Social worker struck off following Rochdale sexual exploitation case audit

The HCPC has removed a social worker from the register after case audit revealed failings that put children at "unwarranted risk of harm"

Rochdale
Eight members of a child sex exploitation ring from Rochdale and Oldham who were arrested and convicted as part of Operation Span (formerly Operation Sunrise).

A social worker whose case files were audited in the wake of the Operation Span investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rochdale has been struck off.

A HCPC conduct panel removed the social worker from the register after finding that her actions in five cases she handled between 2006 and 2012 had put the children involved at “unwarranted risk of harm” and “breached the fundamental tenets of social work”.

An independent social worker, hired by Rochdale Council to investigate the casework of her and other social workers in reaction to Operation Span, had highlighted numerous concerns.

Not speaking to children

These concerns included not visiting or speaking to children known to be at risk of sexual exploitation when conducting assessments, failing to initiate a section 47 enquiry and not informing a child protection conference or her manager that police were needed to access the home of one of the children.

The independent social worker also told the hearing the social worker was “very out of her depth” in her role as a duty officer and that her records were “very poor, minimal and haphazard”.

The hearing was also told there were no supervision notes on her cases and no evidence of general supervision either.

Significant risk

“Her failures posed a significant risk to the welfare of the children and young people in this case,” said panel chair Lesley White. “All five were very vulnerable and had been referred to the council’s children’s services because of serious concerns about them at that specific time, including sexual exploitation.”

The social worker did not attend the hearing, but told the HCPC by email that she had not worked as a social worker since leaving Rochdale Council in 2012 and had no intention of returning to the profession.

The first of the five cases concerned ‘Child 1’, a 13-year-old girl with learning difficulties and a heart condition who had been known to social services since the age of two due to concerns about her parents’ alcohol, drug and mental health problems. The case was assigned to the social worker, who worked as a duty officer, after it was reported in 2008 that Child 1 had an “inappropriate association” with a 60-year-old man and may be “performing sexual favours”.

Lack of embarrassment about sexual matters

The panel heard there was no record of the social worker visiting or speaking to the child. She also did not question the child’s lack of embarrassment when talking about sexual matters and did not explore the possibility of a care placement for the girl. The social worker also recommended a child in need rather than a child protection plan despite evidence of on-going risk of sexual exploitation.

‘Child 2’ was allocated to the social worker in 2008 after allegations of sexual exploitation and rape. A further referral followed that October when the 15-year-old came to school intoxicated and told staff and friends that she spent the weekend with a local family and engaged in sexual activity with three brothers.

The panel found the social worker did not see or speak to the child for her first assessment and accepted only the father’s assurances. The social worker also did not initiate a section 47 enquiry, as had been agreed at a strategy discussion.

No reason for closing the case

In the case of 12-year-old ‘Child 3’, who was also allocated to her in 2008, the social worker had conducted one joint interview with the child and then recommended no further action despite ongoing risk of sexual exploitation. Nor did the social worker record a reason for closing the case.

The panel found she also failed to record her preparation for a 2006 safeguarding meeting about ‘Child 4’, who was over the age of consent but vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

The final case concerned ‘Child 5’, who was referred in 2012 and was alleged to be a street prostitute who had been raped as a child and whose mother had also been sexually exploited. The panel found the social worker did not record the action she took to engage the child and referred to the family’s “issues” in her report but did not document what these were.

The panel concluded the social worker’s actions amounted to misconduct and had impaired her fitness to practise. Given the seriousness of the misconduct and no evidence of a desire by the registrant to address the concerns about her practice, the panel decided she should be removed from the social work register.

More from Community Care

15 Responses to Social worker struck off following Rochdale sexual exploitation case audit

  1. Hels October 24, 2016 at 7:24 am #

    What sanctions have been taken regarding the line manager or snr prac ??? Just asking?

    • Stuart October 24, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

      Clearly a valid question and one that can & should be posed in so many de-registraton cases.
      The answer of course is almost certain to be either ‘nothing’ or nudged ‘sideways’, if not upwards.

      • Amanda October 28, 2016 at 7:38 am #

        Very true. It angers me that managers sign off work and therefore are just as accountable but don’t seem to be sanctioned.

  2. Mike Marshall October 24, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    The supervisory structure of this social worker should be investigated for their short comings.
    The management structure needs review to address what I consider to be a most complex workload for one practitioner.

  3. Stephen Weekes October 25, 2016 at 3:29 am #

    It is very disappointing that like in many cases of abuse the basic Social Work fundamentals have been missed which resulted in vulnetable children not being Safeguarded when Children were notified of concerns.

    I hope lessons have been learned at all levels within practice to ensure that children can grow in a safe environment once children services have been referred to about concerns relating to risk or likelihood risk of significant harm.

  4. Jonathan Ritchie October 25, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    The Line Manager and Senior Practitioner probably conducted the case audit to protect their own backs. No doubt they will graduate to working for the HCPC in due course….

    • Amanda October 28, 2016 at 7:39 am #

      !!

    • Philip November 1, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

      Sad but true. In my opinion this is one of the reasons we constantly here ‘how did this happen’ followed by ‘we have learned from this. The sooner all managers, service managers and directors for that matter are held to account the better. I will add, any social worker who does not know how to act when seeing a child in the circumstances detailed in the SCR should be struck. Never again allowed anywhere near a child in need.

  5. Roselyn October 25, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    I am really sad when Social Workers failing children in such a hadzous manner. How on earth did this social worker get away with bad practice for four years without being noticed, I see each child on my case load and speak with them individually and with parents and caters. What I don’t understand he/she practice is impaired in such a way and the practice or service manager did nothing to ensure developmental support to the service users or the worker. The manager practice should be looked at and she should be accountable as well.

  6. Laura October 25, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    “The hearing was also told there were no supervision notes on her cases and no evidence of general supervision either”

    So an out of depth social worker did not receive supervision or support and all failings are hers?

  7. Alfredo October 26, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    Wow surely an independent SW wouldn’t be left unattended in a team- with no supervision?

    Incompetence and evidence to show not just on the lack of professional curiosity of the SW but by the structural casualness of Rochdale Social Services.

    Scapegoating on sites like this of single social workers occurs more often than not but to me the problem is more insidious of a deeper problem that’s disheartening. That when social workers need strong leadership there is none.

    • Right to Reply October 26, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

      If I remember there were press articles about the senior management and their handling the case in Rochdale at the time; this hit the press and the news, but never came to anything. I think the HOS at the time was asked to appear in front of MPS (article in Rochdale local paper at least, if I remember correctly), but came to nothing. None of this is not something that wasn’t in the papers at the time. I would agree though at the end of the day it is again a SW who bears the brunt of what happened. Rightly what about the supervision and oversight by management during this time.

  8. colsey October 26, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    her line manager is probably now A director of social services elsewhere ! The worse you behave the more you get on in social work (it seems to me)

  9. Linda October 27, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    As social workers we know that often excessive workloads and lack of support and supervision can result in poorer than intended practice or standards being maintained and so the immediate reaction to this is scepticism that the social worker in question has been scapegoated. The wider issues of resources, workloads and management support are then conveniently parked as these are much more difficult to address. However, it could be that the social worker in question was responsible, at least in some large part, for dangerous practice that unforgivenly resulted in vulnerable children not having the level of protection that could and should have been offered.

    As responsible social workers we are expected to make difficult decisions and sometimes, as was the case for me many years ago, it may be the decision to leave that area of social work or leave the profession even, because the conditions in which we find ourrselves practising in. I realised that the organisational structure, workload and culture was not fit for purpose, adequate, reasonable, acceptable or safe. Consequently by continuing to work in such a setting I would be be putting vulnerable people at risk, not being able to offer the service required and not insignifcantly jeopardising my career as we know no matter how well you try to spread yourself it will be possible for someone to argue you did not prioritise that particular case at that particular time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having time to reflect and discuss individual case effectively is too. Now workers are vulnerable to not just having their professions taken away from them but also open to legal and criminal action. Whilst I admire those that can still function in child and family teams I worry this is the most vulnerable area to work in and I am thankful I do not experience anything like the pressures upon workers in what I consider to be tantamount to abusive working conditions. Maybe not all children and families teams experience this but I suspect so for many.

  10. mm October 31, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    Gosh this is so concerning, the managers need investigating too, they are equally responsible. This has to be about responsibility and accountability and the line manager is part of the process, not just the social worker….so disappointing and puts a wedge between social works trusting managers, the gap in widening…