Suspended practitioner left assessments uncompleted and failed to report a missing child, tribunal finds
A childrenâ€™s social worker has been suspended from the register for 12 months after being found guilty of misconduct.
The experienced practitioner, who was described as â€œpleasant and likeableâ€ and had been at Southwark council since 2008, was deemed to have displayed a lack of competence in relation to 16 different service users and their families. In some cases this was found to have caused actual harm, according to a Health and Care Professions Council panel.
The social worker was a member of the local authorityâ€™s children with disabilities team and many of the cases related to children with autism. On numerous occasions he was found to have failed to complete assessments â€“ on some occasions for years â€“ despite reminders from managers to do so.
The tribunal noted that there were some mitigating circumstances in the case, notably around workload and difficulties with IT systems. But the panel said that the factors â€œdid not significantly lessen the Registrantâ€™s culpability for his failuresâ€.
Concerns about the social workerâ€™s performance were raised in late 2014, the tribunal heard. There followed a period of support, including supervision and guidance meetings at which the social workerâ€™s performance was discussed.
An investigation was then carried out by â€˜RWâ€™, a team manager who worked alongside the social worker and carried out some of his supervisions, and submitted to the councilâ€™s HR department in November 2015.
â€œThe evidence of RW was that during guidance meetings and the capability process the Registrant acknowledged that his work fell below the required standards,â€ the tribunal found. â€œHe did not dispute the facts, but put forward mitigating factors of difficulties with IT system and pressure of work.â€
The social worker waived his right to attend the tribunal. Among a long list of examples relating to 16 different service users, which were found to be proved, the panel heard that:
A small number of additional allegations, relating to the same group of service users, were not substantiated because of insufficient evidence.
The tribunal heard that some of the social workerâ€™s other practice was satisfactory and that he â€œappeared to be busy at work, but spent much of his time on the telephone or engaged in lengthy home visitsâ€.
He had during guidance meetings been offered support and training around organisation and time management, as well as opportunities to join a buddy system and receive counselling. â€œThe Registrant did not ask for help or take up any of the suggestions, other than the offer of increased frequency of supervision,â€ the panel found.
The tribunal concluded that the social worker had caused actual harm to service users in cases where families entitled to services had been deprived of them because of assessment delays.
â€œThere was the potential for further harm such as family breakup or a family being unable to care for the child, so that the child needed to be taken into care,â€ the panel noted. It added that the social workerâ€™s conduct could have caused families or other service users to lose confidence in Southwark council and so not seek help when needed.
In deciding on an appropriate sanction the tribunal considered a number of aggravating factors, including the social workerâ€™s repeated failures despite frequent reminders, lack of remorse or engagement with the HCPC and likelihood of repeat behaviour.
A 12-month suspension, rather than striking-off, was deemed appropriate based on the lack of serious bad behaviour â€“ such as dishonesty or sexual misconduct â€“ and the possibility the social worker could decide to take steps to remedy his actions.
â€œIt is not in the public interest that a qualified and experienced social worker is removed from the register if there is a prospect that [they] will be able to remediate past misconduct and return to safe practice,â€ the tribunal concluded.
Story is reproduced courtesy of Community Care â€“ http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2017/09/05/social-workers-case-management-delays-caused-actual-harm-service-users/
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