A social worker who developed a sexual relationship with a vulnerable service user and left confidential materials lying around their shared home has been struck off.
Nichola Louise Bond was employed by Milton Keynes council as a social work assistant from 2004 and a qualified social worker from 2009. The service user, identified only as Ms A for legal reasons, was on her caseload from March 2011.
Ms A was a vulnerable adult with a difficult background and there was a need to address parenting concerns, which resulted in the removal of her child from her care for five weeks.
After the child was returned to Ms A’s care, Ms A told the social worker she was in love with her and they developed a sexual relationship, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard. Bond eventually moved in with Ms A.
The panel then heard that Bond would bring case files, notes, her work diary and work phone into their home.
Bond accepted she left confidential information and case papers in Miss A’s home, but sought to explain this as something which was customary when working from home and safer than leaving the materials in her car. However, the panel said she was missing the salient point; that she was not taking this material home, but to a service user’s premises.
In December 2011, Bond disclosed the nature of her relationship with Ms A to her employer and she was suspended. An investigation concluded that Bond had taken advantage of Ms A, knowing she was vulnerable.
There was a finding of gross misconduct which would have resulted in her dismissal, if she had not resigned.
The HCPC’s panel concluded that Bond had demonstrated a “reckless disregard” for the normal standards of conduct expected of a registered social worker.
“It was clear that Ms A wanted to prevent social services from being involved with her child and that Ms Bond’s behaviour had the potential to compromise her duty of child protection,” said panel chair Elizabeth Carmichael.
Bond did not attend the HCPC’s hearing, but she did engage with the proceedings through written submissions. The panel noted that she had an otherwise unblemished record, said she loved her job and had received counselling.
However, Carmichael pointed out that the panel had not seen any evidence to confirm the outcome of the counselling. The panel was particularly concerned that Bond had limited insight into why she should not have taken confidential material into the home of Ms A, whom she knew to have a disorder which would “minimise her trustworthiness”.
The relationship was a “serious abuse of [Bond’s] position of power”, the panel concluded, and the only appropriate sanction was to remove her from the register.