Mr Neil Rutland

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW95436

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 12:30 15/11/2018 End: 17:00 15/11/2018

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

Between  March  2014  and  November  2014,  during  the  course  of  your employment as a Social Worker by Hampshire County Council, you:

1.  In the case of the A Children:

a)  In September 2014, produced an Initial Child Protection Conference
(ICPC) Report, and you:

i.  Did  not  include   and/or   highlight   safeguarding   concerns   of neglect in relation to the children;

ii.  Did not remove the names and/or addresses of the siblings of the A children’s from the report;

iii. Did not act upon all potential risk factors within the A Children's household;

iv. Did not include concerns raised by other professionals about the children.

b) Following a referral made by two members of the public, did not recognise that there may be a concern for the A Children's safety;

2. In November 2014, in relation to Child B, completed a child  protection report and concluded that it was indicated that an  assault by a parent took place, despite the fact that medical  evidence did not confirm this.

3.  In August 2014, in relation to the B Children, you:

a)  Inappropriately recommended that the children’s case was closed, despite safeguarding concerns.

b)  Did not carry out welfare checks on the children during a section 17 assessment;

c)  On 30 October 2014, during a child protection monitoring visit, you:

i.  Did not make  the grandmother  aware  of the  concerns  raised about the children;

ii.  Did not approach the children in an age-appropriate and/or child- focused manner.

iii. Did not ask the children  about the concerns  which led to the visit.

4.  In relation to the C Children, you:

a)  On 3 November 2014, submitted a child protection report and you:

i.  Had not previously informed your manager that the father had disclosed on/or around 27 October 2014 that he had assaulted one of the children.

ii. [NOT PROVED]
 
5.  On 14 November 2014, you carried out a section 17 visit in relation to Child D and you:

a)  Did not take into account information recorded on the case file (ICS
system) in relation to Child D's father;

b)  Made  an  unsafe  contract  and/or  plan  with  Child  D's  mother  to enable Child D to remain at the parental home during the day;

c)  Did not assess the potential risk factors within Child D's home;

6.  In relation to Family E, in an assessment  submitted on or around 4
October 2014, did not seek to challenge the parent’s account in relation
to the physical assault of one of the children.

7.  The  matters  described  in  paragraphs  1  -  6  constitute  misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

 

Preliminary Matters

 

Service

 

1.         The Panel found that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing by a letter dated 15 October 2018 which informed the Registrant of the date, time and venue of the hearing.

 

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

 

2.         Ms Simpson, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She referred the Panel to an e-mail from the Registrant dated 7 November 2018. This letter sets out details of a health condition and also contains written submissions for the Panel. Ms Simpson telephoned the Registrant on 14 November 2018 and recorded the discussion in a telephone attendance note. The Registrant said that he would not attend the hearing and did not wish to participate by telephone. There was a further discussion about the Registrant’s position in relation to the review and the Registrant explained that he does not want the process to be further extended.

 

3.         The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence is one which must be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

 

4.         The Panel considered the circumstances of the Registrant’s absence. He is aware of the hearing and has decided not to attend or to participate. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has waived his right to attend the hearing and that an adjournment would serve no purpose. It is in the Registrant’s interest and the public interest that the review hearing proceeds expeditiously. The Panel therefore decided that it was appropriate to proceed today in the Registrant’s absence.

 

Hearing in private

 

5.         Ms Simpson made an application for part of the hearing to be heard in private. Her application was limited to the parts of the hearing involving details of the Registrant’s health.

 

6.         The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and decided that it was appropriate for part of the hearing to be heard in private to protect the Registrant’s private life.

  

Background

 

7.         The Registrant is a Registered Social Worker and had previously been employed as such by Hampshire County Council.

 

8.         At a substantive hearing on 14-16 November 2016, the Allegation as set out above was found proved by a Conduct and Competence Committee panel. That panel also found that the matters found proved constitute lack of competence and found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. As a result, the panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months. The panel considered that a future panel may be assisted by:

 

        The Registrant’s attendance

 

        Evidence of any relevant training including the areas of safeguarding, assessing risk and report writing.

 

9.         The Suspension Order was reviewed on 16 November 2017. The Registrant did not attend the hearing or make written representations. That panel noted the serious, wide-ranging and persistent failings identified by the Final Hearing panel. The failings involved communicating with young children at risk, failings in communication with other professionals, and failings in risk assessments. The failings occurred despite extensive support provided by the Registrant’s employer during the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment. The panel also found that the Registrant’s insight was limited to his own personal circumstances and did not extend to the impact it had in relation to vulnerable service users to whom he had been allocated or to the wider public interest in upholding the reputation of the profession.

 

10.       The Review panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate order was to extend the suspension order for a further twelve month period.

 

Decision on Impairment

 

11.       The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Simpson, accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Finding that Fitness to Practise is “Impaired””.

 

12.       The Panel was aware that its task today is to conduct a comprehensive review of the Suspension Order in the light of all of the current circumstances before it.

 

13.       The Panel carefully considered the Registrant’s e-mail dated 7 November 2018 and Ms Simpson’s telephone attendance note dated 14 November 2018. The Registrant provided information about his current health and current circumstances. He states that he has been able to rebuild his life and has been able to come off his anti-depressants. The Registrant also refers to his diagnosis of dyslexia and makes criticism of his former employer in this respect. The Registrant told Ms Simpson that he is working for an accountants firm. When he was asked about his intentions in respect of social work he said that he had “given up” on social work and that he could not see how he could return. Although he suggested a possibility that he would return, he was also very clear that he did not want the HCPC process to be extended and that each review brings back everything for him again.

 

14.       There was no evidence that the Registrant has addressed his lack of competence through training or any other action or that he is motivated to do so. The Panel did not consider that there has been any significant change in the level of the Registrant’s insight. The Panel concluded that the risk of repetition of his failings, as identified by the Final Hearing panel, remained. Therefore the Registrant’s impairment continues on the public protection grounds.

 

15.       The Panel considered that a restrictive sanction was required in order to protect the public from the Registrant’s widespread lack of competence.  It would not be sufficient to take no action, or to impose a Caution Order because of the ongoing risk of repetition.

 

16.       The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order and decided that it would not be sufficient.  The Registrant was provided with extensive support which included frequent supervision and a reduced caseload, but the lack of competence persisted. Conditions would also not be realistic or workable. The Registrant does not have a current plan to return to social work and does not believe that he could secure employment. He associates working as a Social Worker with feelings of anxiety and damage to his mental well-being.

 

17.       The Panel considered the option of extending the current Suspension Order. The Panel carefully considered whether there is a realistic prospect that the Registrant will take the necessary remediation and rehabilitation steps so that the risk of repetition is reduced to an acceptable level. The Panel decided that there is no real prospect.    Although a further period of suspension would provide adequate protection for service users, the Panel decided that it was not the appropriate or sufficient sanction, having regard to the wider public interest considerations. The Registrant has been suspended for almost two years. Although the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC in relation to the review hearing, he is not himself seeking an extension of the Suspension Order; to the contrary he has said that he does not want the process to be extended. The Panel therefore concluded that a further period of suspension would not be in the public interest or the Registrant’s interests.

 

18.       The sanction of a Striking Off Order is a sanction of the last resort. The Panel decided that it was the appropriate and proportionate order.

 

Order

 

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Neil Rutland from the Register from the date of the expiry of the current Suspension Order.

 

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Neil Rutland

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
15/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off