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Social worker who engaged in a sexual relationship with care leaver is struck off

Social worker described investigation as a 'witch hunt'

Published on 11th July 2019

A social worker who engaged in a sexual relationship with a vulnerable care leaver has been struck off the HCPC register.

Mr Robert Guy Harry Alderson, who was a social worker at Staffordshire County Council from 16 January 2009 to 16 March 2018, admitted to being in a sexual relationship with Person A.

He admits that during the relationship he became aware that Person A was a Care Leaver, but he did not end the relationship once he knew that. He said that the relationship was consensual, Person A was an adult, and that he did not think Person A was accessing any services other than that of a Personal Adviser.

He said he has no regrets regarding his actions, other than the impact it has had on his own mental health. He describes the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’, and in an email to the HCPC, he made it clear that he will not be reading any more correspondence from the HCPC, and says that he wishes to disengage from the process and be removed from the HCPC register.

On 8 November 2017, Person A, who was 19 years old at the time, made a disclosure to his Personal Adviser, ST, that he had been in a sexual relationship with Mr Alderson, who was 34 at the time. ST - Person A's personal adviser - explained to the panel that as a care leaver, Person A would receive support from his Personal Adviser until he attained the age of 21, though this could continue until the Care Leaver was 25 years of age.

On the same day, Person A’s adult birth sister, a teacher, contacted Staffordshire Police to report similar concerns with regards to Mr Alderson's relationship with Person A, saying that it was a ‘total breach of power’.

Mr Alderson was suspended on 14 November 2017 and a LADO [Local Authority Designated Officer] Position of Trust meeting was held on the 15 November 2017. An Internal investigation commenced and SB - a Specialist Safeguarding Unit Team Manager who was appointed the Investigating Officer - interviewed Person A’s foster sister (FS ), Friend 1 who worked with Mr Alderson and knew about his relationship with Person A, and ST, Person A’s Personal Adviser.

FS explained that she had introduced the Mr Alderson and Person A at a family party at her sister’s house. Her parents had fostered Person A when he was 8 years old and he had lived with them until he was 16 and therefore they considered him to be a member of their family.

SB viewed a number of text messages and emails exchanged between Mr Alderson and Person A, which evidenced their sexual relationship. SB was also provided with details of a personal contract which Person A stated was drawn up by Mr Alderson in exchange for him taking out a mobile phone contract in his name. Person A showed the contract to his personal adviser ST when he disclosed the relationship. He said he was concerned about the clauses that Mr Alderson wanted him to sign.

He said the contract was on a “word” document and had Mr Alderson's name at the top of the contract. The personal adviser ST recalled two of the clauses which were to the effect that if Person A entered into a homosexual relationship the contract would be off and that if he entered into a heterosexual relationship he would have to take on responsibility for the contract. ST was never given a copy of the contract.

Person A sent a photograph/screen shot of the contract to his birth sister and she forwarded that information to Staffordshire Police when she made her complaint. The police provided the council with written details of the complaint she made to the police which included a verbatim account of three of the clauses in the contract which were:

a) “Clause 2: [Person A] will not enter in any sexual/romantic relationship with any other homosexual or bi-sexual male for the duration of the phone contract” or words to that effect;

b) “Clause 3: If [Person A] enters a sexual/romatic relationship with a female who earns more than [Person A]’s benefits for a period of more than four weeks, he will be liable for the remainder of the contract or the contract can be cancelled by Robert Alderson” or words to that effect;

c) “Clause 4: If [Person A] removes the options of contact to Robert Alderson either through messages or social media the contract can be cancelled or transferred by Robert Alderson” or words to that effect.

It also emerged that on 02 January 2018 at Newcastle under Lyme Magistrates Court, Mr Alderson was convicted of driving after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, namely 61 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit, contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

The interviewing officer SB did not interview either Person A or Mr Alderson. HR considered that it was not appropriate to interview Person A. It was considered that Mr Alderson was unfit to attend a face to face disciplinary hearing. SB invited him to attend an investigation meeting on 22 March 2018 and provided a list of the proposed investigatory questions and invited him to respond in writing instead of attending, if that were his preference.

Mr Alderson responded by a letter dated 16 March 2018 informing the council of his immediate resignation and stating that he would not be responding to or entering into any further communication with the council. He asked them not to contact him again and the council respected that request.

ST also explained and the Panel accepted that at all material times Person A was considered as a “vulnerable person”. He said that Person A was quite an impressionable young man and was potentially easily led. Person A found it difficult to budget and manage his finances. ST also said that Person A was very isolated, had fallen out with his brother and sister and had no consistent contact with his parents. The Panel also noted the evidence of ST that Person A was lonely, on medication, had overdosed and self-harmed.

The Panel also noted that both Person A’s birth and foster sisters regarded Person A as being a vulnerable person. The Panel accepted that assessment.

"The Panel concluded, having regard to the guidance given by the courts in the relevant authorities, that the facts that have been found proved, are a serious departure from the standard of conduct and performance that is properly to be expected of a social worker," said the panel. "Person A was a vulnerable service user, both by reason of his personal characteristics and by reason of his status as a Care Leaver. This was known to the Registrant. The Registrant’s actions were a serious abuse of his position and of the duty of care that he owed to Person A. The Registrant’s actions transgressed professional boundaries in a manner that was unprofessional and wrong."

The Panel also noted that Mr Alderson had not engaged with the HCPC with regard to these proceedings. He has not produced any evidence of insight into or remorse for his misconduct. The Panel notes that the Registrant states he has no regrets regarding his actions except for the impact on his own health. There is no evidence that the Registrant has attempted to remediate his conduct.

In these circumstances the Panel has concluded that there is a serious risk of repetition of the misconduct found. In respect of the conviction, the Panel notes that there are several references within the documentation before it of the Registrant drinking and driving. The Panel has concluded in the absence of remorse, or evidence of completion of a drink awareness course or other remediation, there is a likelihood of repetition of similar behaviour, the panel added.

"The Panel determined that only a Striking Off Order would serve the public interest and protect the public. In the opinion of the Panel there was no other way to protect the public. In coming to this conclusion, the Panel kept in mind the aggravating factors noted above, the Registrant’s total lack of insight and remorse, the absence of any evidence of remediation and the risk of repetition," the panel concluded.

 

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