HCPC suspends social worker for practising while unregistered

Manchester practitioner barred from working for 12 months after 'dishonestly' providing incorrect work history dates

Health and Care Professions Council
The HCPC will hand over responsibility to Social Work England on 2 December

An experienced social worker has been suspended for 12 months by a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) tribunal after it emerged she had practised for months while not registered.

The social worker, who did not attend the tribunal, was removed from the HCPC register in May 2014 after missing a payment. She was not re-registered until May 2016.

The panel heard that, on her application to rejoin the register, the social worker had declared that she had not worked since 22 October 2014. But documentary evidence showed she had in fact continued to practise until being suspended by the council on 17 November 2014.

In reaching its decision on a sanction, the tribunal decided that the social worker had intentionally recorded an incorrect date rather than simply being careless.

“The panel was satisfied that, applying the objective standard of ordinary decent people, knowingly [inserting] the incorrect date in the application to join the register, which is a formal and important document, would be considered dishonest,” it said.

‘Memorable date’

The tribunal heard from two witnesses, a business manager at the council employing the social worker (‘Witness 1’) and an employee in the HCPC’s registration department (‘Witness 2’).

Evidence from the two demonstrated that the social worker in been in the council’s employment while unregistered between 7 May 2014 and 23 May 2016. Witness 1’s statement and electronic council records further showed that the social worker had continued to work past for almost another month beyond the date declared on her 2016 registration form.

In weighing whether the social worker’s actions were dishonest, the panel considered that the date of her suspension “was more likely than not to have been a memorable date for her, being a significant event in her employment which would have made it clear to her that she was practising until then”.

The tribunal also found that the social worker had mentioned during an investigatory interview that she had not been practising since November 2014.

“On the balance of probabilities, in making the incorrect statement [on her form], the registrant sought to minimise the time during which she had practised unregistered,” the panel found.

‘Acute awareness’

In considering whether the social worker’s actions constituted misconduct, the tribunal found that as a senior practitioner she should have been “acutely aware” of the importance of keeping her registration up to date.

“By being employed as a social worker for some two years while unregistered, despite periods of sickness or suspension, the panel was satisfied the registrant fell seriously short of the standards expected of her,” the tribunal report said.

The social worker had failed to rectify the situation for a “significant and protracted period” after discovering in October 2014 her registration had lapsed, the panel found.

“In addition, the registrant knowingly provided inaccurate information to her regulator in a form which contains a signed and dated declaration,” it added. “This fell far below the standards expected of her, and the fact that she did this dishonestly meant she fell seriously short of the fundamental professional obligation of a social worker to be open and honest at all times.”

The panel concluded that the social worker, who did not provide a statement to the hearing, had failed to show insight into her situation. Nonetheless, it said she could apply for an early review of her sanction, based on producing evidence of reflection as well as references from people willing to back up her honesty and integrity.

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8 Responses to HCPC suspends social worker for practising while unregistered

  1. Julian September 4, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

    HCPC is just a money making machine. Does missing a payment makes you unfit for practice?
    I have no idea when my HCPC registration is due for renewal and I think it is highly likely that most social workers are not “acutely aware” of it. As far as I am concerned, the direct debit takes care of the ongoing payments and I spare no second thoughts on the matter.

    I agree that dishonesty is incompatible with the profession, but don’t agree with being unable to practice unless you pay an exorbitant fee to HCPC.

    • Andy September 5, 2018 at 11:49 am #

      To be fair, HCPC send out directions about re-registration and payments several weeks in advance of the due date. I received my details in the mail a few days ago for action by October.

  2. Rhino September 5, 2018 at 7:24 am #

    I also suggest a floored HR department , management scrutiny within the Authority.

  3. sw111 September 5, 2018 at 1:23 pm #

    Unfortunately when the workers are inundated with pressures of work, deadlines, juggling family and professional demands, doing the required to re-register can be missed.

    I would also like to add that workers need to take responsibility for these tasks.

    However, shouldnt the employer advise, guide and prompt workers; shouldn’t that be the role of the organisation, management and supervisors to ensure the registration is completed.

    Hcpc need to consider all the issues in addition to dishonesty issue – the regulators need to be more balanced and have a holistic understanding in awarding sanctions.

    • MM September 5, 2018 at 8:29 pm #

      I was advised by the same HCPC that I could work as a social worker as long as the title I had was not “social worker”. I queried this and was told people still work as social work assistants. From my research social work assistants need to be registered. The information is confusing and HCPC do not go out of their way to help to get you reregistered. They do not offer courses or appropriate advice. I had to research and find a company who was providing appropriate courses. Don’t get me started ion olacementsthere aren’t any if you are not registered even if you have the relevant experience. I’m hoping the new body will be better at serving the customer.

  4. Colin September 5, 2018 at 5:24 pm #

    Just got my renewal notice £180 for 2 years what a total waste of money can’t think why we pay these parasites. Think we should all refuse to pay what are they going to do suspend all our registrations. I seriously believe this is a useless organisation which does nothing to promote social work!

  5. ColinD September 5, 2018 at 9:13 pm #

    Once again we have to acknowledge that the social worker involved has not attended the hearing or made any statement to the HCPC. Even if there were failures of oversight or specific work related pressures the HCPC can’t take then into account if the subject of the investigation doesn’t raise them.

  6. Ed Long September 6, 2018 at 10:28 am #

    I can’t see that the comments relating to whether it was reasonable that an experienced SW let her registration lapse and / or whether their then employer should have been more alert to it are remotely relevant to this – she hasn’t been suspended for the original lapse: she was suspended for dishonestly providing false information when she sought to re-register.
    There might be, separately, a question as to whether that incorrect information was provided, as found, with intentional dishonesty, or in genuine error, but given that the SW neither attended nor provided a statement on this, it’s not unreasonable that the panel made the findings that they did.