The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has said there were “shortcomings” in the cultural awareness training provided to a Romanian social worker accused of misconduct.
In a preliminary hearing, to decide whether the regulator should accept a consent order to suspend the social worker for 12 months, a fitness to practice panel said mitigating circumstances meant his behaviour may not meet the threshold for misconduct.
The social worker worked for the council between September 2015 and March 2017 and has since the allegation of misconduct has returned to live in Romania. He had signed a consent order giving permission for the panel to suspend his registration without the need for a full hearing.
The allegations centred around the social worker purchasing a TV from two service users while working as part of a council’s learning disability service and driving without a valid driving licence.
Apparent shortcomings in support and training
The panel said the television purchase would be an “explicit breach of a social worker’s professional boundaries”. However, it was unsure, if the case went to a full hearing, whether the threshold for misconduct would be met given some shortcomings identified in an investigation report prepared by the council.
This report identified some “apparent shortcomings in the support, cultural awareness training and management provided to the registrant, in respect of his induction, training and assessment, and, potentially, his consequent lack of understanding of his professional boundaries while working in the United Kingdom,” the judgement said.
A line manager told the panel he felt there was “quite a difference in culture in coming [to the UK] and accountability” of social workers, and that the social worker was “fundamentally a very decent guy” who had since realised “that he can’t do that”.
After the incident he had been allowed to continue as a social worker, with a full caseload and no restriction from his employers while they investigated.
On the issue of the invalid driving licence, it appeared he was unaware of this, and officials, including a member of the police, had checked the licence and failed to highlight it on three occasions. There was no evidence, the panel heard, that he had sought to conceal his driving licence details.
Consent order rejected
The panel rejected the consent order, which would have suspended the social worker for 12 months with his permission.
“In relation to sanction, the panel was of the view that a suspension order for 12 months would be too severe, given the nature of the registrant’s conduct and all of the potential mitigation outlined,” it concluded.
A full hearing will now be held, where the panel will consider the evidence, whether the threshold for misconduct was met and if so what sanction could be given.
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