Your fitness to practise as a worker in a care home service for adults

Do you own or manage a care home service for adults?  Do you work in a care home service for adults?  Are you thinking about a career in the sector?

The SSSC has been registering social service workers for a number of years now. This also means building up a great deal of experience of investigating and dealing with poor practice, albeit by a relatively small proportion of the people on the SSSC Register.

Valerie Murray, SSSC Director of Fitness to Practise

Val Murray, SSSC Director of Fitness to Practise

So how can our experience help you as employers, managers and people working or thinking of working in social services? Val Murray, Director Fitness to Practise highlights just some of the misconduct cases that we have dealt with in the care home services for adults sector.

Managers of care home services for adults (CHSA) have been able to register with the SSSC since January 2006.

It is now compulsory for managers, workers with supervisory responsibilities and practitioners to be registered with the SSSC or another specified professional regulator.  In addition, due to changes in the Regulations, from 1 August 2013, all workers new into the role of support worker in CHSA are required to apply to register as soon as they start their new job. Anyone already working as a support worker in CHSA before 1 August 2013 must register by 30 September 2015.   You can find out what we mean by support worker in CHSA on our website www.sssc.uk.com

At the moment we have over 60,000 people on the SSSC Register and we expect nearly 23,000 new applications from support workers in CHSA by 30 September 2014, the deadline set for this next group to apply.

To help employers and managers and to make sure everyone has the information they need we are running information workshops. These sessions help employers and managers to support staff to apply for registration and to maintain their registration. At the sessions we’re covering everything from applying for registration with us through to how we deal with cases where there are concerns about suitability to be registered or suitability to remain on the SSSC Register.

What kinds of cases have we investigated and what should be reported to the SSSC?

It will be helpful to give some examples of the different types of cases we have investigated related to CHSA to highlight the kinds of conduct that is considered unacceptable. This can support employers in recruitment, induction and training of staff as well as people working in the CHSA sector, or anyone thinking of a career in this sector.

This article will:

  • give you examples of the type of behaviour and practice issues you can report to us
  • help with recruitment and training for new staff
  • give people thinking of a career in social services information about the types of behaviour and practice that is not acceptable.

Only a very small percentage of individuals in the CHSA sector need to go through the Fitness to Practise process. Where there has been misconduct, in some cases it has been so concerning that it is incompatible with SSSC registration and the individual has been refused registration or has been removed from the SSSC Register.

What kinds of cases have resulted in removal from the SSSC Register?

Cases that result in someone being removed from the SSSC Register fall into several broad categories:

Failure to treat people who use social services with dignity and respect

Examples include:

  • slapping/hitting
  • grabbing/pulling, or rough handling
  • forcing medication into a person’s mouth
  • shouting /swearing
  • failing to allow people to use wheelchairs/walking aids
  • using a wheelchair as a restraint
  • leaving people unattended while they are distressed
  • not attending to personal care needs eg toileting/bathing
  • making remarks of a sexual nature to a service user
  • locking fire doors and removing the key
  • not following care plans.

Medication administration failures

Examples include:

  • not giving medication in the correct dosage
  • not giving medication at all and disposing of the packaging
  • giving the wrong medication
  • falsifying record sheets.

Attending work under the influence of alcohol

Examples include:

  • consuming alcohol at work
  • being drunk and failing to give an acceptable levels of care to people who use social services
  • being drunk and behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner to colleagues.

Dishonesty

Examples include:

  • falsifying references
  • stealing from people who use social services (eg whilst accompanying a service user on a shopping trip using the service user’s money for worker’s own purchases)
  • stealing from employers.

Behaviour towards colleagues

Examples include:

  • shouting and swearing
  • assault
  • sexualised behaviour.

This list gives you examples. It is important to stress that each case is looked at according to its circumstances and cases which have resulted in removal have often included a combination of these and possibly other behaviours.

We also look at whether the individual has shown insight (understanding about the impact of their behaviour and acceptance that they should have behaved differently) and remorse (genuine sorrow and regret) and whether since the incident  there has been any  support/training or evidence of improved behaviour eg counselling or examples of subsequent good practice by the individual.

So what does this mean for employers and managers?

Our fitness to practise work highlights several areas that are important for employers and managers to think about and act on to help improve practice and safeguard the people who use their services:

  • Recruit only those individuals who demonstrate that they have the values expected of a social service worker as described in the Code of Practice for Social Service Workers.
  • Follow safe recruitment practices. Always obtain and check references and check our Register and the fitness to practise information on our website. And always provide accurate references.
  • Check that references are genuine. Follow up written references with a phone call, for example.
  • Provide suitable induction for new staff and on-going training and support for staff so that they understand the fundamental importance of treating service users with dignity and respect and that to do otherwise will not be tolerated.
  • Develop a workplace culture that supports the SSSC Codes of Practice for Social Service Workers and their Employers.    
  • Know and understand your responsibility to support appropriately, in accordance with good employment practice, workers who look for help if they do not feel able or adequately prepared to carry out any aspect of their job or have personal difficulties that might affect their ability to do their job competently and safely.
  • Make sure workers understand the importance of care plans and why it is essential that they are followed.
  • Make sure workers know the relevant standards of practice and get the right training at the right time eg workers should be aware of the required procedures for administration of medication and manual handling and understand the reasons why they must be followed.

The Care Inspectorate takes account of the SSSC Codes of Practice in their inspection and registration work. This is set out in the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 and could affect whether a care service is registered or is allowed to remain registered.

What does it mean for workers or people thinking of a career in the social services sector?

The vast majority of those who work in the social services and social care are professional, caring and committed individuals. Their professionalism in roles which while rewarding, can also be challenging, is much valued and respected. It is important, however, that everyone understands that individuals should only work in social services, or consider working in this sector, if they are committed to the values in the SSSC Code of Practice for Social Service Workers.

These include:

  • treating people who use social services and others with dignity and respect
  • being honest and trustworthy
  • following relevant standards of practice and working in a lawful, safe and effective way.

Individuals should also be prepared to seek help from their employer or other appropriate authority if they do not feel able or adequately prepared to carry out any aspect of their job and inform their employer or any appropriate authority about any personal difficulties that might affect their ability to do their job competently and safely and to do so before there is any risk to people who use social services.

Information on our website

When someone goes through our fitness to practise process, both the individual and the employer are given formal notice of our decisions and the reasons for them.  Decisions are also published on our website, although some material may be redacted (covered over with black lines) to preserve the anonymity of other individuals.

For more information, including upcoming information workshops and public notices about our casework decisions, visit the SSSC website.

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