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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Reprimand for social worker who failed to act on colleague’s abusive behaviour

Written by The Editorial Team

A social worker who failed to act upon concerns over the abusive behaviour of a colleague towards a child in their care has been reprimanded at a professional fitness to practise hearing.

Caryl Ann Rees, who was employed by Wrexham County Borough Council, was accused of failing to take appropriate action when notified by a family support worker that a colleague had used a plastic bottle to control the behaviour of a child under her care.

During a Care Council for Wales Fitness to Practise hearing in Cardiff, Ms Rees was also accused of giving inaccurate or misleading information when questioned about the incident on two separate occasions, and that in doing so she had acted dishonestly.

The Panel heard that Ms Rees had been employed as a senior social worker in the Child Health and Disability team at the time of the incident, and was the allocated social worker for the child, referred to only as Individual A.

The incident came to light in September 2013 when staff became aware that the project worker had been using a detergent bottle as a means of controlling the child’s ‘challenging’ behaviour. The worker was subsequently investigated and disciplinary action was taken against her.

It was alleged that an early opportunity to intervene was missed as a result of Ms Rees’ failure to act upon concerns raised by colleague Gillian Williams.

The Panel was told Gillian Williams made a specific trip to see Rees to report the incident on 30 July 2013.

The Panel said: “She said in her evidence that she gave you a full report of what happened and that this included Project Worker B telling Individual A that if her behaviour did not improve she would get the bottle.

“She went on to state that she asked Project Worker B what she meant by the bottle, in response to which Project Worker B said she would show her and brought a plastic detergent bottle into the room.

“At this, the child’s behaviour changed immediately.”

Caryl Ann Rees accepted that a conversation with Gillian Williams had taken place, but disputed that specific concerns were raised, instead referring to it as a “passing conversation” of which the significance was not made clear by Gillian Williams.

Finding the charge proved in part, the Panel told Ms Rees: “Our finding is that Gillian Williams failed to convey sufficient information to you to enable you to realise the seriousness of the incident, and in particular that there was a threat.”

But they added: “There is little doubt that an early opportunity was missed to investigate an abusive behavioural control technique that was being used by Project Worker B.

“You have indicated that, with the benefit of hindsight, you wish you had stopped the work that you were doing and engaged with Gillian Williams further to try and understand the nature of her concern.

“The Panel agrees that this was appropriate action that you should have taken, notwithstanding the importance of the child protection reports you were preparing.”

The panel two other charges – relating to her giving misleading information and acting dishonestly – proved.

A separate charge of giving misleading information which further amounted to dishonesty was found not proven.

In considering whether Ms Rees’ fitness to practise is currently impaired, the Panel commented: “You withdrew the dishonest information relatively quickly, but this does not change how serious it is.

“Dishonesty is difficult to remedy, even where it does not actually cause harm. In this case, you have not admitted that you were dishonest, nor have you shown any remorse or insight into this.”

The panel found that she failed to uphold five parts of the Code of Practice for Social Care Workers, including that her failure to act had placed a child at unnecessary risk.

The Panel imposed on admonishment of four years, meaning a mark will remain against Caryl Ann Rees’ name on the Register of Social Care Workers for the duration of the sanction. She was told her dishonesty was a breach of a fundamental tenet of the social care profession and that she had failed to show any genuine remorse for her behaviour.