Mr Carl Gordon Riley

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW34060

Interim Order: Imposed on 26 Jul 2016

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 24/11/2017 End: 17:00 24/11/2017

Location: ETC Venues, Avonmouth House, 6 Avonmouth Street, London, SE1 6NX

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as a registered Social Worker for Nottingham County Council:

1)     You did not progress cases in a timely manner in that:

a)     Between 01 April 2015 and 06 July 2015 you did not progress the case of Child SR to Child Protection proceedings;

b)    Between 30 April 2015 and 2 June 2015 you did not exercise your responsibility to ensure that a home visit was carried out in respect of Child MR.

c)     Between 14 May 2015 and 6 July 2015 you did not progress the case of Child KM to Child Protection proceedings;

d)    Between 19 May 2015 and 16 June 2015 you did not progress the case of Child CA to Child Protection proceedings;

e)     Between 11 June 2015 and 23 June 2015 you did not progress the case of Child MH to Child Protection Proceedings.

2)     You did not follow management instructions in that:

a)     On 19 May 2015 you were requested to complete a section 47 enquiry for Family CA, and you did not action the enquiry until 16 June 2015.

b)    On 30 June 2015 you were requested to consider progressing the case of Child KM to a strategy discussion that same day, and you did not:

i)      Consider progressing the case to a strategy discussion that same day; and/or

ii)     Complete a case note in respect of your decision.

3)     On or around 12 May 2015 you entered a supervision case note on Social Worker CS’ cases when you did not have a supervision session with Social Worker CS.

4)     On 03 June 2015 you created a false supervision note dated 12 May 2015 for Social Worker CS

5)     On 23 June 2016 you did not assess Child MH’s siblings as part of a section 47 enquiry.

6)     On 02 July 2015 you:

a)     created a false probationary review form dated 27 February 2015 for Social Worker TC;

b)    created a false probationary review form dated 10 June 2015 for Social Worker TC

7)     On or around 06 July 2015 you had a phone call with the mother in the case of Child TS and you:

a)     Did not record a management entry on the case; and/or

b)    Did not record a decision you made to give permission to the mother to move out of the family home.

8)     Your actions at paragraphs 3, 4 and 6 were dishonest.

9)     The facts as described in paragraphs 1-8 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

10)   By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Amendments to the Allegation

1. Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC made an application to amend the Allegation. Mr Padley, who appeared for the Registrant did not object to the amendments. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor.

2. The Panel acceded to the application noting that the amendments were not opposed and were for clarification purposes and minor in nature.

Application to conduct part of the hearing in private

3. Mr Padley informed the Panel that during the hearing there would be references and questioning relating to the Registrant’s private life. He applied for those parts of the hearing that related to the Registrant’s private and family life to be held in private.  Mr Dite did not oppose the application. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

4. The starting point is that regulatory proceedings should be held in public based on the principle of ‘open justice’ and on the importance of public scrutiny. Rule 10(1) of the HCPC Rules provides that:

“At any hearing ... the proceedings shall be held in public unless the Committee is satisfied that, in the interests of justice  or for the protection of the private life of the health professional, the complainant, any person giving evidence or any patient  or  client , the public should be excluded  from  all or part of the hearing..”
5. Article 8 of the ECHR provides for the right to private and family life.  The Panel determined that it would be in the interests of justice to hear those parts of the case which related to private and family life in private and acceded to the application.

 Application to read the statement of JC

6. The HCPC applied to read the statement of witness JC, because JC was unable to attend the hearing. She sent a letter from her GP dated 29 September 2017, which explained that for reasons due to her health he had advised her against travel to London.

7. By the time this information was received, the hearing had already begun. Mr Padley stated he would not oppose an application for JC to give her evidence over the telephone. Efforts were made to organise this but JC would not agree. Mr Dite therefore applied to read her statement

8. JC completed an audit of the documentation in relation to Child C. The Registrant had responsibility for this case. The audit raised concerns about the progress of the case and the failure of the Registrant as the Team Manager to initiate Section 47 enquiries.

9. Mr Padley opposed the application to read JC’s statement.  He argued that he needed to be able to test the scope of the audit.  He relied on the test as set out in Thorneycroft v Nursing and Midwifery Council 2014 EWHC 1565.

10.  The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

11.  The Panel found that whilst there was a valid reason for JC’s decision not to attend the hearing, there was no reasoned explanation for her decision not to agree to give evidence by telephone.  The note from the GP simply advised against travelling to London.

12.  In Thorneycroft, the Court highlighted the need to ensure fairness to a registrant.  The Court held that, in exercising their discretion to admit evidence, panels need to weigh the potential impact that an adverse finding might have on a registrant’s career. Matters which needed to be considered included whether the evidence was challenged, the significance of the evidence and fairness to the registrant.   Having weighed the competing interests, the Panel found that the Registrant was entitled to test the evidence. The parameters of the audit and the conclusions that JC reached were matters that the Registrant was entitled to explore and Mr Padley was entitled to put his client’s case to JC.  Importantly, the source material was before the Panel and was contained within the Registrant’s bundle. JC had not provided a reason for her decision not to agree to give evidence over the telephone. The Panel found that it was not in the interests of justice to allow the statement to be read.  The application was refused.

Background

13. The Registrant was employed as a Team Manager at Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC), within the Ashfield District Child Protection Team. He began his employment with the Council in July 2004. As a Team Manager, he was responsible for managing 6 - 8 Social Workers with a total of 150-180 cases. At the relevant time the Registrant had other responsibilities which are set out at paragraph 35 below.

14. As part of the Council's quality assurance processes, the Quality Improvement Group, a designated team within the Council, required all Team Managers to audit two other Team Managers’ cases per quarter. The team randomly select two individual cases to be audited. In June 2015, an audit of two of the cases that the Registrant supervised was assessed as ‘'inadequate” with immediate action required.   Following this audit, concerns were raised about the Registrant’s practice and in July 2015, SM was commissioned to undertake an investigation into his practice.

15. The investigation reviewed several of the Registrant's cases and highlighted several occasions on which the Registrant had delayed in taking the requisite steps to progress cases towards Section 47 enquiries and eventual Child Protection Plans. The investigation also highlighted concerns that the Registrant had created and uploaded supervision and probationary review notes for occasions when meetings did not occur.  The matter was subsequently referred to the HCPC.

16. Particular 1(a) relates to Child A, a 15/16 year old girl previously, known to Children’s Social Care because she had been the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by her brother.  On 2 April 2015, NCC received information that Child A was not living at home and had gone to stay with an uncle. There were concerns that she was involved in online sexual activity. For a period of time, Child A’s address was not known either by her parents or by NCC. The HCPC’s case is that there was a delay in initiating Section 47 enquiries.

17. Particular 1(b) relates to Child B. Child B was a 5 year old girl who had been left by her parents unsupervised in the home. The family had a history of alcohol misuse, domestic violence and poor home conditions. The Registrant was the Team Manager and placed a lengthy note on the file on 30 April 2015, noting concerns over the ‘actual frequency that she was left unsupervised’. The first recorded contact was on the 19 May 2015 and Child B was not seen until 2 June 2015.   The Particular is that the Registrant as Team Manager should have ensured she was seen sooner.

18.  Particular 1(c) relates to Child C, who was one of two siblings being cared for by the maternal grandmother. There were concerns raised by the school that the grandmother was ‘obstructive’ and was preventing the children from accessing support from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).  The case had a protracted history and there was an on-going private law dispute over the children’s residence and a Section 7 report had been ordered by the Court. NCC had prepared a Section 37 report in respect of residence in December 2014. On 14 May 2015, the Registrant made a supervision note which read that “consideration needed to be given to Section 47 from recommendations of Section 7 report”. On 30 June 2015, ZM, the Registrant’s Line Manager, sent the Registrant an email and a case note asking him to “detail and case note his opinion as to whether the case should proceed to a strategy discussion and Section 47 enquiries”.  The case was not progressed to a case discussion until 6 July 2015. The HCPC’s case is that the Registrant should not have delayed Section 47 enquiries pending the completion of the Section 7 report as the two processes can run simultaneously.

19. Particular 1(d) involved an alleged delay in initiating Section 47 enquiries in relation to Child D.  The family had been known to Social Services for 15 years. There was a history of previous Social Services involvement due to domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.  On 19 May 2015, ZM place a note on the system after a discussion with the Registrant. The note read “S47 enquiry to be completed for the children given above.” A strategy discussion was not held until 16 June 2015; the HCPC’s case is that it should have happened sooner.

20. Particular 1(e) relates to Child E who had been the victim of a physical assault at the hands of her father. Her father was cautioned by the police on 11 June 2015. On 15 June 2015, the Registrant had discussions with the police and made arrangements for Child E to remain in the care of the grandfather until there had been a full investigation and “beyond”. He wrote that the case was to move to Section 47 enquiries, with a view to ICPC (that is, an Initial Child Protection Conference). He did not arrange a strategy discussion until 23 June 2015.

21. Particular 2 alleges that the Registrant did not follow management instructions from ZM in relation to Child D.

22. Particular 2 (b)(i) alleges that on 30 June 2015 the Registrant was asked by ZM to effect oversight on the file of Child C that day. She updated “Framework”, the NCC’s computerised case recording system, with the note that the Registrant was to give consideration to a strategy discussion that day and to make a case note relating to his decision. When the file was reviewed, ZM noted that he did not do this until 6 July 2015. Particular 2(b)(ii) alleges that the Registrant did not complete a case note of his decision not to progress the case to a strategy discussion until 6 July 2015.

23. Particular 3 alleges that the Registrant created supervision records for a supervision session on 12 May 2015 with “Social Worker A” (CS) which did not take place. When the Particular was investigated by SM she noted that the supervision record was compiled on 3 June 2015. It is the policy of NCC for supervision records to be completed within 10 working days. CS asserted that whilst working under the Registrant she did not have a formal supervision with him.

24. Particular 4 alleges that the Registrant failed to include Child E’s siblings in the request for a Section 47 enquiry. The HCPC’s case is that the siblings should have been considered and included in the assessment process.

25. Particular 5(a) concerned a probationary review meeting recorded by the Registrant as having taken place on 27 February 2015 with “Social Worker B” (TN) which she alleged had not taken place. The alleged record of the review was not signed by TN, nor was it uploaded onto the Registrant’s “H” drive until 2 July 2015.  

26.  Particular 5 (b) concerned a probationary review meeting on 10 June 2015 which TN claimed also did not take place. The notes of the meeting were unsigned.  It was the HCPC’s case that TN had a three-way “ASYE” meeting, with the Registrant and MNC, her mentor, and that she did not have a probationary review meeting. The notes of the probationary review meeting were not created on the Registrant’s “H drive” until 2 July 2015.

27. Particular 6 related to Child F, who, whilst a baby, sustained non-accidental injuries. Following court proceedings the judge ruled that Child F was to be placed in the care of the maternal grandmother [with the parents living there]. The parents were only allowed contact with Child F when supervised by the grandmother but the plan was for the parents to gradually take over the care of Child F. The relationship between the mother and grandmother broke down. There were a number of calls between Child F’s mother and the Registrant on the 6 July 2015. The HCPC’s case is that on or around 9 July 2015, the Registrant gave the mother permission to move out of the family home and into a flat with a friend. 6(a) alleges that the Registrant failed to record the decision and 6(b) alleges that he failed to undertake a risk assessment.

28. Particular 7 alleges dishonesty in respect of the meetings that the HCPC says did not occur, which are the subjects of Particulars 3 & 5.

Decision on Facts

29. The HCPC called ZM who was appointed as the Registrant's Line Manager in April 2015, SM who was the Investigating Officer, Social Worker A, “CS” an Agency Social Worker managed by the Registrant, and Social Worker B, “TN” who was a Probationary Social Worker, working within the Registrant’s team. The Panel found that all of the witnesses did their best to accurately recollect the events in question, but the events took place over two years ago and the passage of time affected the quality of some of the evidence.

30.  The Particulars cover a period between April and July 9 2015. ZM took over as the Registrant’s line manager on 13 April 2015.  At the relevant time the Registrant said there had been considerable re-structuring within the Ashfield team, which was the busiest in Nottinghamshire. He said that in the six months before these events there were considerable staff shortages. Until April 2015 the three other team managers in Ashfield were inexperienced and ‘acting up’ in the role.

31. Particulars 1 and 2 cover a number of cases where the Registrant failed to initiate Section 47 enquiries when the HCPC claims it was necessary to do so. Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 provides that the Local Authority must undertake Section 47 enquiries where a child is suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. Enquiries under Section 47 give local authorities statutory powers to share information with all the agencies relevant to a child’s welfare and safety, particularly the police, education and health services. This enables proper planning and an agreed joint strategy to protect the child from any risks identified. As such, it is distinct from services delivered under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. The discretion to implement Section 47 enquiries lies with the Team Manager, but such enquiries can be initiated by a Service or Line Manager. The procedure involves initiating a strategy meeting or discussion.

32.  In NCC at the time, in order to initiate a strategy discussion, the Team Manager needed to have access to secure email in order to communicate with the police. For most of the period, the Registrant was the only person with access to secure email over four districts. He drew this to the attention of management in January 2015 and asked for someone else to be given access to secure email to share the workload. This was not actioned until about May 2015.  Between January and May the Registrant had the additional responsibility of being the only person with secure email in the Mansfield area. Secure email was also used in matters relating to health and education. He was responsible for distributing the emails that arrived by secure email and for initiating strategy discussions and Section 47 enquiries for other Team Managers. This process took between 30 minutes and two hours a day.

33.  The Registrant was responsible for managing 6-8 staff. The Panel heard evidence that the Registrant had responsibility for between 150 and 180 cases. At the relevant time he had one worker on long term sick leave, an agency worker, one Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE), two workers who had just completed their ASYE, and three students. In May he was placed on an action plan due to concerns over the timeliness of his recording.

34. The Registrant was supposed to have two ‘admin days per month’, but was taking his holiday as admin days. His email trail shows that he often worked out of hours and late into the night; some of his emails were sent as late as 11.45 pm.

35. The Registrant was also the representative on multi-agency committees tasked with protecting children, including MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference). He had been designated as the Social Worker for Child Sexual Exploitation Matters across the borough. He had responsibility for conducting audits and for recruiting agency staff.

36. The HCPC did not call any witnesses who had worked with the Registrant over a period of time. 

37. The Panel accepted that there was a shift in NCC’s approach to Section 47 enquiries when ZM was appointed and that the previous instruction from the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) had been not to elevate cases to Section 47 unless they were referred as Child Protection cases. 

38. Between January and May 2015, the Registrant had a number of personal family matters which he brought to the attention of management. The Registrant took three periods of annual leave in the period April to July 2015. He was on annual leave between 6 -13 April; 20 and 26 May 2015 and 19 - 29 June 2015.

Particular 1 (a): proved

39. Child A was a vulnerable 16 year old girl. She had been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her brother, who was at the relevant time detained in a secure unit.

40. She was missing from 2-15 April 2015.  The Registrant as Team Manager had information that she may have been involved in online sexual activity and that she was staying with an uncle. The initial report was that her mother did not know the uncle’s address but that he lived in Scarborough. The Registrant went on annual leave on 6 April 2015 and allocated this case to a student to trace Child A.

41. In the context of a child who was vulnerable and had been the victim of abuse at the hands of a family member the Panel finds that the Registrant should have initiated a strategy discussion and begun Section 47 enquiries immediately. The Panel does not accept the Registrant’s explanation that he had to locate Child A first. The fact that Child A’s parents did not know the address increased the urgency of the situation. It was crucial to initiate Section 47 enquiries by having a strategy discussion on the date of referral and, if not, on 15 April 2015 when the Registrant returned from his holiday and Child A was still missing. The Panel finds that had Section 47 enquiries been initiated at the outset, the Local Authority would have been able to compel Child A’s mother to provide the uncle’s address or enlist help from the police in Scarborough to find Child A. The Panel finds that during this period there was a real chance that Child A could have suffered significant harm.

42. When the Registrant returned from leave on the 15 April 2015 he tasked a senior worker, MNC to assess the situation.  This was insufficient.  At the time there was no information about the uncle. Although Child A was back home by the 23 April, the note from the school indicated that they remained concerned. 

43. By 28 April 2015 the case had been allocated to JT.  She saw Child A on 1 May 2015. By then JT had contacted the police, the school, CAMHS and the GP. She conducted a further home visit on 7 May 2015.   The team had liaised with the Police.  Thereafter, there were frequent visits and although the Chair of the Sexual Exploitation Meeting stated that Section 47 enquiries needed to be opened, she noted that the case was unlikely to meet the threshold for child protection at an ICPC. She noted that ‘adequate safeguards appeared to be in place and that there was insufficient information to show that Child A was at risk of sexual exploitation’.   The Panel accepts that during this period the situation was stable and that work was being done to ensure that Child A was safe.

44. The Panel acknowledges that the Registrant did initiate Section 47 enquiries when he learnt at a mulit-agency meeting with the police that  Child A’s brother  was about to be released from a secure unit and  that the plan was  for him  to return to the vicinity.

Particular 1 (b): proved

45. On 30 April 2015 the Registrant made a detailed note of the situation. He recognised that the family had a long history of social service intervention. There was a history of domestic violence, alcohol misuse and poor home conditions.  There had been a number of assessments and two earlier Child Protection Plans under the category of physical and emotional harm and a Child in Need plan. The Registrant recorded that, following a request from Child B’s school, police had attended his home address and had found Child B alone in the property. The property was unlocked.  When the police knocked on the door Child B opened it. Records show that this was the second occasion when Child B had been left alone. The police report noted that the parents gave conflicting accounts. Child B had not been attending nursery and was sleeping on a sofa.

46. The Registrant accepted that between 30 April and 2 June 2015, Child B was not seen. This case was allocated to MC, a Social Worker in the Registrant’s team, who was away on holiday.  The decision to allocate the case to a worker on leave was not solely the Registrant’s, and the Panel accepts that this may have been the only option, but once the case was allocated to a Social Worker in his team, the  Registrant  was responsible for  ensuring  that  Child B was seen at home by the duty Social Worker. The Panel further notes that when MC returned from his holiday he did not visit Child B.  It was clear from the supervision record of 19 May 2015 that MC had not seen Child B and that the Registrant instructed him to prioritise this.  Whilst the Panel note that MC did try to see Child B after 19 May 2015 it was not until 2 June 2015 that she was seen. This was a potentially dangerous situation for a young vulnerable child. The MASH report set out the risks clearly and the fact that the parents had a poor history of compliance.

Particular 1 (c): not proved

47. This was a case where there had been private law proceedings in December 2014.   A section 37 report had been prepared in respect of those proceedings and the Judge at Preston County Court made a residence order in the maternal grandmother’s favour. He gave leave to the mother to apply for a variation and/or increased contact.  The Social Worker who had had conduct of the case went on long term sick leave before the December 2014 hearing and the Registrant  presented the report in court at the hearing in December 2014 and had considerable personal knowledge of the background facts. 

48. Tensions escalated between the maternal grandmother and the mother in March 2015, when the mother failed to return the children to the grandmother after contact. The Police were called but reported that the children were being well looked after.  The children were eventually returned to the maternal grandmother. Following this, NCC were asked to prepare a fresh Section 7 report. The case was allocated to Social Worker JT by the Registrant.

49.  The Panel heard evidence from ZM and SM that an audit of the case disclosed that there was evidence that maternal grandmother was failing to  co-operate with the school, that she was obstructive and that  one of  the children had not  received essential treatment for asthma and that there were outstanding vaccinations. In addition, one of the children had passed out during a school performance.

50.  The Panel has considered the contemporaneous records in this case and the file notes prepared by JT. The Panel notes that the audit was prepared by JC, who did not attend the hearing. It would appear from a careful review of the records that some of the key matters relied on by the HCPC were historic. For example the Panel heard evidence that Child C had collapsed at school.  This evidence dated back to April 2014 and pre-dated the December 2014 court case.  The HCPC’s case was that the maternal grandmother had failed to register the children and take them for medical treatment. The children were both registered with GPs. The records show that there were considerable ‘cross – allegations’ as between the mother and the maternal grandmother and it appears from a careful review of the documentation that ZM and SM may have conflated historic information with current information. 

51.  The Panel accepts the Registrant’s evidence that there had been an in-depth enquiry by a Judge, six months earlier. The Registrant had considerable knowledge of the case and JT’s case notes show that she visited the children at the school and made enquiries relating to their health and education. She had ascertained the children’s wishes and there was insufficient evidence at the time to escalate the matter to child protection proceedings by way of a strategy discussion or to initiate Section 47 enquiries.

Particular 1 (d): not proved

52. This Particular is based on a file note which was made by ZM on 19 May 2015.  The file note prepared by ZM acknowledges that the mother and children had been placed in a refuge in Birmingham by Women’s Aid and that on 19 May 2015 they were there. The evidence was that the family intended to move permanently to Birmingham and that accommodation and school places were being sought.

53.  Unknown to Social Services the mother and children returned to her property in Northampton and Child D got involved in an altercation. As soon as this was brought to the Registrant’s attention he initiated Section 47 proceedings on 16 June 2017. The Panel found that this Particular was not proved because it is framed as a failure to initiate Section 47 enquiries in a timely manner. Whilst the children were in a woman’s refuge the evidence was that the children were not at risk. The risk emanated from their departure. As soon as the Registrant was aware of this Section 47 enquiries were initiated.

Particular 1 (e): proved

54.  The Registrant’s case was that following the assault on Child E by her father, Child E was safe because arrangements had been made for her to stay with her grandfather whilst child protection concerns were explored. On 11 June 2015 Child E’s father accepted a police caution. The notes show that the Registrant chaired a strategy discussion on 10 June 2016. At the Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) that was held on 30 June 2015 there were a number of criticisms of the Registrant’s management of the case. In particular the Chair noted that an inexperienced Social Worker (TN) attended the ICPC, that the parents had limited notice of the conference and that she and the other agencies only had two days’ notice. Section 47 enquiries had not begun and Child E’s half siblings had not been included in the Section 47 request. The Registrant accepted in his oral evidence that he did not upload the report of the strategy discussion until late evening on 23 June 2015, whilst on leave; he contended, however, that TN would have known what she needed to do (including a risk assessment as part of the Section 47 enquiries) to prepare for the ICPC, because she would have known that the discussion had been held on 10 June 2015.  

55. The NCC Guidance on Child Protection Enquiries stated that it was the responsibility of the Chair of the strategy discussion to ensure that the record of decisions and agreed actions was fully recorded “as soon as practicable”; but this “should be changed to ‘within one working day’ ”. (It appears the guidance had itself been amended to specify the one working day).  Completion of this document in the time set out in the NCC guidance was vital to the process as this was what would have triggered and recorded the formal Section 47 enquiries which needed to be made by the Social Worker prior to the ICPC. As a result, neither the Section 47 enquiries nor a risk assessment were undertaken prior to 23 June 2015.

Particular 2 (a): proved

56. This Particular is proved. ZM placed this instruction on Framework at 16.49 on 19 May 2015, the instruction is at the end of the entry and reads: “1). Section 47 enquiry to be completed for the children given the above”.

57. ZM’s file note of the 19 May 2015 is important in that it states that the Registrant completed a Child in Need review that day and that the children were still in the refuge. It recorded that the assessment team felt that the mother would not return to Nottingham despite the fact that she still had a property in the borough. It included the historic information of poor parenting, domestic violence and drug abuse that pre-dated the move to the women’s refuge.

58. The Registrant admitted that he did not follow this instruction. He stated that he did not consider that it was mandatory because the decision on whether and when to action Section 47 enquiries lay with him as team manager; moreover, he stated, and the Panel accepted, that in fact it was not necessary to action the enquiries at that time because the family were in a refuge in Birmingham. Therefore, the child was not at risk of harm.

Particular 2 (b) (i): not proved

59.   The Panel accepts that following receipt of the ‘inadequate audit’ in relation to Child C, ZM sent an email on 30 June 2015 which read: - “Consideration to be given to a strategy discussion today and case noted regarding decision making”. ZM then listed a number of tasks which were based on the audit, many of which related to historic concerns.

60. 4 and 5 July were a Saturday and Sunday. NCC guidelines state that a strategy discussion should be requested within three working days. The Registrant   requested the strategy discussion first thing in the morning on 6 July 2015, which was the fourth working day after ZM sent her email, just outside the timing specified in the guidelines. The Panel notes that the Registrant returned from leave on 29 June 2015. The email began with the words “consideration”. The word “consideration” carries an ordinary English meaning and is different from an instruction.

Particular 2 (b)(ii): proved

61. The Registrant did not case note a decision not to progress the case to a strategy discussion. The evidence suggests that the Registrant did not in fact decide not to progress the case to a strategy discussion. He did progress the case, and did so just outside the time limit required by the NCC guidelines, as set out above. Therefore, though this particular is proved, the Panel does not find that there was any requirement for the Registrant to case note a decision not to progress the case.

Particular 3: proved

62. The Registrant admitted that he did not hold a supervision session with CS on 12 May 2015.  His evidence was that the session took place on 14 May 2015. He produced his diary entry which he did not have access to at the time of the internal investigation which showed that the supervision session planned for 12 May 2015 was moved to 14 May 2015. Although CS had no recollection of this and disputed the fact that this had occurred, the question of whether there was a supervision session on 14 May 2015 has never been properly explored.  An allegation of dishonesty is a serious matter and the Panel finds that the Registrant has provided an explanation for the error. He stated that he had pre-prepared the heading date for the intended date of supervision that is, 12 May 2015, then omitted to change the date when writing up the supervision notes later. The Panel accept that CS sent an email to the Registrant on 17 June 2015, after a new worker had drawn to her attention omissions on her files. CS did not have her diary with her when she gave evidence that she did not have a supervision session with the Registrant on 14 May 2015. The evidence on this is therefore the word of CS against that of the Registrant. The Panel noted that the investigation centred entirely around 12 May 2015, and that is the date specified in the Allegation. Whilst the Panel finds this fact proved, in that both the HCPC and the Registrant agree that a supervision did not take place on 12 May 2015, the Panel finds that that there is insufficient evidence to reach a decision on what did or did not occur on 14 May 2015.

Particular 4: proved

63.  The Registrant began his evidence by stating that he did not think that Child E was living with or had contact with her siblings and therefore he believed that this was a “child specific enquiry”. The NCC guidelines state that a Social Worker must “consult with other agencies involved with the child and family to obtain a fuller picture of all the children in the household identifying parenting strengths and risk factors”. The Panel is unclear as to whether there were other siblings in the same house, but this was a complex family and Child E had been the victim of earlier non-accidental injuries at the hands of the mother, who lived elsewhere with Child E’s half siblings and her new partner. The Registrant knew this.  The alert sent by the Child Protection Chair following the meeting on 30 June 2015 highlights the failure to conduct a preliminary risk assessment of the wider family and the fact that the case was unsuitable for an inexperienced worker. The Registrant accepted in cross-examination and in his answers to the Panel that he did not ask for Child E’s siblings to be considered and assessed as part of the Section 47 enquiries.  He accepted that, with the benefit of hindsight, he should have done so. In light of the complex history, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s evidence that this was a “child and incident specific enquiry” shows a lack of thoroughness in his review of the file. Had this failure not been picked up at the Child Protection Meeting, the other siblings could have been placed at risk, since the enquiry would have been limited in its scope.

Particular 5(a): not proved

64. TC accepted that she had a supervision with the Registrant on 27 February 2015 and this was corroborated by an entry in the Registrant’s electronic calendar. She did not see the record of the review meeting which the Registrant uploaded on 2 July 2015 until after he had left NCC, and she denied it had taken place.

65. The Registrant explained that soon after TN started work at NCC, he had concerns about her practice, so he brought forward the first probationary review (which should have been in March), to 27 February 2015, so that he could inform her early of his concerns. He held the probationary review meeting at the end of the supervision on that date.

66. He stated that he made contemporaneous hand written records, but did not upload the electronic record until 2 July 2015. He said that TN would have known that she was able to access her handwritten records from the file in his office whenever she wanted to.   The Panel accepted his evidence.

67.  In addition, the record of the ASYE Review Meeting that was held on the 10 June 2015 refers to the three month review having taken place. The Panel concludes that this would have been the probationary review meeting held on 27 February 2015.

Particular 5(b): not proved

68. The Panel found this Particular not proved. The Panel found Social Worker B (TN)’s evidence on this point to be inconsistent.

69. Both witnesses agreed that on 10 June 2015 Social Worker B was scheduled to have an ASYE meeting. This was a three way meeting between Social Worker B, her mentor, MNC, and the Registrant.  Social Worker B accepted during that meeting it became apparent that there was a difference in opinion as between the Registrant and her mentor MNC, as to the standard of her work. MNC thought that she was doing well, whereas the Registrant, whilst acknowledging her excellent report writing, raised concerns.   During the course of her evidence, Social Worker B accepted that she was told at that meeting that her probationary period would be extended. This oral evidence conflicted with her written statement.

70. The Panel accepted the evidence of the Registrant, that MNC raised the question of Social Worker B’s probation at that ASYE meeting, and that the Registrant, having discussed the matter prior to or at the start of the meeting with MNC, had not intended to raise it. (He was planning, according to his supervision record of 19 May 2015, to have the review on 15 June 2015). The issue came up again in the ASYE meeting and he stated that he was effectively ‘bounced’ into the discussion on 10 June 2015.  The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that the Probationary Review Meeting happened at the start of what became the ASYE meeting as a result of the discussion between himself and MNC.

71. The fact that the Probationary Review Meeting notes were not written up until 2 July 2015 does not indicate that they were fabricated. The Registrant had a number of periods of leave during this period and he accepts that he was behind with his record keeping.

72. Furthermore, during his own supervisions, the Registrant referred to TN’s progress on 27 March 2015 and 24 April 2015, noting that her case notes recorded good information but that he had concerns that she was not following up on all of the necessary information in her report writing. The 24 April 2015 record states: “5 month review has not yet taken place but a date will be set in June for this. Carl felt at this time he would be looking to extend her probation.”  This record corresponds with the Registrant’s record of the 10 June probationary review meeting.

73. The Panel should state that, whilst the Panel has found that the Registrant held a Probationary Review Meeting with TN after the ASYE meeting, the Panel finds that the Registrant failed to follow proper procedures with regard to the holding of probationary review meetings. The Panel accepts that there was therefore room for confusion and misunderstanding with regard to what was an important meeting for TN and that this was not good practice.

Particular 6(a): proved

74. On 6 July 2015 the Registrant had a discussion with the Child Protection Coordinator where it was agreed that the mother could move out with Child F. The Child Protection Coordinator made a retrospective record of this meeting on 17 July 2015. (It appears she erroneously recorded it as having taken place on 9 July 2016, but the Registrant had already been suspended at that date).

75. The Registrant admits that he did not record this decision on the case management system before he was suspended from his post on 7 July 2015.  The Panel therefore found this particular proved.

Particular 6(b): proved

76. The Registrant admits that he did not ensure a risk assessment was undertaken.  There is evidence that the Registrant had a discussion with the Child Protection Coordinator in which it was agreed that the mother could move in with her friend once the case was reviewed. This meeting was held the day before he was suspended and the Panel finds that he did not have time to ensure a risk assessment was undertaken. The Panel therefore found this particular proved.

Particular 7: not proved

77.   Although the Panel found that the Registrant did not hold a supervision session with CS (Social Worker A) on 12 May 2015, the question of whether there was a supervision session on 14 May 2015 was never explored and for this reason there was insufficient evidence to establish dishonesty in relation to Particular 3.

78. In light of the Panel’s findings in relation to TN (Social Worker B) that probationary review meetings took place on 27 February 2015 and 10 June 2015, dishonesty is not proved in relation to Particular 5.

Decision on Grounds

79. The Panel found that although the facts in particulars 2 (a), 2 (b), 3, 6 (a) & (b) were proved, the failings of the Registrant do not amount to a statutory ground.   The reasons relating to particulars 2(a), 2(b) and 3 are set out in full in our decision on the facts. In respect of particulars 6(a) and 6(b), taking into account the fact that the Registrant was suspended form his employment on 7 July 2015, the Panel does not find the grounds proved.

80. The Panel found that particulars 1(a), I(b), I(e) and 4 and were so serious as to amount to misconduct.    The Panel found that the omissions in all three cases were serious. They went beyond errors of judgment in the ordinary course of a busy caseload and had the potential to place service users at risk.

81. In relation to Particular 1(a), the Registrant’s actions were in direct breach of his professional duty to safeguard children. Child A was particularly vulnerable because she had already been sexually abused by a family member.  As the Team Manager, the Registrant had responsibility for the direction of the case. He did not attach sufficient weight to the background and to the fact that Child A was staying with an uncle, who had not been assessed as a suitable carer and whose address was unknown. This, coupled with the fact that there was information that Child A may have been involved in online sexual activity, should have alerted him to the immediate need for a strategy discussion to initiate Section 47 enquiries.  This was not a case where a student should have been tasked to find her address but one where Section 47 enquiries should have been initiated immediately. The Registrant is an experienced Social Worker who had been a Team Manager for many years. His role was to assess the situation and the Panel found that there was a real risk that Child A could have suffered significant harm between 2 April and 23 April 2015.

82.  In relation to particular 1(b) the Panel found that the Registrant should have ensured that Child B was seen immediately. There was ample evidence that this was a potentially dangerous situation for a young vulnerable child. The MASH report set out the risks clearly. In a case note the Registrant referred to the MASH report and to the parents’ poor history of compliance. In the context of the family history, the failure to ensure that a 5 year old child was visited as a matter of urgency amounted to misconduct.

83.  In relation to particular 1(e) there were a number of failures in the  Registrant’s approach which  taken together amount to misconduct; the failure  to record  the strategy discussion of 10 June 2015 until 23 June 2015 was a breach  of  NCC Guidance on Child Protection Enquiries and had potentially serious ramifications. It is important that records can be accessed easily and that Social Workers follow established procedures, protocols and guidelines so that a professional who is not familiar with a case can access information quickly in the event of an emergency.  In this case the Registrant was on leave for part of the period and this meant that the Social Worker with conduct of the case did not have all of the information that she needed to progress her work on the case.   Although the Panel accepts that the Registrant’s work load was excessive, he was an experienced Social Worker who knew that he was seriously ‘adrift’ with his recording. He was in breach of the HCPC’s standards which require him to keep accurate and up-to-date records and of professional standards expected of Team Managers.

84.  In relation to particular 4 the fact that the Registrant did not ensure that the siblings were part of the assessment meant that they were not included in the Section 47 enquiries. This omission was serious in the context of a complex family, known to NCC. As an experienced Social Worker the Registrant had responsibility to consider the wider picture and had the omission not been noticed at the Child Protection Conference, the scope of the enquiries would have been too restrictive, placing other vulnerable children at potential risk.

85. The matters in which the Panel found misconduct represent breaches of the  following HCPC Standards of conduct performance and ethics and HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers;

HCPC Standards of conduct performance and ethics (2012)

• Standard 1 – You must act in the best interests of service users

• Standard 7 – You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners

• Standard 8 - You must effectively supervise tasks that you have asked other people to carry out

HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers (2012)

• Standard 4.3 - recognise that they are personally responsible for, and must be able to justify, their decisions and recommendations

• Standard 4.4 - be able to make informed judgements on complex issues using the information available

• Standard 8.2 – be able to demonstrate effective and appropriate skills in communicating advice, instruction, information and professional opinion to colleagues, …

•   Standard 10.2 - recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines

Decision on Impairment

86. Whether or not a Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired is a question for the Panel alone. The Panel took into account the oral evidence of the Registrant on the question of impairment, the submissions of Mr Dite and Mr Padley  and reminded itself of the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

87. The Panel had regard to the guidance given by Dame Janet Smith in the 5th Shipman Report and to the proper approach to the  issue of impairment: in particular whether  the findings of fact in respect  of misconduct established  that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that he:

• has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at risk of unwarranted harm; and/or

• in the past and/or is liable in the future to bring the profession into disrepute, and/or

• has in the past breached and/or is he liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of profession; and/or

• in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in  the future.

88. The Registrant has worked as a Social Worker for 34 years.  He is a man of good character. He engaged in the disciplinary procedures initiated by his employer and was co-operative.  He has engaged in the regulatory process and the Panel accepts that he is a hard working Social Worker who is committed to his work. At the time of the internal disciplinary hearing he wrote at the end of his statement in relation to the allegations as they then were “I would like to return to my duties as soon as possible and will take on board  any advice given”.  The Panel finds that this reflects the Registrant’s consistent approach to his failings.   He is currently travelling 440 miles each week to and from work. The Panel has set out at paragraphs 32-36 some of the important factors which form the backdrop to these allegations. The Panel has taken into account that there were staff shortages at the time of these incidents and that the Registrant had responsibilities which would have been difficult for anybody to meet. However, as an autonomous professional he had a duty not only to alert, but also to pursue these issues with, his senior managers, because ultimately the safeguarding of children should be paramount.

89. At the time of these events the Registrant had significant personal stressors.  He has   shown insight into his failings.  He   has attended counselling and completed CBT therapy.  The Panel finds that the counselling that he has undertaken has been important both to help him cope with personal stressors but also to assist him to set appropriate boundaries and to understand his own limitations.

90. He has worked in three different authorities.  The Panel has been assisted by the full reference from his the Operational Manager at Dorset County Council, JW dated 5 October 2017. The reference is excellent and shows that his current employer values his work. In respect of the personal component of impairment the reference states that the Registrant’s case notes and court reports have been completed to a high standard and in a timely manner. His time management skills are described as excellent and he has demonstrated an ability to balance his case load with emergencies when they arise. He is described as a trustworthy, reflective practitioner, who is collaborative and supportive of colleagues. The reference describes him as calm, confident and approachable. As a worker he is commended for his child centred approach and for his excellent multi agency skills. The Registrant is described as a practitioner who has shown “excellent skills in formulating and delivering ideas and strategies to deliver required outcomes.”’

91. In his oral evidence the Registrant told the Panel that he has learnt from his mistakes and that he is now aware of his limitations.  He would not now take on too much work whatever external pressure he faced.  This too is reflected in Ms W’s reference where she writes that the Registrant is “self aware and knows his limitations”.  The Registrant told the Panel that he has benefited from training in his new role and that he understands the importance of training and that he looks forward to continuing to develop as a Social Worker. This is supported by Ms W who writes that he is “open to new ideas and ways of working”.

92. In light of the factors outlined above the Panel finds that the Registrant is no longer currently impaired.

93. The Panel however, went on to consider the public interest in the wider sense regarding the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel concluded that, despite the personal mitigation, the remedial steps taken by the Registrant and his continued work, which is of a high standard, confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made, because the public would expect children who are vulnerable to be safeguarded by a person in the role of Team Manager in a Child Protection case, however overworked he was.  The Panel also finds that this is a case where a finding of impairment is necessary to uphold confidence in the regulator and in the regulatory process.

Decision on Sanction

94.  The Panel heard submissions from Mr Dite and Mr Padley with regard to sanction. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  The Panel had regard to all the evidence presented, and to the Council’s Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP). The Panel reminded itself that a sanction is not intended to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect.

95. The Panel bore in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality when determining what the appropriate sanction in this case should be. The primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk which the Registrant may pose to those who use or need his services and to address the wider public interest; namely the deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

96.   At the time the Registrant had been working as a Social Worker for 32 years and was a senior Team Manager. The Panel accepts that he was under immense pressure due to staff shortages, and that he was a committed and hardworking Social Worker, who often worked late into the night to catch up.  He is currently working away from his home and his family. The Panel has found that the Registrant has remediated his actions and that he has insight into his failings and that the risk of repetition is extremely low.

97.  However, there is a wider public interest which requires the Regulator to send a clear message to other Social Workers emphasising the importance of ensuring that their primary responsibility is always to ensure  the safety of the vulnerable children whose interests they are employed to protect.

98. The Panel first considered whether it would be possible to address the public interest by imposing no sanction.  The Panel found that this would be wholly inappropriate because the Registrant held a senior position in social work and could have placed vulnerable children at risk.

99.  The Panel has found that because of the very strong mitigating factors, the imposition of a caution order is proportionate and strikes a proper balance between the need to mark the gravity of the behaviours with the substantial mitigation.  In reaching this decision, the Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order but as the Registrant’s work is of a high standard and the risk of repetition is negligible, the Panel found that meaningful conditions could not be imposed and this would not be appropriate.  In light of the mitigating factors, the high regard in which he is held by his current employer and the Registrant’s long career, suspension from practice would also be disproportionate.

100. The Panel therefore imposed a Caution Order for three years. In the Panel’s view, an Order of this length will be sufficient and proportionate to mark the gravity of the misconduct found proved and send a clear message to the public and to other registrants of the importance of adhering to child protection procedures in a timely way, in order to protect vulnerable children from risk of harm.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mr Carl Gordon Riley with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of three years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Carl Gordon Riley

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
29/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
28/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
01/03/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
13/09/2018 Investigating committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
15/03/2018 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension
24/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution
02/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard