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Bullying and harassment claims made in whistleblowing book on Sandwell Children's Trust

The boss of a children's trust has said she does not recognise a "toxic" culture described in a new whistleblowing book.

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The book, called Sandwell Children's Trust: Toxic Work Environment, and subheaded 'Horror stories of victims of bullying and harassment', has been published and is available to buy online.

It claims more than 50 social workers have quit the trust "due to a toxic work environment characterised by bullying, harassment, victimisation (and) false allegations by line managers".

Sandwell Children's Trust was set up in 2017 after children's services were taken away from the borough council amid concerns over performance. It is chaired by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Chief executive Emma Taylor said the allegations made in the book, written by Cecil McGarry, were "upsetting for us all" and has urged any staff with concerns to come forward.

The description of the book says: "This book documents accounts of former and current staff in Sandwell Children's Trust who have retold their experiences of systemic bullying and harassment that goes unreported due to fear of repercussions.

"Staff do not trust policies and procedures drafted by Sandwell Children's Trust because these are rarely followed by those who are supposed to protect staff.

"The whistleblowing policy too does not work, it is characterised by corruption and cover ups and the only way for many social workers who have been victims of bullying is to quit and move to another local authority."

It adds: "The purpose of this book is to support victims of bullying to speak out and protect others from going through the abuse that is normalised in Sandwell Children's Trust."

Ms Taylor said: "The allegations contained within the publication are upsetting for all of us, as well as our partners and families we work with.

"I certainly do not recognise the culture reported in the booklet and continue to work closely with the Heritage, Ethnicity and Diversity group to ensure we have a robust approach to ensuring all staff are treated fairly and equitably.

"At the trust we take a zero tolerance approach towards any kind of bullying, victimisation or harassment. When any allegation is raised it is fully investigated and all parties are provided with the support they need."

Ms Smith, who served as Home Secretary in Gordon Brown's Labour Government, was brought in to help lead the trust when it was formed four years ago.

It was tasked with driving up standards at the department which faced major criticism following successive inadequate ratings from Ofsted.

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