Social worker who claimed she had been ‘set up to fail’ suspended for putting service users at risk

HCPC rejects claims that practice failings were due to high workload, impact of sick leave and lack of support

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.

Cancelled sessions

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”.

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12 Responses to Social worker who claimed she had been ‘set up to fail’ suspended for putting service users at risk

  1. Diane Cooke July 2, 2018 at 8:40 pm #

    Another overworked s/w crushed by bullying managers. HCPC are a joke, they just agree with everything the Local Authority allege. This happens all the time and will continue to happen until thorough investigations into aggressive L.A’s is undertaken.

    • Darcy July 4, 2018 at 8:59 am #

      Totally agree. Too many social workers being referred to hcpc by bullying L’As who don’t give a fig about staff who are expected to be robots and sacrifice their own personal lives/time. Managers as usual are never investigated. “Public shaming” is right.

    • Eco-Social Worker July 4, 2018 at 11:59 am #

      “When she returned from sickness she had a caseload of three”

      Hmm. Not so sure a caseload of three counts as overworked!

  2. Derek July 3, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

    Sadly this is worry for many social workers struggling to manage excessive workloads.

  3. Paul Owens July 4, 2018 at 2:12 pm #

    Hate HCPC with a passion but I agree that a case load of three doesn’t really stretch you too much.
    I’ve come back from a year and a half out following operations etc and have a case load of 12 on a three day week. Funnily enough I manage, and expect to have around 35 cases in a month or so. But then that’s children’s social work for you.

  4. Dale July 4, 2018 at 2:12 pm #

    Did people actually read the article, 3 cases rising to 8. Not engaging with her advanced practitioner. I am not saying LA’s do not have a lot to answer for, but I am not convinced this person was overworked……

  5. cyrnix July 4, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

    Without making comment on the above individual case this would be my personal observation of such circumstances. Perhaps a closer examination of the conduct of employing authorities senior staff should take place, given the Blame Game culture and active scapegoating, harassment and bullying which is endemic within Social Services by senior management. In my experience, there are like Orwell’s Animal Farm, only two classes of social workers.
    Those who have the protected shelter of their friendly managers’ and those who do not. The former express mock sympathy and empathy toward the latter. But in reality, they will never face the horror of an employer and its representatives creating the perfect storm leading eventually to a referral to have their competence ‘looked at’ by their professional body.

    Many of those sitting on such review panels and hearings, are out of touch with the reality of the sw departments in the 21st century pressures and stress of working in such toxic environments experienced.

  6. sw111 July 6, 2018 at 12:18 pm #

    It is so depressing to hear again and again, of the excessive and disprortionte sanctions of HCPC. What is striking off going to achieve – simply ruin a worker’s life, livelihood and profession, cause low self esteem and confidence to the workers who are working and justify the management’s actions.
    If the hcpc decision was more productive to lay down the training requirements, and making arrangements to help the worker address the shortcomings, then it will help this profession.
    At present, because of the hcpc draconian approach towards the worker’s, the worker’s shy away from engaging with the process as they know that they will be dismissed and considered liars. It is unfortunate that hcpc, perhaps if they understood the systematic theory and practices would have had some understanding that in majority of the cases, the management unsupportive and critical attitude paves the way for poor practice.
    I am insure about the details of the above case but the hcpc siding with the management in most of the cases is eroding confidence from the workers and does not help in raising the standard of the profession as the whole process is subjective.

  7. Cyrnix July 7, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

    I totally concur with the above response. Until there is a fundamental change in focus as to the calibre and type of staff who become management, coupled to a more medical type model of a no blame culture and a determination to create systemic learning for the profession. Then a organisation such as the HSPC, will justify its existence by the constant stream of our more vulnerable underdog colleagues, will continue to be paraded and scapegoated in the name of being unfit.
    It reminds me of the pitchfork holding villagers pursuing the (so called) Mary Shelley Frankenstein’s Monster, groups of people will always seek solace in the scapegoating and creation of victims in the name of their self prescribed Cyrnixjustice.

  8. Jack July 9, 2018 at 6:36 am #

    Unfortunately, the only way to protect yourself is to go on sick leave or leave your employment before they leave you. Is this the right way forward?
    when you are fully aware your management team are not supportive for you to practice safely. Also, let’s be honest with ourselves we know if we are not coping with our allocated case loads. This should be addressed in supervision, recorded and if no support is offered to you. Why stay there? Hence, why so many of my colleagues choose agency work to get out quickly from a bad situation.

  9. maria July 16, 2018 at 9:34 pm #

    everyone is well aware that bullying, harassment & intimidation is rife in social care & its just getting worse & thats why SW’s are leaving the profession/their jobs in droves!

  10. Kirstenl July 21, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    Seriously guys, bullying and harassment? The SW had a caseload of 8 and still their practice was not of an acceptable standard and service users were not put first.
    We’re responsible for safeguarding.
    The employer did the only responsible thing they could be referring to HCPC.