Social worker struck off after lie caused children to be removed into care

The social worker told her manager the children's mother had threatened to kill herself and her children, when she hadn't

Picture: JorgeAlejandro/Fotolia
Picture: JorgeAlejandro/Fotolia

A social worker whose lie to colleagues “almost certainly” led to children being taken into care has been struck off.

An Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) conduct and competence committee decided to strike off the social worker after three children were taken into emergency care after she falsely told her manager their mother threatened to kill her children, kill herself and burn the house down.

After the social worker said this, and repeated it on several occasions, the council she worked for was granted an emergency protection order to remove the children. The social worker did not correct her statements until five days later, before an interim care order hearing.

Both the social worker and her employer referred her to the HCPC. She was suspended for 12 months on two occasions, in 2015 and 2016, before a committee took a decision to strike her off last month.

Harm

In the 2015 hearing, the HCPC said the social worker’s actions were “deplorable” and had caused “very real harm” to the mother and her family.

“[The mother] had her children removed almost certainly based on a sequence of events initiated by what the registrant had said. This was at an ex-parte hearing meaning that [the mother] would not have known or been in a position to have challenged the evidence given by the registrant,” the 2015 panel said.

It added that the social worker did not take opportunities to retract her false statement, and she demonstrated no insight into her actions.

The panel also heard that the social worker had shared cigarettes and personal information with the mother, which it said breached professional boundaries as it “blurred” the relationship between the pair.

Following the beginning of the HCPC process in 2015, the social worker did not engage with proceedings.

Evidence

Last month a panel concluded there was “no evidence” that the social worker had insight into her misconduct.

“She has not taken the opportunities provided to her by the two previous panels to demonstrate that she has reflected on her misconduct. In the absence of any information that the misconduct has been remedied, the panel has concluded that there is a real risk of repetition,” the panel said.

In striking off the social worker, the panel said she chose not to fix her misconduct, and the step was necessary to maintain public confidence in the profession and prevent repetition if she was to practice as a social worker again.

16 Responses to Social worker struck off after lie caused children to be removed into care

  1. Rosaline June 7, 2017 at 6:23 am #

    This is the right decision by the HCPC, completely unacceptable of the social worker to share such untruths. The trauma this family have faced will be with them forever and seeking any help from services in the future, will trigger the wrath of negative emotions. My thoughts are with this family.

    • Sarqh June 7, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      Having committed my working life to making changes and achieving justice for children who have endured abuse, neglect, fear, and loss I can honestly say the main problem in almost every situation was the social workers belief that the phrase “good enough parenting” is the benchmark to aspire to, that they never have any urgency in anything they do but the most disgusting bit is that when something does go wrong the frantic scramble that ensues isn’t about the family or the child just about finding a scapegoat, blaming others and extracting themselves from having any blame or accountability at their door and not caring who they denegrate, ruin or damage nor the lies they tell in any arena to escape unscathed. The irony is they are so far removed from reality and the “there for the grace of God go I ” thought process when dealing with the mistakes we can all make in life at any given point. I challenged that as a professional every time! Today? my child and I are on the receiving end of the despicable lies and divisive behaviour because I “dared challenge” their actions and decisions. The realisation that the “abuse” is actually being perpetuated by their own behaviours seems to escape them….

  2. John Smith June 7, 2017 at 6:31 am #

    I fully expect the usually comments on this site that the social worker was in no way to blame for their actions and it was all the fault of their manager, or the weather, or something.

    I fully expect this comment will also not be published because social workers can’t stand the slightest criticism and censor anyone who disagrees that they are infallible.

    • Denise June 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      John, social workers face criticism from everywhere. They are easy targets for lazy thinkers. Of course some social workers, as in this example, are blameworthy and do a great discredit to the profession. There are others who are poorly trained, poorly managed and make poor decisions. However from over 30 years of social work experience, I can say most are honourable, trustworthy and open to helpful criticism.

  3. Shana June 7, 2017 at 8:09 am #

    I’m afraid that this is not an isolated incident. I am an agency social worker and have come across other agency and local authority social workers who have blatantly lied to avoid having to do the stressful work, or to simply get home on time. I know of one member of staff who registered that she had seen a child who was subject to a child protection plan, when in reality, all she had done was driven past the house and seen the child in the window! She was dismissed.

    Another member of staff lied about having made visits to the family, because it was a 4.30pm visit and “out of her way”. She told me personally that she wasn’t going to do the visit as it would make her late home. She too was dismissed.

    In addition I have lost count of things on file which are supposed to have been done and have not been done. The managers in these cases were not aware that the work had not been done until a new social worker uncovered the lies. One manager apologized to me on such a case, which I inherited from someone who had left the authority, saying that when her social workers tell her they have carried out a task, she has to believe it is done. She was responsible for a team of 14 staff and simply could not check up on every single task, which workers claimed to have carried out.

    Social work IS a stressful and complex job, but it requires staff to work with integrity and honesty if we are to serve the children we strive to protect.

    I cannot see that the HCPC could come to any other conclusion in this sad case.

  4. BIA John June 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

    Clearly, the social worker was not to blame and it was all the fault of their manager or the weather or something else.

    Happy now, John?

  5. Matt Ward June 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    As a Social Worker this goes against everything we stand for in relation to anti-discriminatory/oppressive practice.

    With cases like this it becomes more difficult to promote the good work we do for the most vulnerable people within our society.

  6. Nell June 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    Really John Smith? I have absolutely no problem in accepting this judgement on the basis of what I have read. It seems likely that you are the one making sweeping judgements.

    • Nomveliso June 7, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

      Social workers are meant to enhance the peoples well being not to harm them. The deciasion is good and worthy. Its a lesson tonall of us who have been called to this profeasion.

  7. Jenny Eckersley June 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Completely correct decision by the HCPC. Surprising in some ways that the mother hasn’t sued for defamation of character. Does anyone know what ultimately happened to the kids?

  8. Lizzie June 7, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    I’ve direct witness knowledge of at least one SW who’s lied about conduct of a parent. Supported by manager who entirely believed that staff member despite concrete evidence of the lies (plural) which were told on the basis of having taken not a word of notes over a long series of crucial meetings including reviews of cases. Pressure of the job is undoubtedly an issue. Can get in the way of supervision and that asks forensic and challenging as well as supportive questions and provides guidance. But pressure of the job is on ALL SWkrs and only SOME behave like this. For the families unfortunate to land in their case loads? Negatively life changing. Striking off a hard conclusion but absolutely necessary. But how many sail close to that malpractice line & do damage without this level of scrutiny?

  9. lucy June 7, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

    The social worker was fortunate she was sacked and struck off, as she could have possibly faced criminal sanction or compensation litigation for giving false testimony whilst in public office, and falsifying case notes and statements which are public records.

    This social worker abused their position of power, and obviously the Mother and children may never trust professionals again – you cannot blame them.

    Obviously this social worker had the need for attention and control; and probably did not anticipate how her lies would escalate into a serious chain of events. The only good thing was she appeared to have some sort of conscience before the court hearing, however obviously a little too late, and this should never have happened in the first place. My thoughts are with the Mother and the children.

  10. Emily June 7, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

    Am surprised that they haven’t disclosed the social worker’s name. This is totally unacceptable and s/he deserves this punishment.

    So unprofessional, no grain of remorse and so oppressive. Not fit for purpose for a person who should otherwise promote anti-discriminatory/oppressive practice and be trustworthy.

    Well done HPCC for once.

  11. Sadsw June 8, 2017 at 6:01 am #

    Absolutely the correct decision. Behaviour like this not only impacts the family directly involved but also every other family working with SW’s as it breeds mistrust and makes the job infinitely harder.

    That poor family. We’re meant to protect from harm, not inflict it.

  12. Debbie June 9, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

    Why on earth would someone do this when our overarching belief is that children are better off living with their family unless it is unsafe for them to do so. It beggars belief and this was the only conclusion the HCPC could have come to.

  13. LYNNE Brosnan June 12, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    The damage done to this family is unforgivable. The social worker should face criminal proceedings in my book. How on earth are families going to trust social workers when some behave in this manner. The damage caused is probably for life. Maybe it is time all parents in these situations are given access to free independant advice.

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