Miss Jacquelin Irene Luxton

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW11719

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 26/04/2018 End: 11:30 26/04/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the Substantive Hearing on 30 October–2 November 2017.

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker for Somerset County Council between around June 2013 and 21 October 2014:

1. In relation to Person A and Person B:

a) Before placing Child 1 with Person A and Person B, you:

i) Did not adequately explore the conflicts in views between professionals involved in the care of Child 1.

ii) Did not explore with Person A and Person B Child 1’s needs and/or the potential implications of the psychologist's opinion of Child 1.

2. Not Proved

a) Not Proved

i) Not Proved

ii) Not Proved

3. Not Proved

4. You did not follow management instruction in that, you:

a) Undertook case work when instructed not to do so on 16 October 2014.

b) In or around June 2013, acted outside adoption agency practice and protocol in that you shared confidential information with an approved adopter about a prospective adopter.

5. You did not keep accurate and/or updated records on Liquid logic Children's Social Care System (LCS) and/or Protocol and/or the Bridgewater T-drive in relation to:

a) Family T;

b) Family U;

c) Family V;

d) Family W;

e) Person A and Person B;

f) Person C and Person D; and

g) Person E and Person F.

6. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

The Panel at the Substantive Hearing found particulars 1 a)(i), 1a)(ii), 4a), 4b), and 5a)–g) proved and that particulars 4(b) and 5(a)–(g) amounted to misconduct.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant at her home address, in accordance with Rule 3 of the Health Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).

Proceeding in absence

2. The Registrant did not appear, nor was she represented. She had not attended the original final hearing on 30 October 2017–2 November 2017.

3. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Wills applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. Ms Wills submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.

4. In reaching a decision, the Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”). The Panel exercised its discretion to proceed with the utmost care and caution. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable Notice of today’s hearing. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not attend the Substantive Hearing and she has not applied for an adjournment today. There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned. The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.

Proceeding in private

5. Ms Wills, who appeared for the HCPC, invited the Panel to hear matters relating to the Registrant’s health in private. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The starting point in approaching a hearing is the principle of ‘open justice’, which means that proceedings should be held in public. The Panel are aware of the need to maintain confidence in the court system and in 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.”

6. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides for the right to private and family life. The Panel accepted that the matters relating to the Registrant’s health raised sensitive issues. The Panel determined that it would be a public hearing but that, if it became necessary to refer to any private matters in more detail, the hearing would go into private session and the matter would not form part of the public record.

Background

7. The Panel does not intend to rehearse in full the facts found proved by the Substantive Hearing Panel, save for the following:

8. The Registrant was a Social Worker who, at the relevant time, was employed by Somerset County Council (SCC) as an Adoption Social Worker in the Permanence Team. In this role she was responsible for working with prospective adopters and completing assessments.

9. On 3 October 2013, an Internal Investigation was commissioned by the Group Manager of Fostering and Adoption, arising from a concern that the Registrant had breached confidentiality in disclosing the first name and profession of a prospective adopter to a couple who had recently adopted a child within the same sibling group. BH, Strategic Manager for Child Placements and Resources, conducted this investigation.

10. In June 2014, WWT took over as the Registrant’s line manager. During the course of supervision, it became clear that three placements had broken down extremely quickly. As a result of this, concerns were raised about the quality of the Registrant’s assessments.

11. The Registrant did not appear at the Substantive Hearing and nor was she represented before the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC at a final hearing in 2017. As stated earlier in his determination, the Panel found that particulars 4(b) and 5(a)–(g) amounted to misconduct.

12. The Panel at the final hearing went on to find that the Registrant was impaired and imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months.

Today’s review hearing

13. This is the first review of the Suspension Order. In reaching its decision, the Panel has had regard to the HCPC’s submissions and the relevant documentary evidence. The Registrant has not engaged and there has been no information provided by her since the Substantive Hearing. Ms Wills for the HCPC reminded the Panel of the history of the case and of their powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the Order or imposing another Order. She submitted that the case was too serious for any lesser sanction than a Suspension Order. Ms Wills submitted that “Strike-off needs to be seriously considered in this case”. Furthermore, she submitted that there is no evidence the Registrant has reflected on the findings or taken steps to address her behaviour. There is no information suggesting she intends to make any efforts towards remediation in the future. Rather, this appears unlikely given that she has indicated she does not intend to return to social work. Therefore, Ms Wills submitted there was little benefit in extending the Suspension Order.

Decision

14. A substantive review is a two-stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and, if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon her registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. The Panel is mindful that the purpose of this hearing is to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case.

16. The Panel had regard to the decision of the Substantive Hearing Panel, which concluded that “the Registrant has only has limited insight into the significance of her failings.” In addition, that Panel concluded that “the need for confidentiality and the keeping of proper records are fundamental to the work of a Social Worker and are necessary to safeguard service users. They are fundamental tenets of the profession and are essential to the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process”. This Panel has been provided with no further information by the Registrant regarding the following: her reflections upon what has occurred; any efforts to remediate; what she is doing now; or any training she has undertaken. She has not worked as a Social Worker since August 2015. In all the circumstances and in the absence of any new information or evidence from the Registrant, the Panel is propelled to conclude that her fitness to practise remains impaired.

Sanction

17. The Panel considered what sanction, if any, to impose. It found this to be a finely balanced judgement. It is clear that the nature of the misconduct was too serious to make no Order or to impose a Caution Order, and neither would provide sufficient public protection. Moreover, a Conditions of Practice Order is neither workable nor verifiable without engagement or insight on the part of the Registrant, and there was none. Therefore, in the Panel’s view, the decision is whether a Suspension Order is a sufficient and appropriate sanction.

18. The Registrant has not engaged at all and there was no information regarding whether the Registrant still has any health issues remaining. However, the original decision from the Substantive Hearing did not provide any suggestions that would assist a review panel or ways forward for the Registrant. Having considered all relevant matters, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant should be provided with a further opportunity to engage with the Regulatory process. It has therefore decided that the appropriate sanction at this stage is an extension of the current Suspension Order for a further period of 6 months. This is both a necessary and proportionate measure to ensure public protection and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The duration of the extension will provide adequate time for the Registrant to engage, if she chooses, while enabling her to complete courses and continued professional development to remediate conduct and / or provide evidence from related fields of work (paid or unpaid) to demonstrate her skills have improved.

19. The Panel did have regard to the sanction of Striking Off, but determined that this was not necessary or appropriate at this stage.

20. A Review Panel would be assisted by:

• Evidence that the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC;

• A written document from the Registrant, showing insight and remediation;

• Evidence that the Registrant has updated her IT skills;

• Evidence that the Registrant has successfully completed a course on confidentiality;

• Evidence that the Registrant understands the importance of maintaining up-to-date and accurate records and has considered strategies to assist her in dealing with her workload;

• Any other evidence which the Registrant wishes to submit.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Jacquelin Irene Luxton for a further period of 6 months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed before its expiry on 30 November 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Jacquelin Irene Luxton

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status