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Social worker struck off after falling in love with service users' mother

Social worker began relationship with a victim of domestic violence and failed to inform his employer

Published on 14th January 2019

A social worker who fell in love with the mother of a child whose case he had been allocated has been struck off the social work register.

Mr Andrew Richard Teague was the allocated social worker to Family A who were on child protection plans due to domestic violence in the family. He crossed professional boundaries by embarking in a relationship with the "vulnerable" mother and failing to inform his manager.

Mr Teague started working for Wokingham Borough Council in October 2012 as a locum social worker before taking on a permanent position in June 2015. His caseload included a mixed load of children in care, children in need and child protection cases, as well as private family proceedings.

In December 2016, Mr Teague was allocated the case of Family A. The children had been subject to child protection plans due to domestic violence. The mother, Person A, separated from the father after being in an abusive relationship with him and the father then left the family home. A non-molestation order was imposed and the children were taken off child protection plans.

The father of Family A then instigated private law proceedings in order to increase his contact with the children. As the allocated social worker, Mr Teague was tasked with completing a Section 7 report for the court to outline the council’s view of the father’s contact.

On 24 October 2017, Mr Teague met a colleague and admitted he had been in a relationship with Person A. The colleague informed Mr Teague's service manager, Ms K. She contacted Mr Teague later and he confirmed that he had been in a relationship with Person A since September 2017. Ms K informed him this was unacceptable and that he would be suspended with immediate effect. He was also told to end the relationship with Person A as she was a service user and he was still technically an employee of the council. Mr Teague was upset, but professional and enquired about the internal disciplinary process.

Ms K met with Person A and informed her that Mr Teague would no longer be her social worker and that all parties involved in the private and family law proceedings would need to be informed of the relationship. Person A also informed her that she and Mr Teague had fallen in love and a close friend had advised them to inform the council.

Mr Teague's statements and reports about the family were removed from the court bundle and an independent social worker was appointed to complete a further section 7 report.

A disciplinary investigation took place and Mr Teague admitted his relationship with Person A. During the internal interview he also admitted he had continued to see Person A after having been informed he should end the relationship. He also said he was aware of the impact of his behaviour and that this was unsuitable for a social worker. The matter was referred to the Health and Care Professions Council.

At the outset of the HCPTS hearing, Mr Teague admitted that he began a personal relationship with Person A, and did not advise his manager at the time the relationship began and only advised his employer of the relationship on or around 23 24 October 2017.

The Panel considered that the findings in this case are particularly serious. By entering into a relationship with the Person A, he jeopardised the wellbeing of the family and breached fundamental tenets of his profession.

Person A was a particularly vulnerable individual who had been in a physically abusive relationship sustained over many years. Mr Teague was in a position of power as he was the family social worker and abused that position of power by entering into a personal relationship with Person A.

"The Registrant knew that it was highly inappropriate to enter into a relationship with a service user, particularly when he was the allocated social worker to her family. He knew at the time that he was in breach of policies at the Council and his professional standards. Despite knowing this, he continued to see Person A and engaged in a sexual relationship for over a month prior to informing his employer or ceasing to be Person A’s social worker," said the Panel, concluding that his failings were serious and amounted to misconduct.

"The Registrant abused his position of trust. He deliberately carried on a relationship with a service user which he knew to be wrong and that sexual relationship occurred in the home of vulnerable children. He recklessly ignored the advice of his employers to end the relationship. It was clear from the Registrant’s oral evidence that he puts himself and the relationship first before the needs of the children," the Panel concluded.

The HCPTS Panel said that a striking off order was the only appropriate and proportionate order.

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