Poor social workers ‘not reported’

Potentially incompetent or dangerous social workers are able to carry on working with vulnerable people because councils fail to report misconduct, the industry watchdog has warned.

LGC has discovered that shortcomings highlighted by the Baby P tragedy have prompted General Social Care Council (GSCC) chair Rosie Varley to write to all authorities, urging them to refer more cases, amid claims of a gulf in reporting standards between local government and the NHS.

In the letter, Ms Varley will urge directors of children’s and adults’ services to be more proactive about reporting cases, expressing fear that a climate of silence could expose other authorities — and service users — to risk.

Last year, 35 social workers were struck off the GSCC register , while eight were suspended, and 23 ‘admonished’ with a black mark next to their name for up to five years.

However, the GSCC believes councils are not reporting all of the cases they should.

Lord Laming’s report on improving child protection which followed the Baby P scandal recommended the GSCC’s code of practice on reporting concerns about staff be put on a statutory basis.

Ms Varley said that some authorities did not understand their responsibilities. “We’ve had a number of cases where we have learned about an untoward event because of the attention it has received in the media — and that is not how it should happen,” she said.

“Baby P is a good example of a case where we should have been alerted, but we didn’t find out about Baby P’s death until the press coverage of the trial.”

Ms Varley said that the NHS’s record in referring cases to professional bodies had improved greatly since the Harold Shipman scandal, but that the social care sector lagged behind.

“The NHS had already alerted the General Medical Council to the case about the paediatrician involved and by the start of the trial their case had already been heard,” she said of the Baby P case.

John Dixon, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services , said councils should share information on staff misconduct as widely as possible, but warned that a blitz of referrals could damage recruitment into the profession. “We’re a long way from the position of doctors,” he said.

Andrew Cozens, the Improvement & Development Agency ‘s strategic adviser for children, adults and health services, said the GSCC’s relatively low profile could be to blame for the situation.

Jasmine Ali, head of the Local Government Information Unit ‘s Children’s Services Network, said the GSCC should be clearer about what it considered the minimum grounds for de-registration
were and that more referrals would not necessarily drive up standards.