Social workers under fire for not helping investigation into complaints against them

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON.

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON. - Credit: Supplied

Two Norfolk social workers have been criticised after it emerged they failed to provide information to a regulatory body investigating complaints about the way they dealt with a case involving a child.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) found in March that neither had a case to answer, and the council strongly defended the social workers' decision not to provide information to the HCPC's initial investigation.

The council's child protection arrangements have been under close scrutiny since Ofsted branded them 'inadequate' in February, and in December ministers issued a statutory direction about improving the service.

The notices of decision issued by the committee said it did not draw any inference from the social workers' failure to respond.

An HCPC spokesman said: 'Individuals do not have to provide a response to the allegation. However, it does help the Investigating Committee to make a decision if they have information from them.'

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He added: 'Failure to engage in the investigative process simply means the registrant hasn't chosen to have their right to a response heard.'

Former councillor Paul Rice, who knew about the case, said he was concerned by the failure to engage, and added: 'There should be no secrecy. At the end of the day it's a public service. If there's an issue, that needs dealing with. Let's not have any scapegoats, but let's deal with the issue.'

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Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary for Unison at Norfolk County Council, said: 'My view is that anything that scrutinises care services should be participated in. If there are procedural errors they are making in good faith, or others could be making, there's a logic in everyone learning lessons for the common good. My view is we should be cooperating with them.'

However, he added employees should discuss cases with managers, and there could sometimes be factors that determined whether it was appropriate to respond.

Andrew Haley, head of safeguarding for children's services, said: 'It is grossly unfair these social workers should be criticised for not responding to the HCPC when the body themselves said there is no obligation to respond, they have drawn no inference from this and there is no case to answer against either member of staff.

'Social workers have an extremely challenging job and have to make very difficult decisions and it is inevitable that at times this will lead to complaints against them. However, this complaint was made to the HCPC nearly a year ago and did not even meet the requirements of a full hearing. The matter is between the professional body and the social workers involved but we defend our social workers vigorously.'

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