A social worker who misled colleagues by saying that a service user had threatened to kill herself and her children has been suspended from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register for 12 months.
After a home visit in January 2013, the social worker reported in her team room at Derby city council that the mother said she would burn the house down with her children inside. The children were removed that day under an emergency protection order and the practitioner only revealed to a colleague that her statement was untrue the following week.
Multiple opportunities to retract
The social worker repeated her account of the threats – first in discussion with her line manager and then to the council’s legal officer to arrange the emergency protection order. The panel concluded it was therefore not a panicked or anxiety-relieving response.
The panel highlighted the protection order hearing was held ex parte so the mother could not hear or challenge the evidence.
Over the following weekend, the social worker contacted her line manager saying she was unable to complete her statement for the interim care order hearing, the next step for the children.
She told a colleague on the Monday that she “was in a lot of trouble” as the woman had not actually said she would kill herself or set fire to the house.
Derby dismissed the experienced social worker, who was also a practice assessor, in October 2013. In an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, not referred to in the HCPC fitness to practice hearing, the social worker claimed it was a question of interpretation, according to local media reports of the tribunal.
Her lawyer is reported to have said: “The mother had told her she was going to take all her medication and take her kids with her. She had also threatened to burn the furniture.”
The dismissal for gross misconduct was upheld as fair by the tribunal in August 2014. Derby council declined to give further details of the case and any disciplinary steps taken.
Real harm caused
The social worker did not appear before the HCPC committee and there was no information about her current employment.
Panel chair Sophie Lister said the 12 month suspension from the register was given because of the “very real harm caused to the service user” and conduct that fellow practitioners would find “deplorable”. However, positive statements from colleagues about her skills and qualities as a social worker were a mitigating feature and the panel encouraged the registrant to attend the review of the suspension.