Mr Robert M Anderson

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW20724

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 18/07/2018 End: 16:00 18/07/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

The following allegation was found proved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) on 14 June 2012:
Whilst employed by Birmingham City Council (BCC) as a Social Worker in the Disabled Children’s Team between April 2006 and September 2008 you:
1. On or around
1.1. 11 December 2007;
1.2. 4 February 2008;
Were alerted to concerns regarding the safety of Child E and her siblings, and you
1.3 Did not act adequately on this information in a timely manner
1.4 Did not take sufficient steps to safeguard Child E and/or her siblings
2. On or around:
2.1 15 January 2008;
Were made aware that Child C and Child B may be at risk of harm through contact with a Schedule 1 sex offender if contact with their mother remained unsupervised but did not act adequately upon receipt of this information;
3. On or around 18 February 2008, following a Looked After Child Review:
3.1 Did not complete assessments of Child C and Child D in a Statutory Care Plan or at all, despite being directed to do so at the Looked After Child Review;
3.4 Did not take sufficient steps to safeguard Child C and/or Child D;
4. In or around April 2008 were made aware that Child C has been sexually abused, however you:
4.1 On or around 24 April 2008 responded to foster carer Mrs B in a dismissive manner;
4.2 Did not acknowledge the seriousness of Child C’s disclosure;
4.4 Did not recognise that the disclosure needed to be investigated by other social workers in your absence
4.5 Responded inappropriately to other social workers regarding the work in which they carried out in your absence.

Finding

Preliminary matters:
Service
1. The Panel had sight of a letter and email dated 20 June 2018, sent to the Registrant at his registered address, giving notice of today’s hearing, and determined that service had been properly complied with in accordance with the requirements of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).
Proceeding in absence
2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who took the Panel to Rule 11 and to the guidance given in the cases of R –v- Jones [2003] 1 AC 1, Tait v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34 and GMC –v-  Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162.
3. The Panel was provided with an email sent by the Registrant to the HCPC dated 8 July 2018 which stated:
“Hi. Please accept my apology I am unable to attend my review due to circumstance”.
4. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had been served with the notice of hearing, and had indicated that he would not attend today. He had not attended. The Panel concluded from this that the Registrant had absented himself voluntarily from the proceedings. The Registrant had not applied to adjourn the proceedings and the Panel concluded that it was unlikely that he would attend if the matter were to be adjourned. This was a mandatory review of the Order which expires on 17 August 2018. The Panel bore in mind that it was in the public interest to hear cases expeditiously. Accordingly, the Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
Background:
5. At the relevant time, between 2007 and 2008, the Registrant was employed as an agency Social Worker in the Disabled Children’s Team at Birmingham City Council.
6. The allegation which forms the basis for this hearing was first heard before the General Social Care Council (GSCC) in June 2012, the regulator at that time. The GSCC found a number of factual allegations proved, and concluded that these amounted to misconduct. The GSCC found that the Registrant had not taken sufficient steps to safeguard children, including failing to act adequately upon receipt of information that two children may be at risk of harm through contact with a Schedule 1 Sex Offender, and failing to respond appropriately when he was made aware that a further child had been sexually abused. The GSCC imposed a Suspension Order for a period of three months.
7. On the first review, which the Registrant did not attend, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) review panel extended the Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.
8. On the second review, which the Registrant attended, the review panel observed that the misconduct was serious, was not isolated and had put vulnerable service users at risk, but imposed a 12 month Conditions of Practice Order in light of the insight which the Registrant demonstrated before the reviewing panel.
9. On the third review, which the Registrant attended, that Order was extended for a further 12 months.
10. On the fourth review, which the Registrant attended, the Order was extended again.
11. At the fifth review, which the Registrant attended, the Conditions of Practice Order was replaced by a 12 month Suspension Order. This was because it was alleged by the HCPC that the Registrant had obtained employment as a Social Worker, but had not declared his Conditions of Practice Order to his employers, in breach of his Conditions. This led the review panel to have no confidence that the Registrant would comply with any Conditions imposed.
12. At the sixth review, which the Registrant attended, the panel imposed a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 12 months. The Registrant had provided two reflective pieces, certificates of attendance at seven CPD courses and four testimonials. He informed the review panel that he was employed as a full-time support worker and part-time key worker. The review panel concluded that the Registrant had not yet fully remedied his failings, and that his fitness to practice remained impaired, but accepted that a Conditions of Practice Order could be imposed given the efforts the Registrant had made in relation to relevant work and training. The review panel concluded that although the Registrant had failed to comply with the Conditions of Practice Order previously imposed, the Suspension Order that had then been imposed had had the necessary deterrent effect in that regard. It therefore imposed the following conditions:
1) 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 (at the time of application);
c) Any prospective employer (at the time of application).
2) Within seven days of commencing employment as a Social Worker
a) you must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a Social Worker registered with the HCPC, and;
b) supply to the HCPC the details of your supervisor.
3) You must meet with your supervisor on a monthly basis to discuss your day to day work and to address, in particular, the following areas of your practice
• Completing required assessments within timescales;
• Risk assessments;
• Communication with service users and fellow professionals.
4) You must provide to the HCPC on a three-monthly basis copies of the supervision notes of the monthly meetings with your supervisor.
5) You must submit to the HCPC six weeks prior to the date of review of this Order, a report from your supervisor on your overall progress in addressing the areas of practice identified in 3 above.
13. Since the sixth review hearing, the Registrant had only communicated with the HCPC (a) by means of his email of 8 July 2018 in which he stated that he would not be attending today’s review (the seventh review), and (b) by means of an email that he had been sent on 10 July 2018, and which he forwarded on to the HCPC, in which he had been invited to an appointment that he had requested with a Director of Social Work in order to discuss the possibility of work experience to enable him to gain employment as a Social Worker. The Registrant had therefore not informed the HCPC of his current employment status.
14. Ms Knight submitted that the misconduct had been serious, and that in the absence of any other information from the Registrant, the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired. She submitted that sanction was a matter for the Panel.
Decision:
15. This Panel considered the issues carefully. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and paid attention to the HCPC’s “Indicative Sanctions Policy”.
16. The Panel concluded that by not attending this hearing or submitting any material for the Panel to consider, the Panel was bereft of any evidence of remorse, or insight, or remediation into the Registrant’s past failings.  In those circumstances the Panel could not conclude that it was highly unlikely that he would repeat his failings, particularly as he had not practised as a Social Worker since 2008, other than for a short probationary period, when it was alleged that he had acted in breach of his Conditions of Practice Order.  Accordingly, it was the judgment of the Panel that the Registrant remained a risk to the public if permitted to practice unrestricted. The Panel also found that public confidence in the profession and the declaring of proper standards of conduct and performance demanded a finding of impairment in light of the seriousness of the misconduct, together with the length of time since the finding of the substantive panel, in which time the Registrant had failed to remediate his misconduct.
17. The Panel considered whether to make no order or to impose a Caution Order but concluded that this would not be sufficient to protect the public or satisfy the public interest in light of the seriousness of the misconduct.
18. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that this was inappropriate in light of the absence of further information from the Registrant. The Panel had not been informed whether the Registrant had secured work as a Social Worker, and presumed, in the absence of any proof to the contrary from the Registrant, that he had not.
19. The Panel considered a Suspension Order but concluded that this was insufficient and inappropriate in the circumstances, because the misconduct was serious and some six years had now passed since the original period of suspension, and despite this opportunity to develop himself, it appeared that the Registrant had still not managed to obtain work as a Social Worker, or remediate his misconduct, or demonstrate sufficient insight to satisfy the Panel that he would not repeat his failings.
20. In those circumstances the Panel concluded that a Striking Off Order was both appropriate and proportionate. The Panel appreciated that this was the most serious of orders, but  it was the judgement of the Panel that the misconduct was serious and the Registrant had not managed to remediate his failings or demonstrate sufficient insight, despite being provided with many years in which to do so, and accordingly this order was necessary to protect the public and was otherwise in the public interest to maintain public confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. 

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Robert Anderson from the register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal:
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.
European alert mechanism:
In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been prohibited.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so.  Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Robert M Anderson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
20/07/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
18/08/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
03/08/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
15/08/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice