Ms Deborah Johnson

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW93641

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 26/10/2018 End: 11:00 16/10/2018

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

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 12 to 13 January 2017 and 20 to 21 April 2017.


Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Hull City Council, you:

1. Made mileage claims for journeys to Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, claiming to visit a service user, which were not undertaken on:

a. 13 August 2014;

b. 18 September 2014;

c. 8 October 2014;

d. 11 November 2014;

e. 11 December 2014;

f. 11 February 2015.

2. The matters described at particular 1 were dishonest.

3. The described at particulars 1 and 2 constitute misconduct.

4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is currently impaired.


The panel at the substantive hearing found the facts proved and found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired. A Suspension Order for a period of 6 months was imposed as a sanction. This decision was reviewed on 20 October 2017 and that panel imposed a further Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. There were no preliminary matters. The Registrant was participated in this hearing by telephone and was represented by Mr Barry Smith. The HCPC was represented by Ms Hayley-Jane Knight.


Background

2. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. The Registrant commenced employment with Hull City Council ('the Council') as a Grade 7, newly qualified Social Worker. Her role included travelling to meet with service users and their families. The Registrant was entitled to submit mileage claims to cover the cost of fuel when carrying her duties out on behalf of the Council.

3. In March 2015, GS, who was the person responsible for authorising the Registrant's mileage claims, noticed that the Registrant had submitted a claim for a journey to Newton Aycliffe, where there is a secure children’s unit. GS was aware that the Registrant no longer needed to travel to Newton Aycliffe as the service user who had been located at the secure unit had been transferred elsewhere. GS asked the Registrant to amend the claim. GS subsequently checked the previous mileage claims that the Registrant had made and discovered that the Registrant had made claims for six journeys to Newton Aycliffe that she had no professional need to make. The Registrant, when questioned, stated that she had made a mistake in relation to these claims.

4. A formal investigation was undertaken on behalf of the Council. The Registrant was subsequently reported to the HCPC.

5. A final hearing was held by the HCPC on 12 and 13 January 2017 and 20 and 21 April 2017. The panel at the final hearing found the facts proved and that they amounted to misconduct. It found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired and imposed a Suspension Order for 6 months.

6. The first substantive review took place on 20 October 2017, when a 12 month Suspension Order was imposed, due to expire on 19 November 2018.

7. At that substantive review hearing it became apparent that the Registrant had another matter of dishonesty against her. In a letter from the Registrant dated 25 August 2017, she said that she was referring herself to the HCPC for serious concerns relating to recruitment irregularities from East Riding of Yorkshire Council where she had been employed as a Care Coordinator within the Adult Safeguarding Team. She had failed to disclose to her new employer her previous employment with Hull City Council or that she had been subject to an HCPC final hearing which resulted in a Suspension Order being imposed. She attended an investigation meeting of Yorkshire Council on 15 August 2017 following which, she resigned with immediate effect. This resignation was accepted. The Registrant concluded the letter by saying that she accepted it was time to end her career as a Social Worker and would like the HCPC to remove her name from the Register.

8. This is the second substantive review.


Decision

9. The HCPC submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired and that sanction is a matter for the Panel.

10. By way of background the HCPC informed the Panel that the Registrant faces another matter of dishonesty which will be heard on 28 November 2018. The Panel is aware of the broad nature of this allegation from the previous determination.

11. Mr Smith, appearing on behalf of the Registrant, accepted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and therefore the only matter the Panel should consider is sanction.

12. He proposed that the Panel impose a further Suspension Order for a period of 4 months with a review hearing listed at the end of that period.

13. The basis for this approach, he suggested, was a pragmatic one, in light of impending proceedings in relation to a further matter of dishonesty, due to be heard on 28 November 2018.

14. Mr Smith suggested that this Panel, knowing of the additional allegation, is in a difficult situation, since the Panel is unable to resolve it, yet the Panel is aware of its existence.

15. Mr Smith further submitted that no prejudice would be caused to the Registrant or the public by the imposition of a further period of suspension.

16. In the event that the Panel was not minded to follow this course, he submitted that he would make further submissions as to sanction, and for this purpose, provide further evidence on behalf of the Registrant.

17. The Panel read the bundle of evidence provided. It also indicated that although the Registrant submitted additional documents yesterday, these have not been considered. The parties did not invite the Panel to do so.

18. In light of the admission of current impairment made by the Registrant, and given that the Panel could take the new matter of alleged dishonesty into account when deciding current impairment and sanction, the Panel agreed that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

19. The Panel considered that it must take a just and proportionate approach to sanction. It agreed with the approach suggested by Mr Smith. The Panel considered that this approach would allow the Registrant’s further matter of alleged dishonesty to be heard and determined, and for the result of that hearing to be provided to a reviewing panel in relation to any order imposed by this Panel. Further, if the allegation of dishonesty due to be held at the end of November 2018 is proved, then that panel could take these proceedings into account when determining impairment and sanction.

20. The Panel further considered that this approach would protect the public interest since the Registrant would remain suspended, pending the hearing in November 2018 and thereafter, until a reviewing panel considered the sanction imposed by this Panel.

21. The Panel decided that the current Suspension Order should be extended by a further 4 months with a review hearing.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Deborah Johnson for a further period of 4 months on the expiry of the existing Order. 

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 19 November 2018.

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 19 March 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Deborah Johnson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution
26/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
20/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
20/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
12/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard