Conduct panel suspends social worker for failing to manage caseload

The regulatory panel said the Kent social worker's failure to manage caseloads showed a 'serious lack of competence'

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A social worker has been suspended from practice by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) for failing to manage her caseload.

The Kent social worker was unable to manage her caseload “without close supervision” and failed to complete tasks and paperwork in good time, the panel heard.

The conduct panel heard the social worker had her caseload audited while employed by Kent County Council and it was found in a number of cases that she had not been keeping clear and accurate records. The panel found this demonstrated a “serious lack of competence.”

She has been suspended for twelve months for continuing to “present a risk to service users, including vulnerable children.” The panel said it had no evidence that she had taken steps to remedy her practice.

The social worker in question sent an email to the HCPC on 22 September saying that she would like to submit evidence but would not be able to until the day after the hearing.

The panel decided that the social worker had waived her right to attend the hearing and proceeded in her absence.

She was not represented at the hearing.

Unison national officer Helga Pile said: “I wouldn’t like to comment on the individual case, but as a general comment we’ve long been concerned that there are sometimes cases where employers are referring issues to the regulator that we believe should be dealt with within their own processes.

“It is very difficult to disentangle issues of conduct with issues of poor management but unfortunately while social workers are accountable to a regulator, there’s often no redress when there are issues of poor management.

“No statutory force to the Employer Standards means there’s no accountability,” she said.

Lien Watts, assistant general secretary of the Social Workers Union, said when a social worker is not coping: “that manager has a duty of care to that social worker as much as to anyone else, to enable them to do their job properly”.

An HCPC spokesperson said: “HCPC’s primary function is to set and maintain standards for the professions we regulate in order to protect the public.

Our main concern is that registrants are ‘fit to practise’ that is they have the knowledge, skills and character to practise their profession safely and effectively.

“We work on a case by case basis and the process is not intended to be punitive but is designed to protect vulnerable individuals using services of those we regulate.”

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5 Responses to Conduct panel suspends social worker for failing to manage caseload

  1. john stephenson October 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Several observations here where was the management oversight in this case.
    You only have to look at the H.C.P.C website to look at how of their conduct and capability proceedings are totally inappropriate .My view is that local authorities are referring such cases to H.C.P.C.to avoid have to deal with performances matters in house.

    If you look at the upcoming hearings there appears to be an over representation of social workers from ethnic minorities.

    What is more concerning the H.C.P..C does not monitor the ethnic origins of those facing proceedings.This requires further investigation.

  2. Jazz October 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Helga Pile makes some very valid points, above as does Lien Watts. Passing the buck by bad management needs to be addressed. What appears to be systemic is that the fact that although management is also accountable to regulation as social workers themselves this is often ignored. This type of witch hunt and buck passing needs to stop and has to urgently be tackled by the UK regulatory bodies.

  3. Philip Measures October 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Whilst being highly critical of the HCPC I have to say that in this instance it appears from the records (available on the HCPC website) that the social worker concerned has not acted properly in either supplying written evidence or securing her personal attendance. I think that the HCPC was left with little option but to act as it did.

  4. Charles Bell October 23, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    I wonder if HCPC considered the OFSTED reports on Kent? They alone would give cause for concern with regard to middle management failings which from what I know have not been addressed to give front line staff confidence and th support they can reasonably expect.

  5. Ian Mancor October 28, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    This and previous HCPC decisions would seem to indicate that its decisions are biased toward the employer. Do the people sitting on these panels pontificating have any idea of the pressures front line social workers face on a daily basis? Spending cuts, heavy caseloads, burnout etc. Social workers spend more time stuck in front of computer screens than they do on face to face contact with clients. Yet they’re still expected to respond to clients in crisis. Who’d want to be a social worker nowadays?