I have received information from someone who worked for North East Wales MIND – formerly known as Flintshire MIND – from June 2014-June 2017. My correspondent is concerned that she raised very serious matters with this organisation, including workplace bullying, breach of client confidentiality and loss of clients personal data, as well as her worries with regard to the circumstances in which one client committed suicide, concerns which she maintains were never appropriately addressed.
This is not the first time that I have been contacted by an employee of MIND. I received communication from a former employee of a different branch of MIND some weeks ago, who alleged workplace bullying and collusion with this by Sara Moseley, the Director of MIND Cymru, as well as a Welsh Gov’t NHS advisor. Sara Moseley’s brother Simon is a clinical psychologist who works for the Betsi Board. The person who gave me this info asked me not to identify them on the blog because they feared retribution.
My correspondent from Flintshire has asked me to name her – she wants to go public with her allegations. She is Karen Hughes, who is a fully qualified counsellor herself.
I stress that I did not personally witness any of the events that Karen alleges happened, but Karen has sent me copies of the correspondence between her and Nicola Blackwell from Parabl/CAIS, in which Karen detailed her complaint and concerns. Nicola refers to a meeting of the Senior Management Team being held to discuss Karen’s concerns but there is no reference to any action being taken.
This is what Karen maintains happened whilst she worked at North East Wales MIND:
Karen alleges workplace bullying by Chief Officer Jenny Murphy, Wages Clerk Andrea Hurst, Counsellor Julie Scott and Volunteer Co-Ordinator Berni Durham-Jones. Karen also alleges that she was bullied at work by a former MIND employee, Sue Beckett, who left the organisation in 2015. Karen maintains that the workplace bullying started on her first day with MIND, that she reported it many times to her manager but no action was taken.
Karen has provided me with full details of the events which she maintains constituted the bullying. She put in a formal grievance which was ‘thrown out’. By this time Karen was distressed and under the care of her GP, on medication. She went on sick leave. When she returned to work Karen was suspended on full pay by Chief Officer Jenny Murphy. Karen alleges that she was suspended for ‘spending too much time with clients’ and that Murphy told her that she needed to ‘take a course to get rid of people’. Karen walked out and did not return to North East Wales MIND.
When Karen left MIND she tells me that many of the clients and volunteers left with her – Karen runs her own mental health group. Many of them told Karen their own ‘horror stories’ regarding North East Wales MIND.
Karen also alleged that the personal data of thousands of Parabl clients were lost in an IT error. Parabl is a counselling service run jointly between MIND and Dafydd’s charity CAIS (see posts ‘Newly Discovered – Parabl!’ and ‘The Commissioning Of Parabl – And Yet More History’). I have received correspondence from a number of people alleging that they were told by the Betsi mental health services that they were not ill enough to receive a service and were referred to Parabl – who then told them that their problems were too severe to meet the criteria for a service from Parabl.
Karen alleges that the Chair of the Board of North East Wales MIND, a solicitor called Anthony Bochenski, concealed the loss of the clients’ data and asked an employee of the web hoster to confirm that the info had been returned to MIND when it had not been and never was. Karen alleges that the info which was lost was not encrypted. Karen states that she reported the loss of this data to Parabl but no action was taken.
The most worrying allegations of Karen’s involved the death of a 26 year old male client of Counsellor Julie Scott’s who killed himself by stepping in front of a train six days after, Karen alleges, Julie told him that she couldn’t see him anymore and that there was nothing more that they could do for him.
Karen tells me that this young man had previously been a patient at the Heddfan Unit and had felt let down by many people. At his inquest in Ruthin in Sept 2016 Julie gave evidence. Julie was told by the Coroner that she should have spoken to the young man’s GP directly – Julie had made an appointment for the man to see his GP but had not spoken to the GP. The GP claimed not to know that the young man was suicidal. After the young man’s funeral, donations were made to Flintshire MIND – one presumes that his family and friends were unaware of the full circumstances of his death.
Karen maintains that the death of this young man is only the tip of the iceberg. She alleges that on one occasion Julie left a suicidal client alone in her room because she had another client due. Karen alleges that she (Karen) was told that counselling rooms were for private clients and that other clients were not afforded privacy – on one occasion Karen had to speak to a client who had suffered a miscarriage whilst they sat on a bench in a full room.
Karen alleges that Andrea Hurst, the Wages Clerk, had inappropriate access to confidential information about clients.
Karen alleges that Jenny Murphy the Chief Officer accused Karen of ‘poaching’ her clients, although Lynne Jones, Karen’s line manager, had explained to Jenny that clients had been referred to Karen’s support agency only when they had not managed to get through Parabl or could not afford to pay for therapy. Lynne Jones seems to have conducted herself properly at all times and from the information available to me was also struggling with the organisation and it’s practices.
Karen states that negative feedback from clients was shredded, that clients were not often given the chance to give feedback or were pressurised into providing positive feedback. Karen’s suggestion that clients should be sent feedback forms along with an SAE was vetoed.
Karen alleges constant breaches of clients confidentiality and that documentation compiled provided misleading information concerning the number of people completing stress management and mindfulness.
Karen states that she was told to offer new clients a free ‘induction’ with Flintshire MIND’s own therapy service, ‘Insight’ (now known as ‘Flintshire Talking Therapies’). She claims that this was to act as a ‘carrot’ to engage clients, but there was then often such a long wait for therapy that clients went elsewhere. Karen alleges that clients doing this were recorded as ‘refusing therapy’.
Karen makes a number of allegations about Julie Scott in particular:
That Julie was employing her ex-boyfriend to deliver stress management courses and that whilst Julie lived with this man he took class A drugs; that Julie had attempted to manipulate Karen by telling her that if she – Julie- returned to using alcohol and class A drugs it would be as a result of Karen’s actions, as Julie considered herself to be ‘in recovery’; and that Julie was not coming into work because she was working elsewhere, namely for Open Minds in Wrexham. Andrea Hurst told Chief Officer Jenny Murphy about this, although Open Minds were not approached. Not only was Julie never asked to repay the money that she had been paid whilst working for Open Minds, but Jenny Murphy then gave Julie time off to work for Open Minds whilst she continued to be paid by Parabl. Karen also alleges that when Julie Scott was contracted to work for Parabl she was also delivering therapy for private clients of Flintshire MIND Talking Therapies. Perhaps all this explains the long waiting list for Parabl ‘therapies’.
Karen told me that she brought all these matters to the attention of National MIND but no action was taken.
Karen has told me that after she was suspended she took advice from UNISON, who reassured her that she had conducted herself properly. The matter does not seem to have been resolved however – and UNISON are obviously aware that an organisation providing ‘therapy’ to some very vulnerable people is behaving very badly.
Many thanks to Karen for contacting me. This story makes for sober reading, but I have heard about the practices that Karen details again and again. This is often the sad reality behind the media reports of yet another suicide of a mental health patient whom the mental health services had tried so hard to help but these patients are just so difficult…