated in their defence to my Tribunal and High Court defamation claims that the concerns/complaints which I raised were unjustified.
In the Defendants’ Tribunal pleadings they stated that their treatment of me was not related to the concerns that I raised, yet in their High Court defence its states clearly that they believe that their treatment of me was justified because of the concerns that I raised.
Other key workers in my team were also raising the same concerns as I was, and were supportive of me in raising those concerns, yet they were not investigated or even interviewed as part of Lewisham Council’s internal investigation process. I was singled out by the Defendants’.
Please also see the ‘Catalogue of Lies’ section.
- I was not disciplined for behaviour or conduct issues, (misconduct).
During Lewisham Council’s internal hearing, Lewisham Council’s senior manager and investigating officer (Christine Grice), clearly stated that she and Lewisham Council were not looking at my conduct and/or attributing any blame to me and she repeated the statement several times, (which I captured on my covert recording of the internal hearing.
During my supervision meeting with Elaine Smith, (just weeks before I was suspended) she asked me whether I had thought about ‘getting into management’ and she was quite keen for me to consider future opportunities of this nature in relation to my personal development within the council.
I covertly recorded my meeting with her.
In my view Elaine Smith’s question was, at the very least, a tacit consent to my relationship with Lewisham Council continuing.
- During Lewisham Council’s internal hearing, (which I covertly recorded), managers made it clear that they did not feel sufficiently strongly about my alleged behaviour/conduct to either speak to me about it at the relevant times or report me.
Managers stated that my alleged conduct/behaviour did not warrant any complaints being made, and indeed, no formal complaints had been made about me.
I told the High Court that:
- Lewisham Council failed to properly inform, educate, equip and support me to do the role/task expected of me, before suspending me;
Elaine Smith even sent an e-mail out to staff asking them staff to develop their own induction pack.
Lewisham Council’s team meeting minutes dated 5 October 2011, (after I was suspended), record key workers still raising concerns about the service, lack of direction, health and safety issues and requesting to see a service plan.
- Lewisham Council failed to provide me and other staff with adequate training;
- Management gave staff changing and conflicting advice/directions in relation to our work;
First Lewisham Council told staff that we couldn’t give young people information, advice and guidance, then after Unison informed them that it was their responsibility to provide this service, a month later, Lewisham Council changed its mind and told staff they could
- There was a failure to set targets for our team and managers failed to implement performance management;
- Lewisham Council failed to take action against manager- Valerie Gonsalves, despite the fact that it had received complaints by me and other members of staff about her:
A colleague of mine had written to Valerie’s Line manager Elaine Smith and another senior manager, (Chris Threlfall) regarding Valerie Gonsalves.
My colleague stated that she was not happy with Valerie’s style of management and her approach. She stated that she would prefer to be line managed by someone else and that was now very apparent, with the her lack of expertise that she needed someone else to urgently line manage her.
My colleague stated that she was shocked, disgusted and very upset about the whole messy situation with the Data protection issue, (referring to the ‘cutting and pasting’ of my medical information into her occupational health referral), and that it was not good for her health and well-being.
My colleague also stated that she is an experienced, professional woman who had a very good working relationship borough-wide and that she did not enjoy being put into embarrassing situations by people who clearly had no concept of communication, management skills or professionalism.
- Lewisham Council admitted that the TUPE issue, (the dispute about whether Connexions staff should be transferred to the Council), significantly affected the running of the service;
Lewisham Council tried to avoid liability for failure to consult staff when it decided to Close Connexions and the failure to transfer all Connexions staff TUPE’d staff.
I and my colleagues received compensation from it for its failure to consult and my colleagues won their unfair dismissal case.
There was a legal dispute between Lewisham Council and Babcock about the Connexions contract which left staff and service users in ‘limbo’.
Lewisham Council were clearly scared about the on-going TUPE dispute and as such they were reluctant to set out what work they wanted the transferred staff to do within the new service.
This fact is supported by e-mail correspondence from Chris Threlfall’s PA to management and HR in mid May 2011, in which she states that he has asked her to set up the above meeting and that the purpose of this meeting is to get clarity on what Lewisham Council can and cannot do with TUPE’d staff.
The minutes to Lewisham Council’s Full-Time workers meeting on 10 March 2011 show that Nick French (the Head of Lewisham Council’s Youth Support Service at the time) states that Lewisham Council cannot replicate what Connexions has been doing: as it cannot afford to take on Babcock’s staff either to employ or make redundant and that while legal challenges exist it cannot confirm what its service will comprise.
- There was no service plan in place for a protracted period of time and it was not shared with key workers and there was reluctance on the part of managers to share the service plan with me and my colleagues;
Christine Grice informed me herself during Lewisham Council’s internal hearing that she had been following the service plan from the previous year, even though it was supposed to be a new service that I had joined.
In Lewisham Council’s equality form questionnaire response it states that the new service plan was submitted in July 2011, yet this plan was still not being shared with key workers even after I was suspended, as is evidenced by Lewisham Council’s team meeting minutes dated 5 October 2011.
- There had been no clear direction, leadership and guidance from management and this state of affairs caused me and my colleagues to be confused about our role and responsibility;
In June 2011, a manager, (Nicolette Lawrence) sent an invite to other managers about ‘unresolved operational issues’ and requested a meeting regarding this.
Before I was suspended from work, Elaine Smith sent an e-mail to her manager Christine Grice and another senior manager- Chris Threlfall, requesting to know what to advise staff in relation to our role and responsibility.
She specifically stated that the key-worker team meeting had been rearranged a number of times in the last couple of months due to the uncertainly around policy changes and that key-workers were already very annoyed with date changes, as well as the lack of direction.
She stated that if managers (Valerie Gonsalves and Nicolette Lawrence) are to lead at the meeting due to take place on 8 June 2011, on their own, they require clear direction themselves. She concluded by requesting an urgent meeting ‘to finally tie-down exactly what the key-workers are meant to be doing (as much as possible) so there is something positive to feedback at the meeting’.
During a team meeting in June 2011, (which I covertly recorded), I and my colleagues raised concerns, (regarding legalities, TUPE issues, health and safety and the running of the service etc). Senior Manager, Christine Grice stated that management should have been ‘much clearer’ and Nick French, (another senior manager), advised staff that the management chain were consistently getting different guidance and it was ‘really incredibly foggy out there’.
- Health and safety policies and procedures and/or guidance was not followed correctly and/or conflicting advice was given in relation to this;
- Health and Safety was not a priority;
- There was a high sickness absence rate within the team, including management and No stress surveys were undertaken;
The minutes to Lewisham Council’s Full-Time workers meeting on 10 March 2011 states that various members of staff cited stress, stressful conditions and fear of job cuts as being likely causes for the high level of absence.
- Risk assessments were not undertaken ‘in good time’;
- Managers were not properly trained to do risk assessments;
- Managers persistently postponed team meetings and one-to-one meetings and Management failed to hold regular team meetings/regular supervisions;
- There was a lack of confidentiality within the service:
At the full-time workers meeting in April 2011, Lewisham Council’s Head of Youth Support Service, (Nick French), stated that the work environment was a ‘pit of malicious rumours that is in serious jeopardy of ruining individuals personal and family lives and career prospects’.
Jackie Lynham, (a Unison Rep and Lewisham Council employee for more than 20 years) also stated the following to me during the investigation process, (which I captured on my covert recording): ‘See and as you know and you’re well aware that nothing in this place is confidential you know’
During a team meeting on 8 June 2011, (which I captured on my covert recording), my colleague also stated that she was extremely worried about confidentiality; she felt very anxious and very unsure and had a catalogue of things happen. She gave the example that her wage slips had been all over Lewisham and she felt like nothing is confidential and it was scary.