Social worker suspended after intimate relationship with service user’s father

Social worker found to have started an inappropriate relationship with father just months after she stopped being responsible for his child’s case

Fitness to practise hearing

A social worker who conducted a relationship with the father of a former service user has been suspended by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

The HCPC conduct hearing followed the social worker’s actions concerning the father of a child she had previously been safeguarding, “failing to maintain professional boundaries.”

She developed an intimate relationship with a man whose child had been a service user in her caseload a few months before.

The social worker, who worked on a child protection team, failed to disclose information about the father’s domestic violence, court appearances and police cautions for assault, even though this put his child at potential risk.

The conduct committee said these oversights were careless and unprofessional, but did not stem from any improper motive.

The social worker became acquainted with the man in question through working with his child but did not begin a relationship with him until after she had finished working on the case.

She met the man at a social event and it was only then that she started a relationship with him, however the HCPC panel agreed that to begin a relationship with the father of a recent service user was “manifestly inappropriate”.

Although her actions were inappropriate and had the potential to put a child at risk, the panel deemed her behaviour to be “very human” and did not have any malicious or dishonest motive.

The social worker prior to this misconduct was ‘highly regarded for both her professional competence and her energy  and application to her work.’

In its ruling the panel said: “Whilst the misconduct should be regarded as serious it is appropriate to note that the panel does not consider the inappropriate relationship to have had a negative impact on the quality of professional service provided to the child or family.”

Panel chair William Nelson said: “Although the registrant has demonstrated some insight, it is not sufficient yet to provide reassurance that there could be no repetition of such a serious lapse of judgment.

“Accordingly, it is the view of the panel that the registrant’s fitness to practice is currently impaired…until she can demonstrate that she has developed a full understanding of how she should exercise her judgment in relation to professional boundaries in the future.”

The social worker is suspended from the register for 12 months.

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