Wigan social worker is cleared of having sexual relationship

Laurence Andrew DAnnunzio worked for Wigan Council
Laurence Andrew DAnnunzio worked for Wigan Council

A senior social worker at Wigan Council has been cleared by his professional watchdog of having a sexual relationship with the mother of children he was responsible for.

But Laurence Andrew D’Annunzio was found to have contacted the woman after the authority began its own probe into the team manager. He also visited her following the complaint being lodged.

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Mr D’Annunzio, who worked for the council’s young people’s team, was also said to have driven close to the mother’s Wigan home on the day he was suspended by his bosses, a Health And Care Professions Tribunal (HCPT) conduct committee was told.

After cross-examining the mother and the social worker, during a four-day hearing at the Mercure Haydock Hotel, a HCPT panel ruled the allegation the pair had been involved in a sexual relationship, between April and August 2013, was not proven.

The panel felt that the mother “blamed (Mr D’Annunzio) for the fact her children had been removed from her care” and became “flustered, defensive and displayed animosity” towards him while giving her evidence.

Rejecting her claims, it was decided that there was a “lack of detail and a number of inconsistencies” in her account of their alleged affair.

However the panel did find that the social worker, while an internal inquiry was being conducted by the council, had contacted the mother in August 2015, then later visited her home.

The pair are believed to have discussed whether the woman’s mother may have made the original complaint about their alleged relationship.

The hearing was told that Mr D’Annunzio was suspended the following month and, on his way home, drove past the mother’s Wigan home.

Mr D’Annunzio claimed he had become distressed, following his suspension, and had pulled over on a quiet side road.

He denied he had any intention of contacting the woman on that occasion.

But he was spotted in the vicinity by a colleague, who reported the matter to his bosses, the hearing was told.

Later the next day the social worker was seen in the same area a second time, which is said to have “distressed” the mother, who immediately rang social services to complain.

Mr D’Annunzio was also accused of inappropriately accessing the mother’s case file on four occasions.

But the panel ruled that, as a senior social worker supervising others involved in her family’s case, he could have had professional reasons for referring to her notes.

HCPT officials confirmed that Mr D’Annunzio, at the conclusion of his case, had an order placed on his registration for 12 months, outlining restrictions which he must abide by if he wished to resume social work.

A HCPT spokesman said: “The registrant should have been able to demonstrate self-control and objectivity in the circumstances of this complaint and recognise that he could trust and submit to a formal investigation, particularly as he was a team manager and, to that extent, a role model for professional

conduct.”

Mr D’Annunzio, who had a previously “unblemished” career, was said to be not currently working as a social worker.