The High Court has rejected a social worker’s bid to have her suspension from the social work register overturned.
A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) conduct panel suspended the social worker from the register for 9 months in March 2016 for persistently failing to produce court reports and assessments on time while working as a case manager at Nottingham City Youth Offending Team between 2009 and 2012.
The panel found the social worker failed to produce reports and assessments on time despite management support and intervention because she was unwilling to change how she worked and regarded paperwork as inherently less important than her direct work with young offenders.
The social worker appealed to the court against her suspension on the grounds that the panel had “no proper basis” to reach the factual conclusions it did based on the evidence it had and that the sanction it imposed was excessive.
The court, however, rejected the social worker’s various objections to the panel’s interpretation of the evidence.
No knockout blow
One of these objections was that the panel’s conclusions on two allegations against her were contrary to the evidence given by two witnesses. But judge HHJ David Cooke dismissed this claim.
“It is right to say that there were points at which the witnesses partially accepted points put to them from [the registrant’s] submissions, but the thrust of their evidence was clearly such as to support the allegations found proved,” he ruled.
Judge HHJ David Cooke concluded that there was nothing in the evidence the social worker submitted that “deals a knockout blow to any of the evidence against her”.
The court also sided with the HCPC panel on the question of whether a nine-month suspension was a disproportionate sanction given that no harm had been caused by her practice failings, a suspension would prevent her continuing professional development and no issues had been raised about her work subsequent to leaving the youth offending team.
The court noted that while the social worker acknowledged her practice faults, the limited insight she displayed and lack of evidence of a change in her attitude meant it was appropriate for the panel to impose a sanction that would “sufficiently bring home to her the seriousness of the faults found”.
Cooke agreed with the panel that a caution would not be enough and that imposing conditions on the social worker’s practice was unlikely to deliver change given that management intervention had not had the desired effect.
As such the court concluded that a suspension could not be regarded as excessive and dismissed the social worker’s appeal.