Mrs Julie Newton

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW91817

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 23/11/2018 End: 12:30 23/11/2018

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

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 22-24 November 2017:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed as a Locum Social Worker by Plymouth City Council:

1. In relation to Child A, you:

a) recorded that you had seen and spoken with Child A on 19 January 2016 when in fact the child had not been present;

b) copied (or “grabbed”) sections of the Single Assessment from the previous report prepared in or around October 2015;

c) not proved.

2. In relation to Child B, recorded that you had visited Child B at home on 03 February 2016 when in fact Child B had not been visited.

3. Your actions in relation to particulars 1 and/or 2 were dishonest.

4. The matters set out at particulars 1-3 constitutes misconduct.

5. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. This Panel was aware that written Notice of Hearing was posted by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address on 22 October 2018 and a reminder was also sent by email on 30 October 2018. The Panel was shown documents which established the fact of the service and the identity of the Registrant’s registered address and email addresses. The Panel took into account that the Registrant no longer lives in the United Kingdom. However, the Panel was satisfied that Notice of Hearing had been served in accordance with the rules, having been sent to the Registrant’s registered address.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant


2. Mr Mason, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. Mr Mason referred the Panel to an email from the Registrant dated 31 October 2018 in response to the email from HCPC of 30 October 2018 reminding her of today’s hearing. In her email the Registrant stated that she would not be attending this review hearing. She also stated in that email that she did not wish to practice as a Social Worker in any form and wished to be removed from the Register. The Registrant also requested that there be no further correspondence from the HCPC.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had regard to the content of the Registrant’s email dated 31 October 2018 and was in no doubt that she had voluntarily waived her right to attend this hearing. The Panel was further satisfied that no useful purpose would be served by adjourning this review hearing. Accordingly, the Panel determined to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background

4. Between 6 July 2015 and 23 February 2016, the Registrant was employed as an agency Social Worker via the Social Care Recruitment Agency (Network Health Care) in the referral service of the Plymouth City Council (the Council) Children Young People and Family Services. During the period covered by the Allegation, in January and February 2016, the Registrant was working in the Initial Response Team in the Referral and Assessment Service (the Service). Her responsibility was to make the initial visit to children in families where concerns had been raised. Some of these families were already known to the department.

5. One of her responsibilities was to make contact with the children in the family who may be at risk and complete a report known as ‘the Single Assessment’. In order to complete a Single Assessment, a Social Worker had to speak to the child at risk and ascertain his or her views and concerns.

6. The allegation arose from the Registrant’s contact with and assessment of two children between 19 January and 3 February 2016.

7. The first, known as Child A, was 5 years old and one of four children in a family that had had previous involvement with the Service. The children were referred to the department on 21 December 2015, because the mother of Child A had reported to her Housing Officer concerns about the children having contact with their father. There was a previous history of domestic violence.

8. On 19 January 2016, the Registrant visited Child A’s family and spoke with his mother. She subsequently completed a Single Assessment in which she claimed to have spoken to Child A, when in fact Child A was not present on that occasion.

9. The second child, known as Child B, was referred to the department because of concerns raised by a midwife who had seen Child B’s father apparently behaving aggressively at the delivery of a new baby. This family was also known to the department because of a history of domestic abuse.

10. On 22 February 2016, the Registrant submitted to her Line Manager, SM, for authorisation a Single Assessment of Child B which indicated that she had seen Child B on 3 February 2016.

Hearing in November 2017

11. At the hearing in June 2017, the original panel found proved those particulars of the Allegation as are identified above. The original panel further found that in respect of particulars 1(a), 2 and 3 the facts were sufficiently serious as to amount to misconduct.

12. The original panel had regard to the HCPC Practice Note on “Finding That Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and in particular to the two elements of impairment, namely “the personal component” and “the public component”. The original panel held that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired in both respects. It expressed its reasons as follows:

“The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct, in completing false records of visits to Child A and Child B, put vulnerable service users at risk. If other members of a Social Worker’s team read that a child had been seen when he/she had not, that child risks losing the opportunity to make his or her views known.
The Panel is satisfied that producing false records in a way that is deliberate and dishonest can bring the profession into disrepute.
The Panel is also satisfied that by being dishonest, the Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, namely the requirement to demonstrate honesty and integrity and, in the same way, has made it impossible to rely upon her integrity.
The Panel accepted that the Registrant’s misconduct occurred during a period of extreme … stress. There was no material before it to indicate that the Registrant has been dishonest in any other circumstances.
The Panel also considered the Registrant’s written submissions, in which she said that she understood the importance of proper record-keeping. Nevertheless, the Registrant fell short of demonstrating that she understood why it was important or the effect her actions could have.
The Panel acknowledged that dishonesty is not easy to remediate. Nevertheless, in the circumstances of this case, the Panel accepted that there may be ways in which it could be. However, there is no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant has begun that process and in her last communication, of 2 March 2017, she told the HCPC that she was not ready to deal with her future.
The Panel is satisfied that, until the Registrant gains full insight into her dishonest acts and begins the process of remediation, there is a continuing risk that she would repeat this behaviour if faced with stressful circumstances.
The Panel also considered the impact of the Registrant’s misconduct on public confidence in the profession. The Panel is satisfied that the confidence of reasonable members of the public in the profession and its regulatory process would be undermined if no finding of impairment were made in respect of a registrant who had falsified records. It is important that members of the public and other practitioners can trust the word of a Social Worker and can be confident that the records upon which the proper functioning of a Social Work team depend have been made honestly and accurately.
The Panel also considered its duty to uphold standards of conduct and integrity in the profession and is satisfied that that it would be failing in its duty to uphold standards if it made no finding of impairment in the case of the Registrant, who had departed from her proper standards of care to vulnerable children and sought to conceal her failures by falsifying records.
Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct.”

13. The original panel concluded that a sanction was necessary. It determined that taking no action, or making a Caution Order would not be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of the case.

14. The original panel then considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that in this case, such an Order was inappropriate. In explaining its reasons, the original panel stated;

“The Panel is aware that it is sometimes possible to impose appropriate conditions in cases of misconduct such as this. However, in this case it is not possible to formulate appropriate conditions because the Panel knows nothing of the Registrant’s current circumstances. Even if conditions could be formulated, there is no material before the Panel from which it could conclude that the Registrant would comply with them. On the contrary, the contents of the Registrant’s last communication with the HCPC indicated that she may still not be ready to return to work even with conditions.”

15. The original panel proceeded to consider making a Suspension Order and concluded that a 6-month Suspension Order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction, both to protect the public and to meet the wider public interest. In explaining its reasons, the original panel stated:

“The Panel has considered whether the Registrant’s conduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s misconduct, although serious, falls short of being fundamentally incompatible with her continued registration because it is not the most serious example of dishonesty, was not committed for personal gain, and was committed during a relatively short period and in exceptional circumstances.
Accordingly, the Panel has decided to impose a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months.
The Panel has decided on this period because it is satisfied that this period is sufficient to maintain public confidence by demonstrating that the Panel has recognised the seriousness of this case. It would give the Registrant the opportunity to build upon the insight she has developed and to address the steps that she would need to take to remediate her misconduct.”

16. The original panel stated that, given its conclusion that the impairment was remediable, a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate “at this time”. In explaining its reasons, the original panel stated:

“In all the circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that it would not be appropriate to impose a sanction of “last resort” at this time without giving the Registrant the opportunity to engage and remediate failings which appear capable of remediation, for the reasons set out above.”

17. With regard to a review by a reviewing panel, the original panel indicated what might be helpful to the reviewing panel, stating as follows:

“The Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry. At the review hearing, the reviewing panel is likely to be assisted by:

• The Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing;

• A reflective piece demonstrating that the Registrant has understood why her conduct was wrong, its impact on service users and colleagues and demonstrating how she would deal with a stressful personal and professional situation in the future;

• An account of her hopes for working as a Social Worker again;

• Evidence of any paid or unpaid work since this hearing;
• Character references or testimonials.”

Decision

18. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired. It noted that this suspension order was first reviewed on 22 June 2018 and extended for a further six-month period. The panel also noted that there had been no engagement by the Registrant in relation to the first review hearing. The Registrant did not attend the first review hearing and did not present any evidence of any remediation or insight. Nor did she comply with any of the matters which the original Panel had recommended would assist the reviewing Panel. Whilst a Striking Off Order was available as a sanction, the first review Panel was prepared to give the Registrant one last chance to engage and provide evidence of remediation. That panel said:

“The Registrant should understand that in the absence of engagement by her and should she not address the recommendations made by the original panel, there is a very real possibility that the next review panel will result in making a Striking Off Order.”

19. This Panel had regard to the very limited engagement between the Registrant and the HCPC since the substantive hearing in November 2017 and now. The Panel noted that, following the first review hearing in June 2018, the Registrant sent an email to the HCPC dated 26 June 2018 in which she expressed some remorse, “for any harm I may have caused”.

20. The Panel considered that whilst the Registrant has belatedly expressed some remorse, she has failed to provide any evidence of any remediation, reflection, training and education. The Panel also noted that on 29 June 2018 the Registrant by email stated that she wished to apply for “voluntary de-registration” [sic] and thereafter also failed to engage in the process required to enable the voluntary removal procedure to be completed.

21. Given the Registrant’s continued total failure to engage in any meaningful way or to provide any evidence that she is no longer impaired, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is still impaired on both the personal and public components of impairment. There remains a risk of repetition and public confidence in the profession and the HCPC would be undermined were a finding of impairment not made.

Sanction

22. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy and considered available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.

23. Given its finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is still impaired, the Panel considered that it would not be appropriate or in the public interest to take no action or to impose a caution order.

24. The Panel considered that no workable or practicable conditions of practice could be formulated, given the Registrant’s continued non-engagement and her stated wish not to practice as a Social Worker.

25. The Panel considered that nothing would be achieved by a further period of suspension, given that the Registrant has already been suspended since November 2017, during which period she has failed to take any steps to remediate and prevent any re-occurrence of her misconduct.

26. The Panel had regard to the content of the Registrant’s emails dated 29 June 2018 and 31 October 2018. The Panel considered that the Registrant no longer wishes to practice as a Social Worker. The Panel was also satisfied that it was in her interests and in the public interest for the Registrant not to be a registered Social Worker.

27. Taking all matters into consideration, the Panel concluded that the only proportionate and appropriate sanction which would adequately protect the public and maintain public confidence, was a Striking Off Order.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike off the name of Mrs Julie Newton from the Register on expiry of the existing Suspension Order.

Notes

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Julie Newton

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
14/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
25/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
22/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended