Ms Marie Esther Nolan

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW84927

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 11:30 05/10/2018 End: 16:00 05/10/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

The following allegation was considered and found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 8 – 11 June 2015.

During your employment as a Social Worker for Hampshire County Council you:

1. Failed to undertake and/or adequately record the required number of Child Protection visits and/or statutory visits in relation to the following cases:

a) Family 1
b) Family 2
c) Family 3
d) Family 4
e) Family 5
f) Family 6
g) Family 7
h) Family 8
i) Family 9
j) Family 10
k) Family 11
l) Family 12

2. Failed to maintain adequate records in that you did not make any entries on the ICS/SWIFT system:

a) For around 3 months in relation to the following cases:

i. Family 7
ii. Family 8
iii. Family 11

b) For more than 6 months in relation to the following cases:

i. Family 4
ii. Family 9

3. Did not conduct risk assessments and/or core assessments as required in relation to the following cases:

a) Family 1 in relation to whether the children were safe in their parents care;

b) Family 4;

c) Family 5 in relation to the child returning to their parents’ care;

d) Family 10 in relation to:

i. The care arrangements in place;
ii. The mother’s new partner.

4. Failed to act on potential risk in that, in relation to Family 10, you did not:

a) Refer concerns about the mother’s drug use to the drug agency

b) Follow up on an assault allegedly perpetrated by the mother on another adult at a school.

5. You did not carry out the required case actions for Family 11 between 8 May 2012 and 8 August 2012.

6. Did not complete documents for court hearings in the requested timescales in that:

a) In relation to Family 3 you did not complete:

i. The Section 7 report by 20 February or 21 March 2012;
ii. The Addendum report by 18 May 2012.

b) In relation to Family 7 you did not complete the Care Plans by 6 August 2012.

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

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

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, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted it was appropriate that parts of the hearing be held in private where the Registrant’s health and private life was to be discussed. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence 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 that the parts of the hearing where reference was to be made to the Registrant’s health and private life should be heard in private.


Background

2. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker and the matters that appear in the Allegation set out above were brought to the HCPC's attention by her former employer, Hampshire County Council.

3. At the final hearing, the facts found approved (Particulars 1 – 6) were found to constitute misconduct and the Registrant's fitness to practise was found to be impaired. A 12 month Suspension Order was imposed.

4. At the previous reviews of the Order, the reviewing panels found that the Registrant had demonstrated some insight into her failings and some reflection on what she should do to prevent such failings recurring. However they determined that the Registrant had not demonstrated satisfactorily, the steps in which she has taken to remediate the failings in her practice.

5. The Registrant had previously indicated that she wanted to address her failings regardless of whether she returned to social work or not. Previous panels had recommended to the Registrant what they considered would be assistance to a panel reviewing this Order.

6. However, the Registrant did not provide such evidence as was recommended, at the previous reviews. As a result the previous panels found the Registrant's fitness to practise remained impaired, and that the appropriate action to be taken at each those reviews was to extend the Suspension Order.

7. At today’s hearing, Ms Knight, on behalf of the HCPC, opened the case and outlined the background and reviews that have taken place to date. The Panel heard oral evidence from the Registrant.

8. The Registrant told the Panel of the voluntary work that she had undertaken. She had assisted with support of challenging pupils in an after school setting. Furthermore, for a six week period one day a week she had been engaged as a volunteer by AgeUK to coordinate activities. She told the Panel of the IT course that she had undertaken and how her confidence has been boosted.

9. The Registrant acknowledged that the circumstances in her personal life had affected her professional life and work. She told the Panel of her current circumstances. She also told the Panel that she had not in the past had a laptop nor internet access but that she has recently acquired these.

10. The Registrant said that to keep up with her practice and knowledge as a Social Worker, she had looked at the safeguarding policies where she volunteered.

11. Ms Knight submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. She submitted that the Registrant had not demonstrated sufficient progress and that there had been no change in the circumstances since the last review.

12. The Registrant accepted that she was not ready to return to social work at present but might be able to in the future.


Decision

13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration the oral evidence of the Registrant, together will all the documentation before it, and the submissions of Ms Knight and the Registrant. In particular, it noted the following factors:

a. This is a case of misconduct and there is no suggestion that the Registrant lacked the requisite competence to carry out the role of a Social Worker;

b. The engagement of the Registrant with the process and her commitment to remaining in the profession;

c. The documentation provided by the Registrant which included a reflective piece, certificate of completion of a course

14. The Panel determined that the Registrant has only taken limited steps to remediate her misconduct. The Panel took into consideration that there were personal circumstances in the Registrant's life that that contributed to the limited steps she has taken. However, the Panel determined that the Registrant has not demonstrated how, in future, she would avoid her personal circumstances (which the Panel accepted were difficult circumstances) from adversely impacting her practice again.

15. The Panel also noted that the Registrant accepted that she is not ready to return to practice, and recognised that she has been out of social work for an extended period of time and that she would have to complete a Return to Practice course.

16. The Panel determined that the Registrant has demonstrated limited insight into her misconduct today. The Panel took into account the reflective piece provided by the Registrant, but noted that the Registrant has not reflected meaningfully upon the impact her misconduct had upon service users, or on the reputation of the profession.

17. In the light of all the above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

18. The Panel then went on to consider what the appropriate and proportionate sanction should be. It bore in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not punitive, although a sanction may have that effect.

19. The Panel also bore in mind that its over-arching objective is:

a. to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of the public;

b. to promote and maintain public confidence in the Social Worker profession; and

c. to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession.

20. It had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC and considered the available sanctions in order of severity, starting with the least restrictive.

21. In the light of the nature of the Registrant’s misconduct and her lack of full insight and remediation, the Panel determined that taking no further action was not an appropriate course today. The Panel also determined that a Caution Order would not be the appropriate sanction in the circumstances.

22. The Panel considered whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel give careful consideration to what sort of conditions could suffice to protect the public and the public interest, but determined that they will be so restrictive that they would amount to suspension. The Registrant would have been required to complete Return to Practice course, and to be directly supervised in her work for an initial period of time. The Panel determined that in the current climate, it was unrealistic to believe that an employer would employ a Social Worker on the condition that that Social Worker was directly supervised at all times in her work.

23. The Panel considered extending the current Suspension Order. The Panel took into account the personal circumstances of the Registrant, but took the view that they have not changed significantly since these matters were brought to the attention of the HCPC. These were circumstances that directly impacted upon the Registrant’s ability to practise as a Social Worker, and which led to these matters occurring. The Panel was not satisfied from the evidence, nor did the Registrant indicate, that the circumstances were likely to change in the near future. The Panel was mindful that this is the fourth review of the Order, that the Registrant has made no significant progress in remediating her misconduct since 2016, and that she has not occupied a social work role for six years. The Panel determined that a further period of suspension would serve no useful purpose in the circumstances and would not further the public interest.

24. The Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction now is to remove the Registrant’s name from the HCPC Register.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Marie Ester Nolan from the Register on the date this Order comes into effect

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 9 November 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Marie Esther Nolan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off