Stephen David Ball
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Proceeding in Absence
1. The Panel was informed that notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address dated 12 June 2018. The Panel was also referred to an email from the Registrant to the HCPTS dated 6 July in which the Registrant confirmed that he waived the 28 day notice period.
2. The Panel was satisfied that notice of hearing had been properly served. Ms Wills applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel had regard to email correspondence between the Registrant and HCPTS. In particular, the Panel noted in his email dated 14 May 2018, that the Registrant had informed the HCPC that he was not currently living in the United Kingdom and understood that he would not need to attend a hearing.
3. The Panel also noted that the Registrant had consented to and signed the Voluntary Removal Agreement. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of today’s hearing, having waived the 28 notice period following receipt of the notice of hearing dated 12 June 2018. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself from this hearing. The Panel considered that no useful purpose would be served by adjourning the hearing to another date. For these reasons, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Application to Proceed in Private
4. Ms Wills made an application for the whole hearing to be in private given that matters of the Registrant’s health, which were central to the case would be discussed. Having taken advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel allowed the application and decided that the whole hearing would be held in private.
5. On 1 February 2010, a Registration Committee of the General Social Care Council (GSCC) granted the Registrant registration for three years subject to conditions. This was on the basis that the Registrant suffered from Bipolar Disorder, a depressive episode that resulted in his not working for four years around 2004 and a significant gambling addiction.
6. The matter was subsequently transferred from the GSCC to the HCPC on 1 August 2012.
7. The first substantive review hearing was held on 27 November 2012. At the hearing, the Registrant stated he had not worked at all since April 2011 and then had retired on health grounds in August 2012. He indicated that he had no intention of working for the next 12 months or so in order to benefit from a sustained period of stability. However, the Panel noted that they had not been provided with any independent substantiation of the current health issues. The Panel concluded that the conditions imposed by the GSCC in February 2010, subject to variation, were still necessary for public protection, to uphold the reputation of the Social work profession and to maintain confidence in the regulatory process. The Panel therefore imposed an amended Conditions of Practice Order for a period of three years.
8. The second substantive review hearing for this matter was held on 29 October 2015. The Panel at that hearing noted that, since the previous review, the Registrant had not been able to attend any formal courses in social work and thus keep his professional knowledge up to date. The Panel also referred to a report from Registrant’s Counselling Psychologist which suggested that the Registrant had made significant progress. Nevertheless, the Registrant recognised at the hearing that his health had not improved to such an extent that he would be able to return to social work in the short or medium term and thought it would be appropriate for conditions to remain upon his practice. In light of this, the Panel extended the Conditions of Practice Order for a further three years, subject to amendments. The conditions imposed were as follows:
1. You must continue to cooperate fully and engage with those providing treatment for your mental health conditions.
2. You must seek, and forward to the HCPC an annual report from the most appropriate member of the multi-disciplinary team involved in your care.
3. You must inform any organisation which employs you as a social worker of these conditions of practice, and actively seek occupational health advice.
4. You must only practise as a social worker in an employed capacity, and must inform the HCPC within 28 days of commencing employment or of any change of employer.
9. On 21 February 2018, the HCPC Case Manager for this matter received a telephone call from the Registrant. The Registrant advised that he would like to remove his name from the register as he will be moving abroad and has no intention to practice as a Social Worker. The voluntary removal process was explained to the Registrant.
10. By letter dated 22 February 2018, the Registrant confirmed in writing that he would like to be voluntarily removed from the register. He admitted that his fitness to practice is impaired by his ongoing mental health condition, stating that the impact of this condition on his memory and concentration would make it very difficult for him to practise. He went on to note that, although he is managing his condition, he has not seen the degree of improvement that he had hoped for and does not envisage returning to a social work role in the foreseeable future. The Registrant stated that ‘I have, following a lot of consideration, come to the conclusion that it would not be helpful to my health or recovery to continue to pursue a return to social work or to be registered by the HCPC. Although I have previously expressed a desire to return to social work, I have to accept that this does not seem an achievable goal.’
11. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Wills who referred it to the HCPC skeleton argument dated 20 June 2018. Ms Wills further submitted that, the HCPC was satisfied that the revocation of the current conditions of practice and the voluntary removal from the Register was an appropriate disposal of this case and would protect the public and was in the public interest. This was because its effect was the same as a strike-off from the Register following a finding of impairment of fitness to practise in that it would prevent the Registrant from practising or applying to re-join the Register for a period of five years.
12. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
13. The Panel first reminded itself of the guidance offered in the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Disposal of Cases by Consent”. The Panel noted that it had the power to adopt one of two courses of action:
i. to deal with the case in an expedited manner by approving the proposal set out in the Voluntary Removal Agreement;
ii. to reject the proposal and set the matter down for a substantive hearing.
14. The Panel noted that the registrant had admitted the allegation, had acknowledged his adverse health conditions and had accepted that his fitness to practise is impaired by signing the Voluntary Removal Agreement. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant has shown significant insight into his health conditions and insight as to his inability to practise safely has a Social Worker.
15. The Panel first considered whether to revoke the current Conditions of Practice order. The Panel had regard to the length of time over which the current conditions of practice have been in place. The Panel was of the view that the current conditions of practice had served their purpose in protecting the public by keeping the Registrant’s health under constant review.
16. The Panel further considered that, given the Registrant’s inability to practise as a Social Worker, no purpose was served by the current Conditions of Practice order remaining in place and that it would be disproportionate and unnecessary for the order to be further reviewed. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the revocation of the current Conditions of Practice Order was proportionate and in the public interest.
17. In relation to the Voluntary Removal Agreement, the Panel was satisfied that the public would be protected, and the public interest served, by the Voluntary Removal Agreement which has the same effect as striking off. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the signed Voluntary Removal Agreement was a proportionate and appropriate response.
18. For all these reasons, the Panel considered it appropriate to approve the signed Voluntary Removal Agreement dated 25 June 2018.
Order: (i) The Current Conditions of Practice Order is revoked.
(ii) The Voluntary Removal Agreement dated 25 June 2018 is approved.
This is a Voluntary Removal Agreement Hearing taking place at HCPTS London on Monday 09 July 2018 at 10:00am.
If the Registrant seeks to return to the HCPC Register at any time the application would be treated as if the registrant had been struck off as a result of that allegation.
History of Hearings for Stephen David Ball
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|09/07/2018||Health Committee||Final Hearing||Voluntary Removal agreed|
|29/10/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|