Mrs Ranjana Varia

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW64130

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 08:30 05/10/2018 End: 11:00 05/10/2018

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

 

Your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired by reason of your health.

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters


Proceeding in private
1. The Panel heard that matters relating to the Registrant’s health were to be discussed as part of this application. Ms Knight submitted that it was appropriate that the entire hearing be held in private as the Registrant’s health was intrinsically linked to the issues in this case. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Health Committee) Procedure Rules 2003 (“Procedural Rules”) whereby matters pertaining to the private life of the Registrant, the complainant, any person giving evidence or of any Patient or Client should be heard in private. The Panel agreed the entire hearing should be in private as the Registrant’s health issues form a major part of the HCPC’s case at this stage.


Background

2. The Registrant was employed by Leicestershire County Council (“the Council”) as a Social Worker from 31 May 2000 to 7 March 2014. She worked as a Level 3 Social Worker in the Adult and Communities Department in the Council’s Community Mental Health Team. Her main responsibilities were undertaking assessments under the Community Care Act and carrying out eligibility assessments in order to determine access to services for adults with mental health problems in the Department’s care. In addition, the Registrant was required to complete comprehensive risk assessments, identify safeguarding concerns and undertake safeguarding investigations. The Registrant was also required to ensure that accurate records were kept of the work which she carried out.

3. The Registrant was diagnosed with a health condition in 1998 when she was a university student. Throughout her employment with the Council, the Registrant had the benefit of reasonable adjustments, which had been put in place by the Council to mitigate the effects of her health condition on the work that she was required to undertake.

4. The Council had concerns about the Registrant’s capability. Those ongoing concerns were set out and informal performance management of the Registrant, under the Council’s Capability Procedure, began in around April 2013. The first hearing at the formal stage of the Capability Procedure took place on 23 May 2013. Shortly after this hearing the Registrant was absent from work until the end of October 2013.

5. On her return to work the Registrant was placed on a formal performance improvement plan. This was reviewed in November 2013; however, the concerns around the Registrant’s practice remained. The Registrant resigned from her employment with the Council in March 2014 and she was referred to the HCPC for consideration of her fitness to practise as a Social Worker.

6. In March 2016 a Substantive Hearing of a Health Committee of the HCPC determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of a health condition. The Registrant attended the hearing by telephone. At a resumed hearing on 10 June 2016 that Health Committee panel found that there were a number of key areas of social work practice where the Registrant was not performing to the standard which could properly be expected of her, even taking into account the need for reasonable adjustments in respect of her health condition.

7. The panel had found that the Registrant had developed limited insight into the effect of her health condition on her practice as a Social Worker. It also found that the Registrant had taken only limited steps to develop effective strategies to manage her health condition in the workplace. For these reasons, the panel considered that the Registrant presented a risk to service users and the panel was concerned that there was a risk of reoccurrence of the deficiencies identified in her professional practice.

8. The panel identified this case as one involving serious lapses over a period of time and one where vulnerable service users were affected. It concluded that a Suspension Order was a proportionate response in all the circumstances of this case. Having carefully considered the matter the panel suspended the Registrant’s registration for a period of five months.

9. The order was reviewed on 7 November 2016 and 27 October 2017. On both those occasions, Mrs Varia did not attend nor did she send a representative. In the absence of her engagement, the panels on those two occasions did not have sufficient evidence for them to be satisfied that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was no longer impaired. On each occasion, the panel determined that the order should be extended for a further period of 12 months.

10. After the last review there was a discussion between the HCPC and the Registrant about the possibility of these matters being disposed of by way of Voluntary Removal. However, due to time constraints progress could not be made in that regard.

Decision

11. The Panel heard oral evidence from Mrs Varia. It also heard submissions from Ms Knight and Mrs Varia.

12. Mrs Varia told the Panel that she had not worked as a Social Worker for four years and that she did not envisage returning to the Social Work profession. She told the Panel that she has not been able to find employment in roles allied to that of a Social Worker and therefore she has no evidence to provide the Panel to demonstrate that she is able to operate effectively in the workplace and manage her health.

13. Mrs Varia told the Panel that she wanted her name removed from the HCPC register. When the difference between a Striking-Off Order and voluntary removal by agreement was explained to her, she indicated that she would like her name removed by the voluntary agreement.

14. Ms Knight outlined the background to the case and the decisions of the previous Health Committee panels. She drew the Panel’s attention to the decision of the panel at the Final Hearing and the reasons it gave for finding the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired then and the reasons for the Suspension Order being imposed.

15. Ms Knight submitted that the Registrant demonstrated that there was no change in her circumstances and therefore the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired today.

16. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Legal Assessor 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, on the assumption that reasonable adjustments were made for her disability. Its role is not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor is it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.

17. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then all the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. This is because the Registrant’s registration has been suspended for a period of two years.

18. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.

19. The Legal Assessor further advised the Panel that if it considered a Striking-Off Order to be appropriate in the circumstances, it must take into account the alternative route of voluntary removal by agreement when determining whether such a Striking-Off Order would be proportionate in the circumstances.

20. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it, the evidence of the Registrant, and the submissions of both parties.

21. In particular it noted the following factors:
a) The engagement of the Registrant with the process.
b) The lack of any evidence to show that the Registrant is able to operate effectively in the workplace despite reasonable adjustments being made for her disability.
c) The Registrant’s submissions that she no longer wishes to practise as a Social Worker and has not done so for the past four years.

22. Taking all of the above into consideration, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of her health.

23. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired by reason of her health the Panel went on to consider what action to take today. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document and considered its powers under Article 30(1).

24. The Panel first considered taking no further action and allowing the order to lapse upon expiry. The Panel determined that this was not appropriate as the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired today.

25. The Panel went on to consider whether to impose a Caution Order upon the expiry of the current order. For the reason set out above, the Panel determined that the imposition of a Caution Order upon expiry of the current order is not the appropriate action to take today, as this would not restrict the Registrant’s practice and would not be sufficient to protect the public.

26. The Panel then considered imposing a further period of suspension and determined that this was the appropriate action to be taken today in light of the circumstances of the case, and the Registrant’s indication that she wished to apply for voluntary removal of her name from the HCPC register. The circumstances of the case are such that the removal of the Registrant’s name from the Registrant was now the appropriate course of action. However, the Panel determined that to impose a Striking-Off Order now without affording the Registrant the opportunity to apply for a Voluntary Removal Agreement would be disproportionate. The Panel determined that a further Suspension Order for a period of 6 months be imposed upon the expiry of the current order. This would facilitate an opportunity for such an agreement to be made and for it to be placed before another reviewing panel of the Health Committee.

27. If Mrs Varia does apply for voluntary removal, the Panel expects that it will be dealt with urgently as it recognises that proceedings of this nature can, and is likely to, adversely affect Mrs Varia. If Mrs Varia does not apply for voluntary removal, then this order will be reviewed before it expires and Mrs Varia should be in no doubt that a Striking-Off Order is a very real possibility on the next review if that panel finds her fitness to practise still impaired.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Ranjana Varia for a further period of six months upon the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 7 November 2018.
This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 7 May 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Ranjana Varia

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
27/10/2017 Health Committee Review Hearing Suspended
07/11/2016 Health Committee Review Hearing Suspended
10/06/2016 Health Committee Final Hearing Suspended