Social worker struck off after mental capacity assessment ‘cover up’

HCPC panel imposes striking off order after finding social worker acted dishonestly by lying about visiting service user

Picture: Gary Brigden

A social worker who completed a mental capacity assessment of a service user without visiting them, then lied to his manager about it, has been struck off.

A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) fitness-to-practise panel found the social worker acted dishonestly in telling his line manager that he’d visited the service user after the manager raised concerns about “deficiencies” in the assessment. The panel found the social worker lied “in order to cover up failings in his practise”.

The panel also found failings in the social worker’s record keeping. It was told the social worker had 258 documents saved on a tablet computer, most of which were not saved on computer systems as required. Other service user records were kept on the social worker’s desk and had not been saved to the systems.

The HCPC concluded that, in the case of the capacity assessment, the social worker failed to act in the best interests of the service user and “risked an inappropriate outcome”. It also found that, in failing to maintain correct records “over a prolonged period”, the social worker had prevented others from accessing “vital information about service users”.

“[The social worker’s] failings were fundamental to the practice of social work and extended over a prolonged period of time. His lack of honesty with his manager, combined with his other failings identified in this case, which put service users at risk of harm, undermined public confidence in the profession,” the HCPC decided.

“In light of all the evidence the panel concluded [the social worker’s] failings were so serious that they amounted to misconduct.”

The social worker told the HCPC that the mental capacity assessment had only been intended as a “draft”, rather than a completed piece of work. However, the panel rejected that assertion after the social worker was unable to provide any evidence to support his claim and records showed the assessment had been submitted for authorisation.

The assessment in question took place in September 2013. The social worker had been working for the local authority since November 2011.

The social worker told the panel he accepted he was dishonest in telling his line manager that he had visited the service user but claimed he “blurted it out” under pressure. However, the panel concluded that he “deliberately sought to conceal the error” from his manager.

In oral evidence, the social worker referred to personal and professional issues he was facing relating to his caseload and relationship with colleagues. However, the panel found that his caseload “was not particularly different from colleagues” and said he was supported by his managers.

In deciding a sanction, the panel considered several mitigating factors, including the social worker’s personal circumstances and his length of service without any previous disciplinary action. It “gave very careful consideration” as to whether a suspension of 12 months would be a proportionate sanction. However, the panel concluded that the social worker did not display the “level of insight” necessary to enable him to take remedial action.

“Therefore, the panel has decided that the only proportionate sanction to impose is a striking off order,” the decision notice read.

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5 Responses to Social worker struck off after mental capacity assessment ‘cover up’

  1. John Wilks August 26, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    Social workers – damned if the do; damned if they don’t. The person should have been a lorry driver – lies don’t matter. By the way, for how long were the papers left on the desk and the person wasn’t told to put them away? The statement “supported by managers” is somewhat suspect.

    • chrissie August 26, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

      That seems a somewhat odd view to take – just from the information given it appears that there was a level of incompetence that is unacceptable in any professional. Condoning this is not acceptable either.

  2. Donna August 28, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    How could somebody hope to complete a capacity assessment without actually visiting the person? I agree with the striking off. There are too many people being paid to do a job and doing the bare minimum to get paid. If they can’t be bothered to work, they should get out and let those who are concientious rebuild the barriers to social work.

  3. Lucio Johanek September 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Many local authorities have introduced extra levels of approval before care packages can be commissioned, with managers now having to sign off care plans before they can be implemented. Previously, social workers have had the freedom to commission care without this level of authorisation.

  4. Lily September 9, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    Please stop making excuses. The Service User didn’t get the assessment they were clearly entitled to get and the repercussions for their life and mental health could potentially be dire. Without exception all NHS staff after 6 years of service are entitled to 6 months sick leave on full pay and then after that 6 months sick leave on half pay, every single year. 5 years service allows 5 months sick leave on full pay and 5 on half pay – likewise the same for 2/3/4 years service. Holiday leave can sometimes be carried over. It’s possible for stressed out NHS workers to only roll up for work for 5 months a year and not lose any money.
    I am unaware of a single other profession in existence that offers this yearly. Police, The Fire Service – frontline workers in dangerous and stressful jobs – they don’t have this little known and huge perk. There is no excuse for putting a service user at risk. This service user is very unlikely to be able to take 6 months off from their mental illnesses. Thank you.