Social worker suspended from register after undermining child protection order application

Social worker's actions put child at "unnecessary but foreseeable risk of harm", says HCPC conduct panel

Fitness to practise hearing

A social worker who derailed a local authority’s application for an emergency protection order in court has been suspended from the social work register for 12 months.

The decision follows the social worker’s actions in November 2012 concerning Child A, who was taken to hospital after being injured during an allegedly violent incident between her teenage mother and her aunt.

The injury prompted a referral recommending the child, who was already considered a child in need, should be removed from the mother in light of the parent’s indifference to the child’s injuries.

The council initially expected the police to remove the child under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989, but when that didn’t happen it applied for an emergency protection order (EPO).

While the family’s allocated social worker was aware of the council’s plan and made no objection, but when giving evidence in court, he said he did not feel the child would be at risk of immediate harm and did not recommend their separation despite supporting the idea of the police using their powers under Section 46.

As a result of his evidence the court rejected the council’s application for an EPO.

The Health and Care Professions Council conduct panel found the social worker, who gave no reasons for his change of mind in court, had not paid sufficient attention to the concerns in the referral.

The panel also found that his actions placed “the maintenance of his good professional relationship with the mother above his duty of care to the child”.

“The consequence of the registrant’s actions were that Child A was exposed to unnecessary but foreseeable risk of harm,” said the panel in its decision, adding that he had also “damaged the reputation of the council and thus its future credibility in court proceedings”.

The panel ruled that the social worker, who resigned from the authority prior to a disciplinary hearing, had committed misconduct and imposed a 12-month suspension from the social work register.

Panel chair Sarah Baalham said: “The panel was of the view that this was an isolated incident and the registrant’s failings are capable of remedy.

“However, the registrant has provided no evidence of appropriate insight or any attempt on his part to address or remedy the failings that the panel has found proved.

“The panel has therefore concluded that there was a significant risk that the registrant would again behave in the same or in a similar manager and consequently future service users could be put at risk.”

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12 Responses to Social worker suspended from register after undermining child protection order application

  1. Liz McAteer May 27, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    There is no such order as a Police Protection Order (PPO). Police have Powers of Protection s46 [Children Act 1989]. This allows them to remove children to a safe environment for a short period of time. If a local authority makes an assessment that the child is still at risk of harm they can then apply for an Interim Care Order. Please can you ensure that your articles do not state that there is such a thing as a Police Protection Order.

  2. Edna May 28, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Brave social worker standing up to a flawed social services power based system- the local authority reputation is uttermost. This had nothing to do with need to protect a child at risk from serious harm, (future harm is mere crystal ball gazing gueswork.

    An episode of ‘violence’ between two members of the family where a child is accidently hurt is unfortunate, even if the child is being visited regularly by social worker because there are clearly problems in the household. It doies not predict serious harm.

    The whole country is full of families not under SS radar where couples may behave in ways (includes social workers who are also part of tghe same society) which are not good for childre, but most grow up normal and not hating their parents unless they have been seriously affected personally by the behaviour because they have been harmed in some obvious and repesated manner.

    It is encouraging at least one social worker has understood how being forced to comply with his paymasters may actually not be helpful to the future of the child. Children in state care are not faring better- yet LA’s quite happliy ignore this.

    • Tracy Tweedy May 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      I find it very concerning that Edna seems to think that future harm is just crystal ball gazing guesswork and is not based on any observational skills, psychological evaluation or ability to read volatile situations!!! I sincerely hope that she is not in a position of authority where vulnerable children or adults are involved because this type of attitude is how children end up dead in the system!!! I strongly suggest that she goes back to her crystal ball and leaves the welfare of children to those qualified to help them.

      • Edna May 30, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

        You clearly do not know how ‘Baby’ P or Daniel Pelka were ‘assessed’ by those in the ‘protection industry’ whose expertise / skills are so great. Nor that elderly lady in Sutton -failed by a social worker it appears, or of the Winterborne View failings- just the tip of the iceberg reporting social work failings for adults and children.

        Please do not judge others by the standards you hole. I care more passionately than you do, but do not wish t act as ‘God’ without clear hard evidence,I would sack all the paid workers who fail remove children / adults wrongly. There is no room for this in our lives. Our relationships must not be broken on flimsy/ poor judgement.

  3. janet May 29, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    The whole SS system is a ‘tick box’ process. No one actually uses their common sense anymore, practitioners are there to save their jobs, nothing else!!!! Such a shame though as they are dealing with human lives and children future.

  4. Dave H. May 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more .. The Sw was under oath to give evidence to the court as they saw it.. not to advocate for the views of the LA.. Giving opinions re future harm is by definition speculative.. If we don’t think that Sw is about change and transformation .. why are we doing it in the first place??… What on earth was on the agenda of those who sought to bring this matter before HCPC … You employed someone capable of independent thought and analysis .. suck it up!

  5. disillusioned nqsw May 29, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    What a inspirational social worker, standing up for what s/he truly believes. As a newly qualified social worker I feel somewhat disillusioned as to what the professions is which I WAS so eager to enter. I did not agree to be a police officer or any other secret agent of the state. I wanted to help the disenfranchised, plug the gap between the have’s and the have not’s – not make the whole situation worse.

    The report is quick to point out it was a teenage Mother. Does that sway the argument? Perhaps it proves she was feckless? or perhaps a biased, oppressive council looking to protect everybody in the bosom of risk adversity

  6. edward opton May 29, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Let’s be clear about this. The social worker was testifying in court, presumably under an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. To lie would have been perjury. The social worker stated her or his opinion, refusing to commit perjury.

    The social worker was severely disciplined–effectively discharged–for complying with her or his duty to tell the truth.

  7. Patricia Johnson May 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    I have seen the changes in social work particularly since the profession aquired ” THE PROTECTED STATUS”. This has resulted in elitism which means as a practioner you have to play ” THE GAME”. Those who do not comply suffer being professionally discredited. I for one commend the professional who had the courage to excercise their intergrity and consience over the appeasment of the paymasters.

  8. Chokwadi May 30, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    It is worrying that the HCPC refer to police powers of protection as a “police protection order” . In another paragraph they refer to s.20 consent as an order ( Removal of Child A into care under the provisions of section 20 of the Children’s Act 1989. Such an order could only be made with the consent of the mother and such consent could be withdrawn at any time.???)
    One wonders whether these people actually know what they are talking about or do they just swallow whatever the employer tells them without any critical thought whatsoever. Every social worker who cares about justice should be very concerned about this council. That social worker stood no chance.

  9. Joseph May 30, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Some people have portrayed this social worker as brave man standing up against the oppressive social services institution.

    What I gather from this article is that the social worker had very poor communication. If he had concerns about the EPO, he should have discussed them with his supervisor or colleagues. Instead he changed his mind in court and couldn’t provide justification. He should have developed his argument and negotiated the issue with his colleagues and other professionals before he got to court.

    Also the article explains that the children weren’t removed just because he was put at risk during a fight, but also because the mother showed little concern about the injuries. There will likely be further reasons and history not explored in this article.

  10. Pearlene Webb June 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    I think we will be seeing a lot more of this, I have been qualified 18 years and have seen a massive change in the way social work is delivered and it is true that these days we are not allowed to have our own opinion if we want to practice, it’s now more about following the party live rather than being an independent free thinking practitioner and if you stray from the party line you will be severly punished and your reputation destroyed.