A Derbyshire social worker has been suspended from working for two years for having a relationship with a service user.
Hilary Sampson breached her professional code of practice by taking advantage of her role to start a personal relationship with someone in her care, the GSCC’s conduct committee found.
During a two-day hearing in London this week, the committee concluded that Sampson had abused her position of authority while working for Derbyshire Council.
Conflict of interest
Sampson failed to inform her manager of the relationship and continued to act as the person’s social worker. She wrote a pre-sentencing report for Derby Crown Court on the man which created “an obvious conflict of interest”, the committee was told.
She also visited the man in prison in a non-professional capacity without telling her employer she was in a relationship with him.
However, the committee noted that the relationship was consensual and there had been no coercion. It also accepted evidence that Sampson was a good, “even excellent” practitioner.
The issue was less one of protecting the safety of the public than protecting the reputation of the profession, the committee found.
It noted that Sampson had shown some insight into the dangers inherent in crossing professional boundaries but had continued to maintain it was possible to separate her personal and professional life. She showed “insufficient insight” into the implications of her failure to observe professional boundaries.
The decision to suspend Sampson from the Social Care Register reflected “the gravity of misconduct” while taking into account mitigating factors, the committee said.
Sampson has a right of appeal to the independent Care Standards Tribunal.