Social worker left service user at risk of financial abuse for two years

A vulnerable man with learning disabilities had to dress in ill-fitting clothes and receive food subsidies because his mother was siphoning off some of his benefits, the social work regulator in England heard.

An experienced social worker who failed to visit a service user with learning disabilities for two years despite concerns that he was being financially abused has received a formal caution from the regulator.

The service user was in receipt of a number of benefits, however, it emerged in August 2009 that his mother had not been paying all of the money into his account.

Yet the social worker allocated to his case did nothing to address these allegations and did not visit the service user again until July 2011.

A panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard that, due to his financial hardship over that period, the service user “dressed in oversized, second-hand clothes, was unable to take part in external day-to-day activities and had to receive food subsidies from other sources”.

In addition, the service user had expressed fear of his partner’s father, who had apparently displayed aggressive behaviour. His partner was also a service user with learning disabilities. But the social worker did not instigate adult protection procedures within the designated timescale.

She was dismissed by the council she worked for at the time following an internal investigation, but appealed and was reinstated.

The HCPC’s panel heard from the social worker and four witnesses, including her former line manager.

It did not accept the social worker’s assertion that she had made visits during the two-year gap; no evidence was produced of these visits either in the case record or her personal diary.

The panel also noted her tendency to lay blame on others. “At this hearing, [the social worker] sought to excuse the reasons for the misconduct found proved on the lack of support from her manager, colleagues, the computer system and her health.”

However, it accepted that she had shown regret and some insight and had a previously unblemished career.

She continues to work as a social worker through an agency and her current employer supplied evidence attesting to her high standard of record keeping and core values such as listening, honesty and openness.

The panel concluded: “The lessons she has taken away from this experience appear to be many and profound and the panel is content that the high standard of references and testimonials both now and relating to her prior practice, together with her previous blemish-free career, combine to allow a caution order of sufficient duration, in this case, four years, to be the fairest and most proportionate sanction to impose.”

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