Social worker who gave parents unsupervised access to child at risk is banned from practice

A social worker who allowed two young parents to have unsupervised access to their six-month-old despite concerns about their ability to care for the child has been struck off.

Mark Ian Burge was working for Wiltshire council in April 2012 when he was allocated to the case of Child J.

Child J’s parents were both 17 years old at the time and the mother was six months pregnant with her second child.

The father wanted the mother to terminate the pregnancy and there were concerns he had subjected her to domestic violence.

A panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee further heard that the father had previously been made the subject of a youth offending order after breaking into a mother and baby hostel where they were staying at the time.

The panel noted that staff at the hostel had been concerned the mother’s ability to care for Child J, as well as the risk of domestic violence.

Burge, who had been a social worker for about two years by the time he took on the case, was working with the parents to find a solution that would ensure Child J was protected from harm.

However, he had to take some time off work due to ill health. During his absence, the council had further concerns about the child’s safety.

Another social worker stepped in and introduced a written agreement between the two parents, which stated that the child would reside at the home of the mother’s parents and that, if either the mother or father were to remove the child from that home, the police may be involved.

A few days later, Burge returned to work and was told of this agreement. There was also evidence he accessed the updated computer records on the case.

However, on 19 April 2012, Child J’s mother called Burge and asked if she could take Child J to see the father. Burge said yes and the parents subsequently had unsupervised access.

Following a complaint from Child J’s grandfather, the council started disciplinary proceedings against Burge and finally dismissed him on the grounds of gross misconduct.

HCPC panel chair Alexander Yule said: “The actions of Mr Burge created a real risk of harm to the child in the sense that there were risks of physical harm, emotional harm and the risk of disrupting an effective safety plan and losing cooperation and trust with extended family members.

“There is no real evidence that Mr Burge currently understands the seriousness of his failure or has taken any steps to remedy his failures. Therefore there remains a risk of repetition.”

The panel decided the most appropriate action was to strike Burge from the register. He was neither present nor represented at the hearing.

Read the full notice of decision

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