Miss Charlotte E Briggs

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW109373

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 06/12/2018 End: 17:00 06/12/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker by with Somerset County Council between January 2012 and February 2016, you: 

  1. Between November 2015 and January 2016, did not maintain your registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
  2. on or around 22 December 2015, attended Court in the capacity of a Social Worker even though you had been de-registered by the HCPC on 6 November 2015.  
  3. did not maintain adequate records, in that:  
  4. in relation to Case B, you did not take sufficient action to resolve an issue in relation to the non-compliance with direct payments. 
  5. in relation to Case F, you did not:
  6. upload a witness statement on AIS until 13 February 2015. 
  7. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 3 constitute misconduct and / or a lack of competence. 
  8. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant at her home address. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted to the address on the register.

Proceeding in absence

2. The Registrant did not appear nor was she represented.

3. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Senior applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. The Registrant had not attended the substantive hearing in June 2018 and there had been no contact between her and the HCPC since July 2017.  Ms Senior reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review and submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.

4. Having considered the revised HCPTS Practice Note on proceeding in absence and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable notice of today’s hearing.  The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment and had voluntarily absented herself.  There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned. The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.

Background

5. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in the Adult Learning Disability Team at Somerset County Council (the Council) between January 2012 and February 2016. Between November 2015 and January 2016, the Registrant failed to maintain her registration with the HCPC, during which time she attended care proceedings at Bristol County Court in circumstances in which she would have been perceived as a registered Social Worker.  There were further concerns in relation to her record keeping. It was alleged that she did not take appropriate action in relation to social work plans and assessments from 2013 to 2016.

6. A final hearing of a panel of Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC was held on 11-12 December 2017. The Registrant did not attend the hearing but she had admitted the particulars of the Allegation in relation to failing to maintain her registration and attending court in the capacity of a Social Worker after her de-registration (Particulars 1 and 2) in a written response before the hearing, so the panel found those matters proved.  In relation to record keeping, the panel found that she failed to take sufficient action to resolve non-compliance with direct payments in relation to one service user (Particular 3(b)) and that she had failed to index a document (particular 3(f)(ii)).

7. The panel found that the facts as proved in relation to Particulars 1, 2 and 3(b) amounted to misconduct that was serious. The failure to maintain her registration was deplorable and her conduct in attending court as a Social Worker when de-registered had placed her employer at risk of serious reputational damage.

8. In relation to impairment, the panel found that the Registrant had failed to engage effectively with the regulatory process so there was no evidence as to her current circumstances. Her written response showed a lack of understanding and insight, in particular in relation to her attendance at court. There therefore remained a likelihood of repetition of her misconduct so her fitness to practise was impaired. The panel found that the Registrant’s acts and omissions were such as to undermine public confidence in her profession and that a finding of impairment was required to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. 

9. The aggravating factors included limited insight, lack of remediation, and abuse of trust in relation to her registered status. Over a long period of time. The mitigating factors included her admissions and previous good character. A Suspension Order of 12 months duration was imposed as the sanction. The misconduct was too serious for any lesser order. There remained a risk to the public and a risk of repetition. 

10. The panel recommended that the next panel would be assisted by:

• A reflective piece demonstrating insight into the conduct that led to these proceedings;

• Evidence that the Registrant has kept her professional knowledge up to date;

• Any relevant references or testimonials for paid or unpaid work.

Today’s Hearing

Submissions

11. Ms Senior for the HCPC reminded today’s Panel of the history of the case and their powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the order or imposing another order. There had been no response from the Registrant to the guidance that was given by the previous panel. On 23 November 2018 the HCPC had sent an email reminding the Registrant to respond, but had received no response. Ms Senior submitted that there was a persuasive burden on the Registrant to demonstrate that she had remedied her failings, but there was no evidence of any improved insight or remediation. There had been a total lack of engagement with her regulator since July 2017. She contended that the Registrant remained impaired on both personal and public grounds.  The conduct was found to be deplorable and there was a risk of repetition of her misconduct in the absence of any engagement by her in the 12 months since the last hearing. Ms Senior referred to paragraph 48 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy and submitted to the Panel that striking off may be an appropriate sanction.

Decision on Impairment

12. A substantive review is a two stage process.  The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon their registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Notes on Impairment. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor on the principles of proportionality and fairness in considering impairment.

13. The Panel reminded itself of the public component in Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581: “the need to protect the individual and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect…and that the public interest includes, amongst other things, the protection of service users and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.”

14. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including changes of circumstances and an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case.

15. The Panel considered the two component parts relating to impairment, the personal component and the public component. It first considered the personal component, namely whether the conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and whether it was likely to be repeated.

16. In considering the issue of personal impairment, the Panel noted that the Registrant had failed to respond to any of the recommendations of the panel at the substantive hearing and failed to make any response at all. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant had not demonstrated any insight or provided evidence of reflection on her misconduct and that there was a continuing risk of repetition. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was therefore impaired on personal grounds.

17. In considering the wider public interest, the Panel concluded that a finding that the Registrant was not currently impaired would undermine public confidence in the profession.  The nature of her misconduct was such as to risk serious damage to the reputation of her profession if repeated. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was therefore impaired on public grounds.

Decision on Sanction

18. The nature of the misconduct was too serious to make no order.  The Panel considered whether to impose a Caution Order, but decided that it was inappropriate, because this was not an isolated instance of misconduct and it would not provide sufficient public protection. A Conditions of Practice Order would not be workable or verifiable in the absence of any engagement or insight on the part of the Registrant.

19. The Panel was unimpressed with the Registrant’s failure to respond to the findings or the recommendations of the panel at the final hearing. The Registrant had shown no willingness to engage with the regulatory process. The Registrant had failed to demonstrate that she could return to her profession and remedy her failings.

20. The Panel considered that there was an arguable case for a Striking Off Order at this stage in view of the absence of any engagement or insight, and considered paragraph 48 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy: ‘Striking off should used 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.’

21. However, the Panel determined that the Registrant should be afforded a further opportunity to engage with the HCPC. The Panel therefore concluded that an extension of the current Suspension Order for a period of 6 months was the necessary and proportionate measure to ensure there was no repetition of the misconduct and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The much shorter period of suspension is specifically intended to concentrate the Registrant’s mind on the necessity for her to engage with the regulator.

22. The Registrant should be in no doubt that the next reviewing panel would have strong grounds to strike her name from the register if she continues to fail to engage with the HCPC.

23. The next reviewing panel would be assisted by the following from the Registrant:

• A reflective piece demonstrating insight into the conduct that led to these proceedings;

• Evidence that the Registrant has kept her professional knowledge up to date;

• Any relevant references or testimonials for paid or unpaid work.

 

Order

ORDER:

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Charlotte E Briggs for a further period of 6 months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 9 July 2019. 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Charlotte E Briggs

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
06/12/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
11/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended