A social worker facing misconduct charges over her handling of cases involving at least 10 children behaved more like a student than a qualified social worker, a conduct hearing was told yesterday.
Ruth Hughes allegedly made a number of serious mistakes while working as a social worker at Nottinghamshire Council, including failing to raise concerns about a child because she was taking her pet gerbil to the vet.
Giving evidence yesterday, her then manager Amanda Collinson told a General Social Care Council committee that she had had concerns about Hughes since the social worker joined her team in August 2004, with nine months’ post-qualifying experience.
Collinson said she had not shown the ability to put her training into practice and did not understand what constituted a crisis.
She had been “surprised” when Hughes had been told she would need to take a turn on the duty rota and had responded by saying “I think that’s a bit much”.
“Ruth lacked the basic skills to work as a social worker and I considered her to pose a risk,” said Collinson.
Concerns about her practice meant she had been given a lighter caseload than other equivalent staff and had weekly supervision sessions, rather than the monthly ones that were the standard.
Disclosure of carers’ address
Among the allegations were that Hughes provided the mother of a child in foster care with details of a review meeting, leading to the disclosure of the home address of the carers.
The mother, who had mental health problems, had a history of violent behaviour and had threatened to kill another social worker.
She had also driven two children, aged five and seven, to school but had failed to take them in and had instead allowed them to run across the road, leading to a complaint from a teacher at the school.
When the complaint was raised with Hughes, Collinson said she had made a mistake, but had admitted doing the same thing a number of times previously, and had not expressed concern about the children’s safety.
“I was concerned because she seemed more worried that she would be liable, rather than thinking that the children may been hurt,” said Collinson.
Hughes did not attend the hearing, which continues tomorrow, or send a legal representative.