Social worker and manager sanctioned over ‘inadequate’ risk assessment

The panel said the risk assessment did not recognise concerns of serious disclosures

Image of computer key marked 'assessment' (Credit: momius / Adobe Stock)
(Credit: momius / Adobe Stock)

A social worker and her manager have been sanctioned following an “inadequate” risk assessment which did not reflect the level of risk posed to – and by – a looked-after child.

A Health and Care Professions’ Council fitness to practice panel found a social worker’s risk assessment “fell seriously below the standard” expected. Despite this, her manager signed off the risk assessment, saying it “addressed all of the issues”.

The pair worked in a looked-after children team, and the failings were around the case of a boy in long-term foster care. The risk assessment was carried out following disclosures of sexualised behaviour between the boy and “a number of children”.

Inadequate assessment

The manager was given a one-year caution order, while the social worker was given a conditions of practice order for the same period.

The panel stated that the social worker’s risk assessment contained no analysis of the situation and did not recognise the concerns raised nor provide any guidance for the professionals supporting him.

After not recognising or challenging the poor assessment, the manager then failed to address it with the social worker, the panel found.

It said the manager “should have ensured that the risk assessment was updated to the required standard as a matter of urgency”, but she failed to do so until more than a month later. The panel asserted that it she failed to “exercise adequate management oversight”.

While the inadequate risk assessment was in place “the risk to [the child] and/or his peers was exacerbated”, the panel said.

Concluding misconduct

The panel concluded the risk assessment was “fundamental to the care of the child” and the social worker’s inadequate assessment constituted misconduct.

It said the manager’s “action and inaction” in terms of approving the risk assessment before failing to get it updated quickly was also misconduct.

The manager was said to not appreciate “the danger or risks” presented to the child and his peers following disclosures of sexual behaviour by the child. “She did not demonstrate any understanding of the gravity or the risks such graphic and serious disclosures presented,” the panel said.


In deciding sanctions, the panel listed the social worker as being “relatively newly qualified”, on a performance improvement plan and was absent from work for a period where the poor practice happened as factors in her favour.

The manager was cited as having had a previously unblemished career, and was a new team manager working throughout a workplace restructure which saw four service managers in a short period of time and a high staff turnover.

She was given a caution order by the panel as it said she had remediated her practice and shown insight into her failings. As a result, the word ‘caution’ will appear next to her name on the register for the next year.

The social worker had expressed a desire to return to social work, but the panel imposed conditions of practice as there was a lack of remediation. She must inform the HCPC if she is employed in a social work role, notify her employer of her sanction and place herself under the supervision of a HCPC-registered colleague.

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9 Responses to Social worker and manager sanctioned over ‘inadequate’ risk assessment

  1. Borstal Boy November 22, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

    Why on earth did this end up at the HCPC? What is wrong with using LA procedures to address this ? Another CS dept in chaos and yet they find time for this? Sometimes I despair.

    • Sarah November 29, 2017 at 6:44 pm #

      My thoughts exactly!

  2. Chris Mills November 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    Mis-judging the seriousness of a situation or doing a poor piece of work is not ‘misconduct’. The HCPC should concern itself only with truly egregious behaviour, not with people struggling to do a good job in difficult circumstances and failing to get it right on a particular occasion.

    Stoking a blame culture has two serious negative consequences: (1) it drives good people out of the profession and (2) it makes it difficult for people to be open and honest about the things that go wrong, with the deeply worrying consequence that safety and quality failings are covered up and therefore not properly addressed.

    Bringing cases like this doesn’t make children safer – it make services more dangerous.

    • Rob November 24, 2017 at 9:35 am #

      Totally agree, there needs to be a continued effort to move away from blame towards a learning culture, especially where NQSWs and new managers are concerned. This amounts to an abuse of power on the part of the HCPC.

  3. Paulie November 26, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    Well since they destroyed Lisa Arthurworrey part in the Victoria Climbie travesty above all others culpable, although she was newly qualified, and allowed her line manager to remove documents and hide her inadequate supervisory abilities and decision making it is open season on underpaid, over worked, under supported Social Workers. What surprises me is why they are confused that we don’t want to do the job anymore. But hey the judgemental get to sit in swanky offices with inflated salaries passing out detrimental judgement while we fund their lavish lunches.

  4. Milynda Moore November 29, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    Newly qualified social workers should not be working on risk averse cases without at least weekly supervision. It is one think to know in theory what actions should be taken and another thing entirely when doing field work. I believe that Senior Social workers or Consultant Social workers should be providing practice supervision and should be responsible for risk assessments. The team manager should be adequately providing supervision to the Seniors and Consultants and should also be overseeing contentious risk. This is often not the case as all social workers are fighting fires due to austerity and systemic failure.

  5. Tim Dredge November 29, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    Misconduct means does it not premeditated or intentional purpose or by obstinate indifference. None of which seems to apply here. The work done may well have been inadequate . Is that what now constitutes misconduct. Furthermore that work is yet again being carried out by newly qualified staff who perhaps shouldn’t be carrying this level of responsibility and by a manager without blemish on her record and who was in fact, herself, new to that role and it is further noted both were working within a restructure with seemingly high staff turnover and no doubt the resulting chaos such circumstances can bring. There may well have been failings in this case which of course need to be dealt with but to be pilloried in this way does nobody any favours. This should have been dealt with in-house not at the HCPC. I fully agree with Chris Mills above when Chris says ” The HCPC should concern itself only with truly egregious behaviour, not with people struggling to do a good job in difficult circumstances and failing to get it right on a particular occasion.” No wonder people are leaving the profession in droves and of those that are staying many do not want managerial or supervisory positions.

  6. Ken Terry December 1, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    The investigation should have been carried out by another social worker under safeguarding procedures. I agree should not have been referred to HCPC

  7. lucy December 6, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    Why would the NQSW want to return to social work practice after this experience? Run for the hills and find a more rewarding and less punitive and punishing field.