A social worker who completed a mental capacity assessment of a service user without visiting them, then lied to his manager about it, has been struck off.
A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) fitness-to-practise panel found the social worker acted dishonestly in telling his line manager that he’d visited the service user after the manager raised concerns about “deficiencies” in the assessment. The panel found the social worker lied “in order to cover up failings in his practise”.
The panel also found failings in the social worker’s record keeping. It was told the social worker had 258 documents saved on a tablet computer, most of which were not saved on computer systems as required. Other service user records were kept on the social worker’s desk and had not been saved to the systems.
The HCPC concluded that, in the case of the capacity assessment, the social worker failed to act in the best interests of the service user and “risked an inappropriate outcome”. It also found that, in failing to maintain correct records “over a prolonged period”, the social worker had prevented others from accessing “vital information about service users”.
“[The social worker’s] failings were fundamental to the practice of social work and extended over a prolonged period of time. His lack of honesty with his manager, combined with his other failings identified in this case, which put service users at risk of harm, undermined public confidence in the profession,” the HCPC decided.
“In light of all the evidence the panel concluded [the social worker’s] failings were so serious that they amounted to misconduct.”
The social worker told the HCPC that the mental capacity assessment had only been intended as a “draft”, rather than a completed piece of work. However, the panel rejected that assertion after the social worker was unable to provide any evidence to support his claim and records showed the assessment had been submitted for authorisation.
The assessment in question took place in September 2013. The social worker had been working for the local authority since November 2011.
The social worker told the panel he accepted he was dishonest in telling his line manager that he had visited the service user but claimed he “blurted it out” under pressure. However, the panel concluded that he “deliberately sought to conceal the error” from his manager.
In oral evidence, the social worker referred to personal and professional issues he was facing relating to his caseload and relationship with colleagues. However, the panel found that his caseload “was not particularly different from colleagues” and said he was supported by his managers.
In deciding a sanction, the panel considered several mitigating factors, including the social worker’s personal circumstances and his length of service without any previous disciplinary action. It “gave very careful consideration” as to whether a suspension of 12 months would be a proportionate sanction. However, the panel concluded that the social worker did not display the “level of insight” necessary to enable him to take remedial action.
“Therefore, the panel has decided that the only proportionate sanction to impose is a striking off order,” the decision notice read.