A social worker who prioritised quality over timeliness has been suspended from the register for nine months by the HCPC.
A HCPC conduct and competence committee found the social worker did not complete assessments in a timely manner, or maintain documentation, in the cases of 14 service users while working as a case manager in a youth offending team from April 2010 to June 2012.
She also failed to file an intensive supervision and surveillance assessment in time for court.
“The registrant’s philosophy of intervention and quality being prioritised over the timeliness of assessments and the effective management of her practice was unacceptable,” the HCPC panel said.
The woman’s manager praised the high quality of her work and panel found that her focus on interventions and quality were “commendable objectives”. But, the panel felt, this quality came at the expense of the other service users she was responsible for.
“She chose to focus on fewer pieces of work to a higher standard. She spent too much time on parts of her caseload without prioritising key tasks. She therefore failed to carry out essential assessments in a timely fashion,” the panel said.
The social worker contested that she was not employed as a social worker at the youth offending team, but the panel said she was still a registered social worker and so bound to the General Social Care Council codes of practice that were in force at the time.
The HCPC found the social worker was unwilling to change, “despite it being demonstrated to her that assessments needed to be prioritised when there were restricted timescales imposed by national standards”.
“Late reports run the risk that timely decisions may not be made when a risk of serious harm to the service user or to members of the public existed,” the panel said. “It is clear from the extensive findings…that assessments were delayed for many weeks and months or not completed at all.”
The social worker was subject to interventions over several years “which went far beyond ordinary management” to ensure she practised safely. Her supervision increased from monthly to weekly, she held an “unremarkable” caseload and had undergone time management training, but continued to work in her own “entrenched way”.
“The provision of late assessments meant that the registrant was not acting in the best interests of those service users,” said the panel. “She also put the public at risk of serious potential harm and undermined the public’s confidence in her and the social work profession.”
The social worker told the panel that, since having her role at the youth offending team terminated in 2012, she had held six short-term contracts including one in “a highly pressurised environment completing initial assessments”.
But the HCPC panel noted that it had no independent evidence of the good practice she claimed and found that the social worker lacked full insight into her failings in part because she had failed to take “sufficient remedial action”, such as undergoing further time management training.
The panel decided that a suspension order was necessary to prevent the social worker from practising so she had time to remediate her misconduct.