Miss Mariam Komolafe

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW95533

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 12/11/2018 End: 17:00 16/11/2018

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

(As amended at a preliminary hearing on 19 March 2018)


Whilst registered as a Social Worker and during the course of your employment at Medway Council you:


1. In relation to the home visit concerning Child A which took place on or around 7 December 2015:

a) Did not recommend and / or record that you had recommended that contact between Child A and her Father should stop whilst a risk assessment was undertaken;

b) Did not question and / or record that you questioned Child A’s Mother regarding the presence of Child A’s Father at Residence A;

c) Did not have a discussion and / or record having a discussion with the key worker at Residence A;

d) Did not question and / or make a record of questioning Child A’s mother about previous unwanted texts sent by Child A’s father.


2. In relation to Family A, upon receiving an email from Residence A on or around 5 January 2016, did not advise and / or record advising Child A’s Mother during the telephone call on or around 5 January 2016, that she was:

a) Breaching the rules of Residence A by letting males into her home; and / or

b) Putting her tenancy at risk.


3. In relation to Family A, at a meeting held on or around 22 January 2016 reported to your Team Manager that there were no concerns in relation to the parenting of Child A by her mother, despite concerns having been raised relating to Child A’s welfare.


4. In relation to Child D, did not act upon your own suggestion to escalate the concerns to a Child Protection Conference.


5. In relation to Family I:

a) Did not attempt to carry out and / or make a record of attempting to carry out direct work with the father in relation to his behaviour and the impact on the children;

b) Did not carry out and / or make a record of carrying out direct work with Child l1 and / or Child I2 and / or Child I3.


6. In relation to Child A, during a home visit which took place on or around 29 December 2015, did not:

a) Challenge and / or record that you had challenged Child A’s mother as to why she let Child A’s father come to her home despite the requirement that contact was not held there;

b) Discuss and / or record that you had discussed with Child A’s mother the risks posed by Child A’s father.


7. In relation to Family B:

a) Did not advise and / or make a record of advising Family B’s mother of the decision to initiate pre-proceedings at the home visit on or around 29 December 2015;

b) Did not attempt to, and / or record attempting to, ascertain the identity of the unknown individuals who were present during the home visits on or around:

i. 20 August 2015; and / or

ii. 26 October 2015.

c) During the home visit on or around 29 December 2015, did not challenge and / or record that you challenged Family B’s mother about not maintaining her home conditions;

d) Did not adequately communicate and / or make a record of adequately communicating with partner agencies, including:

i. the Police; and / or

ii. the parenting programme attended by Child B’s mother; and / or

iii. the children’s centre attended by the family; and / or

iv. the freedom programme.


8. Did not question and / or challenge the mother during the core group meeting which took place in relation to Family C on or around 18 June 2015, when it came to light the father had been to the family home.


9. At a Child Protection Conference on or around 27 January 2015, in relation to Family E:

a) Did not question Child E’s mother regarding Child E’s poor school attendance when this issue was raised;

b) Did not adequately question and / or challenge Child E’s mother regarding an incident of domestic abuse;

c) Did not discuss the likely outcomes if the parents did not engage.


10. In relation to Family G:

a) In relation to the visit which took place on or around 5 February 2015, did not attempt to, or record attempting to ascertain who the unknown male was who was present;

b) At the home visit on or around 15 April 2015 did not advise and / or make a record of advising Family G’s mother of the decision to initiate pre-proceedings;

c) Did not record adequate observations in relation to Child G2 in respect of your visit on 5 February 2015.


11. Did not escalate matters appropriately to management in that you:

a) In relation to Child A:

i. Did not inform management in a timely manner of the concerns following your home visit on or around 7 December 2015;

ii. Did not discuss with management in a timely manner and / or at all concerns surrounding the incident reported by Child A’s mother on or around 29 December 2015;

iii. Did not raise the concerns regarding drugs which had been reported on or around 5 January 2016, with the Team Manager in a timely manner;

iv. On or around 7 January 2016, did not discuss concerns in respect of this case with management in your supervision session.

b) In relation to Child D, you did not discuss Child D’s lack of progress or meaningful change with:

i. Your Team Manager in a timely manner and / or at all; and / or

ii. Other professionals.


12. Did not consistently carry out visits within statutory timescales:

a) In relation to Family B between approximately 19 September 2015 and 29 December 2015;

b) In relation to Family G between approximately 25 January 2015 and 6 January 2016;

c) In relation to Family H between approximately 20 November 2015 and 25 January 2016;

d) In relation to Family I between approximately 10 December 2015 and 21 January 2016.


13. In relation to Child F:

a) Did not upload to the record keeping system documentation relating to direct work with Child F and / or record of the outcome;

b) Following Child F’s disclosure in October 2014 about the issue involving her mother’s partner discussing a sex toy with them, you did not:

i. Discuss and record that you had discussed the issue with your manager in a timely manner;

ii. Conduct and / or record that you had conducted a home visit in a timely manner;

iii. Discuss and / or record that you had discussed the issue with Child F in a timely manner and / or at all;

iv. Establish and / or record if the partner of Mother F consented to background checks in a timely manner and / or at all.


14. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 13 constitute lack of competence;


15. By reason of your lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service and Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

1. The Panel considered the Notice of Hearing that was served on the Registrant at her HCPC registered address on 28 September 2018. The Panel was satisfied there had been good service.

2. Mr Ferson applied to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He provided the Panel with emails from her to the HCPC dated 6 February 2018, 9 March 2018 and 9 April 2018. In all three emails the Registrant states that she does not wish to attend or be present at hearings. There has been no further correspondence from the Registrant since 9 April 2018 and she has not asked for an adjournment.

3. Mr Ferson referred the Panel to the relevant factors in R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5 and to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”. He submitted that the Registrant had chosen to absent herself from the hearing and clearly indicated her intention not to attend hearings.

4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”. It considered the criteria as outlined in that Practice Note and in the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162, balancing fairness to the Registrant with the HCPC and the public interest.

5. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself, having clearly indicated on three occasions that she did not wish to attend hearings. It considered that an adjournment would be unlikely to secure her attendance in the future and, accordingly the hearing should proceed in her absence. This was also in the public interest, given the need to protect the public.


Background

6. At the time of the Allegation, the Registrant was employed as a newly qualified Social Worker with Medway Council (“the Council”) in the Children’s Services Referral and Assessment Team between November 2013 and March 2016. At the end of 2013, the Registrant enrolled on the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) but did not pass. ASYE is a programme that gives newly qualified social workers extra support during their first year of employment. The programme aims to help them develop their skills, knowledge and professional confidence.

7. The Registrant was given support and was also placed on a support plan in December 2014 and was appointed to the post of Grade 2 Social Worker in April 2015. In January 2016, concerns came to light in relation to the Registrant’s handling of Family A. It was alleged that she failed to report that a bag had been found in Family A’s property which may have contained drugs. Her Team Manager, LW, undertook a review of the Registrant’s child protection cases and prepared a report. That report raised further concerns about the Registrant’s record keeping and her abilities to manage risk. SG and GA, Social Workers who worked with the Registrant at the Council, also raised concerns. The Registrant self-referred to the HCPC in February 2016.

8. The Panel heard from five witnesses who provided witness statements and gave oral evidence:

• Witness 1: LW a Social worker and the Registrant’s Line Manager at the Council;

• Witness 2: SG a Social Worker and Team Manager at the Council;

• Witness 3: MP, a Senior Social Worker at the Council;

• Witness 4: GA, a Quality Assurance Manager at the Council; and

• Witness 5: JG Head of Service at a Children’s Services Trust.

Witness 1 - LW

9. LW made the affirmation. She is a registered Social Worker at the Council. LW confirmed her witness statement was signed by her and was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is now a Senior Social Worker in the Connected Carers Team at the Council. She explained her current role and responsibilities.

10. LW told the Panel about the report she prepared on the Registrant’s practice. She explained the report related to the support provided to the Registrant and that, in addition, there was formal supervision. She said that the supervision details in her report came from the Registrant’s supervision file and she explained the relevant Council policies on record keeping.

11. LW explained her approach in producing the report. She had considered the Registrant’s child protection visits, her adherence to statutory guidelines, the child protection plans, and attendance at meetings such as Core Group Meetings. She explained that she had examined the Council’s record keeping system to produce the report and she had been assisted by a colleague, SG. She told the Panel that any written notes taken by a Social worker should also be recorded on the system so that it reflects a complete picture.

12. LW explained the position regarding Family A. She said that the Registrant had failed to properly conduct a visit to Family A when the alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse was present. LW said that as her Social Work manager, she expected the Registrant to have known that whilst assessing risk, contact with the father ought to have been halted. The Registrant ought to have been able to independently and autonomously reach that position. The Registrant’s approach had not been robust enough in the circumstances and LW set out for the Panel what she would have expected the Registrant to do in the circumstances, given the allegation of domestic abuse. LW stated that the Registrant had not, for example, recorded her discussion with the Key Worker in the housing complex in which the family lived.

13. LW also explained her concerns about the Registrant’s handling of the allegations about domestic abuse, repeatedly made by the mother of Family A. She said that the Registrant had failed to properly grasp and assess the situation, and this posed a risk to Child A, and also placed the Social Worker in a vulnerable position. LW explained the delays by the Registrant in assessing risk had placed Child A at serious risk of harm.

14. LW told the Panel about her consideration of the Registrant’s work in respect of Family B. The Registrant had not properly informed the family about pre-proceedings being initiated regarding Child B. Pre-proceedings are entered into when a local authority has concerns in relation to the care that a child is receiving, the aim is to try and avoid court proceedings. LW explained that the Registrant had also failed to identify unknown persons present in the family home. This was an important aspect when children have been assessed as being at risk of harm. All adults frequenting the family home should have been police checked. This was well known and the Registrant would have been aware of that from her ASYE training and from meetings.

15. LW explained the child protection plan for Child B. She said that must form the basis for the approach to the family. The Registrant appeared not to have challenged the mother regarding the condition of the family home, and LW said there was a failure to recognise risk and to work clearly with families about the consequences of their actions.

16. On the question of multi-disciplinary communication in respect of Family B, LW said that she found the Registrant had not followed the well-known policies and requirements to share information with other agencies. LW told the Panel of her concerns about Family G and explained that families need to be treated fairly. She said that any delay in sharing information could delay proceedings and place a child at further risk. She explained the importance of note taking on visits.

17. LW told the Panel of her concerns about the Registrant’s continuing inability to recognise and assess risk, despite, at times, daily supervision. The Registrant’s insight appeared good at times, but then she would fail to recognise risk, or delay in its assessment. LW had also identified delays by the Registrant in making child visits which placed children at serious risk of harm.

18. In response to Panel questions, LW explained the supervisory position and the handover arrangements. The Registrant’s previous manager had already left the Council before LW was in post as the Registrant’s Line Manager. As a result, LW explained the handover was not as robust as it might have been. There was no handover of supervision notes / files or appraisal documents. At the point of handover no concerns had been raised with LW about the Registrant’s practice.

19. LW explained that supervision was bi-monthly at that time, and she had responsibility for supervising 12 people at that time. She agreed that her formal supervision of the Registrant had taken place on 26 August 2015 and 29 October 2015. The average case load was 20 - 25 and LW recalled that the Registrant had about 22 cases. Two senior practitioners were also available in the team to provide support. LW said that in her opinion, a caseload of 22 – 23 was too many for a Social Worker to hold.

20. LW said that Social Workers were all over-worked, but the Registrant’s visits were weeks overdue. Even in the “real world” there was a need to prioritise caseload and consider the children at risk. LW accepted that although supervision did not always meet guidelines, she said that the Registrant did have adequate supervision within the team. LW said that she received weekly emails from the performance team when statutory visits were not undertaken within the specified timescales. LW admitted that she could have been “smarter” in her emails regarding alerting workers when work was not done within timescales.

21. LW explained the situation around Family A, the alleged domestic abuse and her concerns generally in respect of her joint accountability for many children. She said she relied on the Social Workers on her team to be in affect her “eyes and ears”. LW also explained the audit process at the Council. She accepted that in respect of Child G, the family in fact knew about the initiation of pre-proceedings and the Registrant could not in fairness be criticised for that.

Witness 2 - SG

22. SG took the affirmation and confirmed that her witness statement was signed by her and was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a registered Social Worker and worked as the Quality and Assurance Manager at the Council from June 2015 to June 2016. She now works in a Senior Social Work role at another council.

23. SG explained her role supporting the Registrant, who she said appeared open and receptive to advice. She met the Registrant on a weekly basis between January 2015 to July 2015. SG told the Panel about Family C, her review of the Registrant’s handling of the case, and her attendance at the Core Group Meeting on 18 June 2015. She said that the Registrant had not carried out a required risk assessment of the children of Family C.

24. SG told the Panel about Child D and the review of that case on 27 January 2015. SG explained her concerns about the Registrant’s delay in raising child protection concerns.

25. SG told the Panel about her review of the case of Family E and Child E. She explained the concerns about the Registrant’s failure to challenge and to raise concerns with the mother about Child E’s absence from school.

26. SG told the Panel about the Registrant failing to make the required Child Protection visits to Family H and Family I. These were statutorily required and important. Failing to make these visits on time was a risk and the voice of the child was very important. She said the Registrant had failed to “see” the child appropriately in Family H and Family I. SG also explained the need for direct work with parents and the Registrant’s failure to do so in respect of Family I’s father. She said the need to activate change was an important aspect of social work and direct work with parents was important.

27. SG explained that she had concerns about the Registrant’s compliance with policies as there was no change of her practice despite all the advice and support provided to her, which she appeared to accept. SG said she understood that the Registrant was presently working as a Social Worker in another council.

28. In response to Panel questions, SG explained the average case load was about 20 -25 cases. She said that was a higher than the normal of 18 -22 in most local authorities. Cases were allocated by the Team Manager and case complexities were considered in that allocation. SG said that she was asked to provide support and mentoring to the Registrant, not day to day case management or supervision. This had been agreed at a meeting with the Registrant and Team Manager, LW.

Witness 3 - MP

29. MP took the oath and confirmed that his witness statement was signed by him and was true to the best of his knowledge and belief. He is a registered Social Worker and he worked with the Registrant at the Council. He is a Senior Social Worker in the Child Protection and Looked After Child Team. He now works at another council in the same role.

30. MP explained his role supervising the Registrant. He met with and discussed the Registrant’s cases with her on one occasion for several hours and agreed the supervision agreement. He recalled that was in the winter, possibly December 2015 but could not be sure. He planned to meet her again in two weeks but he did not see her in the office again. MP explained to the Panel that there was no formal handover and he was not given any of her appraisals. He recalled caseloads were about 20, but at that time many Social Workers had more than that. He could not say what the Registrant’s case load was.

31. MP explained the support available in the team, including himself and other senior Social Workers and managers. Any manager could be approached to provide support. MP also explained the case allocation system. He also explained that social workers in the team would be expected to be on the duty rota one day every two weeks. The duty rota requires a social worker to have one day where they are responsible to be in the office to take any urgent enquiries from the public or other professionals and take action where appropriate. This could involve attendance at urgent assessment visits. MP could not recall the Registrant raising any concerns about her caseload. He was not alerted in respect of the Registrant missing Child Protection visits; he understood that this would be raised with her Team Manager LW. MP said that to keep to statutory timescales was difficult but he explained that managers would prompt social workers about outstanding visits.

Witness 4 - GA

32. GA made an affirmation and confirmed that her witness statement was signed by her and was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a registered Social Worker and worked with the Registrant at the Council. She was an Advanced Practitioner at the Council and is now an Auditor in the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance service at another council.

33. GA explained her role at the Council and her audit of one of the Registrant’s cases, Family F. She told the Panel about the audit system and the audit tool that was used to identify both strengths and weaknesses in children’s social care. Cases were selected randomly for audit.

34. GA audited the case of Child F and met with the Registrant and her Team Manager on 16 December 2014. Together they considered the case and identified the areas for improvement. She said that there appeared to be little evidence of direct work with the child and a lack of supervision records of the Registrant by her manager. There was no management supervision in respect of a disclosure made by Child F.

35. GA referred to Child F's "worry book” in the records, but said that it would have been more beneficial to have had a record of direct work with the child regarding the disclosure and some evidence of analysis of the position. There did not appear to have been work done by the Registrant on this significant disclosure and this was potentially leaving the child at risk. The risk was not being assessed. GA said that she expected this issue to be raised with managers immediately and that police checks should have been done. The Registrant had failed to do either of these.

36. GA said that she audited the case later again on 6 March 2015. She noted that following the initial audit and discussion with the Registrant and her Team Manager on 16 December 2014, no action appeared to have taken place until 9 January 2015. GA said that, as a result, between October 2014 and January 2015 an identified risk had not been assessed, and that was poor practice. GA said she would have expected this to have been done in a maximum of 5 working days, including a discussion with Child F. GA accepted that the audit form did not allow provision for timescales to be included, and that perhaps she should have put in a specific timescale.

37. With regard to Family F, GA said that the Registrant had not arranged background checks to be carried out on the boyfriend of the mother of Family F. These were important as part of the overall risk assessment and were part of social work training. An ASYE Social Worker, such as the Registrant, would need further training, but risk assessment and police checks were basic to social work.

38. GA explained her concerns about the lack of manager supervision of the Registrant which was reflected in the audit. GA had not specifically raised that with the manager, but she understood that the manager had left in July 2015 after concerns regarding a safeguarding incident. She understood that a support plan had been put in place for the Registrant, and GA had raised the issue of supervision with the Registrant.

39. In response to Panel questions, GA said that the Registrant had not raised with her any issue about Child F’s school counsellor with regards to the disclosure made. GA also explained the high level of support provided during the ASYE year to develop skills, knowledge and experience. GA told the Panel that the Council’s Children’s Social Care Services, including child protection, had been graded as “inadequate” by Ofsted in 2014 as children had been left at risk. The Ofsted report identified systemic failures across the whole organisation in relation to key areas including risk assessment, decision making, supervision, multi-agency working and management. Her role in quality assurance was as a result of that finding. In September 2015, Ofsted again inspected the council and it was graded as “required improvement”.

40. At the time of GA’s audits she said the Ofsted grading was still in place. She said she had done 50 or 60 audits every six weeks, and all were randomly selected. She explained the Team Manager’s role and said the main failings identified in her audit was the lack of formal supervision, oversight, and support.

41. GA said that she remained concerned that the risk in respect of Child F was not properly dealt with when identified in October 2014. This was a new risk that had not been assessed properly at that time.

Application to take the evidence of JG by telephone

42. The Panel agreed to the application by Mr Ferson to take the evidence of witness JG by telephone. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and considered the HCPTS Practice Note on “Case Management, Directions and Preliminary Hearings”. The evidence of JG is short, and appears to be non-contentious. It is not central to the case. The Panel considered that it could properly hear and test the evidence by telephone and that it was fair, proportionate and expedient to allow this evidence to be taken by telephone.

Witness 5 - JG (by telephone)

43. JG took the affirmation and confirmed that her witness statement was signed by her and was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a registered Social Worker and was Head of Service at the Council. She is now Senior Head of Service at a Children’s Services Trust, having left the Council in March 2016.

44. JG explained her role at the Council and why the Registrant’s previous manager was asked to leave. Serious safeguarding issues had arisen regarding that manager’s judgement and she had been asked to leave with immediate effect in July 2015.

45. JG explained the purpose of the “Legal Gateway” meeting that she chaired and took place on 11 November 2015, but she did not recall the specific details of the meeting. She said that LW took over management of the Registrant as soon as the previous manager left, given there was a level of concern about the team. She said she expected that the Registrant would have monthly supervision meetings.

Closing Submissions

46. Mr Ferson summarised the evidence and the HCPC case in his Closing Submissions. He submitted that all the witnesses were fair, consistent and balanced.

47. In respect of sub-particular 1(c) and 10(b), and given the evidence of LW, Mr Ferson advised he was not pursuing those sub-particulars. Mr Ferson referred to the evidence matrix, and invited the Panel to find the facts found proved in full, or in part, on the balance of probabilities.

48. Mr Ferson reminded the Panel of the law as to the grounds of lack of competence and misconduct. He submitted that the Registrant’s standard of practice was below what was acceptable although she carried an average case load. Mr Ferson submitted that the nine service user cases in the allegation was a fair sample of the Registrant’s work and showed a lack of competence. He referred to the cases of Holton v General Medical Council [2006] EWHC 2960 and Calhaem v GMC [2007] EWHC 2606 and to the definition of misconduct in Roylance v GMC (no 2) [2001] 1 AC 311.

49. Mr Ferson submitted that GA said in her evidence that the Registrant’s failings were basic to social work. LW and SG said there was risk to the children due to the delays. The Registrant was trained and supported during her ASYE, but a level of inadequate supervision was accepted. The Registrant had a further period of support after her ASYE but SG said there did not appear to be any improvement. Mr Ferson reminded the Panel that the issues with the Registrant’s practice continued late in 2015 and into 2016. Mr Ferson submitted that the Registrant had received sufficient training but there continued to be a serious falling short from the expected standards which amounted to misconduct.

50. Mr Ferson referred to the HCPC “Standards of conduct, performance and ethics” (2012) and to the HCPC “Standards of Proficiency of Social Workers” (2012). He submitted the evidence showed a breach of the “Standards of conduct, performance and ethics” paragraphs 1, 7 and 10 and in the Standards of Proficiency paragraphs 1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2, 2.2, 2.3, 4, 8, 8.3, 9, 9.2, 10, 10.1 and 14.3.

51. On impairment, Mr Ferson referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practice is “Impaired”” and to the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC927 (Admin). He reminded the Panel of the need to protect the public and the wider public interest.

52. Mr Ferson submitted there was no evidence of insight or remediation and the evidence suggested that the Registrant had not improved her practise despite appearing receptive to support. She was dealing with vulnerable service users and the consequences of her failures were profound. Further, the Panel had not heard from the Registrant who had chosen not to engage with the hearing, although she had nothing to prove.


Decision on Facts

53. The Panel carefully considered all the evidence and documents before it, together with the submissions from Mr Ferson. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the relevant principles. It was mindful that the civil burden of proof, the balance of probabilities, rests on the HCPC, and that the Registrant need not prove anything. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel as to the approach on the facts. On the issue of the alleged grounds of lack of competence and / or misconduct he referred it to the guidance in Holton, Calhaem and Roylance. He reminded the Panel that on grounds there was no burden of proof and this was a matter for their own professional judgement.

54. On impairment, the Legal Assessor advised the Panel to consider both past and future behaviour and to assess risk. He referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is “Impaired””. He reminded the Panel of the important guidance in the case of Grant. He advised the Panel to exercise its own professional judgement on this issue and he stressed to the Panel the central importance of protecting the public and the wider public interest, including public confidence in, and the reputation of, the profession and the regulator.

The Witnesses

55. The Panel considered all the evidence and considered the Allegation. The Panel found that all the witnesses credible and reliable and did their best to assist the Panel.

56. LW was credible and consistent and had good professional knowledge and experience. She was fair and was prepared to concede issues where appropriate.

57. SG had good knowledge of the Registrant and had good, practical knowledge of the case load. MP tried to assist the Panel but had limited knowledge of the events under consideration. GA was credible and reliable and showed a good knowledge of the workings of the Council and understood the Registrant’s work in context. GA had good knowledge of the ASYE programme. She was balanced and carefully considered evidence put to her. JG had little knowledge of the specific facts but she did her best to assist the Panel.

Findings on the Particulars of the Allegation

Particular 1: Child A

Particular 1(a) – Proved

58. The Panel found no recommendation that contact between Child A and her father should stop in the record of the home visit to Child A, and, on balance, found that the Registrant made no recommendation regarding contact.

Particular 1(b) – Not Proved

59. The Panel found evidence in the records of a specific record of the questioning of Child A’s mother by the Registrant.

Particular 1(c) – Not Proved

60. The Panel found evidence in the records of discussions by the Registrant with a key worker.

Particular 1(d) – Not Proved

61. The Panel found there was a reference in the records to discussions by the Registrant with the mother of Child A during a home visit about unwanted text messages.

Particular 2: Family A

Particular 2(a) & (b) – Proved

62. The Panel found evidence that the Registrant spoke to the mother of Child A but no evidence that she advised the mother that she was breaching the rules of Residence A or putting her tenancy at risk.

Particular 3: Family A

Particular 3 – Proved

63. The Panel found a record that there was a meeting and that the Registrant reported there were no concerns in relation to Child A despite there being concerns in relation to parenting.

Particular 4: Child D

Particular 4 – Proved

64. The Panel found that there was evidence that at a subsequent meeting child protection was discussed. However, the Panel accepted SG’s evidence that the Registrant had failed to explore the details sufficiently and had failed to escalate the concerns to a Child Protection Conference.

Particular 5: Family I

Particular 5(a) – Proved

65. The Panel found that although the Registrant attempted to identify a domestic violence programme for men for the father none were available. It found the Registrant did not record direct work with the father and, on balance, found that the Registrant did not attempt to carry out that work.

Particular 5(b) – Proved

66. The evidence in the records is that the Registrant tried to speak to the children, but there was no record of any direct work with any of the children. On balance, the Panel found that the Registrant did not carry out that work.

Particular 6: Child A

Particular 6(a) – (b) – Not proved

67. The Panel found that there were records of the Registrant challenging the mother of Child A on both issues, that is the father coming to the home and the risks posed by the father.

Particular 7: Family B

Particular 7(a) – Proved

68. There is no record of the home visit and the Panel found that, on balance, the Registrant did not advise Family B on the initiation of pre-proceedings. The Panel noted that there was a report of a letter concerning lack of contact and engagement being delivered by the Registrant to the mother of Family B at the visit which is the subject of the Allegation, but the Panel did not have sight of this letter. The Panel also noted, that there was a full discussion concerning pre-proceedings recorded as taking place at a subsequent home visit made by the Registrant on 20 January 2016.

Particular 7(b)(i) & (ii)– Proved

69. The Panel found that there is no record of the Registrant trying to ascertain the identity of unknown individuals who were present in the home. On balance it found that the Registrant did not attempt to do so.

Particular 7(c) – Not Proved

70. There is a record of the Registrant challenging the mother of Family B at the home visit. It found that, on balance, the Registrant did challenge the mother about the home conditions.

Particular 7(d)(i) – (iv) – Proved

71. The Panel found no record of any of the communications with the parties (i) – (iv). On balance, it found that the Registrant did not adequately communicate with those parties.

Particular 8: Family C

Particular 8 – Proved

72. The Panel accepted SG’s evidence. She was at the meeting with Family C and the Panel also considered the meeting notes. At the Core Group Meeting the Registrant did not question or challenge the mother of Family C about the father being in the family home.

Particular 9: Family E

Particular 9(a) – (c) – Proved

73. The Panel accepted SG’s evidence in her witness statement. It found that at the Child Protection Conference the Registrant did not question or adequately question the issues at sub-particulars (a) and (b), nor did she discuss the outcomes at (c). However, the Panel noted that in fact the Registrant had prepared a detailed report addressing these issues which was made available to those attending the meeting and was discussed.

Particular 10: Family G

Particular 10(a) – Not Proved

74. There was no evidence about the presence of an unknown male at the visit on or about 5 February 2015, and there was no evidence in any subsequent supervision notes of that issue.

Particular 10(b) – Not Proved

75. The evidence was that Family G already knew about the pre-proceedings which had been discussed at an earlier meeting on 1 April 2015.

Particular 10(c) – Proved

76. The Panel found no record that the Registrant spoke to Child G or made observations. There is no report on the appearance of the child. However, at the subsequent supervision meeting on 6 February 2015, the Panel noted that the Registrant verbally reported details of the visit to her manager and was not challenged on the content of the report.

Particular 11: Child A and D

Particular 11(a)(i) – Not Proved

77. The Panel found no record of concerns being raised with management. However, MP was supervising the Registrant at the time and he could not recall this meeting. There was no other evidence presented.

Particular 11(a)(ii) – Proved

78. The Panel considered LW’s evidence which was that she had not been told by the Registrant about the incident reported by Child A’s mother. The Panel accepted that evidence.

Particular 11(a)(iii) – Proved

79. The Panel noted the email raising concerns about drugs. LW’s evidence was that she was not told about this until 19 January 2016. The Panel did not consider that this matter was escalated or raised with a manager in a timely manner.

Particular 11 (a)(iv) – Not Proved

80. The Panel found no evidence of supervision on this date and MP does not recall any such meeting. There is no record of any meeting on 7 January 2016.

Particular 11(b)(i) – Proved

81. The Panel accepted SG’s evidence which was that there was no discussion with her Team Manager with regard to Child D’s lack of progress in a timely manner.

Particular 11(b)(ii) – Proved

82. The Panel found documentary evidence that whilst the Registrant had communicated with the play worker and health visitor, she did not raise Child D’s the lack of progress with other professionals such as the police and GP.

Particular 12: Family B, G, H and I

Particular 12(a) – Proved

83. The Panel found that whilst there were statutory visits made on 18 September 2015 and afterwards, these visits to Family B were not consistently made within the required statutory timescales. The Panel noted that the Registrant had a supervision on 29 October 2015 when this missed timescale was not raised by her manager.

Particular 12(b) – Proved

84. The Panel noted there were records of 21 statutory visits to Family G in this period, and 3 did miss the required timescale. The Panel noted that none of this was discussed at the two supervision meetings with LW in that period.

Particular 12(c) – Proved

85. The Panel found that whilst one additional statutory visit that the Registrant made had not been credited to the Registrant, she had not consistently carried out visits to Family H within statutory timescales. There was no evidence of emails from, or supervision notes made by, her manager concerning missed statutory visits, or evidence of any ongoing monitoring of performance in this area. The Panel also noted that the Registrant made additional home and school visits where the children were seen during this period.

Particular 12(d) – Proved

86. The Panel found evidence in the records that indicated the Registrant had not consistently carried out visits to Family I within the statutory timescales. 

Particular 13: Family F

Particular 13(a) – Proved

87. The Panel accepted the evidence of GA. There is no record of direct work with Child F or any outcome.

Particular 13(b)(i) – Proved

88. The Panel accepted GA’s evidence. It found no evidence of management involvement until 16 December 2014. The Panel found that the Registrant did not discuss and record the discussion with her manager in a timely manner. However, the Panel noted that in her oral evidence GA said that ultimate responsibility would have been with the Team Manager to follow up on the audit recommendations and provide supervision to the Registrant. The audit recommendations were not followed up by the Team Manager until February 2015.

Particular 13(b)(ii) – Proved

89. GA was clear that the Registrant had not conducted or recorded the home visit and there is no record of that visit.

Particular 13(b)(iii) – Proved

90. GA was clear that the Registrant had not discussed or recorded issues with Child F in a timely manner, and there is no record of any such discussions until 16 December 2014.

Particular 13(b)(iv) – Proved

91. GA’s evidence was accepted and she confirmed that the Registrant did not, in a timely manner, establish or record the consent of Mother F to background checks. There is no record of that and the police were not involved until 18 February 2015 despite the disclosure on 17 October 2014.


Decision on Grounds

Lack of Competence

92. The Panel carefully considered the issue of lack of competence and was mindful of the guidance in Holton and Calhaem. It noted that in Holton it states that “the standard to be applied was that applicable to the post to which the registrant has been appointed and the work she was carrying out.”

93. In Calhaem, lack of competence is expressed as “a standard of professional performance which is unacceptably low and which (save in exceptional circumstances) has been demonstrated by reference to a fair sample of the [doctor's] work.”

94. The Panel was satisfied from the evidence it heard about the size of her caseload, that the cases set out in the Allegation represent a fair sample of the Registrant’s work.

95. The Registrant was a newly qualified Social Worker and there was clear evidence that her management and supervision were less than adequate. The Registrant’s previous manager had been dismissed from the Council in July 2015 with immediate effect over concerns about her practice as regards safeguarding and risk assessment. The Registrant appears thereafter to have had a period without formal supervision from 13 July 2015 until 26 August 2015 when LW took over as her Line Manager and held a supervision meeting. In addition, Children’s Social Care Services at the Council were under considerable pressure at the time with an “inadequate” Ofsted rating.

96. The Panel noted that in respect of sub-particular 13, this occurred whilst the Registrant was still in her probationary period.

97. The Panel noted that in the report on the Registrant by the Practice and Performance Manager dated 27 November 2014 it states that there appeared to have been “a system failure” with regard to the Registrant’s ASYE programme and that “reflective supervision is not embedded throughout the service…. which raises the question of how we develop and promote reflective practitioners when their environment and supervision does not role model this.”

98. The Panel, exercising its professional judgement, took the view that the context and working environment in which the Registrant found herself as a newly qualified Social Worker may have impacted on her confidence and on her ability to learn and develop her skills. She was not adequately mentored or supported given her experience and knowledge at this early time in practice. The Panel noted that the Registrant only had 3 formal supervision meetings from 13 July 2015 until she was suspended by the Council on 2 February 2016.

99. The Panel found that the evidence indicated that there were four key areas where the Registrant lacked competence and her performance was unacceptably low:–

a. Analytical skills;

b. Risk identification and risk management;

c. Ability to know when to contact and inform managers;

d. Her authority as a Social Worker and her ability to be open and confident when communicating with vulnerable families around the issue of children at risk and the consequences of their actions.

100. The Panel considered the HCPC “Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers”. It considered that the findings of fact indicate that the Registrant breached the following Standards of Proficiency:

1.3 be able to undertake assessments of risk, need and capacity and respond appropriately

1.5 be able to recognise signs of harm, abuse and neglect and know how to respond appropriately

2.2 understand the need to promote the best interests of service users and carers at all times

2.3 understand the need to protect, safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children, young people and vulnerable adults

2.6  be able to exercise authority as a social worker within the appropriate legal and ethical frameworks

8.3 understand the need to provide service users and carers with the information necessary to enable them to make informed decisions or to understand the decisions made

9.2 be able to work with service users and carers to enable them to assess and make informed decisions about their needs, circumstances, risks, preferred options and resources

10 be able to maintain records appropriately

14.1 be able to gather, analyse, critically evaluate and use information and knowledge to make recommendations or modify their practice

101. In respect of the HCPC “Standards of conduct, performance and ethics” the Panel found that the Registrant breached the following Standards:

1 You must act in the best interests of service users.

7 You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners.

10 You must keep accurate records.

102. The Panel accordingly found that its findings of fact amount to a lack of competence.

Misconduct

103. The Panel exercised its professional judgment and was mindful of the guidance in the Roylance case. It also considered Nandi v GMC [2004] EWHC 2317 where the court said misconduct was “conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners”. In Meadow v GMC [2007] 1 All ER 1 the court said that misconduct should not be viewed as anything less than “serious professional misconduct”. The Panel was mindful that misconduct must be sufficiently serious misconduct in the exercise of professional practice that it can be properly described as misconduct going to fitness to practise.

104. The Panel has set out its finding in respect of the circumstances and context in which the Registrant worked. The Registrant commenced working for the Council in November 2013 and had previously undertaken a placement at the Council during her social work training course. The Panel noted from the available evidence that the Service had been failing throughout this period.

105. The Panel has found that the Registrant, at this embryonic stage in her career, was not adequately managed or supervised and that the Service had been rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted in a wide range of areas. Whilst steps were taken to provide supervision, the Registrant lacked a proper structure in which to develop her confidence, her judgement and her practice. She lacked reflective supervision.

106. The Panel did not find the Registrant’s behaviour to be “deplorable”. The Panel heard evidence from SG that the Registrant’s practice was variable and the Panel found evidence in the documentation of some good practice by her.

107. The Panel determined that its findings of fact strongly indicate issues around competency and not misconduct. In all these circumstances, the Panel determined that its findings of fact are not sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct.


Decision on Impairment

108. In considering its decision on impairment the Panel was mindful that the purpose of these proceedings is not to punish the practitioner but to protect the public. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and considered the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise if “Impaired”” and the guidance in the case of Grant.

109. The Registrant has not engaged meaningfully with these proceedings. The Panel was unable to hear from the Registrant in order to assess her insight or any remediation of her practice. The Panel had no evidence of any insight, remorse or any remediation. The Panel has no evidence about the Registrant’s current circumstances or future plans. There was some evidence from SG that whilst the Registrant appeared to be responsive to advice, her practice did not consistently improve. There are no testimonials or references.

110. The Panel was mindful of the central importance of protecting the public. The lack of competence found relates to many incidents over a lengthy period of time. These failings are reasonably wide ranging, including failures to recognise and assess risk, to record, report and escalate concerns, and failures to communicate adequately with management and with the appropriate agencies.

111. Whilst there was no evidence of any direct proven harm being caused to service users, these failures did have the potential to cause harm and the Registrant worked with vulnerable families and children. The Panel is of the view that the lack of competence is remediable but there was no evidence of any remediation or insight by the Registrant. In these circumstances, the Panel determined that there was a real risk of repetition of the behaviour leading to the finding of lack of competence, and it could not be satisfied that the Registrant could practise safely without restriction.

112. The Panel also had regard to the critically important public interest considerations. The Registrant’s failings were such that a reasonably informed member of the public would be concerned if a finding of impairment was not made. The Panel was mindful of the need to maintain confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards. Given its findings on lack of competence, the Panel determined that the public interest requires a finding of current impairment in this case.

113. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her lack of competence.


Decision on Sanction 

HCPC Submissions

114. Mr Ferson submitted to the Panel that sanction was a matter for its professional judgement. The Panel should act proportionately and have regard to the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy” (ISP). Mr Ferson submitted that the aggravating features were the potential risk of harm, the sustained nature of the failures and the risk of repetition. Mr Ferson reminded the Panel of the level of risk posed by the Registrant and that there was no evidence of insight, remorse or remediation.

115. On mitigating features, Mr Ferson submitted that these were the Registrant’s previous good character, and the context and circumstances in which the Registrant worked, including the lack of adequate mentoring and support.

116. Mr Ferson submitted that the Panel may find conditions of practice are not appropriate as the Panel knew nothing of the Registrant’s current circumstances. He referred to paragraph 31 and 33 of the ISP. Mr Ferson submitted the Panel may find that a Suspension Order was an appropriate option for the Panel to consider.

117. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor. The Panel was referred to the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy” and it was reminded that a Striking Off Order was not a sanction available to the Panel at this stage. It must act fairly and proportionately and apply the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public and the wider public interest. He stressed the importance of the public interest.

Decision

118. In considering the appropriate sanction, the Panel has had regard to its earlier findings. The Panel was mindful of the lack of any evidence of the Registrant’s insight, remorse or remediation.

119. The Panel first considered the aggravating and mitigating features. The Panel found the following mitigating factors:-

a. The Registrant’s final qualification placement, and all of her newly qualified experience was in a failing service;

b. There was inconsistent supervision;

c. There was some evidence of good practice, including positive feedback from other professionals;

d. The large size of her caseload, given the level of the Registrant’s experience.

120. The Panel found the following aggravating factors:-

a. The potential risk of harm;

b. The risk of repetition;

c. The large number of findings of lack of competence over a sustained period of time;

d. The multiple service users involved.

121. In view of the seriousness of the case, to mediate, to take no further action, or to impose a Caution Order would not be appropriate as such orders would fail to address the risk identified by the Panel. Those orders would also fail to protect the public or to maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

122. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel looked at the ISP and was mindful of the advice in paragraph 31 and 33:-

“31.  …Before imposing conditions a Panel should be satisfied that appropriate, realistic and verifiable conditions can be formulated [and that] the registrant can be expected to comply with them...”

“33.  Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:

• where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing…”

123. The Panel has no information about the Registrant’s current circumstances and whether she would be able or willing to comply with conditions. There is no evidence of any insight, remorse or remediation. In these circumstances, the Panel cannot formulate workable, realistic or proportionate conditions of practice. In addition, given the lack of competence found and the risk of repetition identified, such an order would not protect the wider public interest as it would fail to maintain public confidence in the profession or the regulator.

124. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Panel has found that the Registrant lacked competence and there is a risk of repetition. The Panel has no evidence of insight, remorse or remediation. The Registrant has chosen not to engage with her regulator and with this process apart from emailed confirming her non-attendance.

125. In all the circumstances, the Panel considered that a Suspension Order for 12 months would be the appropriate and proportionate sanction. The lack of competence was sustained and widespread and there was a risk of harm to the vulnerable families she worked with. Suspension would sufficiently protect the public and the wider public interest, as it will uphold public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC, and declare and uphold proper standards.

126. Given the finding of lack of competence the Panel cannot impose a Striking Off Order.

127. A future Reviewing Panel would be assisted by the Registrant:-

a. Engaging with the process;

b. Providing evidence such as, for example, a reflective piece of writing showing remorse, insight and remediation;

c. Detailing up to date evidence of the how she has addressed the four key issues the Panel identified, for example through work, paid or unpaid, in the care sector and supplying details of any relevant training and professional development;

d. Supplying relevant professional testimonials or references.

128. The Panel determined to place a Suspension Order on the Registrant for a period of 12 months.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Mariam Komolafe for a period of 12 months from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension 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.

1. The Panel heard from Mr Ferson and took account of all the information before it. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He referred it to the HCPTS “Practice Notes on Proceeding in Absence” and on “Interim Orders” and reminded the Panel that the primary purpose of an interim order is protection of the public and that it is necessary to balance the interests of the Registrant with the need to protect the public.

2. There has been no change in circumstances since the Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant and it determined to do so in respect of the Interim Order Application. The Panel noted that the Registrant received notice of the possibility of an interim order in the formal Notice of Hearing dated 28 September 2018.

3. The Panel is mindful that it is carrying out a risk assessment exercise. The Panel determined that that it would be wholly incompatible with its findings and with the sanction imposed to conclude that an interim order is not necessary for protection of the public or in the public interest. The Panel accordingly find that an Interim Order is necessary on both grounds. Given its findings the Panel determined that it is appropriate that a Suspension Order be imposed on an interim basis for a period of 18 months to cover any appeal period. When the appeal period expires this Interim Order will come to an end unless there has been an application to appeal. If there is no appeal the Suspension Order shall apply.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Mariam Komolafe

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
12/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended