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Climbie social worker finally wins right to re-register as a social worker

Former Haringey social worker Lisa Arthurworrey has won her bid to be registered by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) after being turned down at her first attempt.

Ms Arthurworrey was sacked by Haringey following the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbié in 2000 and has fought to clear her name ever since. She took her case to two Care Standards Tribunal hearings, both of which decided in her favour with support from BASW’s Advice and Representation Service.

“I am naturally pleased that this decision has finally come,” Ms Arthurworrey said after the private hearing of the GSCC Registration Committee on 26 February. “The last 10 years have been incredibly difficult ones and now I want to start rebuilding my career.”

BASW welcomed the decision as “long overdue” in light of the previous tribunal verdicts. But Roger Kline, social care official of the union Aspect, which represented Ms Arthurworrey at this final stage of her re-registration, said the result had not been a foregone conclusion despite the success of her previous appeals against the GSCC’s original refusal to register her. “The GSCC [Council] tried to argue that the stress she has undergone meant that she wasn’t fit to go on the register, but fortunately the Registration Committee asserted its independence,” Mr Kline said.

The Committee did set conditions on her registration, however, including that she must be assessed by the occupational health department of any prospective employer, submit to any training and supervision requirements and report to the GSCC on her progress every year.

“A ten-year injustice has been partly put to bed,” Kline said, “but we need to stop this happening again to other social workers. The blame culture is still out there.”

As Victoria’s allocated social worker Ms Arthurworrey would have to live with what happened all her life, Kline said, but added: “We support the findings of the Care Standards Tribunal that she is fit to work with children and that there is no evidence her practice was at fault. The real fault lies with the management and culture of Haringey at that time.

“It remains too easy for employers to try to blame individual social workers when things go wrong rather than scrutinise the decisions on staffing levels, workloads, training, management culture and changes in government child protection policy which are often the real reasons for tragedies.”

In her appeal hearing two years ago, at which Ms Arthurworrey was represented by BASW, the tribunal said the failings identified in her practice were “either as a result of medical advice which was effectively unchallengeable or as a result of a lack of supportive and competent managers.”

It added: “To blame everything on Ms Arthurworrey is, we believe, to make her a scapegoat for the failings of a number of people.” It said that she should undergo a psychiatric assessment, which is understood to have passed her as fit to practise as a social worker.

Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbié Foundation, said in a statement put together in agreement with the girl’s parents: “We believe that this culture of blaming an individual social worker, or any frontline staff, must come to an end. Frontline staff, like Lisa, will continue to be singled out for blame if the agencies they work for fail to properly support them.”

In his inquiry report into the death of Victoria, whose carers Marie-Therese Kouao and Carl Manning were convicted of murder in 2001, Lord Laming said management had been insufficiently accountable for frontline social work.