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Locum social worker struck off for inappropriate texts

Social worker struck off for working while under interim suspension and sending inappropriate messages to service user

Published on 20th August 2019

A social worker who practised whilst subject to a HCPC Interim Suspension Order then sent inappropriate message to a service user has been struck off the social work register.

Mr Carl Gordon Riley, who was employed as an agency social worker within the 0-12 Care and Support Team at Dorset Council sent inappropriate and/or unprofessional text messages to Service User X between October 2017 and December 2017.

Mr Riley wrote to SUX as follows:

“You don’t look half bad when you scrub up lol”

“…Shame your off this weekend as I quite fancied catching up with you.”

“I’ll take some pics of you, that will keep me awake lol”

“Mmm a nite in just eating puddings…what a plan. Let me know what you think lol”

“Mmm might catch you in your work uniform then [smile emoji] how good..”

The Panel also considered the following exchanges:

“Just reading my book going to sleep soon as really tired” (SUX)

Sent 10.12 pm. “Me too, its been a long day…shame you can’t check out my van…whats the book?” (Registrant) ……

“Looks like tonight then if your up for it. Whats your plans or do you want to chill?” (Registrant)

“Well just ran a bath then going to do my homework for group tomorrow, can do Thurs or Fri if ur free?” (SUX)

Sent 5.12 pm. “I have visits in Derbyshire thursday/ friday so could help with homework or scrub back lol” (Registrant).

Mr Riley was responsible for looked after children and attending court for family care proceedings. He also attended reviews and was involved in the care and support of children.

Whilst employed by Dorset County Council between June 2017 and December 2017 he was the allocated social worker to Service User X’s children who were the subject of a Special Guardianship Order, which resulted in the children living in a different country. The children were returned to the UK, and Mr Riley was involved in care proceedings in the court in the UK in respect of the children. He was responsible for progressing the case through the court and writing assessments about SUX’s ability to have the children returned to her care.

The Panel decided that many of the texts sent by Mr Riley utilised inappropriate and unprofessional language, and blurred professional boundaries, referring to matters of a personal nature which were nothing to do with SUX’s children’s case. For example scrubbing her back in the bath, and suggesting he would like her to look at his van at night time. There were a number of messages in which he expressed that he liked SUX’s physical appearance. In addition, the quantity of the texts which dealt with matters to do with SUX’s personal life and the fact that they were often sent in the late evening, added to their inappropriate and unprofessional nature. The Panel therefore found this Particular proved.

Further, it was alleged that on 30th November 2017, he touched Service User X's hips. In her oral evidence, SUX stated that Mr Riley rubbed her stomach “almost like a circle” and when he did this, he touched the skin of her stomach. She demonstrated where he placed both his hands on her hips before touching her stomach. She stated that he asked to see her stomach. In his written submissions, Mr Riley denied touching SUX. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Mr Riley did in fact touch SUX’s hips and stomach area on 30 November 2017 and found this particular proved.

AG was the Head of Child Protection and Independent Reviewing Officer at Derbyshire County Council and he discovered, when making enquiries on the HCPC database, that a Caution Order had been imposed upon Mr Riley on 24 November 2017.

AG’s evidence was that Mr Riley commenced employment, through an agency, with Derbyshire County Council on 19 March 2018. His employment ended on 9 April 2018 when AG discovered on searching the HCPC database that he was subject to an Interim Suspension Order as well as a Caution.

AG confirmed in her oral evidence that during his employment he had carried out work as a social worker in the form of meetings, telephone calls and he had started to undertake an assessment with a family.

The Panel read a letter from the HCPC to the Registrant dated 16 March 2018 informing him that the outcome of the Interim Order hearing was an Interim Suspension Order for a period of 18 months. On the basis of the evidence before it, the Panel found this particular proved.

The Panel concluded Mr Riley breached fundamental values and standards of his profession. The Panel was satisfied that his misconduct, individually and cumulatively fell seriously short of the standards expected of him in professional circumstances, and was sufficiently serious so as to constitute misconduct.

"The Panel has found no evidence of any insight on the part of the Registrant into his misconduct, why it was inappropriate, and what could be done to avoid it in the future. Nor is there any evidence of an attempt to remediate his misconduct. In his submissions the Registrant makes clear that he no longer wishes to practise as a social worker and he has stated he is now working in a different field," said the panel.

"The Panel decided that, in respect of the misconduct, the Registrant had put SUX at unwarranted risk of harm. The Registrant’s actions, which abused his position of power, had a direct effect upon SUX, causing her to feel unsafe in her own home, and uncomfortable with her relationship with the Registrant on a professional level. Further, in working while suspended by the HCPC, the Registrant demonstrated no understanding of the importance of the system of professional regulation or the impact of his conduct on the wider public interest," it added.

In light of the lack of any evidence of insight, of remorse, reflection or remediation shown by Mr Riley, the Panel was satisfied that the risk of repetition of his misconduct is high.

In the Panel’s view, Mr Riley committed serious and deliberate dishonesty and sexually motivated misconduct. He used his professional status to pursue an inappropriate relationship with a very vulnerable service user for his own sexual gratification. In doing so he abused his professional position and sought to take advantage of SUX placing her at significant risk of harm. In behaving in this manner he knew how vulnerable the service user was and he used the unequal balance of power between them for his own advantage. 

The panel decided to impose a striking off order and removed Mr Riley's name from the register.

 

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