Social worker struck off for racist comment to Zimbabwean colleague

The Health and Care Professions Council did not accept that the comment was 'light-hearted' and not intended to be racist

Fitness to practise hearing

An experienced children’s social worker who made a racist comment to her colleague has been struck off the register in England.

Jacqueline Rose O’Boyle was working for Durham council in October 2011 when she approached her colleague, who was originally from Zimbabwe, and said she was “eating a banana like a monkey” or words to that effect.

O’Boyle was suspended with immediate effect and resigned in March 2012.

The incident had a “substantial effect” on her colleague’s emotional wellbeing and on her performance at work, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard. The woman sought counselling as a result of the incident.

O’Boyle, who has until now had an unblemished record in social work, admitted making the comment, but maintained it was light-hearted and not intended to be racist.

However, the panel did not accept that O’Boyle was joking. It found the comment was “objectionable and made with reference to [O’Boyle’s colleague’s] racial background” – and was therefore racist.

Panel chair Alexander Yule said: “The matters proved amounted to a deliberate act that caused offence and distress to [O’Boyle’s colleague]. Other colleagues involved were shocked and upset.

“If repeated, the panel was concerned that this kind of behaviour presents a serious risk of discrimination and unfair treatment to service users and colleagues. As such, this calls into question the registrant’s suitability to work in social care services.

“She has shown no meaningful insight or remorse, nor has she indicated that she appreciates the seriousness of her conduct.”

The panel added that O’Boyle’s behaviour was “all the more serious” because she was an experienced social worker who had undergone diversity training.

It decided the most appropriate action was to strike O’Boyle from the register. O’Boyle was not present or represented at the hearing.

Read the full notice of decision

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