St Helena Online

Tag: social services

Island’s accuser ‘should never have been given job’

Claire Gannon should never have been employed to run St Helena’s badly neglected social services department, the Wass Inquiry has found.

When the job went badly wrong she went to the media with allegations of corruption and widespread abuse.

The Wass report says she had not been involved in front-line social work “for some considerable time” and lacked the skills needed to rescue a service in disarray.

“Claire Gannon’s past history at Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council had not been properly investigated and she was not suited to the post to which she was appointed,” says the report.

“The responsibility for the failings in her recruitment lies with the St Helena Government. However, her subsequent conduct could not have been predicted.”

That included leaking a confidential copy of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report into sex abuse – from which it was possible to identify a rape victim.

The woman involved is said to have been distressed that the report appeared on the internet, meaning her identity could be discovered.

The Wass report also says she breached client confidentiality by supplying the name of an abuse victim to a Channel 4 reporter in the UK, as part of her media campaign against St Helena Government.

Sasha Wass says the inquiry panel saw no evidence of written strategies or plans for her department, and the only document she presented to the government was produced solely to support a pay demand.

The report says she:

  • “obstructed and misled the supreme court” in an adoption case
  • “almost jeopardised an important criminal investigation” into abuser Jeromy Cairns-Wicks
  • let her bad relationship with police “eclipse her professional duty to those in her care”.
  • failed to help a critically disabled young woman at Barn View residential unit
  • made false or misleading allegations in her employment tribunal claim
  • fed false or misleading information to the Daily Mail “in order to support a claim for unfair dismissal”.

St Helena Government paid for Claire Gannon to undertake teacher training in social work at Sheffield Hallam University, but the inquiry found she then “did nothing” for unqualified social care officers who needed tuition.

When interviewed by the inquiry panel, Claire Gannon admitted instructing her lawyer to post the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report on the internet.

She halted a second interview, and failed to return the next day. Three weeks later, she attended with her solicitor but halted the interview again.

In September 2015, her solicitor submitted a 61-page witness statement.

In it, she said: “I have become increasingly concerned that the Wass Inquiry is biased and seeking to negatively investigate the whistle blowers and their character/credibility, rather than the actual unlawful activities by the FCO, DFID, the governor, the deputy governor, the chiefs of police, and others.”

The inquiry found no illegality.

Sasha Wass says the inquiry panel “has tried to understand” how Claire Gannon and fellow social worker Martin Warsama were allowed to operate on St Helena, “given their obvious lack of ability and industry”.

She says: “The answer may be that neither of the directors of health and social welfare during the relevant period had any social work qualifications. They would not have been aware of the required standards of social work practice and consequently were unable to monitor Claire Gannon’s performance.

“…it was clear that they put their trust in Claire Gannon and what they saw as her gilt- edged credentials.” They were “ill-equipped to call her to account”.

Her successor, Samantha Dunn, “was able to rationalise the files, identify the problems and get to grips with her job within weeks of her arrival on St Helena.”

St Helena Government now makes much more robust checks on job candidates.

How a ‘lazy, horrible’ man got glowing reference for post

Martin Warsama came highly praised when he applied for a social work job on St Helena, even though the Wass corruption inquiry later found him to be “incompetent, lazy and divisive”.

And it was no wonder that his future boss saw nothing wrong with his job reference – because she wrote it herself.

Claire Gannon was also on his interview panel.

Her involvement in appointing him revealed a flaw in SHG employment practices – since tightened up. She had “a clear conflict of interest” because they had worked closely together in the UK, says Sasha Wass QC.

The inquiry panel heard that colleagues found Martin Warsama extremely difficult to work with.

The public solicitor of the time called him “a chippy bloke who hated everyone.”

Detective Constable Veronica Judd said he was “one of the most aggressive, rude men I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. He was extremely intimidating.”

The director of health and social services told the inquiry that Mr Warsama was employed as a social work trainer “but never did any training”.

A colleague described how he and Claire Gannon would take several smoking breaks a day – lasting up to an hour.

The policy development officer for safeguarding said: “We immediately discovered that Martin was one of the most horrid people I’ve ever met… He was lazy, incompetent, and horrible.”

But Ms Gannon’s reference for him said than during ten years working with him, she found him “confident and competent” in all his roles.

“Martin has always presented as a helpful, considerate person who strives to achieve the best outcome for service users,” she wrote. “He works well as part of a team… he has a balanced approach… excellent communication skills and able to be assertive without being officious.”

The inquiry report also says he claimed a cost of living allowance for his partner and two children, but they never came to the island. A dispute arose when SHG tried to reclaim the money, the report says.

Mr Warsama’s job included training police. But the Wass report makes it clear he had a difficult relationship with officers.

In his evidence to the inquiry in February 2015, he said: “There weren’t any systems… Someone might not get a service or told go somewhere else. If I knew them I would talk to them. There didn’t seem to be a recording system. There were lots of files but no system. Just a jamboree of information.”

The report says: “Mr Warsama did nothing to rectify this situation, despite being employed to do so …it was difficult to ascertain exactly what Martin Warsama did whilst in post.”

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama were severely criticised by the island’s Chief Justice, Charles Ekins, for the state of the evidence they supplied at an adoption hearing. It led to them being investigated to see whether they had committed perjury. A police inquiry did not find enough evidence for a prosecution.

A subsequent complaint to their professional body found no evidence of wrongdoing or of being unfit to practise.

It was Ms Gannon who leaked the confidential Lucy Faithfull Foundation report to the Daily Mail and had it published on the internet, but Mr Warsama supported allegations she made against authorities on the island – later dismissed by the Wass Inquiry.

Mr Warsama says he strongly refuted criticisms made of himself and Claire Gannon in the inquiry report, but says his lawyers have advised him not to comment until after Christmas.

Health and social services projects get top marks

Overall ‘A’ ratings have been awarded for two major projects run by St Helena’s Health and Social Welfare Directorate.

It means the Healthlink 3 and Health Strategy projects both funded by the UK for three and a half years, achieved their overall objectives when they ended in March 2012.

The main focus of Healthlink 3 was to ensure that key professionals were provided for St Helena and Tristan da Cunha. 

The Health Strategy project was aimed at developing overall health and social services provision on St Helena, with staff training and new equipment.

Wholly based on information from St Helena Government.

Challenging behaviour unit tipped for approval

A proposed challenging behaviour unit in the grounds of the old Half Tree Hollow School has been recommended for approval.

Plans include nine bedrooms, a sensory room, a “time out” space and a seclusion room, laid out in two blocks linked by a covered walkway, with a courtyard in one of them. Facilities to care for people with physical disabilities are also included.

St Helena’s health service currently looks after people with severe behaviour disorders at nearby Sundale House, but the building is needed for other purposes – including a new prison.

The building will be 28 metres long and just under six metres high, except for an upstairs area for staff over the main lounge and lobby.

It will be built of stone masonry and concrete blockwork, with a metal sheet roof.

A report says neighbouring properties will not be affected.

The planning board has been advised to approve the scheme, but with various conditions to protect the environment.

They include collecting rain water for re-use, using solar panels for all water heating, with concealed tanks, and relying on natural ventilation, rather than air conditioning.

They also say a landscaping scheme must preserve the rural character of the area, and there must be no light pollution.

Barn View residents to have a change of scene

Residents of Barn View care home at Longwood could soon be moving to Half Tree Hollow as part of a plan to bring social services facilities together in one part of the island. The St Helena Broadcasting Corporation reports that planning consent has been given for internal alterations at the community care centre. A new day care centre is also to be created in the former Half Tree Hollow First School building, and a family centre is also proposed. Work at the community care centre could be complete by the end of the year.