A social worker who made a “flawed” risk assessment of a situation where a daughter attacked her mother with a knife has been suspended from practice.
The decision by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) panel followed an altercation on Halloween 2012 between the mother and her 14-year-old daughter, who were part of the social worker’s caseload.
The mother telephoned the social worker to ask for help because of an argument with Child A, who had previously been charged with assault by police after holding a knife to her mother’s stomach.
After the call, the social worker decided to visit the family home alone because he felt the family was “enjoying a calm and settled period” in general. He also decided not to call the police as requested by the mother and did not consult a manager because they were all in a meeting.
The HCPC panel found that his risk assessment was inadequate and that he should have realised the risk of violence given Child A’s history and the mother asking him to call the police.
“If he had taken all of these factors into account and properly risked assessed the situation he would have realised that to go to the home on his own was inappropriate on this occasion,” said the panel.
The panel was also concerned by the social worker’s explanation that he wanted to resolve the situation without the police because that would have been “a big achievement”.
The social worker was also criticised for failing to reassess his decisions when confronted by the situation at the family home. In particular the panel said he should have recognised the risk to the family’s younger daughter and safeguarded her by “arranging for her to be taken to a place of safety by an appropriate adult”.
The panel also found the social worker had failed to record or report previous incidents mentioned to him by colleagues where Child A was reportedly in possession of a knife.
And, in unrelated case, he was found to have told a service user to attend an “important meeting” but did not explain that the meeting was a child protection conference until asked to do so by a colleague.
In light of these incidents the panel concluded that the social worker had committed misconduct and, after considering positive testimonials and his newness to the profession, opted to suspend him from the social worker register for 12 months.
The panel, however, said it was concerned that the social worker had sought to “justify what he did rather than accept responsibility for what went wrong” and so will review his suspension before it expires to see if he has developed “full insight” into his actions.