Social worker guilty of misconduct in case beset by delay

A social worker who was under investigation for two years following alleged child protection failings has been found guilty of misconduct and received a warning.

A social worker who was under investigation for two years following alleged child protection failings has been found guilty of misconduct and received a warning.

Eric Rickerby was suspended from the register in June 2009 while the General Social Care Council looked into concerns that he had behaved inappropriately in relation to one of his allocated cases.

But 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.

Rickerby subsequently told Community Care he had been unable to find work even after the suspension order was lifted, and estimated his loss of earnings to be more than £90,000.

At Rickerby’s hearing earlier this month, the GSCC’s conduct committee accepted that the time delay in the case was a cause for “real concern”, particularly as some material evidence was now missing.

But it decided Rickerby would still be able to have a fair hearing, as long as the absence of key evidence was taken into account.

The committee heard that, in January 2009, a boy made a partial disclosure to Rickerby and a family worker, Emma Forster, concerning inappropriate sexual behaviour towards him by his brother. When he removed the other boy from the home, Rickerby was heard to say: “I can’t leave you here to bugger your brother.”

Rickerby, representing himself, refuted the wording of this statement, but the committee accepted Forster’s description of the exchange and found the allegation proved.

The committee also found Rickerby had, at a later date, left the two boys in the home together for up to 35 minutes without his supervision. However, as their father and Forster had been present, it concluded this was not serious misconduct.

The committee noted that no actual harm had come to any service user, and that Rickerby had shown some insight into the consequences of his actions.

It found the delay in Rickerby’s case had caused “financial, mental and family stress”, concluding: “An admonishment for a period of four years provides adequate protection to the public.”

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

In a statement issued in March, the regulator 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.”

Read the full notice of decision

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