Miss Jayne Lesley Hall

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW06880

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 28/11/2018 End: 17:00 28/11/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 8 – 9 May 2017, 8 – 10 August 2017, 25 September 2017 and 9 May 2018. The panel found all of the facts prvoed and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired. A Suspension Order for a period of 12 months was imposed as a sanction.

 

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

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing by a letter dated 30 October 2018 which informed the Registrant of the date, time and venue of the hearing.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

2. Mr Mason made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He referred the Panel to email correspondence between himself and the Registrant. On 20 November 2018, the Registrant stated that she would not be attending the hearing due to reasons relating to her health and well-being. Mr Mason advised the Registrant by email on 21 November 2018 that she should consider attending the hearing by telephone. The Registrant replied on 27 November 2018 by email and stated that she would not be attending the hearing in person or via telephone link. She did however provide a written reflective statement for the Panel to consider.

3. The Registrant did not apply for an adjournment of the hearing and there was no indication that she would be in a position to attend the hearing in the foreseeable future.

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 Panel decided that it was appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Registrant was aware that the review hearing she had requested was scheduled to take place today. The Registrant had waived her right to attend the hearing and there would be no benefit in an adjournment. It was in the public interest that the hearing should proceed without delay. Further, the Registrant had requested the review herself and made clear that she did not wish to attend. In these circumstances, it was in the interests of both parties for the hearing to proceed.

Hearing in Private

6. The Panel decided that it was appropriate for part of the hearing to be conducted in private to protect the Registrant’s private life. This decision was limited to the parts of the evidence which concerned the Registrant’s personal life, including her health.


Background

7. The Registrant was employed as a young person’s Senior Social Worker at CLIC Sargent between August 2014 and March 2015. The role included a requirement to assist families with the completion of claim forms for benefits including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The case involved two service users, Service User A (SUA), a 15 year old boy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2014 and Service User B (SUB) who was a 17 year old girl with aplastic anaemia.

8. A panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee considered the Allegation at a Final Hearing on 8 – 9 May 2017, 8 – 10 August 2017, 25 September 2017, and 9 May 2018. The Registrant was present and represented by Ms Long of the British Association of Social Workers on 8 – 9 May 2017, but was not present or represented on subsequent dates.

9. The Final Hearing panel found the Allegation proved. In the case of both SUA and SUB the Registrant asked the service user to sign the form applying for DLA or PIP before the completion of the form, failed to take the necessary actions in respect of photocopying, filing and posting the form, and was dishonest in making untrue statements that she had completed or posted the form. The Registrant admitted the dishonesty in respect of Particular 2(e), stating that she had intended to lodge the form the following day.

10. At the Final Hearing the Registrant alleged that she was bullied at work and referred to issues relating to her health. The panel found that there was insufficient evidence to make findings in relation to bullying.

11. The Final Hearing panel found that the proved particulars constituted misconduct and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. The panel found that the Registrant had shown limited genuine remorse or meaningful insight. In the evidence she gave to the panel she mentioned service users only once and referred repeatedly to her own distress and difficulties. The panel identified a real risk of repetition of the misconduct and dishonesty.

12. The Registrant had, at the time of the Allegation and previously, been working as a Social Worker in the child protection field. She provided a positive reference from her present manager. The Final Hearing panel considered the references, but noted that they did not make clear that the referees fully knew the terms of the HCPC Allegation.

13. The Final Hearing panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months. The panel was not able to formulate conditions of practice to address the Registrant’s dishonesty and decided that conditions would not protect the public. The Final Hearing panel was also of the view that a Conditions of Practice Order would not satisfy the wider public interest.

14. The Final Hearing panel advised the Registrant 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.

15. Today’s Panel was provided with correspondence between the Registrant and the HCPC following the Final Hearing. This includes a complaint from the Registrant and the HCPC response to the Registrant’s complaint. In her complaint the Registrant alleges that she has suffered institutional racism on the ground of her ethnicity because her evidence of bullying in the workplace was not accepted by the Final Hearing panel. She further complains that the HCPC was incompetent and that that it is unfair that there is no “exit date or plan for me”. The HCPC responded to the Registrant, advising her of the review process for her current Suspension Order and her option to apply for an early review of the Suspension Order. The Registrant was also reminded of the advice of the Final Hearing panel in relation to her preparation for today’s review hearing, most recently by Mr Mason on 21 November 2018.


Decision 

16. Mr Mason outlined the background and the findings of the Final Hearing panel. In relation to the Registrant’s complaint, he acknowledged that it was likely that the Registrant’s email dated 5 May 2018 with an attached letter from the Registrant’s GP and medical information was not provided to the Final Hearing panel when it reconvened on 9 May 2018 to consider sanction. Mr Mason described this omission as regrettable and not acceptable. Nevertheless, he submitted that the information was unlikely to have made a difference in relation to the Final Hearing panel’s decision on sanction.

17. Mr Mason submitted that although the Registrant had provided some positive information in relation to her insight and reflection, there was not enough to demonstrate that the Registrant had addressed the concerns of the Final Hearing panel. Therefore, he submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired and that it was appropriate to continue the current Suspension Order.

18. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It is not the Panel’s role to go behind the decision of the Final Hearing panel, but to make an assessment of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise in the light of any new information.

19. In her email correspondence with Mr Mason the Registrant made a request for the Panel to hear evidence by telephone from GW, a Social Worker and former colleague. The Panel decided that it was appropriate to hear evidence from GW.

20. The Panel found GW to be an honest, balanced, helpful and credible witness. However, there were important limitations to his evidence particularly because he had not had verbal contact with the Registrant during the last six months.

21. GW had knowledge of the Registrant because he had worked as a Social Worker in the same workplace alongside her but before the time of the Allegation. When he worked with her he found her to be a pragmatic, “hands on” Social Worker who was committed to families and respected by her colleagues. GW has maintained contact with the Registrant as a colleague and has discussed with her via text and messaging about the ongoing HCPC proceedings. He acknowledged that the Registrant began by blaming others and he described that her position has now changed and that she regards herself as “co-responsible”.

22. The Panel considered carefully the new information available, as well as that which was unfortunately not provided to the Final Hearing panel. This evidence related to the Registrant’s health in May 2018, particularly her ability to attend the reconvened hearing at that time. The Panel considered that the information did not add anything in relation to its assessment of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise as of today’s date. The Panel was also of the view that the information would not have had a bearing on the Final Hearing panel’s assessment of mitigating factors because the evidence related to the Registrant’s health in May 2018, not her health between January and March 2015.

23. The Panel next carefully reviewed the Registrant’s reflective statement. It was disappointed that the statement did not show the development in the Registrant’s insight that the Panel may have expected. The evidence of GW was more positive in relation to the Registrant’s growing acceptance of her own responsibility, but this was not borne out by the content of her reflective statement.

24. The Panel reviewed the advice that had been given to the Registrant by the Final Hearing panel and noted that it was clear. Despite that advice, the reflective statement was not sufficiently self-critical and did not adequately acknowledge her own responsibility given the seriousness of the findings against her. It predominantly focussed on the Registrant herself rather than on the service users and their families and did not contain any reflection on the findings or criticisms made by the Final Hearing panel. The Panel was concerned that the statement appeared to minimise the Registrant’s actions and their impact. For example the Registrant suggests that it was her “sudden resignation” that caused distress to the service users, rather than her own actions as set out in the particulars found proved by the Final Hearing panel. She describes her dishonesty as “an error of judgment” which, in the Panel’s view minimises its seriousness. Unfortunately the majority of the reflective statement is about herself rather than the impact on Service Users A and B, as well as their families.

25. The Panel was particularly concerned about the lack of emphasis in the written statement on the service users and their families because of the findings of the Final Hearing panel that the Registrant’s actions and inactions had had a very serious impact, particularly on a terminally ill service user. The receipt of the benefits would have made a real difference to the family.

26. The Panel also considered the information provided by the Registrant that she has completed an online course on anti-bullying and attended courses on confidence and coping with anxiety. The Registrant also hopes to pursue a Best Interests course through Leeds University if she can secure finances. The Panel’s view was that while it is positive that the Registrant is engaging in further training and education, the courses have not led to any significant change or development in the Registrant’s attitude, as shown in her reflective statement.

27. Having carried out a comprehensive review of all the available information the Panel concluded that the new information does not suggest that there has been any significant progression in the development of the Registrant’s insight since the Final Hearing in May 2018. Although the evidence of GW was encouraging, the evidence from the Registrant herself did not demonstrate the change in attitude that would have supported this. The Registrant continues to blame others and not to take sufficient responsibility for her actions.

28. The Panel therefore concluded that there remains a risk of repetition of misconduct and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

29. The Panel considered the option of revoking the current Suspension Order or replacing it with a Caution Order, but decided that this would not adequately protect the public due to the ongoing risk of repetition. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order, but decided that it was not appropriate or sufficient. It would not currently be practicable or workable to address the attitudinal issue which remains a concern. Further, it would not adequately address the wider public interest. There has not been a sufficient change in circumstances for the public to have confidence in the Registrant’s social work practice even if she was subject to conditions of practice. It is important that the Panel does not undermine the decision of the Final Hearing panel, especially given the adverse impact of the Registrant’s actions on two families.

30. The Panel therefore decided to confirm the current Suspension Order. The Suspension Order will be reviewed again before it expires. The Panel repeats the advice of the Final Hearing panel that a reviewing panel will 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.

31. The Panel takes this opportunity to remind the Registrant of its concerns about her reflective statement, in particular that it focusses too much on herself rather than the impact of her misconduct, as a professional Social Worker, on vulnerable service users.

Order

The current Suspension Order is confirmed.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 6 June 2019.

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