Social worker barred for repeated child protection failings

A social worker from Aberdeen whose repeated failure to follow procedures allegedly placed vulnerable children at risk has been struck off.

The “cumulative” effect of Heather Clark’s failings meant there would be a genuine risk to the public if she remained on the register, a conduct committee of the Scottish Social Services Council said.

Gross misconduct

Clark worked for Aberdeen Council’s children and families team for four and a half years until she was dismissed for gross misconduct in March this year.

At a three-day hearing in Dundee last week, the committee upheld allegations that Clark, 51, failed to follow child protection procedures in five cases involving 11 children in which she was the allocated social worker.

Practice failings

Her failings included not conducting proper assessments, filing reports for child protection conferences on time, or sharing vital information with other agencies.

The committee also found she acted dishonestly by telling a senior colleague she had interviewed a family member in one of the cases when in fact she had not.

Although no actual harm was caused, the committee said her actions placed children at risk in three of the cases. Allegations of misconduct in a sixth case were rejected.

Damning reports

The case follows two damning reports into Aberdeen Council’s social work and child protection services published by inspectorates last year. In a report published in November 2008, HM Inspectorate of Education said that children known to staff were “often left in high risk situations without adequate protection or support”.

Poor performance in safeguarding

Although safeguarding services at Aberdeen Council were “satisfactory”, performance in assessments, sharing and recording of information, and meeting children’s needs were described as “unsatisfactory” or “weak”. The standard of leadership in the authority and workforce development were also rated as “weak”.

In a separate report published by June 2008, the Social Work Inspection Agency identified weaknesses in key areas of service provision for children and adults, and described staff morale as “very low”.

Council “supports” removal

A statement from Aberdeen Council said the authority supported the action taken by the SSSC “to protect the public interest”.

It pointed to signs of improvement in a follow-up report published last month by the SWIA, but added: “We accept there is still some way to go and Fred McBride, director of social care and well-being, is taking these issues forward as a priority.”

Related articles

Social worker removed after misconduct in child cases

Expert guide to conduct

External information

Scottish Social Services Council – conduct system


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