A whistleblower has claimed alleged mismanagement in an Edinburgh council department could lead to dangerous prisoners being released without being properly vetted.
But the council says an investigation found no evidence to support the claims and has dismissed fears the public may be being put at risk.
Members of the council’s scrutiny committee are understood to have been made aware of concerns regarding the city’s Criminal Justice Social Work Service (CJSWS).
The issues highlighted include claims of a culture of bullying and lack of transparency, which is alleged to have resulted in a ‘lowering of standards’ in the council-run service.
And there were also claims that some of the most serious cases involving murderers, rapists and child sex offenders had been mismanaged, posing a risk to the public.
This was strenuously denied by the council however, who confirmed that an investigation had been carried out into the allegations by Safecall, an independent service for council employees to anonymously report any problems in the workplace.
They said there is “no risk to the public”, adding that “no evidence was found to support these allegations” and that the report did not uphold any of the concerns or make any recommendations.
It comes after a recent report found that the council’s current whistleblowing process is ‘inadequate and/or not operating effectively’.
The CJSWS’s purpose is to identify any ‘gaps’ in cases where there are potential issues – and reduce the risk of re-offending to the greatest extent possible.
It is understood two senior members of staff in the department raised the alarm with the council’s whistleblowing hotline over alleged ‘systematic’ failures in the department.
Councillors and Safecall were alerted to multiple cases where the CJSWS allegedly didn’t properly vet dangerous prisoners when considering their release.
Among the significant issues raised about the department is a ‘mass exodus’ in the quality of the reports that are sent to the parole board, with claims some work is ‘copy and pasted’ from previous cases to save time.
And while weaknesses are said to have been eventually identified ‘most of the time’, it is feared public protection has been repeatedly compromised by a ‘tick box approach’ adopted by bosses.
A source close to the investigation said: “Managers are being protected and serious failings of the council’s responsibility to protect the public are being covered up.
“This secretiveness is dangerous.
“Serious Case Reviews have consistently demonstrated that failure to gather, share, analyse, and properly assesses information and manage risk – can lead to increased risk to the public, re-offending, serious harm caused to children, vulnerable adults, woman, all members of the public and damage to the council’s reputation and that of partner agencies.”
Police Scotland, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), Scottish Social Services Council and the Care Inspectorate reportedly expressed concern at the claims, but all considered the matters raised to be outwith their remit of investigation.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We have no concerns about the management of cases by our partners at the council and continue to work closely with them.”
The SPSO said it “cannot confirm or deny if we have received or are investigating a particular complaint.”
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “These claims have been robustly investigated and also reviewed by our independent whistleblowing service, Safecall.
“No evidence was found to support these allegations and both concluded that there was no risk to the public and that no actions were required to be taken forward by managers.
“The management of offenders, and associated risks, comes under strict multi-agency public protection arrangements, involving various partners including the police and health authorities.”
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