Back in 2021 we interviewed Barbara Schaefer, a now retired Senior Social Worker – discredited and left unprotected for whistleblowing in an NHS Trust. Here she picks up the story as we prepare to talk to more victims of Britain’s broken employment protections
I write this (see this article for background on my case) five months after the Court of Appeal refused me permission, ending the last possible step in my legal fight against the defamation and losses suffered following a Public Interest Disclosure in the NHS – the last legal step available in the UK.
Steps to taking back control
As a mental health social worker, I am familiar with the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and others. This is my application of that program to the situation I have been facing.
1. I am powerless … over the breaches of the law I have encountered by the NHS, solicitors and Barristers and lawyers in the Courts. I am powerless over the fact that I now have to respect that last Court Order refusing me permission to appeal in order to hold the Government accountable for their responsibility to provide services that uphold the law – respect for what it is, if not for its justification.
But that feeling ends there. Recently a medical practitioner (non-NHS) wrote to me: “If more people did what you did, (those in power) would not get away with (denying the principles they also had signed up to)”. This is the core of what my fight was about. A few reactions like these have warmed my heart and I respond with gratitude.
2. Most grateful I am, however, that I did not at any stage get the support of a Legal Aid solicitor (sorry guys, I have encountered a few of you en route – all with a performance somewhere between downtrodden and outright incompetent in my view) and even more grateful that my BASW insurance did not cover my costs (as they should have done by law and contract at the time). Such support could have been withdrawn after a couple of years, and given the ruthlessness of the legal professionals acting for the NHS the outcome might not have been different. BASW staff who advised me initially, and wrongly as it turned out, was later struck off the social work register (for unrelated unethical behaviour).
I would do it again
3. Like Katharine Gun (The Spy Who Tried to Prevent a War) I am saying I would do it again. Of course, the difference between Katharine and me is that I did not break the law but simply worked to uphold it. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must have gone through. Most grateful I am for the democratic tradition in Germany following WWII in which I grew up – in the spirit that says: Never again must silence enable those breaking the law for their own power grab.
Grateful I am also for my love for the English language and quirky Brits which brought me to the country I now made my home in for over 25 years. I would have never learned so much had I stayed where I grew up.
4. The financial balance of the case is pretty damning. I have lost upwards of £600,000 in income and opportunities and I have no insurance for care which I may need later.
5. I shall continue to speak up against injustice and inhumane treatment where ever I see it and my conscience demands it. That comes from a philosophical clarity which I learned before coming to the UK but I have seen it here as well.
6. After the original Employment Tribunal sabotaged due process, with legal training I might have taken other steps than the ones I did but I don’t blame myself for that and the learning that followed.
I am glad that in 2016 I said to a Judge in the County Court I did not think I should answer his question as he was taking all the social and regulatory context out of the matter. Perhaps I should have walked out of that Court after I said it? But then I would not have seen a barrister for the other side clearly lying in front of the Judge in mid-Hearing, without being sanctioned. I am sure I will put that experience to further good use.
7. My actions are entirely determined by my conscience even if at times I was anxious or did not shine and convince as I might have done otherwise.
8. A fair trial it was at no stage. The last barrister for the Government I met in 2018, Elizabeth Hodgetts, knows that, I believe, and she may even have attempted to do something about it, in line with her obligation to uphold the law. It is, in my view, on her Chambers’ conscience that they, so far, have not done more to uphold their standards in this respect.
9. I am now, at nearly 68 years of age, coming to a stage where I still have to create evidence for the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of my Intellectual Property and some monetary return from creating a legacy.
10. I shall always measure steps I take against the clarity and imperative of conscience I felt in July 2011, after a kind solicitor in Gainsborough had given me much more than the free half hour I was entitled to in order for me to get the story out, even if her advice then was not to pursue the matter in Court.
11. This is not the place to make a declaration of faith such as it maybe but I am certain at least some good will come out my experience for social justice, so much needed for those most vulnerable – whether NHS mental health patients or others.
12. I am available for further public speaking and consultancy work to guide junior NHS, NGO and legal staff in their professional development. See e.g.
Any funds raised from that and future projects shall be paid into a Trust* and shall benefit non-profit measures as required to sustain my life’s mission in its non-profit orientation. See http://www.beaconsocialcare.org.uk)
*Gwirionedd Educational Trust, registered with HMRC Trust Office – 4731 480642
At this point I am looking for philanthropic donors who would consider pre-funding (even a small part of) works to be developed from my Intellectual Property. I am turning past studies and professional experience into publications. An agent has already shown an interest in my first book proposal. I have evidence behind all aspects of my Intellectual Property in the fields of Applied Epistemology, Higher Education, Consciousness Studies and Social Work, which can be used to offer perspectives showing ways out of the current world crisis and other problems.
Philanthropic funding would help to reduce stress going forward and support those who helped me with loan-funding for CPD while I was developing my Intellectual Property in the early 2000s.