A social worker and her manager have been sanctioned following an “inadequate” risk assessment which did not reflect the level of risk posed to – and by – a looked-after child.
A Health and Care Professions’ Council fitness to practice panel found a social worker’s risk assessment “fell seriously below the standard” expected. Despite this, her manager signed off the risk assessment, saying it “addressed all of the issues”.
The pair worked in a looked-after children team, and the failings were around the case of a boy in long-term foster care. The risk assessment was carried out following disclosures of sexualised behaviour between the boy and “a number of children”.
The manager was given a one-year caution order, while the social worker was given a conditions of practice order for the same period.
The panel stated that the social worker’s risk assessment contained no analysis of the situation and did not recognise the concerns raised nor provide any guidance for the professionals supporting him.
After not recognising or challenging the poor assessment, the manager then failed to address it with the social worker, the panel found.
It said the manager “should have ensured that the risk assessment was updated to the required standard as a matter of urgency”, but she failed to do so until more than a month later. The panel asserted that it she failed to “exercise adequate management oversight”.
While the inadequate risk assessment was in place “the risk to [the child] and/or his peers was exacerbated”, the panel said.
The panel concluded the risk assessment was “fundamental to the care of the child” and the social worker’s inadequate assessment constituted misconduct.
It said the manager’s “action and inaction” in terms of approving the risk assessment before failing to get it updated quickly was also misconduct.
The manager was said to not appreciate “the danger or risks” presented to the child and his peers following disclosures of sexual behaviour by the child. “She did not demonstrate any understanding of the gravity or the risks such graphic and serious disclosures presented,” the panel said.
In deciding sanctions, the panel listed the social worker as being “relatively newly qualified”, on a performance improvement plan and was absent from work for a period where the poor practice happened as factors in her favour.
The manager was cited as having had a previously unblemished career, and was a new team manager working throughout a workplace restructure which saw four service managers in a short period of time and a high staff turnover.
She was given a caution order by the panel as it said she had remediated her practice and shown insight into her failings. As a result, the word ‘caution’ will appear next to her name on the register for the next year.
The social worker had expressed a desire to return to social work, but the panel imposed conditions of practice as there was a lack of remediation. She must inform the HCPC if she is employed in a social work role, notify her employer of her sanction and place herself under the supervision of a HCPC-registered colleague.