Social worker who sent ‘offensive’ tweets to David Cameron found fit to practise

The Blackburn social worker accepted his actions were not appropriate but the HCPC said they did not warrant a sanction

'Offensive' tweets Photo: Rex/ David Hartley

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.”

Misconduct

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.

Anonymous environment

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.

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25 Responses to Social worker who sent ‘offensive’ tweets to David Cameron found fit to practise

  1. Glenys Turner August 11, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    BRILLIANT!

  2. MJGM August 11, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    Someone had to be brave enough to actually say it! Look at what is happening to the role of social workers, demoralised and unsupported by idiots who think they know better!

  3. Luke August 11, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Chapeau sir!!

  4. Nora McClelland August 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Although I don’t agree with how the political sentiments are expressed I do share something of the fury that might have generated the comments – and I’d expect all social workers do. But the critical question for me is whether we can use our fury effectively and collectively so that social workers voices are heard so that social workers can inform policies that affect the lives of the people we work with – if we can’t assert ourselves effectively together then the anecdotal knowledge base and political inclinations of the “advisers” and “chiefs” will prevail….They may have destroyed the College – but we can use the organisations we do have – and that belong to us such as BASW and SWAN to fight with..if we join together?

  5. Brian Todd August 11, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    Perhaps he could have moderated his language but the views expressed may well be supported by many and need to be heard.
    Social Work and in particular Residential Care and Domiciliary Services are currently a disorganised shambles by the government requirement to privatise delivery.
    Lots of older people are not receiving the quality of care they need, employing so many staff at minimum wage makes it difficult to provide proper care.
    The many Private Care Home owners are finding the limited money available from cash strapped Local Authorities impossible to provide the service and it is the older people who suffer not the politicians who actually caused this crisis
    Renationalise Residential, Domiciliary and Day Care service simply to protect those in greatest need. They all must have been assessed as Critical or substantial need; yet the service often received is below minimum standards, caused by treasury decisions to restrict Lcal Authority incomes, certainly in the North of the country

  6. J August 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    Glad to hear hes still in post. He only said what were all thinking!

  7. linda August 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    Where is our right to free speech. Social workers are people and we shouldnt be scritinised differently to any one else

  8. cbelly August 11, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Well done that man- lets all take to twitter and bombard the hcpc with tweets of the same calibre – cant believe they thought this needed a fitness to practise meeting- confirms my opinion they are made up of smug self satisfied gits!

  9. Jo August 11, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    I can empathise with the SW, the current political climate is creating real risks to service provision, undermining SW and is demoralising….and I agree with the HCPC outcome, personal political beliefs are not grounds to question a SW Fitness to practice.

  10. Jenny August 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    I don’t entirely agree that many staff are employed in care homes at minimum wage, not ENOUGH staff are employed! Even at minimum wage! which impacts on the quality of care older people receive immensely.
    J

  11. tanya Hawkins August 11, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I think his comments are justifiable especially with how social work is being portrayed and side lined by the government. IT is a pity that BASW don’t continue with this campaign

  12. Jim Greer August 11, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    This is a fair and just outcome. I don’t agree with the language which the social worker used. However, his targets were public figures who have broad shoulders. Swearing at David Cameron is not comparable to something like using sexist language towards Mary Beard. The social workers language is rude but the sentiments behind them do not contravene social work values.
    I think an important issue which does not seem to have been taken account of here is speculation about the reason for the original complaint. Reports elsewhere have stated that the social worker only had a small number of followers, some of whom were spammers. It is unlikely that anyone came across his tweets by chance and it is possible that the anonymous complaint about his tweets was motivated by negative feelings towards him by someone in his personal or professional life. I think it is important that regulatory procedures are not hijacked to further personal animosity. The judgement has rightly upheld the social worker’s right to express personal political views and the right to express them in ways which some may find offensive. It is a decision which supports common sense and free speech. It should be applauded.

  13. Stuart hn August 11, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

    Delighted to hear the dude is still employed and managing staff but what a waste of time and energy.
    Just hope the outcome would have been the same if HCPC had been the target of his ire…

  14. Jaine Dee August 12, 2015 at 1:46 am #

    To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you’re not allowed to criticize…
    Pair of crooks !

  15. catherine jones-cooke August 12, 2015 at 4:18 am #

    I am pleased that sanity prevails. This Social Workers reaction to the Government and its policies merely reflect the largely impotent rage most front line workers experience daily, in my humble opinion. Maybe, with an eye on reflective practice, a different and more sophisticated choice of words can expressed equally admirably and to the point.

  16. Lee Boy August 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Hmmm, so a person who’s role requires integrity and utmost professionalism can act like a bully ‘shouting’ offensive abuse. It doesn’t matter who the abuse is levelled at. You either epitomise those standards day in day out or you shouldn’t be in that job. Pretty sure that Blackburn’s code of conduct should cover this. No the SW does not have the right to abuse others just because he/she isnt at work. Pretty sure I’d feel uncomfortable knowing my SW had such extreme views and equally sure they might impact on his or her professionalism.

  17. Katie August 12, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Thank goodness!! I am growing increasingly concerned about a minority of the decisions made at conduct hearings. This however is a refreshing change.

  18. C Sewell August 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    Thank goodness for this positive outcome and that this Social Worker is still in post. I can’t help but wonder if this is the type of matter that should even be reported to the HCPC to deal with, and whether or not the whole hearing was actually a waste of time and money.
    And thank goodness that we are, for the time being at least, allowed to express our political views.

  19. Beegee August 12, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    cbeely and others

    It might be a good idea to request a FOI on the amounts spent by HCPC for these “Fitness to Practise” hearings. This is our subs spent on worthless exercises of this nature. The Govt has no time for Social Workers and the very body that need to provide us with support seem to agree with the Govt!!!!

  20. norma wilcock August 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    I personally think it’s the government that need to be sanctioned they are making a pigs ear out of everything they touch .They are not fit to govern

  21. S Smith August 12, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    The HCPC should be made to justify the waste of money & time on this pathetic case. That poor social worker was forced to go through an extended period of worry about his reputation & livelihood. Who would even know this guy was a social worker?! Sounds to me like it was someone with a personal vendetta against this individual & if so then the HCPC allowed itself to be used. Social workers have a right to their opinions, and as long as they don’t commit a crime or voice their opinions in paid time then why can’t they vent their frustrations about cuts to welfare & services for the most vulnerable?
    This case was only in the public eye because the HCPC has put it there, otherwise it would have gone unnoticed.
    Of course it didnt impair his ability to practice. Surely his strong views reflect the negative effect Tory cuts have had on the communities such as Blackburn where this worker has direct contact with those much less fortunate than Cameron.
    Shame on you HCPC. Is this what we pay extortionate fees for???

  22. Claire Mobley August 12, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    I am astonished that peoplethink it is ok to post tweets such as the social worker concerned did. How can the profession maintain credibility and respect when a practitioner publicly vents his feelings in this mannner. Is he incapable of putting together a rational response in a reasoned manner? Does he not have the gumption to realise that it is precisely behaviour like this that the establishment will seize on as evidence that social workers are still a bunch of loony lefties, unable to put together a cogent argument and naive and rude? Does he work with young people, and if so would he advise his service users that this is the way to behave when things don’t go your way? This person manages staff for heavens sake, yet by his own admission he has only now realised after 20 years that his professional and personal personas are one and the same.
    Fit to practice? Not !

    • Jim Greer August 13, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

      Claire. He only had 25 followers and I don’t think he tweeted very often or advertised that he was a social worker. He had an audience of almost zero and even his followers probably missed most of his tweets. It is highly likely that someone has trawled the Internet looking for information or material to use against him. If this case had not been brought then it is highly unlikely that anybody would have associated his online venting with the profession.
      However, the positive aspect to the case having been heard it is that it sets a precedent that social workers have a right to free speech and in a free society that includes being rude and using profanities. People are suffering from cuts not the use of foul language against the cutters.

  23. David Richard August 13, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    I think it would be interesting to know how this case was referred to the HCPC and by whom.

  24. Imelda Hall August 14, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    What an absolute waste of money to hold such a hearing. Firstly, We all have a right to free speech. The language may be offensive to some but get a grip ppl, we are not talking a terrorist threat or even anything we haven’t heard before. This guy is speaking from the heart in a language that could be termed as offensive in particular situations or arenas. For example, I would not imagine he would use this language in his line of work with service users or on other forums such as a school forum. No!! We are talking about an adult forum with a political debate. Yes, there are undoubtedly better ways to get this same point accross but we instantly get what he means in a short second. Most people agree with his sentiments entirely and especially his colleagues in the public services who have been hit hard by this extremely offensive individual who governs this country and want to see social workers jailed for their mistakes. Under these curcumstances and given the political nature of the debate did this man really need the additional pressure and stress of a hearing. I am so sorry you have had to go through this but so glad you have met with all this support. THAT is what really counts. Good luck and all the very best. The person who has ‘dobbed u in’ has actually done you and your colleagues a favour. It means that we can actually have some right to (albeit not the same amount) free speech and to say it in a way we feel portrays our strength of feelng. OK, so we have to do it in an anonymous way but at least we can speak. Thanx dude!!