Social worker's actions 'put children at risk', tribunal told
A social worker assigned to help vulnerable children in Suffolk has appeared before a misconduct hearing over concerns about his behaviour on the job.
Matthew Tagg was employed in Suffolk County Council's social care team in Haverhill between July 2015 and April 2017.
He worked with children, some of whom were considered to be 'in need' - youngsters who are either disabled, need council services to achieve reasonable standards of health or development, or need the council's help to prevent significant or further harm to their health or development.
At a recent tribunal chaired by the Health and Care Professionals Tribunal Service (HCPTS), Mr Tagg admitted a series of allegations which panel members found displayed a lack of competence over a prolonged period of time.
Some of his actions - which included failing to complete assessments for four children on time, not sending out agency checks for another three children promptly enough and not completing statutory visits for a further four youngsters on time - amounted to misconduct, the panel found.
Mr Tagg also admitted disclosing confidential information to another child and her parents, despite not having the authority to do so, and failing to adequately explore concerns about domestic violence and substance abuse in a child's home life, a report of the tribunal hearing said.
Potential consequences for children involved, as a result of delayed assessments and visits, were that their cases were left to drift - with risks to them not being addressed and their needs not being met, the panel heard.
"It was noted that, despite being within a structured and supportive environment, the registrant's (Mr Tagg's) lack of competence and misconduct had been repeated over a prolonged period of time with the result that service users were put at risk of potential harm," the panel found.
"The panel was satisfied that the registrant's lack of competence had in the past put service users at risk of unwarranted harm, brought the social work profession into disrepute and breached fundamental tenants of that profession."
However, the social worker - who was newly qualified, inexperienced and in his first social work role - had fully engaged with the regulatory process and made significant admissions about his behaviour, the panel heard.
They were reassured by Mr Tagg's evidence and his responses to their questions, and panel members considered he had developed some insight into his shortcomings.
They did not consider his actions serious enough to warrant a suspension order.
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Instead, he was given a conditions of practice order which will last for six months.
During this time, he must be supervised in his duties and put together a development plan designed to address deficiencies identified during the hearing.
These included case management practice and techniques, and organising/prioritising case work.
What did Suffolk County Council chiefs have to say?
Council bosses said the authority concurs with the findings of the HCPTS.
"Suffolk children's social care service provides a comprehensive programme of support for newly qualified social workers," a spokesman said.
"This is in recognition of the challenging tasks required of them to support children in need of support and protection.
"It is vital that we employ social workers who fully understand and comply with statutory requirements which are there to protect some of the most vulnerable children in Suffolk.
"We concur with the finding of the HCPTS.
They added: "We support its view that 'Mr Tagg was always found to be a well-meaning and genuine witness whose passion for social work was clear'.
"We are sorry that his passion for the work was undermined by a series of difficulties which he was, notwithstanding extensive support, unable to overcome.
"It is positive that Mr Tagg has made determined efforts to remedy some of the concerns upheld by the tribunal and we hope that he is able to evidence sufficient progress to support any social work role he applies for in the future."