A social worker who paid an ex-partner for carrying out maintenance services at Birmingham City Council without declaring a conflict of interest has been struck off by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
The team manager for a Care Leavers service authorised payments to an individual named on the council’s records as ‘Tony Francis’, without declaring that he was her former partner and the father of her child.
This led her to her dismissal from the council in 2012 on grounds of gross misconduct after concerns were raised the year before in a letter from an anonymous whistle-blower.
The social worker claimed that she had not made the connection between the individual, ‘Tony’ Francis she was authorising payments for, and her former partner who she had listed in contact information given to her son’s school as ‘Doulton’ Francis. She claimed she had known him as ‘Oli’, was no longer in contact with him and did not realise ‘Tony’ Francis was the same person.
However, the panel heard testimonies that the personal relationship was common knowledge in the team . A member of the social worker in question’s team who had known her for many years said she knew the father of her colleague’s child was called Tony and had met him at the child’s christening. The telephone number given to the child’s school was the same as that listed on the council’s payment records to ‘Tony’.
The panel said it “did not accept the registrant’s position that she did not know that ‘Tony’ Francis and her former partner were one and the same person.”
As well as authorising payments to her ex-partner, the social worker used a removal firm run by a staff member’s husband. It was widely known that that the individual running the removal firm was the staff member’s husband but the social worker maintained throughout the council’s investigations into her misuse of payments that she did not know of the connection between the man to whom she was authorising payments and a member of her team. The panel was later presented with an email exchange between another staff member and the social worker in which it was clear that she had known of their personal relationship.
The report on the hearing said: “in the panel’s view it is clear that the registrant’s actions were all focused on attempting to conceal the true situation and to distort the information gathered by the city council.
“She clearly acknowledges that she eventually realised that she should have been open and honest when interviewed about these matters and that her attempts at concealment had in fact exacerbated her position,” the panel said.
Throughout the investigation, the panel found, the social worker appeared to show no remorse and no insight into why her actions were not appropriate. That she failed to declare issues that might create conflicts of interest, influencing her judgment or practice, was dishonest, the panel found. There were no competence issues that might be addressed by a conditions of practice order.
Because the social worker’s misconduct involved premeditated dishonesty over a long period of time, and because she showed no insight or remorse, the panel has decided to strike her from the register.