Social worker struck off after hitting child with autism and learning disabilities

The practitioner, who had extensive training in dealing with challenging behaviour and de-escalation techniques, maintained he acted in 'self-defence'

Fitness to practise hearing

A social worker has been struck off for hitting a child who kicked him.

David Briggs was working in a residential unit for children with disabilities and complex needs run by Barnsley Council at the time.

He had previously worked in probation and with homeless teenagers and had also taken extensive training in dealing with challenging behaviour and de-escalation techniques.

A panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee was told that, in November 2011, Mr Briggs was on duty along with five other staff members and a number of children, including Child Y, in a recreational room.

Child Y was 11 years old at the time and had severe autism and learning disabilities. His behaviour was known to be difficult and challenging and he had a tendency to display aggressive behaviour to both other children and staff. He had been a semi-regular resident at the unit over the past three years.

The child had already kicked another member of staff earlier in the evening as they had passed by the sofa-chair he was sitting on. When Briggs attempted to pass the chair in order to take a phone call the child lashed out at him also.

However, while the previous member of staff had taken evasive action, Briggs lifted the child’s leg over the armchair, raised his arm and brought his hand down with some force on the child’s lower leg, telling him “don’t kick”.

The panel was told the other staff members were shocked at what they had seen, particularly as they held Briggs in high regard as an experienced colleague.

The HCPC found the action amounted to misconduct and struck Briggs off the register because he had refused to acknowledge the seriousness of his action and maintained it had been done in self-defence.

Panel chair Graham Aitken commented: “The Panel is satisfied that Mr Briggs’ actions were offensive rather than defensive, did not amount to a ‘blocking action’ as he contends, and could not possibly be constructed as de-escalation of Child Y’s aggressive behaviour towards him. Mr Briggs had the option to remove himself from harm’s way, but he did not take it.”

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