In 2023, Protect significantly impacted the lives of thousands of whistleblowers by providing practical and legal advice on how to safely and effectively raise workplace concerns. The UK’s leading whistleblowing charity worked on 3047 total cases, a rise of 23% on 2022.
The Post Office Horizon scandal is one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice – in this blog we examine the role of whistleblowers in bringing the scandal to light and the changes we would like to see to prevent future scandals of this kind.
If a whistleblower can’t disclose their concerns directly to an employer, or they have been ignored, or are not satisfied with their response, then they can escalate concerns to a relevant regulator to investigate. But, if your employer is a regulator, who do you raise concerns to?
Helena* worked in the distribution factory of a well-known food company. She was an agency worker, so effectively worked for both her agency and the distribution factory as both played a role in determining the terms of her engagement. At work, Helena noticed a culture of racism including racist language being used by senior members of staff, as well as working practices which disadvantaged Muslim workers.
Eleanor* was a social worker, whose work often brought her to her local hospital to support patients. Over time, she grew increasingly uneasy about the inadequate handling of patient safety, and decisions not being taken in the best interests of vulnerable people. She felt that a manager appeared to be discharging patients who weren’t ready to go home.
During the course of his job, Oliver realised his company had hired someone who had previous convictions for a serious financial crime. Oliver had been made to do a DBS check when he joined so was shocked this person had been hired.
Amal* works for a charity providing wellbeing services to vulnerable adults. She called Protect following a serious incident where a service user had physically threatened her. Amal explained that she had raised concerns previously about the charity’s building not being safe for workers following previous incidents. She told us her requests for securing the premises and implementing additional safety measures for staff had been ignored.
As a new recruit in the police force, Mary* was shocked to discover what was happening amongst police officers in her area. Mary knows that so-called “trainers” are responsible for teaching police officers how to do their job and issuing licenses to those who have completed their training. However, Mary came across compelling evidence suggesting that more than a hundred trainers themselves were unqualified and lacked oversight of who had completed their training.
Water companies don’t seem to be able to stay out of the headlines. In the past year alone there have been 300,000 instances of firms discharging raw sewage into rivers and seas – most of these being illegal. Now Ofwat has released updated whistleblowing expectations for water companies. We ask whether this will help address wrongdoing in the industry and give would-be whistleblowers the courage to speak up.
We welcome this National Audit Office report into whistleblowing in the civil service. The report notes that whistleblowers are key to good government and challenge is critical to holding organisations to account. Recent scandals, including Greensill and Partygate, showed that people inside government knew about wrongdoing but may have been afraid to come forward.