In May 2020 a PCS Union rep was dismissed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), a decision PCS believe to be in retaliation for the rep blowing the whistle on matters of public interest. The summary below is taken from the PCS website but I do hope all readers, whatever their union, take the opportunity to send messages of support and solidarity actions (details at bottom of post).
In May 2020 DWP dismissed one of PCS’ reps based in Preston Carer’s Allowance Unit. Enrico La Rocca, a DWP employee for over 27 years had highlighted serious concerns with DWP management over a number of years. His complaints and concerns, raised directly and via PCS, resulted in serious questions being asked about the Department’s handling of Carer’s Allowance overpayments.
“Administrative failings” and “shocking ineptitude”
Enrico’s concerns were taken up by the National Audit Office (NAO) resulting in a NAO report into Carer’s Allowance (CA) which revealed DWP’s own 2019 internal audit had found two thirds of the earnings related CA overpayments over £2500 could have been stopped earlier, had DWP looked at all the data-matching alerts produced by its systems. A subsequent Work and Pensions Select Committee report into these concerns said DWP were “culpable” for the Carers Allowance overpayments due to “administrative failure”, with the Chair of the Committee commenting on what he considered “shocking ineptitude” in the handling of the overpayments. The Committee recommended that the Department should write the overpayments off, rather than continue to prosecute claimants.
Prosecutions covered in the media
Despite these indictments DWP took little action to address these concerns, and Enrico sought to have these concerns taken up as a Whistle Blowing complaint by the Civil Service Commission. Due to the lack of proper internal investigation by the Dept. they refused to consider the Whistle Blowing complaint until the DWP responded to the concerns internally. Meanwhile Enrico was concerned by media reports of claimants having cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the Dept. despite DWP’s failures to address these serious issues. Enrico contacted the CPS to ask them to disclose the NAO report to the court in order to ensure a just decision could be made.
It was the contacting of the CPS and requesting that the NAO report, something which was already in the public domain, was shared with the court, which was used by DWP as their justification for Enrico’s dismissal.
PCS supports with legal advice
PCS believe that in contacting CPS, Enrico’s actions were part of ongoing Whistle blowing action to seek to address a clear and legitimate concern, and that he should have been provided with Whistle Blower protection and therefore not dismissed. PCS is supporting Enrico in challenging his dismissal and are taking legal advice on his behalf to seek his re-instatement via an Employment Tribunal.
Messages of support
Any PCS branches wishing to pass on messages of support to Enrico and his branch in opposing what we believe is an unfair and unwarranted dismissal can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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