Grangemouth care workers quit over safety fears and alleged abuse from management

Six workers quit their jobs at a support service facility for young people in Grangemouth over concerns about their health and safety and alleged mistreatment at the hands of management.

By James Trimble
Thursday, 7th May 2020, 2:54 pm
Updated Friday, 8th May 2020, 9:54 am

The premises, which is run by LinkLiving on behalf of Falkirk Council, caters to young people who are leaving the care system.

Before their departure staff sent a 5000 word collective grievance to the director of LinkLiving over concerns about service users’ cannabis use, COVD-19 lockdown breaches and management’s “erratic, aggressive and unprofessional behaviour”.

A worker, who did not want to be named, said: “The last six remaining full time members of staff have all handed their notice in including me. The team leader has already left after the way she was treated and, as well as the collective grievance we have all sent in, she also has her own grievance against management too.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Care workers have made official complaints about they way they have been treated by management at the Grangemouth-based support service facility

“The staff had concerns about how Link is running the place and what they are allowing the young people to do. We raised these issues with management and its always dismissed and downplayed.

“These issues have an impact on the wider community. Link has also kept the communal area open despite government advice to close it and are refusing to stop the service users’ partners coming in to the flats during the COVID lockdown

“They also won't stop visitors coming to their flats too, putting the local community at risk of this virus.

“Some of the young people have been taking and selling cannabis within the building. Staff have complained about constantly having to be around the smell and other service users have kids that visit and have to be around the smell.

“When raising this with our manager the response we got was it is their flat, they can do what they want.”

Carrie Binnie, Unite the union industrial officer, said: “There have been a number of bullying and harassment issues raised by our members who feel they have not been treated well, developed or supported at LinkLiving.

“Unite are supporting our members to challenge these issues and will be appealing against the disappointing grievance process which has exasperated the fears of our members that they would face punitive measures and have their contracts terminated.

“This is the reason for the mass resignations. At a time when the country is relying on key workers we ask LinkLiving management to reflect on why a full team of staff have resigned on mass even in the circumstances when some don’t even have another job to go to. It's a shocking indictment on the prevailing workplace culture."

Among LinkLiving’s core values are caring, empathy and respect – treating others the way they wish to be treated.

A LinkLiving spokesperson said: “This service provides 24/7 support for care experienced young people, affected by disadvantage and trauma, and has been designed by Falkirk Council in close collaboration and consultation with the young people to support their future transition to more independent living.

“It is disheartening to hear anyone in our employment promote such a negative and discriminatory reputation for the young people at our service.

“The current pandemic is increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness for so many people, and to have a negative, deeply unkind spotlight put on young people who are already experiencing a range of difficulties is extremely sad.

“The project is run in line with all best practice health and safety guidance, including the current guidance relating to keeping people safe during COVID-19.

“The communal area is sometimes open to young people for essential face to face support with staff. It is large enough to facilitate social distancing, and the use of it is in line with robust risk assessments.

“Where concerns are raised by employees, these are dealt with in accordance with our own policies and employment legislation, the details of which are confidential.”

LinkLiving stated it would make no comment on reports six members of staff had handed in their notice.

In the grievance staff stated: “We have received no training to deal with volatile or aggression behaviours and are worried that one of us may be hurt as a result. We now feel truly let down and disillusioned by the company and style of management we have been subjected to.

“No one feels happy coming to their work or supported. We lack clear guidance when rules can be changed to suit and the environment and culture can be very unpleasant.

“The communal area should be closed unless there are necessary requirements for it being used by staff but not service users. We also demand the appropriate PPE is provided or there may be certain tasks/support we are unable to provide if we feel unsafe at work.

“We understand Link may have other ideas about this but we have spoken together and feel strongly about all of these issues concerning staff morale in respect of the rota, isolation, management’s erratic, aggressive and unprofessional behaviour and making staff feel threatened and intimidated, and the risks to us during this Covid-19 pandemic.”

According to the workers they received an e-mail from Link management stating the young service users are allowed to meet friends and family outside the Grangemouth premises despite the COVID-19 lockdown.

The grievance noted: “By advising this Link are failing to protect staff as best they can and also failing to educate and promote government guidance to the service users, to ensure they are as safe and well as they can be. Being lenient with the rules does not help them, and minimises the seriousness of the crisis and risk to all.”

The workers also state the partners of two service users have been allowed to visit the Grangemouth premises during the lockdown.

They said: “We feel there should be a strict restriction to people’s partners visiting, as there is for everyone else who do not live together in the same home. There are many couples across the UK facing the same ruling and staying apart to save unnecessary travel and save lives and our NHS.

“Management trusting these partners is irrelevant when it comes to the health and safety of staff and young people, we cannot trust an invisible virus. Our health and safety is being compromised and we are not willing to accept this.”

The staff stated they were constantly reminded about the fact they were all on probation and could lose their job at any time.

“This makes all staff fearful they will be unemployed if they make any small mistake or don’t have time to engage with all service users every day, given how short staffed they are this is a concern.

“Also having a document that forcibly states in the opening title staff’s employment could be terminated is deeply concerning. We are all fearful of having probation extended or our employment terminated.

“This has created a great deal of anxiety and dread about coming to work and we do not feel supported or in a position to ask for support or help. We feel our training and learning is suffering from this and for some of us, the whole illusion of working in this sector is shattered.”

The grievance added both staff and a service user have complained about the smell of cannabis in the building as service users smoke this.

“We have raised this with management and have been told service users can do as they want in their own flats. The smell lingers in communal areas and hallways for hours and this is not a safe workplace for employees, if this was happening in our homes we would be complaining to police or council to have something done.”