A social worker’s “inappropriate and offensive” tweets did not impair his ability to practise, a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) panel has ruled.
The Blackburn social worker made a series of comments on Twitter, directed at high profile figures including David Cameron, while working for the borough’s hospital discharge team.
He tweeted at the prime minister: “F*** off you deluded pr*ck”.
He also tweeted at media mogul Rupert Murdoch: “The world will be an infinitely better place when you die.”
An HCPC hearing concluded his tweets did constitute misconduct, but nevertheless found his fitness to practise was not impaired.
The social worker in question had worked for the council in a variety of roles for 20 years and had been a qualified social worker for 11 years. He received a warning from his employer, who referred him to the HCPC, after an unknown complainant reported his activity on Twitter.
He remains in post and currently has three members of staff reporting directly to him.
The social worker told the panel the anonymous environment of a social media platform led him to make comments to individuals “that he would not dream of making directly to their faces”.
He also considered individuals’ ability to report tweets they considered to be abusive would tell him if he breached the boundary of what was appropriate.
However, he accepted that while he had a right to express his views, there were bounds within which his views should be expressed.
Freedom of speech
He expressed regret and remorse for his actions and said he now understood there was no separation between his persona as a professional and an individual.
The HCPC’s judgment said: “It was submitted on the registrant’s behalf that his comments were protected by the principle of freedom of speech.
“These comments reflected the registrant’s political beliefs and these tweets were therefore to be given protected status as expressions of these political views. Further if these tweets were considered offensive there was no rule in law against being rude.”
Conditions of employment
However, it was also accepted by the panel there were constraints on those freedoms, imposed by society, and by other restrictions such as conditions of employment.
By being registered as a social worker, the man in question had agreed to be held to certain standards and responsibilities.
But the HCPC panel noted the social worker’s actions had no impact on service users or colleagues and there was no evidence of harm to anyone, “including those who were the recipients of the profane tweets”.
“The panel concluded the registrant’s misconduct was at the lower end of the spectrum of matters that would adversely affect the public’s confidence in the profession.”
The panel found the social worker’s fitness to practise was not impaired and no sanction was warranted.