More social workers being found not guilty by GSCC

More than 13% of social workers brought before the General Social Care Council on misconduct charges this year have been cleared, a BASW Online investigation has revealed, a marked increase on previous years.

Since January 2010, 125 cases have been heard by the regulator, of which 14 have ended in a finding of no misconduct and in another three the committee found the allegations against the social worker could not be proved.

In two cases it was decided that the social worker’s misconduct was not serious enough to warrant admonishment, suspension or removal from the social care register – the three sanctions available to the committee.

The findings contrast sharply with the first five years of the Council’s conduct record. A BASW survey in May 2010 found that during its first five years of operation more than 200 registrants were found guilty of misconduct, just six cases concluded that there was no misconduct and in three instances the facts could not be proven.

The number of cases heard by the GSCC has soared this year, up from just 34 in 2009. It follows pressure to clear of backlog of more than 200 cases, identified in July 2009 and highlighted in a damning report by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

Following the report’s publication, the GSCC hired a raft of freelance investigating officers to help process outstanding cases. Figures obtained by BASW under a Freedom of Information request revealed that more than half of permanent staff employed by the General Social Care Council to undertake conduct investigations left the organisation between July 2009 and July 2010.

It also found that more than 20% of freelance investigating officers ended their contracts with the GSCC over the same time period.

This week, Catherine Holmes became the fourteenth social worker to be cleared of misconduct, following a one-day hearing in London. Ms Holmes was found to have misled her manager by giving him inaccurate records, including details of supervision sessions she had not carried out, but the committee decided her actions had not been deliberately dishonest.

Katherine Mingay, counsel for the GSCC, had argued that Ms Holmes had failed to keep clear and accurate records, showing “an inability to do her job in a reliable and dependable way”.

But the committee concluded: “The registrant did not always act in accordance with best practice in that she may not always have complied with the codes of practice. However, we do not consider it to be bad enough to be characterised by misconduct.”