A social worker who became “overwhelmed by the workload” following a service restructure has been sanctioned by the Health and Care Professions’ Council (HCPC) after failing to update records, carry out safeguarding procedures and giving incorrect advice to another social worker.
The social work manager struggled with a service restructure which caused “great upheaval”, volatility in his team causing a reliance on agency staff and an increased workload due to extra measures required to implement the Care Act, such as reviewing a high number of cases.
After the allegations of failings had been made against him, he was suspended from the council, and resigned from his post several months later and has not worked as a social worker since.
The panel said his failings had breached codes of conduct, including the need to keep accurate records, act in the best interest of service users and of the need for social workers to know the limits of their practice and manage their own workload.
The panel said he had opportunities to get support and did not do so, and he did not express concerns about his workload during supervision.
‘Unusual confluence of events’
Despite the failings and the social worker not engaging in the hearing process, it concluded a caution order would be appropriate due to the “unusual confluence of events existing at the time” making it unlikely he would repeat the failings.
In his favour, the panel found the social worker had a previously unblemished 26-year career, was relatively new to his management role, and had been subject to an “extensive workload”, which not only included his own but the “additional 200 cases the team was responsible for reviewing in light of the Care Act changes”.
No service users had come to harm because of failings, and the staffing in his team was “volatile”, the panel found.
He was referred to the HCPC by the then acting service manager for mental health after external sources had raised concerns.
The panel found while he had been overwhelmed by the workload, this was not noticed by senior managers, and the social worker reflected in the council’s investigations that he had “been experiencing a level of fatigue which meant that, at times, he did not keep up with work that needed to be done and was prioritising the immediately demanding cases”.
“In the panel’s judgement, throughout the period of change and restructure, there was little management assistance for the team leaders. There were some opportunities for meetings, but there was an absence of operational policy direction on key elements of the change to assist the team managers, and not enough detail provided to assist with effective implementation.”