Social worker covered up disappearance of service user

Practitioner receives five-year admonishment after he failed to tell his manager that the man went missing for two hours and was found by police.

Vulnerable man found wandering in playing field

A senior social worker who covered it up when a vulnerable man in his care went missing for two hours has been admonished by the General Social Care Council (GSCC).

Attwell Chimutwi was supporting the service user on holiday when the incident occurred in August 2009. His then employer, Bramerton Residential Home in Maidenhead, provides residential care to people with learning disabilities, specialising in helping people with autism, challenging behaviour, Down’s Syndrome and epilepsy.

Upon returning from the holiday, Chimutwi told his manager that the service user in question had wandered off, but was shortly brought back by neighbours.

However, it later transpired the man had been found wandering around a playing field in a distressed state by police two hours after he had disappeared. One police officer described him as being “smeared with faeces”. Chimutwi had not reported him missing.

Chimutwi did not attend the GSCC hearing this week. In his absence, witnesses said the social worker did not contact anyone at the home to advise them that the service user had gone missing or been found by the police; his manager and colleagues learned of the incident some days later.

Philip Bruton, deputy home manager of Bramerton, said Chimutwi mentioned “one hiccup” where the service user had wandered onto a neighbour’s property. Bruton was given the impression he was brought back by the neighbours a few minutes later, the GSCC’s conduct committee heard.

Chimutwi subsequently told another member of staff that the man had absconded for 30-45 minutes.

This was in effect a “cover up”, the committee said, whereby Chimutwi had failed to alert the authorities to the man’s disappearance and compounded the dishonesty by lying to his manager and colleagues about the length of time for which he was missing.

However, the committee heard testimonies from the social worker’s colleagues, which suggested this was an isolated incident. Bruton, for example, described Chimutwi as “very professional and knowledgeable” and said he would have had the best interests of the service user at heart.

In light of those observations, the committee was satisfied that there was only a limited risk of a recurrence of such behaviour and decided a five-year admonishment was sufficient.

Read the full notice of decision

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