GSCC: Social worker cleared of misconduct in safeguarding case

A London social worker who was the allocated practitioner for a child wrongly taken into care has been cleared of misconduct by a General Social Care Council conduct committee.

The committee found that Sandra Gardener was one of a number of social workers involved in determining that an application should be made for an emergency protection order for the girl, known as Child X, in November 2004. Child X was on the child protection register at the time.

Munchausen suspicion

The application was based in large part on suspicions that her mother had fabricated or induced illness (FII) in the girl – a condition otherwise known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

However, Gardener had not sought the opinion of a consultant paediatrician on whether this was the case, contrary to government guidance.

A High Court judge then overturned EPO and ordered the return of Child X to her parents, and the GSCC committee said it was now “acknowledged by all sides that [the EPO] application should not have been made”.

Gardener not driving force behind EPO

However, the GSCC committee decided that Gardener, who inherited the case from another social worker in August 2004, “was not the driving force” behind the EPO and had played a limited role.

And though it found that Gardener had “held the view that this could be a case of FII”, she did not hold it as strongly as her managers. The committee found that though the High Court had identified “multiple failings” on the part of the local authority, most of these were totally outside Gardener’s control.

It said: “With the benefit of hindsight, it would obviously have been preferable if, notwithstanding her managers’ failures, [Gardener] had sought the opinion of a consultant paediatrician, as the damage to Child X and her family from the unwarranted EPO may never have been caused. However, the committee has concluded given the limited extent to which she held that view [that this could be a case of FII], on the balance of probabilities her individual failure to follow the guidance does not call into question her suitability to remain on the register.”

A spokesperson for the GSCC said Gardener’s employer, a local authority in London, could not be named due to reporting restrictions imposed by the High Court.

Read the full judgement here.

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Read Community Care’s special report on conduct

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More information

Government guidance on FII







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