A social worker who was found to have attended work under the influence of alcohol, spoken inappropriately about service users and accepted a caution for battery without notifying the regulator has been suspended by the Health and Care Professions’ Council.
During the hearing, the panel found the social worker had referred to a service user as “Mrs Fifty Shades of Grey” in front of colleagues.
The panel said it was “unacceptable” to have referred to a service user in this way.
“It is common knowledge that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a sexually explicit novel. By implication, use of this phrase has sexual connotations and may create a particular impression of the person referred to,” the panel said.
“Colleagues found this uncomfortable and unacceptable, as would service users and the wider public. It was a serious falling short of the standards expected of a social worker or any other professional or employee,” it added. This was misconduct, the panel said.
Another allegation that she had discussed the popular book and film franchise with a service user was found not proved.
The panel also heard evidence the social worker, who had previously stepped down from a manager position over sickness absences, had been under the influence of alcohol at work and failed to notify the HCPC over a caution for battery. It also said it had heard evidence to prove she had acted “inappropriately and/or erratically” around colleagues.
In deciding on the sanction, the panel said the risk of repetition was “high” because the social worker had failed to remediate her failings.
“There was a pattern of behaviour over time that was linked to the use of alcohol. At the time, the registrant denied that her use of alcohol was impacting on her practice. The panel has no information to say that this has changed. The impact of any repetition is potentially serious, with a risk of harm to service users and to the reputation of the profession,” the panel said.
In her favour, it said the social worker’s misconduct had happened over a “relatively short period of time”, and she was described as a “previously excellent” social worker.
It concluded a suspension order for six months was necessary.