A team manager has been suspended for signing off a social worker’s core assessments that left children at risk of harm.
The year-long suspension follows a rare joint fitness to practise hearing by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) into the actions of both the manager and the social worker when they worked at Lancashire Council.
Despite being a highly regarded with an otherwise “unblemished” career, the HCPC panel heard the manager did not intervene appropriately when a member of her team failed to carry out the correct assessments and did not put child protection proceedings in place for two cases, one concerning ‘Child GF’ and another concerning two children in ‘Family D’.
The social worker was allocated Child GF’s case in June 2011 after the nine-year-old told her mother that she had been sexually assaulted by her 17-year-old brother.
‘Failed to investigate’
But the social worker did not hold a strategy discussion with the manager in question and failed to undertake any further investigation. Instead, the social worker asked an unqualified family support officer to visit the family.
In written evidence submitted to the hearing, Lancashire Council’s acting principal social worker said: “There was no clear, coherent plan in place to address the chaos within the family or the risk of sexual abuse to Child GF.”
It was the manager’s responsibility to ensure the family had been visited by a qualified worker and a proper assessment made, the panel heard.
In March 2010, Family D came to the social worker’s attention when computers were removed from the family home on suspicion the father possessed images of child abuse.
The panel heard that the social worker failed to investigate whether the family’s two children were at risk of significant harm due to the mistaken belief that only the police could conduct such an investigation. She closed the case in April 2010.
Following a further referral in October 2011, it became clear that the father had remained in the house with full access to the two children.
In its findings the HCPC committee said: “During a subsequent [hearing] the judge found that two children of the family had been abused by their father. [Lancashire County Council] was subsequently criticised for its failure to safeguard these vulnerable children.”
The committee gave the social worker a caution against her name on the register for her “neglectful” approach to the cases and imposed a year’s suspension from social work register for the manager for authorising the inappropriate assessments.