A social worker who argued that a recording backlog had become “disabling” has been sanctioned by the Health and Care Professions Council after a failure to update records left children at risk.
The experienced social worker admitted the allegations in respect to record keeping for 15 service users, but argued the council’s record management system and a lack of time contributed to her failings.
A fitness to practice panel sanctioned the social worker to an 18-month conditions of practice order.
During evidence, the panel heard from the social worker’s team manager, who said she “had a high level of ability but that she chose to prioritise contact over recording”.
“The registrant worked four days per week and her caseload of approximately twenty cases at any one time was lower than would be expected of a social worker at her level, so in [the team manager’s] view she was not overburdened with work, particularly as several cases were ready for closure or settled cases,” the panel heard.
The manager added the social worker had taken criticism “too personally”.
‘Under constant scrutiny’
The social worker told the panel an internal capability process had “damaged her confidence and made her feel that she was under constant scrutiny”.
The written judgment said at the time of the incidents “the burden of the backlog of recording had become so overwhelming that it had become disabling, especially when she was distracted by other personal issues”.
The panel also heard the social worker “struggled” with the computerised recording system and had failed to attend reflective practice sessions arranged for her by her manager.
The manager said the social worker had felt “humiliated” by having a colleague mentor her who she had previously mentored herself, before they had been promoted above her.
The panel said the social worker had shown sufficient insight into her failings, but not remediation in providing evidence of a development plan to address them.
It concluded her “persistent and regular” failure to maintain and update case summaries and care plans in a timely manner, and to undertake and record statutory visits, placed young service users at risk of harm.
In one of her cases, a teenager referred to children’s services after sustaining a non-accidental injury or his assault by his stepfather. Despite the “high risk” to the child, an audit revealed the case study had not been updated for four months.
While the social worker insisted she had completed statutory visits, her manager said “they were not loaded”, and was unable to say if visits were timely if not recorded.
The panel concluded: “Failure to maintain or to undertake these basic safeguarding duties would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners. The panel also noted that the registrant’s manager gave her ample time and regular opportunities to correct her deficiencies but she failed to make the necessary improvements.”
It said there needed to be conditions on her practice to ensure public confidence in her role.
As part of the order, the social worker must, whether employed as a social worker or not, propose/create a development plan to address deficiencies in record keeping and time management. If she is employed as a social worker, this must also include measures to address deficiencies in using standard social work case management systems.