A “complacent” county council’s failure to support a newly qualified social worker contributed to his invention of threats by a parent, a family court judge has concluded.
The inexperienced social worker, ‘LM’, had been involved in the preparation of paperwork relating to the children of a man called ‘CW’, who have since been taken into the care system.
A few weeks before the hearing was scheduled to take place, the “agitated” social worker called the Police, following rumours that the father had been trying to find his address online. He claimed that his own partner had unwittingly exchanged emails with CW’s partner regarding the possibility of her buying baby clothes from them and that she had gone to say that the father would be coming to their home to collect the clothes.
It later emerged that this call was “factually inaccurate” and “at other times exaggerated in its account of the incident to which it refers”.
Despite his exaggerations, the precise nature of which was not specified in the judgement, the truth-stretching social worker received a largely sympathetic response from District Judge Howell at a family court hearing in Bristol. Noting that LM had confided in his manager not long before the call to that he felt intimidated by the father, the Judge took issue with the council’s response to this admission, declaring:
“I am gravely concerned about how this young and inexperienced social worker was left in the position of potentially misleading the court in this way. I have had no evidence as to the supervision he received.”
He accepted that LM had been panicking and not thinking clearly and may have believed there was a a genuine threat to his family, continued Judge Howell.
“[Social workers] like LM must live in constant fear of retaliation from disgruntled and angry parents into whose lives they have intervened and that fear must have been magnified by potential involvement of his young family.”
But some of the blame for the social worker’s “unprofessional” behaviour lay with the council, the Judge insisted.
It was“surprising that a procedure had not been put in place when first he reported his concerns to anticipate the state he might be in if he perceived a threat in his own home, and which would have offered him support and guidance.”
Read the recently published ruling here.
Photo by TMAB2003 via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence