Mr Ebenezer Narh Dadeboe

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW22798

Interim Order: Imposed on 02 May 2018

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 30/04/2018 End: 16:00 04/05/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst employed as a Social Worker by Cumbria County Council between

27 June 2014 and 17 April 2015:

1. In relation to Service User A:

a) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 3 September 2014 into one or more of the following:

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 6 February 2015;

ii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 20 March 2015;

b) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 15 October 2014 into one or more of the following;

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 20 November 2014;

ii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 31 December 2014;

2. In relation to Service User B:

a) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 30 January 2015 into one or more of the following:

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 20 February 2015;

ii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 2 April 2015;

b) you did not adequately record statutory visits in relation to one or more

of the following:

i. a statutory visit on or around 10 October 2014;

ii. a statutory visit on or around 22 December 2014;

3. In relation to Service User C, you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a

case note of a statutory visit on or around 25 September 2014 into one or

more of the following:

a) a case note of a statutory visit on or around 7 November 2014;

b) a case note of a statutory visit on or around 19 December 2014;

c) a case note of a statutory visit on or around 23 January 2015;

d) a case note of a statutory visit on or around 25 February 2015;

e) a case note of a statutory visit on or around 9 April 2015;

4. In relation to Service User D, you did not adequately record statutory

visits in relation to one or more of the following:

a) a statutory visit on or around 14 July 2014;

b) a statutory visit on or around 20 August 2014;

c) a statutory visit on or around 25 September 2014;

d) a statutory visit on or around 23 October 2014;

e) a statutory visit on or around 27 November 2014;

f) a statutory visit on or around 20 February 2015;

5. In relation to Service User E, you did not adequately record statutory

visits in relation to one or more of the following:

a) a statutory visit on or around 10 July 2014;

b) a statutory visit on or around 21 August 2014;

c) a statutory visit on or around 30 September 2014;

d) a statutory visit on or around 11 November 2014;

e) a statutory visit on or around 27 January 2015;

f) a statutory visit on or around 30 March 2015;

6. In relation to Service User F, you did not adequately record statutory

visits in relation to one or more of the following:

a) a statutory visit on or around 8 July 2014;

b) a statutory visit on or around 21 August 2014;

c) a statutory visit on or around 3 October 2014;

d) a statutory visit on or around 10 November 2014;

e) a statutory visit on or around 29 January 2015;

f) a statutory visit on or around 6 March 2015;

7. In relation to Service User G:

a) you did not adequately record statutory visits in relation to one or more

of the following:

i. a statutory visit on or around 25 June 2014;

ii. a statutory visit on or around 1 August 2014;

iii. a statutory visit on or around 2 September 2014;

iv. a statutory visit on or around 14 October 2014;

v. a statutory visit on or around 25 November 2014;

b) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 29 December 2014 into the following:

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 18 March 2015;

8. In relation to Service User H:

a) You did not adequately record statutory visits in relation to the following:

i. a statutory visit on or around 8 July 2014;

b) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 12 December 2014 into one or more of the following:

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 22 January 2015;

ii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 26 February 2015;

iii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 1 April 2015;

9. In relation to Service User I:

a) You did not adequately record statutory visits in relation to one or more

of the following:

i. a statutory visit on or around 15 July 2014;

ii. a statutory visit on or around 26 August 2014;

iii. a statutory visit on or around 7 October 2014;

iv. a statutory visit on or around 18 November 2014;

b) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 24 December 2014 into one or more of the following:

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 3 February 2015;

ii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 3 March 2015;

iii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 10 April 2015;

10. In relation to Service User J and Service User K:

a) You did not adequately record statutory visits in relation to the following:

i. a statutory visit on or around 30 July 2014;

b) you ‘copied and pasted’ information from a case note of a statutory visit

on or around 30 January 2015 into one or more of the following:

i. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 6 March 2015;

ii. a case note of a statutory visit on or around 10 April 2015;

11. Your actions described in particulars 1 to 10 constitute misconduct

and/or lack of competence;

12. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness

to practise is impaired.

Finding

Hearing of 19 – 20 October 2017

Preliminary matters

1.After hearing evidence as to the service of the documents and taking legal advice from the independent Legal Assessor, the Panel is satisfied that there has been good service of the Notice of Hearing. A letter was sent to the Registrant’s registered address giving notice of these proceedings on the 24 July 2017.

2.The Registrant did not attend the final hearing which had been scheduled to commence at 10 am on the 19 October 2017.  The Panel commenced the hearing at 10.15 am to allow the Registrant additional time to attend.

3.The Panel first considered whether it ought to exercise its discretion to continue with this hearing in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel concluded that it was in the public interest to do so, having considered the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence, having taken the Legal Assessor’s advice, and considered the guidance in R v Hayward [2001] EWCA Crim 168; R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5, GMC v Adeogba and GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162, for the following reasons:

(a)The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had notice of the hearing;

(b)The Panel saw no evidence that the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC with regard to these proceedings or the regulatory process, subsequent to the case passing through the Investigating Committee Panel (ICP) stage, in May 2017;
   
(c)The Panel was of the view that, even if these proceedings were adjourned, there is very little likelihood that the Registrant would attend on a subsequent occasion, noting that he has not requested an adjournment;

(d)The Panel initially concluded that the Registrant has deliberately chosen not to take part in these proceedings and voluntarily absented himself; and 
    
(e)There was a witness who has attended these proceedings and the Panel are mindful of the effect of delay on the memory of the witness, if the case were to the adjourned.    

4.The Panel determined therefore that it was reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the circumstances, given the time lapse since the allegation, the seriousness of the allegation and the fact that a witnesses has attended today to give oral evidence.

5.The Panel was provided with a substantive bundle of documents which runs to 50 pages and an exhibits bundle which runs to 101 pages from the HCPC.

Background

6.The Registrant is a Social Worker. He was employed as an Agency Social Worker with Cumbria County Council, commencing in June 2014. He joined the Looked After Children (LAC) Team at West Cumbria Council and was based in Whitehaven. He worked with vulnerable children in the care of the Local Authority and was contracted to work 37 hours per week.

7.The Registrant had monthly supervision meetings with his line manager. It is alleged that as time went by, he was not progressing his cases fast enough. He was given a case direction plan by his line manager, to keep track of cases, where it was identified that action points and case development plans were required. It is recorded that the Registrant had an appropriate workload of between 20-25 cases for an experienced social worker.

8.During a supervision session, the Registrant’s line manager looked at some notes from a random selection of his cases. It was identified that three or four of the notes completed in respect of his statutory visits were identical and are alleged to have been replicated on subsequent case records. 

9.Thereafter, an investigation took place, which was undertaken by Witness 1. The final report was provided to Human Resources in May 2015. This identified that in a number of instances adequate notes had not been kept of statutory visits and secondly, that it appeared that notes from one visit had been copied and pasted, for subsequent visits. 

10.It is not clear, on the HCPC’s case, why in a number of instances the records of previous visits were copied and pasted. If this was because the visits did not in fact take place, then the service users were potentially placed at serious risk, because their situation was not being monitored.         

11.However, after the case had been opened by the HCPC, and the witness had commenced giving some background evidence, the Registrant arrived late, and disclosed a large quantity of hand written notes. The records appeared to be pertinent to the issues of impairment, sanction and to some extent the broader issues, including dishonesty. 

12.The Registrant’s case in providing the late disclosure is that he did undertake the visits, but had not been able to upload onto the computer system.

13.However, the notes initially disclosed by the Registrant, had not been redacted, and or cross-referenced with the redacted names of service users and the particulars of individual allegations. It was not even clear how many of the large bundle of hand written notes were directly relevant to the allegation faced by the Registrant.    

14.The hearing was briefly adjourned to allow the parties to confer and to take instructions on how to usefully proceed. The Registrant explained that he had travelled from Leeds, departing at 4.45am, but had difficulties with the traffic in central London. He told the Panel that he had attempted to contact the previous Case Manager to explain that he was on his way, but was running late.

15.On the issue of late disclosure of documents, the Registrant told the Panel that he had not previously disclosed the handwritten notes of visits, because he did not have the means to obtain legal representation. He had only recently located his notes, which he had kept for 3 years. He further maintained that he had not had the opportunity to have them photocopied and disclosed. He considered it would be better to attend the hearing in person with the documents. He also stated it was difficult to match the notes with the redacted names of the service users, as set out in the Allegation. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been made aware in the letter dated the 24 July 2017 that he should provide 6 copies of any documents to the HCPC, he wished to rely on at least 28 days prior to the final hearing.   

16.The witness had already commenced giving evidence about the background when the hearing had been interrupted by the late arrival of the Registrant. The witness had been scheduled to give evidence on the first day of the Final Hearing, and for practical reasons was unable to attend the second day of the hearing. Even if he could have attended, there were clear difficulties, and prejudice to the witness and the HCPC, as he has not seen the late disclosure and instructions could not be taken on the notes, given that he has commenced his evidence and was under oath. The Panel therefore released the witness from his oath and noted that he would be required to retake the oath and commence his evidence afresh on a subsequent occasion, when the hearing was re-listed. 

17.The Panel then considered how to proceed. The Panel concluded that in light of the Registrant’s late disclosure, no substantive progress could be made with the hearing. However, the Panel was reluctant to simply adjourn the hearing for the following reasons. Firstly, the Panel wanted to ensure that progress was made with the case, and the Registrant provided cross-referenced disclosure, to the HCPC and the Panel. The Panel was very keen to avoid the possibility of any resumed hearing not being effective, due to further late disclosure, and or the fact that the documentation still need to be redacted, and cross-referenced with the specific allegations and individual service users. 

18.The Panel was also conscious of the fact that the late disclosure might result in the Allegation having to be amended and further witness evidence obtained. However, until the HCPC had an opportunity to consider the disclosure, its position would have to be reserved. 

19.The Panel therefore concluded that the appropriate course of action was to request that the Registrant should produce cross-referenced disclosure to the HCPC by the end of first day of the Final Hearing. The hearing was then adjourned until 9.00am on the 20 October 2017 to facilitate this. The Panel regarded this as the most expeditious way to proceed, after carrying out a careful balancing act between the rights of the parties to a fair hearing, and the public interest.


Resumed Hearing

20.On the 20 October 2017, the HCPC (supported by the Registrant), made a joint application to adjourn the Final Hearing. The Registrant, with the assistance of the Hearings Officer, has been able to produce a bundle of cross-referenced documentation that deal with those service users whose identity could be ascertained. Some names had been recorded in a combination of letters and numbers on the Council’s Liquid Logic computer system. It has not proved possible to identify each of the service users, and further enquiries will now take place. The Presenting Officer indicated that there was sufficient documentation (identifying 5 out of 11 of the service users) before the Panel to enable a subsequent Panel to understand the way the Registrant now seeks to put his case, i.e. that he undertook the statutory visits, but had not the opportunity to enter these on the computer system, prior to his dismissal. 

21.The Panel had regard to the submissions made by the HCPC and by the Registrant. The Panel also considered the HCPC Practice Note on Postponement and Adjournment of Proceedings, and in particular the need for general expedition in the conduct of proceedings; the interests of the HCPC; the interests of the Registrant and the public interest. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and after careful consideration concluded that in all the circumstances of this case that, it was not possible to have a fair hearing, given the late disclosure of the documentation by the Registrant, which needs to be considered in some detail. The HCPC needs time to take instructions and potentially to obtain further witness evidence, and the Registrant would not be able to present his case with the clarity required. Secondly, the witness was not available for the second day of the hearing.            

22.In the circumstances, the Panel adjourned the proceedings to be re-listed for 3 days (given the substantial new disclosure), on the 10-12 January 2018, which is the first available date upon which the case can be re-listed. The Panel, was mindful of the need for expedition, and whilst being wary of any further delay, took the view that the short delay to January 2018, in the circumstances of this case was justified, to ensure that a fair hearing could take place. 

23.Whilst it is matter for the Registrant as to how he presents his case, the Panel did express the view that they would be assisted at the adjourned hearing, if the Registrant was able to type up and exhibit the relevant and salient points, he wishes to make from the recently disclosed hand written records, which are not always legible and or easily decipherable.            

24.The case is adjourned until the 10-12 January 2018.  


Hearing of 10 January 2018

Preliminary matters

25.The Panel is satisfied that there has been good service of the Notice of Hearing. A letter was sent to the Registrant’s registered address giving notice of these proceedings and the reconvened hearing date on the 26 October 2017. 

Background

26.The case was originally listed for a final hearing for the 19-20 October 2017 and an initial decision made to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. However, after the case had been opened by the HCPC, and witness 1 had commenced giving some background evidence, the Registrant arrived, and disclosed a large quantity of hand written case notes.

27.The Panel, on the 19 October 2017, concluded that in light of the Registrant’s late disclosure, no substantive progress could be made with the hearing. However, the Panel was reluctant to simply adjourn the hearing without progress being made with the case. 

28.The Panel therefore concluded that the appropriate course of action was to order the Registrant to produce cross-referenced disclosure to the HCPC by the end of first day of the Final Hearing. The hearing was then adjourned until 9.30am on the 20 October 2017 to facilitate this.

29.On the 20 October 2017, the HCPC (supported by the Registrant), made a joint application to adjourn the Final Hearing. The Registrant, with the assistance of the Hearings Officer, had been able to produce a bundle of cross-referenced documentation that dealt with those service users whose identity could be ascertained. The Registrant said there was now documentation (identifying 5 out of 11 of the service users) before the Panel which he said would address the allegations against him and explain his practice at the time. 30. On the 08 January 2018, two days prior to the start of the hearing, the Registrant contacted the HCPC to indicate that he would not be attending the reconvened hearing in person, as he was suffering from a cold and had influenza since Christmas 2017. The Registrant told the Panel that he had an appointment to see his General Practitioner on Friday 12 January 2018. 

31.The Registrant made an application for the case to proceed today by telephone. He submitted that he was unfit to travel and attend in person, but indicated that he wished to proceed by telephone and felt well enough to do so, although he had a residual cough. He stated that he had obtained medication from his local pharmacy. 

32.The Registrant confirmed that he had re-read some of the case documents but said he had not been able to fully prepare due to his ongoing illness. The Registrant told the Panel that he had typed up most of his hand written notes, but had not been able to complete this task, due to being unwell. The typed up documents have not been made available to the HCPC or the Panel today.

33.When questioned by the Panel, the Registrant stated that only 4 or 5 entries had not been typed up. The Registrant also stated that he had not had the opportunity to draft a witness statement, due to his current circumstances - he clarified this was because he had not been able to consult a solicitor, because of his financial position.  

34.The HCPC position was that they did not object to the Registrant’s application to proceed by telephone, noting that this case had previously been adjourned; there was a witness who had attended on a second occasion and further delay was not in the public interest. It was however, conceded, that Witness 1 would be prepared to re-attend, if this case was to be adjourned.

35.The HCPC also conceded that the Registrant had not seen the updated Opening Note, dealing with recent change in law in relation to dishonesty.

36.The Panel took legal advice on how to approach the decision on whether to accede to the Registrant’s application. In essence, the issue is whether it is possible to have a fair hearing, balancing the interests of the parties and the public interest. 

37.The Panel noted that if the case proceeded by telephone, this would involve the Registrant both cross-examining witness 1 and giving evidence himself, and being cross-examined by Mr Millin, in some detail, on behalf of the HCPC.

38.The Panel took into account the following matters:

(a)The quality of the telephone connection was poor. It was not easy to hear and understand the Registrant’s submissions. Whilst the Registrant was able to effectively participate in the hearing regarding his application, the Panel had significant reservations about whether the Registrant could effectively participate in the substantive hearing by telephone, given the number of and seriousness of the allegations;

(b)The Panel had regard to the particular circumstances and issues in this case. The Registrant has produced significant hand written notes, which are not clearly legible in the copies provided to the Panel. These have not been paginated. These notes need to be carefully cross-referenced with the individual service users records. The Panel has grave reservations about whether it is practical in the context of a telephone hearing to conduct cross-examination, or questions from the Panel, given the extent of the documentary evidence;

(c)The Panel was concerned that given the quality of the telephone connection and the Registrant’s softly spoken voice that there was a potential risk that the Panel may not hear or might misunderstand certain key aspects of his evidence on the telephone over the course of a 3 day hearing;

(d)The Panel also had reservations about proceeding when the Registrant was unwell and was attending his GP on Friday 12 January 2018. He had also said that his ability to prepare for the hearing had been compromised by his illness and that he was taking medication; and

(e)Whilst, the Panel bore in mind the desire for expedition, the inconvenience to the witness and the Registrant’s desire for the case to proceed today, the Panel felt that these issues were outweighed by the practical considerations set out above. The Panel concluded, with some regret, and not without hesitation, that in its view, it was not practical or feasible to have a fair hearing of this case by telephone. 

39.The Panel next considered whether it ought to exercise its discretion to continue with this hearing in the absence of the Registrant, or whether to adjourn this case to allow the Registrant to attend in person.

40.The HCPC did not make an application for the case to be heard in the absence of the Registrant, and the Registrant’s position was that it would be unfair to proceed in his absence. 

41.The Panel concluded that it was not in the public interest to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, having considered the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence, having taken the Legal Assessor’s advice, and considered the guidance in R v Hayward [2001] EWCA Crim 168; R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5, GMC v Adeogba and GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162, for the following reasons:

1.The Registrant had attended (albeit late) at the hearing in October 2017;

2.The Registrant has indicated a desire to participate in this hearing by telephone and has only been prevented from attending in person, due to his illness;  

3.The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions, in these circumstances could not be regarded as deliberate or voluntary, amounting to a waiver of his right to appear;

4.The Panel concluded that if the case was adjourned the Registrant would attend on a subsequent occasion; and

5.Although there is likely to be some effect on the witness evidence caused by further delay, the Panel regarded this as being quite modest, given the extent of the documentary evidence available in the bundle.   

42.The Panel had regard to the submissions made by the HCPC and by the Registrant. The Panel also considered the HCPC Practice Note on Postponement and Adjournment of Proceedings, and in particular the need for general expedition in the conduct of proceedings; the interests of the HCPC; the interests of the Registrant and the public interest.

43.The Panel concluded in the circumstances of this case that, given it was not possible to have a fair hearing by telephone and that it was not appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the only alternative was to adjourn these proceedings to allow the Registrant to attend on a subsequent occasion.

44.In the circumstances, the Panel adjourned the proceedings to be re-listed for 5 days. It is hoped that the case can be re-listed in the week commencing 30 April 2018.

45.The Panel, was mindful of the need for expedition, and whilst being wary of any further delay, took the view that the short delay was justified, to ensure that a fair hearing could take place. 

46.Whilst it is matter for the Registrant as to how he presents his case, the Panel wish to repeat its previously expressed view that they would be assisted at the re-convened hearing, if the Registrant was able to produce a witness statement, and to type up and exhibit the relevant and salient points, he wishes to make from the recently disclosed hand written records, which are not always legible and or easily decipherable.

47.The case is adjourned to be re-listed for 5 days.

Hearing of 30 April 2018 – 4 May 2018

Preliminary matters

48.The Panel is satisfied that there has been good service of the Notice of Hearing. The Registrant arrived on the first morning of the adjourned hearing after 12 noon. He told the Panel that he had left Leeds at 5am, but had been caught in heavy traffic.  

49.Despite being invited by the Panel in both October 2017 and January 2018 to furnish them with a typed up version of his notes, as the handwritten copies were illegible in places, the Registrant has not done so. This was despite the fact that in January 2018, at the adjourned hearing he indicated on the telephone that he had typed up most of his hand written notes, but had not been able to complete this task, as a consequence of his ill health. The Registrant told the Panel, at the outset of this hearing, that he had lost all the work he had done, typing up his notes on his computer, due to his computer “crashing”.  

50.The Registrant also stated that he had not had the opportunity to draft a witness statement, as he had not been able to consult a solicitor, due to his financial circumstances, despite this issue also being canvassed with him in January 2018.  

51.The Panel has been provided with a substantive bundle of documents which runs to 50 pages and an exhibits bundle which runs to 101 pages from the HCPC. The Panel has also seen an Opening Note from the HCPC and the Registrant’s Final Submission document attached to his email of 15 November 2016.

Background

52.The Panel has heard oral evidence on behalf of the HCPC from Witness 1, Interim Team Manager, formerly Team Manager for Cumbria County Council (hereafter “the Council”) between September 2013 and January 2015. He provided a witness statement dated 26 May 2017 and a supplemental statement dated 01 December 2017. 

53.In general terms, the Panel was impressed with the evidence it heard from Witness 1. His evidence was credible, balanced, reliable and honest. He was cross-examined at length by the Registrant and made appropriate concessions, both about the failings of the Council during the period the Registrant was employed and examples of areas where the quality of the Registrant’s work was good. He was also very clear and firm in his view about the standards expected from Social Workers, particularly around the issue of recording in respect of statutory visits for the (LAC).

54.The Registrant also gave oral evidence. In general terms the Panel found that the Registrant’s demeanour was defensive and at times evasive. He avoided answering different questions directly and drifted into tangents which were not pertinent and repetitive to the issues the Panel was required to determine.        

55.The Registrant is a Social Worker. He was employed as an Agency Social Worker with Cumbria County Council, commencing on 11 June 2014. He joined the LAC Team at West Cumbria Council and was based in Whitehaven after having previously worked in Carlisle between April and June 2014. He worked with vulnerable children in the care of the Local Authority and was contracted to work 37 hours per week.

56.The Council use a “Liquid Logic” integrated Computer System (ICS), which uses drop down boxes to record the date and times of statutory visits, including LAC Team visits. This is a common computer system which is used across a number of local authorities. Witness 1 gave evidence that training was provided on the use of the system before a password was provided. There was also an ongoing help facility.

57.The Registrant disputed that he had been provided with any initial training on the ICS. The Panel, however, noted that the supervision notes for the 19 November 2014, makes references to the Registrant attending ICS Workshops. There was also evidence that the Registrant was aware of how to use the “Liquid Logic” system, as he had been able to record other visits to a satisfactory standard.    

58.Witness 1 gave evidence that the relevant Practice Standards for LAC Team visits, was that they should be recorded on the computer system with seventy two hours of the visit taking place; there was an expectation that other recordings, such as telephone contact or emails would be added to the “Liquid Logic” system within five working days. Witness 1’s evidence was that the Registrant would have been aware of the Council’s expectations in relation to recording accurate notes and the required time scales.  

59.The “Liquid Logic” system records key performance data, noting whether the visit has taken place, but is not sophisticated enough to note the narrative of the recording, which would only become apparent when a manual audit takes place. Witness 1 conceded that the computer system allowed an individual Social Worker to simply record that they had undertaken the visit, without any assessment being flagged, as to what had actually been written and whether the care plan was being followed and updated.  Records are generally only capable of being accessed by other Social Workers or the Team Manager, or if required, a more senior member of staff. Individual service users once they reach the age of eighteen would also be able to access their individual records on request.         

60.The Registrant had 3 supervision meetings with his line managers. The HCPC's case was that the Registrant’s manager was KG, Assistant Team Manager, who had taken over from the previous Team Manager DP and having been promoted from the role of Advanced Practitioner. The Registrant disputed that KG was his manager and says that he was managed by NB and JM, and that there was an initial period of 2 months when he was without a manager. He gave evidence he not had any supervisions with KG.

61.The Registrant, according to Witness 1, had an appropriate workload of between 20 - 25 cases for an experienced social worker. Witness 1 disputed that the Registrant’s workload would have caused time pressures affecting his ability to record notes of statutory visits, noting that this issue had not been raised during any previous supervisions. Had the Registrant raised this issue, then further administrative time would have been made available and consideration given to reducing his workload. 

62.It became clear as time went by, that the Registrant was not progressing cases fast enough. He was given a case direction plan by his line manager, to keep track of cases where it was identified that action points and case development plans were required. During an audit, KG looked at some notes from a random selection of the Registrant’s cases, whereupon it was identified that three or four of the notes completed for his statutory visits were identical and that there was apparent evidence of false reporting on the cases. 

63.As a result an investigation was instigated, which was undertaken by Witness 1. The final report was provided to Human Resources in May 2015.    

64.Witness 1’s evidence was that having reviewed the Registrant’s cases as part of the investigation, there was widespread poor practice with an absence of recording and evidence of copying and pasting case notes, although he conceded there was some evidence of good practice outside the recording of statutory visits, for example, reviews and report writing.

65.Witness 1’s view was that the failings he identified were not isolated examples and that the recording in 11 audited cases throughout was of an unacceptable standard. This raised serious safeguarding issues regarding the welfare of service users, as it was virtually impossible to gain a sense of the child’s experience in care or the progress of their care plan. The Registrant in turn, disputed there were any widespread competency issues citing the supportive reference from his previous Team Manager, KM, dated 27 May 2014.  

66.According to Witness 1, at no stage, prior to his departure from the Council, did the Registrant offer to update the “Liquid Logic” system from any notes in his possession. No explanation was ever offered from the Registrant as to why he had not accurately completed the visit notes on the ‘Liquid Logic” system. If a Social Worker was struggling to find time to write up statutory visits, he would expect this to be raised with his manager at the earliest opportunity.

67.Witness 1’s evidence was that it was not professional to copy and paste the LAC visits, even with a view to later amendment, as the net result is that inaccurate recording of information was placed on the system, which may have to be accessed by Social Workers or other professionals. He cited, for example, if there was an allegation against the foster parent, this would not be investigated, as it was not recorded. Witness 1 saw this as a trust issue, as significant reliance was placed on Social Workers to accurately record statutory visits which were taking place. The LAC Team visit is the primary method by which the service user’s welfare is safeguarded and hence the importance of the accuracy and timeliness of the information being recorded on the system. There were also wider implications for the reputation of the Local Authority in respect of the families of service users and also the implications for any subsequent OFSTED inspection. As a result of the Registrant’s failure to input the information in a timely and accurate manner, the Council had to go back to the families and re-identify the developments in each case.     

68.The HCPC allege that even if the Registrant had subsequently updated the “Liquid Logic” notes, this would still have constituted poor practice, as the accuracy of events could not be ascertained, given the length of time since the visits actually took place.

69.The Registrant admitted each of the factual allegations in Particular 1 -    10 and each of the subclauses therein, although he disputed there was any dishonesty on his part. The Panel has borne the admissions in mind, when considering the evidence as a whole, and whether there is evidence to support each of the particulars, to the requisite standard. 

70.The Registrant asserted that his intention, in cutting and pasting notes, was to create an initial template which he would then amend and fianalise at a later date. He alleged that he had explained this to KG, originally in her role as Advanced Practitioner, before she was promoted into a management position. The Registrant said that none of the placement visits had been finalised, using the tab on the “Liquid Logic” system. He argued that once closed, the entry could only be reopened with the assistance of the Council’s IT department. 

71.The Registrant also gave evidence that the relevant information, including life experience of the service users, was captured in other formats,  for example, in reports provided to the Independent Reviewing Officer.  He argued that the children were in stable placements and were not placed at any risk of significant harm. He did not accept there were was any harm caused to vulnerable service users by reason of his failure to keep notes of the LAC Review visits up to date. He said he had undertaken all the relevant visits; he had seen the children and developed good working relationships with them and their families. 

72.The Panel heard and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. In approaching the task of deciding the facts, the Panel has kept at the forefront of its deliberations, the importance of requiring the HCPC to prove matters against the Registrant. The standard of proof to which the HCPC is required to prove matters is the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities.

73.In reaching decisions on the facts, the Panel has taken account of:

(a)The Registrant’s admissions;

(b)The oral evidence from Witness 1;

(c)The documentary evidence before it; and

(d)The oral evidence of the Registrant. 

Decision on Facts

Particular 1(a)(i)-(ii), 1(b)(i)-(ii) Proved 

74.This Particular relates to Service User A. Upon reviewing the case records for this Service User it became apparent that a statutory visit had taken place on the 03 September 2014. Thereafter, the Registrant had copied and pasted the notes recorded for these visits for subsequent purported visits on the 06 February 2015 and the 20 March 2015.   

75.The words used in each note are identical. The Registrant had recorded on the 03 September that he had arrived “at 3pm” and that Service User A had a “pet tortoise”. Under the education heading, he had recorded that Service User A “starts school tomorrow.”

76.There are notes of a statutory visit for the 15 October 2014. It was also obvious that these notes had been copied and pasted for subsequent visits on the 20 November 2014 and the 31 December 2014.

77.The Registrant recorded information on the 15 October 2014 about Service User A noting: “a new friend he made at school.” Under health, he had recorded that Service User A: “came home from school last Friday 10th October feeling sick and was a bit wheezy.”  

78.The entries for the 20 November 2014 and the 31 December 2014, contain identical entries.      

Particular 2(a)(i)-(ii), 2(b)(i)-(ii)  Proved

79.This Particular relates to Service User B. When the case notes were reviewed, there was evidence of a statutory visit on the 30 January 2015. This note had been copied and pasted for purported subsequent visits on the 20 February 2015 and 02 April 2015.

80.The notes for the 30 January 2015 record that Service User B had “recently changed his bedroom and moved into a newly decorated bedroom”. There was also reference to Service User B starting mainstream high school on the 3 November 2014.

81.The subsequent entires for the 20 February and the 02 April are identical.    

82.The Registrant recorded on the Liquid Logic System that LAC visits had taken place on 10 October 2014 and 22 December 2014, but provided no information about those visits.

Particular 3(a)-(e) Proved

83.This Particular concerned Service User C. A review of the notes revealed that there was an entry for the 25 September 2014. The Registrant had recorded that: “[Service User C] started new high school at Settlebeck school since the 3rd Sept”. He also noted that the Service User “remains settled in placement and although it is early days his carers have expressed an interest t[o] keep him long term.”  

84.The subsequent records for the 7 November 2014, 19 December 2014, 23 January 2015, 25 February and 9 April 2015 are identical copies of the earlier notes.

Particular 4(a)-(f) Proved

85.The Particular concerned Service User D. The notes for the 14 July 2014, 20 August 2014, 25 September 2014, 23 October 2014, 27 November 2014 and 20 February 2015 were inadequate, because of the lack of information recorded on each visit.

86.The 14 July 2014 note has no recorded information accept for the Reason for the Contact. The Detailed Notes section simply reads: “Notes to follow.” The notes should be recorded on the ICS computer system.

87.With regard to the 20 August 2014, although some sections have been filled in (reason for contact, Introduction and Placement Review/Foster Carers overall view and some information in Social Presentation and Self-Care Skills), none of the other sections have been filled in. The Panel heard evidence that this was the bare minimum in respect of the standard expected. Without the missing information (as set out in the recording template) the impact of the visit and the progress of the child’s plan could not be fully assessed.    

88.In respect of the 23 October 2014, 27 November 2014, 20 February 215, the only information that was recorded was in the Reason for Contact heading. The Panel heard evidence this was done via a drop down box on the Pro Forma to state: “statutory visit CLA”. 

Particular 5(a) - (f) Proved

89.This Particular concerned Service User E. There are records for statutory visits on the 10 July 2014, 21 August 2014, 30 September 2014, 11 November 2014, 27 January 2015 and 30 March 2015. They are all inadequate.

90.In relation to the visit on the 10 July 2014, the Reason for Contact section has been filled in, but the Detailed Notes section simply states “notes to follow”. There are no further notes. However, in any event the Panel heard evidence that this was not an acceptable way to record information on a child’s file. The notes should be uploaded within this section in a timely manner.

91.The 21 August 2014 visit notes are inadequate as all sections were left incomplete. In respect of the other visits, the only information recorded is in the Reasons for Contact heading. Every other heading has been left blank.   

Particular 6(a)-(f): Proved 

92.This Particular concerned Service User F. The notes for visits on the 8 July 2014, 21 August 2014, 3 October 2014, 11 November 2014, 29 January 2014 and 6 March 2015 were inadequate.

93.There is very little information recorded regarding the visits on 8 July 2014, 21 August 2014, 03 October 2014, 10 November 2014 and 29 January 2015.

94.The 21 July 2014 recording only contains 2 lines with the words: “to be continued”. The entry does not follow the set template for areas to be covered in statutory visits. There is no analysis and it does not state any actions which have been completed.

95.In relation to the 3 October 2014, 10 November 2014, 29 January 2015 and 6 March 2015, the only information recorded is the Reason for Contact heading - every other heading has been left blank. 

Particular 7(a)(i)-(v), 7(b)(i): Proved

96.This Particular concerned Service User G. The case notes for visits on the 24 June 2014, 01 August 2014, 02 September 2014, 14 October and 25 November 2014 were inadequate.

97.The 24 June 2014 record is inadequate as it concludes with “to be continued” and does not state the actions that were completed.

98.In respect of the 1 August 2014, 14 October 2014 and the 25 November 2014, the only heading which has been recorded was Reason for Contact - all other sections have been left blank. In addition, the 01 August 2014 visit recording is inadequate as the set template has not been used. There is no indication of the how the service user’s needs were to be met. The service user had just moved placement and there should have been an in-depth recording of whether the move was meeting their needs. There was also no reference to the fact that the service user was pregnant and how she was being supported.

99.For the 14 October 2014 visit the only recording is: “CL stat visit undertaken to see….”

100.In respect of the 25 November 2014 visit, the recording states: CL stat visit undertaken to see [Service User G]. He remains settled. The Service User is in fact female, and there is no reference to the fact that she is a mother or how she was managing parenthood.

101.The case note for the 29 December 2014 also appeared to have been copied and pasted into the record for the purported visit on the 18 March 2015. There is specific reference to Christmas and “presents from the family” and it only makes sense in the context of the December visit.    

Particular 8(a)(i), 8(b)(i)-(iii) Proved

102.This Particular concerned Service User H. The records for the visit for the 8 July 2014 is inadequate. There is no information in any of the headings except for Reason for Contact. The Detailed Notes section simply says: “notes to follow”.

103.The case note inputted for the 12 December 2014 makes clear references to dates around that visit. Under the Education section, it is recorded that Service User H was seen at college “Last Tuesday (2nd Dec)” and under Health, that he was seen “last Thursday the 4th December by CLA.” These notes are repeated for the 22 January 2015, 26 February 2015 and the 01 April 2015, by which time the references are clearly out of date.  

Particular 9(a)(i)-(iv), 9(b)(i)-(iii) Proved

104.This Particular concerned Service User I. The statutory visits for the 15 July 2014, 26 August 2014, 07 October 204 and 18 November 2014 were all recorded inadequately.

105.The 15 July 2014 entry, the head Reason for Contact has been filled in, but the Detailed Note section was labelled: “Notes to follow…” All the other sections had been left blank.

106.The 26 August 2014 visit notes, only contains 3 lines and does not follow the set template for recording statutory visits. It does not address issues relating to any progress with regard to the plan of adoption or the children’s complex needs. It contains a view from the foster carers stating an interest in caring for the children. There is no recording of any actions which are proposed.

107.With regard to the 07 October 2014 and the 18 November 2014 visits, the only heading under which information was recorded was Reason for Contact. All other sections were left blank.   

108.When the records were reviewed, there was an entry for a visit on the 24 December 2014. The entry contains numerous references to Christmas, such as the fact that the service user had recently gone to Newcastle “to see Santa Claus.”  This same entry is repeated for purported visits on the 03 February 2014, 03 March 2015 and the 10 April 2015. It is apparent that the earlier visit note has simply been cut and pasted.

Particular 10(a)(i), 10(b)(i)-(ii) Proved

109.This Particular concerned Service Users J and K who are siblings, who are placed together in an adoptive placement.

110.The record for the statutory visit for the 30 July 2014 was inadequate. The statutory template was not used when recording the visit and there is no recording about the children’s needs (health and education) or the progress of the care plan. There is no indication of any plans to progress the case towards adoption orders being made. The visit was finalised on 03 February 2015, despite the recording being of a highly inadequate nature. 

111.A statutory visit took place on the 30 January 2015. The record makes reference to Christmas and details the presents received by one of the Service Users, including: “Toy Trains, lego, Lego trains, chocolates etc.” The actions section records that the next visit was to take place on the 06.03.15 at 1.15pm.

112.The record for the 06.03.15 visit is identical, save that the date for the next visit has been amended to the 10.04.15 at 12pm. The 10.04.15 entry is also identical, with the date changed to the next statutory visit which is said to the 19.05.15 at 4.30pm. There is no evidence as to whether this was a time which had been genuinely fixed for the next visit, or simply calculated for some 6 weeks later by the Registrant.   

Particular 11

113.The Panel then had to consider whether the Registrant’s actions, in respect of Particular 1(a), 1(b), 2(a), 3(a)-(e) 7(b), 8(b) 9(b) and or 10(b) amounted to dishonesty.

114.The evidence from Witness 1 was that he believed that the Registrant’s actions were dishonest and represented an attempt to cut corners; to avoid completing essential work by repeating old information. There was no justifiable reason why anyone would need to cut and paste notes on the “Liquid Logic” system. In essence, the argument was that by cutting and pasting the notes, the Registrant was creating the false impression to his manager, via the computer system, that the statutory visits had been undertaken, and recorded and therefore his failures to record would not be flagged up.

115.Even if struggling with time, the Registrant could have opened the “Liquid Logic” notes, marking the visit as complete, with a note that “case notes to follow” as he had done on other occasions. This would have avoided creating a false impression by cutting and pasting the previous notes. In cross-examination the Registrant admitted that cutting and pasting could take longer than marking “case note to follow”.   

116.The Registrant disputed that his actions were dishonest. His evidence was that he had discussed his workload with his Team Manager DP in the supervision on 19 November 2014: “Stat visits to be written up in line with guidance - some left unwritten - Ben knows it is not acceptable to open a stat visit and say it is completed unless ready to write it up…” 

117.The Registrant accepted that the notes were partially misleading, but reiterated that his intention had been to bring his notes up to date during the 6 week notice period, but was deprived of this opportunity. 

118.The Registrant alleged that he had been “bombarded” by outstanding work and tasks, when he started work in Whitehaven, some of which dated back to 2013, including care plans and statutory child care reviews which had been outstanding for over a year. He alleges that the priority he was given at the time was updating these documents. He suggested that he was being made a “scapegoat” and was “overwhelmed” by work pressures. The Registrant alleged there was a complete systemic failure in Cumbria during this period. He had no intention to falsify records; he maintained that he could not understand why he had been referred to the HCPC. He said his admitted failings should have been dealt with at a supervisory or management level, as opposed to being escalated to the HCPC.  

119.Witness 1 accepted that there been a degree of “instability” in West Cumbria in 2014 and that there has been some “drift on cases” in relation to timescales, but told the Panel that additional management had been brought in to help address the issue.

120.The Panel had regard to the Legal Assessor’s advice on the issue of dishonesty and in particular the previous guidance in Bryant and Bench v Law Society [2007] EWHC 3043), R v Ghosh (1982) 75 CR App R 154) and Twinsectra v Yardley [2002] A AC164, as confirmed in the decision in Kirschner v GDC [2015] EWHC 1377 (Admin).

121.Until recently the law was to apply a 2 stage test, in reaching its conclusions:

(1)Would the Registrant’s actions be deemed to be dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable honest people?; and
(2)If so, did the Registrant know that, by those standards (rather the Registrant’s own standards) his actions would be regarded as dishonest? 

122.However, the law has recently changed in Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Limited (t/a Crockfords) [2017] UKSC 67. When dishonesty is in question, the fact finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter for evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held that belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to the facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no longer any requirement that the Registrant must have known that what he had done is, by those standards, dishonest.

123.Applying this standard, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions were dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable honest people for the following reasons:

(a)The Registrant’s actions were deliberate, and repeated;

(b)The Registrant admitted that the notes were misleading;

(c)The Registrant was aware of the need for accuracy in recording statuary visits and that the notes may have to be relied on by other professionals;

(d)There is no reasonable alternative explanation as to why the Registrant would cut and paste the notes, other than there was a deliberate intention to mislead; and

(e) The Panel rejected the Registrant’s explanation that he intended to complete the notes in due course. This was not a credible assertion, given the time required to do so, compared with marking the system with “notes to follow”. The Panel concluded that he was falsifying official statutory documents. 

Decision on Misconduct and or Lack of Competence   

124.The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct, and concluded that they did, falling well short of what what would be proper in the circumstances, in accordance with the test set out by Lord Clyde in Roylance v General Medical Council (No.2) [2000] 1 AC 311. 

125.The Registrant’s actions were serious; repeatedly allowing a false and misleading impression to be created regarding whether notes were accurate and up to date. His action placed a large number of vulnerable service users at risk and his overall conduct accords with the suggested definition of being “regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners” as set out in the case of Nandi v General Medical Council [2004] EWHC 2317.   

126.The Panel did not find that the Registrant’s actions amounted to a lack of competence. The Panel concluded that the Registrant was an experienced social worker, and knew what was expected of him, in terms of recording statutory visits and had used a similar computer system with his previous employer for a number of years. The Registrant had also been able to complete some notes accurately on the “Liquid Logic” system, and he described his conduct as being a “one off failure.”      

127.The Panel concluded that the Registrant is in breach of the following Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012) (pre-25 January 2016):

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

•Standard 10.1: You must keep accurate records; and

•Standard 13: You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.     

128.The Panel also concluded that the Registrant was in breach of the following Standards of Proficiency for Social Worker, dated (August 2012):

•Standard 1.2: Recognise the need to manage their own workload and resources and be able to practise;

•Standard: 2.2: Understand the need to promote the best interests if service users and carers at all times; 

•Standard: 2.3: Understand the need to protect, safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children, young people and vulnerable adults;

•Standard 2.4: Understand the need to address practices which present a risk to or from service users, or carers, or others;

•Standard 7.2: Be able to recognize and respond appropriately to situations where it is necessary to share information to safeguard service users and carers, or others;

•Standard: 10.1: Be able to keep accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible records in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines; and

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

Decision on Impairment 

129.The Panel had to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, in light of the Registrant’s misconduct, and the finding of dishonesty.  The Panel had regard to the HCPTS practice note ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired.’ The Panel heard and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has also exercised the principle of proportionality.

130.The Panel is mindful of the fact that its task is not to punish the Registrant for past wrongdoings. The test for impairment is expressed in the present tense; that fitness to practice is currently impaired. 

131.The Panel was provided with a number of additional documents by the Registrant, for use at the impairment stage:

(a)An email from PS to JR dated 18 September 2015, recording positive feedback from when the Registrant was at Sunderland Council;

(b)A Caritas reference from dated 27 May 2014 from KM;

(c)Two Verbal Reference forms from Leeds City Council dated 07 April 2014 and the 22 April 2014; and

(d)Two verbal reference forms from NB dated 30 April 2015 and the 08 May 2015, former Interim Team Manager at the Council. 

132.The Panel heard further oral evidence from the Registrant on the issue of impairment.

133.The Registrant was employed by Sunderland Council, as a Social Worker between July 2015 and January 2016. He told the Panel that no concerns were raised regarding his professional practice. He said he was offered a permanent position, but declined the offer as his family was based in Leeds. The Registrant referred to the email dated the 18 September 2015, which demonstrates some positive feedback as noted by the Independent Reviewing Officer.

134.Thereafter, the Registrant worked for the City of York Council between February 2016 and February 2017. He was employed in a busy assessment and referral team. He maintained that evidence of his good performance in this role is demonstrated by the fact that he was asked to become a senior practitioner, and secondly the fact that he was also offered a permanent position. He said he was also involved in mentoring and coaching newly qualified members of staff. However, he was subsequently asked to leave, once he had informed his manager he had been referred to the HCPC.

135.The Registrant alleges he has struggled to obtain work as a Social Worker since February 2017, as a result of these outstanding proceedings. He states that there are future employment options with a number of local authorities, via an agency, once these proceedings have been concluded. The Registrant subsequently worked part time in a warehouse, but is presently unemployed.  

136.Despite, not working for over 12 months as a Social Worker, he maintained that he remains competent to perform his role and that he has maintained his “working knowledge intact.”  He said he had kept up to date with his CPD requirements and has received some training via his employment agency. He is planning to attend a further course on CPD requirements for Social Workers in June 2018. He has also received further IT training at Sunderland on the Integrated Children’s System (ICS).

137.The Panel heard submissions on the issue of impairment from the HCPC. Mr Millin submitted on behalf of the HCPC, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on both the public and private components of impairment. He referred to the legal principles identified in the following cases GMC v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1319; Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin); Cheatle v GMC [2009] EWHC 645 (Admin); CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 97, and submitted that:

(a)The Registrant’s conduct was both serious, repeated, and placed   a large number of service users at undue risk, because their welfare was not being monitored, leaving the Council without information as to whether the service users were safe;

(b)There is only limited evidence of insight and remediation; there is therefore a high risk of repetition;

(c)The Registrant’s misconduct overall was so serious that a finding of impairment was inevitable, having regard to both the effect on service users and in combination with the finding of dishonesty;

(d)The Registrant’s actions have brought the reputation of the Council, and the Social Work profession into disrepute because they had to contact the families to re-identify developments in each case; and

(e)The Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, and that his integrity could not be relied on.

138.The Panel also heard evidence and submissions from the Registrant and noted that he said:

(a)The case should be approached on a holistic basis. Social work is a very stressful job. He has had no previous disciplinary problems in his career and was employed at the Council during a very difficult period with a high turnover of staff. There was also inadequate supervision throughout the period of his employment with the Council;

(b)He had discharged his other duties diligently and reiterates that his isolated failings were not deliberate, but were occasioned by the difficulties he has identified with his workload and failings on the part of his former employer;

(c)His failings are mitigated by the fact that the relevant information which should have been recorded in the LAC visit notes, were available via the care plan and other assessments/reports;

(d)His overall competence as a Social Worker is attested to by the references he has provided both from NB and his subsequent employers in Sunderland; 

(e)He has now learnt his lesson and takes recording statutory visits very seriously. His approach to social work in the future will be very different; he understood the importance of prioritising the completion of timely and accurate records of statutory visits. He recognises that the absence of records was unacceptable. Gaps in the life history of service users has the potential to deprive them of a full and accurate account of their period in care and exposed them to a risk of harm, and that risk was one of emotional harm as they didn’t get to say goodbye to him;  

(f)He has learnt to be open with his managers about his workload and if he was struggling in the future in any way, he would seek advice;

(g)There will be no repetition of events, as demonstrated by his subsequent periods of locus employment in Sunderland and York; and

(h)He regretted and expressed remorse for his admitted errors.

139.The Panel, after reviewing all the evidence in this case, has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, after considering both the personal and public components.

140.In reaching its decision the Panel has had regard to the fact he has:

(a)attended the hearing and engaged with the regulatory proceedings; and

(b)made a number of admissions regarding the factual particulars. 

141.However these matters were outweighed by the following factors:

(a)The Panel regarded the risk of repetition as high. The Registrant has shown only very limited insight into his failings, and has sought, at times to minimise his responsibility for the failure to record in an accurate and timely manner and to deflect blame onto others;

(b)The Registrant’s misconduct was both repeated and serious, given the implications for the care of service users and the potential risk of harm;

(c)The Registrant has provided no documentary or character evidence demonstrating any modifications in his practice in relation to accurate and timely record keeping, since he left the Council. His references are broad and do not relate specifically to the issues identified in these proceedings;

(d)The Panel took the view that in relation to record keeping, the Registrant’s actions were capable of remediation, albeit the Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant had done so. The Panel was aware that the Registrant has not worked as a Social Worker since February 2017, but could have sought employment where formal record keeping was required, such as, for example, in a social care environment;

(e)The Panel considered separately the issue of dishonesty and whether it is capable of remediation. The Panel takes the view that any finding of dishonesty is particularly serious, and that it will be difficult to remediate. Having regard to the particular circumstances of this case, the Panel’s overall view is that this issue was capable of remediation, although this had not yet been undertaken. Significant and sustained work will be required to rebuild the necessary trust to practice as an autonomous professional;       

(f)The Panel’s overall conclusion, in relation to the personal component of impairment, was that the Registrant’s fitness to practice was impaired, having regard to the nature of his misconduct, and the finding of dishonesty;  

(g)In respect of the public component, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s failure to keep timely and accurate records, compromising the care of vulnerable service users, had breached a fundamental tenet of the profession of being a Social Worker. As a result of the identified deficiencies the Council had to revisit the service users to obtain accurate information. This activity brought both the Council and the profession into dispute; and

(h)The Panel also had regard to the need to uphold the proper standards of behaviour, in concluding that the public component of impairment is clearly established. The Panel concluded that confidence in the Social Work profession would be undermined, if there was no finding of impairment, given the seriousness of the offence and in particular, the finding of dishonesty.  

Decision on Sanction

142.The Panel has heard submissions on sanction on behalf of the HCPC. It has paid regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

143.The Panel has had regard to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in this case.

144.The aggravating features as set out above, but including the following:

(a)The Registrant’s misconduct was serious, involving a risk of harm to service users, and was repeated, and involved dishonesty; 

(b)The misconduct involved a large number of service users and took place over a prolonged period of time;

(c)The Registrant has not provided any significant evidence of remediation or insight into his serious misconduct, by way of modifications to his practice; and

(d)The Panel is concerned that there is a high risk of repetition of such misconduct in the future, if the Registrant remained free to practice on an unrestricted basis.     

145.The mitigating features are:   

(a)The Registrant admitted the factual particulars;

(b)The Registrant has attended at the final hearing and has engaged with the regulatory process;

(c)The Registrant has expressed remorse;

(d)There is some evidence of good work, including record keeping on the part of the Registrant, whilst working for an employer that was experiencing challenging circumstances; and

(e)The Registrant has had no previous regulatory finding against him in his 9 years as a qualified Social Worker.  

146.The Panel was mindful that the purpose of imposing a sanction in regulatory proceedings is to protect the public, and not to punish the individual Registrant. The Panel also bore in mind the wider public interest and deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process. 

147.The Panel had regard to the submissions made by the HCPC and in particular the references to the following cases, (including the manner in which the Registrant’s dishonesty should be regarded in a sanction context):

(a)Tait v Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34;

(b)Abbas v GMC [2017] EWHC 51 (Admin);

(c)Habib Khan v General Pharmaceutical Council [2016]UKSC 64; and

(d)Professional Standards Authority v General Pharmaceutical Council and Onwughala [2014] EWHC 2521.

148.In light of the above factors, the Panel determined that given the serious nature of the Registrant’s misconduct, that to take no action, or to impose a Caution Order would not be in the public interest, and would not retain public confidence in the regulatory process. The Panel further concluded that public confidence in the profession would be undermined by imposing no sanction or imposing a Caution Order. 

149.The Panel next considered whether to make a Conditions of Practice Order, but concluded that this was not an appropriate sanction. Firstly, it was difficult to see how any workable or verifiable conditions could be imposed on the Registrant. The Registrant is not presently working as a Social Worker. The Registrant told the Panel that his agency had found him a number of potential Social Work positions, but it appears that any such role would be on a locum basis.    

150.Secondly, the Panel noted that a Conditions of Practice Order is unlikely to be suitable in cases where there are serious, or persistent overall failings, the Registrant lacks insight, or cases involving dishonesty, breach of trust or the abuse of service users. Given the finding of dishonesty, the lack of both insight and remediation, the Panel considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate to protect the public and to retain confidence in the profession of being a Social Worker.

151.The Panel next considered a Suspension Order, for a period of 12 months and concluded that this was the most appropriate sanction for the following reasons:

(a)The sanction is the minimum required to provide adequate public protection, to maintain public confidence in the profession, and to have a suitable deterrent effect upon the profession at large;

(b)The sanction provides the Registrant with an opportunity to remediate his misconduct; with the potential of a return to Social Work and to demonstrate that he has restored trust in his professional and personal integrity; and

(c)The sanction strikes a fair balance between the Registrant’s interests, and the public interest, having regard to the mitigating and aggravating features.     

152.Having arrived at an appropriate and necessary sanction, the Panel concluded that to impose the more restrictive sanction of a Striking Off Order would be unnecessarily punitive and disproportionate, given that a suitable level of public protection could be obtained from a less restrictive sanction, whilst maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. The Panel’s overall conclusion is that it would be disproportionate to deprive the profession of a Social Worker who has demonstrated good work in the past. 

153.Whilst in no way seeking to bind any future review Panel, this Panel anticipates that the following matters are likely to be of assistance to any future reviewing Panel:

(a)A written document, including critical analysis of the work undertaken since the final hearing, including evidence of reflection upon his misconduct;

(b)Up to date references, addressing his professional practice and the misconduct found in these proceedings; and

(c)Evidence of an up to date CPD record. 

Interim Order

154.The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.  This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Ebenezer Narh Dadeboe for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

 

Notes

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry 31 May 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Ebenezer Narh Dadeboe

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/04/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
10/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned
19/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned