Belfast Telegraph

Social worker is suspended after making obscene sexual gestures and cruel jibes in the workplace

Hearing told she referred to a mum as 'stinking' and 'greasy'

The committee ruled that the behaviour was ‘serious’. Image poosed by model
The committee ruled that the behaviour was ‘serious’. Image poosed by model

By Lisa Smyth

A social worker has been suspended from work after making obscene sexual gestures and comments about the relative of a child in care.

Jennifer Victoria Porter was working in the Looked After Children's team in the Southern Trust when she was accused of using inappropriate and derogatory language, sexualised language about service users and using derogatory references about ethnic minority families.

A number of witnesses gave evidence to a fitness to practise hearing, with one claiming she often used foul language.

A second former colleague said she described the mum of one family as "fat" and "big".

A third witness told the hearing Ms Porter described the mum of one family in a derogatory way, using words like "stinking", "smelly" and "greasy".

A fourth witness said Ms Porter had used the word "paedo" to describe the dad of one family, based on a photograph she had seen.

A Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) panel also heard evidence from all four witnesses that "other members of staff seemed to think that the registrant's behaviour was acceptable".

It noted that Ms Porter's behaviour was "condoned and participated in by her line manager", and there was a "culture of this type of behaviour in some parts of the team at that time".

Ms Porter faced two separate charges - that some time between May 9, 2013, and March 16, 2016, she used inappropriate or derogatory language in relation to service users, and that she also used an inappropriate sexual gesture in relation to a kinship carer.

The NISCC hearing report said Ms Porter made obscene sexual gestures about him to everyone in the office when she spoke to him on the phone.

It said: "Witness four gave evidence that there was a kinship carer that the registrant 'fancied' and she would make different comments about his attractiveness.

"The committee considered that it was more likely than not that the registrant on one or more occasions had used inappropriate sexual gestures in relation to a kinship carer."

The report continued: "The committee determined that the facts found proved involved repeatedly using inappropriate and derogatory language about a range of very vulnerable service users and vulgar sexual gestures in relation to a kinship carer.

"This conduct occurred in the workplace and the committee determined that it was serious."

The committee ruled that Ms Porter's behaviour was "deliberate and prolonged" and said it "was not a mistake or error of judgment on one occasion" and concluded it amounted to serious misconduct.

It also noted that the public would find her actions "deplorable".

The committee also said there was no evidence before them to show Ms Porter had taken any steps to remediate, particularly as there was a "concerning lack of insight on the part of the registrant".

The NISCC committee said it was "very concerned about the risk of repetition" and deemed that Ms Porter's fitness to practise was impaired.

In determining what action to take, the committee noted that Ms Porter had a good work history and character, with no previous concerns raised before or since.

It also said that her action didn't cause any harm to any service user and that it was never done in front of service users.

As a result, the panel decided to suspend Ms Porter from the professional register for six months.

She cannot work as a social worker until October 2 this year.

A spokesman from the Southern Trust said a thorough investigation into social work practices within the Looked After Children's team was carried out.

He said the Trust took robust action in response to unacceptable behaviour identified.

The spokesman continued: "The Trust is satisfied that these unacceptable behaviours have been appropriately addressed and all staff currently employed are fully aware and committed to ensuring the highest standard of professional social work practice at all times.

"The Trust very much appreciated the opportunity to fully address the concerns raised under its whistleblowing policy."

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