A social work manager has been sanctioned by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) after his decisions and failure to record and carry out supervision sessions left children at risk.
The manager was made subject to a 12-month conditions of practice order despite the fitness to practice panel saying he worked with “a heavy caseload, poor working conditions, inadequate management support of him in his role as a manager and significant personal health issues”.
The panel said his actions had put young people at risk of harm. Failings found proved, and admitted by the registrant, included:
- Recording inconsistent information on the case
- Not ensuring timescales were identified for a statutory visit to be undertaken
- Not completing weekly risk assessments for a month
- Recording inconsistent information on a case
During the fitness to practice proceedings, two social workers who he managed gave evidence. One said “she felt that the workload was too heavy” and that he had “done what he could to ease the burden on the team”.
A second social worker agreed that everyone had a heavy workload and there was “little” the manager could do to ease it.
“The office space was open plan, noise and crowded with limited desk space,” they said.
The panel who heard how, at one stage, the social work manager was responsible for managing “about 120 cases whereas 65 cases was the optimum caseload”.
He was investigated by a locum practice improvement manager, who said as a manager he was responsible for ensuring processes progressed in his social workers’ cases, even if the social worker themselves had taken responsibility for the failings.
“The panel’s overall findings of misconduct reflect a lack of adequate recording in relation to supervisions and reasons for his management instructions, a deficiency in progressing statutory procedures and a lack of follow up action to identify risk in his supervision of colleagues,” it said.
He described a “hectic and disruptive period” while the council underwent a “hurried implementation of the Munro report reorganisation”.
“The registrant felt that the [locum practice improvement manager] did not appreciate the burden of the caseload upon him when she made her findings. There was no time or space for social workers to reduce the caseload by closing cases, which involved significant administration,” the report said.
However, it added: “The registrant accepted with hindsight that he was not firm or directive enough in imposing clear deadlines on staff.”
‘Insight and reflection’
The social worker hoped to return to social work but not as a manager, and the panel was impressed by the insight he had shown into what went wrong, by how he reflected well on his practice. It also noted that his colleagues said he was accessible and supportive.
The panel also considered his working context, which he said was under the pressure of “time and resources with a heavy caseload to manage and insufficient staff”.
However, it said as he had not been able to work as a social worker since the period considered by the panel, there was still a chance of repetition and sanctioned him with a 12-month conditions of practice order.
Under the terms of the order, he must submit a reflective piece about the HCPC proceedings. If he is hired as a social work manager he must place himself under the supervision of a more senior manager registered with the HCPC and attend monthly supervision sessions with them.