Miss Jayne Lesley Hall

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW06880

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 09/05/2018 End: 16:00 10/05/2018

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

Between January and March 2015, during the course of your employment as a Social Worker by CLIC Sargent:

 

1)    In relation to a claim for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Service User A, a 15 year old male, you:

 

a)    Asked Service User A to sign the DLA form before obtaining further information from Service User A and/or his family;

 

b)    Did not photocopy the form for the file;

 

c)    Did not securely file the form, in that the form was stored in another young person's file;

 

d)    Did not complete and/or post the form;

 

e)    Informed Service User A's family that you had completed and/or posted the DLA form, when this was not the case.

 

2)    In relation to a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for Service User B, a 17 year old female, you:

 

a)    Asked Service User B to sign the PIP form before the form was completed and/or before obtaining further information from Service User B and/or her family;

 

b)    Did not photocopy the PIP form for the file;

 

c)    Did not securely file the PIP form, in that you filed it in Service User B's medical notes;

 

d)    Did not complete the PIP form in full and/or post the PIP form;

 

e)    On 17 and/or 18 March 2015, informed Service User B's father that you had completed and/or posted the PIP form, when this was not the case.

 

3)    Your actions described in paragraphs 1 e) and/or 2 e) were dishonest.

 

4)    The matters described in paragraphs 1 e), 2e) and/or 3 constitute misconduct.

 

5)    The matters described in paragraphs 1 a) - d) and 2 a) - d) constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

Finding

1. This is a reconvened final hearing which commenced on 8 and 9 May 2017. At the outset of that hearing there was some confusion as to the Registrant’s address.  This was clarified, and following a short break to allow the Registrant the opportunity to review the papers, Ms Long confirmed that the Registrant had now seen all the written documentation and had read Witness 1’s witness statement. Ms Long confirmed that the Registrant had now seen all the documents she required to see in order to commence the hearing.


2. Ms Sheridan made an application to amend the allegation to better clarify the evidence. This was not opposed by Ms Long. The Panel took and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and granted the application to amend.


3. On 8 May 2017, the HCPC presented its case and the Panel heard evidence from Witness 1. The HCPC closed its case on 8 May 2017.


4. A written decision was issued on 9 May following an application by the Registrant for an adjournment, which was granted.


5. The hearing reconvened on 8 August 2017.


Background


6. The Registrant commenced employment with CLIC Sargent in August 2014 and was employed as a young person's Senior Social Worker, working with teenagers and young adults suffering from cancer, as part of a regional specialist team. A large part of the role required the Registrant to assist families with the completion of claim forms for the benefits, namely Disability Living Allowance, (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment, (PIP). These benefits assist with some of the extra costs incurred to families from their children living with cancer.


7. Research done on the financial impact on people with a cancer diagnosis shows it is imperative that social workers supporting young people with cancer, acknowledge the financial impact and support young people in applying for these benefits. The case concerns two service users: Service User A, a 15 year old boy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2014 and was referred to the Social Work Team for assessment and support. The case was allocated to the Registrant who met with Service User A and his mother, Person C, in December 2014.


8. The second service user, Service User B, was a 17 year old girl with a disabling condition, aplastic anaemia.


9. The Registrant left the CLIC Sargent offices on 18 March 2015 and did not return to work after that date.


 HCPC Case


10. It is alleged from the outset that financial issues were highlighted to the Registrant as a priority, given that Service User A did not have long to live. He sadly died in August. The claim process for DLA was initiated on 18 December 2014 and the completed form had to be returned to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) by 29 January 2015. On 13 March 2015, Person C, contacted CLIC Sargent to say that she had still not heard anything from the DWP regarding the claim for benefits in respect of DLA. The DWP confirmed that they had not received any DLA application form or the DS1500 form, a fast track version of the DLA form for terminally ill patients. It was later arranged by Witness 1 for a DLA claim form and the DS1500 form to be urgently completed and submitted and fortunately, the DWP agreed to backdate that claim, which amounted to some £2,000.


11. After the Registrant’s departure, the Registrant's files were checked and an incomplete DLA form for Service User A was found in another service user’s file. 


12. In relation to Service User B, a PIP claim process was started on 18 February 2015 with a deadline for submission of 20 March 2015. The Registrant met with Service User B and her father, Person E, on 10 March 2015 to complete the relevant form. The Registrant did not have time to complete the form in full but got the young person to sign it and said that she would complete the remainder of the form herself. Service User B's father sent a text message to the Registrant checking on the progress of the PIP form and she replied on 18 or 19 March 2015 and told him that she had completed the application form and posted it to DWP. On 24 March 2015, a medical secretary found the PIP form in Service User B's medical notes. Although this form had been signed by Service User B, it had not been completed or posted to the DWP. The PIP application was then completed urgently by Witness 1, accepted by the DWP, and a back payment of benefits was made to the family. 

13. In both cases, the parents complained and there was a risk of serious financial disadvantage to them at a time of great vulnerability.

14. Ms Sheridan opened the case for the HCPC, summarised the facts and provided the Panel with a written Opening Statement. She submitted that should the Panel find any or all of the factual particulars proved, the HCPC will submit that the Registrant’s actions amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence and fell seriously short of what would be expected in the circumstances. Ms Sheridan indicated that the HCPC would invite the Panel to consider the question of whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.  It is the HCPC's case that the Registrant lied to the parents and/or her work colleagues about having completed and posted the forms, when she had not done this, and it is the HCPC's case that the Registrant behaved dishonestly. 

Witness 1


15. On 8 May 2017, the Panel heard from Witness 1. She is currently the Senior Practitioner Social Worker in the Regional Specialist Team at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital, Leeds. She took the oath and confirmed that her Witness Statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief.

16. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant had previously worked in a hospice as a Social Worker, so was fully aware of the need to complete the DLA form promptly, as well as photocopy the completed documents so that they could be used as evidence for the DWP. Whilst it was acknowledged that the PIP form was at the time, relatively new, it was seen as similar in content to the DLA form and the completion process was similar to the DLA form.

17. Witness 1 told the Panel about the research on the financial impact of a diagnosis of cancer on families. She explained the importance of a social worker’s role in applying to the DWP and the way in which the DLA form is completed, signed and photocopied. She said that it was not acceptable to have a service user sign a blank or incomplete form. She said the DWP was very strict about the returning of the forms and explained that almost every service user completes these forms and that completion was often seen as part of the social work assessment. Witness 1 said that the team the Registrant worked in was supportive and friendly.

18. Witness 1 explained in her evidence the position as to Service User A, his diagnosis and the DLA and DS1500 forms. She explained the role of the Consultant Doctor in the approval and the submission of the DS1500 form and that the doctor must sign it. It was the responsibility of the Registrant to post the form. She told the Panel that the Consultant had been angry regarding the parents’ distress as a result of the Registrant’s failure to post the DLA form and the consequent need to complete a DS1500 form to expedite the claim. The reason for the consultant’s anger was that she had to inform the parents, prematurely, of their child’s terminal prognosis, before she felt the father was emotionally ready to hear this news.

19. With regard to Service User B, Witness 1 told the Panel about the PIP claim process with the deadline for submission on 20 March 2015. She said that the Service User’s father had received a text message from the Registrant stating that the forms had been lodged with the DWP when they had not, and he had been very annoyed about this. Witness 1 confirmed that she had seen this text message.

20. Responding to questions from Ms Long for the Registrant, Witness 1 accepted that the forms can be checked and amended in a minor way by the social worker after the meeting with a service user, but should not be actually completed afterwards without the service user’s involvement. She said that social workers would take a copy of the form for the file and leave a copy with the family.

21. Witness 1 confirmed she had raised concerns with the Registrant at supervision meetings, including regarding her well-being, but did not recall the Registrant raising issues with her about experiencing stress which affected her work. 

22. Witness 1 told the Panel how upset and cross the mother of Service User A had been about the lack of submission of the forms.

23. Witness 1 said the Registrant had a caseload of about 14 cases, increasing to 20 at most. Ms Long submitted the Registrant’s contention that she had been bullied at work. In response, Witness 1 said that the Registrant was not being bullied but was offered help and support to do her work but that she had perhaps interpreted that as bullying. She said she never saw her being bullied. She stated that the Registrant did not seem to like being challenged.

The Registrant’s Case

24. The Registrant took the oath. She referred the Panel to her statement in the bundle. The Registrant admitted particular 1(a) and said that her managers told her it was appropriate to have the DLA form signed before it was completed and that it was acceptable to do so in order to minimise the impact of an unnecessary and lengthy meeting with a service user and family.

25. As to particular 1(b), the Registrant denied this as she said that she had no recollection of this. On particular 1(c), the Registrant said that she had no recollection of whether or not this had happened. The Registrant said she had deteriorating health at this time and had no recollection but it could just happen as it was human error to mis-file. On particular 1 (d), (e) and (f), the Registrant said she had no recollection of the incidents. She said that she was clear on her judgment that it was appropriate to process a DS1500 form in December 2014. The Registrant took advice from Service User A’s Consultant who said that Service User A had a very poor prognosis. The Registrant was clear that, given the Service User’s needs, she could process the form and that her decisions were sound and appropriate. However, she explained that team members did not agree with her approach and criticised her. She maintained that she was justified in her actions.


26. The Registrant said that she had no memory of the conversation with Service User A’s mother as referred to in Service User’s A’s complaint letter in the bundle.


27. In regards to Service User B, the Registrant said that this was an unusual case. The Registrant, on her judgement, determined a need to travel a significant distance to meet with Service User B and her family at their local hospital. The Registrant said that the form was reviewed at the bedside of Service User B. She noted additionally that Service User B’s father was distressed at the time. She understood that it was appropriate not to spend too long in these circumstances completing the form and she said she had completed some of the form after the visit. Particular 2 (b) and (c) was denied as she said that she had no memory of that incident.


28. The Registrant admitted particular 2 (d). She explained that her health issues were then impacting on her at work. She said she had had a difficult discussion with her manager on 18 March 2015 and she was meant to post the form on that particular date, but she had hit a crisis point with her health.


29. The Registrant said that she did not recall the incident at 1(e) at all and denied that it was dishonest. As to particular 2(e), the Registrant said that she admitted it was dishonest. She was very sorry and had not anticipated that she would not return to work. She said that she expected to return to work the following day and intended to post the form then. In her mind, 1 day would not make much difference to the deadline.


30. The Registrant admitted particular 2(e), and admitted that this was dishonest. She was very sorry and had anticipated returning to work. She said that she had health problems at the time and was unable to function.  She could not attend work on 19 March 2015, did not return to work, was signed off, and ultimately resigned. The Registrant referred to the record of her consultation with her doctor on 20 March 2015. She said she was criticised by her senior colleagues and felt bullied and intimidated. She did not understand the level of criticism as she had just passed her probation period. On 20 March 2015, she received a sick note for a week. She then decided to resign as she saw no way forward. 


31. The Registrant said that it was very sad these complaints had been made and she understood the HCPC Code of Conduct, the personal impact on the service users and the impact on the reputation of the profession. She understood the Code of Conduct and the need for the HCPC to maintain standards and professional ethics. The Registrant had wanted to work for CLIC Sargent as she had dealt with a service user in a previous role, who had cancer and had been supported by CLIC Sargent. On being appointed, she said that the role was her dream job and she had moved house to take up the position.


32. The Registrant told the Panel that from day one, she had struggled with her manager’s style. She said there was a culture of bullying and did not want to be part of her employer’s culture. She had found it difficult to work with two teams over two locations, and to work autonomously. She had told her Supervisor about these difficulties and had received some support but she still struggled as her confidence was diminishing. The Registrant said she should have asked for more support and been more insightful about her own well-being.


33. The Registrant told the Panel that she was working hard to make a difference and did do so in other cases. However, in these two cases, those of Service User A and Service User B, she had made mistakes and her mental health had been part of that.  She said she ought to have been more careful and was devastated about the impact on the service users’ families.


34. Looking to the future, the Registrant said she would not return to this environment again and had insight into her health condition. The Registrant said she would be more careful about job roles and where her strengths lay, which were not in benefits entitlement. With reference to the Registrant’s health information before the Panel, she explained that it related to her ability to function.


35. Responding to questions from Ms Sheridan, the Registrant accepted that the forms were basic and she had professional experience of dealing with such forms.


36. Regarding particular 2(a), and Service User B, the Registrant said she had no recollection that the PIP form was totally blank when it was found. She accepted that it had happened but she had been struggling with her health. She agreed it was not right to have a blank form signed. The Registrant said that not all the information on the PIP form needed to come from the Service User as some information related to the medical condition. She said that the blank form, found after the deadline for lodging with the DWP, would have been completed by her subsequently.  


37. In regards to finding the form on the medical file of the Service User, the Registrant said she had no recollection of this incident. Witness 1 said that the social workers were responsible for filing the document and the Registrant agreed that this was the case. The Registrant said that she did not recall losing the form and had poor recollection of that period but she knew the process. She confirmed she had left work on the 18 March 2015, but disputed that the text message was sent on the 19 March as she recalled sending it after leaving work on 18 March 2015.  She could not disagree with the record in the bundle that said 19 March 2015 but said she had been expecting to return to her job the next day. She recalled seeing her GP on 20 March 2015.


38. On particular 2(d), the Registrant thought she would “rally” and she had told Service User B’s father that the form had been posted. She accepted that was a lie but she had expected to see the task through within 24 hours. After leaving the job, the Registrant accepted she had still not told her colleagues about this issue. She said she should have prioritised the Service User’s interests above her own, and that she had failed to do so given the crisis in her health at the time. She regretted that. She said she had resigned on 20 March 2015 and did not agree that it was still her responsibility to do so as she was no longer at work. She accepted she was meant to assist the families, not add to their stress.


39. On particular 1(a), the Registrant confirmed that the Service User was asked by her to sign the form when it was not completed. She did not agree with Witness 1 who had said only small amendments could be made after signing. She accepted large amendments to the forms should not be made before signatures are sought and that she had left many boxes in the DLA form blank, including illness details. She said she had various disputes with colleagues regarding this Service User and had lost confidence in her abilities. 


40. The Registrant was referred to a section of the transcript of Witness 1’s evidence on 8 May 2017. Witness 1 had said that the DS1500 form would not have been needed in December 2014. The Registrant disagreed. The Registrant said that she did not recall whether or not she had taken a photocopy of the forms as her ability to function was impacted on by her health.


41. The Registrant accepted that the incomplete form could not have been sent to the DWP and that she had not forwarded the form onto the DWP. She said she did not recall losing any forms and managed her other cases properly. She could not explain why she had not chased the DWP about the forms but attributed this to being unwell at the time.  She did not recall any discussion about the DS1500 form in March 2015, but she said she felt bullied. She said she had been told not to send the DS1500 form in December 2014. She did not recall telling Witness 1 that she had sent the DS1500 form in March 2014, when approval for it had been given.

 
42. The Registrant stated that she had tried to make a difference for the mother of Service User A and that was why a massage and gifts had been offered. None of her other service users had been offered such gifts. The Registrant denied offering these gifts as a “sweetener” (suggested by the HCPC, because she felt guilty for letting the family down). She said she had reflected and had shown compassion and remorse for her actions. She said her health had been a barrier at the time. 


43. The Registrant was referred to the health information in the bundle of documents. She agreed she has been dealing with a condition for a long time.  There were no prescriptions made to the Registrant in February and March 2015. The Registrant said that she had a back stock of medication to use during that period and therefore did not need to seek further prescriptions.


44. The Registrant accepted that she had lied about posting the form. In regards to her testimonials, she accepted that her referees did not refer to the HCPC allegation but was clear that some of them knew about it. Regarding the reference from her current employer the Registrant confirmed that she had given this referee brief details about the HCPC allegation, including the dishonesty aspect of the allegation.


45. In response to Panel questions, the Registrant said that she had first suffered from  a health condition in 1999. With regards to her GP’s advice on the need to take the prescribed medication daily, the Registrant said the drug was very quickly effective and so she did not need to take it daily. At the time of the incidents alleged, she thinks she may have been taking it daily from December 2014. The Registrant said she would tend to reduce the medication over the space of a week or ten days once it was effective. This year she said she had taken it for one month out of six.


46. The Registrant explained the record of her prescriptions. It was a “rolling” prescription and she did not always use the medication and would sometimes have “back stock” of several boxes.  She did not recall consulting her GP at the time of the alleged incidents. She regretted not mentioning her health to her line manager and seeking support.


47. The Registrant explained her position regarding intimidation and bullying. She said her position was sometimes overlooked and ignored and she struggled with her line manager from day one and on her final day, she said that she had been “grilled” for two hours in a bullying and highly critical fashion. She said she had been “rusty” on benefit forms when she joined the employer and was confused about the DS1500 form.


48. The Registrant said that she had told her current employers about the specifics of the HCPC allegation but they had not seen the written allegation. She had coped well with other cases but had felt increasingly isolated in the team.  She knew other colleagues had experienced similar problems in regards to being bullied.


49. On the impact on public confidence, the Registrant said that two families had experienced neglectful service and that will impact on the reputation of CLIC Sargent. She said she was desperately sorry for the families concerned and was aware of her professional duties and the HCPC Code of Conduct.  She said that a lay person would think she had been inappropriately quiet. The Registrant said that she was a sensitive person and had lost confidence in her abilities. She had reflected on her skills and competence as this was a significant event that she did not want to repeat for any other family.


50. The Registrant had considered her fear of stigma regarding her health issues and the need to recognise that and be more open and honest and access support in the workplace. The Registrant accepted that her actions would have had a direct impact on the Service Users as the stress on the parents was significant and she accepted there was also a financial impact. 


51. The Registrant said that she did not agree with Witness 1’s evidence that there were regular offers of training and said that Witness 1 had exaggerated the weaknesses in the Registrant’s practice and had witnessed the Registrant being bullied.


Closing Submissions for the HCPC


52. Ms Sheridan, for the HCPC, made closing submissions. She summarised the evidence on each of the particulars of the allegation and she reminded the Panel as to the burden and standard of proof. She invited the Panel to find all of the particulars proved. She reminded the Panel of the law on dishonesty and asked the Panel to note that none of the references provided by the Registrant make clear the referees are aware of the dishonesty allegation. She invited the Panel to find that the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct.


53. Ms Sheridan referred to the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. She submitted that the Registrant breached standards 1, 3, 7, 10, 13 and her behaviour amounted to misconduct. She submitted this was a particularly serious case given the risk of serious financial disadvantage to both of the Service User’s families. Service User B’s father was lied to by the Registrant. The Registrant did nothing to have the PIP form submitted in time after leaving CLIC Sargant, despite being in contact with her line manager. The Registrant put her interests far ahead of the Service Users. Service Users B’s payment was received much later that it ought to have been had the Registrant submitted it on time.


54. Ms Sheridan made specific reference to Service User A’s mothers hope to have used, in part, the DLA funding for special activities for her son, whilst he was well enough to be able to do them. Unfortunately, the DLA funding arrived too late for this to happen as Service User A’s health deteriorated and he became too ill to partake in the activities. He sadly died shortly after this time and Service User A’s mother was devastated that she was not able to spend this precious time partaking in the activities with her son.


55. Ms Sheridan referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment and submitted that both the personal and public components were engaged. She submitted that the Registrant was evasive and had a selective memory and displayed no insight about the impact on the children in these two cases. A great deal has been made of the Registrant’s health at the time of the incidents. The medical evidence did not support that account. She submitted that there had been no meaningful remediation and referred the Panel to guidance CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin).  


Closing Submissions for the Registrant


56. Ms Long, for the Registrant, made closing submissions. She submitted that Witness 1’s evidence was supportive of the Registrant’s position on 1(a), ie. that it was acceptable for an applicant to sign a form before completion. The Registrant was unable to recall the events in 1 (b),(c), (d), (e) , 2 (a), (b), (c) and (d).  The Registrant admitted the dishonesty in respect of particular 2 (e) but said that she had planned to submit the form the following day. She deeply regrets her actions and admits they amount to misconduct. Ms Long submitted that the Registrant did her best to assist Service Users A’s family but was blocked by senior medical staff in respect of submitting the original DS1500 form.


57. Ms Long submitted that the Registrant acted out of character given her chronic health problems.  In addition, the negative atmosphere contributed to the Registrant’s problems.


58. Ms Hall referred to Witness 1’s evidence and submitted that this evidence supported the Registrant’s evidence on being bullied. She submitted that this was a subjective test and it was the Registrant who felt bullied whilst at CLIC Sargent.


59. On impairment, it was accepted that at the time of the allegation, the Registrant’s fitness to practise had been impaired. Ms Long submitted that since that time, the Registrant has practised without any concerns and this is supported by her employer’s reference. She said the Registrant had developed insight into her health issues, has reflected on the impact of her actions on service users and accepted full responsibility for her mistakes. The Panel was reminded of a positive reference made with knowledge regarding the dishonesty allegation. Ms Long submitted that the Registrant had a 17 year unblemished career and asserted that there was no likelihood of repetition and that her fitness to practise is not currently impaired.

 
60. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel that the civil burden of proof of the allegation rests on the HCPC, and that the Registrant need prove nothing. He also reminded the Panel that it must assess and weigh all the evidence and consider each particular of the allegation carefully in turn. He advised the Panel on finding dishonesty and referred it to the guidance in R v Ghosh 1982 QB 1053 and Uddin v GMC [2012] EWHC 2669 (Admin).  He reminded the Panel that the Registrant had admitted an element of dishonesty in this case.

 
61. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that once it has made a decision on each particular, if any are proved, it should next consider the alleged grounds of misconduct and/or lack of competence. Those were matters for the Panel’s own professional judgement and no onus rested on the HCPC. He reminded the Panel of the guidance on misconduct in the case of Roylance v GMC [2001] 1 AC 311. On impairment, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and to the important and helpful guidance in the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin).  Impairment was a matter for the Panel’s professional judgement and it required the Panel to consider whether the misconduct or lack of competence had been remediated and look to both the past and the future in order to assess the risk of repetition. The Panel must keep at the forefront of its mind the fundamental consideration of protecting the public and the wider public interest. 


Decision on Facts


62. The Panel found Witness 1 to be clear and concise and her evidence was balanced, credible and reliable.  Witness 1’s evidence was also consistent with the documentary evidence. It accepted her evidence. The Panel accepted her evidence that the Registrant was “liked” by the team. 


63. The Panel found that whilst the Registrant sought to assist the Panel, her evidence was at times incomplete, inconsistent and defensive, particularly with regard to the completion of the relevant forms.


64. On balance, the Panel preferred the evidence of Witness 1 to that of the Registrant.


65. The Panel noted the Registrant’s reference to bullying and also noted the evidence of Witness 1 in that regard. The Panel does not have sufficient evidence to make any finding with regards to the issue of bullying, and does not do so.


66. On the issues of the Registrant’s health, the Panel carefully considered the medical evidence before it.  From 1999, the Registrant had a regular prescription but she told the Panel that she did not take the medication in the manner prescribed by her GP. She said she could nonetheless manage her heath issue. The Panel noted that the Registrant attributed her difficulties in the relevant period to her health. The Panel accepts the Registrant’s evidence that she suffers from the identified health issue. However, it finds from the medical records before it that the Registrant did not take her prescription in the manner advised by her doctor and, despite being aware of her health issues, chose not to disclose her condition to her employers and colleagues. The Panel finds that in doing so, the Registrant placed her interests above those of her service users. The Panel notes that the Registrant accepts that her fitness to practise was impaired at the time of the allegation, but do not find from the evidence it had before it, that the alleged actions of the Registrant were directly caused by reason of her health issue.


67. The Panel reminded itself that the Registrant had, on 8 May 2017, formally admitted particulars 1(a), 2 (a), 2 (d) and 2 (e) of the allegation and particular 3 as to dishonesty, so far as it relates to particular 2 (e).


1. In relation to a claim for Disability Allowance (DLA) for Service User A, a 15 year old male, you:


a) Asked Service User A’s mother to sign the DLA form before completing the form in full – Proved


68. The Registrant admitted this particular and the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1.  Witness 1 said that whilst final adjustments to the DLA form could be made after its completion with the service user, the form had to be substantially completed with the service user, particularly given the legal declaration on the DLA form. Witness 1 explained that substantial and key areas of the form were not completed by the Registrant before she had asked the Service User’s mother to sign it. The Panel finds this particular proved.


b) Did not photocopy the form for the file - Proved
c) Filed the form in another young person’s file - Proved 
d) Did not post the form - Proved


69. The Registrant said that she had no recollection of this incident. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that the form had not been photocopied and had been found in another Service User’s file. The Panel finds that given the DLA form was substantially incomplete and found in the wrong file, that it could not have been posted. The Panel  finds this particular proved.


e) Informed your team and/or Service User A’s family that you had completed and/or posted the DLA form, when this was not the case - Proved


70. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that she and the Clinical Nurse Specialist had been informed by the Registrant that the form had been completed and posted when it had not been. It noted that the Service User’s mother said in her complaint letter that the Registrant had told her the form had been completed and posted and she had understood that it was with the DWP. The Registrant said that she had no recollection of the incident. The Panel finds this particular proved.


f) Processed a DS1500 Form but did not post it - Proved


71. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence of Witness 1 who told the Panel about the reasoning of the medical team.  It accepted her evidence about the processing of a DS1500 form and the fast track process of seeking approval.


72. The Panel noted that the Registrant said she was blocked by the medical team in December 2014 from processing the form. The Registrant did not recall if it was her responsibility to post the approved second DS1500 form. However, the Panel accepted Witness 1’s evidence that the Consultant completed the DS1500 form and gave it to the Registrant for processing and posting. Witness 1 said the Registrant had said she would “sort it out” and that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to post the DS1500 form to the DWP.  Witness 1 stated that when she contacted the DWP, they told her that the DS1500 form for the Service User had not been received. The Panel consider, on the balance of probabilities, that the Registrant had not posted the DS1500 form.


2. In relation to a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for Service User B, a 17 year old female, you:
a) Asked Service User B to sign the PIP form before completing the form in full - Proved


73. The Registrant admitted this particular. The Panel accepts the evidence of Witness 1 that she met Service User B’s father who had the signed an otherwise completely blank PIP form. The Panel finds this particular proved.


b) Did not photocopy the PIP form for the file - Proved


74. The Panel accepts the evidence of Witness 1 that the PIP form was not photocopied for the file and it finds this particular proved.


c) Filed the PIP form in Service User B’s medical notes - Proved


75. The Panel accepts Witness 1’s evidence that she had been contacted and told that a ‘Social Work Form’, the PIP form, had been found in Service User B’s medical notes. The evidence was that the Social Worker was responsible for filing.  The Panel finds this particular proved.


d) Did not post the PIP form - Proved


76. As the Registrant did not complete and then misfiled the PIP form, it could not have been posted. The Registrant admits this particular.  The Panel finds this particular proved. 


e) In or around March 2015, informed Service User B’s father that you had completed and/or posted the PIP form, when this was not the case - Proved


77. The Panel accepts Witness 1’s evidence that she saw the text from the Registrant to Service User B’s father stating that the PIP form had been completed and posted. The Registrant admits the particular. The Panel finds the particular proved.


3. Your actions described in paragraphs 1e) and/or 2a) were dishonest.


Particular 3 Proved as to 1 (e)


78. The Panel has found proved the facts in 1(e). The Registrant’s evidence was that she had no recollection of whether she completed and posted the DLA form. The Panel has accepted Witness 1’s evidence. It has found as a matter of fact that the Registrant did not complete or post the DLA form and, further, informed Witness1, a nurse colleague, and the Service User’s mother, that the form had been completed and posted. The Panel finds that the Registrant knew and understood the very difficult circumstances faced by Service User A and his mother.


79. The Panel carefully considered the whole circumstances and the facts found proved. The Panel determined that the Registrant, by informing Witness 1, another colleague, and the Service User A’s mother, that she had completed and posted the DLA form, when that was not correct, knowingly misrepresented the true position and lied to cover her failure to complete and post the form. The Panel finds that the Registrant did not do so innocently and would have known that her actions were dishonest. The Panel finds that the Registrant’s actions in 1(e) were dishonest and finds this particular proved.


Particular 3 Proved as to 2 (e)


80. The Registrant admitted dishonesty as to particular 2 (e), stating that she had intended to lodge the form with the DWP within 24 hours, thus meeting the submission deadline. The Registrant said she left her employer and did not contact them at any stage thereafter to say that she had not, in fact, posted the PIP form. The Panel finds this particular proved.


Decision on Statutory Grounds
Lack of Competence


81. The Panel considered whether the failings of the Registrant amounted to a lack of competence. The Panel determined that no case was made out by the HCPC or by the Registrant that this allegation represented a fair sample of the Registrant’s caseload, as it must be in order to consider a lack of competence. The Panel finds that the Registrant was an experienced Social Worker, with 15 years post-qualifying experience by the time she was employed by CLIC Sargant as a Senior Social Worker.  The allegation relates to basic social work tasks requiring core social work skills. In all the circumstances, the Panel is not satisfied on the evidence before it that this is a case where the facts found proved amount to a lack of competence.


Misconduct


82. The Panel took account of Ms Sheridan’s and Ms Long’s submissions, and it accepted the legal advice. It took account of the facts found proved.  It exercised its own professional judgement and was mindful of the guidance in Roylance v GMC [2001] 1 AC 311.


83. The Panel of its own volition amended the terms of particular 5 which erroneously states  “1 (a) - (f)” whereas 1 (e) is already dealt with at 4. Accordingly, 5. ought properly to read “1 (a), (b), (c), (d) & (f)”,  omitting any reference to 1 (e). 


84. The Panel finds that the actions found proved in particular 3 as it relates to both 1(e), 2(e) were dishonest and as such fell far short of the standards expected of a Registered Social Worker and amount to misconduct.


85. The Panel is concerned that the Registrant placed her assumptions regarding the likely stigma associated with her mental health before the interests and needs of her service users, who were particularly vulnerable and were directly impacted by her actions and inaction. There was an emotional and financial impact on two families.  Service User A’s terminal diagnosis meant there was an irretrievable impact on him and his family, who would never get that time back.  The Registrant asserted that Service User B’s parents were middle class, both in well paid jobs, and that the funding would have paid for extras, rather than essentials, and so there was no immediate crisis. The Panel was appalled by this attitude, as it was not the Registrant’s place to make that judgement, and in any case the funding was a matter for the DWP.  The Panel finds that the facts found proved in respect of the Registrant’s actions and inactions were deplorable, and fell far short of the standard to be expected of a Social Worker and amount to misconduct.


86. The Panel also had regard to the HCPC Standards of conduct performance and ethics (2012).  It concluded that on the basis of the facts found proved in this case standards 1, 3, 7, 10 and 13 were breached, which state:-


1 You must act in the best interests of service users.
3         You must keep high standards of personal conduct.
7 You must communicate properly and effectively with service users
and other practitioners.
10      You must keep accurate records.
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.


Decision on Impairment


87.      In considering its decision on impairment, the Panel was mindful that the purpose of these proceedings is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and was mindful of the guidance in CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin) and the need to be mindful of the public interest.


88.     The Panel consider that the Registrant’s actions and inactions had a very serious impact, particularly on a terminally ill service user, Service User A, and his family. The benefit sought would have made a real difference to that family. The Registrant’s actions caused delay in receiving that benefit which the Panel was told caused serious distress in the last period of the Service User’s life. The Registrant’s actions in respect of Service User B will also have caused stress at a time when the Registrant’s role was to support and alleviate stress. The Registrant seriously let down both of these families despite being an experienced Senior Social Worker. 


89.   The Registrant said that she had suffered from problems associated with her health issues in the past and that she was therefore aware of this issue. Despite this, the Panel was concerned that she did not identify her issues at the time of the events with her employer. She took no steps to mitigate this issue, despite telling the Panel that she had good insight into her health issues.


90.      In relation to the personal component of impairment, the Panel finds that the Registrant has shown limited, genuine remorse or meaningful insight.  It noted that despite giving lengthy evidence, the Registrant mentioned service users only once and referred repeatedly to her own distress and difficulties. Whilst the Panel accepted that the Registrant has reflected on her actions, it remained unclear, as to what extent that has informed or remediated her practice. The Panel considered the references provided, but none make clear that the referees fully knew the terms of HCPC allegation and the Registrant’s evidence on this issue was somewhat ambiguous.


91.   The Panel was concerned that despite lengthy evidence from the Registrant, she did not appear to have fully appreciated the seriousness of her actions and her dishonesty, and the impact on service users and the reputation of the profession. The Registrant sought at times to avoid responsibility for her actions and to explain them by reference to a mental health problem. However, the Panel heard from the Registrant that she does not follow the advice of her doctor on the medication prescribed and did not disclose her health issue to her employer.


92.     The Registrant also sought to explain her actions by reference to a culture of intimidation and bullying. In her evidence, Witness 1 said that the Registrant was liked and supported in her work place team and denied there had been bullying.


93.     The Panel has concerns as to the limited insight and remorse shown by the Registrant and it has little evidence of any meaningful remediation, although the Panel accepts that dishonesty can be difficult to remediate. However, the Panel notes that the Registrant has practised for 2 years since the time of the incidents and 15 years previous to the incidents, to her account, without any issues. Indeed, her current line manager has submitted a positive reference for her, albeit in a different social work role from that of hers at CLIC Sargant.    


94.      In assessing the risk of repetition, the Panel was mindful of the need to protect the public and the guidance in CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin). It finds that in all the circumstances, the Registrant has, and is liable to in the future, put service users at unwarranted risk of harm, in the sense of causing them distress. She has in the past, and is liable in the future, to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute and her actions have breached, and are liable in the future to breach, fundamental tenets of the profession, namely honesty and integrity. The Panel has also found that the Registrant has acted dishonestly and is liable to act dishonestly in the future, due to the lack of remediation. The Panel finds there is a real risk of repetition of the misconduct and dishonesty found.

95.     The Panel had regard to the important public interest considerations. The Panel considered that the misconduct found is likely to, and did, bring her profession into disrepute. The Panel considered Service User A’s mother’s letter of complaint and reflected on Witness 1’s evidence of her meeting with Service User B’s father, who was extremely upset and angry upon the discovery that the PIP form had not been completed and sent. The Registrant has breached fundamental tenets of the profession and it would undermine public trust and confidence in both the reputation of the profession, and the regulatory process, if a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise was not made in this case. Further, there is a need to declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour.


96. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.


Decision on Sanction


97. Ms Long, on behalf of the Registrant, advised the Panel that her client required time to consider the full written decision of the Panel and asked that Sanction be dealt with on a reconvened date. Ms Sheridan opposed this application. Due to the lateness of the hour, the Panel concluded that this hearing required to be continued on a later date in order to hear submissions and make its decision on the issue of Sanction. 


HCPC Application for an Interim Order


98. Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for an Interim Suspension Order.


99. Ms Sheridan referred the Panel to its decision on facts and findings of misconduct and current impairment. She submitted that it would be contrary to its decision on impairment, including dishonesty, not to make an Interim Suspension Order. Ms Sheridan submitted that public protection could only be achieved by way of an Interim Suspension Order.


100. Ms Long submitted that an Interim Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate.  The Registrant is currently working as a Social Worker in the child protection field and has a supportive manager whom Ms Long said would be prepared to oversee the Registrant’s work and cooperate with the HCPC and any conditions applied.


101. Ms Long told the Panel that the Registrant’s current manager had previously indicated that she would support the Registrant if Conditions of Practice were applied.  Ms Long suggested that Interim Conditions of Practice might be that the Registrant’s entire practice is supervised and overseen, perhaps, with weekly reports to the HCPC.  


102. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred it to the HCPTS Practice Note on Interim Orders.  He reminded the Panel that the primary purpose of an Interim Order is public protection and it may only impose an Interim Order if it is necessary in order to protect the public, was in the public interest or in the Registrant’s own interests.  The Panel must consider both an Interim Conditions of Practice Order and an Interim Suspension Order and it must act proportionately.


103. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that Ms Long had requested that a verbal decision on the Interim Order application was handed down at this stage given the lateness of the hour. The Panel agreed to do so.


Decision on Interim Order


104. The Panel carefully considered the application for an Interim Order, pending the reconvened hearing. It has found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, and it has found that there is a risk of repetition of the misconduct and the dishonesty found proved. The Panel has found that an Interim Order is necessary in these circumstances to protect the public and in the wider public interest.  It would be entirely inconsistent with the Panel’s findings not to impose such an order.


105. The Panel next considered whether an Interim Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate and proportionate to protect the public.  Any conditions must be realistic, workable and verifiable.  It noted the submissions from Ms Long regarding the Registrant’s current circumstances.  It noted that Ms Long said that the Registrant’s manager had not been contacted by her to confirm continuing support for the Registrant in respect of any potential Interim Conditions of Practice. In any event, the Panel determines that, given its finding of dishonesty, that an Interim Conditions of Practice Order would not sufficiently protect the public or satisfy the wider public interest.


106. The Panel determines that in all the circumstances and, given its findings, it is necessary to impose an Interim Suspension Order for 18 months to allow for this final hearing to be reconvened and completed.


107. Ms Sheridan asked for standard directions to have the Registrant indicate within 7 working days to the HCPC Case Manager, details of any witnesses to be called by the Registrant at the reconvened hearing date on 25 September 2017 with an indication of whether evidence was to be taken by telephone, video link or in person.  The Panel granted that application.


Reconvened Final Hearing


108. This is a reconvened Final Hearing which commenced 8 and 9 May 2017. At the reconvened hearing on 9 May 2018, the Registrant was not present or represented.


109. The Panel had sight of information that the Notice of hearing was sent by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address on 20 February 2018. The Panel was satisfied that good service had been effected in accordance with Rules 3 and 6 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).


Proceeding in absence


110. Miss Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Miss Sheridan highlighted the chronology of these proceedings which included previous adjournments by the Panel at the Registrant’s request. Miss Sheridan referred to a written application for postponement dated 12 March 2018 which was made by the Registrant by email. This was considered by the HCPTS under delegated authority and was refused on 27 March 2018 after the Registrant had been sent the HCPC skeleton argument and provided an opportunity to make comment. Miss Sheridan informed the Panel that an application for a postponement or adjournment has not been made since that time by the Registrant. Miss Sheridan also referred to an attempt to contact the Registrant by the HCPTS by email on 2 May 2018 to explain that today’s hearing will deal with sanction and asking if the Registrant would like to send in a written statement or attend by telephone. No reply was received. The HCPTS also attempted to speak to the Registrant by telephone twice on 30 April 2018 and once on 2 May 2018 and voice messages were left, but no reply was received. Miss Sheridan submitted the public interest weighs in favour of proceeding today, considering the dishonesty findings that have been made.


111. The Panel had sight of the Registrant’s application for postponement dated 12 March 2018, the HCPC’s skeleton argument in response, the written decision of the HCPTS dated 27 March 2018 refusing the application, and the email from the HCPTS to the Registrant dated 2 May 2018. The Panel considered the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Postponement and Adjournment of Proceedings” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


112. The Panel took into account that there is no application from the Registrant for an adjournment before it today. However, in considering whether or not to proceed today, the Panel did take into account the contents of the Registrant’s previous application for a postponement.  In that application, the Registrant  cited financial difficulties and health issues as reasons why she cannot attend, as well as a request for a delay “to explore the discrimination issues” arising out of the regulatory process.


113. The Panel took into account that there is no medical evidence to support the claims made about the Registrant’s current health. The Panel noted that the hearing adjourned on the last occasion in October 2017 at the Registrant’s request on the basis of her Registrant’s ill health without any documentary evidence to demonstrate the health issues on that occasion. The Panel was of the view that the lack of medical evidence considerably weakened the Registrant’s argument that her health was a reason why she could not attend. 


114. Further, with regard to the Registrant’s financial reasons for being unable to attend, the Panel noted that the email of the HCPTS dated 2 May 2018 to the Registrant referred to the options of providing written material to the Panel or attending by telephone. The HCPTS also advised the Registrant that she could make an application for financial assistance to attend. The Panel was made aware that the Registrant did not respond to these suggestions, and that this weighed in the balance in favour of proceeding.


115. With regard to the Registrant’s complaint regarding the discriminatory approach of the HCPC to the management of the regulatory case against her, there is no particularisation of the complaint nor of how this is a reason why the Panel should not proceed today.


116. The Panel noted the HCPC’s attempts to contact the Registrant by email and telephone in April and May 2018  which were unanswered. There is no suggestion that, if today’s hearing is adjourned to a later date, the Registrant will attend. Further, the Panel took into account that the substantive hearing was first begun some 12 months ago.


117. The Panel took into account all of the factors set out above, as well as fairness to the Registrant. The Registrant has not communicated with the HCPTS since 12 March 2018 despite the HCPTS’ attempts to contact her and suggest alternative means of engaging.  Nor has she applied for an adjournment today. The Panel was satisfied that, in light of this, as well as the delays in the case, the public interest to expeditiously conclude this case outweighed the Registrant’s interests in being present, particularly in light of the dishonesty findings already made.


118. The Panel therefore decided to proceed today.


Decision on Sanction


119. The Panel heard submissions from Miss Sheridan, considered the Indicative Sanctions Policy, and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment. Further, the purpose of sanction is to uphold the public interest, which includes protection of the public, and that any sanction must be proportionate, striking a balance between the public interest and the Registrant’s interests.


120. The Panel was of the view that the mitigating factors in this case are:


i. the Registrant’s previous good character;
ii. no previous fitness to practise history;
iii. 17 years of employment as a social worker before the incidents;
iv.  2 years of employment in a different social worker role in the child protection field since the incidents, with a positive reference from the Registrant’s manager in this role;
v. an admission of some dishonesty at the facts stage;
vi. a degree of insight and remorse demonstrated by the Registrant.

121. The Panel was of the view that the aggravating factors are:

i. the delays of the Registrant led to a delay in funding being received by young service users and their families at a difficult time when the service users were seriously unwell. The delays created by the Registrant’s inaction in respect of obtaining funding for Service User A was such that when the money was paid, he was too ill to be involved in the activities which his mother had planned for him, and he sadly died shortly afterwards;

ii.  emotional harm caused to the service users parents by the Registrant’s delays and dishonesty;

iii. the dishonesty was not isolated;

iv. the Registrant put her own interests, namely her wish not to disclose her ill health, above the interests of service users for whom she was responsible;

122. The Panel considered the nature of the dishonesty of the Registrant, namely that she lied to the parents of sick children that she had processed their claims to funding, to which they were entitled, when she had not. The Panel took into account that there were two instances of dishonesty, but also that there was no financial gain to the Registrant. Taking all these factors into account, the Panel was satisfied that this dishonesty was in the middle of the spectrum of seriousness.

123. The Panel first considered taking no further action and discounted this because the misconduct was too serious. Further, it would not place any restrictions on the Registrant’s practice to address the risks which she presents, as already identified by the Panel. The Panel considered and rejected a Caution Order for the same reasons.

124. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order but was not able to formulate conditions to address the Registrant’s dishonesty and therefore decided that Conditions would not protect the public. Further, the Panel was of the view that the misconduct was too serious for a Conditions of Practice Order to be appropriate or proportionate and would not satisfy the wider public interest.

125. The Panel then considered Suspension. The Panel was of the view that there are no psychological or other difficulties which prevent the Registrant from understanding and remedying the misconduct. In this regard, the Panel took into account the Registrant’s remorse and the degree of insight which she has shown. The Panel also took into account that the Registrant worked for some 2 years in the field of child protection after the incidents in question, and has a positive reference. These factors, in the Panel’s view, suggest that there is no obvious difficulty which will prevent the Registrant from remediating her misconduct.

126. In the Panel’s view, a Suspension Order is the least restrictive sanction which will afford the necessary protection to the public, would uphold the public interest, and would allow the Registrant to demonstrate remediation. It is for these reasons that the Panel rejected a Striking Off Order as disproportionate and punitive.

127. The Panel decided to impose a Suspension for a period of 12 months. In the Panel’s view, this duration reflects the seriousness of the misconduct, but also allows sufficient time for the Registrant to demonstrate remediation.

128. The Panel was of the view that a future reviewing Panel would be assisted by:

i. a written reflective statement from the Registrant, addressing her dishonesty, the impact of her actions on Service Users A and B and their families, her views on the Panel’s findings, and demonstrating her remediation of, and insight into, her misconduct;

ii. any references from any employment, whether paid or unpaid.

 

Order

 ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Jayne Lesley Hall for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

A Substantive Hearing was held in London, concluding on 9 May 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Jayne Lesley Hall

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
25/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard
08/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard