A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) panel has rejected claims by a social worker that she was “set up to fail” by management as it suspended her for 12 months due to putting service users at risk of harm.
The social worker – who didn’t attend the hearing because she said it would be a “public shaming” – argued practice failings were due to a high workload, the impact of stress-induced sick leave, low morale and support, poor management and being put on duty work “every day” after returning from sick leave.
However, these claims were rejected by the conduct and competence panel, which said the social worker was “properly supported in relation to her work-related stress” and had been provided with an informal and formal performance improvement process (PIP) by managers.
When she returned from sickness she had a caseload of three, which rose to a caseload of eight by the time her employer suspended her. Despite this, she said she had been “set up to fail” by the process.
“Other social workers at the registrant’s level had around 20-25 cases,” the panel heard.
The social worker, who worked with adults, was found to have failed to complete and record a funding application for a service user’s transfer, did not record an analysis of a service user’s vulnerability and failed to provide analysis of the link between a service user’s potential eviction and the risk of suicide.
The panel also heard how she cancelled sessions with an advanced practitioner, which were set up to help her practice improve as part of the PIP.
“The registrant sought to explain the shortfalls in her recording and assessments by alluding to the pressures that she and her colleagues were facing. The registrant also alleged that the investigation, following on from performance management actions, was oppressive,” the panel heard.
It disagreed with her points, and said there was no link to her new manager being the reason for her poor standard of work as concerns about her practice had been long term, and it said the duty work was supposed to be a “supportive and protective measure” due to it requiring “little record-keeping” and provided “close management and other support”.
Lack of competence
The panel concluded the social worker displayed a lack of competence in her practice, and that the failings related to six of her eight cases, which was an “unacceptably low standard”.
The social worker was suspended for 12 months after the panel decided she had “breached a fundamental tenet of the profession by not placing service users at the forefront of her practice and failing to act in their best interests”.