Miss Bianka Antonia Grant
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1. While employed by the Royal Borough of Kingston used the Zipcar business account for your personal use:
a) between 1.30 am and 9 am on 1 June 2013;
b) between 10 pm on 1 June 2013 and 10.30 pm on 2 June 2013;
c) between 11 pm on 7 June 2013 and 9 pm on 9 June 2013;
d) between 9 pm on 14 June 2013 and 2.30 pm on 16 June 2013;
e) 9 am on 21 June 2013 and 1.30 pm on 23 June 2013;
f) between 11.30 pm on 28 June 2013 and 9.30 am on 29 June 2013.
2. Used Royal Borough of Kingston Zip Car business account for your personal use during the period set out in paragraph 1 (f) after you had been informed by Colleague A that an investigation was to be carried out into your use of the business account for personal use.
3. On or around December 2012, declared on your application form to the Royal Borough of Kingston for a position as a Social Worker (Safeguarding) that you had never been convicted of a criminal offence.
4. The matters described in particular 1 and 2 are dishonest.
5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2 and 4 constitute misconduct.
6. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired
Proof of service
1. The HCPC sent a Notice of Hearing to the Registrant’s registered address on 15 November 2017. The Notice set out all the relevant information about today’s proceedings. The Panel was therefore satisfied that service had been effected in accordance with the Rules.
Application to adjourn /Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
2. The Registrant is not present or represented today however, she sent an email to the HCPC on 13 December 2017 requesting this hearing to be adjourned so that she can attend and be represented.
3. Mr Pandya applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. He submitted that the Registrant has been aware for quite some time about this hearing and she has waited until two days before the hearing to make the application. He submitted that the hearing should proceed in the Registrant’s absence. He submitted that she has given no reason for her late engagement with these proceedings and she has given no explanation as to why she had not instructed a representative in advance of today.
4. This Panel had regard to the most recent HCPTS Practice Note on Postponement and adjournment of proceedings.
5. The Panel considered that it is appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. This is a statutory review of a substantive order which must be reviewed before 1 February 2018. The Registrant in her email explains that she has difficulty taking time off to search for a legal representative “so close to the festive season” as she is self-employed. The Panel considered that she had a month’s notice of this hearing and was aware after the Final Hearing that it would be reviewed prior to the expiry of the Order. Since the Final Hearing there has been no engagement from the Registrant until her email two days before this hearing. Further, she gives no explanation as to what, if any efforts, she has made to engage a legal representative. The Registrant does not explain why she cannot personally attend today. There has been no proposed time scale as to when she could attend a hearing. In all the circumstances the Panel determined to refuse the application to adjourn the hearing today.
6. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself from this hearing. It considered that there is a public interest in proceeding with this case today.
7. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in the Child Protection Team at the Royal Borough of Kingston [RBK]. She commenced that employment on 04 March 2013. At that point in her career the Registrant was a Newly Qualified Social Worker going through the assessed and supported year in employment.
8. It was discovered that, when the Registrant had applied for employment with RBK, she had failed to disclose a previous conviction. This matter was investigated at the time by Colleague A when the explanation of the Registrant was accepted and the matter was concluded.
9. On 21 June 2013 it became apparent that the Registrant had incurred a parking ticket whilst using an account for Zipcar, a car rental firm, for personal use.
10. The matter was investigated by Colleague A, Associate Director for Safeguarding for RBK.
11. This investigation involved investigatory meetings on 12 July and 19 July 2013 and led to a disciplinary meeting on 23 August 2013.
12. The Zipcar business account was in the name of RBK. On further investigation, it came to light that the Registrant had, on a number of occasions in June 2013, used the RBK account with Zipcar for her personal use. This was not permitted as stated under RBK’s ‘Staff Travel Options’, a document on its intranet and accessible to staff.
13. The substantive hearing in this matter was heard on 3 January 2017 when that Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired by reason of misconduct.
14. The Panel took into account the documentary evidence before it. It considered the submissions by the HCPC and it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
15. In coming to its decision, the Panel took account of the Indicative Sanctions Policy and the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics.
16. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. To this extent, it had regard to the public interest and whether the Registrant’s conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and the risk of repetition.
17. The Panel noted that the original Panel dealing with this matter identified:
“i. The Registrant has shown little insight in relation to her actions and has the potential consequences for the standing of the profession of Social Work.
ii. Whilst the Registrant’s failings are, in theory, capable of remediation there is no evidence that they have been remediated.
iii. There is a lack of remorse on the part of the Registrant although the Registrant has made some limited admissions, she has also attributed the blame elsewhere.”
18. The only new evidence before this Panel from the Registrant is her email requesting an adjournment. In that email she appears to reject the findings of dishonesty that the previous Panel found and she states that she views “this hearing as an actual harassment and victimisation…”. The Panel therefore has no new evidence before it today to enable it to come to any other conclusion than that the Registrant’s Fitness to Practice remains impaired. There is no evidence of any insight or remediation and in those circumstances the Panel concluded that there was a risk of repetition of the misconduct found proved. The Panel remained concerned as to the Registrant’s level of insight given her continued denial of the facts found proved.
19. The Panel has taken into account the public interest which includes protection of service users, maintenance of public confidence in the profession and declaring and upholding public confidence in the profession. It concluded given the Registrant’s level of engagement that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired.
20. The Panel therefore went on to consider what, if any sanction, it should impose.
21. The previous Panel highlighted the following factors:
• The Registrant’s dishonesty was serious and continued over a period of a month.
• On 28 June 2013 she used the Zipcar account for her personal use, notwithstanding the fact, that earlier that day, she was made aware that her conduct was under investigation.
• The Registrant has shown little insight or remorse.
• There is no evidence that the Registrant has sought to address her dishonesty.
• The Registrant’s engagement with these proceedings has been limited.
• The Panel had not received any evidence as to what the Registrant is presently doing or as to her willingness to comply with a Conditions of Practice Order.
22. This Panel concluded that given the Registrant’s continuing lack of insight to take no further action or to impose a Caution Order would be wholly inappropriate. The Panel considered the appropriateness of making a Conditions of Practice order. The Panel is aware that the conditions imposed by such an order must be relevant, workable, enforceable and proportionate. The Panel concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, appropriate conditions of practice cannot be formulated given the Registrant’s limited engagement and her lack of insight and remorse.
23. The Panel therefore concluded that it would be appropriate and proportionate to impose a further period of suspension for a period of 6 months. This will allow the Registrant a further period of time to develop insight and demonstrate her continued commitment to her chosen profession. The Panel considered that the same recommendation that the previous Panel suggested are appropriate for the Registrant to follow and be guided by namely:
• The attendance of the Registrant.
• A reflective piece from the Registrant indicating a recognition of her dishonesty, what she has learnt from these events and her understanding of the impact that her dishonesty has had, or could have had, on the reputation of her profession.
• The Registrant’s career plans for the future.
• Evidence of the steps that she has taken to maintain her professional skills.
• Details of any work undertaken by the Registrant, whether paid or unpaid, together with relevant references and testimonials.
24. This Panel wishes to make it clear to the Registrant that this further brief period of suspension should enable the Registrant to develop insight. If the Registrant chooses not to fully engage with these proceedings the next reviewing Panel may consider that a striking off order is the appropriate Order.
25. In conclusion the Panel considers that a Suspension Order for a further period of 6 months is the appropriate and proportionate Order.