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Social worker cautioned for failing to report the whereabouts of a violent teenager

The social worker, who was providing supported lodgings for care leavers for a local authority, did not tell anyone that a teenager who had previously threatened one of the young people in her care had returned to the UK.

Fitness to practise

By Judy Cooper

A social worker has been given a three-year caution after she allowed care leavers to stay with her when she knew it was possible a teenager with a violent criminal history and gang links could visit.

Mary Primrose Veronica Lewis (née Dash) worked as a youth offending senior practitioner with Lambeth council in 2005, but also provided supported lodgings for care leavers from Lewisham council.

She stopped providing lodgings in December 2006 after a 14-year old male (referred to as Person A), who was living with her at the time, held a knife to a 19-year-old care leaver’s neck.

Lewis told Lewisham council that Person A would reside at a different address with relatives from then on. Person A was later sent to live in St Lucia with his grandparents after he was arrested for robbery.

Lewis began providing supported lodgings for care leavers again in 2008 and had two young people stay with her between 2008 and 2011.

However, she did not inform Lewisham council that Person A had returned to the UK in the meantime.

At the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) hearing, Lewis argued there had been no need to inform Lewisham council because Person A was not living with her while she was providing supported lodgings. However, this was disputed by the council.

Although the HCPC did not find it proven that Person A had actually lived with Lewis during this time, it was agreed she had had plenty of opportunities to disclose the fact he was back in the country.

In fact, during a reassessment of her ability to provide supported lodgings in 2011, she recorded Person A as still residing in St Lucia. By this time Person A was in fact in prison in the UK following his arrest for further crimes.

A panel of the HCPC’s conduct and competence committee found Lewis guilty of misconduct because of her dishonesty and expressed concern that she had shown little remorse until recently.

“While the panel has had regard to the combination of events that occurred in [Lewis’s) personal life at the time that may have led her to behave out of character, including parental illness, living apart from Person A and significant difficulties with Person A and gang culture, the panel considers that whilst under emotional pressure she made the decision to behave dishonestly,” the panel said.

It added: “The public is entitled to expect practitioners to put safeguarding responsibilities before their own personal lives.”

In light of Lewis’s unblemished and effective career as a social worker, a three-year caution was considered sufficient punishment.

Read the full notice of decision

Kirsty McGregor

About Kirsty McGregor

Kirsty McGregor is Community Care's workforce editor. She reports daily on social workers' pay and conditions, education, training, career progression, registration and fitness to practise. This includes issues affecting newly qualified social workers across the UK and the recent development of the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) in England. She is also responsible for producing job hunting and career progression advice.

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