Mrs Lynn Carpenter

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW47823

Interim Order: Imposed on 21 Jun 2017

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 29/05/2018 End: 16:00 05/06/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Allegation ( as amended)

Whilst registered as a Social Worker, you:
1. On or around 17 September 2015, recorded that a supervision meeting with the allocated social worker for Child A had taken place on 16 July 2015 when this was not the case.

2. Did not maintain accurate records in the case of Child B, in that you: 

a. Did not input supervision records onto the system in a timely manner for the following supervision sessions;

i. 16 December 2014;
ii. 28 January 2015;
iii. 25 February 2015;
iv. 27 March 2015.

b. did not undertake and/or record any care planning meetings;

c. did not maintain and/or record any case management records.

3. In the case of Child C:

a. did not arrange and/or record a Children in Need meeting with all relevant parties to discuss the suitability of a private fostering arrangement;

b. did not obtain the agreement of the Service Manager for the private fostering arrangement.

4. In the case of Child F:

a. did not set any actions in relation to concerns raised that Child F had been engaged in sexual activity with  two 15 year old girls;

b. did not hold and/or record a strategy discussion about the concerns referred to in Particular 4 (a);

c. did not initiate a Section 47 investigation in relation to the concerns set out in Particular 4 (a);

d. did not undertake and/or record supervision with the allocated social worker between 13 May 2015 and 18 September 2015;

e. did not ensure that regular visits were undertaken by the allocated social worker between 30 July 2014 and September 2015.

5. Between 19 May 2015 and 18 September 2015, did not undertake supervision and/or record any supervision notes in the case of Child G, a child at high risk of child sexual exploitation.

6. Between 24 June 2015 and 30 September 2015, did not ensure that an assessment of the risk posed to the unborn Child H by the Father of Child H, a registered sex offender, was undertaken.

7. Did not ensure an assessment of safeguarding concerns relating to Child I was undertaken and/or recorded before:
a. allowing Child I to return to his home;

b. handing the case over to the new allocated social worker.
8. Did not undertake and/or record all supervision meetings in a timely manner with the allocated social workers for: 
a. Child A;
b. Child C;
c. Child H.

9. The action described in Particular 1 was dishonest. 

10. By reason of the actions described in Particulars 4, 5, 6, and 7 placed children at risk of harm.

11. The matter described in Particular 9 constitutes misconduct.

12. The matters described in Particulars 1 to 8 and 10 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters

Notice of hearing

1. The Panel was satisfied that the letter dated 6 February 2018 sent to the Registrant’s address as it appeared at that time on the HCPC Register constituted good service of the notice of hearing.

Proceeding in absence

2. Being satisfied that a valid notice of hearing had been sent to the Registrant, the Panel had jurisdiction to consider the application made on behalf of the HCPC that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

3. In considering the application the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the terms of the HCPTS Practice Note on the topic.  The conclusion of the Panel was that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant.  The reasons for this decision were as follows:

  • The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to notify the Registrant of the hearing.  In addition to the notice of hearing letter dated 6 February 2018, to which reference has already been made, the same information was sent to her by email on the same date.
  • The Panel was provided with copies of two emails sent by the Registrant to the HCPC.  By an email sent on 6 December 2017, she attached a letter dated the previous day.  In the letter she acknowledged that she had not participated fully in the investigation into her practice as a Social Worker.  She also stated that she could not attend a hearing that had at that time been scheduled.  In an email sent on 3 January 2018, the Registrant stated that she would not be attending a forthcoming hearing, but went on to state that not only was she not attending that hearing, but any further hearing should be arranged in her absence.
  •  The Panel was informed by the Presenting Officer that on 8 January 2018, the Registrant was advised that she could participate in the hearing by telephone and that consideration would be given to providing financial assistance to enable her to attend the hearing.  However, there was no response by the Registrant to these suggestions.
  • The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s absence from the present hearing resulted from a voluntary waiver of her right to attend.
  • Further, there was no application by the Registrant that the present hearing should be adjourned and there were no grounds on which the Panel could conclude that she would be likely to attend a hearing on a future occasion.
  • The Registrant had had the opportunity to explain her case to the Panel, and gave details of that case in the letter dated 5 December 2017, that she expressly asked should be considered when a final decision was reached.
  • The allegations made by the HCPC against the Registrant concerned events that occurred between 2014 and 2015.
  • Witnesses who had travelled a considerable distance were in attendance waiting to give evidence.
  • For all these reasons the Panel concluded that the clear public interest in the case proceeding at the present time outweighed any disadvantage arising from the absence of the Registrant.

Application to amend allegation

4. A Panel of the Investigating Committee decided that there was a case for the Registrant to answer on 17 May 2017.  Subsequently, on 30 November 2017, at a Preliminary Hearing a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee amended the terms of the factual particulars of the allegations.  In doing so, two errors in relation to consequential numbering and grammar arose as a result of the deletion of factual particulars.  At the commencement of the present hearing the Presenting Officer applied to correct these errors.  The Panel acceded to the application, being satisfied that they were appropriate to ensure that the allegations were coherent, did not alter the substance of the case and would not result in any prejudice to the Registrant.

Application for a witness to give evidence by telephone

5. The HCPC wished to rely upon the evidence of five witnesses.  It had been intended that all of them should attend the hearing to give evidence in person before the Panel.  In the event at a late stage one of the witnesses, Ms JR, had encountered difficulties with child care arrangements she had made in order to be able to attend the hearing.  An application was made by the HCPC that she should be permitted to give her evidence by telephone.  In deciding whether to allow this application, the Panel considered whether the evidence of Ms JR could be fully and properly assessed without her physical presence.  It concluded that it could, and the Panel therefore directed that Ms JR should be permitted to give evidence by telephone.

Background

6. The Registrant commenced her employment as a Social Worker by Lancashire County Council (“LCC”) in July 2003.  By June 2011 she was a Team Manager and continued in that role until the end of March 2014 when she became a Practice Manager in the North Children’s Social Care Team.

7. As a Practice Manager, the Registrant was responsible for the line management of five Social Workers.  She was also responsible for the case management of all the children and young people allocated to members of her team.  One of her responsibilities was to undertake formal supervision with members of her team every four weeks.

8. Until April 2015, Ms JR had been a Practice Manager colleague of the Registrant.  However, in April 2015, Ms JR was promoted to become Team Manager, and in that role she became the Registrant’s line manager.   At a handover meeting on appointment, Ms JR was informed by the Registrant’s previous line manager that the Registrant was behind with regard to supervision sessions.  However, Ms JR was informed that the issue was being addressed and a timeframe established for supervision to be brought up to date.  During the first supervision session between Ms JR and the Registrant, the latter stated that she estimated that she would be up to date within the following week.

9. In May 2015, concerns were raised about the case of Child B.  This resulted in Ms JR involving her manager, Ms MM.  On 21 May 2015, Ms JR and Ms MM met the Registrant.  The Registrant was offered training, but she stated that she did not need it.  The Registrant was advised to record all outstanding supervision notes immediately.  At a supervision meeting between Ms JR and the Registrant on 13 August 2015, the latter confirmed that she was anxious, and Ms JR recorded that the Registrant appeared to be stressed and overwhelmed.

10. On 18 September 2015, when it was discovered that the Registrant had recorded a supervision session that was said not to have occurred, the Registrant was suspended from her post.  She did not return to work at LCC.

Decision on Facts

11. The Panel commenced its consideration of the facts by assessing the witnesses who had given evidence.  The witnesses called by the HCPC, and the Panel’s assessment of them were as follows:

  • Mr DG, a Senior Manager employed by LCC.  Mr DG is not a Social Worker.  He was appointed as Investigating Officer by LCC for the purposes of the internal disciplinary procedures that were instigated into matters related to those being considered by the Panel.  The Panel found Mr DG to be straightforward and independent, who gave the Panel a balanced account of matters.  The Panel found him to be a credible witness upon whose evidence it could rely.
  •  Ms JR is a Social Worker and was the Team Manager and line manager of the Registrant from April 2015.  Her role has already been explained in relation to the application that she should be permitted to give evidence by telephone.  The Panel found her to be knowledgeable, experienced and professional and that she had a good grasp of all the relevant issues.  The conclusion of the Panel was that she was a good and credible witness.
    • Ms LE qualified as a Social Worker in 2005.  She was line managed by the Registrant for approximately six months from early 2015.  The Panel found Ms LE to be an experienced Social Worker who gave a very clear account of events of which she had knowledge.  The Panel found that she had high levels of experience, professionalism and integrity.  The Panel was confident that it could accept her evidence without hesitation.
    • Ms UB qualified as a Social Worker in 2010, and at the relevant time was working as a Social Worker in the team being managed by the Registrant.  Her evidence was less specific than that given by Ms JR and Ms LE, but the Panel found her evidence to be consistent not only with earlier accounts she had given, but also, and more importantly, with contemporaneous records.  The Panel was satisfied that her evidence could be relied upon.
    • Mr MH qualified as a Social Worker in 2013.  Between September 2013 and March 2015 he was employed in the Child Assessment and Support Team, and from the time the Registrant became the Practice Manager in that team, he was line managed by her.  It follows that at the relevant time Mr MH was significantly less experienced than other witnesses who gave evidence.  However, the Panel was satisfied that there was no exaggeration by Mr MH and the Panel concluded that his evidence could be relied upon.

12. The absence from the hearing of the Registrant necessarily resulted in there being no opportunity for the Panel to assess her account of events as it could that of the HCPC’s witnesses.  However, throughout its deliberations the Panel has had regard to the account given by the Registrant in her letter dated 5 December 2017.  It is important to record that although in that letter the Registrant acknowledged shortcomings, the Panel did not construe these statements as amounting to formal admissions.  The Panel also had regard to what the Registrant had said when interviewed for the purposes of the internal LCC investigations.  The Panel therefore considered whether, on the totality of the evidence, including the letter dated 5 December 2017, the HCPC had discharged the burden of proving the factual particulars on the balance of probabilities.


Particular 1

13. On 14 September 2015 Ofsted announced that an inspection would be undertaken.  One of the cases selected for review by Ofsted was that of Child A.  Child A’s case had been allocated to Ms LE.  The evidence of Ms LE accepted by the Panel was that she had only one supervision session with the Registrant, and that was on 18 June 2015.  A further supervision session was arranged for 16 July 2015, but when Ms LE arrived at the office for that planned supervision, she was informed by a colleague that the supervision session had been cancelled.  It was not rescheduled.

14. On 16 September 2015 Ms JR sent an email to the Registrant informing her that the case had been selected and asking that the case recording be brought up to date.  On 17 September 2015 Ms JR sent an email to the Registrant asking whether she had more supervision notes to input on Child A’s case.  The Registrant replied stating that she had one more set of notes to input from 16 July 2015.

15. Later on 17 September 2015 the Registrant accompanied Ms LE when the latter drove to a hearing in a nearby court.  During the journey the Registrant told Ms LE that she had noticed that her diary had an entry for supervision on 16 July 2015.  The Registrant asked what she could record, and asked what had been happening with the family at this point.  Ms LE stated that there had been no supervision on 16 July 2015, but the Registrant continued to ask what she could put in the record for that date.  When the car was stationary, Ms LE turned to look at the Registrant and said that supervision did not take place.  From that time Ms LE said that the Registrant went quiet.

16. The conversation in the car resulted in Ms LE feeling uncomfortable as she thought that the Registrant was trying to get her to collude in the making of a false record of supervision.  At 20:37 on 17 September 2015, Ms LE sent an email to Ms JR stating that she was concerned that recorded entries would start appearing on her cases purportedly showing that supervision had taken place when it had not.  The following day, 18 September 2015, Ms JR checked the system.  She discovered that the Registrant had indeed made a record at 23:44 on 17 September 2015 to show that supervision had taken place on 16 July 2015.

17. The Panel accepted the evidence presented to it that demonstrated that the Registrant had recorded that a supervision meeting had taken place with Ms LE, the Social Worker to whom Child A’s case was allocated, on 16 July 2015.  The Panel also accepted the evidence of Ms LE that in fact there had been no supervision meeting on that day.  Accordingly, the Panel finds particular 1 to be proved.
Particulars 2(a)(i) to (iv), (b) and (c)

18. Child B was a Looked After Child who had experienced a number of problems in placements and had demonstrated behavioural problems.

19. The case records contained in the exhibits presented to the Panel show that the recording of supervision sessions that had taken place on 16 December 2014, 28 January 2015, 25 February 2015 and 27 March 2015 had all been made by the Registrant on 20 May 2015, which followed an instruction from a senior manager to bring all such records up to date.  By the time the records were made by the Registrant, the supervised Social Worker, Mr MH, had left the team.  The Panel is satisfied that the delay in each case was excessive with the consequence that particulars 2(a)(i) to (iv) are proved.

20. The Panel accepted the evidence of Ms JR that it was the responsibility of the Registrant to convene care planning meetings.  Her evidence was that in a case such as that of Child B, they would have been expected to occur and be recorded at six-weekly intervals.  It was also her evidence that Child B’s case records did not reveal that any care planning meetings had taken place.  The absence of records accorded with the evidence of Mr MH who told the Panel that he had sent the Registrant an email requesting that a care planning meeting should be held.  It was his evidence that a meeting had been arranged, but then cancelled on the day it had been due to be held because an emergency required the attendance of a senior manager elsewhere.  It was the responsibility of the Registrant to rearrange the meeting, but no meeting was in fact rearranged.  The Panel finds particular 2(b) to be proved.

21. The Panel accepted the evidence of Ms JR that in addition to the need to record case management decisions, there was also an obligation on the part of the Registrant to record important decisions that were made concerning the child, such as the movement of placements and agreement to funding.  Despite this need, and the fact that important decision were made in the case of Child B, no case recordings were made other than the recording of supervision sessions that were made long after they occurred.  The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant did not maintain and/or record any case management records with the consequence that particular 2(b) is proved.

Particular 3(a) and (b)

22. Child C was subject to a private fostering arrangement.  The Social Worker to whom Child C’s case was allocated was Mr SC.  In completing a private fostering assessment, Mr SC identified himself not only as the Social Worker completing the assessment, but also as the Manager and wrongly signed off the assessment accordingly.  The assessment record was completed on 11 August 2015, and in a case management entry in Child C’s records made on 27 August 2015, the Registrant recorded that the assessment was “now completed” and that the case would be transferred to a family support worker.

23. The Panel is satisfied that there was an obligation to arrange a Child In Need meeting with all relevant parties to discuss the suitability of the private fostering arrangement, and further satisfied that it did not take place.  It follows that particular 3(a) is proved.  The Registrant did not inform her Team Manager, Ms JR, of the matter.  Accordingly, the agreement to the private fostering arrangement was not authorised by the Service Manager, with the consequence that particular 3(b) is proved.

Particular 4(a), (b), (c), (d) and (e)

24. Child F had been charged with rape, and his bail conditions required him to live away from the family home because younger siblings lived there.  At the time relevant to these particulars the case of Child F was allocated to Mr SC, although it was subsequently re-assigned to Ms UB.

25. On 14 March 2015 the Police reported that two 15 year old girls had reported having sex with Child F, one of them reporting that it had taken place in the family home in apparent breach of the bail conditions.  On 31 March 2015, Mr SC had a conversation with the Police.  On 27 April 2015, what purported to be a multi-agency risk management meeting (“MARMM”) was convened, but the only attendees were the Registrant, Mr SC and a note taker.  The only element of the record that could be considered to reflect action was the statement, “Children’s Social Care were going to allocate [Ms OT] to work with the family on Child in Need Plan visits and have discussion with parents”.  It concluded with a note that a review MARMM should be convened on 15 July 2015.

26. The Panel accepted the evidence of Ms JR that the circumstances as described by the Police on 14 March 2015, required the Registrant to direct actions and instruct Mr SC accordingly.  In particular, she should have requested a strategy meeting to be held with a view to initiating a Section 47 investigation.  In fact none of these things occurred.  Accordingly, the Panel finds particulars 4(a), (b) and (c) to be proved.

27. On 13 May 2015, it is recorded that the Registrant conducted a supervision session with Mr SC.  On 18 September 2015, the Registrant was suspended from her employment by LCC.  Between these two dates there is no record of any supervision taking place.  Accordingly, the Panel finds particular 4(d) to be proved.

28. Child F’s case records disclose a visit made by a Social Worker on 30 July 2014.  After that date until the time when the Registrant was suspended from her employment in September 2015, no further visits are recorded.  When the case was re-allocated to Ms UB in September 2015 and she had a supervision session with Ms JR, she visited the family.  The evidence of Ms UB was that Child F’s mother informed her that she had not seen a Social Worker since the summer of 2014.  Although hearsay evidence, the Panel finds that it accords with the absence of recorded visits, and the combination of these two elements has resulted in the Panel finding that the issue is not one of record keeping, but that there were in fact no visits in the period of more than a year between 30 July 2014 and September 2015.  It was the responsibility of the Registrant to ensure that visits were made.  Accordingly, particular 4(e) is proved.

Particular 5

29. Child G was a 15 year old girl who was entering into inappropriate relationships with adult males.  She was going missing from home and the Police had found her in risky situations.  That she was a child at high risk of sexual exploitation was reflected by the following statement in the first entry made in her case records on 5 May 2015, “With her actions and decisions she is putting herself at unnecessary significant risk of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological harm.”  An entry on 17 May 2015 referred to the fact that a Children’s Social Care Referral Form had been received to seek increased support to protect Child G from the risk of child sexual exploitation.  The entry for 17 May 2015 also referred to the fact that there was a court case pending following an incident of grooming of Child G.  The Social Worker to whom Child G’s case was allocated was inexperienced.  Yet despite these factors no supervision was recorded in the period between 19 May 2015 and 18 September 2015 when the Registrant was suspended.  The hearsay evidence of the allocated Social Worker contained in her LCC internal process interview was that there had been no supervision sessions with the Registrant since April 2015.  The Panel finds particular 5 to be proved.

Particular 6

30. Child H was an unborn baby whose father was a registered sex offender.  A change in the family’s address resulted in a transfer by another team to the Registrant’s team.  The case was allocated to Ms UB on 24 June 2015.  A very basic Child and Family Assessment had been undertaken by the former team, but it was the HCPC’s case that the circumstances necessitated an assessment of the risk posed by the father after transfer to the Registrant’s team.  In fact, no further assessment was undertaken until after the suspension of the Registrant.  It was Ms UB’s evidence that the Registrant informed her that an assessment needed to be completed, but the nature of the assessment to be undertaken was unclear to her.  The Panel finds that the Registrant did not provide Ms UB with clarity and direction as to the nature of the assessment she was required to undertake, and particular 6 is proved on that basis.

Particular 7(a) and (b)

31. In April 2014, when Child I was 14 years old, an allegation of a sexual nature was made against him.  His bail conditions meant that he could not reside at the family home because he had a younger sister.  The case was allocated to Mr SC in June 2014.  On 20 July 2015, when Child I’s mother was requesting that her son should be permitted to return to her home, Mr SC and the Registrant discussed the case with Ms JR.  Ms JR’s advice was that Child I could only return home if, “CSC’s own assessment considers this to be safe and there is an adequate safeguarding plan in place to address any on-going identified risks.”  On 28 August 2015, the Registrant recorded a “Case Management” entry in Child I’s case notes that “[Child I] has returned home following the police not proceeding with the case against him for sexual assault of a child….. Case allocated to [L.H.] as she is supporting the family and has [Child I]’s sibling [__] open to her.”  No evidence of a risk assessment having been undertaken could be found.  Although the assessment was the responsibility of Mr SC to undertake, it was the responsibility of the Registrant to ensure that he did it.  In failing to ensure that he did, the Panel finds particulars 7(a) and (b) proved.

Particular 8(a), (b) and (c)

32. The obligation of the Registrant was to conduct supervisions sessions with Social Workers in her team every four weeks.

  • Ms LE was the allocated Social Worker for Child A.  The only supervision session that took place was on 18 June 2015.
    • Mr SC was the allocated Social Worker for Child C.  There is only one recorded supervision session which was held on 16 July 2015.
    • Ms UB was the allocated Social Worker for Child H, the case being allocated to her on 24 June 2015.  The evidence of Ms UB was that the only supervision meeting that took place after the case of Child H was allocated to her was on 18 August 2015, although that supervision is not recorded in Child H’s case records.

The consequence of these findings is that particulars 8(a), (b) and (c) are proved.

Particular 9

33. The circumstances leading up to the making of the entry in Child A’s case records purportedly showing that supervision took place on 16 July 2015, have already been explained by the Panel in relation to particular 1.  When dealing with particular 1 the Panel decided that there had in fact been no supervision undertaken on 16 July 2015.  On the totality of the evidence presented to it, the Panel also finds that when, at 23:44 on 17 September 2015, the Registrant made the entry in the case records recording that supervision had taken place, she did not have a genuine belief that it had occurred.  Rather, the entry was made in an attempt to cover up a lack of supervision in a case she knew would be reviewed by Ofsted.  That being the case, the Panel is satisfied that judged by the standards of ordinary, decent people, her behaviour was dishonest.  It follows that particular 9 is proved.

Particular 10

34. The findings already made by the Panel in relation to:

  •  Child F in particular 4, where the failure to consider risks arising from the contention that he had had sex with girls of 15 years of age; and,
    • Child G in particular 5, where there was inadequate management oversight of an inexperienced Social Worker; and,
    • Child H in particular 6, where the risks posed by the father to the unborn child were not appropriately explored; and,
    • Child I in particular 7, where he was allowed to return home without an assessment of the risks he presented being undertaken, all placed children at the risk of harm.  The risks were not only to the identified children allocated to the members of the Registrant’s team, but also to other children with whom they might have had contact.  Accordingly, particular 10 is proved.

Decision on Grounds

35. In considering the issue of the statutory grounds of misconduct and lack of competence, the Panel has been mindful that the structure of the allegations made by the HCPC against the Registrant permit all of the facts, with the exception of the dishonesty alleged by particular 9, to amount to either misconduct or lack of competence.  Unsurprisingly, it is not alleged that the dishonesty could result in, or contribute to, a finding of lack of competence.

36. In considering the matter the Panel has not overlooked the circumstances in which the relevant events occurred.  The reorganisation of the service in which the Registrant was working had undoubtedly resulted in difficulties, and, as Ms JR had observed in May 2015, the Registrant was stressed and struggling in her role.  The Panel also noted Mr DG’s view that the transformation programme had caused unprecedented disruption, with the consequence that the planned second phase of it did not go ahead.  Further, Mr DG also expressed the view that the Registrant was not the only manager struggling to meet the expected standards of supervision.  It was clear to the Panel from the evidence of Mr DG and the evidence of other witnesses that the department was experiencing a period of considerable upheaval at the material time.  The Panel also noted from her letter of 5 December 2017 that the Registrant put forward several reasons for her difficulties including her personal circumstances and criticisms of management.

37. Nevertheless, in the view of the Panel the findings against the Registrant represent serious shortcomings.  Regular and effective supervision of Social Workers is essential.  The Registrant would undoubtedly have known that it should have occurred, not only from her previous management experience, but also from her work as a Social Worker before she assumed a management role.  Her lack of management control put vulnerable children at risk of harm; the seriousness of her shortcomings is not lessened by the fact that the Panel did not receive evidence that any of the children had suffered tangible harm.  The finding of dishonesty is a particularly grave matter when found against a Social Worker whose professional work requires rigorous adherence to standards of integrity and reliability.

38. The Registrant’s actions resulted in her breaching the following standards of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics in force at the relevant time:

• Standard 1, “You must act in the best interests of service users”

• Standard 7, “You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners.”

• Standard 8, “You must effectively supervise tasks that you have asked other people to carry out.”

• Standard 10, “You must keep accurate records.”

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

39. The conclusion of the Panel, when considering the proven particulars both individually and collectively, was that they were sufficiently serious to result in a finding of misconduct.  For the avoidance of doubt, the Panel does not find that any of the matters resulted from a lack of competence on the part of the Registrant who was an experienced Social Worker in a senior role.

Decision on Impairment

40. When the Panel addressed the issue of current impairment of fitness to practice, it considered both the personal and public components.

41. In acknowledging that she did not perform to the standard required of her, the Registrant demonstrated some insight.  However, the insight was not fully developed as she did not acknowledge the full extent to which vulnerable children were exposed to risk of harm, and by claiming in her letter dated 5 December 2017 that she did not set out to be deceitful by making the false entry of supervision on 16 July 2015, she failed to acknowledge the true seriousness of that act.  There has been no evidence of remediation, and indeed the Registrant has stated that she is working in a self-employed capacity in an unrelated area.  In the circumstances there is inevitably a risk of repetition of shortcomings of the sort that have been found by the Panel in the present case.  This conclusion results in a finding of current impairment of fitness to practice in relation to the personal component.

42. When the issue of current impairment of fitness to practice from the perspective of the public component was considered the Panel concluded that informed members of the public would be dismayed at the prospect of the Registrant being permitted to practise without restrictions.  This finding is sufficient to require a finding of current impairment in relation to the public component.  However, the Panel also considered that the need to declare and uphold proper professional standards required that same conclusion.  Public confidence in the Social Work profession and in the regulation of that profession would be seriously diminished were no finding of current impairment of fitness to practice made.

43. The finding of misconduct that is currently impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practice means that the Panel must proceed to consider the issue of sanction.

Decision on Sanction

44. The Panel approached the decision on sanction by accepting the advice it received that a sanction should not be posed to punish a registrant against whom a finding had been made.  Rather, the factors that can justify the imposition of a sanction are the need to protect the public, the upholding of proper professional standards and the importance of maintaining a proper degree of confidence in the registrant’s profession and the regulation of it.  A finding that an allegation is well founded does not necessarily require the imposition of a sanction.  Accordingly, the first question to be answered is whether the finding made requires the imposition of a sanction.  If it does, then the available sanctions should be considered in an ascending order of seriousness until one is reached that addresses the proper sanction aims just identified.  This exercise is to be conducted with regard being had to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.  The Panel confirms that it has applied this approach in the present case.  As the finding in the present case is one of misconduct, the sanction range extends to the making of a striking off order.

45. The Presenting Officer made submissions on sanction.  In his submissions he drew the attention to various paragraphs of the Indicative Sanctions Policy relating to different sanctions.  Although the Presenting Officer did not urge the Panel to apply any particular sanction, he did submit that, realistically, the Panel would be faced with a choice between the making of a suspension order and a striking off order.

46. The Panel does not propose to repeat all that was said in its reasons for concluding that the ground of misconduct was made out and for deciding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.  It is, however, necessary to state that the shortcomings were numerous and repeated and that they occurred over a significant period of time.  They were also serious and exposed vulnerable children to unnecessary risk of harm.  Included in the findings was one of dishonesty.  In favour of the Registrant, the Panel acknowledged not only that the incidents arose at a time of departmental change that resulted in a degree of upheaval, but also that there were confidential aspects of the Registrant’s private life that she has said impacted on her performance, and in one respect overlapped with her professional life.

47. The Panel is satisfied that, with the exception of the dishonest falsifying the record of a supervision session, the failings identified by the Panel are of a type that could be remedied.  The Registrant has not, however, remediated those failings that could have been remediated.  The dishonest falsifying of a record is in a different category.  Given the central importance of honesty and reliability to Social Work practice, any registrant against whom a finding of dishonesty has been made would carry a significant burden for a panel to be persuaded that the dishonest behaviour would not be repeated.  The very limited engagement by the Registrant has the consequence that in the present case she has not persuaded the Panel that there would be no risk of repetition if she found herself working as a Social Worker under pressure in the future.  Furthermore, for a panel to be persuaded that dishonesty would not be repeated, it would be necessary for there to be complete acceptance of what had happened in the past.  In the present case the Registrant wrote in her letter dated 5 December 2017 that she did not set out to be deceitful. 

48. The Panel concluded that the findings it had made required the imposition of a sanction.  The findings are far too serious to result in the making of a caution order.  A caution order would not offer the public any protection against the risk of very serious consequences of repetition and it would not be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the Social Work profession.  A conditions of practice order would not be appropriate because the Registrant is not working as a Social Worker, and, even if she were, there would be no workable conditions that could address the finding of dishonesty.

49. It follows that the realistic sanction choice is between the making of a suspension order and a striking off order.  If the Registrant’s position was that she wished to re-establish her career as a Social Worker, had taken steps towards remediation of those shortcomings that could be remediated and had addressed the dishonesty finding with a view to persuading the Panel that she would not repeat behaviour of that sort, then the Panel could envisage circumstances in which the making of a suspension order might be appropriate.  In these circumstances a suspension order would facilitate a future return to practise while at the same time enabling a considered judgement to be made by a reviewing panel whether the Registrant could then offer safe and effective practice.  The position, however, is that the Registrant has not suggested that she wishes to return to practise as a Social Worker, has neither remediated the failings nor suggested that she is minded to do so, and she has not addressed the dishonesty finding in a manner from which the Panel can conclude that there will not be a repetition.  That being the case, the Panel has concluded that it is not appropriate to make a suspension order.  From the perspective of the risk of repetition and the associated need to protect the public, given the absence of an expressed desire to address matters already referred to, the risk would be as great at the end of any period of suspension as it is at the present time.  The public interest would not be served, and public confidence would not be advanced, by the making of a suspension order that would have no positive effect.  Furthermore, the tone of the Registrant’s email dated 3 January 2018, is that the stress occasioned by the LCC disciplinary proceedings and the HCPC’s fitness to practice process was such that they had a deleterious effect on her health.  However, by January 2018, the Registrant had put those negative events behind her and established a career away from Social Work.  In the view of the Panel, given the stress matters have caused her in the past and the lack of interest in addressing in the future the matters that have been considered by the Panel, it would not be in the Registrant’s own interests to lock her into the HCPC’s fitness to practice process for a further substantial period by the making of a suspension order.  For all these reasons the Panel concluded that a suspension order is not appropriate.

50. The consequence is that a striking off order must be made.  The Panel is satisfied that this is a proportionate response to the serious findings and the absence of a desire to address them in the future.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Lynn Carpenter from the Register on the day this comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal:

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.

European alert mechanism:

In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been prohibited.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so.  Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.

Interim Order:

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.  This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.
Reasons for making an interim order:

1. The Panel first considered whether it was appropriate to consider the HCPC’s appication for an interim order in the absence of the Registrant.

2. The Panel concluded that it was appropriate to consider the application in the absence of the Registrant for the following reasons:

• The Registrant was informed by the notice of hearing letter dated 6 Febraury 2018, that in the event of the Panel making a striking off order, it might impose an interim order which would restrict her right to practise with immediate effect.

• The Panel concluded that the information contained in the letter dated 6 February 2018 afforded the Registrant an opportunity of appearing and being heard on the issue whether an interim order should be made.  Accordingly, Article 31(15) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 was satisfied and, subject to concluding that the matter was appropriate to be considered in the Registrant’s absence, the Panel had jurisdiciton to consider the matter.

• There is no indication that the Registrant’s statement in her email dated 3 January 2018, expressing the wish that further meetings (meaning hearings) should be arranged in her absence, did not apply to the issue of the application for an interim order, just as it did to the substantive hearing just concluded.

• In these circumstances the Panel concluded that the clear public interest in permitting the HCPC to make an application for an interim order outweighed the absence of the Registrant, with the effect that the substance of the matter should be considered at the present time.

3. The Panel approached the substance of the application by acknowledging that the default position provided for by the relevant legislation is that there will be no restriction on a Registrant’s ability to practise while their appeal rights against the making of a substantive sanction remain outstanding.  It follows that positive reasons are required to justify the making of an interim order.

4. In the judgment of the Panel the risk of repetition identified in the substantive decision and the associated risk of harm that could result from repetition have the consequence that an interim order is necessary to protect members of the public.  It is also required in the wider public interest.

5. The Panel considered whether there were conditions of practice that could be imposed on an interim basis that would sufficiently address the identified public protection and public interest considerations.  The conclusion of the Panel was that interim conditions of practice would not be appropriate because the Registrant is not working as a Social Worker and no workable conditions could be formulated even if she were.

6. The result of these findings is that an interim suspension order is required with immediate effect.  It is appropriate for the maximum period of 18 months to be provided for lest the Registrant appeals.

 

 

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Lynn Carpenter

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status