Most social workers have witnessed inappropriate behaviour towards clients from fellow professionals but just 1% have reported this to the General Social Care Council, a Community Care survey has revealed.
The poll also found a strong need among practitioners for guidance on what constitutes inappropriate behaviour through a specific code of conduct on sexual boundaries, which was backed by 87% of the 293 social workers surveyed.
Nearly half had witnessed inappropriate professional conduct, 12% inappropriate sexual behaviour and a further 20% other forms of inappropriate conduct.
The finding reflects the preponderance of cases of inappropriate behaviour towards clients – often sexual – heard by the GSCC’s conduct system.
While just 1% said they had reported inappropriate behaviour to the GSCC, 54% said they had reported colleagues to their manager. However, 14% said they had done nothing.
The GSCC’s head of conduct, Robin Weekes, said the “high proportion” who had witnessed inappropriate behaviour in the survey was worrying. He was also concerned that so few respondents had reported behaviour to the GSCC, though pointed to the majority who had reported cases to their manager, which reflects the high number of conduct complaints submitted to the regulator by employers.
Weekes added: “It’s crucial that social workers are aware of the boundaries that exist between them and their clients. However, there seems to be a lack of understanding and that’s why we intend to look at this issue in more detail.”
In January, the GSCC said it wanted to develop codes of practice on sexual boundaries after the Commission for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence produced guidance for health professionals.
In this week’s review of the conduct process, the council said it was talking to partner bodies about taking this forward and promised to commission research into the issue.
Most of those surveyed by Community Care (86%) said that if a mutual attraction developed with a service user they would not pursue it, with 61% saying they would also ask for the case to be reallocated.