Social worker Peter van der Gucht had always been open about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. But when he applied for registration to the GSCC noting his mental health condition and a spinal problem, he says it became evident that his accreditation was taking far longer than that of his colleagues.
“Eventually I got a letter saying they would register me, but with conditions,” he explains. “I felt it was outrageous. I’d been a social worker for 30 years, and this was making an assumption that because I’ve got a mental health problem that it would put people at risk. I felt this was discrimination and stigmatisation and that it had to be challenged.”
The GSCC backed down and allowed Van der Gucht to be unconditionally registered after he took his case to the Care Standards Tribunal. After initial feelings of elation, it emerged that the stress of writing his formal challenge together with all the accompanying anxiety around the issue had taken its toll.
“I continued at work for six months but felt increasingly unable to cope, so took early retirement,” he explains.
Does he think the tribunal process affected his mental health at that time?
“My wife was worried that I was being stretched too far. She felt I should have kept quiet about the whole thing,” he says. “So yes, I do think that fighting the case contributed to the deterioration, because I don’t think I realised how stressful it was.”
Would he declare his condition again?
“I think it very much remains a personal judgement, but I’d probably look at it very carefully in the future. I think the GSCC’s response makes it much less likely that people will declare any problems.”