A social worker has been sanctioned by the HCPC after four findings of misconduct relating to practice failings and comments on her personal Facebook page deemed “racially insensitive”.
At a recent conduct and competence committee hearing, a HCPC panel found the social worker, who was in her assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) at the time, had:
- not undertaken home visits when requested;
- not completed tasks within timescales;
- posted “racially insensitive and/or inappropriate” comments on a Facebook profile that identified her as a council employee;
- practised as a social worker while not registered.
The panel concluded that the conduct was remediable, but said it lacked evidence the practitioner had addressed the shortcomings since they occurred in 2016.
It decided a conditions of practice order was necessary as the failings could be addressed, and would be appropriate as there was no “persistent or general failure”.
One of the findings of misconduct was made over three Facebook comments the registrant posted from her personal profile, which identified her employer. These only came to light after the social worker was already being investigated by her employer.
In one post the panel considered, she said: “Listen carefully, Im [sic] a Black woman who loves black men, black culture & black people. Nothing else concerns me.”
The panel concluded this was “racially insensitive and inappropriate”, on the basis that if members of the public or service users from other ethnic backgrounds were to read the posts “they may form the view that the level of care or service to be provided by the registrant would not be the same as those from the registrant’s own ethnic background”.
In a second post, where she spoke about being approached by a group of white males on a night out, she referred to them as “MOTHER FUCKERS”, which the panel found to be inappropriate.
The panel said it was “concerned by the inappropriate language and racially insensitive comments posted on Facebook by the registrant” – though it acknowledged that in two of the three posts she was “recounting a personal and frightening event”. It also noted that the posts were open to the public to view.
The panel said members of the public “would not expect such language to be used by social work professionals and her actions may have resulted in confidence in the profession and her employer being undermined”.
It said the council had a social media policy which the social worker would have been aware of, and that the remarks breached the HCPC’s own social media guidelines for practitioners. The regulator’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics states that registrants “must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites”.
Aside from the Facebook comments, the panel found multiple practice failings on the part of the social worker. These included a failure to undertake a home visit to a child and record it, not discussing with her manager any delays to completing a single assessment plan and/or arranging a child in need meeting or completing a single assessment plan within the timescale of the referral.
These failures related to three children on her caseload, and the panel said it showed misconduct through a failure to manage risk. It concluded that “her numerous omissions placed the children at risk of harm”, and that while no harm came to the children, “the panel had no evidence before it that the registrant appreciated the risk posed to the children by not following the correct procedures”.
In deciding on the misconduct, the panel said she had shown “limited insight into her behaviour” and “in particular” what effect that could have on service users.
In reference to her practice failings, the panel found there was misconduct but concluded the fact she was in her ASYE year and there had been a lack of formal supervision were mitigating factors in her favour.
“The supervision should have been monthly and the evidence before panel indicated that it was bi-monthly,” the panel heard.
While it also found the social worker had practised without being registered, it decided she had not been dishonest about this because as soon as it was discovered she took the necessary steps to remedy it and alert her managers.
The panel found she had “some very traumatic episodes occurring in her life at the time that her re-registration was due”, which may have explained missing the lapse in registration. Nonetheless, the panel considered maintaining registration “a fundamental tenet of the profession” and therefore found it to be misconduct.
The conditions of practice order lasts for 12 months and includes her being required to inform the HCPC if she is employed as a social worker, inform her employer of her sanction, remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor and supply their details to the HCPC, meet with the supervisor on a monthly basis and allow them to submit written reports to the social work regulator.