Mr Richard William Maxwell Hunte

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW26776

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 21/12/2018 End: 17:00 21/12/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Whilst Registered as a social worker, and during the course of your employment at the National Fostering Agency:

 

1. In relation to Child 1, between approximately January 2014 and December 2016 you:

a. Did not complete and/or record all required foster carer monthly home visits

b. Did not complete and/or record all required child monthly home visits

c. Did not make a record of all Looked After Child (“LAC”) reviews

 

2. In relation to Child 2, between approximately 22 July 2015 and December 2016 you:

a. Did not complete and/or record all required foster carer monthly home visits

b. Did not complete and/or record all required child monthly home visits

c. Did not make a record of all LAC reviews

 

3. In relation to Child 3, between approximately 17 December 2014 and 20 December 2016 you:

a. Did not complete and/or record all required foster carer monthly home visits

b. Did not complete and/or record all required child monthly home visits

c. Did not make a record of all LAC reviews

 

4. In relation to Child 4, between approximately March 2016 and 20 December 2016 you:

a. Did not complete and/or record all required foster carer monthly home visits

b. Did not complete and/or record all required child monthly home visits

c. Did not make a record of all LAC reviews

 

5. In relation to Child 5, 6, 7 and 8 between approximately 19 October 2015 and 20 December 2016 you:

a. Did not complete and/or record all required foster carer eight weekly home visits

b. Did not complete and/or record all required child eight weekly home visits

c. Did not make a record of all LAC reviews

 

6. The matters described at 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 is impaired.

Finding

The background to this matter is:

 

 

  1. The Registrant was employed by the National Fostering Agency (the NFA) as a “Supervising Social Worker” from January 2008 until 16 December 2016. Throughout that time he was responsible for supervising and supporting between 14 and 16 households of foster

 

  1. His duties had included visiting the foster carers and the children placed with them and keeping accurate records of those visits. Mr JT became the Registrant’s Line Manager in September 2015 and in or around December 2015 identified concerns about the Registrant’s record-keeping. He conducted a number of audits and supervision sessions focusing on the Registrant’s record keeping. The particulars of the allegation arise from his investigations.

 

  1. At the Final Hearing, facts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were found proven in respect of recording only. The Panel then went on to find that the ground of Misconduct was made out and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was

 

 

Final Hearing Sanction

 

  1. The Panel went on to impose a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 6 months in the following terms:

 

  1. You must formulate a Personal Development Plan (PDP) designed to address the deficiencies in your record keeping. This must include reflection on the Panel’s findings and a plan of how you will organise your work in future to avoid the failings identified by the
  2. You must undertake suitable training on record keeping and organising and prioritising your
    1. You must forward to the HCPC, 14 days before the date fixed for the review of this order:a. A copy of your PDP

 b. Evidence of successful completion of

 

  • You must promptly inform the HCPC if you are appointed, or cease to be employed, as a Social Worker by any
    1. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your

6. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

a.Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work;

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

c. Any prospective employer, seeking to employ you as a Social Worker (at the time of your application).

  

  1. The Final Hearing Panel observed that it had heard no evidence that the Registrant was not competent to do his work. On the contrary, Mr JT, the prime witness, had given evidence that the records within the majority of the Registrant’s files were acceptable and the Registrant was in all other respects a good social worker. He had told the Panel that the Registrant had a good relationship with carers and young people in care. He was also able to write good, well evidenced

 

  1. The Final Hearing Panel was satisfied that 6 months was long enough for the Registrant to comply with the conditions.

 

  1. The Final Hearing Panel identified the evidence which a future reviewing Panel may wish to see. These were:

 

  1. References from the Registrant’s current employers and work colleagues (whether in paid or unpaid work) that attest to the Registrant’s record keeping.
  2. Any other testimonials and independent evidence showing that your behaviour has been fully

 

Preliminary matters

 

  1. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant was properly served with notice of today’s hearing by way of a letter that was sent by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address. The Panel has seen a copy of the Notice letter which contains all relevant information and a certificate certifying the fact of postage. The Notice letter was sent in sufficient time in advance of today’s hearing. A further copy of that Notice letter was sent to the Registrant’s email address on the same day. The Panel has come to the decision that it has evidence before it that there has been good

 

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

 

  1. The HCPC submitted that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant because he has not sought an adjournment and it could be inferred from his email communication dated 5 December 2018 that he has no intention of attending at a future date. The HCPC emphasised that this was a mandatory

 

  1. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor on the matters that it should consider during its deliberations on this. The Panel was aware of the need to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with great care and caution. The Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, its reasons are as follows:

 

  • The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s
  • Reasonable steps have been taken to serve the Registrant with notice of this hearing by sending written notice of the hearing by first class post to his registered address.
  • The Registrant has contacted the HCPC by way of email in which he states that he considers that he has retired from the profession and does not wish to receive any further communications from the
  • There is therefore no reason to suppose that if the hearing was adjourned the Registrant would attend a resumed
  • In all the circumstances, the Panel considered that the Registrant had voluntarily absented
  • There is a public interest in this matter being heard and given the above reasons, that interest outweighs the Registrant’s in this

 

Evidence and Submissions

 

  1. The Panel was referred by the HCPC to the email communication from the Registrant dated the 5 December 2018. The Panel was told that this was the first time that the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC in over two years. It informed the HCPC that the Registrant had not been in practice since December 2016 and had no wish or desire to return to his profession. The Registrant clearly indicated from the wording used in his email that he had no desire for a further or continuing relationship with his professional body.

 

  1. In response to the Registrant’s email the case manager had contacted the Registrant by email on 7 December 2018, and then by telephone on 17 December 2018, to see whether, in light of the Registrant’s stated intention of severing future contact with the HCPC. He wished to pursue a Voluntary Removal Agreement (VRA). A copy of the case manager’s file note was placed before the Panel. In the HCPC’s view the Registrant has made it clear that he wishes to have nothing further to do with his profession or his regulatory body. He is recorded in the file note as being frustrated that his departure from the Register would take so long, even by the VRA route. The Registrant has not responded to the HCPC request that he confirm whether he would engage with the HCPC in the VRA

 

  1. The HCPC confirmed that the Registrant has not provided the Panel with any of the information recommended by the Final Hearing Panel. It was submitted that his email indicated that he has no intention of providing such information in the future. It should therefore be assumed that there have been no steps towards remediation of his failings nor any insight demonstrated into his previous behaviour.

 

  1. In terms of sanction, the HCPC stated that it could not, in the absence of any information from the Registrant, support a lesser restriction than a Conditions of Practice Order, as this would not provide the requisite level of public protection. The HCPC submitted that continuing the Conditions of Practice Order was unsupportable where a registrant has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage or address the issues. In the light of the information before the Panel the option of a short period of suspension during which the HCPC could further pursue with the Registrant the conclusion of a VRA was supportable. It was however uncertain, given the Registrant’s reluctance to engage, that the Registrant would participate in this VRA process. The HCPC suggested that if the Registrant’s stated intention was to be removed from the Register this could be achieved today by the imposition of a Striking Off Order. This would be in the public interest as well as the Registrant’s, in that it would result in the cost saving of a further review hearing. It was however a matter entirely for this reviewing Panel to determine this issue.

 

Decision

 

  1. In undertaking its task today the Panel is conducting a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant’s current abilities with a view to establishing whether he is now fit to return to unrestricted practice. The Panel is not undertaking the task of rehearing the matters that had been brought against the Registrant nor going behind the previous findings.

 

  1. This Panel has taken into account all documentation placed before it and has heard and given appropriate weight to the fresh documentation placed before it. It has heard the HCPC’s submissions, taken and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and it has reminded itself of the terms of the relevant HCPTS’s Practice Notes.

 

  1. In the absence of any evidence from the Registrant that he has complied with the Conditions of Practice Order or any information as recommended by the Final Hearing Panel, this Panel had nothing on which to form a view of his current state of insight, professional practice, skills or training. The Panel therefore concluded that there was and remains impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise.

 

  1. The Panel took into account evidence of the Registrant’s state of mind toward this fitness to practise matter. These were:

 

  • The Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC
  • He did not attend the Final
  • He has not initiated any contact with the HCPC since his decision ‘to retire’ in December 2016 which he communicated to the HCPC by email dated 5 December 2018. In this he clearly states that he does not wish to receive any further communications from the
  • He believed that by doing nothing his registration with the HCPC had lapsed.
  • The implication of his frustration that this matter could not be concluded without his further participation as indicated in the case manager’s file note.

 

  1. The Panel considered that in the absence of any steps to remediate his failings it could not impose a lesser level of restriction as this would not provide any public protection. Whilst the Registrant’s level of record keeping had not resulted in any harm to a service user, as the Final Hearing Panel recorded:

 

‘ …. good records are important to support and protect Service Users. Inadequate records may mean the safety of children in care can be put at risk….’

 

  1. The Panel then considered whether extending the period of the Conditions of Practice Order would serve any meaningful purpose when there was a stated unwillingness to comply with such conditions. It came to the conclusion that this was not in the Registrant’s interest nor in the public interest as it would result in continuing a review process unnecessarily.

 

21. The Panel considered whether a period of suspension would be useful either for the Registrant to demonstrate development of insight or to find the desire to remediate. There was no evidence that this would be the case. In view of the Panel’s observations about the Registrant’s state of mind to these proceedings the Panel considers that it is highly unlikely that the Registrant would engage during this period of suspension and participate in the conclusion of a VRA. The Panel considered that the public interest would not be served if it continued with a suspension order where there was so demonstrably no willingness by the Registrant to remediate.

22. The Panel has concluded that the appropriate measure in this instance is the imposition of a striking off order. This would not only secure public protection and address the Registrant’s stated wish to remove his name from the Register but is also in the wider public interest in avoiding any further unnecessary process and expense.

23. This being an Article 30(1) review the striking off order will come into effect on the termination of the current Order on 27 January 2019.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Richard William Maxwell Hunte from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This order will come into effect on 27 January 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Richard William Maxwell Hunte

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/12/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off