Mrs Valerie Abimbola Baiyewu

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW39076

Interim Order: Imposed on 31 May 2016

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 26/07/2018 End: 16:00 26/07/2018

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

Whilst registered as a Social Worker with the Health & Care Professions Council, you:

1. On 26 October 2017 at Kingston Crown Court were convicted of:

a. Conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977; and

b. Two counts of fraud, contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006.

2. By reason of your convictions as set out at paragraph 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that on 8 June 2018 notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant at her home address as it appears on the HCPC Register in terms of rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules. In addition Mr Dite has advised that notice of the hearing was also sent to the Registrant by email and to HMP Downview on the same date. He advised the Panel that the letter was returned from HMP Downview on 2 July 2018 and that Kingsley Napley have since received confirmation that the Registrant is no longer in custody. 

Proceeding in absence

2. The Panel thereafter considered Mr Dite’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Proceeding in the absence of a Registrant’. The Panel is aware that the discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel is aware that there has been no engagement from the Registrant. She has not asked for an adjournment of today’s hearing and the Panel has no reason to believe that she would attend at a future date if the matter were adjourned. The matters before the Panel are serious. The Panel has therefore concluded that in all of these circumstances it is in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background:

3. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker who was employed by the London Borough of Merton (“the Council”) as a locum social worker. On 20 November 2015 the Registrant was arrested for fraud by abuse of position. In the course of her employment, the Registrant had assessed two service users on her caseload as having needs over and above those which they needed, in order to benefit herself. The Registrant and her partner rented a property and sub-let it to the two service users. Payments were being made to the Registrant’s partner via a limited company which they had both set up. The Registrant did not make the Council aware of this.

4. On 26 October 2017 following a jury trial at Kingston Crown Court, the Registrant was convicted of Conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position, contrary to Section 1(1)  of the Criminal Law Act 1997 and two counts of fraud, contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 . On 16 November 2017, the Registrant was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on count 1 and 9 months imprisonment one each of counts 2 and 3 to run concurrently with count 1.

Decision on Facts and Grounds

5. The Panel considered the submissions by Mr Dite and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel also had sight of the Certificate of Conviction dated 12 April 2018 and signed by an Officer of the Court and accepted this as proof of the convictions and of the findings of fact upon which they were based in terms of rule 10(1)(d) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the facts and grounds have been proved.

Decision on Impairment 

6. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by her convictions. The Panel considered the submissions by Mr Dite and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Notes on Conviction and Caution Allegations and on Finding Fitness to practise is Impaired.

7. The Panel is aware that this is a matter for its own professional judgement.  In reaching its decision, the Panel has had regard to the conduct of the Registrant, the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offences and the critically important public policy issues, in particular the need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect.

8. The Panel has first considered the personal component of the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel has noted that the Registrant pled not guilty to the charges and was convicted following a jury trial. In the view of the Panel she has failed to demonstrate any insight. In addition, there is no evidence of remorse or remediation in respect of these offences. Given the nature and severity of these offences involving dishonesty and an abuse of trust, the Panel is of the view that such serious conduct may not be capable of remediation. The Panel notes the comments of Mr Recorder Bryant-Heron QC in his sentencing remarks in which he stated that the Registrant’s breach of trust was “the single most serious factor in this conspiracy” and described the conduct as “a sophisticated offence with significant planning, and it was a fraudulent activity conducted over a sustained period of time, namely some five months”. Taking all of these matters into account and taking account of the nature and gravity of the offences, the Panel is satisfied that there are serious concerns in relation to the personal component of the Registrant’s actions.

9. In respect of the critically important public policy issues, the Registrant’s actions clearly bring the profession into disrepute and undermine public confidence in the profession. The Registrant has been convicted of three serious offences which involved an abuse of trust by utilising her knowledge of the system gained as a social worker to establish a business and inflating the care requirements in her assessments of two very vulnerable adults in her care. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant targeted two particularly vulnerable service users, causing them actual harm and depriving them of the appropriate level of care. In addition her actions deprived other service users of scarce resources as recognised in Mr Recorder Bryon-Heron’s sentencing remarks as follows: “Resources are scarce, as was apparent from your evidence in the trial and indeed your own evidence. You both, by entering into this agreement, abused those scarce resources”.  As a social worker, the Registrant is in a position of trust, working with very vulnerable service users and her actions have very clearly undermined that trust.   The Panel has concluded that given the nature and circumstances of the Registrant’s actions, she has also breached the following standards of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics in force at the relevant time:-

• Standard 1 - You must act in the best interests of service users

• Standard 3 – You must keep high standards of high personal conduct

• Standard 13 - You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

10. In order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process and to uphold proper standards of conduct, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The allegation is therefore well founded.

Decision on Sanction

11. The Panel has heard submissions from Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC on the issue of sanction. The Panel has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and has had regard to the HCPTS’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and to the HCPTS Practice Note on Conviction and Caution Allegations.

12. The Panel is aware that the function of any sanction is not to be punitive. The primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing his services in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

13. The Panel could not identify any mitigating factors in this case. The Panel had regard to the following aggravating factors:-

• the Registrant has been convicted of three very serious offences committed in the course of her employment as a social worker;

• the offences involved an abuse of trust and dishonesty;

• the offences were sophisticated and involved significant planning;

• the fraudulent activity was conducted over a sustained period of time;

• the Registrant targeted two particularly vulnerable service users;

• the Registrant abused scarce pubic resources;

• there is no evidence of remorse or insight and no appreciation of the effect of her actions on the service users.

14. The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order would not be appropriate, given that the lapse was not isolated or minor in nature. In addition the Panel is of the view that neither option would be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations.

15. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel is of the view that the matters found proved involve a serious abuse of trust in the course of the Registrant’s employment and could not therefore be addressed by the imposition of conditions. The Panel therefore considers that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be an appropriate or proportionate sanction in this case.

16. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order.  In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, a Suspension Order may be appropriate where the allegation is of a serious nature but is unlikely to be repeated. However the Panel has seen no evidence of insight or remediation and therefore there is a risk of repetition. While a Suspension Order would be sufficient to provide the necessary degree of public protection in that the Registrant would not be able to practise during this period, the Panel is of the view that, given the very serious nature of the convictions, a Suspension Order would not be sufficient to address the critically important public policy issues. In all the circumstances, the Panel is of the view that a Suspension Order would not be appropriate or proportionate.

17. The Panel next considered a Striking Off Order. In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, striking off “is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving  abuse  of trust  such  as  sexual  abuse,  dishonesty  or persistent failure”.  In addition, it states that

striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process”.

18. The Registrant’s conduct involved a serious abuse of trust as part of a sophisticated offence with significant planning over a sustained period of time, targeting two particularly vulnerable service users and abusing scarce public resources.  The Panel is of the view that the nature of the Registrant’s convictions are such that they are fundamentally incompatible with ongoing registration. Members of the public would have serious concerns if a registered health professional who is in a position of trust were able to return to practise with convictions of this nature. The Panel has therefore concluded that given the nature and gravity of the convictions, a Striking Off Order is the only sanction which would protect the public and adequately address the wider public interest considerations in terms of maintaining public confidence in the profession and declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct.

Order

Order: The Panel directs the Registrar to strike the name of Valerie Abimbola Baiyewu from the Register from the date that this order takes effect. 

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Valerie Abimbola Baiyewu

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
26/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off