‘Poorly supervised’ social worker who referred self to HCPC sanctioned

The social worker failed to record meetings, assessments and visits on her council's case management system

supervision
Photo: Florian/Fotolia

A “poorly supervised” social worker criticised for being a “led practitioner” has been cautioned by the HCPC over case recording failures.

The social worker failed to record meetings, assessments and visits on her council’s case management system for 18 children and two families between February 2014 and June 2015, a conduct committee found. She referred herself to the HCPC and “frankly admitted being overwhelmed at the relevant time,” the panel heard.

The committee found the social worker had “tried her best” and “came across as someone who wanted to help people”. But the panel found she had also struggled to practise autonomously.

“She seemed to expect a great deal from supervision in that she needed to be told what to do and when. The revelation that the registrant needed to block time out in her diary to write up notes and records was one the panel found to be surprising. She did not seem to be an autonomous worker, but more of a led practitioner.”

Insufficient support

The panel also found that the supervision offered to the social worker had been inadequate. She received too few sessions and “insufficient” support from her manager.

The panel considered this as a mitigating factor in the case but noted that the social worker also failed to actively seek more support. The committee concluded the “fundamental problem” was the social worker’s failure to prioritise her work effectively and record it.

“The examples of the registrant’s handwritten notes in her day books were seriously deficient. If another professional had needed to intervene in a case they would not have been able to understand what had gone before even if they had been given access to the daybooks,” the panel said.

The committee held in the social worker’s favour that she admitted certain failings early on in the process, had received a positive reference from her recent employer and had been poorly supervised and not offered any chance to undergo formal performance management.

However, it concluded the findings amounted to misconduct and were serious enough to justify a sanction. A caution will remain on her registration for the next three years.

37 Responses to ‘Poorly supervised’ social worker who referred self to HCPC sanctioned

  1. Robin Currie February 16, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    Have the supervisor and the Council also been sanctioned for the failure to provide adequate supervision and insufficient support?

    • Stuart February 16, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      That, I believe, is technically knowneasa rhetorical question. As is, ‘how many hcpc panel members have ever done an asye?’ And when doing their many years of socia work practice how did they manage to never hear of a worker ‘blocking out time’ to catch up with records & reports? Or did they only work in places where the technlogy and/or ‘admin’ staff did most of that for them?

    • A Man Called Horse February 20, 2017 at 10:31 am #

      Man puts hand into mouth of Tiger loses it, shocking and totally unexpected. Did this Social Worker actually think HCPC would help her?? You have to laugh out loud.

  2. Sharon Hughes February 16, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    And that how incompetent HCPC sar as a regulator… I lost faith in them years ago when a social work found guilt of abuse of trust in 4032 clients cases was told it was OK. … they are a joke

  3. Sue February 16, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

    How honest of this practitioner to refer herself to the HCPC, and how sad that she has been penalised for poor record keeping when it is accepted that she was inadequately supported. As for wanting to block out diary time to catch up, surely everyone does that. How else can records, reports, assessments ever be written up?

    • Ian February 16, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

      Exactly so Sue, and what more evidence could anyone need of the hcpc’s total ignorance of what pressures social workers are under and how actual social work is done and just how utterly out of touch they are.
      I sincerely hope every one of them is made redundant with minimal pay-off and no re-hiring when hcpc’s function in social work moves to the new body. Although I have no expectation the new thing will be any better..e

    • Sona Herr February 17, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

      I’m not in social work but that observation leaps out doesn’t it. Of course she’d need to take time to do proper write-ups. To highlight that as a failing surely means that social care professionals are expected to do that in their own time?

  4. John Smith February 17, 2017 at 6:55 am #

    Yet again, commentators seem to ignore the issues which have been identified with this social worker’s practice and focus solely on the fact that a social worker has received a sanction. How dare the regulator hold individuals to account for issues with their practise! Social workers should be beyond the slightest criticism!

    The social worker in this case is being allowed to continue to practise – a caution is towards the lower end of the range of possible outcomes.

    (I bet this isn’t published).

    • Martin Porter February 20, 2017 at 9:15 am #

      But surely the organisation has the responsibility to maintain the safety of its clients, especially as in this case the problems weren’t a secret?

      If she was not up to the job then she should have gone down the performance management route, where she would have worked with her manager to remedy any problems, or, if that was not possible, she could be sacked. If she was in a union they would have supported.

      I can’t help feeling that would have been a better result all round than this.

      • stuart February 20, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

        Definitely so Martin.
        And the issue, John, is that the regulator is completely OTT, out of touch with reality and more concerned with it’s own importance (having a narcissistic personality disorder maybe) than with improving services to the public.
        The worker was already improving things, no hcpc action was needed except to maybe monitor. The sanction will not help.

  5. Rosaline February 17, 2017 at 6:53 pm #

    An absolute disgrace.

  6. Spike February 17, 2017 at 8:09 pm #

    The sooner social workers are under a regulatory body other than HCPC the better. It may well work for more ‘medicalised’ models of practice, but is entirely out of touch with the realities of social work practice.

  7. JU P February 17, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

    I block time in my diary to write up reports and put assessments on the system, we call the paperwork days and this is encouraged by my manager. I really don’t know what is surprising by it. It is worrying that management and the LA are not taken to task over their shortcomings.

  8. N February 17, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

    I bet it is published, John Smith. How much do I win? And well done for assuming oppression and censorship even before it happens.

    Yeah, the worker wasn’t doing great, but they clearly had sufficient insight into that fact to request help. I’d be very surprised if the HCPC was their first port of call instead of their manager.

    Speaking of, if the manager wasn’t able to support a worker who “struggled to work autonomously”, then they shouldn’t be a manager. Students and NQSWs struggle with that and helping them through it is a pretty fundamental management skill.

    On the larger topic, we all know that HCPC write-ups in CC are only summaries of the actual judgement, but there is a common thread running through them which suggests that their threshold is ridiculously low and slanted towards SWs instead of managers. To me this suggests one of:
    a) CC write-ups are inaccurate and disproportionate and actively seek to give that impression, which raises the question why the HCPC doesn’t raise that as an issue
    b) The write-ups are accurate but disproportionate because they only publish selective stories which feed that impression; again, why no backlash from the HCPC
    c) The write ups are accurate and proportionate accounts of what happens at the HCPC, in which case the impression is at least broadly reflective of reality.

    This leads to a situation where Managers refer SWs to the HCPC, with little fear of anything happening if the SW raises any concerns about them. On the other hand SWs don’t refer managers because if the manager makes a counter-allegation it’s pretty clear which side the HCPC will take. If the HCPC did take claims against managers seriously, then their referral rate would dry up since the managers would keep it in-house rather than risk accountability.

    Case in point: a couple of years back I had a service-level manager instruct me to override parental consent for a CP Medical because he incompetently assumed that was allowed under S47. When I refused he threatened me with disciplinary action. When he found out he was wrong things just went quiet, leaving me to deal with the parents’ displeasure. By any measure that is gross incompetence for someone at that level but the HCPC doesn’t foster a culture that would enable such behaviour to be safely reported to them by social workers or low-level managers without fear of reprisal or an expectation that they would be taken seriously.

    • A SW February 18, 2017 at 8:19 am #

      This is the reason I always read the hcpc hearings on the website myself. CC does pick only a selection to publish but they are pretty representative of what is there. I’m struggling to find this one but will continue looking.

      I’m shocked that a few years ago the hearings appeared to be about workers having inappropriate relationships with service users, significant failings in practice putting people at risk, or undisclosed offences etc. Now there are more and more about workers not recording work on systems, not completing reports on time, not visiting/attending meetings. To be fair I used to read them thinking, ‘how would any social worker think that’s ok?!’ now I read them thinking ‘that could be me!’, due to be completely over worked it has, at times, took me months to get certain notes added, I’ve missed deadlines and went out of timescales for visits because there are not enough hours to do the job. I know it’s not ok, and I generally keep my manager informed (to protect myself). I seek out support but generally get told to just keep going. As much as I like my manager I do sometimes wonder if something went wrong and he had to defend my actions, would he share his possible failings or put it all on me?

      • Another SW February 19, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

        So true….

    • stuart February 20, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

      Excellent comment N., I think you should work that up into an actual article and get CC to publish it. Or they should ask you to.

    • John Smith February 22, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

      The reason for assuming censorship is that Community Care refused in the past to publish comments of mine which were made in response to other users.

      As to what you win, how about a reminder of what can happen when social workers get things wrong:

      http://victoriaclimbie.hud.ac.uk/background.html

      (I fully expect that this won’t be published).

      • stuart February 24, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

        Maybe John, your other comments were more overtly offensive or breached some other publisher’s guidelines – like those any on-line forum has to have to maitain focus and decorum.

        The point about a well known child death case sails quite close to the wind I’d say, as I find it quite offensive that you should think social workers are not perfectly well aware of how risk-laden is the world in which they operate. It’s exactly that awareness that keeps them (us) working countless unpaid hours despite physical, mental and emotional danger in order to do everything possible to keep their charges safe.

        And please don’t be so insensitive about using other people’s tragedy in a cheap debating point.

      • Ian February 25, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

        That, John, is an offensive and ignorant remark which shows your complete lack of understanding.

        Maybe you would benefit from a spell where you have to listen more than you talk, it’s often a good practice to practise.

  9. T Bedeau February 17, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    This is such a sad story to read. Ths SW acted very honestly by self referral, but instead was penalised
    What’s about the sanctions for her manager and the council?
    Well done to the SW for taking such a brave and open step.

    Others must take note!

  10. Faye Gayle February 18, 2017 at 2:42 am #

    Ok when I allocate time to write up an assessment usually at home I have time to reflect, read some journals and books Esp when I might be wressing with something. When do they expect you to write things up on the drive home, on the train with no seat? Some people even allocate an admin day – some of these misconduct hearings are a waste of my subscription fee and just add to the blame culture that goes on. Some days you don’t ge home until late and then the next set of visits and so on and so on.

  11. Yohai Hakak February 18, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    Social work practice is for many years now extremely procedural and bureaucractised, and coloured by a lack of trust in the individual practicioner. This indicates a continuous attempt to minimise practitioners’ need to exercise their independent judgment. To ignore this context and sanction the individual who was honest enough to admit it is unjust and stupid.

  12. Mark Allenby February 18, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    The real sadness here is that few, if any, lessons will be learned, so service users will be denied the chance to receive a better service in future.

    Firstly, we need to celebrate the action of the social work in acknowledging their weaknesses, and coming forward and doing something about it. That takes more courage than I think most of us would be able to summon up.

    Secondly, we need to recognise that this specific social worker did not have the sufficiently developed skills at the time to cope with the job. That cannot be ignored as people could have suffered serious harm.

    Thirdly, we need to be more critical (in the sense of positive critique, not merely give criticism) of the processes that allow good people to do bad things. We have ample evidence that when systems are not in place to support people in doing the right things, it is very easy for them to do the wrong things. The knee-jerk reaction here is to look for the scapegoat – you can take your pick – the worker, the supervisor, the service manager, the HCPC, the government, it doesn’t really matter. But to do so is to miss the point.

    Social work fails because we do not have an active system for learning lessons from our failings. Look at how the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) deals with failings in aviation. They go in with an open mind, encourage everyone to share openly, and aim to produce guidelines that will be practical for everyone. For the AAIB, everyone contributes to understanding what happened, and apportioning blame is rarely a key consideration. Public safety is the overwhelming priority.

    We need to learn the lessons from aviation. We need to commit to encouraging a culture where failings are openly acknowledged, collaboratively investigated, and findings are widely disseminated to all who can contribute to making the profession safer for all. Then we really will have a profession to be proud of.

    • Lianne Davies February 20, 2017 at 11:01 am #

      Indeed. What the article and a lot of the comments seem to be seeking is to blame, whether and individual or a body. The only way to fully understand why a situation is occurring is to trace it back through the workplace practices and to initial training. As the AAIB shows, in most cases, procedures rather than an individual are to blame and changing procedures is a lot more helpful than scapegoating.

    • Ian February 25, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

      Excellently expressed point. What a pity it won’t be listened to now any more than it has been in the past…

  13. Margaret February 19, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    My sister has been assaulted by her manager. Who’s practice will be in question? I will give you three guesses…

  14. Mark F February 19, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    Sad story. I am puzzled though as to what the social worker had hoped to be the outcome of making a self referral to the hcpc. I agree with the various comments made about the sanction and the judgement but does anyone know what they had hoped would come out of the self referral?

    • stuart February 25, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

      If you self-refer it’s like pleading guilty, you hope for a lesser sentence. Which is probably what she got because what we don’t know is whether her manager (sic) said something like ‘refer yourself or I will’…

      I still don’t approve of the hcpc but in the current reality I think that’s sad but, I suspect, true.

  15. Fred February 20, 2017 at 10:40 am #

    Next time a child or adult dies nobody will look at the HCPC , the ludicrous fees social workers are required to pay them and the ludicrous sanctions on workers who make a mistake. Yet its the HCPC that is making social work a profession now in the “why on earth would anyone want to do that?” type of job.

    The Doctors get support from their body.

    All social workers get from HCPC is nasty attacks, negative publicity and patronising comments from people who seem to enjoy sitting judgement on others.

    HCPC panel members are often failed failed big wigs who got “retired” early (because they went well past competence levels in terms of past promotions) or law graduates. Many have never written a case note properly (ever) or done home visits on a sink estate after work. What sort of person wants to spend their time making value judgements about others and harming people and the social work profession?

    The need for or effectiveness these nasty QUANGOs has never been established.

    At a time when front line services are struggling so very badly, getting rid of the QUANGOs and putting the saved resources into front line services looks a most sensible way forward.

  16. JSW February 20, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    It is not acceptable for HCPC not to consider the manager who failed to do their job !

  17. Kim February 20, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    I cannot understand how any SW thinks that this outcome is acceptable and why the HCPC are not being challenged on their rulings. When are managers and Service Delivery Managers going to be sanctioned for their poor support and duty of care both to children and families and SW’s? I personally experienced the views of a Service Delivery Manager in the LA I worked for who was so excited that there was to be a change from GSCC to HCPC for this very reason; to admonish and to sanction SW’s who were unable to in her words “write in a timely manner”! There is 100% focus put on writing up notes / writing assessments / writing reports / all of which I agree are 100% valid but no focus put on the work that needs to be done with families to enable change. How long will it be before there is yet another serious case review? When are caseloads going to be capped? In some LA’s caseloads are 48 and above! SW’s, including myself, are writing up records in their own time, in the evenings, and in the weekends. And why are the Unions not doing more to address this? The feedback from Unison was that the SW’s do not get behind the Unions! When is someone going to do something about this! I went into SW to work with children and families and I have never been so disillusioned in my whole life.

  18. Mary February 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    My question, when the DASS is not a social worker, who is the regulator that pulls them apart for their gross lack of judgement and professional skills? It would be useful to do a survey of how many senior managers in social services at Assistant Directors level and above are HCPC registered? You may be surprised just how few it is in some local authorities.

  19. Pancho February 22, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    It is quite bizarre that this bunch of clowns can’t see that blocking time out to update paperwork is actually an example of good practice

    • PJ February 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

      Blocking out time to write up case notes etc is standard practice for any SW. This just goes to show how out of touch HCPC are with what actually happens in the real world of social work! The SW needed support not sanctions, how disgraceful that the management were not taken too task for failing to support the SW. HCPC I won’t be sorry to see the back of you!!

    • Phantom February 22, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

      OMG… The social worker ‘blocked time out in her diary.’ What was the relevance of such a detail in the report. A smokescreen to deflect her obvious lack of support and supervision from the department. Perhaps the manager had ‘blocked out’ out supervision responsibilities with own need to catch up on report writing and admin.

      #shockingstateofaffairs#

      • Pandoras box March 5, 2017 at 10:16 am #

        I would love to see the whole can of worms opened in this one. You can safety bet your house that it will never happen. I expect managers at all levels in this LA are following this thread.