A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) conduct and competence committee has said it was “inappropriate” for a social worker to text a service user out of work hours.
The panel cautioned the social worker for three years after she disclosed personal information to a service user. She was also criticised for sending messages to a service user on a Saturday and Sunday while working for a drug and alcohol charity, though the service was only open Monday to Friday.
The panel said texting the user outside of work hours was “inappropriate”, but the content of the messages was not.
“Social workers were expected to switch off their mobile phones at 5pm on Friday and to respond to messages on Monday mornings. The expectation was not reinforced by a written policy,” the HCPC said.
The social worker was also found to have disclosed personal information to the service user and failed to maintain adequate records of her work with him.
The panel concluded that disclosing personal information constituted misconduct and that sending text messages “fell below the expected standards of a social worker”, but did not meet the threshold for misconduct.
Failing to keep accurate records did not constitute a lack of competence, as the panel had not seen a wide enough example of the practitioner’s work.
The social worker told the HCPC she did not want to remain on the social work register, and the panel found she had accepted she should not have shared personal information with a service user.
The HCPC concluded the social worker should be made subject to a caution order for three years, as that would be appropriate “taking into account all the circumstances of the case”. This sanction enables social workers to continue to practise without restriction, but also aims to send “a clear message that… conduct was entirely unacceptable”.
Update: This piece was changed to better reflect the HCPC’s comments in the case and more appropriately reflect the reasons for the social worker’s sanction.