Miss Bianka Antonia Grant
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1. While employed by the Royal Borough of Kingston used the Zipcar business account for your personal use:
a) between 1.30 am and 9 am on 1 June 2013;
b) between 10 pm on 1 June 2013 and 10.30 pm on 2 June 2013;
c) between 11 pm on 7 June 2013 and 9 pm on 9 June 2013;
d) between 9 pm on 14 June 2013 and 2.30 pm on 16 June 2013;
e) 9 am on 21 June 2013 and 1.30 pm on 23 June 2013;
f) between 11.30 pm on 28 June 2013 and 9.30 am on 29 June 2013.
2. Used Royal Borough of Kingston Zip Car business account for your personal use during the period set out in paragraph 1 (f) after you had been informed by Colleague A that an investigation was to be carried out into your use of the business account for personal use.
3. On or around December 2012, declared on your application form to the Royal Borough of Kingston for a position as a Social Worker (Safeguarding) that you had never been convicted of a criminal offence.
4. The matters described in particular 1 and 2 are dishonest.
5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2 and 4 constitute misconduct.
6. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired
1. The Panel has been convened to undertake the review of a substantive suspension order (“the Order”). The review is being undertaken under the provisions of Article 30 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001. The Order was imposed for a period of 6 months on 15 December 2017, and was itself imposed when an Article 30 review was undertaken.
2. The Panel commenced the hearing at the scheduled time, 10:00am. At that time the Registrant was not in attendance. The Panel considered whether a valid notice of hearing had been sent to the Registrant and determined that it had been. The Presenting Officer then applied for a direction that the hearing should proceed in the Registrant’s absence. As the Registrant had stated in an email as recently as 13 June 2018 that it was her intention to attend and be represented, the Panel decided to adjourn until 10:30am lest the Registrant had encountered difficulties travelling to the hearing venue.
3. When the hearing recommenced at 10:30am the Registrant was in attendance. She was supported by Mr Rodney Wright.
4. The Registrant is a Social Worker. At the time relevant to the allegations she was employed as a Social Worker in the Child Protection Team at the Royal Borough of Kingston (“Kingston”). She commenced that employment in early March 2013. The events relevant to the allegations occurred when she was a Newly Qualified Social Worker going through the assessed and supported year in employment.
5. The hearing of the HCPC’s allegations against the Registrant were determined at a substantive hearing held between 3 and 5 January 2017. The Registrant did not attend the hearing and was not represented at it. In relation to the personal use of the Zipcar, the matter had come to light in June 2013 when it became apparent that the Registrant had incurred a parking ticket whilst using the car. The Zipcar business account was in the name of Kingston and it became apparent that the Registrant had used the car for her personal use on a number of occasions. The substantive hearing panel considered the Registrant’s written account that she had not been dishonest, but rejected it. It rejected her case on a number of grounds, including emails from Zip Car reminding her that she had not set up a personal account, that Kingston did not operate a “salary sacrifice scheme” that would have enable recoupment of the cost of private use, as well as the statement on the Kingston intranet that under no circumstances should a Zip Car registered to Kingston be used for personal use. Indeed, the panel found that during the evening of 28 June 2013, the Registrant continued to use a Kingston Zip Car despite being told that an investigation would be conducted into her personal use of the car.
6. The substantive hearing panel determined that the established facts, with the exception of particular 3, were sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. That panel also found that the misconduct was impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practise from the point of view of both the personal and public components.
7. The substantive hearing Panel considered the available sanctions in an ascending order of seriousness. It rejected the options of taking no action, imposing a caution order or making a conditions of practice order. It decided that, having regard to the Registrant’s dishonesty, a suspension order was the only appropriate sanction as it would provide a proper and sufficient protection to the public and would help to sustain public confidence in the profession. In deciding that the suspension should be for a period of 12 months, it explained that it would provide sufficient time for the Registrant to reflect on and acknowledge her dishonesty and seek ways to demonstrate that she has addressed it. The substantive hearing panel considered that a striking off order was neither necessary or proportionate. Paragraph 57 of the substantive hearing determination was in the following terms:
“This order will be reviewed prior to its expiration. A reviewing panel may be assisted by:
• The attendance of the Registrant.
• A reflective piece from the Registrant indicating a recognition of her dishonesty, what she has learnt from these events and her understanding of the impact that her dishonesty has had, or could have had, on the reputation of her profession.
• The Registrant’s career plans for the future.
• Evidence of the steps that she has taken to maintain her professional skills.
• Details of any work undertaken by the Registrant, whether paid or unpaid, since she left the employ of RBK, together with relevant references and testimonials.”
8. The suspension order imposed by the substantive hearing panel was reviewed before it expired on 15 December 2017. The Registrant did not attend that hearing and was not represented at it. She did, however, on 13 December 2017 send an email for consideration by the panel undertaking the review. In her email she requested an adjournment of the review hearing and expressed dissatisfaction with the way she considered she had been treated by both Kingston and the HCPC. The reviewing panel declined the request that the hearing should be adjourned and proceeded with the hearing. It concluded that there was a continuing lack of insight. The panel rejected the options of taking no further action or imposing a caution order, as it did the imposition of a conditions of practice order. The panel concluded that it was appropriate and proportionate to impose a further period of suspension. On that occasion it was determined that the appropriate length of the order was 6 months as such a period would allow the Registrant further time to develop insight and demonstrate her continued commitment to her chosen profession. In paragraph 23 of its determination the reviewing panel renewed the suggestions that had been made by the substantive hearing panel as to the steps she might wish to take for the purposes of the present review. In paragraph 24 of its determination, the reviewing panel continued in the following terms, “The Panel wishes to make it clear to the Registrant that this further brief period of suspension should enable the Registrant to develop insight. If the Registrant chooses not to fully engage with these proceedings the next reviewing Panel may consider that a striking off order is the appropriate Order.” Furthermore, the Registrant was reminded of the requirements to meet paragraph 23 in the letter from the HCPC to her, dated 21 June 2018.
9. At the present review hearing, on behalf of the HCPC, the Presenting Officer drew the Panel’s attention to a letter of complaint from the Registrant written to the Chief Executive of the HCPC which the Registrant wanted to be available to the Panel. The letter was written two weeks prior to the date of the review hearing and expressed the Registrant’s dissatisfaction with the proceedings. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired and that a further sanction remained necessary. The Presenting Officer outlined the available sanctions to the Panel. She did not urge the Panel to apply any particular sanction, but she did suggest that the Panel should consider whether a further period of suspension would serve any useful purpose.
10. The Registrant addressed the Panel. She demonstrated considerable anger, speaking in a raised voice. She advanced the case that she had been discriminated against both by Kingston and the HCPC, and repeated the contention that she had committed an “admin error”. She expressed the view that she considered it to be insulting that she should be expected to express remorse for an “admin error”, adding that she had suffered a lot for a naïve error. Her view was that the present hearing represented a “kangaroo court”. The Registrant informed the Panel she had complained to the Chief Executive of the HCPC but to date was still awaiting a response. She argued that the HCPC should be protecting her rather than advancing a fitness to practise case against her. Mr Wright’s contributions, which interlaced those of the Registrant, were in a similar vein.
11. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has approached the decision to be taken in respect of this review applying the following principles:
• It is required to accept the findings made by the substantive hearing panel in relation to the allegation as settled. It is not appropriate to revisit the findings of fact made by that panel.
• Taking the substantive hearing panel’s finding as the starting point, and considering all that has and has not occurred in the period since that decision was made, the present Panel is required first to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired.
• If there is no on-going impairment of fitness to practise, then there should be no further sanction imposed upon the expiry of the present order.
• If, however, the conclusion of the Panel is that there is on-going impairment of fitness to practise, then the Panel is required to consider whether a further sanction is required. If it is, then ordinary sanction considerations apply. In particular, a sanction must not be imposed with the intention of punishing the Registrant. Rather, a sanction must be the least restrictive outcome consistent with the need to protect the public, to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the registered profession and to declare and uphold proper professional standards. The sanctions available to the Panel will be dictated by the powers that were available to the panel that imposed the sanction being reviewed.
12. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired. The reasons for this decision are as follows:
• The Registrant had actively chosen to disregard the clear expectations documented in the previous panel’s determinations, in that she presented neither a reflective piece to demonstrate any insight nor any plans regarding her future career. In addition, no testimonials or evidence of professional updating were presented to the Panel and in her submissions she expressed a complete disregard for the findings of the substantive hearing panel.
• The Registrant has not demonstrated remorse and accepted no responsibility for her actions, choosing instead to view herself as the victim of discrimination.
• There is no evidence of any remediation, insight or remorse.
• The Registrant has demonstrated a flawed understanding of her role and responsibilities as a professional and the role of the HCPC as regulator.
• In all of her written and verbal representations, the Registrant has continued to express anger at her treatment by her employer for being brought before the HCPC. She has failed to reflect on her professional responsibilities and the importance of honesty and integrity as a professional. The Registrant continually asserts her mistakes were naïve errors rather than dishonest acts. This perspective has prevented the Registrant from understanding her responsibility to address any deficits and to comply with the expectations of the reviewing panels.
• For these reasons the Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired upon consideration of the personal component.
• Further, the Panel is satisfied that a finding of impairment of fitness to practise is required in the wider public interest in order to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the Social Work profession and the regulation of it.
13. Having found the Registrant to be currently impaired, the Panel next considered the appropriate sanction. The Registrant’s continuing lack of insight leads the Panel to the conclusion that there is a significant risk of repetition. Therefore, the taking of no further action and the imposition of a caution order would not be appropriate. The Panel considered making a Conditions of Practice Order but was of the view that no conditions could be drawn up that could be practicable or workable in these circumstances as the Registrant has not expressed any intention to return to practice. The Panel then considered the making of a Suspension Order. The Panel considered that a further period of suspension would serve no useful purpose given the Registrant has consistently refused to comply with the previous requirements and continues to deny her role and responsibilities in addressing her failings.
14. The rejection of all other sanctions resulted in the Panel concluding that a striking off order is required. The Panel is satisfied that this is a proportionate response in a case where there have been two periods of suspension ordered over a period of 18 months, and one in which the Registrant has demonstrated a settled resistance to remedy her failings.
With effect from the expiry of the current period of suspension, namely with effect from 2 August 2018, the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Bianka Antonia Grant from the Register.
No notes available