A social worker from Bridgend has been suspended for one year after a hearing found her fitness to practise was impaired because of serious misconduct.
The hearing was told that in June 2016 Nikita Hale inappropriately accessed confidential records relating to 11 people held by Bridgend County Borough Council, where she was employed in the children’s safeguarding team.
In May 2017, Ms Hale’s dishonest behaviour came to light when a person accessing the council’s services complained that Ms Hale had recently accessed their confidential record, despite Ms Hale having no work-related reason for doing so.
When twice questioned by her manager about the incidents, Ms Hale denied all knowledge, but later admitted accessing the records.
Although Ms Hale wasn’t present at the one-day hearing at our Cardiff office last week, she was actively involved in the investigation and admitted to all the charges in an agreed statement of fact.
Having taken Ms Hale’s admissions into account and heard the evidence, the panel decided that Ms Hale’s fitness to practise was currently impaired because of serious misconduct.
Explaining its decision, the panel said: “Ms Hale has expressed her regret and insight into why what she did was wrong and the potential impact it may have had on others.
“She says her thinking at the time was clouded because she was under significant stress. To her credit, there is no evidence of criticism of any other aspect of her social work practice.”
The panel continued: “Although Ms Hale has shown insight, she has not demonstrated to our satisfaction sufficient understanding of the impact of misuse of access to social services records on public confidence and her employer.”
The panel decided to suspend Ms Hale for one year, saying: “We have taken into account Ms Hale’s consistent expressions of insight and remorse, and the impact that the loss of her job and her experience of these proceedings will have had on her perception of what she did.
“We are satisfied that she will be in a position to contribute to the profession at the end of a period of suspension. We therefore consider suspension adequate and we do not consider that a review is necessary.”
The suspension order, which means Ms Hale will not be able to work in a registered social care role in Wales while it is active, will take effect from 10 August 2019 and remain in place until 9 August 2020.