A social worker who made inappropriate comments about her line manager and gave a file containing confidential notes to a service user has been suspended from the register for a year.
Service User A, who cannot be named for legal reasons, approached London’s Hounslow council in 2011 for help with her son, who had recently been diagnosed with autism.
Social worker Doreen Sylvia Ermin was allocated to draft the initial assessment report, which Service User A had an opportunity to see and respond to.
Ermin’s manager saw the revised version of the report and added some notes. But Ermin was unhappy with some of the comments made by her manager and the health visitor about Service User A’s case.
She took the annotated report back to Service User A’s house and left it with her, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard.
However, Ermin then called Service User A, saying she was worried she would lose her job and asking Service User A to help her cover up the fact she’d left the report at her house. She also raised further concerns over her manager’s handling of Service User A’s case, recounting conversations that had taken place during a confidential meeting.
“Such inappropriate comments about her manager, made to a service user, breached the professional boundaries that should be in place,” said panel chair Naseem Malik.
Ermin did not attend the HCPC’s hearing, so the panel relied on evidence from Service User A and a social worker who had been asked by Hounslow council to carry out an internal investigation into the case. The investigation led to Ermin’s dismissal for gross misconduct.
The HCPC panel heard that Ermin had told her manager that one of Service User A’s children had taken the report out of her bag while she was in the toilet – but Service User A told the panel that Ermin had come to the door, handed her the file and left.
The panel accepted that Ermin had asked Service User A to help her cover up the fact she left the report at the woman’s house. It also accepted the evidence of the social worker tasked with carrying out the internal investigation; that a social worker of Ermin’s experience would have known that information discussed about a service user should have been kept confidential – yet Ermin “knowingly discussed” such information with Service User A.
The panel found Ermin guilty of misconduct and decided her fitness to practise was impaired.
It noted that Ermin had had an unblemished career “of some length” in social work. But it said the fact that Ermin was already subject to a five-year admonishment from previous regulator the General Social Care Council for failing to disclose a conviction when applying to register was an aggravating factor.
And, as she had not attended the hearing, there was no way of knowing whether she had taken steps to remedy her actions, nor evidence of her showing insight or remorse, the panel said.
It concluded that a 12-month suspension would protect the public and allow Ermin time to take remedial steps ahead of the subsequent review hearing.