Hartlepool social worker’s conduct slammed over payment to drug dealer

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

A Hartlepool social worker was guilty of misconduct when she authorised the use of council funds to get back a client’s TV he used to buy cannabis from a drug dealer.

A hearing of a regulatory body found that Louise Amanda Hurst, who was a manager within Hartlepool Borough Council’s Youth Offending Service at the time, had breached standards of the profession and brought it into disrepute.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) also concluded that Ms Hurst’s fitness to practise was impaired as a result.

Ms Hurst signed off £20 from the YOS’s petty cash in October 2013 to lend the client to retrieve the TV, provided by the Youth Offending Service, which he had used as payment for some drugs.

The regulator’s Conduct and Competence Committee in London heard Ms Hurst went along with the suggestion to prevent him re-offending to get the money.

But the regulator said she should have known of the potential risk of harm from him having continued contact with the drug dealer.

Its final report on the incident, the regulator stated: “This was not an act that was repeated but the misconduct found proved breached the standards of the profession, had the potential to put a vulnerable service user at risk, brought the profession into disrepute and undermined public confidence in the profession.”

It added: “She appeared to have failed to grasp the potential consequences of her decision although she now appreciates the effect on the reputation of the council.”

The panel said Ms Hurst had demonstrated poor decision making and weak leadership skills, but added she had shown some insight and no actual harm had been caused.

Ms Hurst voluntarily removed herself from any management post, but still works for the council.

The Health and Care Professions Council said the most appropriate action was to impose a nine-month Conditions of Practice Order.

It came into effect on August 2 and means Ms Hurst has to comply with a number of conditions to continue working for the council.

They include having to write a 3,000 word reflective piece and send the regulator a personal development plan to address deficiencies highlighted around risk and reflection.

A Hartlepool council spokesman said: “This matter was considered by the council under internal disciplinary matters some time ago.

“The professional body has now concluded its investigations into this matter and made a determination on the appropriate course of action in relation to the individual concerned.

“The Council will make sure that the conditions to practice as imposed by the HCPC are complied with.”