Social worker struck off after disclosing case details

    Care Council for Wales' fitness-to-practise committee finds actions of social worker breached confidentiality and could have put children at risk

    Photo: liderina / Fotolia

    A child protection social worker who disclosed details containing confidential information about families she worked with has been removed from the Welsh social care register.

    A Care Council for Wales fitness-to-practise committee concluded that she had asked another person to type four documents containing sensitive information on a laptop owned by a third person.

    The person believed to have typed the documents, which included names of families and information about their personal problems, subsequently made a complaint to Denbighshire County Council that led to disciplinary action against the social worker.

    The committee agreed with the council that the complaint was maliciously motivated but said that made no difference to the fact that the social worker had deliberately disclosed confidential information.

    Malfunctioning laptop

    In the disciplinary process following the complaint, the social worker claimed her work laptop was malfunctioning at the time and that the dates of the offending documents were incorrect because the personal computer used to create them had a problem with its battery. She also denied that the person who complained had typed the documents for her.

    The committee, however, dismissed these claims. Records showed the social worker had logged into the council’s system on her work laptop around the same time and the county council’s IT specialists did not spot any battery problems with the personal computer used to create the documents when they examined it.

    In addition the committee felt it was likely that the complaint had typed the documents since it was unclear how that person could have known of their existence otherwise.

    The committee said that while the social worker trusted the personal computer owner and the person who complained, the reality was that once the information had been made available to them she “had no control of it”.

    Children put at risk

    It said that by disclosing the information the social worker had failed to protect service user privacy and dignity, and jeopardised the council’s relations with the families she worked with, which could have put the children involved at risk.

    One family, the committee noted, had threatened to sue the local authority over the incident.

    In addition by releasing the information to third parties the social worker risked damaging the council’s relationships with other agencies and professionals, which in turn could have undermined the information sharing that is crucial to child protection work.

    Fundamental principle

    While this was an isolated incident, the committee said “her behaviour called into question the registrant’s integrity in that she demonstrated a lack of regard for the fundamental principle of confidentiality within social work practice”.

    The committee did not feel confident that the registrant appreciated the seriousness of her actions. It also said there was a lack of evidence of remedial evidence by the registrant, who did not attend the hearing or provide written submissions to it.

    Given this the committee decided to remove the social worker from the register, noting that her lack of involvement in the hearing process had “closed the door to other outcomes”.

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    11 Responses to Social worker struck off after disclosing case details

    1. Speedo April 27, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

      Compare this to the consultant psychiatrist who sold his PC onto the second hand market when it was then found to contain a raft of clinical notes on identifiable patients examined by the consultant.

      Was this good doctor struck off and no longer allowed to practice??

      You’ve guessed it – a slight rebuke with a recommendation of attending a course in data management. The HCPC and its like are now becoming a compete joke – I think that the court of judgment on social workers would be run more fairly by the Sun newspaper.

      • canlou April 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm #


      • Belie April 28, 2016 at 4:39 am #

        The key here is the said social worker did not participate in the process of proseedings. She deliberately shared sensitive information with a third party who is not employed as a social worker or similar by the local authority and failed to attend the hearing. We will never know now whether her presence could have resulted in a different outcome therefore all I can say is it’s a shame she chose to bury her head, but ´she made her bed’!!

        • Belie April 28, 2016 at 4:41 am #


      • Ben Glass April 28, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

        What is unfair about the HCPC decision on this case?

        Which is more inportant: the protection of those deemed vulnerable by society, or SWs don’t have it ‘tougher’ than Drs?

    2. Milo April 27, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

      Why you should avoid poor local authorities that can’t provide decent IT

    3. Mary April 27, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

      Couldnt the typist just say no?

      • Ben Glass April 28, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

        Without knowing the full details of the case how do you think anyone on here can answer that?

        In any case, how is it relevant to this (ex)registrants misconduct?

    4. Chris Mills April 28, 2016 at 10:00 am #

      Unnecessarily punitive. She made a foolish mistake and needs more training and awareness, not being professionally ruined.

      • Ben Glass April 28, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

        Given the damage caused to those whose rights she breached (you may have noticed there was the threat of legal action against the council), is ‘more training and awareness’ really proportionate?

        Why do you feel she is being punished? She can still have a professional career, she is still a free woman, without monetary or penal sanction. Surely all that’s happened is that those who use services are now better protected. Perhaps you feel that is less important than her career.

    5. Roselyn Thompson April 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

      I agree that she breach the “Breach the Data Protection Act” and should be discipline and made to take further training. Social workers is under so many strain in work especially not have computer to do their work when they’re asked to undertake so many assessment, court and carrying out direct work with families. I don’t agree with struck ing her off the register, training and better insight of good practice is needed. Local Authorities should give social workers the tool to carrying out their work so that they don’t have to asked friends to used their computers. I know many social workers taking work home with them to do because there is no one helping them with administration work.