Social worker who blamed ‘workload, computer failings and colleagues’ for misconduct sanctioned

The HCPC panel said the social worker was “unable or unwilling to accept that any fault lay on her for what went wrong”

Photo: PhotoSG/Fotolia

A social worker who failed to undertake basic social work tasks and blamed failings on her workload and colleagues has been sanctioned by the HCPC.

A conduct and competence committee panel said the social worker had caused actual harm to two service users, and placed others at risk, through a failure to complete assessments, make contact with new cases and schedule reviews in a timely manner. The failings related to 28 service users in total.

The panel decided a three-year conditions of practice order was the most appropriate sanction following the social worker’s misconduct.

Unwilling to accept fault

The social worker admitted to many of the failings identified by the HCPC, but tried to blame “her workload, computer failings or the inactions of colleagues” for them.

The HCPC said this showed a lack of insight as the social worker was “unable or unwilling to accept that any fault lay on her for what went wrong”.

“The facts found proved were serious and concerned a large number of vulnerable service users over a period of several months, with wide-ranging deficiencies in basic social work skills,” the ruling said.

“The panel is concerned that at no time in her evidence did [the social worker] seem to appreciate that her behaviour put service users at risk of harm,” it added.

Despite the lack of insight, the panel believed the social worker had a “strong desire to become a good and effective social worker again”, which had been proved by work done since the failings, for which she had received a positive report from her line manager.

Public interest

The social worker engaged in the HCPC process, had an unblemished record and had gone through family and personal difficulties at the time of the failings shown by the HCPC.

“It is clear from the report from her current line manager that she is willing to learn and indeed has done so as she has been operating effectively in a different area of social work,” the panel said.

The panel decided a conditions of practice order would be more appropriate than a suspension order as there was “a public interest in allowing a social worker to practice if this can be achieved safely”.

Under the order, the social worker must attend meetings with a supervisor every fortnight for 12 months, then one a month afterwards. The social worker must also formulate a personal development plan, share that plan with the HCPC, and maintain a reflective practice log detailing her learning.

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20 Responses to Social worker who blamed ‘workload, computer failings and colleagues’ for misconduct sanctioned

  1. Tom J August 9, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    Im confident that I could pull up any social worker with 30+ cases right now and easily find a variety of issues once I start going through with a toothcomb.

    The challenge for this social worker was that she did not show enough repentance. If I were her union rep I would have advised her that she has to play the game. Yes they have given you too much to do and you have an unblemished history- But the role of the HCPC is to place the target squarely at the social worker. So play the game.

    On the plus side- at least she is now one of the few social workers who will now receive regular supervision. Although please be aware that if the local authority fail to meet the required supervision ”every fortnight for 12 months, then one a month afterwards”- The HCPC will take no action at all against the local authority.

    • LongtimeSW August 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

      Well said Tom J

      – another case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ – so you either go and see service users in a timely way, make contact with new referrals, in a timely way, book and attend reviews , in a timely way – so all that in any one of the worker’s week of 37 hours (paid hours that is) – oh and don’t forget all that has to be typed/written/inputted up in a timely way – ok so are we talking about ‘timely’ being 37 hours? 57 hours? 67 hours?

      Don’t expect fairness or reasonableness – ‘the damned if you don’t’ is if you work your core hours, take TOIL earned, don’t work late nights and weekends and answer any queries about prioritising workload with ‘Can I have that in writing please so I and you are clear about what is expected and what you are taking for granted i.e. what used to be my goodwill which is no longer reciprocated by you as an employer’?’

    • Planet Autism August 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

      “I would have advised her that she has to play the game.”

      To lie in other words. To deny what she had done was wrong in “a failure to complete assessments, make contact with new cases and schedule reviews in a timely manner. The failings related to 28 service users in total.” to lie that she took no responsibility for “The facts found proved were serious and concerned a large number of vulnerable service users over a period of several months, with wide-ranging deficiencies in basic social work skills,” the ruling said.

      “The panel is concerned that at no time in her evidence did [the social worker] seem to appreciate that her behaviour put service users at risk of harm,”

      So you condone social workers lying so they can, with all their faults, remain in the role in which they cause harm by their actions.

    • leah August 9, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

      I agree and concur with Tom J’s view completely; the key here in the story was the poor overwhelmed and probably under supported Social Worker having 28+ cases. I mean, that number of families is unmanageable and unsafe, and not in the best interests of the children we are supposed to be protecting and supporting!!!! Realistically, you could not even visit this number of families in a month, left alone do all the other practical side of the job such as write complex reports, complete follow-up, and attend meetings etc.

      Unsurprisingly, the Social Worker appeared to be quite efficient in her new job, once she moved to another area of the professional (maybe outside of CP, and into the charity side), which obviously leads you to the logical conclusion it was not her, but the poor working conditions of the job which do not allow her to do the job she wanted to do. What about sanctioning these toxic and sinking work environments, and not blame the social worker- where is their duty of care to us to provide a safe, supportive, and manageable work place environment . Sadly, all I can see is doom and gloom for Social Workers in the CP & MH field, so it’s best to look at alternate careers, and keeping your options open.

      • Ivan August 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

        It does not state that she had 28 cases. It states that she failed in areas relating to a total of 28 service users. This could have been over a substantial period of time and may have been in relation to famiy members on one, two three cases or any variety of other combinations. . Lets not assume…especially as Social Workers

    • Kes August 9, 2017 at 10:36 pm #

      She caused direct harm to two service users and serious risk to many others and failed to see the part she played. She took no responsibility.

      Your comment and those on the fb page also show that many social workers fail to see or take any responsibility and repeatedly blame others. In all the comments on the fb page, not one mentions the harm caused to others.

      We can only be thankful these measures are now in place to improve her practice.

      Reading this and the comments on fb it’s no wonder social workers that social workers get a bad rep.

      • Tom J August 10, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

        Interestingly where I live it was revealed by parents that a teacher at an academy was having to teach a classroom for 60 pupils after one teacher went ill!

        Teaching standards for these pupils reduced dramatically, many pupils saw huge declines in progress, class behaviour deteriorated and for some it has effected future educational plans. AND YET unlike in social work- This teacher was not sanctioned.

        This was despite people like Kes and Planet Autism demanding that the teacher ‘take responsibility’.

        And here we have the rub- Culturally Local Authorities take no firm action (despite numerous serious case reviews) to achieve the basics of consistently reasonable caseloads and guaranteeing quality supervision. Moreover the local authorities are aided by the social worker funded body HCPC to hammer social workers for any individual shortcomings whilst using kid gloves on Local Authorities.

  2. maharg August 9, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    A non-news worthy news event. When asked where do I feel the blame should rest, who would honestly say on top of me place.
    You will logically cite caseload work conditions and
    environment, and if you were feeling particularly targeted other colleagues including the manager, so why is this is not a surprise. If you feel targeted, you may feel that you do need to defend yourself and deflect these outrageous arrows of misfortune, as you see them, and as the previous responder highlighted with being scrutinised. This is easy to identify a mass of issues to justify why they are failing to adhere to appropriate protocol and legislation, and web policy. Like they also said receiving the appropriate supervision and the appropriate time could be seen as a plus.

    It’s a shame that punitive measures have to be invoked to promote the appropriate support for staff and in addition it doesn’t reflect what level of appropriate supervision they received, as we know supervision ranges from a cup of tea and a macaroon to in depth analysis of individual cases and interventions.

  3. Ruksana Chowdhory August 9, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    The social worker may have had some “failings” but her concerns about the service should have been given space to be addressed, but I suppose it is not in the “public’s interest” for the HCPC to deal with systemic issues which place service users at risk every day.

  4. Borstal Boy August 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Yet again no mention of the failed management of this SW, no mention of what support she was given, if any. If I was her manager I’d be ashamed to admit it.

  5. ian kemp August 9, 2017 at 6:53 pm #

    It seems to me that the social worker concerned was dammed which ever way you look at it. That is the problem with modern social work in Local authority it is all about playing the game to survive. It is not professional .. Of course the HCPC. will not take action against the local authority. They cannot. The bureaucratic structure only allows one way traffic. It is downwards to those who have to work at the coal face doing what social work is supposed to be about, rather than managing the impossible systems that the local authority has created. At the top of the hierarchical system a lot of people are paid a lot of money, so it is in their interests, to pass as much as they can downwards to the social worker. That is the nature of a hierarchical system. It does not matter re limited resources and the sometimes totally insensitive managers politicians.. In my view the whole of Local authority social work should be taken away from local authority. A separate social work /care department that includes all care homes children’s old people disability along with all the support services home care . This would be centrally funded and professionally run . There would be a end to the stupid purchaser provider split .. Its been a total failure and a complete west of money. Yes there would be a bureaucracy, but a t least it would be under the control of social work. Cost well it would be expensive to start with . but in the long run much cheaper. The service delivery would be more sensitive and focused. Integration with NHS would be much easier, and flexible. Other countries have done it so why cannot we do it. Its political will I fear. It is the only way one will be able to develop a proper professional service that is effective and sensitive to needs of service users to use a awful term.

  6. Amy louise August 9, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

    Once again the managers not doing their job properly and the social worker getting the blame, surely supervision if any would have picked this up. The job is hard enough as it is without all the added pressure. I have done social work 10 years now and want out because the pressure and work load is getting more unmanageable And then you get the hcpc that we pay nearly £200 every two years making decisions on our career when not one of them have ever done front line child protection before but yet feel a panel can make decision from limited information

  7. Sue Moore-Holmes August 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    Where can social workers go for support?
    This social worker has admitted struggling to cope. She has not been repentant enough, it would appear. She has claimed that the ICT system and too high caseloads have caused her difficulties in keeping up. Surely this is an issue for her employers to address.

  8. rob August 9, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    In 2014 Childrens Services in Bucks, was ranked as “inadequate” overall.”And also in three key categories – dealing with children who need help and protection; children being looked after and “achieving permanence; and in leadership, management and governance…… Too many children are at risk of harm. The report goes on to say, with serious failures in assessing and responding to children and young people in need of help and protection”. Why therefore was the Service Manager and other managers reported to the HCPC as clearly they were failing in their role, Instead they all move on to new roles somewhere else ! Why are managers and higher management not taken to task when they fail not only the clients but their workers to ?

  9. Yvonne August 10, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Tom J you spot on. HCPC need to put organisations and their failings at task. They are fully aware of lack of regular effective and reflective supervision. Perhaps the organisation should keep a reflective log of their learning and what they can do differently to support their staff. 28 service users???? How did it get to that stage????

  10. frustrated August 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

    Yet again there is a complete lack of acknowledgement that the HCPC have absolutely NO remit to inspect or hold to account a local authority where conditions are bad. They are a professional regulator for the INDIVIDUAL practitioner and can only be involved with individuals who are registered. They do NOT investigate anyone unless a concern has been raised formally through their system. So if you have a bad manager who is a registered social worker you would need to make that complaint with evidence to get it through the stages of acceptance. Any regulator NMC, GMC etc. operate like this too. As registered professionals our regulators expect us to be responsible and accountable for our own practice…

  11. ian kemp August 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    That frustrated, does not really address the problem…If I may say it is a very bureaucratic response. The HCPC….Is limited I agree ..But if you work in a organisation that is not fit for purpose who will address that ?? social work has very little professional credibility as it stands,. It does not have the status or power of other professionals,. It is therefore vulnerable to whatever system it works with. If the tools or systems are inadequate, it is a catch 22..

    • frustrated August 11, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

      We have no professional body now as not enough people got behind TCSW. I did and was a member at the beginning as I knew a professional body was the only way to stand up for social work. HCPC can’t get involved directly in failing local authorities. The HCPC does have a memorandum of understanding with both Ofsted, NHS and CQC (among others) that anyone can see online and does share concerns (and can do this even before it’s own FTP processes are finished) so I’m not sure what else we can hope for from a regulator of individual professionals. I wasn’t meaning to be bureaucratic it’s just many posts here seem to have a misinformed view of what the HCPC can and can’t do. As a profession we will always be subject to regulation and I recall many an anecdote when the GSCC handled FTP of cases being left in drawers and not dealt with. Any new regulator will still need to investigate and deal with FTP issues and at “just” an arm’s-length from Department of Education I wouldn’t be surprised if the FTP process does not become even more punitive under Social Work England. I believe for teachers if the Secretary of State is not happy with an FTP process and outcome (i.e. if believed too lenient) they can essentially over-ride the independent panel. Currently the PSA can do that with HCPC decisions but only through the court process.

      • ian kemp August 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

        The problem is how much of a profession are we.? When as you say there is no real regulatory body. Social work in my view with Local authority as its platform and delivery has always been conflictual. In my 42 years in every form of social work right up to Team manager and back as a locum… worker The L/A has constantly failed to protect any form of professional development . L/A is a very large bureaucracy which has increased over the years via forms of incrementalism, …….. That is adding more managers and bits of bureaucracy. The end result is a pretty insensitive system that is overloaded with managers of this and that. Social work with a very poor professional identity and status, was absorbed into its various systems and as a result lost most of its professional identity.
        It was essentially part of societies corporate response to social problems. When you look at the way social work has been managed and controlled over the years, there has been a erosion of skills and any form of professional identity. HPCP, Ofsted. CQC are all part how one is trying to manage the corporate managerial system that has been developed over the years.
        I have for years argued for a separate social care system funded independently of the Local authority, with a proper professional ethos and a high level of education and skills. As it is the L/A systems / manageralism is extremely expensive and only delivers a marginal service at best. It is insensitive to local and changing circumstances. A independent Social Care department including all care homes/ children/ older people learning difficulty all support services managed professionally with good quality training , would in my view see a much more satisfactory reflective sensitive response to social problems. Finish forever, the stupid purchaser/provider split. yes there would be a bureaucracy but it would be much more sensitive and focused than the prevailing L/A .. Other countries can do it so why cannot the UK.. Integration with social care and the NHS would be so much easier.. Costs,…. well the prevailing system is extremely expensive and it delivers what can only be described as a marginal service, It really is a matter of political will is it not.

  12. Faye August 11, 2017 at 1:25 am #

    Yup we all know that our time is spent dealing with IT issues, photocopiers, payments and finance – all the stuff that has nothing to do with social work.