A social worker who lacked basic computer skills and was verbally abusive towards his line manager has been handed a further suspension by the HCPC.
The social worker had his first suspension handed down in 2014, and in the third review of his order held last month, the panel found his fitness to practice was still impaired.
The social worker, who qualified in 2010 and took a job in an Initial Contact Team 2012, was found to have lacked “basic skills” on how to use a computer.
“[He] also displayed a lack of knowledge of statutory processes in relation to the welfare of children and was unable to apply children’s safeguarding legislation and policy to the referrals he received,” the panel concluded.
It added: “The ability to use a computer is a core skill of the social worker and is crucial to safeguarding. [The social worker] lacked the basic skills in such computer use.”
The social worker had been given initial and further training on the council’s CareFirst computer system, as well as support and a mentor. However his manager at the time said it was “obvious” he was struggling.
“He wasn’t able to look at the manual or retain information about how to use the system,” the HCPC panel heard. The manager was told by the trainer the social worker didn’t have any computer skills “and therefore has no concept of using an IT system”.
“His comprehension abilities were far from what I would expect of a qualified social worker,” the panel heard, and it concluded that, following intensive training, no further training would have made a difference.
The panel also found the social worker did not accept any of the failings identified. His role was to receive referrals and telephone calls, record information, act upon the information received and make recommendations.
In 2012, incidents where his practice was found to lack competence included failing to understand the verbal and written instructions given to him, being unable to communicate effectively with people calling the service and failing to respond “in any way” to a safeguarding enquiry about a 10 year old.
It was also found that, when the team manager held a supervision session with the social worker, he “acted in a verbally aggressive and abusive manner”.
He had yelled, pointed his finger at her and was becoming increasingly agitated.
“I decided to ask somebody to come into the room, because I didn’t feel that it was safe for me to continue on my own,” the manager said.
Verbal abuse was classified as misconduct by the panel, while the inability to use the CareFirst computer system and manage safeguarding enquiries was classed as a lack of competence.
The social worker was suspended after that hearing in 2014, and again in 2015 despite submitting a reflective statement. In the most recent review of his suspension, the registrant made no submission, but the panel said he had not done enough to rectify his failings.
The panel said it “lacked detail” and “did not acknowledge any recognition of wrongdoing or failure on his part, or express any remorse”. A social worker cannot be struck off due to a lack of competence unless they have been continuously suspended for two years, and the panel decided that the striking him off for misconduct would have been disproportionate. As a result, the panel decided to suspend him from practicing for a further year.