Social worker who based decisions on family views, not service users’, suspended

The adults' social worker was "overwhelmed" by controlling family members and overly influenced by local authority policies

The social worker recommended inappropriate placements: Photo: Burger/Phanie/Rex

A social worker in a vulnerable adults and older people team has been suspended for 12 months for basing decisions on the views of family members, instead of service users themselves, and failing to manage direct payments.

The Bromley social worker also allowed unacceptable delays in assessments and recommended inappropriate residential placements, the Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) panel was told.

Direct contravention of the Mental Capacity Act

In one case, the social worker completed a mental capacity assessment without seeing the service user, instead accepting her son’s views on what the woman wanted. By assuming that service user A lacked capacity without seeing her, “his actions were in direct contravention of the act”, the HCPC panel stated.

The social worker had also allowed service user E’s daughter to view and reject an extra care housing placement as he could not persuade the service user to see it herself, despite assessing her as having capacity.

The panel described the  social worker as being “overwhelmed” by the daughter who he said was in “total control”.

“[The social worker] did not possess the skills to ensure that he managed the dynamic between service users and their families” and had “failed to exercise his professional judgement autonomously”  the panel stated.

Inappropriate placements

In two other cases, extra care housing had been recommended for service users who were either too young for the particular placement or who had far too serious and complex physical health needs.

The panel decided the social worker “gave inappropriate weight” both to his experience of extra care housing as beneficial and the general policy in Bromley at the time, which was that it should be promoted and used where appropriate.

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Confusion over direct payments

A further service user had been put at risk of potential harm because the social worker had not acted to prevent a significant surplus in his direct payments building up. The panel accepted the social worker had “no control over how service user J used his direct payments” but it was part of his “role and responsibility to manage the surplus”.

The panel also found the social worker had been dishonest in the case. He had told service user J that direct payments could be used to pay for respite care. However, after being told by his manager this was incorrect advice, the social worker then altered service user J’s records so they no longer showed this conversation taking place.

The social worker’s managers made further allegations of delays caused in organising care and services, only some of which were considered proven at the hearing.

Deterrent

The panel issued a 12 month suspension order because of the seriousness of the multiple failures and the repetition of errors in judgement, although it accepted that the social worker was keen to improve and would develop insight during the suspension.

The order would also “deter others who may contemplate departing from fundamental and core duties,” the panel added.

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