Former volunteer criticises confidentiality clause in Citizens Advice investigation

Gillian Brocklehurst, who alleged bullying and harassment at Cylch Conwy District CAB, says she feels gagged

Gillian Brocklehurst
Gillian Brocklehurst

Citizens Advice has been criticised by a former volunteer for attempting to keep confidential the findings of an independent investigation into alleged bullying, harassment and disability discrimination at a bureau in Wales.

Gillian Brocklehurst, a former volunteer at Cylch Conwy District CAB, said she felt she was being gagged from commenting on the findings.

Citizens Advice commissioned the investigation after it found "considerable evidence" of bullying and harassment at the Welsh bureau.

It has appointed Steve Maddox, former chief executive of Wirral Council, to look into claims made by Brocklehurst and another ex-volunteer, Liz Whitfield.

Maddox’s report was due to be produced at the end of next month, but his investigation has been delayed, partly because of wrangling over the terms of reference.

Brocklehurst claims the scope of the investigation is too narrow and is unhappy that Cylch Conwy District CAB, which is the subject of the investigation, has been sent the terms of reference.

She is also opposed to a statement in the terms of reference, seen by Third Sector, saying "this report will be confidential to the bureau, the complainants and Citizens Advice". She said:"It does feel like I am being gagged from speaking out."

Brocklehurst has raised her concerns about the way the investigation is being handled with David Jones, the Conservative MP for Clwyd West. She said, however, that she felt she had no choice but to agree to the terms in order for the matter to reach a conclusion.

Brocklehurst was dismissed in July last year after four years as a volunteer with the charity. Phil Ward, the charity’s chair, told her that this was because of her "disruptive behaviour".

Citizens Advice ordered a review into the dismissals, which found that the original investigation, conducted by the chairs of two other Citizens Advice bureaux in Wales, was flawed. It subsequently appointed Maddox, who is now retired, as an independent investigator.

A Citizens Advice spokesman said: "The terms of reference for the review clearly stated that only elements that were found to have been flawed in process would be reinvestigated - the report concluded that all others matters were deemed to have been answered.

"The board at Conwy has been sent the terms of reference, as have the complainants. The complainants have responded with their view and we are awaiting the board's view. Both parties have the right to be informed under what process the investigation will be conducted, but neither party has had any input in drafting the terms of reference and the fact that these have been forwarded to both parties does not mean they will be able to materially change them.

"We have done our utmost to move this very complex and difficult situation forward and, where delays were anticipated, to keep everyone informed."

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