Social worker who falsified records and failed to act on disclosure of abuse struck off

Concerns about the social worker's practice came to light after a foster carer complained about the lack of support he was receiving

Fitness to practise hearing

By Rachel Schraer

A social worker who falsified records of visits to a vulnerable child and failed to act on a disclosure of abuse by a young girl with learning disabilities has been struck off.

Emily Coghlan’s failings came to light after a foster carer complained to Swindon council in May 2011 about the lack of social work contact and support he had received in relation to Child TS.

An assistant team manager reviewed Child TS’s file and found the child’s allocated social worker, Coghlan, had filled out notes in relation to a number of visits. But Child TS’s foster carer said these visits had never taken place.

An internal investigation found Coghlan had provided elaborate details of these alleged visits, including actions taken by Child TS’s foster carer and school, none of which were true, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard.

Coghlan was suspended by the council following the complaint and later dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct.

Three witnesses, including Coghlan’s assistant team manager and team manager, gave evidence at the HCPC’s hearing. Coghlan did not attend and was not represented.

The assistant team manager told the HCPC that, when investigating Coghlan’s behaviour in the case of Child TS, she also discovered that Coghlan had failed to act on a child protection referral made to her concerning a young child with learning disabilities, Child ES.

Child ES had reported issues of past abuse that had occurred when she was in her father’s care, the HCPC’s panel heard.

Coghlan claimed in writing that this disclosure was not as important as suggested and that she would have dealt with it in due time; however, she was then suspended and said she was not given the opportunity to handover any outstanding work.

But the HCPC heard evidence that Coghlan had been asked whether she had any work to handover, and she had failed to mention this case. The panel therefore found this allegation proved.

In both of these cases, Coghlan put vulnerable children at significant risk of harm, the panel found.

She was not newly qualified, but an experienced and fully trained social worker. The panel concluded that it “could not be satisfied in the light of the registrant’s lack of insight into the impact of her failures on vulnerable children that there would not be a continuing potential risk to service users”.

This is the second time this month that a social worker has been struck off after falsifying records about visits to a child.

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8 Responses to Social worker who falsified records and failed to act on disclosure of abuse struck off

  1. Elle January 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Why was it deemed necessary to state that she was ‘not newly qualifiesd’ as if this kind of practice would be exepected of a newly qualifies social worker?

    • Kirsty McGregor January 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      Hi Elle – I can’t speak on behalf of the HCPC panel, but if I could offer my opinion, I think they meant that more allowances might have been made for a newly qualified social worker because they might make the wrong decision due to their lack of experience rather than anything more malicious. I don’t think the panel meant to imply that they would expect this behaviour of NQSWs. Kirsty (Community Care’s workforce editor)

  2. Janel Jones January 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Clearly the social worker loses her job, but are there not damages/community service to be paid as part reparation?

    • Petal January 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Because this is gross misconduct, but not a criminal act, though arguably should be. Also, do you not feel being publically named and sacked, with poor to non-existent future employment prospects punishment enough?

  3. Jane Buckley January 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Great, but why are registered professionals from the medical profession not being struck off for falsifying records?
    The GMC and CQC seem to have no power to deal with a dishonest psychiatrist who has made false records about patients, and yet the HCPC has power to address these alleged occurrences BASW also are able to stand back and watch both scenarios and avoid action
    Why is there this disparity between registration bodies and the minders of ethical codes of practise??

  4. Christine Moss January 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Whilst I agree falsifying records should never be tolerated; partial; falsification or economies with the truth occur in several professional situations and more particularly in commercial situations. This has happened to me in several circumstances…..transcripts of the telephone conversations have sometimes been destroyed; or the information never entered on the computer. Social work could take the lead in trying to address this universally. As a result child and adult protection will be greatly enhanced.

  5. Tim Usher January 16, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    Am I the only one that feels very uncomfortable about the constant public “outing” of Social Workers who are “Struck Off”? It feels like there is a feeding frenzy for magazines, email chains and interest sites to overtly publicise social workers who become de-registered. Even the term “Struck Off” has a sensationalist sense about it that is not grammatically accurate and is reminiscent of the Tabloid Press rather than a professionals magazine.
    Should we and the public be aware of the issues that led to a social worker being de-registered? Absolutely however we need to have the information only for us to learn from not for salacious interest or the shaming of social workers who themselves may well be experiencing extreme distress. What other professionals magazine starts with the headlines of one of their member being struck off ? The ability to name and shame or to de register social workers does not make us a profession , it is the day to day delivery of complex and highly skilled practice completed by dedicated social workers that does.

    • Kirsty McGregor January 16, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Hi Tim,

      Thank you for your comments. This is something we’ve been debating here in the office, too. To explain, for the same reason we cover serious case reviews and other enquiries, we cover fitness to practise hearings because there is often a lot of learning to be gained from them. We believe it’s important to recognise and tackle the issues that come up through these hearings, such as high caseloads, poor reporting practices and professional boundaries. We do not cover them as a way of naming and shaming people and do often anonymise our reports if the person has, say, received conditions of practise or a caution.

      However, I am aware of the culture of fear and blame that permeates many social work departments and I do understand your argument. I will take your views – and the views of any other readers who’d like to comment – into consideration and review how we cover fitness to practise hearings in 2014 and beyond.

      Finally, although we write headlines that we hope will draw in potential readers, I do not agree that we are like a tabloid. The term “struck off” is used by the Health and Care Professions Council. It is the language chosen by the regulator and a term that is widely used and understood when reporting about fitness to practise/conduct hearings in the health and care professions. It is grammatically correct.

      Best wishes,

      Community Care’s workforce editor