Social worker struck off after lying about university qualifications to employer

HCPC panel concludes social worker's misconduct 'struck at the heart' of requirement to 'act with honesty and integrity'

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A social worker has been struck from the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) register after lying about her university qualifications to her employer.

The panel ruled the practitioner’s misconduct “struck at the heart” of the requirement that all social workers would act with “honesty and integrity”, adding she had “breached a fundamental tenet of the profession”.

The social worker, who was employed in an adult safeguarding team, was required to complete post qualification study at university as part of her employment.

However, it was found she had plagiarised a colleague’s assignment and lied to her employer about completing and passing the task.

Despite considering mitigating factors, such as facing “difficult family and health circumstances”, the panel decided to strike the practitioner’s name off the register due to “the nature and gravity” of the misconduct.

Plagiarised work alert

The panel listened to evidence from two social workers who had worked with the practitioner.

AF, a social worker and senior social work lecturer, told the panel that, as part of the university module, students are required to submit a study based on their caseload.

It was heard the social worker’s submission gave a plagiarism score of 31%, with AF adding that she believed any score over 25% may be of concern.

The plagiarism check also found that 31% came from the same source, namely an assignment submitted by another student, Colleague A, in 2014.

Completing her own comparison of the two pieces of work, AF said there were word changes from the original assignment which would not have been picked up by the plagiarism detection service used when assignments are uploaded.

The panel heard students were made aware of the university’s policies and requirements in relation to plagiarism.

Investigations into plagiarism

Following her submission, the social worker was invited to attend a meeting with the university’s academic conduct officer on 16 March 2016. AF said the practitioner was informed she could accept an academic conduct penalty of 0 marks and not attend the meeting if she so wished, which she accepted.

The university notified the council of the suspected plagiarism and named Colleague A as the past student of the paper which the practitioner’s own assignment had matched.

The panel also heard evidence from MS, who had been the social worker’s line manager and the investigating officer in relation to the allegation of plagiarism

She referred to notes of interviews she held with the social worker as part of the council’s investigation in November and December 2016.

During the first interview, the social worker confirmed Colleague A had given her an electronic copy of her assignment, but she was unable to remember when this was.

The social worker said she had attended all the university module days and the assignment tutorial but could not remember if guidance had been given about plagiarism at the tutorial. She also denied reading the university’s academic code of conduct around plagiarism.

In the second interview, the social worker admitted the ideas used in her essay were actually the thoughts of Colleague A and that she had used some of her references.

Turn of events

The panel also heard how the social worker had informed her employer that she had passed her post qualification.

MS said she asked the social worker about her qualification at a supervision meeting and she had said everything was fine.

The panel noted, in the November disciplinary interview, it was put to the social worker that MS “was surprised to find out that [she] had not passed the module as during a case management discussion in March 2016 [she] stated to her that she had passed”.

The social worker did not deny that she had said this to MS, though she did say “I thought I’d passed”.

Considering the evidence, the panel was satisfied the social worker had been made aware of her responsibilities in relation to the submission of her own work, had plagiarised the work of Colleague A, and submitted it.

It also found the social worker had informed her employer she had passed her post qualification when she knew this was not the case.

Standards of conduct breaches

“The registrant’s actions undermined public confidence in [the council] and in the social work profession and were so serious as to call into question her fitness to practise as a registered social worker”, the panel ruled.

In the absence of significant current insight and remediation, the panel was unable to conclude the social worker was not liable to repeat misconduct of this kind and concluded her fitness to practise is impaired on the grounds of public protection.

It was said the social worker’s misconduct “struck at the heart of the requirement that all social workers act with honesty and integrity”, while submitting a plagiarised assignment and lying to her employer about her performance was deemed to be “incompatible” with her continuing on the register.

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6 Responses to Social worker struck off after lying about university qualifications to employer

  1. David McClean October 1, 2018 at 4:23 pm #

    What undermines my confidence in the profession is when qualified social workers fail to do their job properly to protect the vulnerable, not that they are guilty of plagiarism, heinous and despicable as that is to all.
    I’m not saying that it’s not important to hold those who lie to account but there needs to be proportionality. Lying about caseloads and interventions and risk is one thing. Copying classwork to secure a job is something else. This should have been an internal disciplinary matter. Unless of course the employing authority just hadn’t the nerve to sack her and needed to have the HCPC pull the trigger “on the grounds of public protection”.

  2. Spike Threadgood October 1, 2018 at 7:47 pm #

    Omg. They have surpassed themselves. They have STRUCK OFF a social worker, who has shown considerable insight and remediation!!!!
    Post qualifying academic study whilst in post, likely holding a large and complex caseload, is in itself a massive ask. It’s usually expected to be done in the workers own time. Entirely unsurprising that staff share assignments, they cite that 30% was allegedly plagiarized, so the overwhelming majority of it was this practitioners own work. Whilst from an academic perspective this is NOT ok, but from a coal face social work perspective?????? This worker has likely gone into huge debt to gain a qualification in social work, successfully passed this and been working in the profession. No indications that there are concerns about her ACTUAL practice, but HCPC panel once again demonstrate that they have NO IDEA about the realities of front line practice. Not fit for purpose. Time for them to be relieved of their role.

  3. jim October 2, 2018 at 12:16 pm #

    No excuse for her actions regardless of one’s views of the HCPC. Indeed she was very lucky she did not get prosecuted for fraud because that is what it was. If she had been a registered doctor or nurse their regulatory body would have done exactly the same irrespective of how much was plagiarised and what her case load was..she should be barred from social work for 10 years if not for life given she deliberately lied to and cheated her college and employers, but was caught out otherwise she would have got away with it and said nothing!

  4. SB October 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm #

    Was it established if the workers practice methods were an issue ?
    I can guess that every staff member in the team has an unmanageable caseload, however,
    the workers carry on, and on.
    I would like to know more about the workers abilities in the real world arena and not just the world of academia.

  5. Melanie October 7, 2018 at 9:02 am #

    Honesty and integrity MUST remain integral to our profession.

    Just think…we are having to make decisions which includes gathering information, assessing and analysing that information then forming a view (and an action plan). The decisions made will at times have a life changing effect so surely that requires integrity, honesty and a sense of curiosity to ensure we can gather, sift and add meaning to the information. If someone decides to take a shortcut by forging their assessment how can that be acceptable?

    Using this analogy although extreme, would you like someone to come into your family, take away your voice and remove your child?

    There is exceptional work taking place in social work training and practice which we must not forget but I am nevertheless left saddened by some who struggles to read with understanding, express a view based on evidence or even write a coherent sentence. As a result let’s give credit to those who challenge poor Practice and stand up for upholding the integrity of our profession.

  6. Linval Hermitt October 17, 2018 at 11:17 pm #

    I cannot comment on the specifics on the case, but note the distress, disappointment and upheaval to all involved. This includes the individual and employer side where over a period, confidence and (mutual) trust would have been fundamental in the engagement and relationship.

    In context of wider societal learning and academic training, there has been recent report of concerns of this activity being more wide spread, where market industries provide such services. This may reflect the competitiveness pressure and stress placed on students to make ‘progress’. My note is not to condone, but to help place proportionality of response beyond the individual.

    Social Work is a sensitive and fundamental work area where by definition, trust, truth, courage etc are the qualities which gives confidence. I am not certain any one person, or bodies are best placed to make moral judgement on the individual case, without structurally challenging to some extent where under similar pressure themselves to perform.

    At the end, it comes down to the individual person to have courage (and/or if possible receive support) to exercise integrity in face of such pressure. I am confident the individual would have taken learning from this matter and hopefully will draw courage and support to go forward in his/her best career calling.