Social worker suspended for drug use

HCPC suspends social worker who tested positive in hair strand tests for drug use

Published on 22nd February 2018

A social worker who tested positive for Class A drugs has been suspended from the Health and Care Professions register.

The HCPC Panel suspended Michael Herbert – who was employed as a Support Worker for service users with drug dependency problems at the time -  for 12 months after tests on his hair revealed that he had taken cannabis, cocaine or opiates.

Panel Chair Manuela Grayson said: “The use by a social worker of Class A controlled drugs must inevitably call into question his suitability to practice as a social worker, especially when he was employed as a support worker for service users suffering from drug dependency issues.”

In the course of court proceedings Mr Herbert was required to complete hair strand testing for evidence as to whether he had used controlled drugs.

A report dated 5 September 2014 of Alere Toxicology Plc stated that a sample of head hair was taken from Mr Herbert on 28 August 2014 for the purpose of testing for evidence of cannabis, cocaine and opiates. The report concluded that the test results were consistent with Mr Herbert’s use of cannabis, “crack” cocaine and opiates, including heroin, within the very approximate time covered by the hair section analysed, namely from the middle of June 2014 to the middle of August 2014.

Mr Herbert obtained his own toxicology report from DNA Legal, dated 13 October 2014. This tested hair samples taken from him on 25 September 2014 and provided a window of detection for approximately two months. This report concluded that he had been a small abuser of heroin and cocaine, but not cannabis, during the previous two months, i.e. from approximately 25 July 2014 to 25 September 2014. When providing information about his drug use to DNA Legal, Mr Herbert claimed to have stopped taking cannabis during the previous two months.

However, on the basis of the evidence contained in the two reports, which overlapped in time but together covered the period from June 2014 to 25 September 2014, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Herbert tested positive for the use of opiates, and cannabis and cocaine and “crack” cocaine between approximately the middle of June 2014 and August 2014.

It was also claimed that Mr Herbert had admitted to children’s services that he had used cannabis and/or cocaine occasionally. The evidence in support of this particular was contained in a Child Protection Review Report relating to a Review Conference dated 5 September 2014, which Mr Herbert attended. This contained information that he had “shared that he has used cocaine with Person A in between December and February 2014. He states that this was at home in the evening whilst Child B was in bed and was recreational use”.

This evidence is corroborated by evidence that Mr Herbert had admitted his use of cannabis and cocaine to other parties.

The Panel said: “The Registrant did not at the time show any insight or remorse. He has not engaged in these proceedings and has not provided the Panel with any evidence of remorse, insight or remediation subsequently. In these circumstances, the Panel considered that there is a significant risk of repetition of his use of controlled drugs.”

The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months. Such an Order will protect the public and allow Mr Herbert an opportunity to provide evidence of insight into this Panel’s findings and any remediation. A Striking Off Order at this stage would be disproportionate, they said.

At the review of this Order, a future Panel may be assisted by the following Mr Herbert’s attendance at the review hearing, a reflective statement about the outcome of these proceedings and evidence of insight or remediation, medical evidence that he has not recently used any controlled drugs and evidence that he has kept up to date with current social work practice.



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