A social worker and team manager who failed to provide adequate management to his “inexperienced” team will be suspended, a Health and Care Professions (HCPC) panel decided.
The manager failed to act appropriately on several occasions when allocated social workers raised concerns to him about their cases.
He did not act on concerns raised about a child with unexplained injuries and did not provide adequate advice or supervision to enable the social worker on the case to act appropriately.
He closed a case despite a number of concerns being raised by the allocated social worker about a child’s parents, and in another instance failed to communicate regularly with the allocated social worker on a case where domestic violence had been reported by a service user’s sibling. The social worker in question did not commission a risk assessment following this report.
Concerns about the social worker, who managed a Children with Disabilities team, were first raised following an audit of Walsall children’s services, where the social work manager was employed.
The social worker’s line manager told the panel he did not co-operate fully with her as she tried to improve the team’s performance and did not correctly identify safeguarding issues. She described him to the panel as “inflexible and unwilling to change or improve the service the team provided.”
The outsourced children’s service was already in “disarray” after Serco took over from Action for Children as a provider. This created a large backlog of cases and gave rise to a “defensive” culture, the panel heard.
But the social worker in question was highly experienced, having been in practice since 1978 and taken on managerial roles for much of that time. His failure to act appropriately in managing his team and dealing with safeguarding issues was reflective, not of a lack of awareness of what was expected of him, but of either carelessness or negligence, the panel heard.
Although the social worker spoke of being “burned out”, his manager told the panel she had not identified in him signs of “burn-out,” which she associated with front-line child protection work and not the comparatively lower pressure work the social worker before the panel was engaged in.
Since the social worker had no history of previous failings, and a number of positive testimonials were given about his practice both as a manager and as a practitioner, the panel decided striking off would not be appropriate.
Panel Chair Stephen Fash said: “The panel was unable to discern a full understanding on the part of the registrant of the potential or actual impact of his poor management and inadequate attention to safeguarding issues.”
“The proven failings go beyond the role of a manager and call into question the registrant’s capability to operate effectively as a social worker responsible for vulnerable service users.”
The Panel decided the most appropriate action was to suspend the social worker for a period of 12 months.