Social worker struck off over delay in abuse investigation

Former Wolverhampton Council employee Philip James Bowater was told of allegations that the child had been physically injured, but waited almost four hours to carry out a home visit.

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A social worker who failed to properly investigate reports that a three-year-old child on his caseload had been physically injured has been struck off.

On 22 October 2009, at about 1pm, a telephone call was made to the duty assessment social worker at Wolverhampton Council alleging that injuries had been inflicted to Child B, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The anonymous referrer raised concerns about bruising on the child’s body, allegedly caused by the mother’s boyfriend.

The duty social worker passed the information to Philip James Bowater, a senior practitioner in the council’s North East Locality Team, who was the child’s allocated social worker. He said he would carry out a visit.

However, he did not take immediate action, but instead completed some paperwork he was working on – delaying the visit to Child B’s home address until about 4:45pm, almost four hours after the allegation of physical abuse was received.

He also failed to inform a manager about the case, even though this was part of Wolverhampton’s child protection policy, the General Social Care Council’s (GSCC) conduct committee heard.

Having been unable to see Child B, Bowater went home, where he was distracted by personal matters believed to have involved his own son. He did not notify the out of hours team about the case and his failure to make contact with Child B.

Child B was later taken to hospital with bruising to each side of his face, his right ear, right arm and left leg. Those injuries led to a police investigation and Child B’s mother and partner were arrested on suspicion of child cruelty.

“It is apparent that the registrant did not follow basic child protection procedures in relation to Child B, a most vulnerable three-year-old child,” said the conduct committee, adding: “Child B was clearly left at risk”

Bowater did not attend the GSCC’s hearing, but the conduct committee heard that, in a disciplinary hearing, Bowater said he had wanted to speak with his manager before carrying out the visit, but she was not available.

He also admitted in a supervision session that he should have taken the case more seriously, but said he had seen the children earlier in the week and believed the call about the alleged assault may have been malicious.

The GSCC heard that Bowater’s manager at the time had previously identified significant performance issues in relation to his caseload.

Yet, even after his caseload was reduced and additional supervision and training put in place, he repeatedly failed to follow management instructions to carry out visits and assessments, make appropriate referrals, complete agency checks and update records.

He was eventually dismissed on capability grounds and for gross misconduct in relation to Child B. In total, the GSCC’s conduct committee found 36 allegations against Bowater proved. 

The committee accepted that the registrant had been under a certain amount of pressure both in his personal and professional life, but concluded his failings were “serious, repeated and widespread” and had jeopardised the safety of children, particularly Child B.

Although Bowater had worked for the council for 30 years and had no previous referrals to the GSCC, the conduct committee decided to remove him from the register.

Read the full notice of decision

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