Ms Susan Davies

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW71358

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

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

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 18 – 21 April 2017.


During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Leicester City Council between 01 April 2014 and 04 June 2015:

1. Following three supervision sessions held on 06 August 2014, 07 August 2014 and 11 August 2014, it was found that in approximately 34 of your cases there were contacts and/or referrals outstanding, which included:

(a) approximately 23 which were not recorded on the internal system (Liquid Logic)

2. In the case of Child A, you received a referral from the police dated 07 April 2014 relating to domestic violence, and you:

(a) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not upload the email on EDRMS;

(b) did not record the initial contact until 02 September 2014.


3. In the case of Child B, you received a referral on 24 April 2014 from Child B’s aunt, and you:

(a) did not record any attempts to contact Child B’s school between 24 April 2014 and 30 May 2014;

(b) left a message, on 30 May 2014, for Child B’s school to call you back and did not follow this up;

(c) did not complete and/or record any history checks on Child B’s family;

(d) did not take any action to contact Child B’s mother until 14 August 2014;

(e) did not follow up your phone contact with the Child B’s mother from 14 August 2014 until 29 August 2014;

(f) did not record the initial contact until 2 September 2014.


4. In the case of Child C, you received a referral, on 16 May 2014, and you:

(a) [Not Proved];

(b) did not check with Leicester County Council to see if Child C was known to Social Services and/or did not undertake any additional enquiries in relation to this child.


5. In the case of Child D, on receiving a referral relating to an alleged assault on his mother by Child D on 16 July 2014, you:

(a) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call;

(b) did not contact Child D’s mother to confirm the details in a timely manner;

(c) did not record the initial contact until 7 September 2014.


6. In the case of Child E, you:

(a) incorrectly recorded on Liquid Logic the date of the IC to be 25 July 2014;

(b) did not complete the record of the Initial Contact on 25 June 2014 until on or around 26 July 2014;

(c) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call on 25 June 2014;

(d) did not record and/or obtain sufficient information following a referral on 4 August 2014;

(e) did not make contact with Child E and/or her mother between 4 August 2014 and the subsequent allocation of the case to another Social Worker, sometime between 11-13 August 2014.


7. In the case of Child F, did not complete the record on Liquid Logic of your home visit to Child F on 27 June 2014 until 29 August 2014.


8. In the case of Child G, on 25 June 2014 you received a telephone call from Child G and you:

(a) provided inappropriate advice in that you informed Child G that her carer would need to seek legal advice regarding their query;

(b) did not contact Bristol Council to ascertain if Child G was known to them;

(c) did not have knowledge of the Private Fostering Assessment and therefore did not consider whether this was suitable for Child G;

(d) did not discuss this matter with Child G’s carer;

(e) did not make any enquiries regarding the Child G’s mother;

(f) [Not Proved];

(g) did not complete the record of your initial contact with Child G onto Liquid Logic until 29 August 2014.


9. In the case of Child H, you received a referral on 27 June 2014 from the NSPCC regarding Child H, and you:

(a) did not obtain the full details of the referral over the telephone;

(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial telephone contact with the NSPCC on Liquid Logic, which included;

(i) Child H’s name;

(ii) the allegation that the father was selling drugs and giving them to the children;

(iii) the password to the follow up email that would be sent;

(c) [Not Proved];

(d) did not take any action in relation to the referral.


10. In the case of Child I, you received a referral from the NSPCC, on 14 July 2014, and you:

(a) did not take the full details of the referral over the telephone;

(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial contact from the NSPCC;

(c) did not take any action in relation to the referral.


11. In the case of Child J, a referral was received on 14 July 2014 in relation to domestic violence, and you:

(a) did not accurately record the initial contact on Liquid Logic;

(b) did not record the initial contact until 14 August 2014;

(c) did not record that you had attempted to call the child’s mother;

(d) did not take sufficient and/or timely action in relation to the referral;

(e) [Not Proved].


12. Your actions described in paragraph 11(a)-(e) placed Child J at risk of harm.


13. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 12 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.


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


The panel found the the facts proved and the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired. A Suspension Order for a period of 9 months was imposed as a sanction. This decision was reviewed on 16 January 2018 and that panel imposed a further Suspension Order for a period of 9 months.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. Notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the Register on 28 September 2018. The notice contained the date, time and venue of the hearing.

2. On 16 October 2018, the HCPC emailed the Registrant asking her if she wished to attend this hearing. It was indicated to the Registrant that she may attend by telephone, as she did in January 2018.

3. At the time of considering the matter of service no response to that email was received.

4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with the rules.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

5. The Panel considered, as the Registrant is neither present nor represented at the hearing, whether it should nevertheless proceed with the hearing.

6. The Panel is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to serve the notice of the hearing under rule 6(1) on the Registrant.

7. The Panel took account of the advice of the legal assessor.

8. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant is aware of this hearing and that she has voluntarily absented herself. The Panel does not consider that an adjournment would serve any useful purpose, since it would not lead to the Registrant’s attendance, and the public interest in expeditiously dealing with this case is important.


Background

9. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker for Leicester City Council (the “Council”) until August 2014. She worked in the Child in Need Team for about ten years before moving to the Duty and Advice Service (DAS) team on 1 April 2014, as a result of re-organisation within the Council. Following a supervision session with Witness 1 on 6 August 2014, concerns were raised regarding the Registrant’s practice.

10. On 18 to 21 April 2017, the panel at the substantive hearing found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct over a period between April and August 2014. The Registrant had failed to keep adequate records or complete referrals in 34 cases, of which 23 were not recorded on the internal record keeping system. She also failed to deal promptly with referrals in respect of children at risk and gave erroneous telephone advice. In one case she placed a child at “real risk of harm”.

11. In making its findings, the substantive hearing panel noted the following features of the Registrant’s examples of misconduct:

a. They all involved vulnerable children;

b. The Registrant failed to take sufficient care and consideration when taking down relevant and important information;

c. The Registrant’s approach to each case was superficial and below the standard expected of a social worker carrying out that role;

d. On each case, she failed to make a timely record of her dealings on the Liquid Logic system. This was the only way in which other social workers would know that the Registrant had any input to a case. In some of those cases, there was no record of her activity, and she had to be instructed to put them on the system. Her record keeping on each of these particular cases was significantly below acceptable standards.

12. In making its finding on misconduct, substantive hearing panel found that the Registrant had failed to act in the best interests of service users and failed to keep accurate records.

13. In making its finding on impairment, that panel made the following findings:

a. The Registrant’s actions were so serious that they had “brought disrepute onto the social work profession”.

b. The Registrant’s failures were remediable, but there was no evidence that they had been remedied.

c. The Registrant has engaged with the process prior to the hearing, and has demonstrated some evidence of insight. In her correspondence she accepted that her actions fell below the standard expected of her and that she was sorry. However, the Registrant has not attended the hearing to give evidence and that panel was unable to test the depth of her insight. These are matters of misconduct, and there can be only limited remediation without full insight.

14. The substantive hearing panel identified the following aggravating features in the Registrant’s case:

a. The Registrant has demonstrated limited insight, albeit she has demonstrated remorse.

b. Her misconduct could have resulted in a vulnerable child being at high risk of harm

15. It identified the following mitigating features:

a. The Registrant is of good character.

b. These matters occurred in a five-month period in an otherwise unblemished career.

c. There were extenuating circumstances in the Registrant’s personal life at that time which may have contributed to her behaviour. Whilst they do not excuse her behaviour, they may partly explain why she behaved in the manner she did during that period.

16. The substantive hearing panel suspended the Registrant from practice for a period of 9 months. It concluded that suspension for that period would protect the public and the public interest at that stage. It would allow the Registrant a period to reflect on whether or not she wished to remain in the profession, and if so, also afforded her an opportunity to demonstrate full insight and remediation.

17. Finally the substantive hearing panel indicated that a future panel reviewing the Order may be assisted by the following:

a. The attendance of the Registrant at the Hearing;

b. A reflective piece by the Registrant, concentrating on:

i. what led to her misconduct; and

ii. how her actions impacted, or could have impacted, on service users and her colleagues;

c. Information about any employment since these matters;

d. An indication as to her future plans;

e. Evidence of the Registrant keeping her practice and skills up to date, for example by attending CPD courses (which may include online courses), or being employed in a voluntary capacity in allied and relevant roles;

f. Up to date references from persons who are aware of these proceedings.

18. On 16 January 2018, the 9 month Suspension Order was reviewed and the reviewing panel stated as follows:

“The Panel was encouraged that the Registrant now wished to engage with the HCPC with a view to returning to work. It was also encouraged that she had developed not only remorse but an understanding of the gravity of what she had done and that she would need to take steps to ensure that there was no repetition.Nevertheless, the Registrant had only started to address what she needed to do. Her insight was not yet complete, remediation had barely commenced and she had not started to look at the education and training she would need to do to be able to return to work, let alone unrestricted practice.

In those circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that there was a significant risk to the public if the Registrant was allowed to return to unrestricted practice without further reflection, remediation and education.

The Panel was also satisfied that it was in the wider public interest in upholding standards of conduct and confidence in the profession that the Registrant did not yet return to unrestricted practice.

Accordingly, the Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was still impaired.

The Panel then turned to the question of what, if any sanction, to impose.

The Panel considered each sanction in turn, starting with the least restrictive. It bore in mind the principle of proportionality and balanced the need to protect the public against the right of the Registrant to practise her profession.

The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, this would be inappropriate because it would not protect either the public or the wider public interest.

The Panel then considered whether to make a caution order. The Panel was satisfied that the risk of repetition was still too great and the safeguarding issues too serious for that to be sufficient to protect the public.

The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel found that the Registrant has demonstrated increased insight into her misconduct. However, her remediation is still at a stage where the risk to the public is too great to allow the Registrant to return to practice, even with conditions. The Panel was particularly concerned that the Registrant had not yet started to engage in CPD or take any steps to rebuild her knowledge and skills so that she could return safely to practice.

The Panel then considered whether a further period of suspension would be appropriate to enable her to continue to develop insight into her past misconduct and begin remediation.

The Panel was encouraged by the insight that the Registrant had started to develop and accepted that it was her onerous responsibilities rather than unwillingness that had delayed her remediation.

In those circumstances, the Panel decided to impose a further period of suspension.

It considered carefully whether a striking off order was necessary to protect the public. It had particular regard to the following provisions of the Indicative Sanctions Policy:

(a) Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as sexual abuse, dishonesty or persistent failure.

(b) Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.

Having regard to the difficulties the Registrant has overcome to make even the limited progress she had made, the Panel was satisfied that a striking off order was not necessary to protect the public, who were likely to be better served in the long term by the Registrant’s return to work.

The Panel decided that another period of 9 months was the appropriate length of the order. It would give the Registrant sufficient time to advance her remediation, update her CPD, undertake any training and obtain the advice she would need to guide her back to practice.

The Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry. At the next review, the Panel is likely to be assisted by:

- A written statement reflecting on how her actions impacted, or could have impacted on the service users identified in this case and the steps she will take to ensure there is no repetition of the misconduct identified;

- An update on her employment situation since this review hearing including any work undertaken in a voluntary capacity;

- An indication as to her future plans;

- Written evidence of how the registrant has updated her knowledge and skills (which may include reading and reflecting on relevant articles and journals and undertaking relevant courses);

- Up to date character references and/or testimonials from persons who are aware of these proceedings;

- The Registrant’s attendance at the hearing.”


This Review Hearing

HCPC Submissions

19. Ms Knight on behalf of the HCPC submitted that the Registrant had not engaged with these proceedings since the last hearing in January 2018.

20. She submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was still impaired and sanction is a matter for the Panel. She stated that all options should be open in relation to sanction.

21. When the Panel retired to consider its decision, the Panel was informed that the Registrant had sent an email. The Hearing was therefore reconvened in order for the email to be placed formally on the record.

Registrant’s Submissions

22. Having read the Registrant’s email, the Panel noted that there were a number of matters relating to the Registrant’s health and that of her family. In order to protect the Registrant’s privacy and family life, the Panel decided to consider those matters in private.

23. Ms Knight was invited to make any further submissions as to whether the Panel should proceed in the Registrant’s absence, in light of the email. Ms Knight declined this invitation. She did however, suggest that a Striking Off Order may not be appropriate at this stage in the light of the email received from the Registrant.

24. The Panel considered the Registrant’s email and noted that it did not state that she is unable to attend this hearing, whether in person or by telephone. She did not make a request for an adjournment.

25. In light of this the Panel determined that the email did not affect its previous decision on proceeding in the Registrant’s absence.


Decision

26. This Panel considered the issue of current impairment exercising its own independent judgment.

27. The Panel bore in mind that its task was to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired and if so, what, if any, sanction to impose upon her.

28. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations, nor was it to go behind the previous findings. It focused first on whether the Registrant had addressed the concerns raised by the substantive hearing panel in April 2017 and the previous reviewing panel in January 2018.

29. This Panel considered that the Registrant’s email did not fully address the matters suggested by the previous panels, particularly in relation to reflections, insight, CPD and character references / testimonials. The Panel noted that the Registrant indicated that she did not intend to return to work as a Social Worker before she and her son had returned to good health and that she is managing her duties as a carer.

30. Given that the Registrant has not demonstrated a change of circumstances since the last hearing and her complete lack of remediation, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

31. The Panel then turned to the question of what, if any sanction, to impose.

32. The Panel considered each sanction in turn, starting with the least restrictive. It bore in mind the principle of proportionality and balanced the need to protect the public against the right of the Registrant to practise her profession.

33. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, this would be inappropriate because it would not protect either the public or the wider public interest.

34. The Panel then considered whether to make a Caution Order. The Panel was satisfied that the risk of repetition was still too great and the safeguarding issues too serious for that to be sufficient to protect the public.

35. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel found that the Registrant has demonstrated some insight into her misconduct. However, her remediation is still at a stage where the risk to the public is too great to allow the Registrant to return to practice, even with conditions. The Panel was particularly concerned that the Registrant had not yet started to engage in CPD or take any steps to rebuild her knowledge and skills so that she could return safely to practice.

36. The Panel then considered whether a further period of suspension would be appropriate to enable her to continue to develop insight into her past misconduct and begin remediation.

37. The Panel had particular regard to the most recent email provided by the Registrant dated 26 October 2018.

38. The Panel noted the continuing unfortunate circumstances of the Registrant, which she suggests have prevented her from completing the remediation required of her.

39. Whilst the Panel had some sympathy with the Registrant’s circumstances, it was also mindful of the necessity for the Registrant to demonstrate commitment to the process of remediation if she is to practise in the future.

40. The Panel is persuaded, with some reluctance, that the Registrant be afforded a further opportunity to demonstrate remediation.

41. In these circumstances, the Panel decided to impose a further Suspension Order.

42. It considered carefully whether a Striking Off Order was necessary to protect the public. It had particular regard to the following provisions of the Indicative Sanctions Policy:

a. Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as sexual abuse, dishonesty or persistent failure.

b. Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.

43. Having regard to the difficulties the Registrant continued to be subject to in relation to her own and her child’s health, the Panel was satisfied that a Striking Off Order was not necessary to protect the public, who were likely to be better served in the long term by the Registrant’s return to work, if this were possible.

44. The Panel decided that 12 months was the appropriate length of the further Suspension Order. This will give the Registrant sufficient time to advance her remediation, update her CPD, undertake any training and obtain the advice she would need to guide her back to practice.

45. The Panel reminds the Registrant, that should she fail to make significant progress in respect of the remediation required, the next panel may well give serious consideration to a Striking Off Order.

46. The Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry. At the next review, the panel is likely to be assisted by:

• A written statement reflecting on how her actions impacted, or could have impacted on the service users identified in this case and the steps she will take to ensure there is no repetition of the misconduct identified;

• An update on her employment situation since this review hearing, including any work undertaken in a voluntary capacity;

• An indication as to her future plans;

• Written evidence of how the Registrant has updated her knowledge and skills (which may include reading and reflecting on relevant articles and journals and undertaking relevant courses);

• Up to date character references and/or testimonials from persons who are aware of these proceedings;

• The Registrant’s attendance at the hearing.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Susan Davies for a further period of 12 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 November 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Susan Davies

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
26/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
16/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
18/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended