Council officer dismissed from new job after anxiety from helping in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire

By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter

A council officer  who suffered flashbacks after helping in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire said she had been concerned about her new job at Hammersmith and Fulham council.

Rachael Wright-Turner told an employment tribunal she was not paranoid when she feared for her job after taking time off sick because “what I was worried about actually transpired”.

“I wouldn’t describe it as paranoia when that was happening,” she said.

She told the tribunal she was feeling “insecure” in May 2018, when she was suffering from anxiety and off work sick.

She was dismissed from her £127,000-a-year  job as director of public services at Hammersmith and Fulham council after taking time off sick,  suffering from anxiety.

Ms Wright-Turner had served as the director of  commissioning of children’s services for Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham councils for three years as part of its tri-borough arrangements.

She was working 100 hours a week in the aftermath of the fatal fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 and accrued  £30,000 in overtime.

She joined Hammersmith and Fulham Council in November 2017 as the director of public services reform.

Her appointment was deferred whilst she worked at Grenfell and she did not want to leave her role helping at Grenfell, the tribunal heard.

The £127,000-a-year role offered the same salary as her previous salary at Kensington and Chelsea but was on the senior management team.

She told the tribunal “I did not see it as a step up,” and agreed she was told by the council’s chief executive Kim Smith it would be a high pressure role, with high expectations.

“I assured her I could deliver and I did deliver,” Ms Wright-Turner told the employment tribunal.

Texts read out to the tribunal revealed that Ms Wright-Turner was “reluctant” to join Hammersmith and Fulham Council and was looking for interim posts instead.

She contacted Westminster City Council’s chief executive Stuart Love, telling him she wanted to move away from London entirely.

However she joined Hammersmith and Fulham and told the tribunal: “I did give them a chance”.

The hearing  held online because of Covid restrictions, was told how Ms Wright-Turner had flashbacks after dealing with the aftermath of Grenfell.

She had also been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which she disclosed on an occupational health form.

At that time she also said she had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)  but did not believe it impaired her job, the tribunal heard.

She had private counselling to help her deal with it.

She told the tribunal she did not tell the council’s chief executive about her PTSD but she did not experience it at first.

In a letter written in May 2018, her GP described her suffering “acute anxiety and panic attacks” and she had been off work for the past  month.

The hearing continues.

 


 

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