Serena Odette Newnes

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW55943

Interim Order: Imposed on 30 Jun 2016

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 22/05/2018 End: 23:00 21/05/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

 

 

 

Whilst employed as a social worker with Gloucestershire County Council, you:

 

1. Attended work whilst under the influence of alcohol on various dates, including:

 

a) Friday 15 May 2015;

 

b) At a fact finding meeting held on Thursday 23 July 2015.

 

2. Behaved inappropriately and/or erratically in front of colleagues on various occasions, including:

 

a) not proved

 

b) not proved

 

c) not proved

 

3. Behaved and/or spoke inappropriately about and/or in front of service users on various occasions including:

 

a) not proved  

 

b) Referring to the service user as 'Mrs Fifty Shades of Grey', or words to that effect, to work colleagues

 

4. You accepted a caution for battery on 11 May 2015. 3

 

5. You did not promptly declare the caution referred to in paragraph 4 to:

 

 

a) Your employer;

 

b) The Health and care Professions council.

 

6. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 3 and 5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of Competence.

 

7. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence at paragraph 6 your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

8. By reason of your caution at paragraph 4 your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was informed that written Notice of these proceedings was posted to the Registrant at her registered address by first-class post on 20 April 2018. It was also emailed to the Registrant’s registered email address on the same date.

2. The Panel decided that Notice of this hearing had been properly served in accordance with the relevant Rules.

Proceeding in absence

3. The Panel heard the submission of Ms Wills to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and paid due regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

4. There has been no communication from the Registrant since some ten months before the Substantive Hearing held in November of last year and there has been no application by the Registrant to adjourn this hearing today.

5. In the knowledge that this is a mandatory review, the Panel took the view that it was in the interests of justice for this hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, who has clearly voluntarily absented herself.

Proceeding in private

6. Ms Wills made an application for any matters that she might mention in connection with the private life of the Registrant to be dealt with in private. The Panel accepted the sense in adopting this course.

Background

7. The Registrant was employed as a Grade 1 Social Worker by Gloucestershire County Council (‘the Council’). The Registrant commenced employment with the Council on 26 June 2003. On 17 September 2012, the Registrant became a Team Manager in the Stroud office and remained in this role until an internal investigation began around February 2015 concerning the Registrant’s sickness absences. As a result, the Registrant stepped down from the Team Manager position on the grounds of capability and returned to the Gloucester Team as a Grade 1 Social Worker.

8. On 15 May 2015, the Registrant was noted to be agitated and behaving differently. The smell of alcohol was noted on her breath. Consequently, concerns were raised with the Registrant’s Line Manager. An investigation was held into the conduct of the Registrant, during the course of which it emerged that some members of staff had raised concerns about the Registrant’s inappropriate and erratic behaviour, both within their presence and in front of service users. In particular, they complained that she had smelt of alcohol on several occasions.

9. During the course of the investigation, it became apparent that the Registrant had received a Police Caution on 11 May 2015 for an offence of Battery, committed on 10 May 2015. She had failed to inform the HCPC about this matter.

10. The panel at the Substantive Hearing on 27-30 November 2017 made note of the fact that there had been no information from the Registrant (she was absent during that hearing) and it commented that she had not engaged with the HCPC process. In its view, the lack of evidence of insight and remediation on behalf of the Registrant demonstrated that there was a risk of repetition of the misconduct, and it found her to be currently impaired. That panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months.

11. Within its determination, the Substantive Hearing panel suggested that, at any review of the Suspension Order, the reviewing panel would be assisted by:

• The Registrant attending in person and, if possible, being represented;

• Any medical information that may help the Panel to understand the cause of her behaviour at the time;

• Details of the circumstances relating to the caution for battery;

• Medical information on the Registrant’s current state of health;

• Testimonials from employers and/or colleagues relating to any work since the date of the allegation.

12. This Panel noted that the Registrant was further reminded of these recommendations by a letter from the HCPC dated 14 May 2018. As has been mentioned above, there has been no communication from the Registrant during the period of suspension and she has failed to provide this Panel with any of the recommended documentation.

Decision

13. The Panel took into account all of the material in the bundle provided by the HCPC, the submissions of Ms Wills, the advice of the Legal Assessor, and the contents of the relevant HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”.

14. There has been no material change in circumstances since the Substantive Hearing, except that the Registrant has continued with the process of disengagement and, despite recommendations to the contrary, has furnished this Panel with no documentation at all which could be said to be useable in her support.

15. For all the reasons provided within the determination of the previous panel, this Panel has no doubt that the fitness to practise of this Registrant remains impaired, both in relation to the personal component and the public component. There is no sign of any form of insight, no evidence of remediation, and nothing to suggest to the Panel that the risk of repetition of her misconduct is anything other than high.

16. The Panel concluded that an Order remained necessary for the protection of the public and was otherwise in the public interest.

17. Paying due regard to the contents of the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”, the Panel considered what the appropriate sanction should be. It considered all of the options available to it, starting from the least serious, but, in the end, it concluded that, in all the circumstances, the only proportionate sanction now to impose upon this Registrant is a Striking Off Order. There has been no word from the Registrant to her Regulatory body for a period of some sixteen months in all, and the consequence is that this Panel is left in no doubt that the Registrant has disengaged from the process. The opportunity provided by the last panel, in imposing a short period of suspension, for the Registrant to engage with the HCPC and address her failings, has been lost.

Order

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Serena Odette Newnes from the Register upon the expiry of the current Order.

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 28 June 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Serena Odette Newnes

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
27/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended