Social worker struck off for putting children at risk had spirit ‘broken’ by service restructure, HCPC hears

A HCPC panel said actions by the social worker indicated poor performance "was intentional"

child
Photo: antic/Fotolia

A social worker whose actions put vulnerable children at risk of serious harm had her spirit “broken” by a service restructure where she worked, a HCPC panel has heard.

The social worker was struck off for misconduct involving 16 cases with vulnerable children. The panel said the social worker had been “dismissive of obvious and clear high risks to some of the children; this was even in the faces of the risks being highlighted by another social worker”.

The panel also found the social worker had acted dishonestly by telling her manager she had seen a child when she hadn’t. Despite performing competently when subject to a performance-monitoring programme, the social worker “reverted to poor performances after she completed that programme”.

The HCPC said these actions indicated “her poor performance was intentional” across the time when the failings took place. The panel said in relation to one child she had been reminded “on numerous occasions” that actions needed to be taken, but still did not do it.

“This led to delay in progressing [the child’s] placement into one that was permanent and stable,” the judgment said.

The panel heard how the social worker’s failings began after a service restructure in Lancashire council children’s services, put in place in early 2015. The social worker’s supervisor at the time of the failings said the restructure “had an extremely adverse effect on the morale of all the staff” and resulted in many experienced social workers leaving the council.

“Others who remained, like the registrant, were demoralised and unhappy,” the panel heard.

“[The supervisor] told the panel that the registrant’s personality changed from someone who had a sense of humour and was cheerful, whose work was good and who was focussed, keen and who paid attention to detail, to someone who was distracted, whose spirit was broken, and who was not as sharp as she was before.”

Council restructure

Following the restructure, the social worker was moved from a team “where she was happy and worked well” to a team “that she did not want to go to and was inconvenient for her geographically”.

“She then moved to another team where she worked with vulnerable children in the area where she lived, and finally she was allocated to work with a manager whom she did not want to work with and who did not have experience nor understanding of child protection work.”

The panel heard from witnesses how the restructure caused “chaos”. Lancashire council told Community Care a new structure had since been put in place and was “working well”.

It added the social worker had not worked for the council since 2015, following concerns being raised about her practice.

Tracy Poole-Nancy, head of service for the county council’s central children’s social care team, said the social worker’s conduct was a separate matter from the restructure.

“There were serious issues relating specifically to her work that were unacceptable and these were dealt with by managers at the time.”

“A new structure for children’s social care is now in place following consultation with staff and is working well.”

The council’s children’s services was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors in 2015. A monitoring inspection of the service published in November 2017 said “a number of different models have been used to manage demand and improve the quality of social and support work” with children in need since 2015.

“Currently, there is a period of transition while support for [children in need] moves from specialist hubs back into locality teams. While staff are mostly positive about the changes, some frontline staff are confused about where and how different levels of CIN cases will be managed,” the report said.

‘Fundamental breach’

The social worker chose not to engage with the HCPC process. In her favour, the panel found the social worker had performed her duties well until the restructure, she was of previous good character and had “significant health and personal issues” at the time of the restructuring and these incidents.

However, it concluded the extent of the failings, and the risk it exposed service users to, “breached a fundamental tenet of the profession”, and that there was a serious risk of repetition.

43 Responses to Social worker struck off for putting children at risk had spirit ‘broken’ by service restructure, HCPC hears

  1. Hilton Dawson January 17, 2018 at 3:10 pm #

    Can Community Care please amplify this first contribution & bring it directly to the attention of Isabelle Trowler. As a long time ex Lancashire social worker & manager this is absolutely shocking.

  2. A Man Called Horse January 17, 2018 at 3:28 pm #

    Don’t hold your breath regarding the Chief Social Worker. Looks to me like she is part of the problem not the solution. The HCPC and IT are both there to beat Social Workers who fall from the path of righteousness. Restructuring is an inevitable result of Austerity and has nothing to do with making services better. Sadly Social Workers have no one other then UNISON to look after them. Social Workers be afraid be very afraid, the Government wants to harvest your souls and use them as scapegoats. Stop voting Tory if you want change, sadly too many stupid people voting for bad policies and bad Government. You are on your own remember that. Sick of the abuse heaped onto SW if I was younger would do something else.

    • Terry Unicorn January 17, 2018 at 8:55 pm #

      A capable social worker underperforming is due to Tory voters? Thousands of other social workers, many of them Tory voters, cope. I don’t remember things being rosey prior to 2010.

    • Katie Politico January 18, 2018 at 7:15 am #

      Restructuring is preparing the ground for outsourcing to the private sector which will be free to reap unencumbered profit whilst LAs/SWs will remain responsible when things go wrong. It beats me why non-rich people vote Tory, and by implication, for their own impoverishment. They ought to stop as their responsibility isn’t just to themselves – others suffer too as a result of their voting preferences.

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 12:32 pm #

      Sorry Horse but I disagree with you on cause.

      Austerity is just a convenient fudge used by HMG to hide their pernicious neo-liberal state reduction in welfare setvice policies. The long term plan is unbridled (no pun intended) markets for all health and social care services.

  3. Elaine from London January 17, 2018 at 4:15 pm #

    It’s not just Lancashire CC there are serious problems in most places – many good experienced SW’s are leaving and in fact changing profession – bullying is rife and sadly SW’s cant speak out as they feel the HCPC process works against them too as does whistleblowing – not sure what the solution is because to address a problem you have to accept it exists first…

    • Suzy January 17, 2018 at 11:43 pm #

      Agree with you 100%. There was a failure to mention that Lancashire failed its Ofsted inspection

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 12:40 pm #

      Yes. Totally agree.

      I saw this first hand whilst working in a CMHT where a worker raised a grievance for being bullied. She ended up being dragged infront of the HCPV3 on a trumped up charge and was struck off. The manager in question is well known for doing this type of thing and is actually the person (nurse) who shoulf be struck off but always seems to get away with his bad practice whist good practitioners from both health and social work dare not say boo due to the risk of being brought before a regulator on a trumped up charge and struck off.

  4. Santokh Ghai January 17, 2018 at 5:20 pm #

    Why did the CC NOT LET HER WORK OR MOVE BACK TO THE TEAM WHERE SHE HAS BEEN PERFORMING AND LET HER STABILISE BEFORE. WHEN A DEPARTMENT IS MISMANAGED OR IS IN A MESS SOMEONE BECOMES A VICTIM OF THE IMPACT. THE SW DID NOT ENGAGE WITH HCPC BECAUSE SHE KNEW IT WOULD NOT BE EMPATHETIC TO HER CASE

    • Katie Politico January 18, 2018 at 7:17 am #

      Well said the HCPC is an extension of oppressive management.

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

      Totally agree.

  5. Kate Brady January 17, 2018 at 5:36 pm #

    Well said: similar in other authorities. Social workers are being dumped on from a great height and many managers do not back their staff. The public needs to realise that the majority of decisions relating to CP/safeguarding are made by managers who then leave staff to simply get on with it. I object to the implication that the SWs poor performance was deliberate/intentional. Did her actions not make managers realise that she needed on-going support not HCPC involvement: to me that was a cry for help/save me. Many authorities take HCPC as the only action when in my opinion the majority of cases should be dealt with locally and managers face the staff they are critisicing: as far as I am concerned HCPC is a cop out from many managers who do NOT have the managerial skillls necessary to deal with staff good and bad. Poor lady but all I can say is she’s better off out of social work entirely but not in this manner. Thoughts are with her

  6. Paul January 17, 2018 at 5:43 pm #

    Hmm! Did hcpc really conclude that this person’s actions were deliberate? It feels as if burn out and morale had a part to play here also / as well as poor management supervision.

    • Colin January 17, 2018 at 11:53 pm #

      Non of them back each other up, no matter how far you go up the chain, they just run away and pass the buck, the amount of money wasted on this incompetence, leaves no money for the needs of the children that are damaged in in this process

      • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

        Hmmm. Not sure if that is the case Colin (money) but in times of increasing financial pressures it certainly doesnt help.

  7. J Gilman January 17, 2018 at 9:14 pm #

    This is outrageous and her story could be my own; a restructure in 2015, moving from a team in which she functioned well to a team she probably did not elect to enter and probably without any consultation. Add to that personal life events which can happen to all of us and which would take time to deal with.We are not working in a Smarties factory we are dealing with people . What we have now is factory social work. Unless your foot is full on the throttle in this job you will very quickly slip behind the targets and expectations and you can expect no duty of care from your LA and certainly no sympathy or allowances. I do not come to work to feel fearful, intimidated , bullied and whipped along. I do not accept that it is OK to work and extra week at least each month for no pay.I am sick of audits , practise alerts Ofsted inspections and of generally feeling that am being blamed every day of my week. I do not accept that it is OK to be treated with such disrespect and nor should any of us. None of this should be tolerated. It is not acceptable.I have survived 38 years in front line social work and I can honestly say that the last 7 at least have been the worst i have ever seen. It is broken.Thankfully i have only two years to go before retirement and I would not advise anyone to enter the profession now and would advise anyone in it to get out now. We need to stop reading this these accounts and start taking action.

    • Mary Jeffries January 18, 2018 at 5:20 pm #

      Well said. I left before I was pushed but not before my health was seriously affected.

      • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm #

        I have also recently left front line practice.

        I’m now studying Law instead, doing a little bit of locum work for a private organsation p/t until I graduate when I will shake the dust from my feet as I leave!!!

  8. MRM January 17, 2018 at 9:50 pm #

    This is appalling. The HCPC are equally incompetent as the managers who run local authorities children’s service, as abusive as parents and completing failing the wonderful social workers who do an incredible job.
    HCPC is a damaging short sighted useless organisation that seems to lack intelligence and common sense..they are contributing to social workers leaving the profession and the systemic abuse we are forced to endure.

    Managers never seem to be held responsible for the awfully appalling practice and incompetencies…shame on HCPC and shame on LCD….

  9. David January 17, 2018 at 10:44 pm #

    HCPC is not fit for purpose. I know what it means to burnout. I had many years of job satisfaction. But change after change, more forms; Every day was about survival. = no job satisfaction. Poor Management as a result of top down pressures results in many good Social Workers leave.

  10. Cyrnix January 17, 2018 at 11:58 pm #

    SW’s are left at risk at all times. Those who chose to join council in this role, do so at their own peril. Until the sanctimonious and bias approaches taken by not only the employer, who deliver their own investigations, findings and sanctions, plus a referral to their so called professional body for final hearings of judge jury and execution- what incentive is their for any social worker to enter CP, or remain.

    It appears that before the ink is dry on your registration,your fate is already decided. No, I am glad I left such toxic environments, which ultimately will be so dangerous to the well meaning individuals, who try to accomplish the impossible while working with impossible odds stacked against them by their not so well meaning management.

  11. Spartacus January 18, 2018 at 12:18 am #

    I am Spartacus

    • Brian January 18, 2018 at 9:27 am #

      I am spartacus…and so is my wife.

      • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 1:03 pm #

        No – I am Spartacus.

  12. Julie January 18, 2018 at 12:32 am #

    Struck off when she was already broken, I feel sad.

  13. Paul M January 18, 2018 at 10:14 am #

    Hcpc is in my experience, outcomes of majority of case judgement in regard to social work cases referred to it, not fit for purpose! This body should be disbanded and replaced with a more proactive and supportive agency! How on earth did this Holy than thou HCPC arrive at a struck off decision for this already broken social worker! Shame!!!!

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 1:10 pm #

      I agree that HCPC need to be disbanded.

      Seems to me that social work needs a body like the BMA for medics. More resistant to HMGs unwarrented meddling and pressure, more on the side of practitioners and better value for OUR money.

  14. Karen January 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm #

    I, too, am Spartacus. It’s so sad to continually see good, hard working, dedicated people leaving the profession due to burnout. Trying to work ethically in an environment that makes it impossible and shouldering the blame for poor management and Council lack of understanding of the social work role. There isn’t only Unison to support us as seems to be reported above. BASW and the Social Work union are also there and are easy to join. I am considering leaving the profession but don’t want to be forced out of a job I used to love and have to stop working with people In the highly skilled way I have been trained for. There must be another way.

  15. Frustrated Social Worker January 18, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

    I have read all of the comments above. They all are very true. I left children’s statutory social work 16 months ago after 14 years. I didn’t want to leave, I just couldn’t stand to watch bullying and blame from managers to social workers. The social workers who had a voice and were brave enough to stand up and voice opinions were the ones that life in the office was then made rather difficult for . Including myself.

    I want to go back into SW – I have done a few specialised training courses since i left work, thinking it would be easy to get into maybe the charity sector but there are not many positions available. Would agency work be a good idea…. has anyone got an opinion on this thought.

    Nothing has changed seemingly within childrens services and I can only see things getting progressively worse. Noone is listening to field workers. The comment from one worker stating she was a caring manager in relation to social workers is so true. I have seen one manager who worked in a very caring and empathetic way towards social workers and actually listened and challenged senior managers, this was not appreciated by other managers and sadly she was forced out.

    Why can’t the government listen.

    • Amy lou January 18, 2018 at 8:49 pm #

      Once again the hcpc don’t look at how the social worker was struggling. Your on your own when something bad happens. My advice get out of social work while you can it has got worse over the years and I can’t see it getting any better

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 1:32 pm #

      Unison are pretty spineless.

      BASW are great and I would like them to take over the regulator role – not gonna happen though, not subservient enough to HMG.

      If you do find another way (if it exists) let us all know. I won’t be holding my breath though.

  16. caroline January 18, 2018 at 4:33 pm #

    It is not just child protection social work that is in crisis.It is happening in adult services too. Austerity and the current NHS crisis is having a massive impact on the social work profession. Older people and individuals with learning and physical disabilites are not being treated with respect. the people are not receiving the treatment they deserve. Managers are not supporting the social workers. Policy and law is not being followed. People are being discharged without adequate care. individuals are being forced into care homes to clear a hospital bed.social work is becoming more about bugets rather than looking at what an individual requires.
    Social workers cannot speak out and if they do nothing is done about it. If social workers say or do anything they are bullied which makes them leave the proffesion or are dismissed. Where is the voice of the front line social workers gone???

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm #

      Caroline. You are 100% correct when you point out that it is the whole of the profession that is being battered.

      I do disagree with you on the cause though as HMG are being very clever in hiding behind austerity. The truth is that this is Government Policy. It is simply a manifestation of neo-liberalism.

      I have worked on projects where the sole aim was to pull services for people with learning disabilities. I’ve also worked on projects where older people with mental health difficulties and eligible for services under s117 aftercare were being charged illegally.

      The best thing about locum work os that you can give notice, turn and walk with only 1 weeks notice. If you are clever, you can even get your next post lined up before you give notice to guarantee continuing work. Its not utopia though and one does tend to be loaded up with all the crap cases, particularly if one is very experienced and able. But then, when you have had enough you can walk.

      The main problem though is the way managers use the HCPC as a tool to get retribution against subordinate workers who dare stand up and be counted. Its clear to me that this is 1p0% inappropriate but unless social workers come together to fight the current injustice then nothing will change.

      Where is the voice…gone. It’s been regulated away.

      I have it from a very, very good legal source that the primary aim of the Care Act 2014 was to begin to dismantle the social work profession. That is how valued we all are.

  17. Mary Jeffries January 18, 2018 at 5:24 pm #

    Can well believe this. I sat in the dark at home for 3 months after I left. Stress impact on my thyroid condition was awful.

  18. E January 18, 2018 at 7:57 pm #

    This is so sad. I really wish that the HCPC will really investigate these cases before they come up with these outcomes. It negatively impacts on us collectively as a profession.

  19. Denny January 18, 2018 at 8:09 pm #

    This is so shocking and sad. I feel so sorry for that social worker who needed support and instead has been clearly punished. What has happened the system of supporting social workers to enable them to do their job.

  20. Amy lou January 18, 2018 at 8:48 pm #

    Once again the hcpc don’t look at how the social worker was struggling. Your on your own when something bad happens. My advice get out of social work while you can it has got worse over the years and I can’t see it getting any better

  21. sad January 18, 2018 at 11:35 pm #

    Dear Frustrated Social Worker

    agency work is better in a sense in that you can get out quickly. Which you will need to do when you are physically and emotionally drained from working 50 hours plus a week. By this time you will have got a grip on the numerous cases that you were given as soon as you start. These cases will have been mishandled by previous social workers because they took the position of ticking boxes and seeing and hearing no evil. The managers will not thank you for working your cases well and developing a rapport with the children because they will have to provide provision for these children who you have identified as being at risk and managers do not want to hear the truth.

    But my biggest regret is going from agency to permanent, where I was treated worst than the agency workers. And nothing in social work stays the same for long so I had to leave anyway when mangers got rid of the understanding manager, replacing him with a yes manager who was incredibly naïve and did not understand our client group, but she was good at trying to shut cases that needing escalating not closing. She even tried to make out it was my fault I was working long hours not that, that was what was needed.
    It is unlikely I will ever work in social work again

  22. Carol January 19, 2018 at 12:47 am #

    Broken SW’s are common in LCC, both children and adult services. Re-organisations are ever 18 months and the ‘blame’ culture by managers, senior managers is constant, SW’s views are side lined for individuals intent on empire building themselves an upgrade and higher paid job, whilst other staff are left demoralised by senior managers who are incompetent. They hand hold in meetings and pat each other on the back telling each other how well they are doing, then send e-mails around to say their here to listen, so they can tick their box on how they consulted with staff. LCC needs to remove all senior managers and recruit externally and yes not from Blackpool and only then will it improve. Currently even when they know something does not work they insist it does, the whole system in LCC is broken. Recently paying consultants millions of pounds to do very little is evidence of managers in freefall, lacking insight and needing replacing. This poor broken SW is not alone, HCPC is a disgrace, and has scapegoated SW for systematic failures that staff cannot influence and they (HCPC Panel) lack the skill to understand the impact this can have on practice.

    • Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

      Apparently, its not uncommon to se social workers sobbing at their desks due to the pressures and desperation they feel – shame on you Lancashire.

      Things are not quite so bad for those lucky few in mental health as they are seconded into Lancashire Care though this isn’t utopia by any means.

      Also, the money they pay for locums is just pants, I was deeply insulted when I was going to return to them and found that the pay they offered me as a newbie was mpre, 10 years hence than what they were offering me with my 10 years of extra experience and capabilities. Suffice to say that I advised them where to stick their job and they went onto my black list.

  23. Anne-Marie January 19, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

    I’m not amazed by this, nust very disheartened.

  24. Overseas January 19, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

    We, Social Workers, must leave this attitude of defeat and utilise our own skills against this system, that quite frankly, I can’t even find a word to describe.

    This system doesn’t work for medical doctors or nurses, as if struck off there would be no medical staff, and there are other clear procedures and processes to follow in case of misconduct.

    It is appalling that HCPC expects that in order for a professional to defend themselves and clear their good name, that we can go to London and pay for everything!!!!!!!

    They have to move where the case happens as this will allow for the “judging” panel to observe in situ the circumstances in which professionals are expected to practice.

    I am certain, that if duly scrutinized, HCPC has a lot to answer to as their “untouchable”and finite role.

    Obviously as human beings Social Workers will not even question this “regulatory” body, and will succumb and not question their decisions. Especially when undoubtedly the great majority will already be struggling with the trauma of being bullied. Which is gross misconduct but seems to be somehow continuously missed!

    I urge all colleagues to fight back and question.

    Let us all seek adequate information and advice, including and especially in the legal arena, and we shall see a huge shift.

    Let us also not forget, that the higher role comes with higher responsibility, and most importantly registration in the same regulatory body that seems to not even understand what their role is.

    And when things are no longer fit for purpose, we, as social engineers and promoters of human rights and empowerment have the duty to change all of this.

    I know it’s not easy, but as per my own experience, it’s not impossible.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  25. Cyrnix January 21, 2018 at 12:17 am #

    Until there is a meaningful review of the structure of line management within stat cp departments, coupled to (as someone has already suggested), a real professional body, which actively promotes the interests of social workers. Nothing will change. It is to quote a well known publication – Animal Farm. There is always an elite, a top tier and the worker drones.
    Funny how your lateral supporting colleagues who join the ranks of middle management, forget their professional values and learn not to support or practice empathy or understanding otoward colleagues who chose not to sell out.
    Until there is a genuine in attitudes and the removal of career orientated individuals who regularly sacrifice social workers and climb on the shoulders and skulls of ex-colleagues in their room at the top.