Sheffield Council social worker suspended for misconduct in six family cases

A former Sheffield Council social worker has been suspended
A former Sheffield Council social worker has been suspended
Have your say

A former Sheffield Council social worker responsible for helping to arrange adoptions has been suspended for 12 months for misconduct.

Jayne Burgin has been suspended from the Health & Care Professions Council register for failings in relation to six cases that occurred when she was working for Sheffield Council

A panel found the failings included not adhering to adoption processes, not requesting paperwork in a timely manner and in one case failing to return the calls of a child's guardian for more than two weeks.

The cases from 2011 and 2012 related to her role in a Child in Need team, where her responsibilities included the safeguarding of children and progressing matters for hearings within family court proceedings.

Panel Chair Bryan Wroe said: "The potential for psychological harm to service users and their families were significant.

"The impact could have been particularly profound and long-lasting in respect of the children whose adoptions were delayed as a result of the Mrs Burgin’s conduct as attachments were being formed and achieving long-term stability for them was delayed."

Mrs Burgin was neither present nor represented at the hearing.

She started working for the council in 2000 and was suspended in May 2012, resigning from her post in February 2013 prior to the completion of an internal investigation by the council.

A report of the panel following a hearing this month said: "The registrant failed to carry out basic and fundamental timely assessments of service users and families.

"She failed, on a number of occasions, to communicate effectively with professional colleagues.

"She failed to respond to telephone calls and emails, she failed to communicate with the families of service users; she ignored management instructions; she repeatedly failed to inform her manager when tasks were not undertaken or when she was unable to meet an essential deadline.

"The registrant failed to initiate and progress important reports despite clear direction and reminders from management.

"She failed to conduct appropriate visits and recording thereof. The panel did note, however, that there was evidence of key worker involvement with some service users at the time of the failings, which may have reduced the risk.

"On multiple occasion the registrant failed to attend court and inform her manager when she would be absent in order that necessary action could be taken on her behalf. She failed to obtain court timetables which are central to the progression of care plans. This meant she missed deadlines and court dates."

It concluded: "The panel considered the failings were particularly serious, as, central to the issues, were the delays caused in respect of children in care who were awaiting adoption or a timely resolution to their long-term care.

"In all of these circumstances, the panel was satisfied that the failings constituted behaviour which fell far short of what would be expected of a social worker in the circumstances.

"The registrant’s actions and omissions were serious and the panel was in no doubt that they would attract a degree of strong public disapproval. Accordingly, the panel finds that the statutory ground of misconduct is made out in respect of each of the acts or omissions described in the particulars found proved both individually and cumulatively."

The report stated Sheffield Council has been publicly criticised by judges in family court proceedings 'in respect of the delays associated with the registrant’s conduct'.

It said: "This clearly undermined confidence in the relevant local authority and also the social work profession. The panel was therefore satisfied that the public interest in upholding proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances."

The report said aggravating factors include the 'wide-ranging' nature of the failures and the number of families affected, as well as Mrs Burgin 'failing to engage' with the regulatory process and provide an explanation for what had happened.

But it said the social worker was of previous good character and witnesses had spoken of the 'positive aspects of her work, including her professional judgement and she was viewed as capable in many aspects of social work practice'.

It said a suspension order was appropriate, but striking her off would have been 'disproportionate and unduly punitive'.

Sheffield Council has been contacted for comment.