By Lauren Brown
A social worker cautioned for leaving a notebook with confidential information at a client’s house and not recovering it quickly enough said his manager tried to “cover up her failure” in her account of the incident.
A Health and Care Professions’ Council (HCPC) panel heard allegations that the social worker told his manager the notebook, which remained at a service user’s house for five days, did not contain confidential information, when it did.
The social worker denied accusations of dishonesty. He stated: “I am very clear in my mind that I had informed my manager I was not sure what information was in the book as I hadn’t used it for some time. I knew there was direct work with children but I didn’t know precisely what else was in it.”
His claims were corroborated by a second supervisor, who the social worker informed after his manager.
The social worker told the panel his manager had “deliberately mis-stated the truth to cover up her failure to take timely action” after he told her about the notepad.
He was “upset” by the allegation of dishonesty, and he wasn’t aware of the allegation until the HCPC got in touch. A reference given by the employer after the incident raised “no concerns” about his integrity.
‘No concerns regarding integrity’
The panel decided claims of dishonesty could not be proved and dropped the allegation adding that there were no concerns regarding his integrity. It said it was “not so satisfied” his manager’s account was correct.
His supervisor said: “I was surprised to hear that [he] had been accused of lying… I do believe that [he] did exactly the right thing at the time in reporting the loss.”
He also disputed his manager’s statement that he referred to drawings in the notebook as “doodles”. He told the panel “he did not and never would describe the children’s drawings as “doodles””.
The social worker also faced accusations of failing to recover the notepad in a timely manner after not going back to get it for five days.
The manager said the registrant “should have gone back to retrieve the notepad immediately”, He admitted this allegation, and told the panel: “[I] didn’t see it as a priority…I was blasé, naive and preoccupied with other things. The whole thing is a huge jolt [to me].”
The social worker was given a one-year caution as his actions had compromised the confidentiality of service users, which amounted to misconduct. The panel noted this was a single incident in a 30-year career, and he had worked as a social worker without issue since the incident. It concluded the failing was unlikely to be repeated by the social worker.