A social worker who will be questioned today before a conduct committee today about why she did not follow child protection procedures may have avoided disciplinary action if she had acknowledged her mistakes earlier.
Jo Olsen, deputy director of children’s services at Waltham Forest Council, where Tricia Forbes had been employed as a deputy team manager, told the General Social Care Council committee yesterday that managers may have acted differently had Forbes admitted her errors.
Forbes was found guilty of gross misconduct at a disciplinary hearing in January 2006 over her mishandling of a case involving a girl, known as A.
She had failed to follow procedures when the 13-year-old disclosed physical abuse by her father in May 2005, and at a strategy meeting a week later did not share information with other agencies.
Olsen told the hearing that Forbes had changed her account of what has happened and her “word cannot be relied upon”. Forbes admitted mistakes at an appeal hearing in May 2006 but Olsen said it was “too little, too late”.
If Forbes had held her hands up sooner “she might have given managers more options and there may have been a different outcome”, said Olsen, adding that they may have used capability procedures instead of treating the matter as a disciplinary offence.
Olsen, who qualified as a social worker in 1979, said: “I have had a long career in children’s social care and mistakes are made sometimes. What usually happens is the person says ‘I have made a mistake’ and then it will be worked through in supervision.”
Olsen added that she would not have expected someone with Forbes’s experience to have made the decisions she did.
Forbes has admitted failing to instigate a child protection investigation, leaving A at the side of the road, and failing to inform other professionals at a later strategy meeting of her involvement in the case.
The General Social Care Council committee may remove her from the social care register.