An executive director of safeguarding has been suspended by the HCPC after it was revealed he authorised payments to help renovate a foster carer’s home that he had a financial stake in.
A conduct and competence committee heard the senior social worker told a colleague to approve the payment to the foster carer but did not inform them that the carer was his ex-partner, he paid £4,000 a month towards the property’s mortgage and he was planning to sell the home.
The panel found the social worker showed no insight into his misconduct, and instead he made repeated references to “systemic” failings at the council and other individuals’ failings.
His ex-partner was approved as a foster carer for three children. After assessors found her house was suitable to accommodate four children, she sent a letter to the social worker detailing changes that should be made to the property to help accommodate the children.
The social worker, who could authorise the payments as executive director, passed on the request to the practice manager overseeing the case. He said that the foster carer was a friend of his but did not disclose their past relationship, or his financial interest in the house, which the panel concluded was dishonest.
Following this, his ex-partner twice received funding for changes to her house, with the second payment directly authorised by the director, the panel found.
In his defence, the social worker told the panel he assumed the practice manager would have read his ex-partners ‘Form F’, which showed his interest in the house. But the panel dismissed this, and said there was no expectation for the colleague to have done so.
“The registrant had no reason to assume that [the practice manager] was aware of his interest in the property. In any event such assumption did not displace the obligation upon the registrant to directly disclose his interest at the time of his discussion with [the practice manager],” the panel said.
It added that he was not motivated by personal gain but by his desire to do the right thing for the children in care.
“However, his conduct is serious enough to amount to misconduct due to the breach of professional boundaries and the fact his behaviour has the potential to bring the profession into disrepute.”
The panel said that, as a senior professional within the council, he should have been aware of the proper processes to follow, and have regard to the public perception of his behaviour.
The discussions over funding changes to the home “spanned several weeks with several opportunities to recognise and address the issue”.
“The registrant stated in his evidence that: ‘…most of it I would not do differently, I would remind people more directly of their roles and responsibilities’. He thereby focussed on the roles of other people and did not acknowledge any fault on his part.”
The panel decided a six-month suspension was necessary as the social worker had not properly recognised or remedied his failings.