HCPC suspends social worker who forwarded confidential information to lawyers over ‘bullying’ grievance

Cafcass employee used confidential material to build up a grievance case against her manager, to the detriment of her caseload

Fitness to practise hearing

A social worker has been suspended by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) for emailing confidential information both to a solicitors firm and to her personal email account.

The family court adviser for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) had been on an extended period of maternity and sick leave. On her return she complained of feeling bullied and discriminated against by her manager.

She opened a complaint but the investigation into her own grievance was broadened to look into her conduct after allegations were made that she had accessed confidential information belonging to her manager that was stored on a Cafcass computer.

This information should have been password protected but had been placed in error, through no doing of the registrant’s, on a drive that was accessible to all members of staff and was designed for shared information.

The registrant sent confidential material to a firm of solicitors, as well as to her personal email address, whilst compiling evidence she might use in a case against her employers over her feelings of victimisation at work.

Cafcass’s employment policy makes it clear that employers may not email case sensitive material to personal or other accounts.

The conduct committee expressed a degree of sympathy with her behaviour since the confidential information she forwarded concerned her personal working circumstances. But the committee noted that what she also contained information relating to her cases and so compromised her service users’ confidentiality.

The panel added that “she put her own personal concerns above those of service users and in doing so she has fallen significantly below the standards that one would expect of a social worker”.

In addition to the breach of confidentiality, the HCPC panel also found that the social worker had left case plans incomplete and in some cases did not take timely action following the allocation of cases, to the potential detriment of service users.

The panel expressed concern that the social worker demonstrated very little insight into her failings, seeking to “deflect blame to the organisation, Cafcass, for her own shortcomings”.

The panel said: “Her failings are such that they are not fundamentally incompatible with being on the register and a period of suspension for 12 months will protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession.

“This period of time will enable the registrant to develop insight into her failings and allow her time to reflect upon her practice if she wishes to return to social work.”

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

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5 Responses to HCPC suspends social worker who forwarded confidential information to lawyers over ‘bullying’ grievance

  1. Chokwadi July 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    The message is when you piss us off will look at every single policy that you could have breached to make sure that we thoroughly get you done.

  2. G Hall July 16, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Should the HCPC be colluding in what seems a tactic by the persons employers to protect themselves? Are the HCPC going to make any investigation into the insecure filing of the manager, was there any client sensitive information in his/her mistake? Are they investigating the allegations of bullying? It is possible that the managers are HCPC registered so their behaviour may be sanctioned by HCPC.

    It would seem that a double jeopardy is at work here. It is possible that it is not wise to attempt to respond in any way to any disciplinary procedures because not only will you need to think about what you say to your employers but also there is the chance that your right to be employed in your chosen field could be taken from you.

  3. Ella July 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Kind of unfair, really. Is anyone investigating the incompetence of the Manager who messed up the storage of the confidential files in the first place? Is anyone actually bothering to investigate the poor Social Worker’s original concerns regarding victimization/bullying at work, and poor working conditions?

    WHY, oh WHY is it that the VICTIM gets punished? This has a nasty odour of “stab the whistleblower in the back, and hound them until they are made to leave”! We are WELL AWARE of the way in which whistleblowers – people who complain about poor practice, poor working conditions, etc. – are treated in health and social services. This all sounds like yet another example.

    SURELY the point is to investigate the ORIGINAL COMPLAINANT’S ORIGINAL COMPLAINT… before being sidetracked by counter-allegations made by the PERSON/PEOPLE WHO WERE COMPLAINED ABOUT!

    • jane July 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

      You can guarantee that the managers will not be investigated in any way that will be known to the victim. I have tried to activate the GSCC, GMC, NMC, and Police, to deal with these types of LA power abusers. Guess what? They all say it is for an employment tribunal to deal with it.
      How much power does an ET have to deal with medical negligence by your colleague, racism by your colleagues, discrimination by your colleagues, failure to use procedures properly by employers? Well that depends on what your distortions and lies your employer will resort to using highly paid barristers that a Professional is unlikely to be able to afford.
      It does not appear to be material which ET’s are willing to form judgements on, when a person brings such matters to their attention. Now why is the law not accessible to Social Workers who have been abused?
      And unions such as unison and basw are unlikely to want to pay for your representation either. Why?
      Who derailed the value of integrity in our society to such a state that honest and decent professionals ,who are responsible for making life changing decisions for their clients, cannot find respect from local government . Ironically we also have to may a fee to be registered to be treated so disrespectfully…..

  4. jane July 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    This sounds extremely dangerous. A worker who is being victimised or bullied is not going to be in the best position to provide their best service to their clients.
    How can her efforts to seek protection, be seen as placing the clients needs after her own.
    This is a very familiar story, and highlights the lack of regard that employers have for professionals who offer their skills and services for remuneration. It also sounds like a Local Authority with plenty of money to spend on HR and legal teams, and perhaps not willing to invest in Professional Staff to provide services to the community.