Tribunal decision – Wastney

The Tribunal recently considered a charge against a social worker who was based in Christchurch. She had been employed by an NGO from 2017 at the time of the conduct reviewed by the Tribunal.   

The charge against the social worker included several factors which were said either individually or cumulatively to amount to professional misconduct or conduct that is unbecoming of a social worker and reflects adversely on her fitness to practise as a social worker.  

The charge alleged that while employed by the NGO, the social worker engaged in conduct that reflected adversely on her fitness to practise as a social worker in that:  

  • she dishonestly took food parcels and/or took supermarket food vouchers which were intended for clients of the NGO  
  • her conduct breached Principles 1,6, 9 and/or 10 of the Code of Conduct, and that this conduct brought or was likely to bring discredit to the social work profession.  

As some facts were disputed, the Tribunal considered the evidence. For the food parcels, this included evidence from the organisation which supplied food parcels for the NGO’s clients.   

There were a number of delivery forms (forms used to arrange the collection of food parcels on behalf of clients) where name and/or address details did not match the details held by the NGO. Upon submitting the delivery forms, the social worker collected the food parcels but did not provide these to the NGO’s clients. The Tribunal was satisfied it was established that there was dishonesty associated with obtaining the food parcels that were the subject of the 11 forms it reviewed; because of the falsification of details on the forms and the lack of clarity with the supplier of the food parcels. However, the Tribunal was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to find that the social worker personally gained or benefitted from her actions. 

In relation to the food vouchers, the Tribunal was satisfied that it was established on the balance of probabilities, that the social worker dishonestly took the 16 supermarket vouchers. 

In consideration of whether a social worker’s conduct amounts to misconduct, the Tribunal considers the standards expected of social workers described in the principles of the Board’s Code of Conduct. In this case, the relevant principles were:   

  • Principle 1 (Act with integrity and honesty)  
  • Principle 6 (Strive to maintain the trust and confidence of clients)   
  • Principle 9 (Maintain public trust and confidence in the social work profession)   
  • Principle 10 (Keep accurate records and use technology effectively and safely) 

The Tribunal was satisfied that the social worker breached these Principles of the Code of Conduct.  

The social worker accepted that some of her conduct relating to the food parcels and the supermarket vouchers was not at the level it should have been. Since leaving the NGO the social worker was self-employed for a period. In May 2019 she started work with her current employer, where she has been described as a very professional, committed and trusted team member.   

On balance, the Tribunal considered that it could fulfil its obligation to impose a penalty that is fair, reasonable and proportionate, protects the public, and maintains the standards of the profession, by making the following orders:   

a. An order that the social worker is censured as a record of the Tribunal’s concerns about the serious nature of the social worker’s conduct.

b. An order that the social worker is to practise only in accordance with the following conditions on her practice:

  • the social worker must not be employed in a social work position (current or future) where she has any responsibility for the management or oversight of financial matters, money or related matters which have a financial element (for example, vouchers or food parcels for clients), for a period of two years.  
  • the social worker is required to undergo monthly external supervision, at her cost, for a period of 12 months. The external supervisor must provide a written supervision report to the SWRB quarterly, and this must be satisfactory to the Board.   
  • the social worker is required to provide a copy of the Tribunal’s decision to any current, prospective, and future employers, for a period of two years.   

The Tribunal hopes that the social worker will have learnt from the disciplinary process, the Tribunal’s findings and outcomes, and that she will ensure that going forward, she always conducts herself appropriately, with honesty and with integrity. 

Further reading and links:

  • Copy of the Tribunal decision: WASTNEY-Decision
  • The Code of Conduct which covers the professional standards of behaviour, integrity and conduct that apply to registered social workers. The Principles breached in this case were:   
  • Principle 1 – Act with integrity and honesty  
  • Principle 6 – Strive to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of clients  
  • Principle 9 – Maintain public trust and confidence in the social work profession.  
  • Principle 10 – Keep accurate records and use technology effectively and safely  
  • If you are concerned about the behaviour of a social worker, you may contact our complaints team, or complete our online form. It is expected that employers will address any breaches of the Code of Conduct by a social worker they employ but, when the misconduct is deemed serious, employers are asked to report it to the SWRB.   
  • Concerns and complaints page on the SWRB website  
  • Mandatory reporting page for employers  

Published 7 December 2022