A social worker in Wales has been struck off the register after leaving a bag containing his professional diary and other confidential information at a service user’s home.
The Care Council for Wales’ fitness to practise committee said the social worker showed a persistent lack of insight and repeatedly failed to accept any responsibility for his actions.
His removal from the register was the only appropriate sanction, the committee concluded.
The social worker left his bag, which contained his social work diary, meeting minutes and a £40 reimbursement for a foster carer, at the service user’s home on 11 December 2012.
He took no immediate action to retrieve his belongings, despite receiving a text message from the service user notifying him that the bag had been left behind.
He replied to the text message at 10am the next day and agreed to the service user’s suggestion that he should collect the bag from her at a group meeting, which was taking place later that afternoon.
The exchange of the bag was witnessed by a team manager from children’s services.
‘Policies and procedures’
The social worker also failed to report the incident to his manager. The matter was only brought to the attention of the council after a professional agency made allegations in January 2013.
The social worker was suspended pending an investigation. He was later dismissed by the council for gross misconduct. The social worker appealed this decision, but it was upheld.
The social worker admitted that he had left the bag and its contents at the service user’s home and took no action to retrieve it, other than the arrangements made via text message.
His witness statement said he had made a “judgement” about retrieving the bag based on his assessment of the circumstances at the time and taking into account the practical reality of the situation. He conceded he could perhaps have taken more immediate action to retrieve it prior to the meeting, but could not recall what other duties he was undertaking at the time.
He also said that guidance on how to respond to a suspected breach of data protection was “nowhere to be found” in the council’s own policies and procedures.
Senior managers from the council contested this information – they said the social worker, who was a union representative, would have been aware of the need to report the incident.
The committee considered this evidence and concluded there was a clear expectation of the social worker to report the incident and take immediate steps to collect his bag.
‘Lack of remorse’
The committee acknowledged that this was an isolated incident and not deliberate or premeditated. However, the social worker’s failure to protect the confidential information of service users was “compounded by his lack of remorse, insight, respect to senior management of the council and acknowledgement of any wrong-doing”.
He also turned up late to the conduct hearing and left before the main section had started. This showed a “serious disregard” for the Care Council’s code of practice, the report said.
The committee concluded that removal from the register was the only sanction that would be effective in protecting the public and maintaining the integrity of the social care profession.