A social worker suspended after keeping her records in “chaos” has been told she should have asked for IT training.
A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) fitness to practise committee said the adoption social worker, who had been in the profession for 20 years, had kept her records in such chaos it was “impossible” for colleagues to obtain an accurate picture of what happened with her cases.
The panel said failure to keep records was misconduct because it would be difficult for colleagues to access vital information from her cases in an emergency, and wouldn’t support adoptees to understand decisions made about them.
The panel said the social worker had conflated “a lack of training and the effects of stress with her poor record keeping”.
“The panel finds this to be evidence that the registrant only has limited insight into the significant of her failings and does not, in her submission, address the effect on service users.
“The registrant had a responsibility to draw her IT difficulties to the attention of management and, as an autonomous professional, should have asked for training.”
Cut and paste
The misconduct happened at a time while the council was going through a reorganisation, and there were three possible places for social workers to record their work.
The records the social worker kept were mainly “a series of emails” with no “case notes, records of telephone conversations or home visits or summaries”.
“The records were email discussions which had been cut and pasted into the system. There was no clear or cohesive record of the work undertaken or of meetings and attendance notes. The registrant explained that it was her practice to make handwritten notes during meetings. She also asserted that it was common practice at [the council] to destroy those records once the [Prospective Adopter’s Report] had been completed.”
In total, five allegations were made against the social worker over poor practice. The panel found she breached the threshold for misconduct by being unable to keep records and also by failing to protect the confidentiality of service users, after she told adopters the local authority was planning to place a half-sibling of their child with an adopter in the same town.
She proceeded to tell the adopters the first name of the prospective adopter, her profession and her relationship status, which was enough for them to identify her. This was after she had been told not to do any further case work by her manager, and while the disclosure was “inadvertent”, it caused distress to adopters in an already “delicate and difficult” situation.
The panel concluded it was necessary to suspend the social worker for six months even though she has not worked in the profession since 2015, she admitting the allegations found proven, and stating she did not want to return to be a social worker,
“Given the nature of the registrant’s conduct, together with the lack of remediation and insight, the Panel were satisfied that such an order would provide appropriate protection to service users. Such an order is also required to maintain public confidence in the profession, as well as declare professional standards, as it marks the seriousness of the departure from proper standards, displayed by the registrant,” the panel said.