Almost half of frontline social workers who have attempted to blow the whistle about poor practice by colleagues or workplace problems say their employer has failed to address their concerns
The finding comes from a survey of more than 500 practitioners carried out by the General Social Care Council, in which 85% said they would feel confident enough to report a colleague’s poor practice to their employer.
However, 45% worried that their employer would not take action if they raised concerns about a colleague, and nearly half of those who had reported problems about colleagues or “operational difficulties” said their employer had taken no action.
The most common fears cited by those who said they would not speak up were victimisation and a negative impact on their career.
GSCC chair Rosie Varley (right) said she was “encouraged” that so many practitioners would report concerns when they arose, but found their anxieties about their employers’ response “extremely worrying”.
“Workers and employers share a duty to address anything that jeopardises high standards of care and the protection of service users,” she said. “They need the support of employers to follow up their concerns.”
Maggie Atkinson, immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “Employers need to be willing to listen and examine complaints closely and to take action where appropriate to do so – of course this is not always the case which may explain some of the negative responses.”
The GSCC said social workers were bound by the code of practice for social care workers to report “dangerous, abusive, discriminatory or exploitative behaviour and practice”.
The code of practice for employers of social care workers says they must deal with such reports “promptly, effectively and openly”.
However, unlike the employees’ code, which is enforceable through the GSCC’s conduct system, the employers’ code is not mandatory.
On the recommendation of Lord Laming’s child protection review, the government has pledged legislation to make the employers’ code mandatory though there is no timetable for implementing this.
The GSCC said it was in talks with the Care Quality Commission, Ofsted and ministers about the issue, and would meet local authority employers on the issue next month.