Ms Pauline F Hanchard

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW78728

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

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

Location: ETC Venues, Avonmouth House, 6 Avonmouth Street, London, SE1 6NX

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

(As amended by the Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 20 November 2017)


During the course of your employment as a Social Worker for Wolverhampton City Council, you
1. In relation to Family 1:
a) You did not complete assessments in relation to Child 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d and/or 1e as requested by 8 March 2015 and/or at all;
b) You did not enter records on the Care First system in a timely manner; 
c) From 4 March 2015 you did not carry out and/or record fortnightly home visits as required;
d) You did not take appropriate safeguarding steps and/or record that you had taken those steps when you were informed by Witness 3 of an injury to a child in Family 1 on or around 15 April 2015, in that you did not:
i. inform your manager of the concerns; and/or
ii. organise a strategy meeting.
2. In relation to Family 2:
a) Between approximately 17 December 2014 and 2 February 2015, you did not complete fortnightly visits as required by the child protection plan;
b) Between the dates of 19 March 2015 and 25 March 2015 you did not:
i. follow up on the referral to Supporting Adolescents in Families (SAIF); and/or
ii. make any case recordings to justify your actions at 2 bi);
c) Between approximately 18 December 2014 and 3 March 2015 you did not arrange and/or record core group meetings in relation to Child 2b and/or Child 2c;
d) You did not enter records on the Care First system in a timely manner.
3. On one or more occasions in or around December 2014, you advised your manager and/or managers that you were re-registered with the HCPC when this was not the case,
4. Your actions as described at paragraph 3 were dishonest
5. The matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence,
6. The matters described in paragraphs 3 and 4 amount to misconduct.
7. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service and Proceeding in Absence

1. The Panel was satisfied that appropriate Notice of this hearing had been sent to the Registrant on 22 October 2018 at her registered address. Ms Dudrah stated that when she telephoned the Registrant on 22 November 2018 to remind her about the hearing, the Registrant stated that she would not be attending today’s hearing.
 
2. Ms Dudrah sought that the Panel proceed in the absence of the Registrant, all reasonable efforts having been made to serve Notice.  She stated that the Registrant was aware of the hearing and had said that she would not be attending or be represented today. The Registrant had advised Ms Dudrah that she was content for the hearing to proceed in her absence and did not ask for an adjournment, nor did she wish to attend by telephone. This was the first, mandatory review hearing and Ms Dudrah submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself and there was a public interest in the review hearing proceeding today. 

3. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing then the Panel has the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He reminded the Panel that it should exercise that discretion with care and referred the Panel to the HCPTS Guidance Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and to the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162.  This case makes clear that the first question the Panel should ask is whether all reasonable efforts have been made to serve the Registrant with notice. Thereafter, if the Panel is satisfied that proper notice has been given, the discretion whether or not to proceed must be exercised having regard to all the circumstances of which the Panel is aware with fairness to the Registrant being a prime consideration, but with fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public also being taken into account.

4.  The Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence as it was satisfied that it was both in the public interest and in the Registrant’s interest to do so. In reaching this decision, the Panel noted there had been no request for an adjournment and, indeed, the Registrant had clearly indicated that she would not be attending. It balanced fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the public interest. It is of the view that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself and that no useful purpose would be served by adjourning the hearing. This is also a mandatory review. In these circumstances the Panel is satisfied that it is appropriate and fair to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. 


Background

5. The Registrant was a registered Social Worker at Wolverhampton City Council (“the Council”). The Council found that the Registrant had failed to re-register with the HCPC and the Council commenced an investigation. That brought to light significant concerns regarding her casework. Significant capability issues were found with regards to the Registrant’s practice, however she did not engage with the Council’s investigation, and she was suspended on 27 April 2015.

6. At a substantive hearing on 20 - 23 November 2017 the allegation was found wholly proved. The allegation related to inadequate assessments covering two families, failure to keep complete and timely records, failure to organise Core Group Meetings and Strategy Meetings, failure to act on safeguarding concerns and failure to conduct visits. The allegation also included dishonesty in respect of the Registrant failing to re-register with the HCPC. 

7. The panel at the substantive hearing found the allegation as proved amounted to misconduct. It found that, due to the Registrant’s failings, there was a serious risk of harm to the children in both families concerned. That panel found that the Registrant had breached the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance, and ethics and that her fitness to practise was impaired.  It found no evidence of insight or any remediation. That panel also found the Registrant had brought the profession into disrepute. It imposed a 12 month Suspension Order. That panel made recommendations as to what might assist a future reviewing panel.


Submissions for the HCPC

8. Ms Dudrah reminded the Panel of its powers of review and its need to assess impairment and, if relevant, to consider sanction. She reminded the Panel that this was the first review of the 12 month Suspension Order imposed on 23 November 2017. She reminded the Panel of the background. 

9. Ms Dudrah told the Panel that there was no evidence of any remediation, nor any evidence of any steps taken by the Registrant to remediate her practice. She submitted that there remains a risk of repetition and the risk of harm to service users. The Registrant has not practised since 2015 when she left the Council. Ms Dudrah advised that despite the recommendations of the substantive panel, the Registrant had not submitted any written reflective statement. She submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired.

10. Ms Dudrah said that the Registrant had had time to remediate her practice and to develop insight but she has not done so. In a telephone call with Ms Dudrah on 22 November 2018, the Registrant had stated that she was planning to identify a suitable course next year and intended to return to practice if permitted to do so. Ms Dudrah reminded the Panel of the seriousness of the allegation which included a finding of dishonesty. Ms Dudrah reminded the Panel that it had the full range of sanctions at its disposal. She submitted that any sanction less than a Suspension Order, would not be appropriate given the findings of the substantive hearing and the lack of evidence of insight or remediation. 


Decision

11. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if she is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegation or go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment. 

12. The Legal Assessor further advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, all the options as to sanction could be exercised by the Panel. The Panel should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. He reminded the Panel that any sanction it imposes should be the least restrictive order that will suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.

13. The Panel considered Ms Dudrah’s submissions and the matters and the information before it. The Panel noted that the Registrant had provided no evidence of remediation or insight into the effect of her actions on the reputation of, and public confidence in, the profession. Whilst she had provided some limited information about her circumstances, the Panel found that she had failed to meaningfully engage with the HCPC. 

14. The Panel noted the telephone call from the HCPC case officer on 22 November 2018 when the Registrant did provide some information, but even that limited information was prompted by a telephone call from the HCPC the day before the review hearing.

15. The Panel appreciated that the Registrant appeared to have faced some personal difficulties at the time of the incident which led to the allegation, however it noted that the finding of misconduct was serious and included a finding of dishonesty. A serious risk of harm was identified, as was a real risk of repetition. However, there remains no evidence of insight or remediation despite 12 months since the substantive hearing. In all the circumstances, the Panel has decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains currently impaired.  

16. The Panel next considered the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. It was mindful of the need to act proportionately and keep the public interest at the forefront of its mind. Neither a Caution Order nor a Conditions of Practice Order are appropriate in this case, given the seriousness of the findings, the lack of engagement by the Registrant, and the lack of evidence of remediation of her practice.

17. The Panel considered paragraph 39 of the ISP which states suspension may be considered where “the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated” and continues at paragraph 41 “…if the evidence suggests that the Registrant is unable to resolve or remedy her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option”.  The Panel finds that there remains a risk of repetition given the complete lack of evidence before it of insight or remediation. It finds that the evidence does suggest that the Registrant is unable or unwilling to resolve or remedy her failings. The Panel also considered paragraph 48 of the ISP. It states that striking off may be appropriate “where there is a lack of insight” or there is an “inability or unwillingness to resolve matters.”
 
18.  The Panel had regard to the recommendations set out at paragraph 71 of the substantive decision, where it stated:

“the reviewing Panel is likely to be assisted by the following:

• The Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing

• The Registrant’s written reflections upon this Panel’s findings and the impact of her misconduct on service users and the reputation of the profession

• A reference from any employer in relation to any work, paid or unpaid, undertaken by the Registrant in the period following this hearing

• Evidence that her social work skills and knowledge have been kept up to date.”

19. The Panel found that the Registrant had made no effort to meet those recommendations. It could find no evidence of a genuine desire to remediate her failings and return to practice. The Panel found that there continues to be a complete lack of insight by the Registrant into her failings. She appears to be neither able nor willing to take action to remediate her practice. Further, the Registrant has not provided anything in writing for the Panel to consider. The Panel has also seen no evidence of remorse. It found that there appears to be no genuine willingness to take action to resolve matters. 

20. In these circumstances the Panel sees nothing to be gained by the imposition of a further period of suspension, nor would that serve the wider public interest. There remains a real risk to the public and risk of repetition.

21. The Panel has carefully considered the ISP and determined to impose a Striking Off Order to take effect at the expiry of the current Suspension Order. The Panel considers that in all the circumstances a Striking Off is the proportionate and appropriate sanction. It both protects the public and satisfies the wider public interest in upholding proper standards and maintaining public confidence in the profession.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Pauline Hanchard from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This Order imposed today will apply from 21 December 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Pauline F Hanchard

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
20/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended