Social worker suspended after attempts to restrain boy with learning disabilities led to police caution for assault

The children’s home manager grabbed the boy’s wrists and forced one of his arms up his back

Fitness to practise hearing

A social worker who received a police caution for common assault after inappropriately restraining a 15-year-old boy with learning disabilities has been suspended from practice for a year.

The social worker was working as a residential manager for a home in Cambridgeshire when the incident took place in February.

The practitioner walked into the kitchen and was greeted by the boy, who sought to put his arm around him. But the social worker shrugged the boy away.

The boy then picked up a butter knife and asked the practitioner what he would do if he were to attack, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard.

The social worker responded by using a control and restraint manoeuvre. He grasped the boy’s wrists so that he dropped the knife and continued to force the boy’s right arm up his back. The incident occurred close to an open dishwasher and the boy received a minor injury.

One member of staff witnessed the event in full, while another saw part of it. They completed incident reports and the social worker was suspended from work.

Police investigated and, on 27 February 2013, the practitioner accepted a caution for common assault by beating a service user, contrary to Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

The investigating officer concluded that the social worker had used an inappropriate restraint and behaved in an inappropriate manner, adding that it was unclear why he had done so. The practitioner resigned before his disciplinary hearing.

The HCPC’s panel noted the social worker’s lack of recent practical experience of managing challenging behaviour and lack of appropriate restraint and de-escalation training. He had expressed regret and remorse in his interview and shown some insight by accepting the caution.

However, it also noted that there was no evidence the social worker had undertaken any training undertaken since the incident, nor had he explained why he had behaved in an inappropriate manner.

“[The boy] was a vulnerable service user, the incident was serious and there was an unnecessary overreaction by the registrant,” the panel said. “Further, without understanding why the incident happened, the panel cannot say that there is no likelihood of repetition.”

It concluded that a one-year suspension was the appropriate sanction.

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