The HCPC has let a social worker continue practising without a sanction after she lied about working 12-hour night shifts at a care home before coming into work.
A HCPC panel ruled there was no action necessary for the social worker’s misconduct as it did not have a direct impact on service users, and happened at a time while the social worker was going through very serious difficulties in her personal life.
The panel heard that the social worker started the second job to remedy significant financial difficulties she was in, but that were not caused by her.
She started her first role as a social worker in a children’s team in October 2013. In January 2014, she started a 36-hour contract with a care home to work three 12-hour night shifts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She would also do overtime night shifts.
She continued to work in the care home for 21 months, during which time on a number of occasions she would do the night shift and go straight into her role as a social worker “without sleep, or reasonable respite”.
“There were occasions when this occurred over consecutive days amounting to, in effect, almost 72 hours of continuous working without reasonable respite,” the panel found.
As a result the social worker was likely to have “compromised her capacity” to do her job, the panel said.
After the care home called her council to inform it that she worked a second job, a disciplinary investigation began.
She fully admitted her actions to the HCPC and council after she initially lied about working night shifts before doing her job as a social worker. She also made a sincere apology in evidence to the HCPC.
The panel said it was not wrong for a social worker to have a second job as long as it was appropriately managed by their main employer.
In this case however, the social worker failed to recognise the wider risks of carrying out the care home job, did not exercise sound judgement in taking job, and therefore was not acting responsibly or in the best interests of service users, the panel added.
But it took into consideration the “exceptional” personal circumstances, as well as the social worker being newly qualified and without “consistent managerial oversight and supervisory support” in the first stage of her time at the council.
For example, her Assessed and Supported Year in Employment, which normally starts at the start of a newly qualified practitioner’s first year, started a year after she began working for the council. The council also failed to give her an induction into its policies and procedures when she started her job, the panel said.
The HCPC criticised the social worker for not pursuing other means to help with her private life, such as accessing help from family and friends, who subsequently did offer to support her.
After a new, supportive manager was appointed, “she did not fully inform him of the difficulties she faced, in particular that she had a second job”.
“As a result [the manager] was unable to assist her in managing the situation, nor was he able to manage any risk to the service users, or to the reputation of the council.”
The unwillingness to share her problems with colleagues was due to her being a “deeply private person” who wanted to resolve the situation herself, the panel said.
It also said her decision to lie to her employer was serious, but a “knee-jerk” one made under distress, and followed her already resigning her post at the care home. The panel concluded the lie was “at the very low end of the spectrum of dishonesty”.
Despite her employers starting disciplinary proceedings, they continued to employ her in a non-social work role. The panel said she had an ongoing commitment to social work and “significant potential”.
It concluded that under the case’s “wholly exceptional circumstances”, the social worker had shown insight, remediated her failings, and posed no risk of repeating her errors.
“The panel has therefore decided that…it will take no further action, and that this matter should be brought to a conclusion.”