Social worker who assessed woman while she was asleep is struck off

The panel felt that service users were being put at risk.
The panel felt that service users were being put at risk.

A Fife social worker, who assessed an elderly woman while she was asleep, has been struck off for misconduct.

Helen Paterson, who worked for Fife Council in the Older People Team, was called to appear before the Fitness to Practise Panel of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

The panel found that she had been responsible for a lengthy list of failures that would put service users at risk.

During a total of 16 days of hearings held in April, August, September and December the panel heard about a number of failures to complete key tasks for seven months of 2015.

These were namely a failure to follow adult protection procedures, record procedures, carry out visits, record visits when visits and contact had been made and conduct reviews.

At one point Paterson carried out a single shared assessment (SSA) on an elderly service user while she was asleep, and later lied by claiming that the service user wanted to be placed in a care home.

The result could have been that the service user would then have been put in a home against her will.

The Presenter to the panel submitted that all these failures placed service users at risk of harm and collectively demonstrated performance that was unacceptably low.

Paterson was initially suspended in November 2015 and had a disciplinary hearing in February 2016.

She returned to work on November 2016 as part of another team, but did not complete her induction or carry out any ‘substantive work’ before being dismissed in October 2018.

Paterson did not appear before the hearing, but in a personal statement blamed a lack of support and training for her failings.

However, the panel did hear from three “credible and reliable” witnesses from within Fife social work department who stated Paterson was treated the same as her colleagues when it came to workload and induction.

The Panel decided imposing a Removal Order in relation to Paterson’s registration was the most appropriate sanction.

Its findings stated: “You failed to provide an acceptable level of care over a period of seven months.

“It involved a significant breach of trust. You have demonstrated limited insight into the impact of your actions.

“Your behaviour represents a serious departure from the standards set out in the Code in place at the time: it represents unacceptable behaviour.

“There is no evidence of remediation and the Panel heard no evidence from you that there is likely to be remediation.

“There are public protection and public interest concerns. Your actions demonstrate a serious disregard for your duties and responsibilities as a social service worker.

“Given the nature and seriousness of your behaviour across your practice, the Panel was unable to formulate workable or enforceable conditions that would adequately protect members of the public and serve the wider public interest.

“Social service workers who abuse the trust which society places in them should lose the privilege that comes with Registration.

“It was the view of the Panel that your sustained behaviour across all your practice renders you unfit to be a member of a caring and responsible profession.”