Ms Shirani A Watts

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW82903

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 31/05/2018 End: 12:00 31/05/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via tsteam@hcpts-uk.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.

 

Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 5-8 December 2016.


Whilst employed by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust as a Social Worker:

1. [Not Proved]

a) [Not Proved]

b) [Not Proved]


2. In relation to Foster Carers 2:

a) You did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

i. did not complete supervision notes until 4 February 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 15 January 2014;

ii. Did not complete supervision notes until 27 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 26 March 2014;

iii. Did not complete supervision notes until 3 October 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 28 May 2014; and/or

iv. Did not complete supervision notes until 3 October 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 23 July 2014;


b) You did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by Foster Carers 2 in respect of

i. A visit carried out on 15 January 2014;

ii. A visit carried out on 26 March 2014;

iii. A visit carried out on 28 May 2014;

iv. A visit carried out on 23 July 2014;


3. In relation to Foster Carers 3:

a) You did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

i. Did not complete supervision notes until 22 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 30 January 2014; and/or

ii. Did not complete supervision notes until 13 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 2 April 2014;


b) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a visit carried out on 15 July 2014;

ii. [Not Proved]


c) You did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by Foster Carers 3 in respect of:

i. A visit carried out on 30 January 2014; and/or

ii. A visit carried out on 2 April 2014;


4. In relation to Foster Carer 4, you did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

a) Did not complete supervision notes until 19 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 23 January 2014;

b) Did not complete supervision notes until 2 October 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 27 March 2014;

c) Did not complete supervision notes until 16 September 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 21 May 2014; and/or

d) Did not complete supervision notes until 16 September 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 23 July 2014;


5. [Not Proved]

a) [Not Proved]

b) [Not Proved]

c) [Not Proved]

d) [Not Proved]

e) [Not Proved]


6. In relation to Foster Carers 6, you did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

a) Notes from a visit carried out on 17 March 2014;

b) Notes from a visit carried out on 28 April 2014;

c) Notes from a visit carried out on 10 July 2014;

d) Notes from a visit carried out on 19 August 2014; and/or

e) Notes from a visit carried out on 6 October 2014;


7. In relation to Foster Carer 7:

a) You did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

i. Did not complete supervision notes until 29 April 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 30 January 2014;


b) [Not Proved]

i. [Not Proved]

ii. [Not Proved]

iii. [Not Proved]

iv. [Not Proved]


8. In relation to Foster Carers 8:

a) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a visit carried out on 6 June 2014;

ii. Notes from a visit carried out on 4 August 2014;

iii. Notes from a visit carried out on 29 September 2014;

iv. Notes from a visit carried out on 17 November 2014; and/or

v. Notes from a visit carried out on 3 December 2014;


b) You did not obtain supervision notes that were signed by Foster Carers 8 in respect of:

i. A visit carried out on 16 January 2014;

ii. A visit carried out on 4 August 2014;


9. In relation to Foster Carers 9, you did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

a) Notes from a visit carried out on 17 March 2014;

b) Notes from a visit carried out on 24 April 2014;

c) Notes from a visit carried out on 22 May 2014;

d) Notes from a visit carried out on 8 July 2014;

e) Notes from a visit carried out on 29 September 2014; and/or

f) Notes from a visit carried out on 18 November 2014;


10. In relation to Children 10:

a) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a LAC Supervision visit carried out on 29 October 2014;


11. [Not Proved]


12. [Not Proved]


13. In relation to Child 13:

a) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a LAC Supervision visit dated 22 May 2014;


b) You did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by the Local Authority Social Worker in respect of:

i. An LAC Supervision visit dated 18 September 2014;


14. In relation to Child 14, you did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by the Local Authority Social Worker in respect of:

a) An LAC Supervision visit dated 19 August 2014;


15. In relation to Foster Carers 16, you ‘copied and pasted’ information from supervision notes dated 17 March 2014, into:

a) Supervision notes dated 28 April 2014;

b) Supervision notes dated 18 July 2014;

c) Supervision noted dated 19 August 2014; and/or

d) Supervision notes dated 6 October 2014;


16. Your actions described in particulars 1 to 15 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence;


17. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practice is impaired.


The Panel at the substantive hearing found the following:


Facts proved:  2(a), 2(b), 3(a)(ii), 3(c)(i), 3(c)(ii), 4, 6, 7(a), 8(a), 8(b), 9, 10, 13, 14, 15

Facts not proved: 1, 3(b)(ii), 5, 7(b), 11, 12

Grounds: Misconduct


The Panel at the Final Hearing found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired and a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 18 months was imposed as a sanction.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Notice of Hearing

1. The Panel noted that the Notice of Hearing dated 2 May 2018 contained an error, it stated that the hearing was on Wednesday 31 May 2018, rather than Thursday 31 May 2018. Ms Whitby informed the Panel that there has been no contact from the Registrant in relation to the notice of hearing. The Registrant did not attend the HCPTS on Wednesday 30 May 2018, nor did she contact the HCPC. Ms Whitby told the Panel that she attempted to contact the Registrant by telephone yesterday in relation to the error, but that the mobile telephone number listed for the Registrant was not in use and the other number was the Registrant’s previous employer. The Registrant was also contacted by email and was advised of the hearing proceeding today, but she did not respond.

2. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not been misled by the incorrect statement that the hearing was to take place on Wednesday rather than Thursday in the Notice of Hearing and the Notice of Hearing complied with the Rules. The Panel therefore found that good service had been effected.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. Ms Whitby made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

5. The Registrant’s last engagement with the HCPC was in October 2015, approximately two and a half years ago. The Registrant did not attend the Final Hearing. She has not responded to correspondence sent by the HCPC to her postal address or her email address since the Final Hearing. This correspondence was a follow up to the Conditions of Practice Order, requesting evidence from the Registrant to demonstrate that she had complied with the conditions or reasons why she was unable to meet the conditions.

6. In these circumstances the Panel decided that the Registrant has waived her right to attend the hearing. There is nothing to indicate that she might attend a hearing if it was adjourned to a later date.

7. The Panel noted that the bundle of documents for the hearing was sent to the Registrant, later than what is the usual practice, by email on 30 May 2018. The Panel noted that the bundle contained the Final Hearing decision which had previously been sent to the Registrant, but no new documents. The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC since 2015. In these circumstances the Panel considered that there was no unfairness or prejudice to the Registrant arising from late service of the bundle.

8. Although the Registrant may be disadvantaged by not attending the hearing, the Panel decided that her interests were outweighed by the public interest in the hearing proceeding without delay. The hearing is to consider a mandatory review of a Conditions of Practice Order which is due to expire in early July 2018.

9. The Panel therefore decided to exercise its discretion to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant. 


Background

10. The Registrant was employed by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (“TACT”) as a Senior Supervising Social Worker on a temporary contract from August 2013 which became a permanent contract in February 2014. TACT provided fostering and adoption services in South West England. The Registrant was responsible for Foster Carers and Looked After Children.

11. In or around March 2014, concerns were raised in respect of the Registrant’s record keeping. Initially this related to not adhering to timelines, and then it transpired that some records had been copied and pasted from one visit to another. The concerns were discussed with the Registrant who attributed the deficiencies to being busy, having too much work, having to travel from Gloucester to Bristol, and being on Office Duty. In response, her line manager increased supervision sessions to once a fortnight and provided the Registrant with decision sheets setting out which actions needed to be completed and in what timeframe. In addition, the Registrant was given the opportunity to work from home in order to complete the outstanding paperwork. Whilst some paperwork was completed, some of it remained incomplete or submitted late.

12. On 25 March 2015, the Registrant met with her line manager and concerns were again raised regarding the copying and pasting of records.

13. The Allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Conduct Committee at a Final Hearing on 5-8 December 2016. The Registrant did not attend the hearing and was not represented. The Final Hearing Panel decided that most of the factual particulars were proved. Those findings were in relation to a wide range of record keeping failures. That Panel found that the repeated record keeping failures over a period of one year constituted misconduct. The Panel was particularly concerned about the copying and pasting of the supervision notes in relation to Foster Carers 16. This related to a case where the child had complex care needs so his circumstances may have changed regularly. However the Registrant copied and pasted information from supervision notes over a 7 month period. The Registrant was not updating the system with the contemporaneous developments or requirements of the child or the Foster Carers. This was a serious falling short of the standards expected of a registered social worker and constituted misconduct.

14. The Final Hearing Panel considered that the misconduct was capable of remediation. The Registrant provided written submissions in October 2015 stating that she had been employed in two social work foster care roles. In both roles she stated that her recordings were up to date. However, the Final Hearing Panel had no up to date or independent verification in support of this. The Registrant had demonstrated some insight into her lack of capacity to manage her record keeping effectively, but she had limited insight into her failings with regard to copying and pasting information into supervision notes. That Panel concluded that there was a risk of repetition of the misconduct and that her fitness to practise was impaired.

15. The Final Hearing Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Conditions of Practice Order. The conditions required the Registrant to inform the HCPC of any employment she undertook as a Social Worker. There were also supervision conditions.

16. There has been no engagement from the Registrant since the Final Hearing. The HCPC wrote to her on 13 June 2017 and 21 December 2017 in relation to the Conditions of Practice Order, but the Registrant has provided no response.


Decision

17. Ms Whitby submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. She further submitted that there may be no purpose in retaining the Registrant within the review cycle, given her failure to engage with the HCPC.

18. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired”.

19. There was no information before the Panel that there has been any change in the Registrant’s circumstances since the Final Hearing. There is no evidence that the Registrant has taken any remedial action or developed insight. There is no information on the Registrant’s current circumstances.

20. The Panel therefore concluded that there remains a risk of repetition of misconduct and that there is an ongoing risk to members of the public. The Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

21. The Panel next considered the appropriate order, applying the guidance in the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and applying the principle of proportionality.

22. The Panel decided that it would not be appropriate to allow the current Conditions of Practice Order to lapse and make no further order because there would be no protection against the ongoing risk of repetition of misconduct. For the same reasons a Caution Order would not be sufficient. It would not restrict the Registrant’s practice and would not provide adequate public protection.

23. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. Although the misconduct is remediable, the Panel did not consider that the Registrant has demonstrated that she is committed to resolving the matters. The Registrant’s current lack of engagement meant that the Panel did not have sufficient confidence that she would comply with conditions. In the circumstances, the Panel was not able to formulate conditions which would be sufficient to protect the public.

24. The Panel next considered the more restrictive sanctions of a Suspension Order or a Striking Off Order. There were some considerations which indicated that a Suspension Order was appropriate. In particular, the Panel considered the nature of the misconduct which was not at the top end of the scale of seriousness. The Panel also took into account the fact that this is not a case where the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC at all. The Final Hearing Panel identified positive points for the Registrant including some insight and, at that time, a realistic likelihood that the Registrant could remedy the misconduct to enable her to work safely and efficiently as a Social Worker.

25. On the other hand, there were some considerations which indicated that a Striking Off Order was appropriate, particularly the Registrant’s lack of engagement over two and a half years and the doubt that there would be any purpose in retaining her in the review cycle.

26. The Panel carried out a careful balance between the Registrant’s rights and interests and the public interest. The Panel decided that although the prospect that the Registrant will engage and remedy her misconduct is low, there remains some prospect. A Suspension Order would be sufficient to protect the public because it will prevent the Registrant practising as a Social Worker. Therefore, the proportionate order was a Suspension Order.

27. The Panel decided that the Suspension Order should be for six months. This was sufficient time to give the Registrant time to engage with the HCPC and prepare evidence for a future reviewing Panel.

28. A future review Panel may be assisted by evidence from the Registrant of her insight into her misconduct and the steps she has taken to guard against repetition of it in the future.

Order

The Conditions of Practice Order is replaced by a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months with immediate effect. 

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 31 May 2018.

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 30 November 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Shirani A Watts

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
31/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended