Social work manager struck off after failing to action referrals

The HCPC committee found the social worker was working in an “extremely busy” environment and was not receiving regular and consistent supervision

by Rachel Carter & Luke Stevenson

An experienced social work manager has been struck off after a failure to assess and allocate referrals left service users at risk of “real and serious” harm.

One case was not identified as urgent by the social worker, despite it containing “significant risk factors” which should have been clear to him.

His response to the case was “inappropriate” and he had “stored” other referrals over a number of months.

The social worker, who had worked in the profession for 15 years, was employed as team leader of a referral and assessment team in a children’s services. He was responsible for assessing child care referrals made to the council.

The HCPC committee heard the manager’s working environment was “extremely busy and in a state of transformation” and he was not receiving the “consistent professional supervision which would have been appropriate, particularly during a difficult transition”.

Continuing failure

Despite this, the committee found “the registrant had shown a continuing failure to take appropriate and timely action to progress these referrals and other contacts”.

The social worker was initially suspended in 2015, before a review panel decided he should be permanently removed from the social work register last month.

It concluded his failures “had been serious and repeated and had occurred over a number of months”. It left a “real and serious risk of harm to vulnerable service users”.

The social worker had not engaged in the review hearing, and the panel said there had been no evidence “of any significant insight” into his actions.

He had told a council disciplinary process, undertaken in 2013 following concerns about his practice being raised, that he would have taken the same actions again, and “thought his actions were correct in the circumstances”.

He was dismissed from the council on the grounds of gross misconduct.

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15 Responses to Social work manager struck off after failing to action referrals

  1. Deb August 3, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    Reading as bought light to myself where soical worker / housing case officer can make decisions on a person without discussion .My more supervision is greatly needed for the work load that is undertaken employees working in this field.

  2. TB August 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    And his service managers who were expected to provide regular supervision, what happened to them? It’s the same old story, front line are left exposed due to failures from above!!!

  3. Peter Endersby August 4, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    Is lack of supervision a reason for such incompetence? Who oversaw this manager and what was their responsibility?

  4. SBS August 4, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    What about systemic organisational problems; frontline managers are often faced with the impossible task of trying to allocate cases with no extra bodies to undertake the work – under such circumstances Senior Management need to be more present in offering support. Their roles are it just about stewarding re-organisations and re-structuring. Frontline staff continue to be ‘shoved pushed under the bus’ whilst SM’s cover their own backs. Not a great environment !!!!

    • Ian Kemp August 4, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

      Has I have said before . The organisation of social work is too bureaucratic and not fit for purpose. The problem is that there is no real professional support system for social workers who are under extreme pressure to try to deal with increasing case loads a insensitive bureaucratic managerial system which is the local authority.

      From my experience in all areas of social work over over 43 years, I have seen the decline of social work as a profession to that of a operative within the local authority system .. Senior managers many who have not been near a service user, to use the jargon , for many years will simply protect their own backs . That is the way the system works . This will not change until social work is funded separate from local Gov bureaucracy, and is able to articulate a more professional response to the problems it is faced with. Not in my life time . No politician will touch it. So the same old bureaucratic approach will continue to dominate….Goodness knows what this managers support was about

  5. Andrew August 4, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    Roll on 2018 – even regulation by the government can’t be as poor as this lot at the HCPC.

    And to think of the millions they get each year from social workers fees. If a social worker made a judgement on a case and ignored surrounding factors as has happened here where the failings of management are, once again ignored, then they would be heavily criticised and maybe even brought up before the HCPC disciplinary panel!

    Anyone know what the members of this committee trouser each time they sit in judgement on hard pressed workers?

  6. Simon Newman August 4, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    In my experience both the HCPC and CCfW come down hard on social workers as accountable registrants under the code of conduct. Employers are not held accountable in any way for their own lack of competence, poor or dangerous practice. Neither do these organisations conduct full investigations themselves into incidents or concerns. They rely primarily on information from employing organisations via ‘management enquiries’ or gathered for their own disciplinary processes. These are usually partial and often seek to protect their own interests and reputation. There is often a collusive relationship between registering bodies, Inspectorates and Local Councils who represent the political establishment in protecting the interests of the ‘sector’ ( public confidence). This is not surprising given that the senior managers of these organisations are usually recruited from the same pool.

  7. Andrew Bainham August 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    Is there anyone with experience left in this profession? Seems being struck off is the norm these days. Why not reprimand, demote, support, training etc????

    • Truth seeker August 4, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

      Hear! Hear!

    • Ian Kemp August 5, 2016 at 8:50 am #

      hI I agree Goodness knows who these people are on the HCPC Retraining and support would be the professional way of dealing with the matter.. That would be just the start.. Unfortunately social as it stands is really no longer what might call a profession.. One is just a employee of the Local authority. So all one can expect is another disciplinary and suspension as if that would solve anything…Its the way bureaucracy works.

  8. GH August 4, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    Not another example of senior (sic) management allowing such a situation to arise? Surely the people on the fifth floor know what is taking place in their organisations?
    There seems to be a theme where the frontline staff are expected to take on large caseloads and juggle vast amounts of information and then when something goes wrong they get sacked and vilified; no account is taken of the stress that workers may be under or that they may be struggling. If the management were as clever as they portray then they should notice what is happening, and then apply their Social Work values and seek to make improvements. But it is easier to sack someone than to admit that they have made mistakes. Trouble is in the rush to get rid of people the management often make mistakes in the disciplinary process and then end up having to defend themselves in court at great cost to the council and their service users. I do not condone poor practice but the council have a duty of care as an employer to their employees, but they do not seem to accept this
    I know this having been there.

    • Ian Kemp August 6, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

      I agree After over 43 years in all areas of social work up to team manager I have seen it all.. Under the present organisation of social work it will not change.. One is just a operative within the local gov bureaucracy . I n reality a employee, not a professional . That is how much social work has declined over the years . First social work departments were got rid off. Then the bureaucracy was increased with a whole range of managers for this and that . Main objective to protect ones back manage limited budgets get promoted further out of the firing line.. Many managers have not worked at the coal face of front line social work for years .. The de professionalization of social work will continue I fear. No politician will touch social work with a barge pole. At least not with our present lot. Over work and burn out with little protection for front line staff is common . The unions are weak and the organisation of social work within local authority as I have said is not fit for purpose.
      I am afraid the future for social work does not look good. I hope That I am wrong, but with out a professional ethos and the increasing pressure to solve social problems which in reality are as much political as personal I can only see it getting worse .It is very sad really . I met many great social workers over the years . Many became disillusioned with what was once a great job. Lack of contact with client’s spending many hours on useless computer programs a insensitive management , one felt that one was no longer valued unless you could operate the latest computer program or restrict the service to yet another client. You were just a operative. There was no longer any intellectual base for what you did .You just did what you were told complete anther useless report for the benefit of some jobs worthy employed further up the hierarchy. Many social workers got out before they were stuck. For others it was too late. They carried on as best they could just carrying out what the bureaucracy required keeping as a low profile as possible. Some could not cope burn out stress illness was common. One felt angry. Many who had the will climbed the hierarchy out of the firing line ..It literally was survival of the fittest. Certain personality types could survive this onslaught, others could not.

  9. Roselyn Thompson August 5, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    He should not blame others for his incompetent, he is a manager and he should have an understanding of all referrals come into his department as they sorted out into risk factor, he should communicating with his staff while going through the pile. High risk factor should send alarm bell ringing in his head. For example, a referral came in stating that a child heavily bruise and says his mum hit him/her this is high risk and that child must be seeing ASAP.

  10. Imelda August 7, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

    Poor manager, Insufficient support or accountability by higher management, greedy corrupt government and wrong decision by HCPC – AGAIN!! Same old!!

  11. Dave August 9, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Just for a slightly different view – there does seem to be a real tension between the old-style view of professionals as independent practitioners responsible and accountable through their registration for their practice and conduct and more recent approaches that emphasise systems, procedures and management as increasingly important ingredients. Either way, neither frontline professionals, nor the people that manage them can have their cake and eat it – poor frontline practice does not excuse poor management and vice versa.

    The question HCPC should be asking (and I have little confidence in them) is “Given the circumstances that this social worker found themselves in, did they act with an appropriate level of professionalism and responsibility”. I am not sure the brief report here allows us to be really know about whether or not they did do that.