"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." - Albert Einstein.
This quote came up on Twitter the other day, shortly after I had received a detailed account of the experiences of several county council employees who had decided to do the right thing and report a case of abuse.
Since starting this blog, I have been contacted by a number of people who have had similar experiences, and although each one is different, their stories have a great deal in common and they have all been through hell.
More often than not what begins as an attempt to flag abuse of vulnerable people in the care of the Council or abuses of process ends up with the whistleblowers themselves being subjected to disciplinary procedures and dismissal.
These cases usually drag on for many months or even years, and the staff involved find themselves caught up in a Kafka-esque nightmare as the bureaucratic machinery is turned against them, senior managers close ranks, people change statements, reports are shelved and not acted on, key information is withheld and rules are turned upside down. Frequently they are subjected to bullying and find themselves ostracized.
Not surprisingly, these experiences are deeply traumatic, and complainants find their reputations trashed, future employment prospects ruined and their lives turned upside down. They are let down by the bodies which are meant to protect them. The Ombudsman is powerless to act, the CSSIW fails them; the unions often act half-heartedly. Appeals to senior management are ignored, and some elected political representatives turn out to be useless.
A common thread in all these cases is that the complainants begin to doubt themselves. "You probably think I am obsessive", they say. "You probably think I am unhinged".
As an outsider it is natural to wonder, especially when you hear that there have been charges of misconduct and disciplinary procedures, whether these are not just embittered former employees who have an axe to grind.
And of course, that is almost certainly what we are all supposed to think. But why, you end up asking yourself, would someone get in touch, identify themselves, provide very detailed accounts of what they have been though, and ask you not to write about their cases?
The Council has whistleblower procedures, and perhaps they are applied correctly sometimes and we never get to hear about it. But that seems to be far from true in the cases I have seen.
Concerns over the treatment of whistleblowers was one of the points I raised in my submission to the current review of governance, but this is a huge and complex subject. I suspect that as often as not councillors never get to hear about the real-life cases.
The horrific events in Rotherham are a timely reminder of what is at stake and why whistleblowers need to be taken seriously and given protection.
I hope that this is something the council's Audit Committee will take up and examine in detail in the months to come.
For those of you wondering whether the series on grants has now come to an end, there is one more thrilling installment to come next week.