A social worker who breached confidentiality by looking at the case files of relatives without a reason to do so has been cautioned by the Health and Care Professions’ Council (HCPC).
In cautioning the social worker for four years, the disciplinary panel considered that the registrant was experiencing “particularly difficult personal circumstances”.
“The panel accepted that from 2012 onwards, the registrant experienced difficult personal circumstances…
“The panel was mindful that these events do not excuse the registrant’s behaviour but do go some way to explain the underlying cause of her lapse in judgement,” the judgement said.
Her breaches of confidentiality were discovered by her manager, who was checking cases after the social worker advised she was stressed. She found that she had accessed the files of her sister-in-law and her father’s second wife without a reason to do so.
The social worker admitted the allegations and expressed remorse for her failings.
She did not attend the hearing, writing to the HCPC to explain that “based on my experience in going through the disciplinary process that was held by my employer” she could not attend the hearing due to the “emotional impact”.
Despite accepting the mitigating circumstances and the fact the social worker said she was in a better place with her personal circumstances, the panel still concluded the social worker breached data protection and confidentiality, which were “fundamental to the role of a registered social worker”.
It added there was no evidence of harm committed to the two service users and gave the social worker a four-year caution.