Two-year delay on conduct case leaves social worker in limbo

A social worker claims he might lose his home because of a unresolved conduct case which has dragged on for two years.

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A social worker claims he might lose his home because of a unresolved conduct case which has dragged on for two years.

Eric Rickerby said he had been unable to find work since the General Social Care Council began investigating him in July 2009, even though a suspension order was lifted last summer.

The GSCC partly blamed the delay on an “acute shortage” of admin staff in its conduct department last year.

Rickerby estimates his loss of earnings to be more than £90,000 and is now worried he might lose his house as a result of the hardship caused.

Rickerby was employed at Wakefield Council through Liquid Personnel recruitment agency between November 2008 and March 2009. The agency contacted the GSCC in March 2009 to report concerns about his behaviour towards service users from one family and an alleged failure to carry out proper assessments. He was suspended the following June while the GSCC gathered evidence.

The interim suspension order was lifted in June 2010 after Rickerby appealed to the First-tier (Care Standards) Tribunal. The tribunal panel found the GSCC had made “limited progress” in its investigation since the original referral, making it difficult to justify continuing to suspend him on public protection grounds.

But Rickerby has been unable to find employment as a social worker. “Nobody’s going to employ me while I’m being investigated,” he said.

Rickerby said he felt unable to apply for jobs locally because he would have to tell them about the investigation, which might affect his future employment prospects. Asked why he had not sought alternative employment, he said: “I’ve been a social worker since 1998. I can’t do anything else.”

In October 2010, his MP, Jenny Chapman, wrote to GSCC chief executive Penny Thompson asking why the case had been delayed.

In her reply, Thompson admitted the organisation had staffing issues. “The conduct department of the GSCC are currently experiencing an acute shortage of administrative staff,” she wrote.

Thompson acknowledged that Rickerby had not been kept adequately informed of what was happening and apologised for any inconvenience and distress.

Rickerby has since been told that his case will be heard by a full conduct committee in May.

A spokesperson for the GSCC said: “We acknowledge that there have been delays in moving this case forward and that communication with the registrant has not been adequate. We have reviewed our processes. As a result, communications will improve and the service we provide to those whom we investigate will be enhanced.”

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