Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding a social worker in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failing to maintain professional boundaries between herself and her client, and for failing to keep adequate records.
The social worker was contracted through a DHB to assist a man in finding a home. She had a high level of contact with the man, helping him with daily tasks and also visiting him outside of work hours. Some months later, it was found that her relationship with the man had moved beyond that of a professional one. The social worker did not seek her supervisor’s guidance on how to manage the situation, and did not request that the man be re-assigned to another social worker.
In his decision, Mr Allan noted that it is "critical that relationships between any health professionals and their clients stay within the professional realm, to avoid any exploitation or abuse of power." Mr Allan considered that by failing to maintain professional and ethical boundaries with the man, and not keeping accurate records, the social worker had failed to adhere to the Social Workers Registration Board Code of Conduct and Core Competence Standards. As a result, he found her in breach of the Code.
Mr Allan recommended that the social worker establish a six-month mentoring and continuing education plan with the Social Workers Registration Board, in relation to the Code of Ethics and with an emphasis on professional boundaries. He also recommended that the Social Workers Registration Board consider whether a review of her conduct was warranted, and report back to HDC on the outcome of its consideration.
The full report for case 19HDC01069 is available on the HDC website. https://www.hdc.org.nz/decisions/search-decisions/2020/19hdc01069/