‘Rude and aggressive’ social worker who endangered sick child’s health suspended

Practitioner's behaviour undermined relationships with others, panel hears

A “rude and aggressive” social worker who put a sick child at risk and left the child’s carer feeling “bullied and harassed” has been suspended from the register for 12 months.

A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) tribunal heard that over a period of months, the social worker, who was employed via an agency with Devon council, “actively undermined” relationships thanks to his unprofessional and oppressive manner.

While stopping short of striking the social worker off, on the grounds that his failings were capable of remediation, the panel found that it was appropriate to impose the maximum available suspension.

Point of contact

The tribunal was told the social worker had been allocated to two children, Child A and Child B who had been placed under a special guardianship order with Person A. One of the social worker’s main duties was to arrange contact between the children and their mother, who lived elsewhere.

Shortly before the social worker became involved with the children, Child A had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer that afflicts nerve tissue. This meant that he had to attend numerous hospital appointments and that his immune system was compromised because of chemotherapy.

Among a series of particulars found proved against the social worker, the panel heard that:

  • He had contacted Person A to insist he attend a meeting about Child A’s care, at a time when there was a serious risk that the child might acquire an infection if he left his home environment. When a nurse spoke to the social worker to explain that Child A could not attend the meeting, he “simply would not accept her opinion”, the tribunal heard. In the end, Person A had to text the social worker on the morning of the meeting to say that Child A was too unwell to attend.
  • On several occasions, he spoke rudely and aggressively to hospital staff, apparently taking little interest in listening to them in order to understand Child A’s needs. On one of these, a doctor had explained that there was a prior arrangement that Child A’s mother would not see him during chemotherapy, which the social worker did not agree with. “The tone of voice and insistent manner of the Registrant was so marked that [the doctor] was concerned he would not accept the decision, would not speak to the consultant and would try to arrange contact while Child A was receiving chemotherapy,” the tribunal heard.
  • He had insisted that Person A bring Child A into school to discuss arrangements for his education, despite the fact the child was very weak and sick. The social worker had only informed Person A on the morning of the meeting, insisting that Child A’s mother phone and wake him in order to do so. Child A was so unwell at the meeting that he had to leave. There then followed a pattern of behaviour in which the social worker gave Person A “wholly inappropriate” notice of meetings and made threats to report him as uncooperative, leaving him feeling “bullied and harassed”.
  • He had behaved in a “confrontational and dismissive” way towards staff at Child A’s school, rarely responding to communications and cancelling meetings without notice.

One particular relating to the social worker grabbing Child B and pulling him into a room was found not proven, being based only on the evidence of Person A who had given inconsistent testimony to the tribunal and to other parties.

Risk of harm

The evidence was heard in the social worker’s absence after he had failed to engage with the regulatory process in any way.

The tribunal found that the social worker had put Child A at risk of serious infection by seeking to make him attend meetings while immuno-compromised, and that he had failed to act in the child’s best interests.

Moreover, the social worker did not merely fail to communicate with other professionals but “actively undermined communication [via] his unprofessional and oppressive manner,” the panel said.

It found that five of the individual particulars proven against the social worker amounted to serious misconduct on their own, as did three others when taken in combination.

“There is no evidence before the panel that the registrant has in any way remediated his faults or that he has developed any insight or recognised the seriousness of his misconduct,” the tribunal concluded. “In those circumstances the panel is satisfied that the registrant remains a risk to future service users.”

The panel ruled that the social worker’s suspension order be reviewed before its expiry. It suggested a series of conditions around the sanction’s potential lifting, including that the social worker attend the review and provide evidence as to his future fitness to practise.

More from Community Care

7 Responses to ‘Rude and aggressive’ social worker who endangered sick child’s health suspended

  1. Cristina November 1, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

    I agree with the decision of the HCPC on this occasion. Being professional does not mean that you stop being human, the social worker should have put the health needs of the child first. Many carers are doing a great job under very difficult circumstances.

  2. Joy johnson November 1, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    Typical a child is put at risk by someone who thinks they know better. It’s goes 20/30% social workers act. My son’s first.2 social workers were great of there was a issue around home conditions because of ill health they understood. They believed me when I spoke. Yet last social worker chose adoption for my babies because she didn’t want to work with me anymore. I had cancer and I was lied about instead.

  3. sabine November 1, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Why is that person even in this line of work. I cannot detect any childcentredness at all, nor any teamwork skills. What is really at the root of this?

    • Andrew Foster November 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      What does one need to do today to get the sack? No doubt this worker will soon progress to the ranks of management. Cynical……me? Nah!

  4. Averil kathan November 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    This is the type of practice that gives all of us a bad name. I’m shocked by the lack of compassion show towards this family. Any person who has the ability to use a search engine would have had access to the risks of neutropenia. Clearly this person did not. That begs the question – what other skills are lacking.

  5. Smacker November 2, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    With power comes responsibility, but unfortunately also arrogance in the case of some who’ve lost the ability to be human, so drunk they are on their power. Good riddance for a year at least. Will they reflect? No likely not.

  6. SW November 10, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    As an oncology social worker with a child protection background I find this absolutely appalling. I sincerely hope that this SW changes their attitude before returning to work.