Ms Halimah Balimuttajjo Kibirige

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW75799

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 23/07/2018 End: 16:00 27/07/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Not well founded

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Allegation

Between January and June 2014, during the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Surrey County Council:
1. In relation to Child A your risk assessment was;
a) not completed in a timely manner
b) inadequate in that you:
i. did not meet with Child A
ii. did not meet with Male A’s ex-partner
iii. did not conduct checks with external agencies
iv. made inadequate/inappropriate recommendations

2. In relation to Child B, you;
a) Did not reference your colleagues’ work, within the parenting assessment
b) Did not complete the parenting assessment in a timely manner
c) Submitted a parenting assessment which was inadequate in that you did not adequately evaluate the mother’s ability to meet child B’s needs;

3. In relation to Child C, you;
a) Did not write a letter to the parents detailing the local authorities concern, in order to initiate public law outline proceeding in a timely manner
b) Your child and family assessment was inadequate in that you concluded that the child’s basic needs were being met when there was evidence to the contrary

4. In relation to Child B and/or Child D, you;
a) did not complete an updated care plan and/or statement within the required timescales;
b) were late to a court hearing on 19 March 2014;
c) did not complete the care plan to an adequate standard

5. In relation to Child D you did not complete and/or did not complete to an adequate standard a viability assessment of the maternal grandmother of Child D in a timely manner

6. In relation to Child E you did not complete the following court documents by 10 February 2014 and/or in a timely manner:
a) care plan
b) statement
c) addendum parenting assessment

7. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters
Proceeding in private
1. The Panel heard that matters relating to the Registrant’s health were to be discussed as part of this application. Ms Manning-Rees submitted that it was appropriate that parts of the hearing be held in private where the Registrant’s health was to be discussed. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Procedure Rules 2003 (“Procedural Rules”) whereby matters pertaining to the health or private life of the Registrant, the complainant, any person giving evidence or of any Patient or Client should be heard in private. The Panel agreed the parts of the hearing, where reference was to be made to the Registrant’s health should be heard in private.

Background
2. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker by Surrey County Council (the Council) within the South East Child Protection and Proceedings Team, where she was responsible for improving outcomes for children and young people subject to Child Protection Plans because they were suffering from or were likely to suffer from significant harm.

3. The Registrant was employed by the Council for 14 years, starting in September 2000. She was responsible for Children In Need, children on Child Protection Plans, and also children subject to care proceedings.

4. The relevant period to this Allegation was between January and June 2014. Witness 1 became the Registrant’s line manager in May 2013. During February 2014 Witness 1 became concerned that the Registrant's practice was deteriorating. The main concerns were related to time keeping, accountability and written and verbal communication. There were reports that were alleged to have not been completed adequately and/or in a timely manner, allegedly causing delays in court proceedings.

5. Stage 1 of the formal capability proceedings was instigated by Witness 1 on 27 February 2014. This resulted in the Registrant being subject to a Performance Improvement Plan, the purpose of which was to make the Registrant aware of the concerns that Witness 1 had with her practice, and to provide the Registrant with the opportunity, support and timescales for improving upon these.

6. Despite the Performance Improvement Plan, the Registrant had not made adequate progress against the targets set. As a result, stage 2 of the formal capability procedure was instigated in June 2014. In July 2014, following a disciplinary hearing, the decision was made to dismissed the Registrant. The Registrant was required to work her three months’ notice and she continued to work at the Council during that period.

7. The Registrant’s shortcomings were subsequently referred to the HCPC and form the basis of the Allegation against her.

Evidence
8. The Registrant admitted Particulars 1(a), 2(b), and Particular 4(a) in respect of the updated care plan only.

9. The Panel received a bundle of documents from the HCPC, which included the statement of Witness 1, and the exhibits she produced, including
(a) The Capability Report Witness 1 completed in June 2014;
(b) Supervision records for the Registrant from February 2014 to May 2014;
(c) Performance Improvement Plan dated 4 June 2014;
(d) Relevant case notes of Children A, B, C and D;
(e) Relevant assessments carried out by the Registrant (Risk, Parenting and, Child and Family); and
(f) Varied correspondence.

10. The Panel also received a bundle of documents from the Registrant which included the following:
(a) The Registrant’s response to Witness 1’s statement dated 24 June 2016;
(b) Representations made on behalf of the Registrant by her Solicitors in April 2015 and January 2016;
(c) Correspondence between the Registrant and the HCPC;
(d) Two professional references;
(e) A document detailing the Registrant’s locum employment as a Social Worker since September 2014.

11. During the proceedings, two verbs used within the Particulars raised issues of interpretation; “complete” and “reference”.

12. The Panel took into account the submissions of both parties and determined to adopt the ordinary meaning of the verb “reference”, that is “to mention or refer to”.

13. With regard to the verb “complete” as used within the Allegation, the Panel has interpreted it as meaning the requirement for the Registrant to provide the first draft of the document.

14. The Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Ms Manning-Rees on behalf of the HCPC, and by Mr Panton on behalf of the Registrant.

15. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel that the burden of proof rests with the HCPC, and that the Registrant need not disprove anything. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel that the standard of proof is the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities.

16. The Panel heard oral evidence on behalf of the HCPC from Witness 1. Witness 1 was, at the relevant time, an Assistant Team Manager (ATM) at the Council and the Registrant’s line manager.

17. The Panel also heard oral evidence from the Registrant.

18. The Panel found Witness 1 to be a credible witness. Her evidence was internally consistent, and consistent with contemporaneous documents. The Panel found her to be a witness who was balanced and fair: she was positive about some attributes of the Registrant. Her evidence was affected to some degree by the passage of time affecting her recall, and by the reliance upon hearsay evidence.

19. The Panel also found the Registrant to be a credible witness. Her evidence was also affected by the passage of time to some degree, but the Panel was impressed by the level of detail of her recall in respect of her cases. The Panel heard considerable detail about the Registrant’s experience of working at the Council at the relevant time and also of her specific personal circumstances at the time. The Panel accepted this evidence.

20. The Panel had no reason to disbelieve the evidence of either Witness 1 or the Registrant. The Panel found that Witness 1 and the Registrant had different perspectives of events at the time, and also demonstrated a difference of professional opinion between them.

21. The Panel considered each of the Particulars in turn, and made the following findings:

Decision on facts
Particular 1(a) – found proved
1. In relation to Child A, your risk assessment was:
a) not completed in a timely manner;
22. At the start of proceedings, the Registrant admitted this Particular. In oral evidence she confirmed that the risk assessment was given to Witness 1 ten minutes before the start of the Child Protection conference for which it was required.


Particular 1(b)(i) – found not proved
1. In relation to Child A, your risk assessment was:
b) inadequate in that you:
(i) did not meet with Child A
23. In coming to its decision, the Panel took into account the evidence of both Witness 1 and the Registrant that the risk assessment to be done was about Male A, although this was related to Child A.

24. Witness 1’s evidence was that she had reiterated to the Registrant that the risk assessment was necessary. However, there was no evidence that Witness 1 had instructed the Registrant to meet with Child A as part of the assessment of Male A, or that it was required that she meet with Child A as part of the assessment.

25. The Panel determined that Particular 1(b)(i) is not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(b)(ii) – found not proved
1. In relation to Child A, your risk assessment was:
b) inadequate in that you:
 (ii) did not meet with Male A’s ex-partner
26. Witness 1’s evidence, both in her witness statement and in her oral evidence, was that the Registrant was expected to speak with Male A’s ex-partners as part of the assessment of his suitability for contact with Child A. However, there was no evidence that the Registrant was required to “meet” Male A’s ex-partners, as opposed to speaking to them. Neither was there evidence as to which one of the ex-partners of Male A the Registrant should have met.

27. The Panel found that Particular 1(b)(ii) was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(b)(iii) – found not proved
1. In relation to Child A, your risk assessment was:
b) inadequate in that you:
 (iii) did not conduct checks with external agencies
28. The Panel had the relevant risk assessment before it. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant should visit Male A and then cross-check anything Male A said with other agencies, to try and substantiate the information provided. She said that everything which the Registrant wrote in the risk assessment was self-reported by Male A and that the Registrant had not provided evidence that she had substantiated the claims that he made.

29. The Registrant stated that she did carry out checks with external agencies and that one of those agencies was the police. Her written statement contained a list of external agencies which the Registrant said she had contacted. The risk assessment contained detailed information obtained from the Police and a reference to Children’s Service records.

30. Taking the evidence of the Registrant and the content of the risk assessment into account the Panel determined that there was some evidence within the risk assessment that some checks were made with external agencies, albeit limited.

31. The Panel determined that Particular 1(b)(iii) was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(b)(iv) – found not proved
1. In relation to Child A, your risk assessment was:
b) inadequate in that you:
 (iv) made inadequate/inappropriate recommendations.
32. Witness 1 criticised the Registrant’s risk assessment. Witness 1 considered that the assessment gave no firm conclusion about whether Male A was safe to be around Child A. She stated that the Registrant’s recommendation that Male A should not see Child A was inadequate and inappropriate because it was unachievable, as the Local Authority (LA) cannot police contact between individuals, such as Mother A and Male A, who were in a relationship.

33. The Registrant did not accept that her recommendation was inadequate or inappropriate. The Panel noted that her recommendation adopted the “safety first approach” and recommended that the existing agreement of “no contact” remained in place, suggesting that Male A currently had no contact with Child A. The existence of the no-contact agreement was not challenged.

34. The Panel did not accept Witness 1’s assertion that the Registrant’s recommendations were inappropriate and unachievable. The Registrant’s recommendation appeared to maintained the status quo and there was no evidence provided that the existing no-contact agreement was inadequate or inappropriate.

35. The Panel determined that Particular 1(b)(iv) was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 2(a) – found not proved
2. In relation to Child B, you:
a) Did not reference your colleagues’ work, within the parenting assessment
36. The Panel had the Parenting Assessment document before it. Witness 1 told the Panel that a Social Worker from the Children with Disability Team, CM, had carried out an assessment to assist with identifying what would be required of carers considering a permanent placement for Child B and what support they would need in the longer term. Witness 1 said that she also asked a Senior Family Support Worker, AB, to undertake a Parenting Assessment of Mother B.

37. Witness 1 said that she had made it clear to the Registrant that it was her role to “pull together the final report”, taking account of the work of CM and AB. Witness 1 said she made it very clear to the Registrant that she needed to refer to AM and CB on the front of the report as they had done their own work, and their own assessments, for the case.

38. The Registrant told the Panel that she had made reference to AB and CM in her report. She also stated that she had put CM’s name on the front of the report. Early in the hearing the Registrant produced a copy of the report that she said she had submitted to the Legal Department, which did have CM’s name on the front. The Registrant told the Panel that assessments would be “signed off” by managers, and then they would be sent to the Legal Department. She said that if the Legal Department required amendments, they would send the document back and the process would repeat itself, until the document was considered approved.

39. The Registrant told the Panel that she had liaised with Witness 1’s colleague Ms R, because Witness 1 was absent from work, and that the original report had been sent to the Legal Department. This is corroborated by Witness 1’s evidence that Ms R had become involved in overseeing this work in her absence. The Registrant stated that the Legal Department had then sent it back requesting that CM’s name be removed from the front of the report. She said that the explanation given by the lawyer was that it was because the Registrant would be the only one giving evidence.

40. Neither the evidence of Witness 1 or the Registrant resolves the question as to which version of the document was first in time. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that she had written CM’s name on the front of the version that she had sent to the Legal Department, and that the Legal Department had requested that she remove it.

41. The Panel carefully scrutinised the content of the Parenting Assessment. It noted that it contained significant amendments by Witness 1, as accepted by her in her evidence. It noted that CM is referenced, for example in sections 5, 6 and 7 as well as in respect to other entries. Amendments in the document by Witness 1 include corrections of spelling and titles for example “Children with Disability team” where the Registrant has referred to it as the “disability team”. There are no amendments in relation to CM’s name. Witness 1 could not confirm which of the entries referencing CM were there from the outset. The Panel concluded that it is more likely than not that the references to CM were there from the outset.

42. The Panel noted that AB is referenced in sections 5 and 7 of the assessment. There are no amendments in relation to AB’s name. Witness 1 does not say that these references were not there at the outset. The Panel concluded that it is more likely than not that the references to AB were there from the outset.

43. There are also references to the contributions of Dr C, and Dr R, within the Parenting Assessment.

44. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has referenced colleagues’ work within the Parenting Assessment. It determined that Particular 2(a) was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 2(b) – found proved
2. In relation to Child B, you:
b) Did not complete the parenting assessment in a timely manner
45. This Parenting Assessment was due to be filed in court on 27 May 2014, and Witness 1 said that she received it on 27 May 2014.

46. In her evidence, the Registrant accepts that she was asked to provide the Parenting Assessment by 21 May 2014 and that she gave it to Witness 1 on 27 May 2014. She accepted that she had not completed the assessment in a timely manner.

47. Accordingly the Panel found Particular 2(b) proved.

Particular 2(c) – found not proved
2. In relation to Child B, you:
c) Submitted a parenting assessment which was inadequate in that you did not adequately evaluate the mother’s ability to meet Child B’s needs;
48. The Panel noted the Registrant’s detailed written response to this Allegation. The Registrant stated that she had adequately evaluated the mother’s ability to meet Child B’s needs and had addressed it in detail. The Panel noted the detailed assessment and analysis of Mother B’s abilities. It noted that the recommendation was that, despite acknowledging positive attributes of the mother a long term placement was required for Child B as the mother was unable to provide sole care.

49. The Panel determined that the HCPC had not provided sufficient evidence as to what was inadequate about the Registrant’s evaluation of Mother B’s ability to meet Child B’s needs.
 
50. Accordingly Particular 2(c) is not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 3(a) – found not proved
3. In relation to Child C, you:
a) Did not write a letter to the parents detailing the Local Authority’s concern, in order to initiate the public law outline proceedings in a timely manner
51. Witness 1 told the Panel that the letter in question was required in order to explain to the family in question the purpose of a meeting that preceded the initiation of Public Law Outline proceedings.

52. Witness 1 said that the lawyer in the case had advised that the letter could not be sent until a Child and Family Assessment (CFA) had been completed. Witness 1 said that she then told the Registrant to prioritise the CFA. Witness 1 told the Panel that the task of completing the CFA was subsequently passed on to another Social Worker.

53. Witness 1 accepted that the Registrant was not required to write the letter at the time because the CFA had not yet been completed.

54. The Registrant said that she had written the letter but the letter was not sent because the Legal Department said that the CFA had to be undertaken first, and as a result Witness 1 had told her to prioritise the CFA.

55. The Panel determined that Particular 3(a) is not proved on the basis that the Registrant was not required to write a letter to the parents of Child C as the CFA had not yet been done.

Particular 3(b) – found not proved
3. In relation to Child C, you:
b) Your child and family assessment was inadequate in that you concluded that the child’s basic needs were being met when there was evidence to the contrary;
56. Witness 1 gave evidence of two indicators in the report that Child C’s basic needs were not being met:
(a) There were instances of Child C going to school with shoes that were falling apart; and
(b) Child C was to have baby teeth removed under general aesthetic.

57. The Panel carefully considered the Child and Family Assessment referred to by Witness 1. The Panel could find no specific reference in the assessment to the Child C’s shoes falling apart. There is, however, a reference to shoes being purchased for Child C by the LA.

58. In relation to Child C’s teeth, there is reference around 2013/2014 within the assessment to the potential purchase of a timer and to Child C proudly showing clean teeth. It was clear that at the time of the assessment in 2014 Child C was seeing a dentist and had a hospital appointment for dental extractions.

59. The Panel did not consider that Witness 1’s assertion was supported by the evidence.

60. Furthermore, it is not clear to the Panel that it was actually the Registrant’s conclusion that Child C’s basic needs were being met as there appears to be a possibility that someone else wrote the initial assessment. The Registrant gave evidence that she was advised by Witness 1, in respect of the initial assessment, to "pull it out from Sarah" and "just add to the bottom".

61. Further the Registrant said that Witness 1 had asked her for access to the document during the assessment process because they were running out of time. The Registrant said she finalised the assessment on 14 May 2014. The version before the Panel is dated 7 May 2014 and is clearly not the final version as it contained numerous annotations by Witness 1. Witness 1 questions, within the assessment on numerous occasions, who wrote certain entries.

62. Taking account of the Registrant’s evidence, and the annotations by Witness 1, the Panel cannot be clear that it was the Registrant’s conclusion that Child C’s basic needs were being met.

63. The Panel determined that Particular 3(b) is not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 4(a) – found not proved
4. In relation to Child B and/or Child D, you:
a) did not complete an updated care plan and/or statement within the required timescales;
64. The HCPC’s case appeared to rely on "reports" being due to be served in February 2014.

65. However, the evidence in the documentation before the Panel demonstrated that a care plan for Children B and D was due to be served on 30 May 2014. Contained within the documentation were references to a variety of other dates for various other documents to be submitted, for example:
• a “full assessment of proposed alternative carers and parenting” was due to be submitted for a 26 May 2014 court date (which was a bank holiday);
•  the week of the 2 June 2014 was given as alternative date for “submission of the parenting assessment” in respect of Children B and D.
• There was an email from the Legal Department dated 2 June 2014 that acknowledged that the Social Worker was off sick and that a Parenting Assessment was ready to be served “bar a signature”, along with an “interim assessment”, “from Australia in the next few days”. That email also indicated that the “parenting assessment in relation to [Child B] and the final evidence and care plans will be served on Friday 13 June 2014.”

66. The Panel also noted that the email of 2 June 2014 demonstrated that there was some confusion about process and submission dates.

67. The Registrant’s evidence supported the confusion over submission of documents. The emails also provide evidence to support the assertion by the Registrant that she was on leave for some of the relevant dates.

68. Given the confusion as to which documents were to be submitted when, the Panel cannot be clear on the actual timescales in which the updated care plan and statement were to be completed, nor to the extent to which such timescales were not met.

69. Furthermore, there is no evidence relating to “statements”. The evidence and emails all refer to reports and care plans.

70. The Panel determined that Particular 4(a) was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 4(b) - found not proved
4. In relation to Child B and/or Child D, you:
b) were late to a court hearing on 19 March 2014;
71. The sole evidence relied upon is a Court Attendance Note dated 19 March 2014. The note merely states “Halimah Kibirige (SW – arrived late at 12:10pm). It is a note that had not been shown to the Registrant for verification.

72. The Registrant stated that she did arrive at court in good time but made reference to different times of day to that in the attendance note. Witness 1 gave evidence of what appeared to relate to a different court hearing.

73. On the basis of hearsay evidence, which conflicts with both the Registrant and Witness 1, the Panel determined that Particular 4(b) is not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 4(c) – found not proved
4. In relation to Child B and/or Child D, you:
c) did not complete the care plan to an adequate standard.
74. Witness 1 stated that the care plan in question had not been completed to an adequate standard. The Panel was not provided with the care plan nor evidence from Witness 1 as to the specific nature of any inadequacy.

75. The HCPC has not provided sufficient evidence that the Registrant did not complete the care plan to an adequate standard. The Panel finds Particular 4(c) not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 5 – found not proved
5. In relation to Child D you did not complete and/or did not complete to an adequate standard a viability assessment of the maternal grandmother of Child D in a timely manner.

76. Both Witness 1 and the Registrant stated that a Viability Assessment of the maternal grandmother was completed. The Registrant’s written evidence was that she had not completed this assessment, that it had been completed by another Social Worker. The Panel did not receive a copy of the Viability Assessment in evidence. The issue was whether it had been completed in an adequate and timely manner.

77. Witness 1 stated that the Registrant had met with Grandmother D and submitted her updated assessment to court. Witness 1 said that based upon this evidence, the court adjourned the proposed final hearing on the basis that full exploration of Grandmother D’s position needed to be undertaken before a final decision about the future care of the child could be agreed. 

78. Witness 1 asserted that this was evidence that the Registrant’s assessment was not of an adequate standard. However, when asked by the Panel  whether the court could have adjourned the hearing for another reason, unrelated to the standard of the Registrant’s assessment, Witness 1 stated that potentially there could be other reasons.

79. In the light of the evidence the Panel determined that it was not proved that, if the assessment was provided by the Registrant, it was not of an adequate standard.

80. The Panel noted that Witness 1 does not specify time scales as to when the assessment was written or received. Therefore the Panel cannot assess whether or not the assessment had been submitted in a timely manner.

81. The HCPC has not provided sufficient evidence that the assessment was written by the Registrant, or when it was written, or specific detail as to its standard/inadequacy.

82. The Panel determined that Particular 5 was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 6(a) – found not proved
6. In relation to Child E, you did not complete the following court documents by 10 February 2014 and/or in a timely manner:
a) care plan
83. The Registrant accepted that it was her responsibility to complete the care plan for Child E. She stated that she did complete it in a timely manner.

84. The Panel has carefully considered the correspondence in relation to Child E and noted the following:
(a) there is an email dated 5 February 2014 stating that the care plan was due to be received by the Legal Department by 10 February 2014;
(b) there is an email dated 13 February 2014 from the Legal Department that indicated the care plan had been received by them;
(c) there is a further email dated 19 February 2014 from the Legal Department to Witness 1 which stated “I am concerned about the Re: [REDACTED] analysis which needs to address why adoption is the only care plan for [Child E] over the alternatives. I emailed Halimah about the need for Re [REDACTED] to be addressed on 11 February 2014 and cc’d you into this email “

85. The above evidence suggests, in the Panel’s view, that the care plan had been received by the Legal Department by 11 February 2014. The care plan produced to the Panel is dated 10 February 2014. The Panel notes that there is no evidence of the actual date of submission of the care plan. Given that there is correspondence, of 11 February 2014, regarding the care plan it is possible that it was submitted on the 10 or 11 February 2014. In the Panel’s view this could not be described as untimely.

86. The Panel determined that Particular 6(a) is not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 6(b) – found not proved
6. In relation to Child E, you did not complete the following court documents by 10 February 2014 and/or in a timely manner:
b) statement
87. The Panel was satisfied, from the emails from the Legal Department contained within the evidence bundle, that it was the responsibility of the Registrant to complete the statement.

88. The Registrant’s case was that she did complete the statement and submitted it in a timely manner.

89. The statement, or a copy, was not produced to the Panel and as such the Panel has no information as to the date of the statement. The Panel also did not have any evidence as to when it was submitted.

90. There is reference in emails that demonstrate that as of 19 February 2014, the statement was being amended and that amendments continued to take place on 27 February 2014.

91. The Panel noted that the Supervision Note of 20 February 2014 makes reference to the need for the Registrant to complete the statement. The Panel interpreted this as referring to the finalisation of the statement, given that the Legal Department had a copy of it on 19 February 2014, it being still subject to amendments.

92. The HCPC has provided insufficient evidence in respect of this Particular. The Panel determined that Particular 6(b) was not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 6(c) – found not proved
6. In relation to Child E, you did not complete the following court documents by 10 February 2014 and/or in a timely manner:
c) addendum parenting assessment
93. There is sparse evidence in relation to this document. No addendum Parenting Assessment was submitted in evidence and Witness 1 provided no evidence in relation to this assessment.

94. There is an email dated 13 February 2014 from the Legal Department to the Registrant asking her if she had completed the addendum Parenting Assessment, apologising in the event that she might have already done so.

95. The Registrant’s evidence is that she was not required to complete this assessment.

96. The HCPC has provided insufficient evidence in respect of this Particular. The Panel determined that Particular 6(c) was not proved.

Decision on grounds
97. Having made its findings on fact, the Panel then went on to consider whether the Particulars found proved, i.e. 1(a) and 2(b), amounted to lack of competence or misconduct.

98. It took into account the submission that were made by Ms Manning-Rees and Mr Panton.

99. Ms Manning-Rees referred the Panel to the case of Roylance v General Medical Council [1999] UKPC 16, in particular to the judgement of Lord Clyde who described misconduct as:

“a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances.”

100. Ms Manning-Rees submitted that, if the facts were found proved, the Registrant had breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2012 edition): 1, 3, 10.

101. She further submitted that the Registrant had also breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of proficiency for Social Workers: 1.3, 1.5, 2 as whole, 3.1, 4.3, 9.7, and 14.2.

102. Mr Panton submitted that these matters could not amount to misconduct. He reminded the Panel that Witness 1 had stated that she did not consider these matters to be matters of conduct but rather matters of competence. He submitted that the matters were not so serious as to amount to misconduct in these proceedings, nor to a lack of competence. He reminded the Panel that the Registrant was dismissed with three months’ notice in which she was required to continue working for the Council.

Legal advice
103. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that there was no burden or standard of proof when determining whether the facts found proved amounted to one of the two statutory grounds. The Panel was to exercise its own professional judgment when making its decision.

104. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel to look to the relevant HCPC Standards in respect of conduct and proficiency and consider whether the Registrant had adhered to them.

105. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the decisions in the following cases:
a) Andrew Francis Holton v General Medical Council [2006] EWHC 2960
b) Calhaem v GMC [2007] EWHC 2606 (Admin)
c) Roylance v GMC (2000) 1 AC 311

106. The Legal Assessor advised that the assessment of competence must be by reference to a fair sample of the Registrant’s work. If the Panel was satisfied that it had before it a fair sample of the Registrant’s work, then the standard of competence by which the Registrant is to be judged is that which is applicable to the post the Registrant was in and the work she was carrying out.

107. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that misconduct has been defined as acts or omissions that fall short of what would be proper in the circumstances.

108. He advised that it was important to keep the matters in perspective and to take into account the circumstances of the case. He further advised that the potential consequences was one factor to be taken into account but was not to be the main factor.

Panel consideration and decision
109. The panel exercised its own judgement in determining whether the Particulars found proved amounted to one of the statutory grounds. The panel was mindful that the standard to be applied, as set out in the case of Holton was that applicable to the post to which the Registrant was employed, that is, a Social Worker, and the work.

110. The Panel first considered whether the Particulars proved amounted to a lack of competence on the part of the Registrant. The Panel determined that Particulars 1(a) and 2(b) did not amount to a fair sample of the Registrant’s work. Those matters only represented two instances when two discrete assessments were not completed in a timely manner.

111. The Panel did not find that Particulars 1(a) and 2(b) amounted to a lack of competence on the part of the Registrant.

112. The Panel then went on to consider whether Particulars 1(a) and 2(b) amounted to misconduct for the purpose of these proceedings. The Panel reminded itself that misconduct is “a word of general effect, involving some act or omission, which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances”, and that Misconduct is qualified by the word “serious”.

113. In relation to Particular 1(a), the mischief was that the assessment was expected in January 2014 but was not completed until May 2014. In determining the seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct, the Panel took into account the circumstances of Child A’s case and the level of potential risk to Child A posed by the delay in the circumstances.

114. Any delay in an assessment in the context of child protection invariably will give rise to some level of risk. However, Child A was already subject to a Child Protection Plan as part of the Public Law Outline. As such there were protective measures already in place and the risk of harm was therefore relatively low. Furthermore, Witness 1 said that she did not believe that the Registrant’s conduct was wilful. The Panel determined that the Registrant’s conduct in Particular 1(a), whilst not acceptable, did not in the particular circumstances of this case fall so far below the standard expected of a competent Social Worker so as to amount to misconduct.

115. In relation to Particular 2(b), Witness 1 had asked the Registrant to complete the Parenting Assessment by 21 May 2014. The document was apparently completed on 25 May 2014, but Witness 1 did not receive it until 27 May 2014, which was the day the Parenting Assessment was due for filing to court.

116. The Panel took into account that the assessment also relied upon the work of AB and CM, and that the Registrant had a short period of time to complete the assessment, from when she received the work of AB and CM.

117. The Panel determined that in the circumstances, the Registrant’s conduct constituted poor practice but in the circumstances of the case was not so serious as to amount to misconduct.

118. Taking Particulars 1(a) and 2(b) together, the Panel recognised that these were two instances of not completing assessments in a timely manner in the context of a long and unblemished career and as such, collectively,  do not meet the threshold for misconduct.

119. The Panel determined that the allegation that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired is not well founded.

 

Order

No information currently available

Notes

 

 

 

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Halimah Balimuttajjo Kibirige

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Not well founded
15/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Hearing has not yet been held