Ms Yvonne Frankum

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW39166

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 29/08/2018 End: 16:00 30/08/2018

Location: Manchester holiday Inn, 25 Aytoun Street, Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly Manchester, M1 3AE

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Bolton Council:
1. Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included:
a. For Service User A:
i. Your diary showed a visit on 30 July 2015 but this was not recorded on Liquid Logic;
ii. Your diary showed a visit on 3 August 2015 but the Liquid Logic entry made states it was cancelled as you were going home sick; and/or
iii. Your diary showed a visit on 14 August 2015 but the Liquid Logic entry states you rang to arrange a visit and left a message.
b. For Service User B:
i. Your diary showed a visit on 1 October 2015 but this was not recorded on Liquid Logic; and/or
ii. Your diary showed a visit on 12 October 2015 but this was not recorded on Liquid Logic.
c. For Service User C your diary stated “the risks were mounting day by day and Service User C was a very vulnerable baby”, or words to that effect, however this information was not recorded on Liquid Logic.
2. Did not comply with departmental and/or legal deadlines, which included:
a. For Service Users I and J:
i. The Personal Education Plan (PEP) was due on the 29 August 2015 but was still outstanding in October 2015.
ii. A statement to the Court providing an update on the children’s behaviour which was due on 4 September 2015.
b. For Service User D you did not update the Service User Risk Assessment when they were accommodated in residential care on 25 June 2015.
c. Between 6 May 2015 and October 2015 did not complete a Section 7 report for Service User E.
d. For Family 2, you were allocated the case on 31 July 2015 and:
i. the carer’s report (CRC) was outstanding on the due date of 16 October 2015; and/or
ii. Information needed by the agency decision-maker was not provided by the deadline of 29 July 2015.
e. For Service User F you did not attend a Core Groups meeting on 19 August 2015 and/or did not ensure core group meetings were taking place.
3. You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
a. between August 2015 and October 2015 for Family 2;
b. visits for Service User E between 12 May 2015 and October 2015;
c. visits to Service User A between 30 July 2015 and October 2015;
d. visits to Service User B between September 2015 and October 2015;
e. visits to Service User C between September 2015 and October 2015;
f. visits to Service User D and/or his family between August 2015 and October 2015.
4. On 19 October 2015, following a Court hearing, you refused to take Service User F into care.
5. In or around September 2015 you did not inform the father of Family 2 in a timely way of the Local Authority’s plan for adoption.
6. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
7. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters (9 January 2018)
Application to Amend the Allegation
1. At the outset of the hearing Mr Dite, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application to amend particulars 1(b)(i), 1(b)(ii), 2(a)(ii), 2(c), 2(d)(ii), 2(e) and 3 of the Allegation. The proposed amendments related to express references to the Registrant’s diary which were not recorded on the electronic recording system - Liquid Logic (particulars 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii)), an express reference to a statement required for court (particular 2(a)(ii)), confirmation of the time periods and/or visits to service users which were not undertaken (particulars 2(c) and 3), confirmation of the deadline (particular 2(d)(ii)) and confirmation of a date/action required (particular 2(e)).

2. The Registrant had been put on notice of the proposed amendments in a letter dated 27 March 2017. She did not object to the proposed amendments.  

3. The Panel was satisfied that the Allegation should be amended as requested as the proposed amendments:

• provided helpful clarification;

• avoided ambiguity;

• corrected typographical errors;

• did not alter the substance or meaning of the Allegation as originally drafted and did not widen the scope of the HCPC’s case. 

4. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the amendments would cause no injustice to the Registrant as they more accurately reflected the HCPC’s case and the Registrant had been given sufficient time to consider her response. 
Private Hearing
5. The Panel raised the issue as to whether matters relating to the Registrant’s health may need to be mentioned during the hearing. Mr Dite was neutral with regards to any potential application and the Registrant expressed the view that all matters, including those to do with her health, could be heard in public.

6. The Panel in exercising its discretion to conduct all or part of the hearing in private took into account Rule 10(1)(a), which states that at any hearing:
‘the proceedings shall be held in public unless the Committee is satisfied that, in the interests of justice or for the protection of the private life of the health professional…, the public should be excluded from all or part of the hearing;’
7. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s health is a private matter. Whilst noting the Registrant’s expressed views, to protect the Registrant’s right to a private life the Panel concluded that, should it become necessary during the hearing to refer to the Registrant’s personal health, such matters will be heard in private and should not form part of the public record.
Background:
8. The Registrant is a registered social worker. She was employed as a Senior Social Worker at Bolton County Council (the Council) in the Safeguarding Team. She began her employment with the Council in March 2006, undertook safeguarding work shortly thereafter, and became a Senior Social Worker in 2007.

9. The Registrant had a period of absence due to sickness between September 2014 and April 2015. On her return, she had a reduced caseload and reduced hours with a phased return to fulltime work.

10. In October 2015, as a result of covering a child protection conference for Service User B, a case that the Registrant had been allocated in September 2015, Witness LJ, a Team Manager of the Safeguarding Team and the Registrant’s line manager, identified that the Registrant had not yet visited the child in question.

11. Witness LJ and Witness JG, a Team Manager within the Safeguarding Team and the line manager of Witness LJ (as well as the Registrant’s previous line manager), sought to meet with the Registrant on an informal basis to address the concerns surrounding the case of Service User B. Prior to that meeting a number of other concerns in relation to the Registrant’s cases were brought to the attention of LJ. The meeting took place on 21 October 2015 and notes of the meeting were made. At the Registrant’s request her union representative also attended this meeting and a representative of HR from the Council attended as well.

12. The Registrant was suspended on 26 October 2015 pending an investigation by the Council.

13. The Registrant is alleged to have failed to keep accurate records, failed to meet deadlines, failed to conduct visits, and failed to follow a management instruction to take a child into care.

14. As part of the investigation, the Registrant was interviewed by the Council on 26 February 2016, 2 March 2016 and 4 March 2016.

15. The Registrant submitted an “interim statement” dated 6 June 2016 before a disciplinary hearing was held on 14 June 2016.

16. The matter was subsequently referred to the HCPC.
Preliminary Matters (at reconvened hearing on 14 May 2018):
Introduction
17. The hearing was adjourned part-heard on 12 January 2018. At that stage the Panel had heard the oral evidence of Witnesses LJ and JG. The Registrant chose to give evidence and was assisted in giving her evidence through questions from the Panel Chair. The Registrant was not cross-examined by Mr Dite as the Registrant chose to leave the hearing which was then adjourned part heard.
No Cross Examination
18. At the outset of the reconvened hearing on 14 May 2018 Mr Dite confirmed that he would not cross-examine the Registrant. He informed the Panel that having reflected on the evidence that the Registrant had already given, and reflecting on the case overall, no useful purpose would be served by questioning her further. However, he acknowledged that the Registrant should be given credit for expressing at the start of the resumed hearing a willingness to be cross-examined.
Declaration by Panel
19. The Chair informed the parties that, during the adjournment period he met the registrant panel member on another case. She put him on notice that in the intervening period she had been asked by the HCPC to sit on an interim order case relating to a Mr Frankum based in Bolton. The registrant panel member, being concerned that Mr Frankum might be connected to the Registrant, therefore chose not to sit on the case and was not provided with any further information. The Panel invited submissions.

20. Neither Mr Dite nor the Registrant raised any objections with regards to the Panel continuing to hear the case. Mr Dite submitted that as a professional panel, the Panel will be able to reach a fair and independent decision. The Registrant stated that the interim order hearing related to her husband. She firmly stated that she trusted the Panel and did not think that the knowledge of that case would impinge on the Panel’s ability to determine her case. As she put it, the case regarding her husband had nothing to do with her case. 

21. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. She advised the Panel that the Registrant is entitled to a fair hearing which includes consideration of her case by a fair and impartial tribunal. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not object to the Panel continuing to hear the case and did not want the hearing to be adjourned. However, the Panel carefully considered, (i) whether the knowledge of the interim order matter relating to the Registrant’s husband compromised the ability of the Panel members to consider this case and (ii) as the Registrant was not represented whether the Panel should recuse itself.

22. The Panel was satisfied that both individually and collectively it would be able to make a fair and impartial determination in this case. The Panel concluded that it would have no difficulty in disregarding its knowledge that an interim order hearing involving the Registrant’s husband had been scheduled as it was wholly irrelevant to these proceedings.

23. The Panel, in considering whether objectively there were any grounds for recusal, applied the well-established test as set out in Porter v Magill [2002] 2 AC 357: ‘Would the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased?’  The Panel noted that the ‘fair minded and informed observer’ can be assumed to have access to all of the relevant facts which are capable of being known to members of the public and that a reasonable member of the public is neither complacent, nor unduly sensitive or suspicious.

24. The Panel concluded that the ‘fair minded and informed observer’ would take the view that there would be no merit in any assertion that the Panel would be unable to reach a fair and objective decision in this case. The Panel concluded that the matter relating to the Registrant’s husband, although properly disclosed in the interests of openness and transparency, was not relevant to the issues to be determined by the Panel. The Panel is constituted of three experienced members of the Conduct and Competence Committee. It was satisfied that the ‘fair minded and informed observer’ would take the view that this experienced Panel was perfectly capable of distinguishing between irrelevant and relevant matters and therefore no injustice would be caused by continuing to hear the case with the Panel as currently constituted. 
Assessment of Witnesses
Witness LJ – Team Manager for Safeguarding Team
25. Witness LJ had known the Registrant since 2008 but as they worked in different districts/teams, she did not know her very well. Witness LJ became the Registrant’s supervisor and line manager in April 2015 when the Registrant returned from sick leave.

26. The Panel took the view that Witness LJ’s evidence was measured, in that:

i. She was self-critical and readily acknowledged that she should have identified that the Registrant was ‘not on top’ of her work much sooner. She appeared to regret that she had not intervened at an earlier stage. Witness LJ described her management style as ‘developmental’ and stated that she was trusting that social workers would get on with doing the job. In hindsight, she accepted that she could have monitored and audited the Registrant’s practice more effectively. 

ii. She accepted responsibility for the errors which caused a delay in work place adjustments being put in place when the Registrant returned to work from a period of sickness absence.

iii. She acknowledged the Registrant’s positive attributes. She described the Registrant as being passionate, child-centred, committed and hard-working.

iv. She highlighted areas where, in her view, no criticism should be made of the Registrant. For example, in relation to particular 2(d)(ii) she informed the Panel that the Registrant could not have complied with the 29 July 2015 deadline because she was not allocated the case until 31 July 2015.

27. Although Witness LJ had a good recollection of the events that took place she did not recall a specific conversation that took place during a meeting on 21 October 2015. The Registrant, Witness LJ and Witness JG were present at the meeting. The Registrant informed the Panel that during an outburst Witness LJ stated in relation to Service User B ‘she could have died’. Witness JG corroborated the Registrant’s account to the extent that she stated that Witness LJ expressed exasperation that the Registrant had not visited the family. Given the context it was surprising that Witness LJ had no recollection of this particular exchange. However, the Panel had no reason to doubt that the evidence she gave overall was genuine and therefore this aspect of her evidence did not undermine her evidence as a whole.  

28. The Panel concluded that Witness LJ was a credible and reliable witness.
Witness JG – Team Manager (Safeguarding Service Team)
29. Witness JG had known the Registrant since 2014 when the Registrant moved to the North Bolton Safeguarding Team as a Senior Social Worker. 

30. Witness JG knew the Registrant quite well.  The Panel found JG to be a credible and reliable witness. Her evidence was balanced, and she provided clear and consistent evidence in relation to the matters upon which she had direct knowledge. Witness JG’s recollection of events was challenged by the Registrant and included suggestions that she was lying or covering up on behalf of the Council. Although Witness JG’s integrity was questioned by the Registrant, she remained professional and composed throughout and this added to her overall credibility. The Panel had no reason to doubt that Witness JG’s account was reliable.
The Registrant’s evidence
31. The Registrant chose to give oral evidence. The Panel noted that the Registrant was unrepresented and recognised that giving evidence, particularly in these circumstances, is a stressful event. The Panel noted that throughout the hearing the Registrant presented as emotionally fragile, vulnerable and at times visibly distressed. The Panel made appropriate allowances for her distress when the Registrant was narrating, from her own perspective, the events that took place. The Panel sought, with her agreement and with the advice of the Legal Assessor, to support and assist her by guiding her systematically through the particulars of the Allegation during her evidence. However, despite making allowances, the Panel concluded that overall the Registrant’s evidence was, to a significant degree, incoherent and inconsistent. 

32. The Registrant, on numerous occasions, gave long rambling answers to straightforward questions. The Registrant's frequent digressions whilst giving her evidence demonstrated a serious lack of focus and an inability to concentrate on issues, even in the formal atmosphere of the hearing room. At times the Panel found it difficult to understand her evidence which resulted in numerous interventions to seek clarification. At the outset of the hearing, the Registrant admitted some particulars and denied others. In her oral evidence, she then gave contradictory admissions and denials to some of the particulars. The Registrant accepted that on occasion her professional performance had been poor. However, she predominantly chose to blame others, which included asserting that managers, the local authority, lawyers and the judge in the employment tribunal were trying to discredit her.

33. The Panel had no reason to doubt the Registrant’s honesty, and did not consider her to be deliberately lying or misleading. However, due to the inconsistencies in her oral evidence, the Panel did not consider her to be a reliable witness. As a consequence, the Panel was only able to accept certain aspects of her evidence when it was supported by documentary or other evidence. In the absence of documentary or other evidence when the evidence of the Registrant conflicted with the evidence of the HCPC witnesses, the Panel preferred the account by those witnesses.

34. In advance of the hearing, the Registrant submitted a bundle of documentary evidence which the Panel took into account.

35. During the hearing, the Registrant produced what she presented as her 2015 work diary, an A5 sized hard backed page-a-day diary, along with her ‘systems log’. Mr Dite and the Panel were able to view pages of both documents and copies of some pages were taken for the benefit of the hearing. Mr Dite, for the HCPC, did not object to the admission of these documents or dispute the authenticity of them.
Decision on Facts:
Panel’s Approach
36. The Panel was aware that the burden of proving the facts was on the HCPC. The Registrant did not have to prove anything, and the individual particulars of the Allegation could only be found proved, if the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities.

37. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the particulars of the Allegation, the oral evidence of the HCPC witnesses, the Registrant’s oral evidence, the written and documentary evidence and the submissions made on behalf of both parties.

38. The Panel noted that at the outset of the hearing the Registrant admitted a number of particulars in whole or in part. The Panel took these admissions into account when determining the facts of the case. 
Particular 1(a)(i) – Found Not Proved
‘Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included;
For Service User A:
Your diary showed a visit on 30 July 2015 but this was not recorded on Liquid Logic;’
39. The Panel noted that the Council’s electronic recording system was Liquid Logic. In addition, the Registrant had recorded significant dates and events in her personal diary and  also maintained what she described as a ‘systems log’. In effect the ‘systems log’ was a ‘to do list’ which reminded the Registrant of the events that she had to enter into Liquid Logic. She informed the Panel that if the ‘systems log’ had a red line through it, it meant that she had completed the task and made the entry on Liquid Logic. 

40. Witness LJ informed the Panel that, although she had never seen the contents of the Registrant’s diary, she had become aware through statements made by the Registrant during the investigation and disciplinary process that the Registrant had claimed that a visit on 30 July 2015 had been recorded in her diary.

41. The Registrant denied particular 1(a)(i) at the outset of the hearing. During her evidence, the Registrant told the Panel that her diary did not show a visit on 30 July 2015 and provided her diary for inspection to confirm this. Her ‘systems log’ similarly showed no visit on that date.

42. As advised by the Legal Assessor the Panel attributed to the words of the particular their ordinary natural meaning. Having had sight of the Registrant’s diary the Panel noted that there did not appear to be any entry relating to a visit on 30 July 2015.  As the HCPC was unable to demonstrate that there was a visit recorded in the diary for 30 July 2015, the absence of a record in Liquid Logic was irrelevant for the purposes of proving that the Registrant’s case records were accurate and/or up to date.

43. Accordingly, particular 1(a)(i) was found not proved.
Particular 1(a)(ii) – Found Proved
‘Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included;
For Service User A:
Your diary showed a visit on 3 August 2015 but the Liquid Logic entry made states it was cancelled as you were going home sick’
44. Witness LJ was led to believe that the Registrant had recorded in her paper diary that she had visited Service User A, a baby subject to an Interim Care Order, on 3 August but the Liquid Logic entry for that date stated that the Registrant had called Service User A’s mother ‘to cancel visit due to sick leave’. The Panel, having had sight of the Registrant’s paper diary, was satisfied that it did record that a visit was scheduled to take place at 3pm.

45. The Registrant denied particular 1(a)(ii) at the outset of the hearing. The Registrant informed the Panel, during her oral evidence, that whilst at work she had cancelled the visit, due to feeling unwell. She stated that she had recorded this on Liquid Logic and had crossed it off her ‘systems log’. However, she went on to state that on her way home she decided to visit Service User A’s home because she was aware that a court hearing was due to take place. The Registrant gave evidence that Service User A’s home was close by her own route home. The Registrant gave detailed evidence of that visit linking it to her being unwell on that date. The Registrant was subsequently off sick for a couple of days and acknowledged during her evidence that she did not update Liquid Logic on her return to work.

46. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence. The Registrant’s paper diary showed a visit for 3 August 2015, which did in fact take place, and the Liquid Logic entry showed that the visit was cancelled.  The Panel was satisfied that Liquid Logic was not updated on the Registrant’s return to work and therefore the electronic entry was not accurate.

47. Accordingly, particular 1(a)(ii) was found proved.
Particular 1(a)(iii) – Found Not Proved
‘Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included;
For Service User A:
Your diary showed a visit on 14 August 2015 but the Liquid Logic entry states you rang to arrange a visit and left a message.’
48. Witness LJ was led to believe that the Registrant had recorded in her paper diary that she visited Service User A on 14 August whilst the Liquid Logic entry for that date indicated that the Registrant had called ‘to arrange visit message left on mobile.’ Witness LJ informed the Panel that, although she had never seen the contents of the Registrant’s diary, she had become aware through statements made by the Registrant during the Council’s investigation and disciplinary process that the Registrant had claimed that a visit on 14 August 2015 was recorded in her diary.

49. The Registrant denied particular 1(a)(iii) at the outset of the hearing. The Panel had sight of the Registrant’s paper diary and it did not demonstrate that a visit had been arranged or had taken place on 14 August 2015. The diary entry demonstrated that the Registrant was in the process of arranging a visit. In addition, there was supporting documentary evidence on Liquid Logic and in the Registrant’s ‘systems log’. On Liquid Logic there was a note which indicated that the Registrant had made a telephone call to Service User A’s mother to arrange a visit and there was reference to a telephone call on the Registrant’s ‘systems log’.

50. As the HCPC was unable to demonstrate that there was a visit recorded in the diary for 14 August 2015, the absence of a corresponding record in Liquid Logic was irrelevant for the purposes of proving that the Registrant’s case records were accurate and/or up to date.

51. Accordingly, particular 1(a)(iii) was found not proved.
Particular 1(b)(i) – Found Proved
‘Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included;
For Service User B:
Your diary showed a visit on 1 October 2015 but this was not recorded on Liquid Logic;
52. The Panel noted that Witness LJ was led to believe that the Registrant had recorded in her paper diary that she had visited Service User B on 1 October 2015 but there was no corresponding Liquid Logic entry showing any contact between Service User B or his mother on that date.

53. The Registrant admitted particular 1(b)(i) at the outset of the hearing. The Panel, having had sight of the Registrant’s paper diary, was satisfied that it did record that a visit was scheduled to take place on 1 October 2015. However, it was marked ‘NAG’. The Registrant informed the Panel that the abbreviation meant ‘no access gained’, in that she had attended the address but there was no response. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness LJ that it is important to keep a record of instances when it has not been possible to gain access as this is relevant to safeguarding.

54. The Panel noted that, during her oral evidence, the Registrant accepted that from 25 September 2015 she had, in effect ceased updating Liquid Logic. She stated, ‘I have never, in all my life as a social worker, been so behind with recordings.’

55. The Registrant’s paper diary showed a visit for 1 October 2015 which was not recorded on Liquid Logic.  The Panel was satisfied that Liquid Logic was not updated by the Registrant and therefore the electronic entry was not accurate.

56. Accordingly, particular 1(b)(i) was found proved.
Particular 1(b)(ii) – Found Proved
‘Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included;
For Service User B:
Your diary showed a visit on 12 October 2015 but this was not recorded on Liquid Logic.’
57. The Panel noted that Witness LJ was led to believe that the Registrant had recorded in her paper diary that she had visited Service User B, a baby subject to a Child Protection Plan, on 12 October 2015 but there was no corresponding Liquid Logic entry showing any contact with Service User B or his mother on that date.

58. The Registrant admitted particular 1(b)(ii) at the outset of the hearing. The Panel, having had sight of the Registrant’s paper diary, was satisfied that it did record that a visit was scheduled to take place on 12 October 2015. The Registrant accepted during her oral evidence that the word ‘visit’ in her diary with a tick meant that the visit did take place. This was supported by the evidence of Witness LJ who stated in her witness statement that Service User B’s mother confirmed that she and her child had been seen by the Registrant on or around 12 October 2015. The Panel noted that, during her oral evidence, the Registrant accepted that attending a visit and not recording that visit in Liquid Logic was ‘not okay.’

59. The Registrant’s paper diary showed a visit for 12 October 2015 which was not recorded on Liquid Logic.  The Panel was satisfied that Liquid Logic was not updated by the Registrant and therefore the electronic entry was not accurate.

60. Accordingly, particular 1(b)(ii) was found proved.
Particular 1(c) – Found Not Proved
‘Between 2015 and 2016, you did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records for your Service Users, which included;
For Service User C your diary stated, "the risks were mounting day by day and Service User C was a very vulnerable baby", or words to that effect, however this information was not recorded on Liquid Logic.’
61. Witness LJ was led to believe that the Registrant had recorded in her paper diary "the risks were mounting day by day and Service User C was a very vulnerable baby", or words to that effect.  Witness LJ informed the Panel that, although she had never seen the contents of the Registrant’s diary, she had been given to understand through statements apparently made by the Registrant during the investigation and disciplinary process that the Registrant had claimed that such an entry had been made in her diary.

62. As advised by the Legal Assessor the Panel attributed the words of the particular their ordinary natural meaning. Having had sight of the Registrant’s diary the Panel noted that it does not contain the entry as quoted in particular 1(c), nor does it contain words to that effect. As the HCPC was unable to demonstrate that the note was made in the Registrant’s diary, the absence of a record in Liquid Logic was irrelevant for the purposes of proving that the Registrant’s case records were accurate and/or up to date.

63. Accordingly, particular 1(c) was found not proved.
Particular 2(a)(i) – Found Proved
‘Did not comply with departmental and/or legal deadlines, which included;
For Family 1:
The Personal Education Plan (PEP) was due on the 29 August 2015 but was still outstanding in October 2015.’
64. Service Users I and J (Family 1) were two children, aged nine and ten, who had been suffering from severe emotional and physical neglect and who had been taken into care on 23 June 2015. The Registrant had been assigned the case on 27 May 2015. 

65. Witness LJ informed the Panel that in accordance with the Council’s ‘Children Social Care Procedures Manual’ PEPs had to be completed within 10 working days of children being taken into care and, at the latest, should be completed for the first ‘Looked After Review’. The ‘Looked After Review’ was held on 13 July 2015.

66. The Registrant admitted particular 2(a)(i) at the outset of the hearing. However, her oral evidence was very confusing and contradictory. Having admitted this particular at the outset she then initially denied it in her evidence. She could not remember if she had completed a PEP or not but eventually conceded that there was no record of a PEP having been completed by her.

67. The Panel was satisfied that there was no evidence that the Registrant had completed a PEP. Although the Registrant appeared to have engaged with the family based on the entries on her systems log there was no PEP recorded on Liquid Logic or any paper document. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness LJ that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to complete the PEP. The Panel noted that the PEP could only be completed during term-time as it requires liaison with the children’s school, but the case was allocated to the Registrant on 27 May 2015. The Panel was satisfied that there was a period from 10 – 26 June 2015 when the Registrant was on annual leave during which time the children were taken into care. However, there were about three weeks between her return to work and the end of the school term when the PEP could have been completed.  It had still not been completed by late October 2015, when she was suspended.

68. Accordingly, particular 2(a)(i) was found proved.
Particular 2(a)(ii) – Found Proved
‘Did not comply with departmental and/or legal deadlines, which included;
For Family 1:
A statement to the Court providing an update on the children’s behaviour which was due on 4 September 2015.’
69. A court order was issued on 19 August 2015 which stated, ‘The Local Authority shall file and serve by 16.00 hours on the 4th September 2015 a statement providing an update on the children’s behaviour and presentation in placement as well as observations of sibling attachment.’ The timeline for this case, which was verified by Witness LJ during the Council’s internal investigation, indicates that on 19 August 2015 the Registrant was at a court hearing when the order was made.  On 20 August 2015 an email was sent to the Registrant attaching a draft order with a note of the hearing and advising her to provide a statement as directed.

70. The Registrant denied particular 2(a)(ii) at the outset of the hearing. However, during her oral evidence to the Panel she confirmed that she had missed the deadline as the statement was not filed until 10 September 2015. The Liquid Logic case records indicate that on 10 September 2015 the Registrant created an entry that stated: ‘Court update statement outlining process for contacting CAMHS and information regarding contact. Filed before court’. The Panel noted that although the statement was filed late it was filed in advance of the court hearing which was scheduled to take place on 16 September 2015.

71. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was obliged to comply with the court order which meant filing the statement on 4 September 2015. She did not do so and no good reason for the omission was provided other than the Registrant’s claim to “mitigating circumstances” of being overwhelmed with work and poorly managed and supervised.

72. Accordingly, particular 2(a)(ii) was found proved.
Particular 2(b) – Found Proved
‘Did not comply with departmental and/or legal deadlines, which included;
For Service User D you did not update the Service User Risk Assessment when they were accommodated in residential care on 25 June 2015.’
73. During the relevant period Service User D was a Looked After Child, at risk of sexual exploitation, and was subject to a Care Plan. His case was assigned to the Registrant on 9 June 2015 and he was taken into residential care on 25 June 2015.

74. Witness LJ informed the Panel that it is essential that a risk assessment is updated following any significant changes in a child’s circumstances. On 15 October 2015 an email was sent to Witness LJ and copied to the Registrant from a manager at the residential children’s home enquiring whether the risk assessment had been completed and noting that it should have been done the day Service User D had moved into the care home.

75. The Registrant admitted particular 2(b) at the outset of the hearing but then maintained in her evidence that she did the assessment on 24 July 2015 and referred the Panel to her ‘systems log’ in support. The Panel noted that there was a red line through the 24 July 2015 entry which, in accordance with the Registrant’s evidence, indicated that she had completed the task and had made an entry on Liquid Logic. However, there was no entry on Liquid Logic. The Registrant suggested that the entry had been deleted.

76. There was a clear factual dispute between the parties. There was some evidence before the Panel that the Registrant may have completed a risk assessment but later than it should have been completed.

77. Accordingly, particular 2(b) was found proved.
Particular 2(c) – Found Proved
‘Did not comply with departmental and/or legal deadlines, which included;
Between 6 May 2015 and October 2015 did not complete a Section 7 report for Service User E.’
78. Service User E was approximately 15 years old when the case was assigned to the Registrant on 6 May 2015. Service User E was living with her maternal grandparents who had made an application for a Child Arrangements Order (more commonly known as a Residence Order).

79. On 3 July 2015 an entry was made by the Registrant on Liquid Logic indicating that she had received a telephone call from Bolton Family Court making her aware of a request for a report ‘re placement for [Service User E] with maternal grandparents - due to be filed by 19 August 2015’. On 16 July 2015 the Registrant was sent an email by the Private Law Practitioner, informing her that she needed to complete a Section 7 report in relation to Service User E, and have it sent to the court and the parties, by 4 September 2015. On 8 September 2015 the Private Law Practitioner sent an email to the Registrant chasing the overdue report. On 9 September 2015 the Registrant sent an email asking for ‘approx. eight weeks or so as I have other priorities’. On 25 September, the Registrant was informed that the court had granted an extension until 30 October 2015.

80. The Registrant admitted particular 2(c) at the outset of the hearing. In her evidence to the Panel the Registrant said that she did not realise this case was allocated to her until she was notified by “Legal” and that she had not completed the report because she had made other cases her priority. She stated during her oral evidence, ‘in hindsight, and upon reflection, I probably could have done it, but was so busy doing other statutory visits and stuff, I thought I’d have been able to do a quick one-two, but then we got to September, I’d made myself in a position where I no longer had time to do it, and it was less of a priority.’

81. The Panel was satisfied that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to complete the section 7 report and accepted the evidence of Witness LJ that when she reviewed the case in October 2015 the Section 7 report had still not been completed.

82. Accordingly, particular 2(c) was found proved.
Particular 2(d)(i) – Found Proved
‘For Family 2, you were allocated the case on 31 July 2015 and,
The carer's report (CRC) was outstanding on the due date of 16 October 2015;’
83. Family 2 was a family with four children aged nine, seven, six, and three at the time the Registrant was assigned as the lead social worker on the case on 31 July 2015. The children had been taken into care on 15 May 2015 after the making of an interim care order. The children were placed in two separate placements.

84. A decision was taken that the children should be assessed for adoption. On 3 August 2015, Witness LJ copied the Registrant into an email which stated, ‘met with [the Registrant] for supervision and discussed the new work she has picked up here...[the Registrant] is prioritising to the best of our ability to revisit the gaps; do sibling assessment and prepare for an agency decision…’. On 5 August 2015 GS (a solicitor at the Council) sent an email to Witness LJ which was copied to the Registrant.  The email was addressed “Good Morning Ladies” and stated that “Final Evidence, Care Plans, and Placement App” were due by 10 September 2015. On 10 September 2015 GS emailed the Registrant noting that she had expected a statement from her so that the matter could be ‘re-timetabled’. On 30 September 2015 GS sent the Registrant a note of a court hearing, with a court order attached, in relation to Family 2 which stated that, ‘Final Evidence, Care Plan, and Placement App are all due on the 16.10.15; I cannot stress enough that this deadline needs to be met’.

85. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness LJ that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to collate the paperwork needed for the agency decision regarding adoption. This included making sure the foster carers provided the Carer’s Report (‘CRC’). On 7 October 2015 the Registrant was sent an email by a Supervising Social Worker, informing her that one of the foster carers had just received a telephone call letting her know that her mother was seriously ill in Spain and that she was trying to get a flight there as soon as possible. The Registrant was also told that the other foster carer would be “at home to support the boys but will be unable to attend the review” and that the plan had been that the CRC forms were going to be taken to the review.

86. The Panel noted that from 7 October 2015 the Registrant was on notice that there may be a difficulty in obtaining the CRC as the foster mother was in Spain. At that point the Registrant was required to be more proactive to ensure that the Council complied with the court order. A chain of emails regarding the CRC form was sent on 16 October 2015. The Registrant was thereby made aware that the agency decision maker, was willing to make a decision on that day but had to leave early. The foster father was unable to deliver the CRC form before 2:30pm. The decision maker was then on leave from 3:52pm. Witness LJ informed the Panel that she ended up collecting the CRC form herself that day after it had been left at reception by the foster father but addressed to a different social worker than the Registrant.

87. The Registrant originally denied particular 2(d)(i) at the outset of the hearing. However, the Registrant accepted during her oral evidence that she was responsible for collating the documents for the agency decision maker and those documents included the CRC. She also accepted that she had not collated the CRC.

88. The Panel was satisfied that the CRC remained outstanding at court on 16 October 2015 and that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to have ensured that the collated bundle, including the CRC form, was with the agency decision maker in time for a decision to be made and the papers lodged with the court.

89. Accordingly, particular 2(d)(i) was found proved.
Particular 2(d)(ii) – Found Not Proved
‘For Family 2, you were allocated the case on 31 July 2015 and,
Information needed by the agency decision-maker was not provided by the deadline of 29 July 2015.’
90. Witness LJ informed the Panel during her oral evidence that the case was not allocated to the Registrant until 31 July 2015 and that in these circumstances the Registrant could not be criticised for not complying with a deadline relating to 29 July 2015.

91. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness LJ and concluded that there was no basis upon which the Panel could find particular 2(d)(ii) proved.

92. Accordingly, particular 2(d)(ii) was found not proved.
Particular 2(e) – Found Not Proved (in relation to not attending the Core Group meeting); Found Proved (in relation to not ensuring meetings were taking place)
‘For Service User F you did not attend a Core Groups meeting on 19 August 2015 and/or did not ensure core group meetings were taking place.’
93. Service User F was approximately 5 years old and subject to a Child Protection Plan when his case was assigned to the Registrant on 15 May 2015.

94. Witness LJ informed the Panel that it was important for the Registrant to arrange and chair regular Core Groups sessions so that information could be shared with other professionals.

95. On 19 August 2015 the Registrant was due to chair a Core Group meeting.  However, she informed the Panel that she did not attend the meeting as it clashed with a court hearing that she was required to attend. The Registrant knew about the diary conflict some days in advance. It was not clear to the Panel what efforts the Registrant had made to find a colleague to deputise for her prior to 19 August 2015 but on the day of the meeting Colleague LS agreed to chair the Core Group. The case entry on Liquid Logic created by LS records: “[the Registrant] did contact myself prior to offer her apologies and inform me she had other very important work commitments to attend …. Only two services … attended todays Core Group, therefore it was cancelled … To await for a further date to be arranged”.

96. The Panel accepted that the Registrant had a good reason for not attending the Core Group meeting as court commitments take priority over other professional commitments. However, there was no evidence that the Registrant made any attempts to arrange subsequent meetings.  The Registrant’s reasons for not arranging any other core group sessions were unclear. 

97. Accordingly, particular 2(e) was found not proved in relation to not attending the Core Group meeting and proved in relation to not ensuring that further Core Group meetings were arranged and taking place.
Particular 3(a) – Found Proved
‘You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
between August 2015 and October 2015 for Family 2;’
98. Witness LJ reviewed Liquid Logic and informed the Panel that there was no record of the Registrant having completed statutory visits for Family 2 while she was assigned the case.

99. The Panel noted the records do show that the Registrant attempted to arrange a statutory visit to Family 2 on 12 August 2015 and 14 August 2015 and that a visit was cancelled by the Registrant on 7 September 2015 due to ‘legal statement priority’. The records also indicate that the Registrant observed contact with all four children during sessions on 17 August 2015. However, the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness LJ that these do not amount to statutory visits as the children were not observed where they were living.

100. The Registrant denied this particular at the outset of the hearing. However, during her oral evidence the Registrant stated, ‘That’s not okay, and it’s me not meeting my standards.’ 

101. Accordingly, particular 3(a) was found proved.
Particular 3(b) – Found Proved
‘You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
visits for Service User E between 12 May 2015 and October 2015;’
102. Witness LJ reviewed Liquid Logic and informed the Panel that there was no record of the Registrant having completed statutory visits for Service User E while she was assigned the case. The Registrant was assigned the case on 6 May 2015.

103. The Registrant denied particular 3(b) at the outset of the hearing. In her oral evidence the Registrant accepted that she had not conducted any statutory visits for Service User E (although she maintained that she saw the Service User at another child’s birthday party). She said that Service User E was the sibling of Service User H and that she at first thought that it was just a “linked case” and so she had focused on Service User H. The Registrant maintained that she was not aware that visits were needed until she was informed that a section 7 report for Service User E was required.

104. The Panel noted that the Registrant was told that a section 7 report was required by telephone on 3 July 2015 and by email on 16 July 2015.  The electronic records indicate that the Registrant conducted a planned home visit in relation to Service User H and Service User E on 12 May 2015. The entry created by the Registrant states ‘[Service User E] was not seen at this visit due to residing at a different home address a visit will be undertaken to meet [Service User E]’. In addition, the entry in the case records for 5 May 2015, when the case was allocated to the Registrant, states: ‘Child Action for [Service User E]’ and the Registrant accepted during her oral evidence that this meant ‘Child in Need’ and therefore statutory visits were a mandatory requirement. She could not explain why, at the time, she had not recognised that Service User E was a child in need and that statutory visits were required. 

105. Accordingly, particular 3(b) was found proved.
Particular 3(c) – Found Proved
‘You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
visits to Service User A between 30 July 2015 and October 2015;’
106. Service User A was a baby girl born on 19 May 2015 who was placed on an interim care order. The Registrant was fully assigned the case from 31 July 2015, having previously been jointly responsible for the case with another social worker.

107. From 31 July 2015, the Liquid Logic records show that on 3 August 2015 the Registrant made a telephone call to cancel a visit ‘due to sick leave’ and on 14 August 2015 she made a telephone call to ‘arrange visit message left on mobile to arrange’. During her oral evidence Witness LJ informed the Panel that given the circumstances of the case she would have expected the Registrant to visit the family at least once every four weeks. Witness LJ having reviewed the records and the timeline informed the Panel that the Registrant made visits on 27 May 2015, 1 June 2015, and 5 June 2015. A home visit was made by another social worker on 11 June 2015, but no further statutory visits were conducted by the Registrant until 27 August 2015. There are no records on Liquid Logic of any statutory visit being completed by the Registrant after that date.

108. The Registrant denied this particular 3(c) at the outset of the hearing. During her oral evidence the Registrant maintained that she had made a statutory visit on 3 August 2015 and referred the Panel to her diary entry for that date. Although the Panel accepted that the Registrant made a visit, the Panel could not be satisfied that the visit fulfilled the criteria of a statutory visit. It was unclear whether the Registrant saw the child on that date and the entry made in her diary is not recorded as a statutory visit.

109. Accordingly, particular 3(c) was found proved.
Particular 3(d) – Found Proved
‘You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
visits to Service User B between September 2015 and October 2015;’
110. Service User B was a baby boy born on 22 August 2015, having been made subject to a Child Protection Plan and a Public Law Outline prior to birth. The case was allocated to the Registrant on 1 September 2015.
111. The Panel noted that it was this case which originally caused Witness LJ to have concerns regarding the Registrant’s practice. On 7 October 2015 Witness LJ undertook preparation to attend the Review Child Protection Conference for Service User B, due to take place the next day, which she had been asked to attend on behalf of the Registrant. Witness LJ identified from reviewing the Registrant’s case notes that the baby had yet to be visited, which was later confirmed by the mother of Service User B. Witness LJ arranged for a duty social worker to visit Service User B as a priority.

112. Although there was no associated record on Liquid Logic, Witness LJ believed that Service User B was visited by the Registrant on one occasion on or around 12 October 2015 after the duty social worker had seen the baby on 8 October 2015. This was supported by an associated entry in the Registrant’s diary.

113. The Registrant denied this particular at the outset of the hearing. The Liquid Logic records show that on 24 September 2015 the Registrant conducted a cold call visit to Service User B’s home but that no access was gained and a calling card was left. In addition to the unsuccessful visit of 24 September 2015 recorded on Liquid Logic, the diary provided to the Panel also shows unsuccessful visits (with no access gained or “NAG”) on 30 September and 1 October 2015.

114. The Panel was satisfied that, having been allocated the case on 1 September 2015, the attempts made by the Registrant to visit the family were insufficient. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness LJ that in these circumstances the Registrant should have made multiple follow-up visits until the baby had been seen and that if these had proved unsuccessful the matter should have been flagged with her as the Team Manager. The police could also have been asked to conduct a welfare check on the baby.

115. Accordingly, particular 3(d) was found proved.
Particular 3(e) – Found Proved
‘You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
visits to Service User C between September 2015 and October 2015;
116. Service User C was a baby with complex health needs who was subject to a Safeguarding Plan. The case was assigned to the Registrant from 10 September 2015 until 6 October 2015 when Witness LJ reallocated the case to another social worker. The Registrant’s diary records that she was allocated the case on 3 September 2015.

117. Witness LJ informed the Panel that the Registrant should have visited Service User C on at least one occasion while she was assigned the case, but that there are no recorded visits on Liquid Logic.

118. The Registrant denied particular 3(e) at the outset of the hearing. During her oral evidence the Registrant stated that she was allocated this case on 3 September 2015 and that she had been very busy with other matters. The Registrant conceded that although she had attended a Core Group meeting in relation to the case on 15 September 2015 this did not count as a statutory visit. The Registrant told the Panel that she had seen the baby on 10 October 2015 when she had visited the home so that a written agreement could be signed, but this was after the case had been reassigned on 6 October 2015 and it was not a statutory visit.

119. Accordingly, particular 3(e) was found proved.
Particular 3(f) – Found Not Proved
‘You did not undertake statutory visits for all your service users, which included:
visits to Service User D and/or his family between August 2015 and October 2015’
120. Service User D was 12 years of age when the case was assigned to the Registrant on 9 June 2015. He was taken into residential care on 25 June 2015. He was a Looked After Child and subject to a Care Plan.

121. The Liquid Logic records show that the Registrant conducted statutory visits in relation to Service User D on 2 July 2015, 16 July 2015 and 20 August 2015.

122. The Registrant denied particular 3(f) at the outset of the hearing. The Panel noted that Witness LJ accepted during her oral evidence that there was no real criticism of the Registrant in regard to the lack of visits in this case as she had made real efforts to visit and this was a particularly difficult mother to engage with. It was also accepted by Witness LJ that she had, on one occasion, asked the Registrant to cancel a statutory visit to Service User D so that other court work could be completed.

123. In these circumstances there was no basis upon which the Panel could find particular 3(f) proved.

124. Accordingly, particular 3(f) was found not proved.
Particular 4 – Found Proved
‘On 19 October 2015, following a Court hearing, you refused to take Service User F into care.’
125. Service User F was approximately 5 years old and subject to a Child Protection Plan when his case was assigned to the Registrant on 15 May 2015.

126. On 19 October 2015, at a court hearing attended by the Registrant, Service User F was made the subject of an Interim Care Order which meant the child had to be taken into care that day. Witness LJ informed the Panel that the Registrant, as the lead social worker for Service User F’s case, was expected to take Service User F into care. After the court hearing, the Registrant called Witness LJ to confirm the Interim Care Order had been granted and told her that it had been discussed and agreed with the child’s Guardian and the legal assistant at court that the Registrant was not the best person to take Service User F into care. Witness LJ was of the view that the Registrant should be the one to take Service User F into care and asked the Registrant to return to the office so that the matter could be discussed further. The Registrant did not return to the office and later that day sent Witness LJ a text message complaining of unreasonable pressure being placed upon her. Witness LJ informed the Panel that she had to send a duty social worker, a stranger to Service User F, to take the child into care.

127. On 29 February 2016 Witness LJ spoke with Service User F’s Guardian, who told her she did not recall any conversation with the Registrant where she agreed or advised that the Registrant should not be the one to take Service User F into care. Witness LJ sent a note of that conversation in an email to Witness JG on 29 February 2016. Witness JG had spoken to the legal assistant on 22 December 2015, who stated that although he had seen the Guardian and the Registrant together outside the courtroom he had not heard any such conversation regarding the Registrant not being the appropriate person to take Service User F into care.

128. The Registrant admitted particular 4 at the outset of the hearing. During her oral evidence she explained that she did not think it was appropriate for her to take Service User F into care and gave an explanation for this view. She also gave reasons for not returning to the office as instructed: she believed that her professional judgement would not be respected and she would be forced to do something that she did not think was right. The Panel did not accept this as a good enough reason not to have returned to the office so that she could make arrangements with Witness LJ for Service User F to be taken into care.

129. Accordingly, particular 4 was found proved.
Particular 5 – Found Proved
‘In or around September 2015 you did not inform the father of Family 2 in a timely way of the Local Authority's plan for adoption.’
130. Witness LJ informed the Panel that she attended a Considering Adoption Review (‘CAR’) meeting on 8 October 2015 which could not go ahead, one of the reasons for which was the fact that the father of Family 2 had not been informed of the Local Authority’s plan for adoption. As the social worker allocated to the case, this was the Registrant’s responsibility. The CAR meeting had to be rearranged for 13 October 2015.

131. During the investigation into the Registrant’s practice, Witness JG spoke to the Independent Reviewing Officer about the case of Family 2. The Independent Reviewing Officer noted that the parents of Family 2 had not been informed of the plan of adoption prior to the 8 October 2015 CAR meeting but that a meeting with the parents and the Registrant had been arranged just prior to the rearranged CAR meeting on 13 October 2015 and that the Registrant had met with the father before that later meeting.

132. The Registrant denied particular 5 at the outset of the hearing. However, during her oral evidence the Registrant accepted that, although she did eventually inform the father of the plan for adoption, it was not in a timely manner.

133. Accordingly, particular 5 was found proved.

 

Decision on Grounds:
Transfer to the Health Committee
134. The Panel, of its own volition, invited the parties to make submissions with regards to whether it should exercise its discretion to transfer this case to a Health Committee.
Submissions
135. Mr Dite submitted that the Registrant’s case should not be transferred to the Health Committee for practical reasons and based on reasons of principle.
136. Mr Dite submitted that if the case were to be transferred to the Health Committee a new allegation would have to be drafted based on expert medical evidence which would require the Registrant’s co-operation and cause a significant delay. He further submitted that there was insufficient evidence that the Registrant’s current health was the underlying cause of her behaviour during the relevant period in 2015. He stated that the HCPC witnesses were not aware of any significant health issues until October 2015. Mr Dite further submitted that the Panel has almost completed its task and that it is in the public interest that this case is brought to a conclusion based on the facts that have been found proved. He reminded the Panel that the Registrant’s current health would not be ignored and that it could be properly taken into account during these proceedings.
137. The Registrant declined to make submissions with regards to a transfer to the Health Committee, although she said that she could and might refer herself to the Health Committee. However, she addressed the Panel at length in relation to the content of the Panel’s written determination on facts. 
Panel’s Approach
138. In considering a possible transfer to the Health Committee the Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled Health Allegations and the submissions made on behalf of both parties. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In particular the Panel noted that:
• Rule 4(1) of the Conduct and Competence (Procedure) Rules 2003 provides that: ‘Where it appears to the Committee that an allegation which it is considering would be better dealt with by the Health Committee, the Committee may refer the allegation to the Health Committee for consideration and shall suspend its consideration of the allegation’.
• The Practice Note indicates that health allegations are rare, as they are principally concerned with unmanaged ill health, but are likely to occur where:
o Fitness to practise concerns arise as a direct consequence of the registrant's physical or mental health;
o There is evidence to suggest that the registrant is not managing his or her health appropriately and lacks insight into its potential impact upon service users or the wider public; and
o There is no evidence to suggest that other material factors are involved.
• The Practice Note also states that the following factors should be taken into account:
o The extent to which the health issues are the cause of the allegation;
o The overall seriousness of the allegations;
o The sanctions available to the Health Committee.
Panel’s Decision
139. The Panel was aware that the Health Committee does not have power to impose a Striking Off Order in the event that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired. 
140. The Panel considered the merits of the application. The Panel decided not to exercise its discretion to transfer the Registrant’s case to the Health Committee for the following reasons:
i. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not attributed her difficulties at work to her health condition; the overarching theme of her submissions to the Panel has been that she became unwell because of the way that she was treated by her employer and the subsequent legal processes that have followed. 
ii. There is no direct or indirect evidence which indicates that there is a causal link between the concerns raised and the Registrant’s current state of health. The Panel took the view that in the absence of evidence of a causal link, the fitness to practise concerns are more likely to be due to misconduct and/or lack of competence.
iii. The Panel was mindful that altogether this case has been listed for 9 days. In these circumstances the Panel concluded, having weighed the Registrant’s interests, that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed as expeditiously as possible.
iv. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s health could be taken into account as important contextual information and mitigation when considering impairment and, if necessary, at the sanction stage.
141. Therefore, the Panel determined not to cross refer the case to the Health Committee.
Grounds - Panel’s Approach
142. In view of the Panel’s factual findings the Panel went on to consider 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.
143. The Panel took into account the submissions of Mr Dite, on behalf of the HCPC, and the Registrant on grounds and impairment.
144. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. The Panel 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 and has usually been demonstrated by reference to a fair sample of the 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.”
Panel’s Decision
145. In summary the Panel found that the Registrant, (i) did not maintain accurate and/or up to date records in relation to 2 service users, (ii) did not comply with departmental and/or legal deadlines on 6 occasions (iii) did not undertake statutory visits to 5 service users, (iv) refused to take a service user into care and (v) did not inform a father in a timely manner of the local authority’s plan for his child to be adopted.
Lack of Competence
146. The Panel noted that the Registrant had worked effectively and competently as a social worker for many years and from 2007 to 2015 worked as a senior social worker. The Panel was 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 occasion as determined by the Panel’s factual findings. Witnesses LJ and JG supported this assessment as they gave positive evidence of her past performance as a social worker.
147. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s acts and omissions did not amount to a lack of competence.
Misconduct
148. The Panel took into account the contextual background in considering the issue of misconduct, which was as follows:
• the Registrant’s workload increased over time in the months after returning from sick leave and up to her suspension on 26 October 2015 and included a significant number of complex cases in court proceedings.
• the Registrant was not receiving supervision or an appropriate level of supervision;
• the Registrant’s line manager acknowledged that, in hindsight, she should have audited and monitored her practice more effectively as well as providing more frequent and comprehensive supervision.
149. Throughout this hearing the Registrant has referred to what she described as ‘mitigating circumstances’, in particular, that she was increasingly overloaded with work, and subject to inadequate management and supervision. In relation to her work there was evidence that starting with her phased return to work after sick leave her caseload did build up over time and included some complex cases involving court proceedings. The Panel had sight of a management matrix that was used to assess the relative workloads of social workers. It appeared to be a relatively rudimentary management tool.  It indicated that the Registrant’s workload did increase over time but remained within appropriate limits. The evidence of Witnesses LJ and JG was that the Registrant’s workload was within the limits expected of the Registrant’s grade as a senior social worker. The Panel accepted their evidence. The Panel also accepted Witness LJ’s evidence that in hindsight she had been too trusting of the Registrant and should have audited her practice more effectively. In addition, the Panel noted that there was evidence that Witness LJ did give support to the Registrant in her work for example, by covering for the Registrant at meetings and court when the Registrant had professional commitments elsewhere. The Panel also noted that there is a responsibility on registrants to advise managers when they are not coping with work. The Registrant gave evidence that she did raise concerns but stated that she did not receive an adequate response from her management. During the internal disciplinary proceedings, the Registrant suggested that her workload ‘featured in a very peripheral way’ whilst also identifying workload as ‘one mitigation’, referring to the complexity of her caseload and tight timescales. In addition, there is evidence that as a senior practitioner in the office she did not wish to appear to be unable to cope and felt overly committed to her work. For example, by continuing to work after her own GP had advised her against doing so.
150. Having reviewed the evidence the Panel recognised that towards the end of the relevant period the Registrant had a full and complex caseload and there were management and supervision shortcomings, but these do not explain the Registrant’s subsequent failings.
151. The Panel considered the factual findings individually and collectively.
152. The Panel noted that in relation to particular 2(d)(i) (carer’s report was outstanding on the due date of 16 October 2015) the Registrant’s role was as a collator of the information required for the agency decision regarding adoption. It was apparent that until the foster mother alerted the Supervising Social Worker that she had to go abroad due a family emergency, as reported in an email dated 7 October 2015, plans were in hand to complete the CRC form at a pre-arranged review meeting. Although the Registrant could have been more proactive in ensuring that the CRC form was received and collated with the other documents in time, the primary responsibility for completing the CRC form lay elsewhere. It is apparent that intervening events outside of the Registrant’s control created significant challenges to the CRC form being completed and collated in time. In these circumstances the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s culpability was low and that on that basis concluded that her omissions did not amount misconduct.
153. In relation to particular 4 (following a court hearing you refused to take Service User F into care) the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions did not amount to misconduct. The Panel recognised that walking away from a responsibility to take a vulnerable young child into care and leaving the situation unresolved would usually amount to misconduct. Such conduct represents a failure to meet a social worker’s responsibility to the child and to professional colleagues.
154. However, in the circumstances of this case the Panel concluded that the court hearing on 19 October 2015 and the decision that Service User F should be taken into care represented a ‘tipping point.’
155. The Registrant, by her own admission, had not been coping well at work since some time in September 2015. Given the evidence of Witnesses LJ and JG, in hindsight, it can be seen that the Registrant may very well have not been coping at work for some weeks before that. The Panel also noted that on 30 September 2015 the Registrant was advised by her GP that she was unfit for work for a few weeks due to ‘emotional and physical exhaustion’. The Registrant’s evidence was that she informed her GP that she was ‘far too busy to take any time off work, and …this would only increase [her] anxiety.’
156. Witness LJ informed the Panel that it was not until 7 October 2015 that she realised that the Registrant had not been attending statutory visits in relation to Service User B; as a result of this the Registrant was asked to attend a meeting with management on 16 October 2015 to explain herself. The Registrant did not, in fact, attend that meeting which was then re-scheduled for 21 October 2015.  These events will have added to the anxiety felt by the Registrant.
157. On 8 October 2015 and 9 October 2015 the Registrant conducted herself in a way that caused concern for others at work: these matters are described in the case papers but are not part of the Allegation and the Panel notes them only to the extent that they are indicative of matters building up to the above described ‘tipping point’.
158. Whilst the Registrant attended a court hearing on the morning of 19 October 2015 the outcome of that hearing, on top of events leading up to that day, led her to a ‘tipping point’. The court ordered that Service User F be taken into care. The Registrant’s evidence was that she was firmly of the view that she should not be the professional to take the child into care, yet she was faced with the prospect of being required to do exactly that. There was other evidence that she was of this view on that day. The Panel concluded that at this stage the evidence is that the Registrant’s physical and emotional well-being had very significantly deteriorated. This evidence includes the Registrant’s evidence, text messages she sent at that time and the uncontested evidence that she attended her GP soon after the court hearing.
159. Given this evidence the Panel concluded that the Registrant was at this stage not fit to undertake work.  The Panel concluded that in these circumstances it would not be appropriate to describe her actions on 19 October 2015 as misconduct.
160. In relation to the remaining particulars that were found proved the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s acts or omissions amounted to misconduct both individually and collectively.  The Panel concluded that the Registrant failed to act in the best interests of service users and families during a period of approximately 7 months between April 2015 and October 2015. The service users were all vulnerable and some of them were particularly vulnerable. For example, Service User D was at risk of sexual exploitation. The Panel noted that Service User D felt let down by the Registrant as confirmed by an email, dated 20 September 2015, in which he stated;
‘I’m getting kinda upset due to the fact you’ve never been there for me and never bother to ring, I thought we was going to have a good relationship like you said but that’s not happened, I would expect a phone call or for you to come see me some day this week not next month and talk about what’s going on with me being in care.’
161. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics [2012 version] and was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct breached the following standards:
• 1 - You must act in the best interest of service users.
• 10 – You must keep accurate records.
• 12 – You must limit your work or stop practising if your performance or judgement is affected by your health.
• 13 – You must …make sure your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.
162. The Panel was aware 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 senior social worker and repeatedly failed to meet the standards expected of her for a significant period of time. The Registrant’s behaviour cannot be described as a momentary failure or a temporary lapse of judgement. The Panel noted that no actual harm was caused to service users as a direct consequence of the Registrant’s acts or omissions. However, in the Panel’s view her conduct and behaviour presented a significant risk of harm, which was unnecessary and avoidable.
163. In addition to service users the Registrant’s acts and omissions caused difficulties for other professionals within the Council and in other organisations such as teachers and staff/managers at a residential children’s home. Confidence and trust amongst professional colleagues is extremely important; they should be able to expect that individuals within a team of professionals can be relied upon to work in accordance with established policies, procedures and court orders at all times.
164. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that except for particulars 2d(i) and 4 the Registrant’s acts and omissions were sufficiently serious for members of the public and fellow practitioners to regard her conduct as wholly unacceptable. As a consequence, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s behaviour amounted to serious misconduct.
Decision on Impairment:
Panel’s Approach
165. Having found misconduct the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note: “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
166. The Panel took into account the submissions of Mr Dite, on behalf of the HCPC, and the Registrant during which she repeated her earlier and frequent statements that her fitness to practise is currently impaired.
167. In determining current impairment, the Panel had regard to the following aspects of the public interest:
• The ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and
• The ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.
Panel’s Decision
168. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public perspective.
169. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant accepted from the outset of these proceedings that on occasion her actions fell below the high standards expected of social workers. She made it clear to the Panel that she understood the importance of statutory visits and the seriousness of not undertaking these visits. In addition, the Registrant demonstrated that she appreciated the need for accurate recording and meeting deadlines. Importantly, the Registrant also recognised that she is currently not fit to work. To this extent the Registrant demonstrated some insight. However, the Registrant’s insight was limited, in that she was unable or unwilling to accept full responsibility for her acts and omissions. The Registrant’s focus in this hearing had been to accept that she is currently unwell and unable to work, which she blamed on the pressures at work, the Council’s internal disciplinary process, the employment tribunal hearing and these proceedings. She did not focus on her own shortcomings, which included failing to manage her health towards the end of her employment with the Council, in particular by returning to work after 30 September 2015 when her own GP had advised an extended period of sick leave.
170. Although the Registrant has engaged with these proceedings there was no evidence before the Panel that she fully appreciates the overall gravity of her misconduct, there was no explanation as to how she would behave differently in the future and no assurance that such serious misconduct would not be repeated. The Registrant informed the Panel that she is not currently working and there was no evidence that she has kept her social work skills and knowledge up to date, particularly as she repeatedly told the Panel that she had no intention of ever returning to social work. In the absence of a sufficient level of insight and any steps she has taken towards remediation since the events of 2015, the Panel concluded that there is a real risk of repetition should she return to practice. The Panel was particularly concerned by the pattern of behaviour at work over an extended period of time. The Panel was also concerned about her current fitness to practise given her presentation during this hearing both in January 2018 and May 2018. As a consequence, the Panel has determined that there is a current and ongoing risk of repetition of these failings and therefore a risk of harm to service users.
171. 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 extremely concerned to learn that a senior social worker had not maintained accurate and/or up to date records, not complied with departmental and/or legal deadlines, not undertaken statutory visits and not communicated effectively with a father whose child was to be adopted, as such behaviour clearly has the potential to compromise the safety and well-being of service users.
172. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s acts and omissions presented a real risk of harm to service users, brought the profession into disrepute, and breached a fundamental tenet of the profession by failing to act in the best interest of service users at all times. There is a high risk that all of these features are likely to be repeated in the future, should she return to practice.
173. In all the circumstances the Panel determined that public trust and confidence and professional standards would be undermined if a finding of impairment is not made.
174. 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 and therefore the HCPC’s case is well-founded.


Adjournment and Interim Order Application:
175. The Registrant did not attend on Day 5 of the re-convened hearing (18 May 2018).  The Chair set out in private session the events that took place the preceding afternoon which had culminated in the Registrant being assessed by two paramedics. No medical interventions were made, and the Registrant subsequently left the venue.
176. The Panel having heard submissions from Mr Dite and advice from the Legal Assessor, determined that it should proceed in the absence of the Registrant to the limited extent of handing down its determination on grounds and its finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.
177. As it was apparent that it would not be possible to conclude this case in the time remaining Mr Dite was not invited to make submissions on sanction. However, as the case would have to be adjourned to another date Mr Dite made an application for the Panel to consider imposing an interim suspension order. Although he conceded that the Registrant had not been put on notice of the application he submitted that these were exceptional circumstances which justified consideration of an order in the interests of protecting the public.
178. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel concluded that it would not be fair or appropriate to consider an interim order application in the absence of notice. The Panel noted that the Registrant must be granted ‘an opportunity’ to appear before a Panel and be heard before a decision is reached with regards to an interim order. The Registrant had not been given that opportunity. The Panel concluded that it is a matter for the HCPC to decide whether to renew the application for an interim order having provided the Registrant with reasonable notice.
179. The hearing was adjourned in anticipation that when the hearing resumed the Panel would hear submissions on sanction.
Service of Notice of Hearing
180. The Registrant did not attend the reconvened hearing. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted on 7 June 2018, by first class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC register.  The Panel was informed that the Notice of Hearing had also been emailed to the Registrant. The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).
Proceeding in Absence
181. Mr Millin, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. During his submissions he referred the Panel to an email from the HCPTS, dated 7 June 2018, in which the Registrant was informed of the outcome of an interim order application. The Registrant responded on the same date. In the Registrant’s email, in addition to commenting on the outcome of the interim order application, she stated that she ‘Would not endever to enter into social care work in the near future (sic).’  She went on to state that she would, ‘make submissions known at the next hearing however, this maybe in a written informative statement (sic).’ The HCPC subsequently wrote to the Registrant on 10 August 2018. In that letter the Registrant was reminded of the hearing dates and was invited to confirm whether she would be attending the hearing or providing written representations. Copies of these documents were provided to the Panel.

182. Mr Millin informed the Panel that the HCPC received no further communication from the Registrant following the letter dated 10 August 2018. He submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily waived her right to attend.

183. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and followed that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”.

184. The Panel determined that it was fair and reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence for the following reasons:

(a) The Registrant referred to the ‘next hearing’ in her email, dated 7 June 2018, but did not confirm that she would be attending the hearing and there has been no further communication from her.  In particular, the Panel noted that there was no response to the letter from the HCPC, dated 10 August 2018, in which the Registrant was informed that the HCPC would try to do what it could ‘to minimise the distress and impact these proceedings may have’. The Registrant was invited to indicate if there were any measures that could be put in place but did not respond. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that it was fair and reasonable to conclude that the Registrant’s absence was deliberate and demonstrated a voluntary waiver of her right to be present.
(b) There has been no application to adjourn and no indication from the Registrant that she would be willing to attend on an alternative date and therefore re-listing this hearing would serve no useful purpose.
(c) The Panel acknowledged that there may be some disadvantage to the Registrant in proceeding with the hearing in her absence. However, the Panel noted that the Registrant indicated in her email, dated 7 June 2018, that she may provide ‘a written informative statement’, but she has not done so. In these circumstances, the Panel took the view that the Registrant’s interests were significantly outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that this final hearing is concluded expeditiously.

 

Decision on Sanction
Panel’s Approach
185. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The public interest includes maintaining public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of severity.

186. The Panel had regard to its earlier findings in relation to misconduct and impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise. The Panel also took into account the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and the submissions made by Mr Millin on behalf of the HCPC. His submission was to the effect that as a matter of law all options were open to the Panel and the decision on sanction was a matter of judgement for the Panel.
Panel’s Decision

187. The Panel considered the mitigating and aggravating factors in determining what sanction, if any, to impose.

188. As the Registrant did not participate in this stage of the proceedings, there was no new mitigation for the Panel to consider, other than the mitigating circumstances noted during the earlier stages of this hearing. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

• up until this final stage the Registrant has engaged with these proceedings; 

• she worked for many years as a social worker, latterly at a senior level;


• she has an otherwise unblemished record and was described by her line manager, Witness LJ, as being passionate about her work, child-centred and hard-working;

• there were management failings which, Witness LJ acknowledged, caused a delay in work place adjustments being put in place when the Registrant returned to work from a period of sickness absence. The Panel accepted that is likely to have had an adverse impact on the quality of the Registrant’s work;

• Witness LJ also acknowledged that there were short-comings in the management and supervision of the Registrant over the relevant time-period;

• The Panel accepted that the Registrant had some insight. She admitted some particulars of the allegation at the outset of this hearing, and demonstrated that she understood the importance of statutory visits, recording and meeting deadlines, she had acknowledged during the hearing that her practice had deteriorated, and she repeatedly said that she was not currently fit to practise.

189. The Panel noted that during the proceedings the Registrant referred to what she described as ‘mitigating circumstances’ which included being increasingly overburdened with work. However, as the Panel had already determined that the Registrant’s full and complex caseload did not explain her subsequent failings it concluded that this aspect of the surrounding circumstances did not amount to a mitigating factor.

190. The aggravating factors identified by the Panel were as follows:

• the Registrant’s failings were wide-ranging and persisted for a significant period of time;
• the Registrant’s acts and omissions had the potential to cause reputational damage to her employer, and to undermine its standing, and that of the profession with service users and other professionals. The Panel noted that Service User D felt let down by the Registrant as confirmed by the contents of his email dated 20 September 2015 (referred to earlier in this determination), court deadlines were not met, and school teachers and staff at a residential children’s home were caused difficulties;

• the Registrant focused on her perception of the shortcomings of others. She was unable or unwilling to accept full responsibility for her acts and omissions and therefore demonstrated only limited insight into the impact of her failings; 

• as a consequence of the Registrant’s acts and omissions vulnerable children were exposed to a risk of harm which was unnecessary and avoidable. The potential risks included sexual exploitation and the risks to vulnerable children, including a new born baby, associated with delayed statutory visits;

• the Registrant was unable or unwilling to take responsibility for the deterioration in her health towards the end of the relevant period and refused to stop working, even when, by her own account, she was advised by her GP to do so;

• the Registrant had provided no evidence of remediation or willingness to remediate the failings that had been identified.

191. Whilst neither a mitigating nor aggravating feature, the Panel is also concerned that even at this stage of proceedings, after receiving evidence from the Registrant and having questioned witnesses, it is not clear why the Registrant had, what has been referred to as, a “melt-down” in her professional practice leading to these proceedings.
No Action
192. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s acts and omissions and in the absence of exceptional circumstances, to take no action on her registration would be inappropriate. Furthermore, it would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.
Caution Order
193. In considering a Caution Order the Panel took into account paragraph 28 of the ISP which states:
“A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action. A caution order should also be considered in cases where the nature of the allegation means that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed but where the registrant has shown insight, the conduct concerned is out of character, the risk of repetition is low and thus suspension from practice would be disproportionate. A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.’
194. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s misconduct was not isolated, in that it persisted for a significant period of time. It occurred within the context of her duty as a senior social worker within the Council’s Safeguarding Team to protect vulnerable children, and therefore could not be described as minor in nature. Although the Registrant had demonstrated some insight, during earlier stages of these proceedings, it was limited. The Panel noted that the Registrant stated in her email, dated 7 June 2018, that she ‘would not endever to enter into social care work in the near future…In fact I very much doubt being able to work again (sic).’ The Panel acknowledged that this email confirms that the Registrant remains of the view that she is not currently fit to work.
195. However, as a consequence of the Registrant’s non-engagement during this stage of the proceedings, there was no evidence before the Panel that she fully appreciates the gravity of the failings identified and the impact on her standing as a social worker, the wider profession and the public. In addition, there was no explanation as to how the Registrant would behave differently in the future and no assurance that the deficiencies in her practice, which are capable of being remedied, have been remedied and would not be repeated. In the absence of sufficiently developed insight and any evidence that the Registrant had taken appropriate steps towards remediation, the Panel concluded that there is a real risk of repetition and that a Caution Order would therefore be insufficient to protect the public.
196. Furthermore, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to meet the wider public interest.
Conditions of Practice Order
197. The Panel noted that the ISP states at paragraph 33:
‘Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:
• where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing;
• where there are serious or persistent overall failings…’

198. The Panel took the view that the Registrant’s failings are capable of being remedied provided there is a willingness to accept responsibility for what went wrong and make a determined effort to learn from the experience to ensure that the failings are not repeated. However, the Panel concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate for the following interrelated reasons. First, the Registrant stated in her email, dated 7 June 2018, that she has no intention of working in ‘social care work in the near future’ and doubted ‘being able to work again.’ She also stated that she is ‘extremely poorly’. However, the Registrant provided no further information regarding her current circumstances or her state of health. Secondly, the Registrant has not engaged with this stage of the proceedings and there was no indication in her email, dated 7 June 2018, that she is currently willing or able to reflect on the findings made by the Panel, though the tone of that email is indicative of her not accepting the Panel’s findings.

199. Therefore, the Panel could have no confidence that the Registrant would comply with the terms of a Conditions of Practice Order even if conditions could be formulated. For example, the Panel was not confident that the Registrant would follow the advice of health care professionals to self-report if there was a deterioration in her health or co-operate with managers under the terms of a supervision requirement. As a consequence, the Panel concluded that it would not be possible to formulate workable conditions that would protect the public.

200. In any event, the Panel concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order would not adequately address the serious nature of the Registrant’s misconduct given the absence of current evidence of her having full insight. Therefore, conditions would not be sufficient to maintain public trust and confidence in the profession, the HCPC as a regulator and to uphold standards of conduct and behaviour.
Suspension Order
201. In considering a Suspension Order the Panel took into account the context as set out in the following paragraphs.
202. The Panel acknowledged that if the Registrant had demonstrated full insight and remediation, the misconduct in this case, whilst serious, is not so serious that it would necessarily have led to a Striking-Off Order.
203. The Registrant has not engaged with this stage of the proceedings and the evidence available to the Panel does not demonstrate full insight and remediation. Accordingly, the Panel gave consideration, in line with the ISP, to striking the Registrant off.
204. However, her earlier engagement with these proceedings raised concerns for the Panel regarding her physical and/or mental health and/or her emotional well-being. Although there was no evidence of a causal link between the concerns raised about her professional conduct and the Registrant’s health, the Panel observed over the course of a number of days in January 2018 and May 2018, that the Registrant’s actions and behaviours indicate that there are issues about her health and/or emotional well-being, significant enough that in the Panel’s view they could have an impact on her ability to practise safely and/or ability to demonstrate full insight and remediation.
205. The Panel has not been provided with any up-to-date expert medical evidence. Therefore the Panel was unable to assess to what extent, if any, the Registrant’s lack of full insight and the absence of any evidence of remediation can be attributed to her current physical and/or mental health and well-being.
206. It was with this context in mind that the Panel went on to consider the merits of a Suspension Order versus the merits of a Striking Off Order.
207. The Panel noted that a Suspension Order would protect the public, send a signal to the Registrant, the profession and the public re-affirming the standards expected of a registered social worker and adequately mark the seriousness of the misconduct. The Panel also noted that the Registrant has written in her email of 7 June 2018 that she has no intention of returning to practice as a social worker in the near future and indicated that for health reasons she may be unable to work again.
208. The Panel took into account paragraph 41 of the ISP which states,
‘If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option. However, where there are no psychological or other difficulties preventing the registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings then suspension may be appropriate.’
209. In the absence of up to date medical evidence the Panel was unable to properly assess whether there are ‘difficulties’ that would prevent the Registrant from remedying her failings. In reaching this conclusion the Panel noted that the Registrant had been able to work as a social worker for several years.  By absenting herself from this stage of the proceedings the Registrant has not assisted the Panel. However, given the health context set out above, the Panel took the view that the Registrant should be given an opportunity to consider the Panel’s written determination in full and focus on the issues that have been identified.
210. The Panel was satisfied that a period of 12 months would be sufficient for the Registrant to demonstrate an appropriate level of insight into her failings, take the steps required to return to the Register unrestricted and seek appropriate medical intervention, if required. The Panel concluded that if the Registrant is unable to demonstrate full insight within that time frame it is unlikely that she will be able to do so in the future.  Although this Panel cannot bind a future reviewing panel, a failure to take this opportunity to demonstrate full insight and remediation, or at least demonstrate a commitment and progress to doing so, could result in a Striking Off Order.
211. The Panel took into account paragraph 48 of the ISP which states:
‘Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.’
212. In concluding that a Suspension Order was the appropriate sanction the Panel took the view that a Striking Off Order, at this point in time, would be disproportionate because if the Registrant is able to access the right support it is possible she may be able to demonstrate insight and remediation.
213. The Suspension Order will be reviewed shortly before expiry. A future reviewing panel is likely to be assisted by the following:
i. The attendance of the Registrant at the review hearing;
ii. Medical evidence including confirmation of any medical conditions that may impact on her fitness to practise, medication and prognosis, as well as evidence of an appropriate degree of engagement with health care professionals and compliance with medical advice/prescribed medication;
iii. Evidence that the Registrant has developed insight and taken remedial steps to remedy her failings. This could include a written reflective piece.
iv. Evidence that the Registrant has kept her skills and knowledge up to date.

 

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Yvonne Frankum for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry.

Notes

Interim Order Application:
Proceeding with the application in the Registrant’s absence
1. Mr Millin made an application to consider an application for an interim order in the absence of the Registrant.
2. The Panel decided that it was appropriate to consider the HCPC’s application in the Registrant’s absence because she had been informed in the Notice of Hearing sent to her on 7 June 2018 that such an application might be made, and she has not responded. Furthermore, there are no additional factors which would justify deviating from the Panel’s decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant at the outset of this reconvened hearing. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that (i) the Registrant had voluntarily chosen not to participate in these proceedings, (ii) no useful purpose would be served by adjourning the HCPC’s application and (iii) as a substantive order has been imposed, there is public interest in ensuring that an interim order application is considered as expeditiously as possible.
Decision
3. The HCPC made an application for an immediate Interim Suspension Order on the grounds that it is necessary for the protection of members of the public, is otherwise in the public interest and in the interests of the Registrant herself. 
4. The Panel was mindful that when a substantive sanction is imposed, a Registrant’s entitlement to practise is unrestricted whilst their appeal rights against the substantive sanction remain outstanding.  The Panel concluded that in view of its determination that a substantive Suspension Order should be imposed, it would not be appropriate for the Registrant to return to practice unrestricted given the ongoing risk of repetition and therefore the risk of serious harm to service users. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s registration should be suspended on an interim basis.  The Interim Suspension Order is necessary to protect the public, to maintain and uphold trust and confidence in the profession and the regulatory process and in the Registrant’s interests given the concerns with regard to her health.
5. The Panel took the view that the wider public interest far outweighs the Registrant’s personal and professional interests and that an interim order is proportionate.
6. The Panel concluded that the appropriate length of the Interim Suspension Order should be 18 months, as the interim order would continue to be required pending the resolution of an appeal in the event that the Registrant submits a Notice of Appeal within the 28 day period. 


Interim Order:
The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.  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.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Yvonne Frankum

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
29/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
14/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard