Social worker’s suspension lifted after accepting workload pressures were ‘her responsibility’

A social worker told the HCPC that it was her responsibility to ask for help, after she was suspended for misleading colleagues and missing deadlines

Photo: Thinglass/Fotolia

A social worker who misled colleagues about her ability to keep on top of her workload has had her suspension lifted after accepting it was her responsibility to manage the pressure she was under.

The social worker was suspended in February last year after a HCPC fitness to practice hearing she was found to have professional failings which were “persistent, repeated and occurred over an extensive period of time”.

It was found that the children’s social worker had failed to meet court deadlines; and misled colleagues to believe she was close to finishing work on two cases.

Her responsibility

In a review of the suspension order last month, the panel heard how she now understood “it was her responsibility to ask for help if she was unable to cope with the workload”.

The social worker said she was “extremely sorry” for covering up the difficulties she had with her workload. It had affected the reputation of her profession, her council, her colleagues and directly affected the children and families relying on her reports, she said.

The panel decided not to renew her suspension order, and instead imposed a conditions of practice order.

When the suspension order was made, the panel had taken into account “systemic failings within the local authority” and the social worker’s health.

Since her suspension last year, she had taken on a role as a support worker with adults with learning and physical disabilities had helped increase her confidence and improve her health.

“Her current working environment has been positive and her manager is extremely supportive. She said that this has enabled her to be open and honest with her manager and benefit from the supervision sessions,” the panel heard.

Conditions of practice

She added that she had previously found it difficult to speak about health issues “because of the working conditions of the local authority”.

If she was to return to social work it would be in this area, she said, adding she would not return to children’s social work because of the “volume, speed and pressure” of the work.

While it was unlikely the social worker would repeat the misconduct of misleading colleagues, the panel was still concerned about the wide-ranging “deficiencies” in her practice which had been identified.

It said a conditions of practice order would mean “workable and measurable conditions could be drafted that would not only protect the public and the public interest but which would also provide the registrant with a framework of support and structure whereby she could ultimately return to unrestricted safe practice”.

More from Community Care

6 Responses to Social worker’s suspension lifted after accepting workload pressures were ‘her responsibility’

  1. Carl March 16, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

    We do have to take responsibility for our own actions including managing workloads. We are professional adults who must act in mature ways. If we aren’t coping well it is a personal responsibility to acknowledge it and try to do something about it. Seeking help is NOT a weakness it is a sign of strength, as we all need some assistance from time to time. We all need help at times.

    Is it easy, sometimes not. The job is not easy but we can still try to approach challenges by seeking support. It’s a touch ironic when social workers advocate to service users to seek help to deal with problems , when we find it hard to do the very same thing.

    If communication is difficult , it needs to be openly acknowleged with the person who you are communicating with but say you want to find a way forward to improve the situation.

    Procrastination never helps . Start dealing with the issues as soon as possible. Things can change for the better.

    • Esmeralda March 21, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

      I agree Karl. I also know that sometimes asking for help doesn’t always work as a Sw you’re told to prioritise your priorities… Meaning what exactly. It’s difficult at times to differentiate between what’s a priority with the high demand of the workload that keeps on coming when you’re already have plenty of work that needs to be done. On top of it all the new changes and policies within agencies as well as new legislation appears to have added to our extensive workload.

  2. Paula March 17, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    As someone with 8 years service as a frontline child protection social worker I empathise with the Social worker in this article. Most front line teams are understaffed and staff and their managers are under immense pressure where sadly admitting to struggle with work loads is either frowned upon or ignored. When stress builds and staff become physically unwell they often become less able to ask for help. Many dedicated staff come into work to the detriment of their own health. It’s simplistic to say it’s easy to ask for support. This stance ignores the real issue of lack of resources which set staff up to fail with unrealistic caseloads.

    • Elody March 18, 2016 at 9:43 am #

      I totally agree with you. Was this person managed positively? How come her mamager did not know? Or did not realised?

  3. Tom Hughes March 17, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

    Well quite, however the reality is I have never come across any social work organization that proactively supports those struggling with workloads.

    There are always excuses given to justify them, but the idea that by simply asking “can I have some support” will generate any improvement is simply idealistically laughable and no reflection on reality.

  4. Andrew Walker March 18, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    While agreeing that this is an issue of individual responsibility we cannot ignore how difficult it is to admit to struggling when in an unsympathetic environment. This is why so many social workers go off on sick leave with stress – because they are not supported to say they are struggling.

    The report notes that:

    When the suspension order was made, the panel had taken into account “systemic failings within the local authority”

    While it may not be the responsibility of the HCPC to deal with management failures why cannot they write to the DCS and publicise their criticism. If they really wanted to improve social work they would do this rather than just penalise individuals.

    Latest workforce figures from the DfE show 110,000 social workers – all paying the HCPC £78 per year = £6.69 million. What do they do for that money??