26 July 2019 MY STORY & recent press articles about Bullying in the NHS uncovered THREE testimonies [so far] from victims of workplace bullying at AWP. CE's Hayley Richards, Iaian Tulley et al suppressed this for YEARS whilst blowing the AWP trumpet. PLEASE - read our testimonies - tell YOUR story. Bully, bully support or victim - all of you can contribute to our campaign for FAIR DEALING, in the spirit of TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
If AWP conducted ALL bully investigations via ACAS, other Trusts will follow suit. Every journey begins with one step.. **************************************************** TESTIMONIES - bookmark this page for updates
late June 2019 - FURTHER TESTIMONY - awaiting permission from victim
June 2019 TESTIMONY OF FORMER AWP MENTAL HEALTH WORKER [does not wish to be named]: "This situation .. does not surprise me; I’ve always thought AWP is too big, is management heavy and reflects the mental disturbance of the people it’s supposed to treat. My own experience of AWP was of weak managers .. I should not have worked for them in the first place."
May 2018 TESTIMONY OF HELEN RUDDOCK, former Psychology Assistant, Lift Stress Management, Swindon. [Helen is currently making a formal complaint to AWPHuman Resources Director] "I began working for AWP shortly after having completed my degree in Psychology, at the age of 21. I was based in Swindon and reported to Annette Law and Liz Howells. Three months after starting, I received a diagnosis of epilepsy which rendered my driving licence invalid for at least one year. Notably, one of the ‘essential criteria’ for the AP position was the ability to drive, and so the revocation of my driving licence limited my ability to travel to certain clinics or course locations that were far from my office base. I remember that during one of the first meetings with Liz following my diagnosis, she told me that she would terminate my employment if she could but that disability laws wouldn’t allow it. What followed, I believe, was a series of deliberate and persistent attempts to ‘force’ me to leave by subjecting me to psychological abuse and defamation of my character.
I remember that on one particular occasion, Liz described me as ‘arrogant’ and said (and I recall this verbatim) ‘you’re the lowest of the low, but you just don’t realise it’. The accusation of arrogance was prompted by a group meeting, led by deputy head Annette Law, during which I had asked a question about the division of administrative duties between assistant psychologists and counsellors. Annette appeared to take great offense to what was meant as innocuous question; she threw her papers on the floor and screamed at me not to ask such questions. This event was relayed back to Liz who called me into a meeting to point out my arrogance and ensure that I knew my place in their hierarchy.
While Annette appeared to have difficulty controlling her outbursts of anger (she once got disproportionately aggressive when I sent her a Word document with a blank page at the end), I didn’t get the impression that she wanted to upset others. Liz, on the other hand, would continue to divulge a torrent of psychological abuse even after it was obvious that I was upset. I remember on one occasion being in her office in tears, while she continued to tell me “you’ve failed, Helen. You’ve never failed anything in your life, but now you’ve failed”. My perspective is that Liz enjoyed having control and power over others’ emotions, particularly those that she viewed as being below her status. On this particular occasion, I believe that Liz was deliberately trying to attack what she thought was an insecurity of mine (i.e. fear of failure).
One of Liz’s ways of ensuring that my job was as difficult as possible was to insist that I led all of the computerised cognitive behavioural therapy courses. These courses took place all over Swindon and so I would often need to take two busses to get to the course location, armed with 5 laptops and a box of paperwork. After suggesting that this was a rather stressful task, Liz decided that I should take a taxi instead – she said it would be a breach of health and safety if I were to continue to take the bus with the laptops and box. However, she explained that the taxi would not be covered by expenses – I could claim back only the cost of petrol (~£2) and I had to pay the rest (~£10). There were around 4-5 other Assistant Psychologists working at AWP Swindon at the time, all of whom could have led these courses instead of me. This would make perfect sense given that all of them could drive. However, when one of the APs suggested to Annette that she could lead the sessions, she was told (rather aggressively) never to mention it again.
Perhaps one of the most stressful experiences at AWP was following a complaint from a client in which he claimed that I had told him that my next client was suffering from a flying phobia. Of course, this would be a serious breach of patient confidentiality. However, by showing Liz my client records, I was able to prove that my next client was not receiving treatment for a flying phobia. In fact, none of my current or previous clients had reported a flying phobia. However, Liz dismissed this evidence and instead suggested that my epilepsy had made me say something that I didn’t mean and then made me forget that I had said it. She promptly sent me to occupational health for an assessment who, of course, reported to Liz that this is not a symptom of epilepsy. After receiving the OH report, Liz became extremely angry that I hadn’t insisted that this was one of my symptoms. I am still unsure of Liz’s motivations for obtaining a false report of my epilepsy symptoms. She insisted that she was trying to help, but instead I felt that I was being coerced into falsely reporting that I was psychologically unstable and unpredictable. This could have negatively affected my entire career.
Liz appeared to hold outdated and unfounded beliefs about how my epilepsy would affect my working ability. Despite the OH report, I was subsequently prevented from seeing clients as it was feared that my epilepsy would make me say or do something which would have negative effects on clients. I believe that this was entirely unwarranted; I had received good reviews of the courses that I taught and letters of thanks from clients who I had helped, and yet (as was often the case at AWP) these positive reviews were ignored in favour of unsubstantiated concerns. Even after leaving AWP, Liz’s ableist attitudes were demonstrated when she telephoned a potential new employer to advise them not to hire me because I have epilepsy. I got the job despite this, as my new employer was aware that controlled epilepsy (like mine) would not affect my working ability, and believed that Liz had provided an unfair reference.
While I sometimes wish that I had spoken out at the time about the bullying, I was unsure about who I could have gone to for unbiased support. Many of my colleagues were all too aware of Liz’s overly critical management style but felt similarly powerless to do anything about it. Liz had many ‘supporters’ who would defend her (Barbara Stapleton, Veronica Barnes, Annette Law), perhaps out of fear of losing their own jobs. However, I am convinced that anyone who has worked closely with Liz will know that our reports of bullying are truthful. Liz’s ‘management’ approach is to belittle and entice fear in her employees, and I am concerned that she will continue to cause detriment to the confidence of aspiring clinical psychologists and counsellors. It is therefore vital to ensure that potential victims of bullying can report their experiences to unbiased mediators without fear of reprimand and further abuse. Given recent media reports of bullying within the NHS, I believe that your campaign for fair dealing should be made a priority.
Please feel free to pass this letter to anyone who may be able to help with your case. I hope that it will help to substantiate your claims, and to persuade AWP senior management to apologise and admit wrongdoing. Unfortunately, I know that we are not the only ones to have endured psychological abuse from Liz Howells and, through publicising our own experiences, I hope that other people will feel supported to come forward. Helen Ruddock
ADDENDUM - by email "I came across a document online that was about [Marianne's] case (I think it was the 'dignity at work' report ?) and I couldn't believe what I was reading and how they make Liz out to be the victim. I read how Barbara had said that [Marianne would] "contradict her in meetings" - she had said the exact same about me (she must have some deep-seated issues about being contradicted or something). Veronica's statements are absolutely ludicrous too, saying how Liz was so approachable and good to her staff - pretty sure none of the Assistant Psychs would agree with that! It really is shocking. "