Social worker falsely logged visits due to fear of manager’s criticism

A social worker has been suspended by the HCPC after she falsely recorded statutory visits to avoid the public criticism of her manager

Photo: Fizkes/Fotolia
Photo: Fizkes/Fotolia

The HCPC has suspended a social worker who falsely logged statutory visits to avoid criticism from a manager a colleague claimed was preoccupied with “box ticking”.

The social worker received a six months suspension following a conduct hearing where she admitted lying about completing statutory visits to two looked-after children.

The social worker told the panel she struggled to manage her workload after returning from maternity leave. She was suffering significant stress at the time and was left “deeply upset” by her manager’s “deskilling and devaluing” approach to managing performance, which included criticising staff publicly.

“One of the measures she adopted was to circulate a group email to every member of the department each week, listing all instances of work which had not been completed within the required time scales. This was unpopular with a number of people in the department,” the HCPC panel said.

Preoccupation with box ticking

To “avoid further criticism”, the social worker logged two statutory visits before she had carried them out. A previous manager of the social worker told the panel she did not approve of the new manager’s style, which she saw as “a preoccupation with ‘box ticking’ at the expense of quality”.

However, the panel said the social worker’s actions were dishonest and her efforts to “deflect” criticism of her performance marked a “significant breach” of her colleagues’ trust.

“It was made more serious by being related to the records of visits which the Panel had already found are important to the work of a social work team and the protection of the children for whom it is responsible,” the panel said.

“The registrant’s misconduct had the potential to result in harm to vulnerable service users and undermine public confidence in the profession and the records that underpin the work of social workers.”

The social worker’s admissions of dishonesty and developing insight came “at a very late stage”, the panel said. It said a suspension order would give her the opportunity to build on the progress she has made, as well as to develop insight and demonstrate there was no danger of further misconduct.

25 Responses to Social worker falsely logged visits due to fear of manager’s criticism

  1. Nicole March 16, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    Very unfortunate story. I find that when the manager is not managing staff effectively I.e focusing more on time scales, workers can become desperate and very stressed. However, this is by no means an excuse for the social worker but I hope things get better for the service.

    • JYOTSNA STINGEMORE March 16, 2017 at 10:04 pm #

      Totally agree. It’s not helpful to simply suspend social workers for such actions (although that was the correct sanction) but to also address the culture in which the children’s services operates under.

    • Cyrnix March 22, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

      There appears to be a disparity in this case, although not privy to all case background details, the common thread within these circumstances always includes a power crazed individual called a supervisor. No mention is made as to this being the major contributing factor – the poor handling of staff and the bullying tactics used by the said supervisor. I believe are contrary to any reasonable set of anti – bulling and anti-harassessment policy and procedure documents.
      Perhaps there should be a different culture which exists, rather than just blame and shame as was evident in this case.

  2. Polly March 16, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    no excuses for this dishonesty, but what sort of bullying culture is operating here, is this not misconduct in and of itself ?

  3. Tom J March 16, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    Managers can sometimes become tyrannical when they are pressured to get more boxes ticked; ticking the box becomes all that matters. Comments such as ‘I don’t care when or how you do it, just do it’ or repeated questions of ‘have you done it yet?’ can become common.

    Unfortunately for many social workers their morale and confidence is low. 35 cases? No problem. Work late? No problem. Be spoken to badly? No problem. No supervision? No problem.

    However there needs to be lines drawn in the sand.

    I recommend that social workers should join a trade union such as Unison. This can raise morale through knowing you are in a trade union (as well as a prof body) and you have the right to say NO or to stand up for yourself. Easier said than done, but easier when you and your colleagues are in a union.

    There are some absolutely fantastic reps out there- if your rep is useless, become one yourself, at least until we are all outsourced to G4S most social workers are in trade unions which are recognised. If you have a manager browbeating you it can helpful to a) Just talk things through and gain advice from a rep b) take formal or informal action. c) link with other union members to share experiences and support each other.

    • Kim March 16, 2017 at 7:05 pm #

      Being part of the Union is an absolute must but is not the answer. In my experience the union reps were unwilling to challenge managers in any way. My experience was that of having 48 cases and climbing. I was told to close cases down, just do the work, and that my other colleagues were able to do it without any problem. Until there is a real overhaul of statutory social work nothing will change. How is it that Social Workers are constantly berated by the HCPC yet managers are not taken to task? Life as a child protection Social Worker is brutal and is it any wonder that workers try their best to meet unattainable deadlines. When is this going to change?

      • Spotty Dog's mum March 18, 2017 at 11:32 am #

        Totally agree. Brutal is a good description.

  4. Anon March 16, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    Personally, I wouldn’t want any social worker who was feeling desperate and stressed making any decisions about the lives of my children!

  5. Tom March 16, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

    The worker was dishonest about crucial social work practice and is rightly paying the price for that but there is a separate issue of management bullying to achieve performance. What always amazes me is how as individuals and as groups we allow managers to bully in this way. If this was a client relationship we would have much to say in our assessment. This worker was not able to confront her manager and it seems staff as a whole were not able to either. That is an indictment of the manager but also staff, who will make judgements about a mother’s ability to stand up to an abusive partner’s bullying, and hold her to a much higher standard than they do to themselves perhaps.

  6. Ruth Cartwright March 16, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    Not to condone what the social worker did (although I get the impression she actually did do the visits, just not in the timescales), but this is an example of really poor management. Naming and shaming has no part to play. If there is someone whose performance is causing concern discuss with them in supervision – is there a capability problem or are the department’s expectations unrealistic? If the former, help and support but also clarity that this work needs to be done in a timely fashion; if the latter, gather evidence and take it upstairs. Neither is an easy course of action but that’s what management is about. Micro management is almost always a sign of poor management, of a manager who is not able to admit that his or her staff are skilled practitioners and may sometimes know more than the manager does.

    • Cyrnix March 23, 2017 at 2:12 am #

      There appears to be a disparity in this case, although not privy to all case background details, the common thread within these circumstances always includes a power crazed individual called a supervisor. No mention is made as to this being the major contributing factor – the poor handling of staff and the bullying tactics used by the said supervisor. I believe are contrary to any reasonable set of anti – bulling and anti-harassessment policy and procedure documents.
      Perhaps there should be a different culture which exists, rather than just blame and shame as was evident in this case.

      Totally agree with this assessment. Unfortunately the micro- management practiced not only by poor supervisors, is again condoned and encouraged by more senior management. It is now time for inappropriate behaviour including on-going bullying and harassessment of staff to be tackled on a serious level. In my own case, my employer’s Head of HR, who incidentally had been a contributor to a national research panel and a document on these matters left me somewhat non-plussed. My report of complaint was left untouched sitting one of her colleagues desk for several months.

    • Cyrnix March 23, 2017 at 2:15 am #

      There appears to be a disparity in this case, although not privy to all case background details,

      Totally agree with this assessment. Unfortunately the micro- management practiced not only by poor supervisors, is again condoned and encouraged by more senior management. It is now time for inappropriate behaviour including on-going bullying and harassessment of staff to be tackled on a serious level. In my own case, my employer’s Head of HR, who incidentally had been a contributor to a national research panel and a document on these matters left me somewhat non-plussed. My report of complaint was left untouched sitting one of her colleagues desk for several months. That demonstrates a true commitment to stamp out this form of sickness enduring behaviour. Not!

  7. Daniel March 17, 2017 at 12:26 am #

    What’s the point in the article when it gives no name or council?

  8. Anne March 17, 2017 at 6:56 am #

    I want to tall you about an other job. Care assistant. Very unappreciated job. I was working in care for more then 2 years. In this time the locum of staff was a huge problem and we been bulling all the time by management to work more and more and more. In 1 sift, 1 carer was working like for 3 carers and that is not an exageration. After 1 sift of 12, your bady was folling a part. They was sifts when cares vomited of tiredness. You berry manage to go home. To work like for 3 they expect to finish in time like for one. If you don’ t finish is your folt that you are not god carer. All the time on your back. Are you finish? When you berly got in the room they were after you to go in two tree more places. You have two choices. To make compromise and to end like this lady or to go to un other job, far away from this environment.I did loved take care of my residents but I left. The stress and the bulling was to mach every day.

  9. Andrew Grunsell March 17, 2017 at 7:52 am #

    Why only suspended? This is gross misconduct.

  10. Owen Paul March 17, 2017 at 10:40 am #

    Reading the report it looks as if this person logged TWO visits before actually making the visit. We don’t know the time scales and it looks quite clearly like the visits were actually undertaken.

    On our system you need to log the visit the same day you go and fill in the details later, If you are doing a late and not coming back to the office the same day it looks as if the visit took place the following time you log on and enter the data.

    I’ve worked under ‘managers’ like this one and seen experienced workers in tears not knowing what way to turn while more senior managers ignore the effect it’s having hence an 80% turnover of staff.

  11. shadow basket March 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    Always the worker – never the LA. The LA managers I work for are pathetic and do not value workers. they are all about cutting funding and unmanageable caseloads. Have we learnt nothing people- roll on the next significant case review. Blame is easy and the SW in this story is probably not acting uncommonly – if the truth be known. However, we are a society of dramatists and love to condemn the person rather than look at why they did it. seriously- to all social workers out there – GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF YUR ARSES – and challenge the status quo. Do not accept a persons title and position in the managerial spectrum as a safe worker. Most don’t care and nothing is being done about it. We are on our knees and Social Work is being diluted. Wake up Children of the Social Work playground.

  12. Anon March 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    This makes sad reading, another sw suspended over the constraints in which they are placed within. Social work now is not as it was, you are either fantastic at data inputting or fantastic at social work in a practical sense. It is actually hard to find a social worker that is fantastic at both if the caseloads are unmanagble… I question in actual fact is any person out there excellent at both…..HCPC need to look at the management oversight in these cases….are the managers ever brought to hcpc for bullying, are the councils ever brought to hcpc knowingly giving workers caseloads they are never able to manage to a level which shows compitant data inputting as well as a good level of compitant social work intervention and practice, you never hear about it if they are. To many of these cases are coming to light and something really needs to be done to improve social workers working conditions. All this does is makes people scared to come into this profession, leading to a lack of social workers to do the job. I’ve seen fantastic social workers whom do much good, keeping family’s together, promoting the changes leave the profession altogether because of the harsh working conditions placed upon them.
    It says the social worker did not show insight until the end, this saddens me more, the impact of misleading records or lack of information has a huge impact, the loss of a worker whom may have been good at the job if not stressed, impact on the council and their reputation and most importantly the missing story for the child or family when it comes to them wanting to know their story.

  13. MRM March 17, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    I think the manager should be held responsible for the poor management style that led to the social worker taking this kind of action. It’s bullying and this with poor management is dangerous as we have seen with the social worker. I call on the HCPC to take action against the manager alongside the social worker, otherwise we are doing nothing to address the power imbalance and the abuse of power and authority. I’m going to report this story back to HCPC and make a formal complaint against the manager as a concerned member of the public, the manager who is clearly acting incompetently leading to employees feeling fearful leading to their misjudgement of practice to meet a need the manager has. Absolutely disgraceful and sick and tired of hearing about poor management affecting good social workers trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability. I will also write to the children’s minister and raise this matter. Enough is enough in our profession, no more kicking social workers…and talking of dishonesty let’s start with managers…

  14. indrani.kesar March 21, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    I’m looking for a support group where I can discuss/ get information about how best to survive whilst waiting to appear at the HCPC panel.

    • Susan Lowthian March 25, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      You would be hard pressed to find a SW that’s wasnt

  15. Gerald March 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    Social Workers, Nurses, Policemen,Firemen etc etc.have been used for years by all and sundry to get more money for the Public Sector, all the way as a whole right to the top of the tree. just think, what a 5% rise is to a Social worker ( say £1500) and then ratio it up to the Chief Exec. (say £25000) then work out the effect this has on all the wage bill of the Total Public Sector .
    My simple point is the Lowest Paid who are being used get the least increases and yet still get the most blame, even for blatant Management Failures. The Recent Child Care Scandal is an obvious Case of Mismanagement due to various outside influences etc. which have been blamed on the Social Workers . Various forms of Bullying and intimidation is regularly applied all over the Public Sector to ensure whitewashing is believed, Social Workers etc must now stand up to Poor Management and start to report them and the Council concerned to “Safeguarding” which unfortunately is,at the moment, also under the same Councils, if there is no response then they have to go to the Media and carry out some serious whistleblowing.

  16. colsey March 23, 2017 at 10:54 am #

    Gosh, in the real world you have tick boxes, objectives, targets and action plans. Those who cannot or will not manage these are “actioned out”. I have worked in the private sector and the public sector and quite frankly find every time something happens to staff within social services the word “bullying” crops up. My experience of working with social work staff on the whole is that a large majority of them are badly educated, lazy, unable to manage their time effectively and whinge for Britain. It is always the fault of someone else (usually management). If there are other excellent staff out there managing just fine then why not look to them and their practice

    • Tom J March 23, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

      Oh boy… where to begin

      Local Authority social workers have had box ticking, business plans, new labour, Thatcherite rubbish shoved down their throats for years. However as with Baby P in which may boxes were ticked, the child was not saved.

      The idea that the private sector is super efficient etc is bollocks. Whether G4S or Virgin take over prisons or other services they have no magical formula. All they do is cut staffing and pay and conditions. Its a lie that G4S prisons are well oiled machines.

  17. Anon March 27, 2017 at 10:51 am #

    When will the local authority be reporting the manager to the HCPC?
    My employer sacked a senior manager for very serious bullying and harassment against staff (for example, on one occasion he spotted me in the corridor, followed me to the toilet screaming at me, and then stood outside shouting through the door whilst I had a wee) and I eagerly awaited his HCPC hearing. Sadly it has been almost a year now and it would appear they were happy to rid themselves of the problem without taking any professional responsibility. He has since reregistered with the HCPC so someone somewhere has employed him, presumably with references. I contacted the HCPC who were not interested in what I had to say about the employers behaviour and could only suggest I put in a personal complaint against him.