Ms Daslie Campbell

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW74281

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 13/08/2018 End: 16:00 16/08/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed with Bournemouth Borough Council, you:


1. In relation to Child A:


a. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child A on or around;

i. 22 May 2015

ii. 30 October 2015

iii. 17 December 2015

iv. 16 March 2016


b. Completed statutory visits to Child A, that were overdue, on or around:

i. 30 October 2015;

ii. 16 March 2016.


c. On or about 16 March 2016, did not record an adequate and / or comprehensive progress note of information received regarding an allegation by Child A against a carer.


2. In relation to Child B:


a. Completed statutory visits to Child B, that were overdue, on or around:

i. 24 July 2015;

ii. 6 October 2015;

iii. 11 April 2016


b. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child B on or around;

i. 18 February 2015

ii. 11 April 2016.


3. In relation to Child C:


a. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child C on or around;

i. 17 March 2016

ii. 25 April 2016


b. Did not follow management instruction given on or about 17 March 2016 to increase visiting frequency for Child C.


4. In relation to Child D:


a. Completed statutory visits to Child D, that were overdue, on or around:

i. 19 June 2015;

ii. 18 December 2015;

iii. 20 January 2016;

iv. 1 June 2016.


b. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child D on or around;

i. 19 June 2015

ii. 18 December 2015

iii. 20 January 2016


c. Did not follow management instruction to visit Child D before 29 May 2015.


5. In relation to Child E:


a. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child E on or around:

i. 4 March 2015

ii. 15 April 2015

iii. 3 June 2015

iv. 07 August 2015

v. 10 February 2016

vi. 14 April 2016


b. Completed statutory visits to Child E, that were overdue, on or around:

i. 3 June 2015

ii. 7 August 2015

iii. 10 February 2016


c. Did not follow management instruction given on or about 4 September 2015 to visit Child E by 16 October 2015.


6. In relation to Child F:


a. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child F on or around:

i. 27 January 2016

ii. 22 February 2016


b. Completed statutory visits to Child F, that were overdue, on or around:

i. 27 January 2016;

ii. 10 May 2016.


7. In relation to Child G:


a. Did not record in a timely manner your visits to Child G on or around:

i. 11 February 2016

ii. 17 February 2016


b. Completed a statutory visit with Child G, that was overdue, on or around 26 May 2016.


8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 7 constitute misconduct and or lack of competence.


9. By reason of your misconduct and or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Facts Proved: 1(a)(i – iv), 1(b)(i – ii), 1(c), 2(a)(i – ii), 2(b)(i – ii), 3(a)(i – ii), 4(a)(i – iv), 4(b)(i – ii), 5(a)(i - ii), 5(a)(iv – vi), 5(b)(i), 5(c), 6(a)(i – ii), 6(b)(i), and 7(a)(i – ii).

Facts Not Proved: 3(b), 4(b)(i), 4(c), 5(a)(iii), 5(b)(i – ii), 6(b)(ii), and 7(b).

Grounds: Misconduct

Fitness to Practise Impaired: Yes

Sanction: Suspension Order (6 Months)

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was notified of the date and time of the hearing via a letter dated 5 June 2018 which was sent by first class post to her registered address and accordingly the HCPC had discharged their duty to serve documentation on the Registrant in accordance with the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (the Order). In support of the Registrant receiving notice of the hearing was the fact that she had completed and returned the form enclosed in with the notice and provided written representations.

2. The hearing had been convened to consider the allegation against the Registrant.

Proceeding in Absence of the Registrant

3. Included in the Notice of Hearing was confirmation that the hearing could proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She was therefore on notice that the hearing could proceed and that the Panel could consider striking her from the register. The Presenting Officer submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant given the serious nature of the allegation. She noted that the Registrant had consistently stated that she did not wish to attend the hearing, and had submitted detailed written representations in respect of the particulars of each allegation. There was no request for an adjournment and no indication that the Registrant would attend a hearing at a future date if the hearing was postponed. She also had not indicated that she wished to be represented at the hearing. Further, two witnesses for the HCPC were in attendance and in a position to proceed with the hearing.

4. The Panel noted the provisions of the HCPTS practice note in respect of proceedings in absence and received advice from the Legal Assessor, which they applied. There had been no request for an adjournment received, nor any interest expressed by the Registrant in providing evidence via video or telephone link. The Registrant had supplied submissions in writing in relation to the particulars of the allegation. The Panel was therefore satisfied that it was appropriate for them to exercise their discretion to hear the matter in the absence of the Registrant. Although proceeding in absence may disadvantage the Registrant, given the serious nature of the matters to be determined, the fact that she was aware of the hearing and had chosen to submit written representations and not be represented at the hearing, as well as witnesses being in attendance, the public interest in proceeding with the hearing outweighed any potential prejudice which may be suffered by the Registrant. It was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the proceedings. Her submissions would be accepted as evidence.

Amendments to the Allegation

5. The Presenting Officer also applied to amend the wording of the particulars. The Panel were aware that such an application was to be made, however she did not wish to request the amendments set out in the case summary provided in the bundle of documents, but rather submitted alternative wording. She helpfully provided the Panel with a hard copy of the original allegation, amendments contained in the case summary and her proposed final wording of the allegation, and took the Panel through each amendment in turn. In her submission, the changes to the wording did not materially change the nature of the particularised allegation and by virtue of receiving the bundle of documents, the Registrant was on notice that an application to amend was to be made and had not submitted any comments in relation to the application.

6. In response to questions from the Panel, the Presenting Officer confirmed that the proposed amendments to the particulars of the allegation would not, in her opinion, disadvantage the Registrant, rather they made the allegation she faced clearer.

7. The Panel were conscious that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the proceedings and chosen not to be represented. As a consequence, she was unaware of the precise detail of the proposed amendments and unable to make representations on the same, but had submitted a response in writing in relation to the particulars of the allegation she had been made aware of. The HCPTS had provided guidance in a document entitled “Unrepresented Registrants” and the Panel were conscious of the need to ensure that an unrepresented registrant has every reasonable opportunity to make his or her case.

8. It also had regard to guidance issued by the HCPC entitled “Standard of Acceptance for Allegations” and had the benefit of legal advice from the Legal Assessor, which it accepted. The guidance document sets out that allegations must be drafted in clear and unambiguous language which enables the Registrant and anyone else reading them to understand what is being alleged. So far as possible, the elements of the allegation should be set out:

a. briefly, concisely and in ordinary language which avoids the unnecessary use of technical terms or jargon;

b. in separate paragraphs, each dealing with a single element of the allegation;

c. with the facts in chronological order (unless there is good reason to do otherwise);

d. in the logical decision-making sequence of facts, statutory ground and, impairment.

9. The Panel was satisfied that the amendments proposed by the Presenting Officer ensured that the particulars of the allegation promoted the above requirements and did not unduly prejudice the Registrant. Accordingly the application to amend the allegation was approved.

Proceeding in Private

10. The Presenting Officer informed the Panel that although she did not intend to make reference to the Registrant’s health or private life, the Registrant herself made such references in her written submissions and therefore the Presenting Officer would need to ask the witnesses questions on the same. It would therefore be appropriate for the Panel to hear any evidence that related to her health or private life in private.

11. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note in relation to “Proceeding in Private” and was conscious that, while there is a presumption that proceedings will be in public, it was obliged to ensure the interests of justice were served, and that the private life of the Registrant was protected. It would be inappropriate to refer to the health of the Registrant in a public hearing. Accordingly, evidence in relation to the Registrant’s health would be heard in private to protect her privacy but all other matters would be heard in public.


Background

12. The Registrant was a Social Worker employed by Bournemouth Borough Council (the Council) within the Looked After Children (LAC) team. The Council became aware that the Registrant had not completed some statutory visits within expected timescales, and they commenced an audit of the Registrant’s cases. Upon the conclusion of the audit, a disciplinary investigation was instigated by the Council in June 2016. The Council also referred their concerns to the HCPC.

13. The HCPC have provided a bundle of documents in support of the allegation in relation to the Registrant, and called two witnesses to give evidence to the Panel in relation to the allegation.

14. The Registrant provided written submissions to the Panel in respect of some of the particulars of the allegation contained within the original bundle, but as a consequence of voluntarily absenting herself from the hearing, had not been able to make representations to the Panel on the amended allegation, hear the evidence of the witnesses or be subject to questioning by the HCPC or the Panel.


Assessment of Witnesses

Witness – BP

15. BP was the officer who investigated the disciplinary allegations against the Registrant for the Council. He provided written and oral evidence to the Panel and answered questions from the Presenting Officer and the Panel. The Panel were extremely grateful to BP for accommodating the need for his evidence to continue into the second day of the hearing.

16. This witness gave his evidence in a straightforward way, doing his best to recall the details of his investigation without the benefit of access to the RAISE case management system. His evidence appeared to the Panel to be considered, balanced and fair, and he was honest in his assessment of the circumstances in which the Registrant found herself at the Council. He clearly identified if he was unable to recall a matter, or had no knowledge of it, and did not seek to speculate on matters unless requested to do so. Where he could not remember, or had no knowledge, he was not afraid to say so. The Panel found BP to be a professional, credible, reliable and impressive witness.
 
Witness – DR

17. This witness was responsible for supervising the Registrant between May 2016 and October 2016 however the Registrant was suspended from work from 8 June 2016. The witness provided written and oral evidence to the Panel and answered questions. The Panel were grateful to her for returning on the second day, having been unable to hear from her as scheduled on the first day of the hearing.

18. The Panel did not find the evidence of this witness to be of as much assistance to them. She was unable to account for differences between her evidence and the evidence of BP, and did not appear to the Panel to accept any possibility that her evidence may be mistaken or incorrect despite the length of time since the events took place, and the fact that a substantial number of the particulars of the allegation related to a period prior to her employment by the Council. The Panel noted in particular that DR stated halfway through her evidence that she had not seen the table prepared by BP in relation to visits and recording and it would have been helpful if she had seen it. This was particularly noteworthy given that in her statement DR provided information about overdue visits and or recording which were identical to BP’s but could not explain how she had arrived at those same dates despite stating she had not seen his table of evidence and forming her view from the information held in RAISE.

19. The witness had on a number of occasions during her evidence confirmed her statement as being correct, then appeared to qualify it or retreat from it in oral evidence when questioned. For example, in relation to the attendance record of the Registrant, the witness stated in her written evidence that no health issues were raised by the Registrant with her and she was unaware of any history of ill health. However, it is clear from the supervision records DR relied upon in her statement and when doing her audit that there were repeated references to the Registrant being off absent from work:-

• Child A - manager arranged for former social worker to do visit – 13 July 2015;

• Child E – worker off due to RTA, unable to undertake long journey to visit child in Wales – 22 July 2015;

• Child D – LAC review cancelled on as SW off sick – 15 May 15 and refers to SW being off sick due to accident 25 June 2015 – 13 July 2015.

20. The witness in her statement made no reference to her awareness, as the Registrant’s manager, of personal pressures on the Registrant or the timing of her annual leave or regular duty responsibilities, however in her oral evidence she confirmed that, in the short period she managed the Registrant (5 weeks) she had agreed that the Registrant could take compassionate leave to address an issue relating to her parents. This compassionate leave was extended by her at the request of the Registrant. DR did not take account of the Registrant’s attendance at work during the period which was the subject of her informal audit or when she referred her concerns to the team manager. DR denied having any formal “handover” when she became the Registrant’s manager, but was aware that the Registrant was subject to management advice from April 2016, though it was unclear when she became aware of this management advice. She also stated that she had been brought in to the team as a result of management concerns about actions not being completed in the team as a whole.

21. The Panel agreed with the submission of the Presenting Officer that although her evidence was not always consistent or reliable, she was generally a credible witness.


Decision on Facts

22. The Panel considered that the particulars of the allegation against the Registrant fell broadly in to three categories:

a. failing to record and or failing to record in a timely manner and or failing to record adequately in relation to young people;

b. failing to undertake statutory visits to young people within statutory timescales;

c. failing to follow management instructions.

23. In terms of definitions of terms, the Panel noted that they had not been provided with a definition of “adequate[ly]” in relation to the records expected to be kept by social workers, but the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England issued by the HCPC in 2012 specifies at Standard 10 that they expect social workers to “be able to keep accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible records in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines”. The evidence provided by both witnesses was that they would expect a fellow professional to record sufficient information on the system to enable a colleague to understand the issues and risks pertinent to the record being made given that the allocated social worker could not be available 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. Therefore the Panel concluded that a social worker recording the visit in their note pad as suggested by the Registrant in her written representations could not comply with Standard 10, regardless of any local policy on reporting or lack thereof. The Registrant should have updated RAISE in a timely manner to reflect the entries in her note book.

24. The Panel also had not been provided with a definition of “timely” by the HCPC, who had determined the wording of the particulars of allegation against the Registrant. It observed that the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics issued by the HCPC to regulated professionals in 2016 at Standard 10.2 provides "You must complete all records promptly and as soon as possible after providing care, treatment or other services”. Both witnesses stated in evidence that accepted practice for recording in their professional opinion was one day where there were safeguarding concerns, and within 72 hours otherwise, though BP accepted that the reasonableness of these timeframes would depend on the specific circumstances. It noted the Registrant’s submission, confirmed by BP but disputed by DR, that the Council “does not stipulate when visits should or where visits should be recorded” and the Panel determined that it would be appropriate to adopt the 3 day timescale as being “timely”.

25. Regardless of the fact that the Panel considered the particulars of the allegations fell into three broad categories, the Panel proceeded to consider each particular in turn, taking account of the documentary and oral evidence available to them, the submissions of the Presenting Officer and the legal advice provided by the Legal Assessor. In determining whether an allegation is ‘well founded’, the Panel is required to decide firstly whether the HCPC, which has the burden of persuasion in relation to the facts alleged, has discharged that burden and, if so, whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

Particulars 1(a)(i) to (iv) – Found Proved

31. In respect of particulars 1(a)(i) to (iv) in relation to Child A, the Panel found that the record of visit created on the electronic Council case management system (RAISE) by the Registrant for each date particularised was more than 3 days after the visit had actually taken place – one had been completed on the fourth day but the latest recording of a visit was 64 days after it had occurred. It was noteworthy that the Registrant had not challenged the information provided by DR and BP as to when the visits were recorded on the system, merely saying that the Council did not have a policy on recording and “at no time was I instructed on specific timescales for recording”. The Panel concluded that there was clear evidence that the visits particularised had been recorded more than 3 days after taking place, and that therefore the recording had not been done in a “timely manner”. It concluded that the HCPC had proved the particulars 1(a)(i) to (iv) on the balance of probability.

Particulars 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) – Found Proved

31. Particulars 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) concerned the timing of statutory visits to Child A. Both witnesses had confirmed that visits to children who are looked after by a local authority must be completed within prescribed maximum timescales. Failure to undertake such visits within the statutory timescales would expose the young person to risk and put the local authority in breach of its statutory requirements and would, in most circumstances, also put the allocated social worker in breach of the expectations of their professional regulator. BP stated that statute required Child A to have a statutory visit every 8 to 10 weeks. DR referred to “statutory visits” but did not specify what statutory frequency was applicable to Child A. The Registrant submitted that Child A should be visited every 4 to 6 weeks, but that she “made my own judgement based on HCPC Standards of Proficiency guidelines section 4 which stipulates “that you should be able to practice as an autonomous professional exercising my own judgement”.
Section 4.1. “be able to assess a situation determine its nature and severity…””. Both BP and DR confirmed that in respect of statutory visiting frequency, a social worker had no authority to substitute their own view of what frequency of visit was required – the frequency was set in statute and should be adhered to. The Panel did not accept the Registrant’s position on this issue was correct and therefore concluded that the HCPC had proved both particulars 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) on the balance of probability.

Particular 1(c) – Found Proved

32. The final particular in relation to Child A related to the adequacy of recording by the Registrant for the Council of an allegation raised by Child A against his carer. The Panel noted that the allegation had been received by the Council while the Registrant was absent from work however it was clear from supervision notes dated 17 March 2016 that the Registrant had visited Child A on 16 March 2016 and discussed the incident with him and satisfied herself that there was no outstanding concern. However, the Supervision note was created by the Supervising Manager following discussion of the case with the Registrant, and was therefore not the allocated social worker’s record of how a potentially serious allegation was handled. It was of concern to the Panel that the only evidence available to them as to the extent of recording by the Registrant of the handling of the allegation made by Child A was an extract of a note of a home visit conducted by the Registrant with Child A on 16 March 2016, contained within the disciplinary report prepared by BP in the bundle. However the Panel’s concern as to the evidence of this particular was outweighed by their concern that the extent of recording of an allegation by the Registrant was limited to a note on a home visit record that “Allegations of mustard and being locked out in the back garden because he woke up too early…”. Regardless of the Registrant’s personal opinion of the source of the allegation, it was an allegation involving the welfare of a child in the care of the local authority. The recording by the Registrant did not, in the opinion of the Panel, amount to an accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible record as required by Standard 10 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England issued by the HCPC in 2012. Particular 1(c) had therefore been proved by the HCPC on the balance of probabilities.

Particulars 2(a)(i) and 2(a)(ii) – Found Proved

33. In relation to Child B, the Panel were grateful to BP for confirming that the statutory visiting frequency applicable was every 4 to 6 weeks, which was accepted by the Registrant. They were also grateful to him and DR for confirming the minimum requirements for a statutory visit and noted that the Registrant disputed the failure to accept a visit she made as a statutory visit but accepted that the visit referred to at particular 2(a)(i) “is 17 days out not 83 as suggested”. The Registrant did not make any representations in respect of particular 2(a)(ii) and the Panel were therefore satisfied that both particulars had been proven on the balance of probabilities by the HCPC.

Particulars 2(b)(i) and 2(b)(ii) – Found Proved

34. The recording of visits to Child B by the Registrant in a timely manner was the focus of particulars 2(b)(i) and 2(b)(ii). The Registrant did not challenge BP’s evidence that her visit of 18 February 2015 was not recorded on RAISE until 5 days later, or that her visit of 11 April 2016 was recorded 4 days later, both therefore being outside the 3 day timescale advanced by both witnesses as accepted practise. The Panel bore in mind the Registrants submissions in relation to the policy of the Council on recording and its instructions to her (or lack thereof) on the timeliness of recording, but considered that the regulatory requirement set out in the Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics issued by the HCPC to complete records promptly and as soon as possible after providing care had not been satisfied, and accordingly particulars 2(b)(i) and 2(b)(ii) were, on the balance of probabilities, proven.

Particulars 3(a)(i) and 3(a)(ii) – Found Proved

35. In relation to Child C, particulars 3(a)(i) and 3(a)(ii) again related to the timely recording of visits. The Registrant did not address these particulars especially but the Panel again noted and applied her general comments on the recording policy of the Council and the extent of her instruction as to timescales for recording. Given the absence of any evidence to contradict the evidence of BP that the visits were recorded on RAISE 22 and 47 days after they took place respectively, the Panel considered it was more likely than not that the visits had been recorded as alleged and particulars 3(a)(i) and 3(a)(ii) were therefore proven.

Particular 3(b) – Found Not Proved

36. The final particular relating to Child C was that the Registrant had failed to follow management instructions in relation to frequency of visiting of Child C. To evidence this particular, BP relied upon a supervision note dated 17 March 2016 which stated in a section entitled “Plan” that the Registrant “increase visiting to support placement at home”. The Panel noted however that in both the heading of the supervision note and the list of actions agreed, the visiting frequency was stated as 4 – 6 weeks. Further, DR confirmed during her evidence that it was not until after supervision she conducted on 11 May 2016 that the frequency of visiting in relation to Child C was increased to weekly. The HCPC had not discharged the burden of proving this particular and the Panel therefore found the particular not proven.

Particulars 4(a)(i) to 4(a)(iv) – Found Proved

37. Particulars 4(a)(i) to 4(a)(iv) again related to the completion of statutory visits but in relation to Child D. The Panel were grateful to BP for clearly setting out in the bundle the varying frequencies of statutory visits in relation to Child D and noted his belief that the 4 visits referred to as being out of timescale varied from 5 days late to 63 days late. The Panel were initially confused by the Registrant’s submissions in relation to these particulars, but then realised that although the Registrant referred to Child D, the initials she used and the information she provided did not appear to relate to the child designated as Child D in the bundle. The Panel caused enquires to be made by the HCPC in relation to the anonymisation of the identification of the children referred to. Following these enquiries, the Panel considered it more likely than not that the representations that the Registrant had attributed to Child F did in fact relate to Child D. It was likely this had occurred as a consequence of BP’s table at dealing with the cases of concern in order of Child A, B, C, F, G, D, E and the Registrant not realising that the order was not A – G.

38. Applying the Registrant’s comments in relation to the presumed correct child the Panel noted that the Registrant asserted that when she was allocated this Child’s case it was “at a time when I was extremely involved with other demanding cases and management was aware that I could not meet the demands of visiting before 19.06.15.” in respect of particular 4(a)(i) and did not did not dispute that a statutory visit should have been carried out by 25 December 2015 but asserted that it was “not possible to get another visit in diary given Duty, Xmas period [sic]” – particular 4(a)(ii) she made no comment in relation to 4(a)(iii) or 4(a)(iv).  Particulars 4(a)(i) to 4(a)(iv) were therefore found proved by the Panel.

Particulars 4(b)(i) to 4(b)(iii) – Found Proved [Except 4(b)(i)]

39. As with the preceding children, the HCPC alleged that the Registrant had failed to record her visits to Child D in a timely manner – particulars 4(b)(i) to 4(b)(iii). Although the Panel were satisfied that the latter two particulars were proven, given she recorded the visits respectively 39 days and 5 days after the visits took place, they were not prepared to find 4(b)(i) proven against the Registrant as, although neither the witnesses nor the Registrant referred to a period of absence in relation to this particular, supervision notes referred to absence due to an accident around this time. The Panel may have reached a different conclusion had it been provided, by either party, with a schedule of the Registrant’s absences. Without this information though, it could not assess what, if any, impact absence had on her recording. Accordingly, while particulars 4(b)(ii) and 4(b)(iii) were found proved, the Panel were not prepared to find 4(b)(i) proved.

Particular 4(c) – Found  Not Proved

40. The final particular in relation to Child D again centred on an alleged failure to follow a management instruction to visit the child 4(c). The Panel had not been provided with any evidence of the instruction, it apparently being contained in a document described by DR as an “allocation note”. That being the case, the Panel could not find particular 4(c) proven.

Particulars 5(a)(i) to 5(a)(vi) – Found Proved [Except 5(a)(iii)]

41. Particulars 5(a)(i) to 5(a)(vi) concerned the failure of the Registrant to record visits to Child E in a timely manner. As with the previous child, the Panel ascertained that the representations the Registrant attributed to Child E were incorrect – they were satisfied that the Registrants representations in respect of Child G related to the child identified in the bundle as Child E. The Panel noted that the Registrant again did not specifically address the issue of her recording of visits in relation to Child E, having merely made general points as previously considered by the Panel. The Panel therefore accepted the evidence of BP that the Registrant had not recorded her visits to Child E in a timely manner as a consequence of the Registrant not recording her visits for between 4 days (15 April 2015) and 49 days (14 April 2016) and found particulars 5(a)(i), 5(a)(ii), 5(a)(iv), 5(a)(v) and 5(a)(vi) proven. However, particular 5(a)(iii) was not proven as there was evidence to suggest that the Registrant may not have been in attendance at work at this time, and if so would have been unable to record the visits in a timely fashion.

Particulars 5(b)(i) to 5(b)(iii) – Found Proved [Except 5(b)(i) and (ii)]

42. It was also alleged that the Registrant had, in respect of Child E, not undertaken three statutory visits in accordance with the prescribed statutory frequency (5(b)(i) to 5(b)(iii)). Within the Registrant’s submissions, she accepted that the visits referred to had taken place when overdue by between 11 and 21 days. The Panel found particular 5(b)(iii) proven. However, as a consequence of the lack of evidence in relation to the attendance of the Registrant around June 2015, the Panel were not prepared to find particular 5(b)(i) proven. They were also not prepared to find particular 5(b)(ii) proven as there was reference in the supervision note relied upon to “MO”. The Panel were inclined to accept BP’s opinion that within this note, “MO” was likely to stand for ‘Management Oversight’ and that this particular could not therefore be found proven against the Registrant. Accordingly, while particular 5(b)(iii) was proven, 5(b)(i)  and 5(b)(ii) were not.

Particular 5(c) – Found Proved

43. The final particular in relation to Child E again was in respect of a failure to follow a management instruction. However, unlike the previous similar particulars of this ilk, in this instance the Panel were satisfied that there was a record of the Registrant being reminded that the next statutory visit was due by 16 October 2015 with an action agreed as “Statutory visits to be achieved”. The Registrant did not address this particular at all in her submissions and the Panel were content to find particular 5(c) proven.

Particulars 6(a)(i) and 6(a)(ii) – Found Proved

44. The particulars in respect of the sixth child, Child F (or Child D as far as the Registrant’s representations were concerned), again started with failure to record visits – 6(a)(i) and 6(a)(ii). Other than the general comments previously referred to, the Registrant provided no submissions in relation to the timeliness of her recording. She also did not challenge the evidence supplied by BP as to the date that her visits had been recorded. As BP attested to the visits being recorded on RAISE respectively 128 and 103 days after taking place, the Panel were satisfied that particulars 6(a)(i) and 6(a)(ii) were proven.

Particulars 6(b)(i) – Found Proved / 6(b)(ii) – Found Not Proved

45. There were also two particulars of allegation that the Registrant had not complied with the requirement to undertake visits to Child F in accordance with statutory timescales. The Registrant did not appear to dispute particular 6(b)(i) on the face of it, however the panel considered that the comments she attributed to 22 December 2015 were more likely than not to relate the visit of 27 January 2016, there being no evidence before the Panel of a visit having occurred between 18 December 2015 and 27 January 2015 in respect of Child F. The Registrant did not make any representations in respect of 6(b)(ii). The Panel were satisfied that it was more likely than not that the visit to Child F on 27 January 2016 was outside the statutory timescales  identified by BP (i.e. every 4 to 6 weeks) and therefore 6(b)(i) was proven. However, there was evidence that a visit had been undertaken on 10 May 2015 and therefore particular 6(b)(ii) was not proven.

Particulars 7(a)(i) and 7(a)(ii) – Found Proved

46. There were two particulars of allegation in relation to the timeliness of recording of visits in respect of the final child, Child G. Other than the general comments addressed earlier, the Registrant made no submissions in relation to the issue of her timeliness of recording. BP’s evidence that she recorded the visits at respectively 4 and 22 days after they took place was therefore unchallenged and the Panel were satisfied that particulars 7(a)(i) and 7(a)(ii) had been proven by the HCPC.

Particular 7(b) – Found Proved

47. The final particular connected with Child G related to when the Registrant was managed by DR. It was DR’s evidence that the Registrant had requested and been granted some compassionate leave by her, which leave had then been extended via a telephone call, however the Panel had not been provided with any information as to precisely when this had taken place or how long it had lasted. That being the case, it may not have been the Registrant’s responsibility to ensure the visit was undertaken in compliance with the statutory timescale and therefore the Panel were not prepared to find particular 7(b) proven.


Decision on Grounds

50. Having determined the facts and found some particulars proved, the Panel was required to judge whether the facts they had found proven amount to the statutory ground on which they are advanced by the HCPC and then whether the fitness to practise is impaired. The Panel had regard to the Practice Note issued by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS) entitled “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”, and noted that, in determining whether fitness to practise is impaired, it must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:

a. the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and

b. the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

51. The Panel went on to consider the issue of grounds but only in relation to the particulars that were found proved. No further consideration was given to the particulars that were found not proved. The Panel was aware that determining the issue of misconduct and / or lack of competence is a matter of judgement; there is no standard of proof.

52. The Panel took into account the oral submissions of the Presenting Officer on behalf of the HCPC, and the Registrant’s written representations. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. It was aware that lack of competence can be distinguished from misconduct in that it indicates an inability to work at the required level and that it connotes a standard of professional performance which is unacceptably low which is usually demonstrated by reference to a fair sample of a registrant’s work. The Panel was aware that breach of the standards alone does not necessarily constitute misconduct. The Panel also bore in mind the explanation of that term given by the Privy Council in the case of Roylance v GMC (No.2) [2000] 1 AC 311 where it was stated that:

“Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a … practitioner in the particular circumstances. The misconduct is qualified in two respects. First, it is qualified by the word ‘professional’ which links the misconduct to the profession ... Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. It is not any professional misconduct which will qualify. The professional misconduct must be serious.”

53. Aside from misconduct and lack of competence, the statutory grounds of impairment set out within the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 at article 22(1) have not been alleged by the HCPC (i.e. criminal conviction or caution, physical or mental health, or a finding of impairment by a regulatory body) and have not therefore been considered by the Panel.

Lack of Competence

54. The Panel noted that both witnesses confirmed that there were aspects of the Registrant’s practise that were good, and they both confirmed that the Registrant was considered to be an experienced professional. It was therefore satisfied that the Registrant knew what was expected of her as a social worker and was capable of working to the required standard but did not do so on occasions as determined by the Panel’s factual findings.

55. The Panel concluded that where they had found particulars to be proven on the facts, this was not as a consequence of a lack of competence.

Misconduct

56. The Panel concluded that collectively, the Registrant’s acts and omissions demonstrated a failure to act in the best interests of seven young service users and potentially put them at risk – it was not relevant to their considerations that the risks had not materialised. Her conduct also had the potential to adversely affect colleagues within her team. Confidence and trust amongst colleagues is vital; they should be able to expect that individuals within the team can be relied upon to work in accordance within expected professional standards and in accordance with management instructions.

57. Although there was no evidence before the Panel of direct harm being caused to service users as a consequence of the Registrant’s acts and omissions, the service users were exposed to the risk of harm as a result of the failure to undertake statutory visits in accordance with the prescribed statutory timeframes applicable to each individual. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s acts and omissions over a sustained period of time were sufficiently serious to be characterised as misconduct. Further, the Registrant was sufficiently experienced to be able to access support in the event that she was struggling. If she did not wish to approach her manager (the Panel recognising that there appeared to have been a number of managers in a short period of time, and that DR had clearly articulated to them and the team that her role was to improve recording in the team, which may inhibit disclosures to her) the Panel noted that she could have sought assistance from her trade union, General Practitioner, professional association or indeed her colleagues. There was no evidence to suggest that she had done so.

58. In relation to the particular concerns regarding the failure to record visits adequately and in a timely fashion, the Panel concluded that the approach adopted by the Registrant amounted to misconduct. As an experienced qualified social worker, she had a professional obligation to safeguard and protect the well-being of vulnerable children. This included maintaining accurate and up to date records. Service users, their families and the public have the right to expect that the Registrant in performing her professional role would maintain appropriate records as important decisions are based on the assessments and records completed by social workers. The Panel noted however that it appeared that the Registrant’s former manager did not provide robust challenge or seem to follow up outstanding issues, which may have led the Registrant to believe that there was no issue with her practise.

59. When management instructions were given to the Registrant they were often imprecise in nature, not recorded in detail (according to the evidence provided to the Panel) and not routinely followed up and reported upon. The Panel could only assess the evidence provided to them in the hearing and apply their judgement to this information.

60. The HCPC has adopted standards of proficiency for Social Workers as well as standards in relation to conduct, performance and ethics that apply to registrants of all professions regulated by the HCPC. The Panel considered that the following standards for Social Workers had been breached by the Registrant:

• 1 – be able to practise safely and effectively within their scope of practice;

• 2 – be able to practice within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession

• 10 –  be able to maintain records appropriately;

61. The Panel also considered that the following standards of general conduct, performance and ethics for health and care professionals set by the HCPC had been breached by the Registrant:

2012 issue:

• 1 –  promote and protect the best interests of service users and carers;

• 10 – Keep accurate records

2016 issue:

• 1 – Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers

• 6 – Manage risk

• 10 – Keep records of your work

62. The Panel noted that breach of the standards alone does not necessarily constitute misconduct. However, the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner. The Registrant was an experienced social worker and repeatedly failed to meet the standards expected of her in relation to the lives of the young people that she was responsible for protecting. Moreover, the misconduct concerned 40% of her allocated cases over a sustained period of time, though there was a degree of acceptance by her former manager (SS) of the explanations advanced by the Registrant for these failings, as evidenced by supervision notes. Further, there was no evidence before the Panel that, prior to DR taking on management of the Registrant, the Registrant had been made aware that there were management concerns about her. Notwithstanding this, the actions the Registrant was required to undertake were fundamental to her area of practice and could not be described as limited in nature or a momentary failure.


Decision on Impairment

63. To assist with determining whether fitness to practice is impaired when there is a finding of misconduct, the HCPTS has published a practice note for the guidance of Panels and to assist those appearing before them. This document confirms that Panels are required to consider for each allegation:

a. whether the facts set out in the allegation are proved;

b. whether these facts amount to the statutory ground set out in the allegation (e.g. misconduct or lack of competence); a

c. in consequence, whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

64. Further, the test of impairment is expressed in the present tense in relation to the need to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise, but this cannot be achieved without taking account of the way a person has acted or failed to act in the past. The Panel noted the Presenting Officer’s submissions on the issue of impairment and also took account of the written submissions provided to them by the Registrant in advance of the hearing. It also received and relied upon advice from the Legal Assessor.

65. Given the Panel found that a number of particulars had been proved and found to amount to the statutory ground of misconduct, the Panel went on to consider public policy issues in addition to the behaviour of the Registrant. The Panel was mindful that a finding of impairment does not automatically follow a finding of misconduct – such as if the panel can properly conclude the act or omission was an isolated error and the chance of repetition in the future is remote. They also noted the guidance in the case of Cohen v GMC [2008] that it must be highly relevant when determining impairment that the conduct leading to the charge is easily remediable, has been remedied and is highly unlikely to be repeated.

66. When assessing the likelihood of recurrence of harm, Panels must take account of the degree of harm caused by the Registrant and the Registrant’s culpability for that harm, recognising that the harm could have been greater or less than the harm which was intended or reasonably foreseeable and should not be considered in isolation. Panels may also take account of character evidence.

67. The Registrant had provided one testimonial from a colleague who worked with her in the Children First team – i.e. prior to her role within the Looked After Children team. However, she had provided no evidence of taking steps to remedy her decision making and practise failings, or provided any assurance to the Panel that the same issues could not recur in future, although she did submit that she was not given any support or additional training by the Council to avoid difficulties in her practice.

68. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public perspective.

69. As the Registrant did not attend the hearing and expressed neither regret nor remorse in her written representation, the Panel was unable to explore:

• the degree of insight shown by her;

• the steps she had taken to maintain her competence to practice;

• her current work situation;

• the state of the Registrant’s health given that the last information in relation the Registrant’s health was dated late October 2016, at which point the Registrant was not at work.

• Her current personal circumstances.

70. The Panel were of the opinion that regardless of her personal circumstances at the time of the conduct they had judged to amount to misconduct, and the apparent instability in the social work team over a sustained period of time at the Council, the Registrant appeared unable or unwilling to accept full responsibility for her acts and omissions. There was insufficient evidence before the Panel that the Registrant fully appreciates the overall gravity and potential consequences of her misconduct and as a consequence, the Panel was not assured that such serious misconduct would not be repeated. There was no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant has been able to work safely and effectively as a social worker since her employment with the Council ended in 2016. In the absence of a sufficient level of insight and adequate evidence of remediation, the Panel concluded that there is a risk of the behaviours being repeated.

71. In considering the public component, the Panel had regard to the important public policy issues which include the need to maintain confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. Members of the public would be concerned to learn that a social worker had not maintained accurate and / or up to date records in relation to vulnerable service users and that statutory visits had not been undertaken in the prescribed timeframe. It concluded that the Registrant’s acts and omissions presented the following issues:

• risk of harm to service users;

• brought the profession into disrepute;

• breached a fundamental tenet of the profession by failing to act in the best interests of service users at all times;

• risk that all of these features are likely to be repeated in the future.

72. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that public trust and confidence and professional standards could be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. However, they also believed that public trust would also be undermined if the climate in which the Registrant was working at the time was ignored. It was satisfied that it was  incumbent on it to take into account the following factors when determining whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired

• the environment at the Council at the time (e.g. turnover of managers and repeated re-structuring)

• number, geography and complexity of cases allocated;

• profile of the team (experience, employment status etc)

• that DR was brought in to provide rigorous challenge to the team in respect of visits and recording;

• the health and personal circumstances of the Registrant;

• the approach adopted to the Registrant by DR and Mr C. from May 2016;

73. On balance, given that the Panel had found 22 instances of misconduct, and the lack of meaningful engagement by the Registrant with the regulatory process, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of both the personal component and the wider public interest. Her role was to protect her service users and the standard of her practice was not of the standard that was expected of a registered professional.


Decision on Sanction

74. Having delivered the above findings, the Panel invited both parties to address it as to sanction. Despite having been informed that the Panel would be considering sanction and being offered the opportunity to engage with the process as she saw fit, the Registrant had not provided any further information to the Panel. An appropriate period of time was allowed for both parties to formulate their submissions on sanction.

75. The Presenting Officer submitted that the HCPC have adopted a policy on sanctions to guide the panel. In her opinion the Panel had already accurately identified the aggravating and mitigating features of this case. The purpose of imposing a sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to ensure that the public was protected, promote public confidence in the profession and provide a deterrent to other registrants. In the event the Panel chose to deviate from the Indicative sanction policy, it would need to give reasons.

76. When considering what, if any, sanction was appropriate in this case, the Panel was mindful that each case must be determined on its own merits. The HCPTS has adopted a policy in respect of indicative sanctions to aid panels to make fair, consistent and transparent decisions. It was also aware of the need to give clear and cogent reasons for its decision, particularly if departing from the policy. It received and applied advice from the Legal Assessor in relation to the imposition of a sanction.

77. The purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish but to:

a. protect the public by ensuring that registered health care professionals practise to a minimum universal standard;

b. maintain public confidence in the regulatory process;

c. protect the reputation of the profession concerned;

d. act as a deterrent to other registrants.

78. Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 provides that the sanctions available to a panel to protect the public are:

a. Mediation;

b. Caution;

c. Conditions of practice;

d. Suspension;

e. Striking off.

Alternatively, a panel may decide that no further action is required.

83. When determining the appropriate level of sanction, panels must be proportionate so that the sanction:

a. Is appropriate in the circumstances;

b. Secures the protection of the public;

c. Takes account of the wider public interest

d. Is the least restrictive means of securing public protection;

e. Is proportionate and strikes a proper balance between the rights of the Registrant and the protection of the public.

84. The Panel found that the matter had the following aggravating features:-

• the Registrant is an experienced Social Worker who repeatedly failed to meet the professional standards expected of her – in 40% of her cases;

• the failings were in relation to fundamental elements of practise (recording and undertaking statutory visits);

• the young people in her care had been exposed to a risk of harm by her failings.

• there was a lack of insight by the Registrant as to the potential consequences of her failures of practise;

• there was no evidence that the Registrant had remediated her practise and she therefore posed a risk to the public.

85. There were however mitigating factors in existence in relation to the matter:-

• no harm had been suffered by any young person as a result of the failings, as far as the Panel was aware;

• the Registrants work environment appeared to be challenging;

• the Registrant had an unblemished regulatory record prior to this allegation;

• the Registrant was dealing with personal issues relating to her own health and her parents.

86. The Panel did not believe that the Registrant had demonstrated either insight or remorse for her conduct and the Panel therefore remained concerned as to her future practice. As a result, it was not appropriate for the Panel to take no action. It noted that there was no outstanding dispute as the Registrant had left the employ of the Council and therefore mediation was also an inappropriate sanction in this matter.

87. The Policy identifies that a Caution Order may be an appropriate sanction for cases where:

• the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature;

• there is a low risk of recurrence;

• meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed;

• the conduct is out of character;

• suspension from practice would be disproportionate.

88. However, the policy is clear that a caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight and the Panel does not therefore consider that a Caution Order would be appropriate in this matter. Further, the Panel had no information as to the current employment of the Registrant, her continued competence or personal obligations.

89. The Panel therefore moved on to consider whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate. The purpose of a Conditions of Practice Order is to restrict a registrant’s practice, require the registrant to take remedial action or impose a combination of both. Imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order means that the panel is satisfied that the registrant is capable of practising safely and effectively, beyond the conditions, the conditions being remedial or rehabilitative in nature. However, conditions will rarely be effective unless the Registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues to be addressed and can be trusted to make an effort to do so. The Policy points out that conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable where, as in this case, the Registrant has lacked insight and denied wrongdoing.

90. The Panel was mindful of the environment the Registrant was working in at the time. Had the Registrant recognised any possibility of error on her part, or accepted responsibility for the potential risk vulnerable children were exposed to as a consequence of her actions, the Panel may have been satisfied that she could continue to practise safely and effectively under a conditions of practice order. She had not however and therefore a Conditions of Practice Order was an inappropriate sanction in this case.

91. Given that the Panel considered that neither a Caution nor a Conditions of Practice Order would provide sufficient public protection, and that there was not, so far as the Panel was aware, anything to prevent the Registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings identified by the Panel, suspension from practice was considered to be the appropriate and proportionate sanction to apply. Striking off was not considered by the Panel to be appropriate in this case as, despite the lack of insight and remorse being demonstrated to the Panel, there was no evidence that the Registrant had been reckless or dishonest and the conduct was not so serious that confidence in the profession would be undermined if she were to be allowed to retain her registration. Her practise was capable of being remediated should she chose to do so.

92. Having determined that a Suspension Order was the appropriate sanction, the Panel considered the period of suspension, mindful of the HCPTS policy statement that suspensions should not exceed one year. In this case, the Panel believed that it was appropriate to suspend the Registrant from practice for a period of 6 months.

93. A suspension cannot be made subject to conditions, however, it may assist a future panel, when this Order is reviewed, if the Registrant could present evidence as to how she has developed and reflected on the areas of concern found in relation to this allegation – i.e. record keeping and undertaking statutory visits. This might be achieved by undertaking training and / or maintaining a reflective portfolio and / or receiving support from a mentor. However, the Panel recognised that it cannot be prescriptive and its recommendations do not bind or fetter the discretion of a future panel considering this matter.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Daslie Campbell for a period of 6 months from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order

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.

1. Upon the Panel determining the appropriate sanction to be a Suspension Order, the Presenting Officer requested that the Panel exercise their discretionary power to impose an interim suspension for the time allowed for appealing against the final disposal order or, if such an appeal is made, whilst that appeal is in progress. The imposition of an interim order is not an automatic outcome following the imposition of a Suspension Order. She believed that the Registrant had been made aware of the likelihood of such an application on behalf of the HCPC in the event that a sanction of suspension was imposed and therefore applied for the consideration of the Interim Suspension Order Application to proceed forthwith in the absence of the Registrant.

2. The Panel received and accepted advice from the Legal Assessor and adjourned to consider whether it was appropriate to proceed to hear the Interim Suspension Order Application in the absence of the Registrant.

3. It was satisfied that the Registrant had been notified of the likelihood of such an application when she received the notification of hearing dated 5 June 2018, which the Panel had already accepted had been properly served on the Registrant. Although registrants had a right to be in attendance when such applications were to be considered, the Panel was satisfied that the imperative to protect the public from the Registrant’s failings in practise outweighed the Registrant’s right to attend, particularly given the Registrant had not given any indication that she would attend or make representations in the event that the application was adjourned to enable her to attend. It found that it was appropriate for consideration of an interim suspension order to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

4. The Presenting Officer submitted that an Interim Suspension Order was applied for on the grounds of public protection and in the public interest based on the risk of repetition of failings as identified by the Panel in their decision. She reminded the Panel that the substantive suspension order that they had imposed would not take effect until the time for lodging an appeal had elapsed, or when any such appeal is determined, whichever is the later. Given that the Panel has specifically found that the Registrant poses a risk to the public and imposed suspension in general public interest, it would be entirely appropriate for an Interim Suspension Order to also be imposed.

5. The Panel carefully considered the submissions of the Presenting Officer and the advice provided by the Legal Assessor, which they accepted. They also noted the provisions of the guidance note issued by the HCPTS in respect of Interim Orders.

6. The Panel reminded itself that an interim order may be appropriate where:

• There is a serious and ongoing risk to service users or the public from the registrant’s lack of professional knowledge or skills; conduct or unmanaged health problems; or

• The allegation is so serious that public confidence in the profession or the regulatory process would be seriously harmed if the registrant was allowed to remain in practice on an unrestricted basis.

7. The Panel were mindful that, in imposing a Suspension Order, it had found that there was an ongoing risk to service users from the conduct of the Registrant. The Registrant was aware of the possibility of an Interim Order application and had not made any representations on the same in her written submissions to the Panel. The factors which led the Panel to impose the Suspension Order were still pertinent The Panel had no information as to the current employment, if any, of the Registrant, her health or personal circumstances.

8. Given that the Panel earlier today considered the Registrant’s conduct to be such that suspension was warranted for the protection of public, it believed that public confidence in the regulatory process would be seriously harmed if the Registrant was allowed to remain in practice on an unrestricted basis pending the substantive Suspension Order coming into effect. The Panel was unaware whether the Registrant was currently working and without an Interim Suspension Order, there would be no bar to her practicing. Therefore, the Panel determined that it was appropriate and proportionate to impose an Interim Order of Suspension pursuant to Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Profession Order 2001 for a period of 18 months to protect public and otherwise promote the public interest.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Daslie Campbell

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended