Social worker fathered child with former service user

A social worker who fathered a child with a vulnerable former service user has been struck off.

A social worker who fathered a child with a vulnerable former service user has been struck off.

David William Sutherland was allocated to the 19-year-old woman, known as Ms A, while working for the Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in 2008.

Between April and November 2008, Sutherland had around 40 contact meetings with Ms A, but he did not attach progress notes to her record for around 26 of those meetings, the General Social Care Council’s conduct committee heard.

He also received two letters from the woman, one of which appeared to be a suicide note – but he did not attach the letters to her file or inform his supervisor or team of their existence.

Sutherland later went on to discharge Ms A from the trust’s care, formed an inappropriate relationship with her and, in December 2009, she gave birth to his child.

The conduct committee heard that Ms A had a history of being sexually abused, had low self-esteem and had difficulty in developing relationships because she risked becoming dependent upon others.

In the period between June and October 2008, she had overdosed on drugs and inflicted cuts upon herself on four occasions and was admitted as an inpatient for acute assessment.

“In summary, she was an extremely vulnerable individual,” the committee concluded.

Sutherland did not attend the hearing but had previously admitted that he “should have come forward” and told colleagues at the trust about the relationship.

The conduct committee acknowledged that Sutherland had helped Ms A to become more independent by helping her to secure accommodation and a place on a college course. It also appeared that they remained in a “loving relationship”.

However, the committee found the seriousness of Sutherland’s misconduct was aggravated by the vulnerability of Ms A, as well as his pattern of poor record keeping and lack of openness with colleagues.

Read the full notice of decision

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