A Croydon Council social worker has been suspended for threatening a vulnerable four-year-old boy with a “smack in the mouth”.

Victoria Ebulue, who worked with families under child protection plans, had claimed she told the boy to “watch his mouth” during a meeting with his mother on February 19 last year.

But she was found guilty of misconduct charge at a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) hearing last week.

She had insisted she told the boy, whose family was plagued by domestic violence, to “watch your mouth or I will wash it”, despite several witness accounts of her threatening to smack him.

Instead she suggested that the boy’s mother had made the allegation in revenge for her previously refusing to allow the mother to return to her old address. 

But a security guard at Jeanette Wallace House, where Mrs Ebulue was employed, told the hearing he was “in no doubt” that she made those threats to the boy.

He said he saw the incident clearly and heard her tell the child “you need a smack in your mouth”.

He said Mrs Ebulue appeared serious when she said those words and did not accept the suggestion she told the child to watch his mouth.

Another witness, who chaired a child social services conference into the incident, said Mrs Ebulue nodded when she was asked if she made the threats.

The hearing report said: “The witness could not remember what, if anything, [Mrs Ebulue] said but she was clear that the registrant was confirming that she had said the words alleged.

“When the witness told the registrant that it was a totally inappropriate comment, the registrant again nodded her head in agreement.”

But when a council manager investigated the issue on March 23, Mrs Ebulue denied she had used the word “smack”.

It was referred to the HCPC on June 22.

In her evidence Mrs Ebulue said she told the child to “watch your mouth or I will wash it” after he was rude to her.

She said the mother “screamed at the top of her voice saying ‘for saying that you will not be allowed to be a social worker and I will fix it’.”

Mrs Ebulue was suspended from the social worker registry for four months.

The HCPC ruling read: "There was no evidence that the registrant had remedied or indeed recognised her failings.

"She did not acknowledge that any attempt by a professional social worker to threaten a child with physical force is unacceptable, particularly in circumstances where that child has either experienced or witnessed domestic violence.

“The panel determined that whilst these were serious matters, it was a single incident that did not result in direct harm to a service user.

"No professional social worker in that position would ever agree that it was permissible to make those threats to a vulnerable four year old child."

It continued: "In the circumstances, the panel determined that a suspension order for a period of four months would suffice to protect the public and the public interest.

“It would provide the registrant with an opportunity to better demonstrate insight into her misconduct, whilst protecting the public and the public interest and would mark the seriousness of her misconduct.

“The panel did go on to consider whether a striking off order would be appropriate but determined that it would not be either a just nor proportionate sanction this time.”

A Croydon Council spokesman said Mrs Ebulue was an agency staff worker and left their employment of her own accord after the incident.

He added: “We expect the highest standards from both our full-time staff and locum social workers.

“This is why we take incidents such as this very seriously to ensure that the families we work with get the best possible service.”