The husband of South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has been branded a “perpetrator of elder abuse” by council chiefs after a string of allegations while he was a care worker.
South Tyneside Council spoke out after it was asked to pay out £400 compensation to Simon Buck by a watchdog who found the local authority had made procedural errors – despite a probe ruling Mr Buck had abused a vulnerable elderly man.
Mr Buck now works as a parliamentary assistant for his wife – who was Shadow Children’s Minister and a former social worker.
The abuse claims date back to 2014 – but have just to come to light now after Mr Buck complained to the Local Government Ombudsman about the council’s procedure during its investigation.
The ombudsman’s report details how the allegations were made by the elderly man’s wife – who claimed Mr Buck, referred to throughout only as ‘Mr Y’, had “swore at” and “neglected” her husband.
Separate allegations were also made by a whistleblower, who alleged Mr Buck:
•Swore at vulnerable people and their families;
•Used homophobic language to a family member;
•Inappropriately referred to a colleague about the mental state of a vulnerable person;
•Potential missed care calls;
•Potential fraudulent claims;
•Intimidating behaviour towards a manager.
MP’s husband claimed he was victim of a ‘witch hunt’
Mr Buck was suspended by South Tyneside Home Care – the agency he worked for – in July 2014 following an allegation from the wife of the man he had cared for.
He was subsequently given a written warning – but the man’s wife made a safeguarding alert to the council, which launched its own probe.
Mr Buck resigned from his post and secured a job as an auxiliary nurse at South Tyneside District Hospital.
But it withdrew its offer of shifts after it discovered there were safeguarding concerns.
As the probe continued, documents seen by the Gazette show how Emma Lewell-Buck rang the council’s chief executive demanding to know why the investigation was taking so long.
The ombudsman’s report states how Mr Buck claimed he was the victim of a “witch hunt” – but after a meeting in September 2014 the council found that he had neglected his elderly patient.
He was sent a letter informing him of the results in October that year – but asked for a further review.
A hearing was held in June 2015, which he attended with his MP wife, who went along for what the report says was “emotional support”.
Before the meeting, the council instructed an independent social worker who met with Mr Buck and reviewed the evidence and concluded that there was “no evidence” abuse had occurred.
But despite this, at the multi-agency meeting, the council revealed it had decided the incidents reported by the elderly man’s family did happen.
And where as the swearing they found to have taken place did not cause the patient any psychological harm, not changing the continence pad until prompted by the family constituted abuse, according to the report.
No further investigations or hearing were held in relation to the further allegations made by whistleblowers.
Mr Buck took the decision to the ombudsman – making several complaints and allegations of his own.
Council failed to follow some policy and procedures
Mr Buck argued that the council did not follow safeguarding procedures correctly.
He claimed it failed to tell him about allegations made against him, or provide an opportunity for him to refute the allegations and provide supporting evidence.
He said officers from the council failed to update him, and a staff member threatened him.
He also claimed there was a data breach by the council after he alleged they gave his wife information about the investigation before telling him.
He added the council’s failures led to his rejection from a university course, and losing hours from a work placement.
And that he believed the council had a vendetta against him and his wife.
The ombudsman probe did find that the council had failed to follow some policy and procedures when conducting its investigation – but did not question the council’s finding of abuse or find there was any data breach.
It also did not find it affected his career prospects – but asked the council to pay Mr Buck £400 compensation, apologise to him to recognise “the impact of avoidable delay, distress, uncertainty and time and trouble”.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said: “People have a right to be treated fairly during any investigation, and that includes having access to any reports written about them before crucial meetings take place.
“I now call on South Tyneside council to look again at my report and consider the actions it will take in response, to improve its processes and procedures for future investigations.”
But the council has expressed concerns over why it has been asked to pay out to a man it sees as a “perpetrator of elder abuse”.
Simon Buck’s statement in full
“I’m delighted the Local Government Ombudsman has told South Tyneside Council to compensate me following its investigation into my treatment at the local authority’s hands.
“It’s a shame the ombudsman has no powers to say anything publicly about the facts of my case but I repeat, as I have from the beginning, that the allegations against me are entirely fictitious.
“It’s also pleasing that the report states several areas where the council was clearly at fault during its investigations and it is quite apparent that the process which ended with my losing a job I loved was in no way fair or just.
“I note with some sadness that even today, the council cannot admit how wrong they were and are still using inappropriate and offensive language about me.
“This has never been about money for me but about mudslinging towards an innocent man.
“Accordingly, I shall be donating the £400 to the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign – one which the council would have done better to get behind from the outset, rather than wasting council taxpayers’ money on a vendetta against me.
“This has been a tough and upsetting battle which has absorbed much of the past couple of years of my life and I am glad to be vindicated and hope that my family and I can now finally put it behind us.”
South Tyneside Council’s statement in full
“South Tyneside Council accepts the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman findings of minor administrative failing in this case where the council was acting as the administering body for investigations into the abuse of vulnerable people.
“The ombudsman has not however challenged the decision made by a panel of multi-agency professionals to uphold a finding of abuse and there is no further challenge to this decision.
“We are therefore concerned that the council has been asked to make a payment of compensation to a perpetrator of elder abuse.
“In this case, the council was unable to demonstrate from the historical electronic care records, that it had shared a report in a specific timeframe, even though it could demonstrate that the complainant was given an opportunity to present his views and challenge the facts in person.
“We will remind staff of the importance of documenting actions taken and making clear records of the reasons for decisions made by professionals and communicating those in a timely manner.
“As required by the ombudsman, the recommendations in his report will be considered at a meeting of Borough Council on Monday 26th March 2018.
“The ombudsman’s report on this case is available online and copies are available from South Shields Town Hall, Hebburn Central and Jarrow Town Hall.”