Social Worker Suspended from the Northern Ireland Social Care Register

A Northern Irish social worker, Fionnuala Patricia Burke, has been suspended for six months after ‘reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol and by having used abusive language to a colleague whilst at work.’

The NISCC Social Care Register Committee found that Ms Burke’s misconduct was a serious breach of the Code of Practice for Social Care Workers.  By reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol, Ms Burke had not been reliable and dependable, she had not worked in a lawful, safe and effective way and had behaved in a way which called into question her suitability to work in social care.  The Committee also found that Ms Burke’s use of abusive language to a colleague whilst at work had breached the requirements in the Code of Practice that social care workers must not abuse, neglect or harm service users, carers or colleagues and they must work openly and co-operatively with colleagues, treating them with respect.

The hearing was conducted in private as the Registrant’s ill health may have substantially contributed to the alleged misconduct.  The Health Procedure within the NISCC Conduct Rules allows for information regarding the Registrant’s health to be presented to the Conduct Committee in private.  In reaching their decision to suspend Ms Burke’s registration for six months, the Committee had taken into consideration the legal and medical advice given and the contents of the medical reports submitted.  Taking all of the factors into consideration, the Committee decided that this is the correct and proportionate sanction.  The Committee felt this sanction will properly protect the public and maintain confidence in social care services.

Dr Jeremy Harbison, NISCC Chair, said:“Social care workers must be honest, reliable and dependable. They have a duty to act appropriately at all times and must not neglect or place service users, colleagues or themselves under unnecessary risk.”

“Registration of the social care workforce is a major step towards improving and maintaining standards in social work and social care. There are over 200,000 people using social care services in Northern Ireland and they can now have confidence that the small number of workers registered with the NISCC who do not meet our minimum standards, will be held accountable and can be cautioned or removed from the Register where the Council deems it necessary to protect the public from poor standards of conduct or practice.”