Joanne Louise Wilde

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW70638

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 30/08/2018 End: 16:00 31/08/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

Whilst employed as a social worker at Nottinghamshire County Council, you:

1. In relation to Case D, between the dates of February and May 2015, did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete child in need visits at the agreed intervals, which were set out in supervision;
d. complete a child in need visit at child’s own house;
e. complete a chronology of the case.

2. In relation to Case E, between the dates of February and May 2015, did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete child in need visits at the agreed intervals, which were set out in supervision;
d. complete a chronology of the case.

3. In relation to Case I, did not:
a. between the dates of November 2014 and September 2015
i. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
ii. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
iii. complete an initial assessment in a timely manner;
iv. complete a child in need plan;
b. hold a child in need review meeting between January and February 2015.

4. In relation to Case J, between the dates of December 2014 and October 2015, did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete child in need visits at the agreed intervals, which were set out in supervision;
d. verify whether a written agreement was being complied with by the parents.

5. In relation to Case K, between the dates of August 2014 and October 2015 did not
a. consistently complete written records of your visits and/or did not complete them in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete child protection visits at the required intervals;
d. complete parenting assessments in a timely manner;
e. complete a record of a core group meeting in a timely manner;
f. complete a referral form for Women’s Aid;
g. consistently arrange and/or complete core group meetings.

6. In relation to Case L, between the dates of October 2015 and February 2016, did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. complete a looked after child visit at the agreed interval as set out in supervision;
d. hold a child in need review meeting in a timely manner;
e. complete a detailed and/or accurate looked after child review report.

7. In relation to Case M, between the dates of October 2015 and April 2016 did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits and/or did not complete them in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete child in need visits at the agreed intervals, which were set out in supervision;
d. consistently complete records of your contact with multi-agency professionals;
e. a child in need plan in full.

8. In relation to Case N, between the dates of November 2015 and February 2016 did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete child in need visits at the agreed intervals, which were set out in supervision;
d. consistently complete records of core group meetings in a timely manner.

9. In relation to Case R, between the dates of October 2015 and April 2016 did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete looked after child visits at the agreed intervals as set out in supervision;
d. hold a child in need review meeting in a timely manner.

10. In relation to Case V, between the dates of October 2015 and April 2016 did not:
a. consistently complete written records of your visits in a timely manner;
b. consistently complete detailed records of your visits;
c. consistently complete looked after child visits at the required intervals.

11. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 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

Preliminary matters:

1. Mr Ferson, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend some particulars of the Allegation on the basis that the amendments better reflected the evidence disclosed to the Registrant. He also applied to not proceed with some particulars of the Allegation by offering no evidence on the basis that the evidence did not support a realistic prospect of successfully proving those particulars on the balance of probabilities. He submitted that the amendments were all reflected in the Notice of Hearing dated 28 November 2017 served on the Registrant.

2. The Registrant did not oppose the applications.

3. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that in considering whether to allow amendments the Panel must balance any prejudice to the Registrant against the public interest in properly pursuing allegations, and to consider what notice had been given of the intended amendments and whether the disclosed evidence reflected the proposed amendments. With regard to the proposed offering of no evidence, the Legal Assessor advised that the Panel had a public duty to ensure that the HCPC did not under-prosecute a case and therefore had to consider Mr Ferson’s submissions upon why, in each instance, no evidence was being offered.

4. Having considered the applications, the Panel determined that it would allow both applications in full. The amendments better reflected the disclosed evidence. Where no evidence was being offered by the HCPC there was no under-prosecution because the disclosed evidence did not support the particulars of the Allegation identified by Mr Ferson. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been given sufficient notice of the applications, that she did not oppose the applications and that she was not prejudiced by those amendments being made.


Background

5. The Registrant was a registered Social Worker employed from 1999 by Nottingham County Council (NCC). In March 2010 the Registrant moved to the Newark District Child Protection Team based in Ollerton, where she was responsible for children who were the subject of Child in Need and Child Protection plans by the local authority. Concerns arose about the Registrant’s performance and an investigation was undertaken by NCC into those concerns about the Registrant not completing records, statutory visits, review meetings, chronologies, referrals and assessments in relation to 10 cases between November 2014 and April 2016.
HCPC evidence

6. Witness 1 gave evidence by telephone as permitted by the Chair’s preliminary direction under rule 10(1)(c) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules). Witness 1 was a registered Social Worker at NCC and was a Social Work Practice Consultant who was appointed to be the Registrant’s practice mentor under a Mentoring Agreement dated 23 April 2014. She confirmed the contents of her written witness statement dated 13 November 2017 detailing her mentoring sessions to improve the Registrant’s diary planning and organisational skills generally. One particular thing she noted was that the Registrant was visiting families more often than was identified in the child protection and child in need plans. Witness 1 stated that the Registrant treated the sessions positively.
 
7. Witness 2 attended and gave evidence to the Panel and was cross-examined by the Registrant. Witness 2 gave her evidence on day 2 of the hearing over the telephone with the permission of the Panel under rule 10(1)(c) of the Rules. She was a registered Social Worker and confirmed the contents of her written witness statement dated 23 January 2017. From April 2015 to August 2016 she was employed as a Team Leader in NCC’s Newark District Child Protection Team. During that time Witness 2 and Witness 4 line-managed the Registrant. Witness 2 was aware that action plans had previously been in place because the Registrant had struggled with maintaining records, and that there were concerns that the Registrant’s case notes were starting to deteriorate again.

8. Witness 2 stated that the Registrant was on annual or sick leave from 29 April 2015, returning to work on 16 September 2015, when she had a four-week phased return to work used to write up records from before her sick leave. Witness 2 had been appointed in September 2015 by NCC to conduct a performance management investigation under NCC’s Performance Management Policy. A Case Recording Action Plan was put in place on 17 September 2015 and then a Timescales Action Plan. These had positive results in the short term, but then the Registrant’s record-keeping again deteriorated by December 2015.
 
9. The Registrant was subsequently on sick leave 29 January 2016 to 14 February 2016. She was referred to Occupational Health and in the report dated 18 February 2016 they concluded that the Registrant was fit to continue her duties and to follow her performance plan, but would need support to organise her work including regular one to one meetings. The Registrant’s own GP gave a statutory fitness for work certificate on 23 February 2016, but advised a reduction of hours to 4 days a week and amended duties, which were unspecified, for 8 weeks. These were agreed between witness 2 and the Registrant on 23 February 2016. Despite this, the Registrant did not sign the review of her calendar as agreed and did not attend for work on 29 February 2016, instead requesting to work from home. The Registrant left her employment on 21 March 2016.
 
10. Witness 2 prepared a performance management report dated 21 March 2016 which was in the hearing bundle with its relevant appendices. This report detailed the deficiencies in record-keeping and the other matters regarding the 10 cases set out in the Allegation as Witness 2 considered them to be and the reasons for that. Witness 2 was taken in detail through each of the 10 cases and the related documentary records in her oral evidence.

11. In cross-examination by the Registrant, Witness 2 denied that the Registrant had ever said to her that she did not feel adequately supported and managed, and said the converse was the case – that the Registrant had always said that she was very well supported and managed.
 
12. Witness 3 gave evidence over the telephone with permission of the Panel under rule 10(1)(c) of the Rules. Witness 3 was a registered Social Worker employed by NCC to support Social Workers who were newly qualified, had performance issues around competency, or required support with complex work. She was assigned to the Newark District Child Protection Team in April 2015. Following a meeting between her, the Registrant and Witness 2 on 1 October 2015, a mentoring agreement was entered into between Witness 3 and the Registrant. Mentoring meetings were held by her with the Registrant on 7 October 2015, 11 November 2015, 10 December 2015 and 12 February 2016.

13. Witness 3 confirmed the contents of her written witness statement dated 6 December 2017 which detailed how she supported the Registrant. Witness 3’s view was that the Registrant felt overwhelmed with her situation at work and the pressure of it. When the Registrant was out on home visits and interacting with families, Witness 3 assessed her as being a very capable Social Worker, but this was not reflected in the quality of her office-based work, especially with regards to her record-keeping and organisational skills.

14. Witness 4 gave evidence over the telephone with permission of the Panel under rule 10(1) (c) of the Rules. Witness 4 was a registered Social Worker employed by NCC, from 2003 to April 2015, as Team Manager in the Newark District Child Protection Team and managed the Registrant once the Registrant joined the team. Witness 4 confirmed the contents of her written witness statement dated 27 November 2017 which detailed her management and supervision of the Registrant from May 2014 to March 2015, including the action plan implemented with the Registrant from July 2014 to January 2015. This was the second action plan that had been put in place concerning the Registrant because of concerns about the Registrant’s practice.

The Registrant’s evidence

15. The Registrant gave evidence over the telephone with permission of the Panel under rule 10(1) (c) of the Rules. She confirmed the contents of her detailed written witness statement dated 19 April 2018 dealing with her account in respect of all of the allegations. The Registrant set out her criticisms of how NCC dealt with her health condition during her employment in an appendix to her witness statement. The Registrant stated that she felt fully supported when managed by Witness 4, but considered her subsequent management from April 2015 by Witness 2 was extremely oppressive and worsened her health condition.  
 
16. In cross-examination Mr Ferson took the Registrant through each particular of the allegation in detail. The Registrant accepted that paragraph 2.1.1 of NCC’s Policy on Written Records required case notes had to be completed electronically within 7 working days of the contact, communication or event. However, if harm or injury had occurred, or potential harm or risk was identified, the record had to be completed by the following working day. The Registrant accepted that she did not comply with those requirements in most of the particularised record-keeping allegations. She also accepted that her failure to make timely records, making records that were too brief, and not making required visits within the prescribed time scales, were continuing topics of her personal supervision by managers and action plans, and that she was provided with support from a practice consultant to tackle these matters. However, the Registrant maintained that her failures were attributable to her health condition, and work related stress caused by alleged bullying and harassment, and alleged failure by her employer to adequately address these issues.


Decision on facts

17. Mr Ferson submitted that there was sufficient evidence for the Panel to find all matters in the allegation proved other than particular 4d in respect of which he conceded that the HCPC accepted that compliance with the written agreement had been verified by the Registrant. He submitted that the Panel should interpret “consistently” in the particulars of any allegation as meaning “in every case or on every occasion” in accordance with the Oxford English Dictionary definition. The Panel has applied what it considers to be the ordinary meaning of the word as understood by a reasonably informed member of the public. In doing so the Panel had regard to the length of time involved in each allegation.

18.  The Registrant submitted that the Panel should consider all the evidence about what was happening in her work and personal life over the relevant time period.

19. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that the burden of proof was at all times on the HCPC to prove each and every particular of the Allegation, and the standard of proof required was that each particularised factual allegation had to be proved on the balance of probabilities.

20. The Panel carefully considered all the documentary and oral evidence and the submissions made. The Panel made the following conclusions about the evidence of the witnesses who had given oral evidence:

• Witness 1 – her evidence was consistent and credible, but was limited to uncontroversial matters during her three months as mentor to the Registrant in July to September 2014.

• Witness 2 – She gave her evidence in an open and honest way, and gave focussed and balanced responses to questions, always being prepared to say if she could not recall a matter. Her evidence was consistent and credible.

• Witness 3 – her evidence was credible, relating to her involvement as a practice support consultant within NCC to the Registrant from October 2015 to February 2016.

• Witness 4 –credible, but her recollection was at times unclear due to the passage of time since her involvement as the Registrant’s manager ceased in March 2015.

• The Registrant – engaged well in the process and gave a coherent account in her evidence. She was open and honest and did her best to give detailed answers to questions. Had a good recollection of the cases. Her evidence was credible.

Case D

Paragraph 1a  -   found proved

21. The Registrant was allocated Case D on 19 January 2015 and held it until the end of April 2015 when she commenced a period of five months’ annual and sick leave. She had a phased return to work in September 2015 when, for four weeks, her only task at work was to complete the written records of her cases.

22. The Registrant has accepted she knew that NCC’s Written Records Policy required case records to be completed within seven working days of a recordable event or decision. She acknowledged that a brief note was not sufficient. A visit to a child was a recordable event and the Panel accepts Witness 4’s evidence that the Registrant should have visited Child D once every four weeks, but no visit took place from the Registrant’s allocation of the case on 19 January 2015 until 24 February 2015. A visit had been due within four weeks of the last visit by another social worker on 15 January 2015, namely by 12 February 2015. The Registrant made further visits on 16 March 2015 and 13 April 2015.

23. The Registrant did not complete the records of any of those three visits before the end of April 2015 despite reminders in supervision with Witness 4 on 11 March 2015 and with Witness 2 on 27 April 2015. The Registrant only made records of those visits in September 2015 on her return to work. 

Paragraph 1c  -   found not proved.

24.  According to the records, during the three and a half months that the Registrant held Case D the Registrant completed three visits. These were on 24 February 2015, 16 March 2015 and 13 April 2015. The Panel found that this did not amount to a ‘consistent’ failure to complete visits within the required frequency of every four weeks.
 
Paragraph 1d   -   found proved

25. This visit is recorded as taking place at the child’s grandmother’s house. The Registrant explained that this was because the father of Child D, with whom Child D resided, worked during the day. The Registrant accepted in her evidence that statutory visits should take place where the child lives so that the child can be seen and assessed in the home environment.

Paragraph 1e  -   found proved

26. It was accepted on behalf of the HCPC that the Registrant would not be expected to have completed a chronology for the period prior to her being assigned the case on 19 January 2015, and that the previous Social Worker had not completed a chronology in the previous nine months. However, the Registrant did not create the required chronology of events whilst she had responsibility for Child D and the Registrant accepted that she had not done so. She conceded that it would have been good practice to have done so.

Case E

Paragraph 2a   -   found proved

27. Child E was the younger sibling of Child D and visits of both children was undertaken at the same time by the Registrant. As with Child D, the Registrant accepted that she had not conducted four weekly visits nor completed written records of the visits she made on 24 February 2015, 16 March 2015 and 13 April 2015, until after her return to work in September 2015.

Paragraph 2d  -   found proved

28.  It was accepted on behalf of the HCPC that the Registrant would not be expected to have completed a chronology for the period prior to her being assigned the case on 19 January 2015, and that the previous Social Worker had not completed a chronology in the previous nine months. However, the Registrant did not create the required chronology of events whilst she had responsibility for Child E and the Registrant accepted that she had not done so.

Case I

Paragraph 3a (i)   -   not conducting visits - found not proved
- consistently not completing written records of visits – found proved

29.  No evidence was presented by the HCPC that the Registrant had failed to conduct visits. The evidence was that visits were conducted on 6 January 2015 and 11 February 2015 to Child I, the case having been allocated to the Registrant on 6 November 2014.
 
30. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s failure to complete written records in respect of these two visits within the required seven working days amounted to a consistent failure to complete written records for Child I. These records were not completed by the end of April 2015, and were only completed upon the Registrant’s return to work in September 2015.

Paragraph 3a (iv)     -   found proved

31. It was not in dispute that a child in need (CIN) plan for Case I was required before a CIN review meeting was held, and this was recorded in case supervision on 8 May 2015 as having been initially due by 8 December 2014. Witness 2 had to complete the CIN plan herself on 9 May 2015 because no plan had been prepared by the Registrant.

Paragraph 3b  -   found proved

32. It is recorded that the need for a CIN review meeting to be arranged for Case R in February 2015 was discussed in supervision of the Registrant by Witness 4 on 12 January 2015 and 4 February 2015. A CIN review meeting had still not been arranged by the Registrant by the time of her next supervision with Witness 4 on 16 March 2015, and the Registrant was directed to arrange the review for 25 March 2015. This was admitted by the Registrant.

Case J

Paragraph 4a   -   found proved

33. Case J was allocated to the Registrant on 23 December 2014. The Panel accepts the Registrant’s evidence was that she had made unrecorded CIN visits on 16 January and 23 January 2015. Those visits remained unrecorded. The Registrant made further CIN visits on 11 February 2015, 11 March 2015 and 10 April 2015, but records for those were not completed until 1 October 2015 after the Registrant’s return to work in September 2015.
 
Paragraph 4b  -   found proved

34. The Registrant is recorded in supervision on 7 January 2015 as being due to visit the children the next day, but there is no record of that visit. In case supervision on 27 January 2015 the Registrant stated that she had made visits on 16 and 23 January 2015, but there are no records of those visits. In case supervision on 16 March 2015 the Registrant stated that she had visited on 5 and 25 February 2015 and 11 March 2015 and was instructed to write them up by 24 March 2015. No records were made by the Registrant of those visits, The Registrant only wrote up on 1 October 2015 notes of a further visit made on 10 April 2015.

Paragraph 4c  -   found not proved

35. There is a record of the Registrant making visits on 8, 16, 23 and 30 January 2015, 11 February 2015, 11 March 2015 and 10 April 2015. The Panel accordingly find this allegation not proved.

Paragraph 4d -  found not proved

36. The HCPC accepted that the Registrant had verified compliance by the parents with the written agreement.

Case K

Paragraph 5a  -   found proved

37.  It is recorded in case supervision on 16 March 2015 that the Registrant had failed to write records of visits made on 7, 19 and 23 January 2015, 12 and 26 February 2015 and 9 March 2015. In spite of reminders, the Registrant only made written records of three visits – 7 January 2015, 26 February 2015 and 26 March 2015 – on 1 October 2015 after her return to work in September 2015.

Paragraph 5b  -   found proved

38. This related to exactly the same matters as 5a above.

Paragraph 5c  -   found not proved

39. Child protection (CP) visits should have been carried out once every two weeks. The evidence is that a Duty Social Worker carried out a CP visit on 28 November 2014 and 11 December 2014. The Registrant in fact did carry out CP visits on 7, 19 and 23 January 2015.  She made further CP visits on 12 February 2015 (six days later than due), 26 February 2015 and 9 March 2015. Between 18 December 2014 and 5 January 2015 the Registrant was absent from work and any visits during that period should have been undertaken by a Duty Social worker. Similar considerations apply to the period between 9 March and 22 April 2015, during which time a Duty Social Worker carried out CP visits. The Panel did not therefore find that there had been a consistent failure on the part of the Registrant to complete child protection visits at the required intervals.

Paragraph 5d   -   found not proved

40. Whilst the Panel accepted that a parenting assessment needed to be prepared in time for the Review Child Protection Conference due on 11 June 2015, this was not, in the Panel’s view, the responsibility of the Registrant at the time it would reasonably have been required, which was mid-May 2015. The Registrant was on annual leave from 29 April 2015, and then sick leave from 7 May 2015. The case was re-allocated to another Social Worker from 18 May 2015.

Paragraph 5e   -   found proved

41. The Registrant was recorded as being directed in case supervision on 16 March 2015 to record on episode on NCC’s framework system a record of the core group meeting held on 12 March 2015. This was directed to be done by 24 March 2015. The Registrant did not make that record.

Paragraph 5f  -   found not proved

42. There was evidence that the Registrant had pursued a verbal referral to Woman’s Aid, but the HCPC produced no evidence for a referral being required to be made in writing.

Paragraph 5g       -   found not proved

43. The HCPC only presented evidence of the Registrant’s failure to record the core group meeting held on 12 March 2015. The Panel determined that a single failure did not amount to a “consistent” failure to record core group meetings.

Case L

Paragraph 6a  -   found proved

44. The Registrant did not record in full her LAC visit of 2 November 2015 until 19 February 2016, despite being told to do so in supervision on 18 November 2015 and 30 December 2015. The Registrant also did not record in full her LAC visit of 17 December 2015 until 19 February 2016, despite a requirement in supervision on 6 January 2016 to complete it on 13 January 2016, and a further requirement in supervision on 28 January 2016 to complete it on 17 February 2016.
   
Paragraph 6c  -   found proved

45. It was determined at supervision on 13 October 2015 that visits to Child L should be made at least once every 4 weeks after the first LAC Review Meeting. The first LAC Review Meeting was held on 2 November 2015, but the Registrant next conducted a LAC visit on 17 December 2016. This was 2 weeks later than required. The Registrant accepted that this was outside the timescale.

Paragraph 6e  -   found not proved

46. The Registrant’s evidence was that she made the required additions to the amended child review report which is exhibited. That amended report does not identify the author within it, nor is it dated. On the other hand, Witness 2 thought that she had noted from the computer system when she prepared her witness statement that a Duty social worker had prepared that amended report, not the Registrant. Witness 2 could not be certain about this, and had not retained any document to demonstrate who amended the report.
 
47. The Panel determined that it could not resolve the authorship of the amended report and it could have been the Registrant. Therefore, the Panel could not find the allegation proved on the balance of probabilities.

Case M

Paragraph 7a  -   found not proved

48. The record of the home visit of 19 October 2015 was not completed in a timely manner, because it was not recorded until 14 March 2016. This was the only failure to complete a record at all.
 
49. The Registrant did not complete any written record of her no access visit of 15 December 2015, despite being requested in supervision on 6 January 2016 to complete it by 4 February 2016. This was the only failure to complete a record in a timely manner.

50. It was noted by the Panel that in the supervision of 7 March 2016 there was no suggestion that the Registrant had not completed her record of her no access visit of 5 January 2016 and there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Registrant had not completed it in a timely manner.

51. The Panel determined that single instances on each limb did not amount to “consistent” failings by the Registrant under either limb of the allegation.
 
Paragraph 7b  -   found not proved

52. For the same reasons as in 7(a) above, the one failure to complete a detailed record did not amount to a “consistent” failure as alleged.
 
Paragraph 7c  -   found not proved

53. The Panel noted from the record of supervision dated 18 November 2015 that CIN visits were to be completed at least once every four weeks. Contrary to the HCPC case, the Panel was satisfied there had been a visit on 19 October 2015. There had also been many visits or attempted visits made by the Registrant between 3 November 2015 and 12 April 2016. The recorded visits on 3, 13, and 23 November 2015, 15 and 29 December 2015 and 5 January 2016 are all noted in the supervision records. The Panel noted that a Duty social worker carried out a visit on 27 January 2016 while the Registrant was on sick leave.
 
54. The Registrant next carried out a CIN visit to the children at school on 4 March 2016, as recorded in the supervision held on 7 March 2016. This was one week outside the required four weekly visit timescale. Witness 2 accepted in evidence that a social worker could not be at fault if a visit was attempted but no access was given. There was only one occasion, therefore, that the Registrant’s visits exceeded the four-weekly timescale, namely, the visit of 4 March 2016 after she had been absent between 29 January to 15 February and  again on 2 March 2016.  The case was reallocated on 21 March 2016 to the Team Manager. In light of all the evidence the Panel concluded that there had not been a “consistent” failure to visit within the required timescale.
 
Paragraph 7d   -   found proved

55. The Registrant’s evidence was that she believed that she had made records somewhere, but that those records might not have been in the Framework computer records. Those computer records did not reveal any records of the Registrant’s contact with multi-agency professionals in the period from October 2015 to April 2016. This was despite the Registrant being required in supervision on 6 January 2016 to write-up all telephone calls and emails with multi-agency professionals to be written up by 4 February 2016. She was reminded again in supervision on 7 March 2016.
 
Paragraph 7e       -   found not proved

56. The Registrant’s evidence was that she did complete a child in need plan, and that the computer system would not have permitted moving on to the next “episode”, as it had done, without such a plan having been entered. Witness 2’s evidence was that she did see a plan but did not save a copy and could therefore not specify what was missing from the plan. Without sight of the plan, the Panel determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove the alleged deficiencies. 

Case N

Paragraph 8a  -   found not proved

57. It was noted in supervision on 22 December 2015 that the Registrant had not completed written records of the visits on 20 November 2015 and 16 December 2015. In supervision on 30 December 2015 it was noted that the Registrant had not recorded a visit on 29 December 2015 when it had in fact not taken place as it had been cancelled. At supervision on 6 January 2016, it was noted that there was a record of the 20 November 2015 visit although not in detail and the cancelled visit on 29 December 2015 had still not been recorded.  In all the circumstances, the Panel found that there had not been a ‘consistent’ failure to complete written records of her visits.

Paragraph 8b  -   found not proved

58. The evidence is that there were only 2 visits for which the Registrant failed to complete detailed records for the period November 2015 to February 2016. Those were identified in supervision on 14 March 2016 as being visits on 30 December 2015 and 14 January 2016. However, according to the record the visit was on 29 December 2015 and had been cancelled. The 14 January 2016 visit was due to be written up on 2 February 2016 by which date the Registrant had begun a 2 week absence from work. Witness 2’s evidence was that both remained outstanding at the time the Registrant left her employment.
 
59. The Panel determined, however, that in these circumstances the two instances of failing to complete detailed records did not amount to a “consistent” failing as alleged by the HCPC.

Paragraph 8c  -   found not proved

60. Child in Need (CIN) visits were set to be every 4 weeks at the supervision meeting on 30 December 2015. It is recorded in supervision on 28 January 2016 that the Registrant had made visits on 30 December 2015 and 14 January 2016. Although they were not recorded, the fact that those visits occurred was not in dispute, and it was accepted at that supervision that the visits were within timescales and a revised frequency of visits every 3 weeks was agreed. The Registrant was then on sick leave from 29 January 2016 until 14 February 2016.
 
61. The supervision notes of 14 March 2016 recorded that “Visits were completed within timescale since the last supervision was held on 29th January 2016”.

62. The Panel concluded that there was no evidence that the Registrant did not complete CIN visits at the agreed intervals.

Paragraph 8d   -   found not proved

63. The evidence demonstrated only one occasion when the Registrant had not completed records of a core group meeting in a timely manner, and that related to the meeting on 29 February 2016.  It was noted in supervision on 14 March 2016 that a full record had yet to be made. The Panel determined that one instance did not prove a “consistent” failure as alleged.

Case R

Paragraph 9a   -   found proved

64. It was noted in supervision on 6 January 2016 that the Registrant had failed to make a full record of 4 visits – 9, 16 and 26 November 2015 and 16 December 2015. None of those visits had been fully recorded by the time of the next supervision on 14 March 2016.
 
Paragraph 9b  -   found proved

65. For the same reasons as paragraph 9a above.

Paragraph 9c  -   found not proved

66. In supervision on 18 November 2015 it was stipulated that CIN visits were required at least every 4 weeks. There is a record of a visit on 16 December 2015, and in case supervision on 28 January 2016 it is recorded that the child was last seen on 5 January 2016 and another visit was attempted on 27 January 2016, but no access was granted. The registrant was then on sick leave for 2 weeks. Witness 2’s evidence was that a Duty Social Worker made a visit on 4 February 2016 in the Registrant’s absence. It is then recorded that the Registrant made her next visit on 4 March 2016, which, as noted in supervision on 14 March 2016, was a couple of days out of timescale “due to a no access visit”, but no date is recorded for that no access visit. The case was reallocated on 21 March 2016, shortly before the next visit was due on 23 March 2016.
 
67. The Panel determined that this evidence demonstrated that, when in work, the Registrant adhered to the visit timescales.

Paragraph 9d   -   found proved

68. In her supervision on 18 November 2015 the Registrant was directed to organise a CIN Meeting within 2 weeks and, thereafter, to arrange 6 weekly CIN Meetings. In fact, no CIN Meeting was held until 25 February 2016, which was considerably out of timescale.

Case V

 Paragraph 10a   -   found not proved

69. It is recorded in a mini case audit on 6 January 2016 and in the supervision notes of 14 March 2016 that the Registrant had not yet made a complete written record of her visit on 23 November 2015.  She had been asked to do so by 2 February 2016 by which date she had begun a 2 week absence from work. The only other record of the Registrant not making a complete record was also in supervision on 14 March 2016 when it was recorded that the Registrant had not yet made a record of her no access visit made 3 days earlier.

70. The Panel determined that this evidence did not prove a “consistent” failure by the Registrant to complete written records of her visits in a timely manner.

 Paragraph 10b  -   found not proved

71. HCPC alleged a failure to complete detailed records in respect of the visit on 23 November 2015 and 15 January 2016 and a “no access” visit on 11 March 2016. The 23 November 2015 and 15 January 2016 were recorded but not in detail and the 11 March 2016 was a “no access” visit. Bearing in mind the Registrant’s absences due to sickness and annual leave, the Panel considered that there had been insufficient time to complete all the outstanding records. Accordingly the Panel found this allegation not proved.

Paragraph 10c       -   found not proved

72. The Registrant was required to complete CIN supervision order visits every 4 weeks. The supervision notes of 14 March 2016 recorded that they were completed except in December when it went out of timescales by three days. The December visit was undertaken by a Duty Social Worker. The Panel noted the Registrant’s absence during part of December. In the 4 February 2016 case management oversight note by Witness 2 it is recorded that CIN visits were now to take place every six weeks. The visit due at the end of February was attempted twice by the Registrant at the beginning of March. The Registrant had been absent from 29 January 2016 to 15 February 2016 and she was on annual leave on 2 and 9 March and from 15 to 17 March 2016.  A Duty Social Worker was to attempt a visit on 15 March 2016 if possible.

73.  The Panel was satisfied after careful consideration of the records that the single out of timescale visit does not amount to a ‘consistent’ failure. The Registrant left her employment on 21 March 2016.
 

Decision on Grounds

74. Mr Ferson submitted that standards ordinarily required to be followed by the Registrant in this case were to be found in the HCPC’s published Standards applicable at the time of the proven facts. He submitted that the Registrant had breached standards 1, 7 and 10 of the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012) and standards 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 14 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers (2012). He invited the Panel to consider these when considering both statutory grounds, lack of competence and misconduct.

75. The Registrant submitted that she had had no problems in her work before joining the Ollerton/Newark team. She said that she considered that Witness 2 harassed her and bullied her at work.

76. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that the matters of misconduct and/or lack of competence were matters for the independent professional judgement of the Panel. The ground of lack of competence required an assessment, made of a fair sample of the Registrant’s work, that the Registrant was not meeting the required standards on the proven facts. Misconduct, on the other hand, was a different ground and required a serious departure from the proper professional standards that caused or could cause real harm to service users, the public or the wider public interest. A single negligent act or omission was unlikely to amount to misconduct, but could do so if particularly serious. Multiple negligent acts or omissions were more likely to cross the threshold of misconduct. Serious misconduct has been described in legal cases as conduct which put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; conduct which brought the profession into disrepute; dishonesty; and conduct which breached a fundamental tenet of the profession. The Panel carefully considered the proven facts and the submissions made. From all the evidence given by the HCPC witnesses and the Registrant herself, the Panel concluded that this case did not concern her lack of competence, because the Registrant knew what the proper standards were. Rather, this case concerned the Registrant’s failure to meet those proper standards so that the proper ground for it to consider was misconduct.

77. The Panel determined that there were two categories of failings by the Registrant in the facts found. The first category related to visits (1d and 6c) and the arranging of two CIN review meetings (3b and 9d) within the required timescales.

78. The Panel considered that the decision to conduct the visit at the grandmother’s house in 1d rather than where Child D resided, was an understandable decision by the Registrant and did achieve her meeting alone with Child D. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that this did not amount to misconduct which was serious.  

79. On the other hand, the conducting of a LAC visit to Child L two weeks late (6c), and the failure to hold timely CIN review meetings for Child I and Child R, were each a serious breach of standard 6.1 of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. That required the Registrant to take all reasonable steps to reduce the risk of harm to service users. 

80. The second category of failings related to timely and complete record-keeping. Consistent failings were proved in respect of seven vulnerable service users (1a, 2a, 3a (i), 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 7d, 9a, 9b), and individual failings on four occasions (1e, 2d, 3a (iv) and 5e). Those failings were clear breaches of the Registrant’s obligation to promptly make full, clear and accurate records set out in standards 10.1 and 10.2 of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics.

81. Each of the proven consistent failings in record-keeping were serious in the Panel’s view. Whilst the individual proven failings in record-keeping were not in themselves serious, cumulatively, they were also serious as they amounted to a pattern of failing to meet record-keeping obligations in respect of vulnerable service users. The Registrant, in her own evidence, recognised the importance of proper record-keeping and her failure to meet the required standard of record-keeping.

82. In these circumstances, the Panel determined that the ground of misconduct was well founded.

Decision on impairment

83. Mr Ferson submitted that whether a Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired is a matter for the panel’s professional judgment. There is no burden of proof at this stage. He submitted that whilst the Panel could consider the context in which the misconduct occurred, evidence of purely mitigating circumstances should not be considered by the Panel at this stage.

84. The Registrant submitted she accepted responsibility for her poor record-keeping. She submitted that she knew that records are an essential tool for a social worker’s reflection and the planning of future work. She said that she recognised that –

a) timely and accurate records save colleagues from repeating work;

b) poor records can mean some families having to unnecessarily repeat some information which can cause them stress;

c) late visits mean that the child is not being properly monitored and that potential risks to that child can be overlooked. Also, the child needs to trust the social worker so that the child feels that he/she can reveal information concerning risk; and

d) record-keeping was her responsibility which could not be passed on to management during supervision sessions.

85. Finally, the Registrant asked the Panel to consider the written references she had provided and the circumstances occurring in her life at that time.

86. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that the Panel had to consider whether, looking forward, the Registrant’s past misconduct leads to her fitness to practise being impaired now. There are two component parts of the test for impairment. First, there is what may be termed the personal component of this decision. The Panel considers the proven past misconduct or other ground, together with all the other evidence the Panel have in respect of the Registrant, (e.g. insight, any evidence of the remedying of the deficiencies, the risk of repetition, and the risk to the public presented by any repetition of the misconduct). Second, the Panel must also consider what may be termed the public component, namely, what would be the effect of not finding impairment on the wider public interest? That wider public interest includes the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and its regulator, and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct. Those components are dealt with in the HCPTS’s Practice Note ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’‘(March 2017).

87. The Panel carefully considered all the evidence in the case. The Panel acknowledged that there had been some management failings during the relevant period of employment, but concluded that neither those, nor the personal circumstances of the Registrant, could excuse or account for these serious failings by the Registrant in her professional duties to the service users concerned.

88. The Panel considered that the proven misconduct was remediable, and the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had demonstrated developing insight into her failings and the reasons for those failings. However, although the Registrant had displayed some reflection on her misconduct, no steps had actively been made by the Registrant to remedy the concerns in this case, and she had yet to show full insight. Therefore, the Panel concluded that there was a present risk of the repetition of the misconduct. Such a repetition would present a real risk of harm to service users.

89. The present risk of repetition of the misconduct by the Registrant would, in the Panel’s view, be a matter of real concern to an informed member of the public, and there would therefore be a risk of the undermining of public confidence in the profession and its regulation if a finding of current impairment were not made.

90. The Panel accordingly determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. 

Decision on sanction

91. Mr Ferson submitted that, as is stated in the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public. The principle of proportionality requires the Panel to first consider whether any sanction at all is required. If a restriction is required, they need to be considered from the least restrictive and moving upwards until the appropriate and sufficient sanction is reached.  
 
92. The Registrant made oral and written submissions. She submitted that she is truly remorseful about her failings in record-keeping, and fully appreciated the risks to service users caused by those failings.

93. In the two years since the events she has changed considerably, she has reflected a great deal and has engaged fully in these regulatory proceedings. The Registrant told the Panel about her considerable efforts to keep her professional skills and knowledge up to date. She has done this by –  doing online research into changes in the law, using the education section of the Department of Health website; using the Skills for Care website; reading “Community Care” magazine; going on Social Work forums; and undertaking eLearning on organisational skills.

94. In her present job as a hotel and events manager, she explained that her ability to make proper records has been good as shown by regular audits. She wishes to return to social work, but was not sure she would return to child protection work, although she would consider fostering and looked after child work. The Registrant added that she is very willing to undertake any further training that the HCPC might require to remedy the concerns in this case.

95. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that:

a) the appropriate sanction, if any, is a matter for the independent judgement of the Panel;

b) the Panel must at all times bear in mind that the purpose of imposing a sanction is to protect the public in accordance with the over-arching objective of the exercise of the HCPC’s powers set out in Art. 3(4) of the 2001 Order, as amended. This includes promoting and maintaining the public’s confidence in the profession and promoting and maintaining proper standards of conduct. The purpose of a sanction is not to rehabilitate the Registrant, nor to punish the Registrant, although a restriction on the Registrant’s registration may have a punitive effect;

c) the Panel should consider the impact of a particular sanction on the Registrant, but it is not the primary consideration;

d) the Panel must take account of the HCPC’s guidance in its published “Indicative Sanctions Policy” March 2017, which includes the need for the Panel to exercise the principle of proportionality. This means that if a sanction is required, the sanction imposed should be the minimum appropriate sanction to achieve the over-arching objective. If the Panel deviates from the Policy, it should state clear and cogent reasons for so doing.

96. The Panel carefully considered all the evidence and submissions. The Panel first identified the aggravating and mitigating factors as follows:

Aggravating

• the sustained nature of the misconduct
• the potential risk to vulnerable service users arising from the misconduct
• the risk of repetition of the misconduct
         
  Mitigating

• the Registrant’s engagement in the process
• her previous good character
• the openness and honesty of her evidence
• there were some management failings
• her adverse personal circumstances at the time
• her remorse and developing insight
• her willingness to remedy the misconduct and keep her professional skills and knowledge up to date

97. The Panel determined that the misconduct and risk of repetition was too serious to take no action, or for mediation or the making of a Caution Order. None of those would provide sufficient protection to the public.
 
98. The Panel moved on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order and was of the view that paragraph 30 of the HCPC’s “Indicative Sanctions Policy” applied:
“Conditions of practice will be most appropriate where a failure or deficiency is capable of being remedied and where the Panel is satisfied that allowing the registrant to remain in practice, albeit subject to conditions, poses no risk of harm or future harm….”

99. In accordance with paragraph 31 of that Policy, the Panel determined that it could devise workable and measurable conditions that were remedial or rehabilitative   in nature and address the concerns in the case and sufficiently protect the public from a repetition of the misconduct. The Panel also determined that the appropriate duration of the Order would be 12 months.

100. The Conditions of Practice Order will be reviewed by another panel prior to the expiry of the Order. That reviewing panel might be assisted by :

• the attendance of the Registrant

• a report from her supervisor on the standard of her professional performance and record keeping

• up to date references and testimonials

• evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and keeping her knowledge and skills up to date

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, you, Mrs Joanne Louise Wilde, must comply with the following conditions of practice for a period of 12 months:
1. You must immediately inform the following parties that you are subject to a conditions of practice order under the HCPC's fitness to practise procedures, and disclose the conditions listed above, to them:
 
(a) Any organisation or person employing, contracting with, or using you to undertake social work;

(b) Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with to work as a Social Worker (at the time of application or interview); and

(c) Any prospective employer with whom you are seeking employment as a Social Worker (at the time of application or interview).

2. Within 14 days of commencing paid or unpaid employment as a Social Worker in the UK or elsewhere, you must notify the HCPC and provide the HCPC with contact details of your employment and your employer.

3. At any time that you are working as a Social Worker, you must place yourself under the supervision of your line manager, who must be a Social Worker registered with the HCPC, and supply details of that supervisor to the HCPC within 14 days of him or her undertaking that role.

4. You must meet with your supervisor on a monthly basis to consider your performance in your duties with emphasis on your organisational skills and record-keeping.

5. You must inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you as a Social Worker within 14 days.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Joanne Louise Wilde

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice