Social worker struck off after conviction for editing job reference

A social worker made a reference more positive as it included details of 'gross misconduct' at a local authority

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Photo: Monkey Business Images/REX/Shutterstock

A senior social worker has been struck off after editing a job reference that included details of ‘gross misconduct’ he had committed to make it more positive.

His dishonesty was uncovered at a trial over the incident and resulted in him being sentenced to nine months in prison and charged £100.

He was sentenced in January this year for “dishonestly making false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk”, and released from prison in March. He will continue to be supervised by the court until October.

The social worker had falsified case records in his previous job, and in March 2014 was subject to internal disciplinary action, which resulted in him being demoted to another role with less pay.

Minimising responsibility

Following this, the social worker contacted a recruitment agency to find work that paid more. A reference sent from his employer, intended for a recruitment consultant the social worker wanted to use, said the social worker’s honesty, integrity and reliability – and areas of practice – needed improvement, and referenced the previous misconduct.

A Liverpool Echo news reports of the trial said this raised “red flags” about his future employability. The social worker then altered the reference, and re-sent it to the agency under its original author’s name saying he had re-considered his reference. The agency investigated this, and he was subsequently suspended from his job.

At trial, a jury found the social worker guilty of altering the reference and forging an email pretending to be its author. He did this to “enhance [his] prospects of finding employment”.

Despite this, the social worker repeatedly denied the accusation during the trial and conduct case and the panel found he had a “deep-seated inclination to minimise his responsibility and to shift blame on to others”.

As mitigating factors, the panel considered positive testimonials about the registrant’s practice in a job between the time of the offence and the trial, a letter from his probation officer and an “adverse family incident”.

However, it concluded a striking off order was a necessary sanction for such a serious act of dishonesty and he had put service users at risk of harm because he “attested to abilities and a standard of work which he did not have”.

“The registrant sought to mislead future employers for financial gain, and put his own interests above that of the profession and service users. His offence was so serious that the panel is of the view that any lesser sanction than a striking off order would undermine public confidence in the procession and in the HCPC as a regulator,” the panel concluded.

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6 Responses to Social worker struck off after conviction for editing job reference

  1. A Man Called Horse August 25, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    The right decision.

  2. Sue Herbert August 25, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    Seems right to me. We do the most intrusive job within families, and must have the highest possible standard of trustworthiness. Gross misconduct in public office deserves severe penalties, and the reputation of others needs to be protected by our professional body acting to ensure serious misconduct sees individuals losing their registration and right to practice

  3. Rosaline August 30, 2017 at 4:06 am #

    I concur. It is refreshing to learn that references are being provided, which outlines worries relating to practice and performance. As too often, workers are allowed to move on with a “good reference”. This manager recognised the significance of this worrying behaviour upon service users. A good decision.

  4. Cyrnix August 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

    I am firstly somewhat surprised that a reference was submitted to the Social Worker and not sent direct to the agency concerned as would be normal protocol. Seems they the SW, had had obvious difficultes in handling factual information for some time, given previous incident leading to original finding. It’s unfortunate that a seasoned practitioner behaved in such a diploma level and unacceptable manner.

    Now, I did hear of a Social Work colleague who did forge their manager’s authorised signature on a Police Check form and was never reprimanded, but that was due to the unavailability for them to sign the form. When confronted they were told to never do it again.
    I stress it was not myself I am glad to say. My conscience is clear. I did not condone their actions either.

  5. Cyrnix August 30, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    *deplorable manner…

  6. Right to Reply1 August 30, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    I agree with the two comments above and the integrity of that person was severely lacking. I also am mindful of references that are not trustworthy, eg. if you are a worker and challenge practice somewhere, so the Manager may not like that and then you apply for something else. It does happen.