Practitioner suspended after inaction put children at risk of ’emotional and physical harm’

Concerns around the agency social worker’s practice were raised when his senior manager noticed uncompleted tasks, which affected safeguards

Photo: nadezhda1906

A social worker has been suspended for 12 months after he failed to carry out “some of the most fundamental and basic tasks”, which could have caused “emotional and physical” harm to “vulnerable children” under his responsibility.

A HCPC panel ruled the agency social worker’s fitness to practice was impaired on public protection grounds after he made repeated failings in relation to five separate service users over a two-month period.

This included failing to complete a section 47 investigation, which helps safeguard children who have been identified as at risk.

Despite considering mitigating factors, including “limited supervision at work”, the panel said there was a “very real concern” the practitioner would “repeat the same failings” unless action was taken.

In addition to the suspension, the practitioner was informed that a reviewing panel would be assisted by evidence of remediation and a reflective piece.

Numerous failures

Concerns surrounding the agency worker’s practice came to light on 27 January 2017, when he asked his senior manager, FB, to authorise a number of assessments he had completed. When FB reviewed the case, she noticed the social worker had failed to complete tasks, leading her to examine the social worker’s entire caseload.

The social worker was advised about the concerns with his practice four days later and given one week’s notice to complete the outstanding tasks. But his employment at the council for which he was working ended in February.

During the hearing, FB gave evidence to the panel about a three-year-old child who had significant previous involvement with social services. She said service user A had been a child in need for some time and concerns had escalated around the level of care that the parents were providing.

The child’s grandmother was providing full time foster care under a regulation 24 arrangement, due to the substance misuse and neglect of the child’s parents. Service user A required weekly visits until the first looked-after child review on 19 December 2016. However, FB said the practitioner failed to conduct weekly visits until the review, not visiting the child from 12 December until 24 January 2017.

During this period, service user A’s nursery reported a serious incident whereby the child’s mother had been under the influence of alcohol while bringing him to the nursery. It was also discovered that there had been a domestic violence incident between the child’s parents.

According to FB, the social worker “should have responded straightaway to the information that came in from the nursery as this was a serious domestic violence incident”. However, a copy of a child concern notification was not received by the police until later that day.

Oversight needed

As there were safeguarding concerns, FB said the social worker should have contacted his team manager because the incident required management oversight “to agree the strategy, course of investigation, and to seek agreement to request a foster placement”.

As an “experienced social worker”, the practitioner should have known to do this, FB added.

She said the practitioner should also have made arrangements to see the child “immediately” after he was prompted and told to arrange to accommodate the service user in a safe placement.

Referring to another case, the panel heard how the practitioner failed to complete a section 47 investigation surrounding concerns about the safety of an unborn child.

FB said a strategy meeting was held regarding service user D on 23 December 2016, due to information raising serious concerns about the child’s safety. Despite being absent from the meeting, the practitioner recorded in a case note of 29 December 2016 the plans and work that needed relaying in detail to the midwife involved.

This meeting required the team manager to complete an urgent application for court and the social worker to complete a section 47 investigation.

The child was born on 26 December and was allocated to the social worker on 28 December, with a section 47 to be completed. However, when FB spoke to the practitioner, she said he “had not progressed the strategy” and “had not completed the section 47 investigation as required”.

Records show the practitioner did commence a section 47 investigation but it had not been completed and signed off.

‘Serious concerns’

The panel considered there to be “serious concerns” about how the social worker had been conducting his practice during the two-month period at the council, especially because his caseload included “particularly vulnerable service users and their families”.

It pointed out the practitioner failed to carry out important visits and risk assessments, or to notify the police and other agencies about important matters, and arrange for strategy discussions to take place. The practitioner’s failure to complete a section 47 investigation was highlighted as a “particular concern”.

The panel said it found “widespread and serious failings” by the practitioner in “some of the most fundamental and basic of tasks” required of a social worker in “the critical field of child protection”. It concluded the failings led to “very real risks”, which “could have caused harm” to vulnerable children.

Despite denying the allegations and including in his hearing information form that he was “not supervised” adequately, the social worker failed provide further explanation or challenge.

The suspension was handed to the practitioner after the panel decided it would be “disproportionate” to strike his name off the register. It said a suspension would provide “the necessary degree of protection for the public”, while “leaving the possibility of remediation and improved insight”.

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10 Responses to Practitioner suspended after inaction put children at risk of ’emotional and physical harm’

  1. Tom J September 21, 2018 at 10:54 am #

    Interesting. I once had a team manager who would have me and my team doing immediate s47’s left right and centre. We did so many that we barely did anything else. One day I sought to challenge her about why we were doing so many. She then relayed a story about how a friend of hers had been sanctioned for not doing one.

  2. Fred September 21, 2018 at 11:23 am #

    The big brothers and sisters from the ghastly HCPC are at it again; compounding the actions taken by an employer.

    The continued existence of this bloated quango – HCPC – continues to mean that workers face a double jeopardy.

    One mistake by a social worker and they now face a double whammy. First you get warned sacked. then you get “sanctioned” by HCPC. 1 mistake; 2 sanctions.

    And social workers have to pay a substantial fee each year for the “privilege” of receiving the sentences handed down by those who somehow think they are fit to judge the mistakes of others.

    And they wonder why social work vacancies are hard to fill.

    • Errin September 24, 2018 at 8:39 pm #

      Dangerous times for social workers with the volume of work, unbearable scrutiny and the hcpc vultures waiting to pounce on referrails from uncaring managers. What incentive to stay is there……quite the opposite.

  3. M September 21, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    Whoa are the people that sit on the HCPC panel? Social care professionals, lawyers, ?

  4. sw111 September 24, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

    I would like to know what is the rationale for suspension. If that is not linked to any training programme, organised or delivered by the local authority or the agency hcpc delegates, it may tantamount to simply punishment with no avenue for the worker to demonstrate to address the concerns.
    Even in prison there is reparation, opportunity to reflect and improve yourself but if the hcpc and local authorities are not bothered to set goals for improvement, then under the guise of regulation and improving services they are simply punishing the workers and that appears to be their goal, not improvement of services.
    It appears hcpc and local authorities are bent upon creating a professional group that feels devalued, vulnerable and helpless against the giant unscrupulous employers. They have the power to annihilate and completely destroy you and make you destitute and a mental health patient.
    I do question the worker’s lapses and this should not have occurred; however there are ways of addressing the concern.

    Do the hcpc and local authorities want the workers to join the dole queue.

  5. Overseas September 24, 2018 at 3:52 pm #

    I find it still very interesting that not one colleague has bothered to challenge the decisions of HCPC in a court of law. It not only breaches Basic Human Rights, but also several other laws and regulations.

    Ironically one could dispute their vague regulations that serve to regulate several professions as one. It is clear to me that being a social worker and a physiotherapist are the exact same thing!

    I wonder if it is me overestimating their capacity or potentially going into realms of conspiracy theories, but it is as if the profession of social worker is not wanted at all.

    Accountability of managers and senior management is non existent.

    Surely one would challenge the said colleague at the first instance when such tasks are not completed, especially when Section 47 enquiries are clearly identified as a fundamental task on the electronic systems that then triggers for the line managers to have alerts when not completed.

    I wonder what else has the management not overseen!

    I find it extremely dangerous that such alleged incompetent colleagues are allowed to allegedly place vulnerable children at risk without any sort of frequent and regular supervision.

    Is perhaps the role of manager obsolete?!

  6. sw111 September 25, 2018 at 11:03 pm #

    Managers role is to refer the workers to hcpc, shift the blame before the finger is pointed out at them.

    The whole system is made to punish workers and to protect the managers; to challenge the hcpc’s decision in the court of law would be impossible as it would require huge sum of legal fees which obviously the unemployed worker cannot afford and it is basically impossible to win against these giants.

  7. Fred September 27, 2018 at 1:33 pm #

    Dangerous times for social workers with the volume of work, unbearable scrutiny and the hcpc vultures waiting to pounce on referrals from uncaring managers. What incentive to stay is there……quite the opposite

    Yes this interesting.

    We have highly vulnerable adults lying in their own mess for hours on end because of cuts to the social care budgets and the privatisation of vital services.

    We have the extremely expensive HCPC, which seems to have either been duplicating the role of managers or duplicating it. And HCPC staff, especially the ones wheeled in to hearings, are on Rolls Royce salaries, with holiday and pensions of the gold standard variety.

    It seems to desire to hammer social workers is a greater political priority than protect vulnerable citizens. Splendid priorities.

  8. Fred September 28, 2018 at 10:52 am #

    Thousands of children at risk of abuse and neglect are being left to fend for themselves because of substantial cuts to family support services over the past five years, a charity has warned.

    Action for Children said its analysis of official figures published on Thursday showed council budgets for early help services designed to prevent families falling into crisis had shrunk by £743m – more than a quarter – over the past five years.

    Oh well never mind. At least we have HCPC to protect us! Tragic.

  9. jim October 1, 2018 at 10:54 am #

    leaving aside what social workers might think of the HCPC none of the comments seem to have mentioned that the social worker in this case was consistently negligent and leaving children at risk by not carrying out crucial visits and assessments, or being too slow in notifying police and calling strategy meetings. And this was consistently the case with at least 5 of his cases over 2 months, and he offered little comeback in way of his own defence, So regardless of one’s opinion of the HCPC one cannot excuse consistently poor practice of an experienced professional..lets hope he improves after suspension or if not has the sense to leave the profession.