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Social worker drove service user while drunk

Social worker who drove a service user while under the influence of alcohol is suspended

Published on 12th April 2018

A social worker who drove a car to help a service users move house while under the influence of alcohol has been suspended from the HCPC register for 12 months.

In November 2016, Amanda Muir was assisting Service User A to move house as part of her role Social Care Assessor based within the Ripon Rural Assessment Team with North Yorkshire Council. She was responsible for undertaking assessments of vulnerable adults and their carers and, as a Safeguarding Enquiry Officer, was responsible for some of the most complex cases in the team.

Service User A was a vulnerable adult with complex needs who required assistance with daily living and Ms Muir was assisting Service User A to move house and drove Service User A from his previous address to his new address.

However, on arrival at the new address, a community nurse who was present found Ms Muir to be “unsteady on her feet, slurring her words and smelling of alcohol”. She suspected that Ms Muir had been under the influence of alcohol whilst transporting Service User A and made an emergency call to the police, concerned that Ms Muir had driven while she was drunk. She also contacted her manager who subsequently attended Service User A’s home to offer support. 

After the police arrived and breathalysed Ms Muir, she was found to have 93 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml, more than twice the legal limit for driving which is 35 microgrammes per 100ml. She was subsequently arrested.

Ms Muir was convicted of “driving a motor vehicle when the alcohol level was above limit” on 22 November 2016 at North Yorkshire Harrogate Magistrates Court. She was disqualified from driving for 23 months, as well as being ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge. Ms Muir was also ordered to complete 40 hours of unpaid community work to be completed within 12 months.

The Health and Care Professions Council Panel noted the mitigating features which included:

• Ms Muir’s previous good character;

• No previous convictions or disciplinary findings;

• The high esteem in which Ms Muir was held by colleagues and managers;

• The positive evidence as to Ms Muir’s practice which was given by a senior manager, who stated that at the point of her leaving the Council, all of her cases were up to date and “in perfect order”.

The Panel identified the aggravating features which included the fact that she was acting in her capacity as a social worker whilst under the influence of alcohol and she had transported a vulnerable service user in her car whilst almost three times over the drink drive limit.

Ms Muir had not fully engaged with the fitness to practise process. Although she had sent a written submission for the Panel’s consideration, she did not attend the hearing.

The Panel took note of the evidence that Ms Muir’s actions were “wholly out of character” in an otherwise unblemished, long and successful career as a social worker. It also had regard to her expressions of remorse and regret and her insight. While the Panel found that she had not provided independent, verifiable evidence or remediation, it considered that such evidence could potentially be provided. The Panel considered that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate under the circumstances.

They therefore concluded that a suspension of 12 months would be proportionate and a reviewing panel would be assisted by Ms Muir’s attendance at the review hearing, a reflective piece which demonstrates full insight into the effect that her actions had on Service User A and the reputation of her profession an any testimonials and references from any work, paid or unpaid.

 

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