During the last couple of months, I have been moving house. It has seemed at times that the moving process has taken over completely and I have found myself committed to onerous tasks and pressing schedules not of my own making. Often the things I usually do – such as writing this blog - have had to be abandoned because of the demands of moving. At times, I have felt overwhelmed.
That word – ‘overwhelmed’ – caught my eye when I was scanning the pages of Community Care the other day. It is reported there that an adults’ social worker who was ‘overwhelmed’ by work following an organisational restructuring has been disciplined by the Health and Care Professions’ Council (HCPC), despite a previously unblemished 26-year career, being new to a management role and having an “extensive” workload, which included an additional 200 (yes two hundred) cases! Apparently, he did not always maintain accurate records. While it was acknowledged that he did not receive management support, the HCPC panel decided that he had to receive a caution, but by then, of course, his career was in tatters.
That makes my blood boil. Professional regulators are not there to deal with people who fail to cope in impossible circumstances. They are there to deal with people who deliberately indulge in egregious behaviour – people who tell lies, commit frauds or deliberately hurt other people.
It could just as easily have been a children’s social worker before the HCPC. Indeed, Community Care reports on the same day that a recent survey of children’s social workers found that 80% thought their caseloads were unmanageable. There are some chilling quotes in a separate article from those surveyed, showing that they also feel overwhelmed.
Whether in adults’ or children’s services, disciplining service providers who are victims of circumstance is a ludicrous and completely counterproductive exercise. It fosters a culture of blame which inhibits people from acknowledging and learning from their mistakes. That does nothing to make services safer; it almost certainly has the opposite effect.