Miss Lucy Alice Gatrell

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW07201

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 11:30 17/07/2018 End: 16:00 17/07/2018

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

 

In the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Hampshire County Council,

 

1. You were the allocated social worker for the W children from 27 October 2011 until June 2013 and during this time: 

a. You failed to identify and/or record safeguarding concerns regarding the W children. 

b. You failed to report safeguarding concerns regarding the W children to your managers. 

c. You failed to safeguard the W children from harm and/or the risk of harm through neglect.

 

2. You completed a core assessment of the W children in May or June 2013 and:

a. You did not complete the core assessment in the required timeframe. 

b. Your core assessment did not reflect the conditions that the W children were living in. 

c. You failed to record and/or report safeguarding concerns in your core assessment.

 

3. The matters described in paragraphs 1 to 2 constitute misconduct and / or lack of competence. 

 

4. By reason of your misconduct and / or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice

1. The Notice of today’s hearing dated 15 June 2018 was posted on the same date to the Registrant at her address on the Register by first class post. The Panel was satisfied that there has been good service in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Ms Mbah, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that the Panel should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. Ms Mbah reminded the Panel that there has been no engagement by the Registrant in respect of today’s hearing, nor in respect of the last two hearings. Ms Mbah submitted that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself, and that there is no indication that the Registrant would attend if the hearing were adjourned.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and referred to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel agreed to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. It is both in the public interest and in the Registrant’s own interest to do so. In reaching this decision, the Panel has noted there has been no request for an adjournment and a lack of engagement by the Registrant. It balanced fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the public interest in expeditious disposal of the case which involves public protection concerns. The Panel is of the view that no useful purpose would be served by adjourning the hearing. The Panel has also taken account of the fact that this is a mandatory review and needs to take place before the Order expires next month.
 
4. The Panel therefore decided to proceed today.

Background

5. The Registrant was employed at Hampshire County Council within the Children In Need Team. She commenced employment with Hampshire County Council in June 2008 and qualified as a Social Worker the same year. The Council commenced an internal investigation into concerns regarding the Registrant’s handling of a case involving a family of five children which alleged that she had not dealt with the case in a timely way and had failed to identify risks and safeguard the children appropriately. The concerns about the family were sufficiently serious for the Local Authority to consider taking the matter to court in order to safeguard the children. At the conclusion of the Council’s internal investigation, the matter was referred to the HCPC.

6. At a final hearing of a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC on 24 January 2017, the allegation was found proved. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired and a Suspension Order for 12 months was imposed. On 24 January 2018, the Suspension Order was reviewed and extended for a further period of 6 months.

Decision on Impairment and Sanction

7. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Mbah that the Registrant remains impaired on the basis of the lack of any reflection or remediation by the Registrant, creating a high risk of repetition of the matters found proved. Ms Mbah applied for a Striking Off Order by way of sanction. 

8. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Registrant’s fitness to return to unrestricted practice and referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders”. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel must exercise its own independent judgement with regard to impairment and sanction. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that it should take into account proportionality and have regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. She reminded the Panel that, by way of applying proportionality, any order that it makes should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public or is otherwise in the public interest.

9. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

10. The Panel has no information before it regarding steps taken by the Registrant to develop her insight, address her misconduct and reflect on her failings. In short, there is no more information before this Panel from the Registrant than there was before the previous two Panels. The Panel today was of the view that the risk of repetition previously identified remains, raising public protection concerns. In these circumstances, the Panel was also satisfied that the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold proper standards would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

11. The Panel went on to consider what action, if any, it should take in light of its finding of current impairment. In doing so, it had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel first considered whether it would be appropriate to take no further action or to impose a Caution Order. The Panel determined that given the findings of the previous Panels, and the lack of evidence of any developing insight, or remediation, to take no further action or to impose a Caution Order would not be sufficient or proportionate to protect the public or the wider public interest.

12. The Panel next considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate. It has determined that it was not possible, given the lack of engagement and any information about the Registrant’s current circumstances, to devise workable, realistic, verifiable Conditions of Practice. There was also nothing to indicate any willingness by the Registrant to engage with any conditions that may be imposed. Conditions of Practice would fail to protect the public or the wider public interest.

13. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Panel took into account the lack of engagement by the Registrant today and at the last two hearings. There is a lack of any new evidence as to remediation, insight and remorse by the Registrant before the Panel today. The Registrant’s lack of engagement has made the Panel’s task particularly difficult. It would have benefitted from information from, and engagement by, the Registrant, regarding what, in the Registrant’s view went wrong with her practice, and what she has reflected upon since.  However, the Panel also bore in mind that, as the substantive hearing Panel accepted, the Registrant had a high caseload with approximately 30-35 children, she was highly regarded by her manager, and the previous Panel found that she had demonstrated some insight. The Panel took into account that the misconduct found proved related to only one particular case out of a large case load and that there are no apparent difficulties preventing the Registrant from understanding and addressing the concerns which have been found. The Panel also took into account that a Suspension Order will protect the public and the wider public interest. Accordingly, the Panel determined that a Suspension Order is the appropriate and proportionate order at this present time. 

14. The Panel determined that a period of suspension for six months would be sufficient and proportionate to mark the lack of further insight and remediation.

15. The Panel wishes to make clear to the Registrant that the next reviewing Panel will wish to hear from her, and the Registrant’s case will be greatly assisted by her engagement.

16. The Panel was of the view that a Striking Off Order would not be fair or proportionate in the particular circumstances of this case at this time given the positive factors about the Registrant and her practice as set out in paragraph 13 above, as well as the sufficiency of Suspension to protect the public and the wider public interest. This Panel, however noted that a further reviewing Panel may consider that continued lack of engagement by the Registrant presents further difficulties which may make a Striking Off Order much more likely.

17. The Panel was of the view that the following may assist a future reviewing panel as well as the Registrant’s case:-

• A reflective piece setting out the Registrant’s insight and any steps taken by her to remedy her practice.
• Any references or testimonials from any relevant employment, including any voluntary work

• Details of steps taken to keep the Registrant’s knowledge and skills up to date

• The Registrant’s attendance at the next review hearing.

 

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Miss Lucy Alice Gatrell from the Register for a further period of six months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Lucy Alice Gatrell

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
24/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
16/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
23/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended