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Inverness community support worker warned after ‘terrifying’ vulnerable service user

The Aberdeen-based social service worker has been issued a warning from the Scottish Social Services Council.
The Aberdeen-based social service worker has been issued a warning from the Scottish Social Services Council.

An Inverness community support worker has been issued with a warning for causing a vulnerable service user “emotional harm”.

Miriam MacDonald was accused of shouting and swearing in the woman’s home, and threw something down the hall during the incident in September 2020.

It happened shortly after Ms MacDonald received a phone call that appeared to upset her – but she denied that the incident had anything to do with it.

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) has now issued Ms MacDonald with a warning and placed her under sanction for one year.

During the hearing, the service user – known as AA – was asked how she felt, to which she became very upset.

‘She was terrified’

The SSSC determination states: “It made her feel horrible. She had to just sit there and pray that she would be safe, and try not freak out and pray that she would be OK.

“She thought that her best tactic for surviving was to stay tight lipped, but she was terrified.”

A registered manager known as ZZ, said that AA had told her she was shaking and trembling while Ms MacDonald laughed at her.

The incident was raised on September 17, 2020 and AA was encouraged to report the matter after bringing it to a director’s attention.

The panel heard that when Ms MacDonald was asked to remove the footplates from a piece of care equipment, she started shouting and swearing. It then escalated with Ms MacDonald throwing something down AA’s hallway and warning her that it could happen again.

The watchdog found the evidence did not support the allegations of shouting, swearing or the warning the incident might be repeated. However, they upheld the complaint that Ms MacDonald had thrown an object and that AA did suffer emotional harm.

Incident was a ‘temporary loss of control’

In their findings, the SSSC said that although Ms MacDonald insisted the outburst had nothing to do with the call she had received, it seemed “somewhat coincidental” given her “excellent work history”.

They state: “The panel agreed with the submission of the presenter that the allegation was serious. You had caused distress to a vulnerable service user.

“The incident appears to have been a temporary loss of control on your part.

“That outburst showed a lack of respect for the dignity of the service user. Whilst the panel did not accept the service user was at risk of physical harm, she was undoubtedly harmed emotionally.

“It was of significance that this occurred in the service user’s home. From the evidence, there appeared to be poor boundaries in place between you and the service user. There were numerous breaches of the code and there was a clear potential risk of emotional harm to AA.”

However, the watchdog does not believe the incident should stop Ms MacDonald from working in the sector – although urged her to reflect on her behaviour and address any “outstanding issues” that may prompt a similar issue from arising.

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