The Care Council for Wales has been criticised for writing to every local authority in Wales warning them not to employ a social worker who had been temporarily suspended from the register.
The regulator imposed an interim suspension order on Deborah Borley in February 2011 to allow officials to investigate concerns about her practice. This followed a complaint relating to her employment at Swansea Council between 2008 and August 2010.
The care council then wrote to every local authority in Wales informing them of the decision. The letter stated: “Ms Borley is not currently able to work as a social worker/care worker, should she approach you for employment”.
Borley, who previously worked for the British Association of Social Workers as a professional officer, appealed against the order to the Care Standards Tribunal. The tribunal dismissed the appeal but Judge Meleri Tudur said the regulator’s actions in writing to councils undermined the social worker’s right to appeal and as such were “inappropriate and wrong”.
Interim suspension orders last for six months and are used to prevent professionals from continuing to practise where there are public protection issues.
The tribunal said that the care council’s investigation into Borley’s conduct covered a “considerable number of complaints falling within six categories across a broad spectrum of accepted social work practice”.
At a hearing in Cardiff, Tudur found that the nature and volume of allegations meant that the regulator was right to impose an interim suspension order on the grounds of public protection.
However, commenting on the decision to circulate the letter about the suspension order to every local authority in Wales, she said: “Whilst we cannot take any action in relation to the issue, we consider that such an action was effectively an usurpation of the appellant’s right of appeal against the decision, effectively prejudged the outcome of the tribunal hearing and as such was inappropriate and wrong.”
But Gerry Evans, director of standards and regulation at the Care Council for Wales, said the regulator had sought legal advice on its policies, which “confirmed that the care council was operating within its powers in giving notice of the interim suspension order in this case”.
He added: “There have been instances where employers have appointed an individual who was subsequently subject to an interim suspension order and did not inform the employer that their registration had been suspended and continued working.
“In response to concerns raised by employers notification of interim suspension orders have been sent to directors of social services to preclude any such situations arising.”
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