Ms Shirani A Watts

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW82903

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 11:30 25/10/2018 End: 16:00 25/10/2018

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 by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 5-8 December 2016.


Whilst employed by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust as a Social Worker:

1. [Not Proved]

a) [Not Proved]

b) [Not Proved]


2. In relation to Foster Carers 2:

a) You did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

i. did not complete supervision notes until 4 February 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 15 January 2014;

ii. Did not complete supervision notes until 27 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 26 March 2014;

iii. Did not complete supervision notes until 3 October 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 28 May 2014; and/or

iv. Did not complete supervision notes until 3 October 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 23 July 2014;


b) You did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by Foster Carers 2 in respect of

i. A visit carried out on 15 January 2014;

ii. A visit carried out on 26 March 2014;

iii. A visit carried out on 28 May 2014;

iv. A visit carried out on 23 July 2014;


3. In relation to Foster Carers 3:

a) You did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

i. Did not complete supervision notes until 22 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 30 January 2014; and/or

ii. Did not complete supervision notes until 13 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 2 April 2014;


b) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a visit carried out on 15 July 2014;

ii. [Not Proved]


c) You did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by Foster Carers 3 in respect of:

i. A visit carried out on 30 January 2014; and/or

ii. A visit carried out on 2 April 2014;


4. In relation to Foster Carer 4, you did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

a) Did not complete supervision notes until 19 August 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 23 January 2014;

b) Did not complete supervision notes until 2 October 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 27 March 2014;

c) Did not complete supervision notes until 16 September 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 21 May 2014; and/or

d) Did not complete supervision notes until 16 September 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 23 July 2014;


5. [Not Proved]

a) [Not Proved]

b) [Not Proved]

c) [Not Proved]

d) [Not Proved]

e) [Not Proved]


6. In relation to Foster Carers 6, you did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

a) Notes from a visit carried out on 17 March 2014;

b) Notes from a visit carried out on 28 April 2014;

c) Notes from a visit carried out on 10 July 2014;

d) Notes from a visit carried out on 19 August 2014; and/or

e) Notes from a visit carried out on 6 October 2014;


7. In relation to Foster Carer 7:

a) You did not complete notes in a timely manner, in that you:

i. Did not complete supervision notes until 29 April 2014, in relation to a visit carried out on 30 January 2014;


b) [Not Proved]

i. [Not Proved]

ii. [Not Proved]

iii. [Not Proved]

iv. [Not Proved]


8. In relation to Foster Carers 8:

a) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a visit carried out on 6 June 2014;

ii. Notes from a visit carried out on 4 August 2014;

iii. Notes from a visit carried out on 29 September 2014;

iv. Notes from a visit carried out on 17 November 2014; and/or

v. Notes from a visit carried out on 3 December 2014;


b) You did not obtain supervision notes that were signed by Foster Carers 8 in respect of:

i. A visit carried out on 16 January 2014;

ii. A visit carried out on 4 August 2014;


9. In relation to Foster Carers 9, you did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

a) Notes from a visit carried out on 17 March 2014;

b) Notes from a visit carried out on 24 April 2014;

c) Notes from a visit carried out on 22 May 2014;

d) Notes from a visit carried out on 8 July 2014;

e) Notes from a visit carried out on 29 September 2014; and/or

f) Notes from a visit carried out on 18 November 2014;


10. In relation to Children 10:

a) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a LAC Supervision visit carried out on 29 October 2014;


11. [Not Proved]


12. [Not Proved]


13. In relation to Child 13:

a) You did not record the following supervision notes on CHARMS:

i. Notes from a LAC Supervision visit dated 22 May 2014;


b) You did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by the Local Authority Social Worker in respect of:

i. An LAC Supervision visit dated 18 September 2014;


14. In relation to Child 14, you did not obtain and/or upload supervision notes that were signed by the Local Authority Social Worker in respect of:

a) An LAC Supervision visit dated 19 August 2014;


15. In relation to Foster Carers 16, you ‘copied and pasted’ information from supervision notes dated 17 March 2014, into:

a) Supervision notes dated 28 April 2014;

b) Supervision notes dated 18 July 2014;

c) Supervision noted dated 19 August 2014; and/or

d) Supervision notes dated 6 October 2014;


16. Your actions described in particulars 1 to 15 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence;


17. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practice is impaired.


The Panel at the substantive hearing found the following:


Facts proved:  2(a), 2(b), 3(a)(ii), 3(c)(i), 3(c)(ii), 4, 6, 7(a), 8(a), 8(b), 9, 10, 13, 14, 15

Facts not proved: 1, 3(b)(ii), 5, 7(b), 11, 12

Grounds: Misconduct


The Panel at the Final Hearing found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired and a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 18 months was imposed as a sanction.

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice


1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 26 September 2018. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing. This notice was also served on the Registrant by email the same day.


2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Simpson on behalf of the HCPC.


4. Ms Simpson submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She further submitted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. Ms Simpson reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review, and there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.


5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, if it was satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162.


6. The Panel was mindful of the need to ensure that fairness and justice were maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.


7. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. The notice of hearing had also been sent to her email address. It was satisfied that the Registrant should be aware of the hearing.

8. The Panel was mindful that it must exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with utmost care and caution. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion, the Panel took into consideration the HCPTS practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.


9. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:


a) The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;
b) The Registrant has had a limited engagement with the process, not attending the review hearing on 31 May 2018
c) There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.


10. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. It determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date before the expiry of this Order, in the light of the non-engagement of the Registrant. Having considered the public interest in having matters dealt with expeditiously, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Background

11. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. She was employed by the Adolescent and Children’s Trust (“TACT”) as a Senior Supervising Social Worker on a temporary contract from August 2013. The contract became permanent in February 2014. TACT provided fostering and adoption services in South West England. The Registrant was responsible for Foster Carers and Looked After Children.


12. Concerns were raised with regard to the Registrant’s practice in relation to her record keeping, initially in relation to keeping to timelines, and subsequently, in relation to records being ‘copied and pasted’ from one visit to another. She, having attributed her shortcomings to being too busy, was placed under increased supervision by her Line Manager. The Registrant was given decision sheets which set out what actions need to be completed and the timeframe for completing them. The Registrant was also given the opportunity to work from home. Nevertheless, some paperwork continued to be completed outside the required timeframe or remained incomplete.


13. On 25 March 2015, the Registrant met her Line Manager again, when concerns regarding the copying and pasting of records was discussed with her.


14. The matter was subsequently referred to the HCPC on 27 June 2016, and the case was heard at a hearing held between the 5-8 December 2016, which the Registrant did not attend. A number of allegations in relation to poor record keeping were found proved. The Panel found that the copying and pasting of information over a 7 month period in relation to a child with complex care needs amounted to a serious falling short of the standard expected of a registered social worker. The Panel found that those failures amounted to misconduct.


15. The Final Hearing Panel considered that the Registrant’s misconduct was capable of remediation. She had continued to work in two social work foster care roles, and her record keeping in those roles was up to date, but the Panel did not see any supporting evidence to corroborate that. However, the Panel considered that the Registrant had demonstrated some insight into her failings, but there still remained a risk of repetition of her misconduct. The Panel therefore concluded that her fitness to practise was impaired. A Conditions of Practice Order was imposed.


16. On 31 May 2018, a Panel (“the Review Panel”), reviewed the registrant’s Conditions of Practice Order. It noted that there has been no engagement by the Registrant since before the substantive hearing, despite the HCPC corresponding with her in June and December 2017 regarding the Conditions of Practice Order.


17. There was no evidence before the Review Panel that there had been any change in the Registrant’s circumstances since the final hearing. There was no evidence before the Review Panel that the Registrant had taken any remedial steps to address her failings or that she had developed meaningful insight. The Review Panel had no further information on the Registrant’s current circumstances.


18. The Review Panel concluded that there remained a risk of repetition of her misconduct and an ongoing risk to the public. It therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. Given the Registrant’s lack of engagement and lack of demonstrable resolve to address her failings, it concluded that it was not sufficiently confident that the Registrant would comply with any conditions of practice, and therefore, such an outcome would be insufficient to protect the public or the public interest.


19. The Review Panel concluded that a 6 month suspension order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose. This, it considered, would give the Registrant sufficient time to engage with the HCPC and prepare evidence for a future reviewing panel to demonstrate her commitment to return to unrestricted practice. This, the Review Panel considered, might include evidence of insight into her misconduct and the steps she has taken to safeguard against a repetition of it.

Submissions


20. Ms Simpson outlined the background of the case and submitted, that in the light of the ongoing lack of engagement on the part of the Registrant, her fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of her misconduct. There was no evidence of developing insight or remediation. She submitted that since the last review hearing there has been no change in circumstances that would undermine the ongoing need for a finding of current impairment. Ms Simpson also submitted that an extension of the Suspension Order would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest. Therefore, the HCPC submitted that the Registrant’s name be struck off the register, rather than keep the Registrant in the review cycle.


Legal advice


21. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if the Registrant is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.


22. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:


Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired by reason of her misconduct in the sense that she:
a) has in the past acted dishonestly and/liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) has in the past acted dishonestly and/liable in the future to bring the social work profession into disrepute; and/or
c) has in the past acted dishonestly and/ liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?
d) has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future.”


23. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that, if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, any of the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. He also 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.


Decision


24. 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 all the documentation before it, and the submissions of Ms Simpson. 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 lack of engagement of the Registrant with the process. Therefore the Panel had no indication whether the Registrant remains committed to the profession nor any information regarding the Registrant or her current circumstances.


25. There is no evidence or information before the Panel today that could satisfy it that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is no longer impaired. The Registrant did not engage with the final hearing nor has she engaged in this review process. There is no indication whether the Registrant has started the remediation process including whether she has reflected on her past failings by taking any of the steps suggested by the previous Panel. The Panel therefore concluded that there remained a real risk that her misconduct would be repeated.


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


27. 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.


28. 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 work profession; and
c) to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession.


29. 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. In the light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement the Panel determined that taking no further action or imposing a caution would not be sufficient to protect the public, nor would either be in the public interest. Neither outcome restrict the Registrant’s practice and would therefore not adequately protect the public or safeguard the public interest.


30. The Panel considered whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that it would neither be appropriate nor proportionate given the Registrant’s lack of engagement. The Panel has not been provided with information that the Registrant is willing or able to comply with any conditions that may be imposed. Indeed there is no information before the Panel regarding her current circumstances.


31. The Panel considered extending the current Suspension Order but determined that no useful purpose was served by a further extension, which would necessitate a continuing review process. The Registrant has not engaged in the regulatory process to date, and has not availed herself, throughout the regulatory process, of the opportunity of demonstrating that she either wished to remain in the profession and return to practise or that she had developed insight or taken steps to address her failings.


32. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that only a Striking Off Order was appropriate, or proportionate.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Shirani Anne Watts from the Registar on the date this order comes into effect.                                                                                                                                                             

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 30 November 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Shirani A Watts

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
31/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended