Social worker suspended for failing to follow up school referral

A social worker has been suspended for 12 months for failing to follow-up a child protection phone referral from a school about a child who was suspected of suffering physical abuse at the hands of her mother.

This was despite the fact that Norma Rose Lee was in fact the child’s named social worker and was working in the initial response team at Sunderland City Council.

Instead she instructed the school to send a written referral to the contact team and allowed the child (Child A) to go home with her mother at the end of the school day.

She also failed to tell her managers of her actions, despite having a meeting with them about her case-load later that day. The discussion included Child A and she told her manager that a child protection referral might be coming “later”.

When questioned about her failure she said she was unaware the child was still on her caseload despite the fact she had not yet written up an initial assessment she had conducted.

Following the incident in February 2012 her managers transferred Lee to the contact team.

However, in a second incident in May 2012, Lee also failed to conduct a child-in-need assessment of a child with a number of mental health and learning disorders, despite a letter from a consultant psychiatrist asking for one.

The psychiatrist, in the letter, had pointed out the child (Child B) presented a risk of harm to members of her family and herself and had recently been detained under mental health legislation.

Despite this Lee told managers she did not consider an assessment was required as Child B’s mother had only requested a special educational needs statement and direct payments.

The Health and Care Professions Council hearing panel noted with concern that as late as July 2012 Lee still could not identify any reason for an assessment. She had also failed to show any insight or reflective practice about the two incidents and had refused to engage with the council’s disciplinary hearing which ended in her dismissal.

In the circumstances, and the fact Lee was considered an otherwise competent and experienced social worker, the panel decided a 12-month suspension order would give Lee time to take remedial action and training.

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