Social worker struck off after withholding information about ex-partner accused of sex offences

The registered social worker, who was a practice educator and university lecturer, acted dishonestly in her own dealings with children's services, HCPC panel finds

scrutiny
Photo: Bits and Splits/Fotolia

An experienced social worker has been struck off from the register after misleading fellow professionals who became involved in her personal life when her ex-partner was investigated for child sex offences.

The social worker, who at the time of the allegations worked as a practice educator and university lecturer, withheld information that put children “at real risk of harm”, a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) tribunal has found.

Her actions included telling a social worker from Warwickshire council that her ex-partner was staying with a ‘family friend’ – it only emerged seven months later that this person was, in fact, her own mother – and failing to disclose his access to his new partner’s children.

Her conduct, the panel found, “struck at the very heart” of social work. The tribunal noted the social worker’s lack of apparent remorse, and concluded that terminating her registration was the only sanction that could “maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process”.

Historical offences

The social worker was referred to Warwickshire council – one of her employers, along with Coventry University – in November 2013. Police made the referral after opening an investigation into her ex-partner, identified as ‘Person A’, relating to historical child sex offences and possessing indecent images. At the time, the social worker and her son were living at Person A’s house because of flooding at their own home.

The allegations against the social worker, who waived her right to appear at the tribunal, related to four key omissions on her part:

  • In November 2013, she told ‘Witness 1’, the social worker assigned to her case, that Person A had been bailed to a family friend’s address as he was unable to return home, where she and her son were staying. It subsequently emerged at a child protection strategy meeting that the ‘family friend’ was the social worker’s mother – with whom her young son had regular contact – which she confirmed later when questioned by Witness 1.
  • On a visit on 23 April 2015, Witness 1 asked the social worker if she had seen Person A recently, at which she appeared “noticeably uncomfortable”. She also described another man, ‘Mr X’, as her ex-partner’s colleague when in fact Mr X was his brother-in-law.
  • During a phone call between Witness 1 and Mr X on 22 July 2015, Mr X said that he had agreed to disclose the identity of Person A’s new partner – who was also the daughter of one of the social worker’s friends. The social worker, Mr X said, had known the identity of the new partner for some time.
  • The social worker became aware that Person A sometimes spent the night at his new partner’s house – where the new partner’s children also lived – but did not tell Witness 1 about this, until confronted in September 2015.

‘Enmeshed relationships’

None of the four omissions were disputed by the social worker, meaning that the panel then weighed up whether they constituted dishonesty, or could be otherwise explained.

As an experienced social worker and lecturer, the panel said, “on the balance of probabilities she knew clearly that she had a positive duty to act so as to safeguard vulnerable children known to her, even if she had personal relationships with the parties involved”. This duty, the panel added, “cannot be abdicated nor delegated in favour of the preservation of personal interests or relationships”.

The tribunal found that the social worker had chosen to conceal the “enmeshed ties” between her, her family and Person A so as not to jeopardise personal relationships, clearly constituting misconduct.

“As a registered social worker, [she] should have made the necessary disclosures immediately,” the panel said. “Instead, she made a number of choices, over a period of several months, to deliberately withhold information, putting her own interests and those of family and friends above those of vulnerable children.”

In taking the decision to strike her off, the tribunal noted the difficult personal circumstances the social worker had found herself in. But the panel said there was “no indication of insight or remorse, nor any evidence of steps taken by her to address the [HCPC’s] concerns or reassure the panel that she will not repeat her failings”.

Person A was eventually found guilty at trial and imprisoned.

9 Responses to Social worker struck off after withholding information about ex-partner accused of sex offences

  1. LongtimeSW October 2, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    For once no arguments about the appropriateness of this HCPC hearing

    • Stuart October 3, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      I’m happy to express agreement – if only to justify me in criticising them when I next (and there will be a ‘next’ I’m sure) have cause to express incredulity & call for the hcpc to be hastened on their way due to yet another example of overthetopness on their part.

  2. rosemary Ward October 2, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    Well deserved outcome, she should have known better than to put her child at risk !

  3. rosemary Ward October 2, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    OK

  4. Anita Singh October 2, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    There is a lot of information missing and what is written beggars belief. How come Warwickshire council and the Police took seven months to find out where Person A was staying and why were the LA and Police not actively monitoring his movements? Person A would have been on bail conditions that stipulate his address and what, if any, contact with children is allowed. Person A should regularly report to the Police, who should be monitoring his compliance with Bail. Any failure in compliance should result in him being brought back before the Court to be remanded in custody, pending trial. The fact that it took seven months for the LA and Police to find out his exact whereabouts with his continued access to children whilst awaiting trial for child sex offences, absolutely beggars belief and this does not exactly “maintain public confidence….” in either of the two professions.”

    • Thinksaloud October 4, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

      I agree with Anita, it seems like all the responsibility has been placed on one individual & whilst she may have demonstrated negligence, this has to be seen in context. The Police & LA had professional obligations to safeguard & the allegations against A were known by them! Why didn’t they take action to ensure the risk A presented to children was minimised? Will police and the local authority be sanctioned? It is person A who is the child abuser & any complicity stretches far beyond his ex-partner. The assumption of innocence until proven guilty means what here, did his ex have any room for doubt? It is Police, the courts & LA that have the burden of professional responsibility to safeguard in the individual case. Men like person A can be very convincing & often target women that will provide a good & unwitting cover to their activities. There are many victims in these circumstances. I’ve seen many women who have spoken out be disbelieved and written off as mad for airing their suspicions, they’ve turned out to be correct later down the line when much unavoidable damage has been caused. It seems all to often, where child abuse allegations are concerned, you’re dammed if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Whistleblowers often fair even less well than this woman has! It’s not an easy job, to often we are the Pattsie’s for other more culpable organisations.

  5. Eunice October 3, 2017 at 5:29 am #

    Hcpc got it right this time. I also agree with Anita Singh’s comments.

  6. RjMarek October 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    The sanctioning should be done by the social work profession not by an employer. That she was unregistered seems over reach by the employer. As noted, many details are left out, such as the discretion of the social worker in question – was her child ever actually in danger. Obviously, the social worker was trying to protect Mr. A.

    However, that the council felt they restored public confidence in the wisdom and oversight of the officials in the council is laughable, that is high sounding and short sighted.

    If, however, they referred the social worker to her professional body for sanction, then the public would know they could depend on the council to do the right thing. Authority and oversight cannot reside in the same body, ridiculous. The council is not a parent and the social worker is not a child.

  7. Sue October 8, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

    I think we all need to keep n open mind here..however I think there are a few considerations to peruse

    firstly if a child were to disclose abuse to this SW would she/could she report it?

    secondly, what if this was a teacher, probationer officer..or a Police Officer what would your views be then?

    Thirdly, I think we can hazard a guess at the professional view if this was a service user behaving on this way..

    Fourth, social workers also abuse children!

Leave a Reply