Social worker sanctioned for supervision failures despite ‘heavy caseload, poor working conditions’

Manager’s actions put ‘young people at risk’, but he had done all he could ‘to reduce burden on team’, HCPC hears

cases
Photo: mnirat/Fotolia

A social work manager has been sanctioned by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) after his decisions and failure to record and carry out supervision sessions left children at risk.

The manager was made subject to a 12-month conditions of practice order despite the fitness to practice panel saying he worked with “a heavy caseload, poor working conditions, inadequate management support of him in his role as a manager and significant personal health issues”.

The panel said his actions had put young people at risk of harm. Failings found proved, and admitted by the registrant, included:

  • Recording inconsistent information on the case
  • Not ensuring timescales were identified for a statutory visit to be undertaken
  • Not completing weekly risk assessments for a month
  • Recording inconsistent information on a case

During the fitness to practice proceedings, two social workers who he managed gave evidence. One said “she felt that the workload was too heavy” and that he had “done what he could to ease the burden on the team”.

A second social worker agreed that everyone had a heavy workload and there was “little” the manager could do to ease it.

“The office space was open plan, noise and crowded with limited desk space,” they said.

‘Optimum caseload’

The panel who heard how, at one stage, the social work manager was responsible for managing “about 120 cases whereas 65 cases was the optimum caseload”.

He was investigated by a locum practice improvement manager, who said as a manager he was responsible for ensuring processes progressed in his social workers’ cases, even if the social worker themselves had taken responsibility for the failings.

“The panel’s overall findings of misconduct reflect a lack of adequate recording in relation to supervisions and reasons for his management instructions, a deficiency in progressing statutory procedures and a lack of follow up action to identify risk in his supervision of colleagues,” it said.

He described a “hectic and disruptive period” while the council underwent a “hurried implementation of the Munro report reorganisation”.

“The registrant felt that the [locum practice improvement manager] did not appreciate the burden of the caseload upon him when she made her findings. There was no time or space for social workers to reduce the caseload by closing cases, which involved significant administration,” the report said.

However, it added: “The registrant accepted with hindsight that he was not firm or directive enough in imposing clear deadlines on staff.”

‘Insight and reflection’

The social worker hoped to return to social work but not as a manager, and the panel was impressed by the insight he had shown into what went wrong, by how he reflected well on his practice. It also noted that his colleagues said he was accessible and supportive.

The panel also considered his working context, which he said was under the pressure of “time and resources with a heavy caseload to manage and insufficient staff”.

However, it said as he had not been able to work as a social worker since the period considered by the panel, there was still a chance of repetition and sanctioned him with a 12-month conditions of practice order.

Under the terms of the order, he must submit a reflective piece about the HCPC proceedings. If he is hired as a social work manager he must place himself under the supervision of a more senior manager registered with the HCPC and attend monthly supervision sessions with them.

39 Responses to Social worker sanctioned for supervision failures despite ‘heavy caseload, poor working conditions’

  1. Tom J January 3, 2018 at 11:58 am #

    Based on the above, I don’t think its an exaggeration to say that 90% of team managers need one of these orders. Especially when it comes to ”failure to record and carry out supervision sessions”.

  2. Bernard Toland January 3, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

    Yet again the HCPC sanctions an individual utterly let down by the lack of appropriate resources available to him by his employers to be able to deliver an effective service.

    • Sarah January 10, 2018 at 3:36 pm #

      I completely agree! Sounds as though he was doing the best he could under impossible circumstances. When will they understand this and support us instead of punishing individuals!

  3. Peter Gill January 3, 2018 at 2:49 pm #

    This is an appalling sanction, what about his employer or his manager? Just leave him hanging there, system is fine. It’s the system that needs sanctions. This is a disgrace

  4. Peter Teague January 3, 2018 at 2:57 pm #

    Would hazard a guess that corporate must do’s got in the way of child centered paramountcy. So many managerial roles need filleting.

  5. Graham January 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

    Was there not a more senior manager who was responsible for ‘poor working conditions, inadequate management support of him in his role as a manager’ and a caseload of 120 when the optimum should have been 65? Are they to be sanctioned? The HSPC strikes again!!

  6. Graham January 3, 2018 at 3:50 pm #

    That should read HCPC of course

  7. James January 3, 2018 at 3:57 pm #

    I feel sorry for this person, it seems the fault always lies with the individual never the employer. I wonder what internal support was made available to them when a training need had been highlighted, other than a locum practice improvement manager which I imagine would be as useful as a chocolate teapot. While also making it easier for the employer to go to default of ‘blame’ the social work manager for the institutional failings within the service. Great job HCPC for perpetuating the culture of blame.

  8. Kim T January 3, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

    And they wonder why good social work practitioners can’t be retained. I do not know the full circumstances of this case but it seems it involves a reflective and insightful manager who is trying to manage a double caseload under bad working conditions and with a lack of resources. Same old same old. Why is the HCPC making findings against practitioners and making them feel failures rather than placing the blame where it should? Social workers can be good and committed but they can’t do the impossible. Until this is accepted by the powers that be social workers will continue to be used, abused and broken. I hope this social worker recovers from this experience and learns how to protect himself because his employer surely won’t.

  9. lucy January 3, 2018 at 6:36 pm #

    I was shocked at how yet again the HCPC is sanctioning, blaming, and throwing the proverbial book at Manager’s and Social Worker’s who are overwhelmed with an unreasonable caseload, whilst not holding local authorities to account for their atrocious and unsafe behaviour.

    These toxic local authorities are not only putting are physical and mental health at risk as social work practitioners, but they are also putting children at risk, so why are they not accountable, sanctioned, and be held to a high account?

    I was equally appalled about how this ‘nasty jobsworth’ of an ‘agency improvement practitioner’ -who probably held zero cases herself whilst being paid mega-bucks) was probably able to ‘swan around the office leisurely, with a pen, making nasty comments, and then being responsible for the team manager being reported to the HCPC. Any reasonable person, with an ounce of sympathy and humanity (which is why we supposedly all trained to be SW in the first place), could see the TM was not able to do his job safely under those oppressive conditions?

    I would like to demand that the ‘agency improvement manager’ be made to stand by her own words and decisions, and be immediately promoted to the role of team manager, where she must manage all of these cases (and take all of her own advice), and be reported to the HCPC straight away if she cannot maintain the same standard. After all, it’s fairness for all!!!!

  10. Gary irwin January 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm #

    What a disgrace,no sanctions for those responsible for excessive caseloads,inadequate working conditions,not enough social workers etc,happy to put the blame on this poor manager,they should be ashamed.

  11. Stuart January 3, 2018 at 9:17 pm #

    I really really want to use vocabulary that I know would not be published…

    He had a caseload of approximately double the ‘optimal’ number… even without all the other circumstances the hcpc should have been saying ”well done for keeping the show on the road as well as you did and making sure that even though children were not getting the service and therefore the level of protection they should have had you managed to make sure none were actually harmed by your inability to be two people and you did remain available to your staff (which probably played a big part in no megadisasters ocurring) and we praise you mightily for managing that well and giving as much of yourself to the job as you clearly have.”

    Then instead of that they impose restrictions about being himself managed & supervised that are actually just what should happen anyway. Have they not a clue about anything real? (Sorry, forgot to give hypothetical question alert.)

    This hearing should have been into the accused’s manager for allowing the man to be so overworked and clearly not given the support he himself managed to give the front line social workers.

    Totally wrong.

    Sometimes I read the reports of hcpc findings against social workers and think it was their manager that should have been before the hcpc but when a manager is ‘investigated’ it’s perfectly clear to me that it’s someone or some people more senior still who has/have been failing by not providing the resources and staffing levels needed to provide a ‘safe’ service.

  12. Irene Masonn January 4, 2018 at 2:09 am #

    Nobody know the caseload some social workers have ,you only ever hear about them when something goes wrong,never any of the good stuff or positive things that they carry out .Its a very difficult job and yes sometimes supervision meetings can’t be as there is not time to do it ,this manager sounds stressed

  13. Jadwiga Leigh January 4, 2018 at 5:54 am #

    First question: What did the locum improvement practice manager do about the organisation’s failings? It seems that in this instance the team manager was penalised for failing to cope with unmanageable caseloads, an inappropriate working environment and trying to provide his team with support despite the adverse conditions.

    Second question: Why is it that the HCPC only focus on ‘an individual’ when they recognise that it is the organisation which is responsible for that individual not being able to meet what is expected of them?

    Third question: Given the first two questions, would this case not have benefited from mediation between the manager & the organisation rather than a HCPC hearing that will have had a significant detrimental effect on the future/career of yet another social worker who was trying to practise in highly stressful conditions?

    • lala January 10, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

      Excellent questions and proposal.

    • Suzannah Rockett January 11, 2018 at 3:59 pm #

      I totally agree with you Jadwiga,

      This is utterly dreadful, from what I have read the manager was doing their utmost to do a good job, in almost impossible conditions.

      It really is scary, this easily could be one of us, and it’s shameful the way this person has been treated, knowing the conditions they were working in.

      Really, what more could the manager do?

      The HCPC highlighted the working conditions and acknowledged they were not good, but still this person worked to their best capacity and is punished for it.

      The blame culture still exists and no wonder there continues to be a “cover your back” mentality, what choice do people have other than to do so?

      I

  14. Peter Ward January 4, 2018 at 7:38 am #

    He may have made mistakes but what about his manager who must have know about the high case loads.Why are they not being disciplined?

  15. Shiva January 4, 2018 at 7:54 am #

    At last, managers face the music.

  16. Eco-social worker January 4, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    WTF are you supposed to do if you are in this situation??!?

    Does the employer have no responsibility?

  17. Jason M January 4, 2018 at 9:18 am #

    Even in a bad situation you must still work to your best abilities and the full extent of your role. This guy sounds like he has learned a lot but I really hope the senior management in the authority that oversaw this situation are willing to listen, and are asking themselves searching questions too.

  18. Andrew macfarlane January 4, 2018 at 12:15 pm #

    No recognition that council are providing working environment s and pressures that cannot be conducive to positive social work practices. As a social worker and mental health officer for a long time, administration and rpaperwork are dominating the working week rather than direct social work. There will continue to be critical incidents and the loss of good workers if it is not recognised that social workers and social work is not suitably funded and resourced at an effective level. I am considering leaving the profession I have worked in for 23 years due to this culture and would never have thought I would even have entertained this frame of mind.

  19. LongtimeSW January 4, 2018 at 1:16 pm #

    WT*!!! There is no hope – when are senior managers, directors, local and central govt. going to get their collective heads from up their dark place??

    Have none of them, including the HCPC, got any mathematical skills? if you don’t have enough time/resources to meet the workload demands, then quite rightly we have a collective professional responsibility to prioritise keeping vulnerable people safe over f-ing ‘process’ (whatever that means – it seems it can mean anything senior managers want it to mean as long as none of the dirt sticks to them) – if everyone took a stand and said I am not working beyond my contracted hours and if you don’t have enough resources then you, directors and senior managers are legally responsible for any adverse outcomes NOT frontline staff.

    Interesting that when a Court is not satisfied if resources aren’t availiable it is not the social worker or their manager that is Ordered to appear before a Court but the Director – surprise surprise the resource is found or an answer given that indeed it is a lack of resource – (recent comments by Judges have highlighted that Courts lay the responsibility at the door of Central Govt. policy decisions, including cutbacks/austerity)

    Ms/Mr Manager my sympathies at your impossible position

  20. Colin January 4, 2018 at 6:02 pm #

    I’d love to, this very evident in a case that I’m involved in, the only people that are suffering, are the children, while they all cover there rears, and pass the buck

  21. Spartacus January 4, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

    I am Spartacus- so when do his Managers get sanctioned

  22. Dave January 5, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    Good grief poor person… Expected caseload to manage 65 actual 120…why aren’t the employers sanctioned for failing to support their staff or prosecuted unbreakable the health and safety at work act?! The system is stacked against those lower down the rung. I seem to remember that after the Soham enquiry and baby P that the government said staff right up to chief executive would be held accouable

  23. Borstal Boy January 5, 2018 at 10:40 am #

    This is an absolute bloody disgrace. Another disgusting episode of scapegoating a hard working dedicated Social Worker.

    HCPC should have given the guy a commendation and punished the idiots who “managed” him. And as for the locum improvement manager? I have no polite words for her.

    Shocking, dispiriting soul destroying nonsense.

  24. SteveKent January 5, 2018 at 3:09 pm #

    HCPC FTP decisions have reached almost Kafkaesque levels of levels of illogicality – yet another social worker is sanctioned for not being able to do the job that the Hearing readily acknowledges is effectively impossible due to reasons beyond the SW’s influence. The HCPC seem to have embraced an unofficial ‘policy’ that squarely lays the blame for macro/ systemic failures at the feet on the worker or manager at practice level. This policy ruins careers, encourages practice to be risk adverse and uninspiring and discourages people from joining the profession. Scapegoating and victim blaming suits the government and local authorities and so there is little prospect of change.

  25. Carol January 5, 2018 at 10:49 pm #

    Managing 120 cases? That is enough to send you over the edge. Only in social work is this allowed to happen. Total abuse from the employer. No care for the employees welfare. They dont mention that at the Hcpc do they.

  26. J Mclean January 8, 2018 at 12:16 am #

    I am saddened to read what hapoened to this social work Manager. I am of the view the whole organiastion should be held accountable. The government need to be looking into the situatiion more deeply as social workers and managers have an impossible task. Lack of resources cause them to be failing in their rolw. I do not agree that the SWM should have received such a sanction. The whole service needs to be looked at and unless something is Children & young people will be failed by social services.

  27. James January 8, 2018 at 9:59 am #

    Another point could be this manager was the highest placed manager that was actually registered with HCPC. This is where this system of HCPC sanctions breaks down, Community Care wrote an article about Directors who are not registered with HCPC and who are not qualified Social Workers. I just think of accountability with theses things, just a thought.

  28. JK January 8, 2018 at 10:10 am #

    How sad to see someone having to accept responsibility for failings in an organisation. I assume that the strategic managers were aware that their manager was in such a difficult position and did nothing? Was the manager telling people how impossible it was to do the job? Did he get any supervision I wonder and what does it say about his manager?

  29. Anita Singh January 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

    Same BS different day.

  30. Piri Te Tau January 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

    Another appalling response from the “ballheads” who continually blame the coalface swers n bloody employers continue to do virtually nothing.I worked in Statutory CP for 20+ yrs and the story was the same then.

  31. Prussik January 9, 2018 at 9:50 pm #

    …And we have to pay to be registered by the HCPC – an organisation that is intent on doing employers bidding in keeping the workers in their place, rather than tackling the real issues!

    Are Community Care going to be the voice of the social worker and voice the palpable and increasing anger there is at HCPC sanctions of social workers?

    Who holds employers to account (rhetorical as the answer is no one!)?

  32. sad January 10, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

    Being a social worker is a form of self harm, with no-one available to help you pick up the pieces after.

    I hope that the manger’s account of the HPCC hearing is a truly reflective honest piece. He should seek to get it published because bullies flourish on silence. This is corporate bullying and failure of an employee’s duty of care.

  33. Bob Carter January 10, 2018 at 5:41 pm #

    As someone pointed out this situation is probably widespread and the way in which it is dealt with blames people who work in unacceptable conditions while ignoring the organisation’s responsibilities. There is a way of turning the tables to make sure that the employer exercises their Duty of Care to employees. Roger Kline and Shazia Khan wrote an excellent pamphlet showing how to do it: The Duty of Carare of Healthcare Professionals published by Public World 2013. Updates are also available at http://www.thedutyofcare.org

  34. Faye January 11, 2018 at 12:06 am #

    Get rid of this body – rubbish.

  35. J.M January 11, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    And your response to these replies HCPC is …….?
    How has this registration body helped the profession given it continually sanctions individuals & makes no change to the on going issues (we are all aware of) that are cited as mitigation almost consistently.

  36. sad January 11, 2018 at 10:49 pm #

    Compare Social Work with the NHS, they are collectively honest about the situation unlike our profession. Of course it helps that they are listened to by the media as everyone has experience of NHS everyone hopes they never have experience of social workers.