A social worker who claimed a HCPC caution prevented her from finding work has had her request for the sanction to be lifted rejected.
The social worker was given a two-year caution by the social work regulator in February 2015 for failing to disclose that she was friends with the parent of children known to her social care team. The social worker had access to the children’s files when she shouldn’t have.
She did not appeal the order at the time because she accepted she had done something wrong but requested a review of the sanction because, she claimed, employers treated the caution as “severe”.
The social worker said the sanction prevented her from getting work from five councils where she had been recommended for a job after being interviewed.
Only one agency has agreed to take her on since the caution. In one instance, she was told that her application for a non-qualified social work position had been rejected because of the sanction.
“She feels the caution order is operating as a punishment, and that this was not what was intended,” the panel was told.
The HCPC’s conduct and competence committee accepted the order “may have made it more difficult” to find a job, but decided that the evidence supporting the social worker’s claim was “limited”.
“There was no evidence from any of the [authorities] on the reasons behind the decision not to employ the registrant,” the panel said.
“There was no written feedback or any other record of the reasons for the decision. The panel could not infer that the reason the registrant was unsuccessful was the caution order because there are other possibilities.”
The panel said it was not satisfied it was the HCPC sanction, rather than other factors, that had prevented her from finding employment.
It concluded that the social worker should have expanded her job search, particularly in unqualified work, and that only applying for roles in child protection restricted her options.
The social worker said she had not applied for positions outside of child protection because she did not have the relevant experience. She also said that many non-qualified positions required physical work, which she was not suited for.
“The panel acknowledges that it has been a stressful and difficult time for the registrant in trying to obtain work and that she has maintained a professional approach and kept up-to-date,” it said.
However, the panel added that the HCPC’s indicative sanctions policy says that while sanctions are not meant to be punitive, they may have that effect.
The social worker argued that the prospects for social workers had “changed” since the sanction and that employers are now more selective. But the panel said that its decisions cannot be affected by the job market and so this was not a relevant factor.
The HCPC panel decided to maintain the current two-year caution because the public’s interest in her sanction remaining in place outweighed the interests of the social worker.