Mr Kevin A Sharratt

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW35524

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 03/09/2018 End: 12:00 03/09/2018

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

1)     Between November 2012 and October 2013, you were the Social Worker for Service User A and: 

 

a)     in or around August 2013 you did not make Person C aware of the risk that      Service User A presented until prompted to do so;

 

b)     the plan you identified for Service User A did not:

 

i.     take account of Service User A’s sexual offending; 

 

ii.    take account of the assessment undertaken which identified that Service User A was on the Autistic Spectrum;

 

c)     [found not proved];

 

d)     you did not disclose key information to East Cheshire College in relation to the risks that Service User A posed;

 

2)     Between March and September 2013 you were the Social Worker for Service User B, and:

 

 a)     Only visited or made a record of visiting Service User B on two occasions after March 2013; 

 

b)     At a Secure Accommodation Review on 26 July 2013 proposed that Service User B be moved to independent living accommodation with visits from a support worker, when this was not an appropriate plan for Service User B; 

 

c)     Did not provide a report in relation to Service User B’s substance misuse at the Secure Accommodation Review on 26 July 2013 and/or at subsequent Secure Accommodation Reviews;

 

 3)     In relation to Service User D, you: 

 

a)     Did not add key information in relation to a child protection concern to PARIS; 

 

b)     Did not inform or record that you had informed managers of the child protection concern.

 

4)     The matter set out in paragraphs 1 - 3 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

5)     By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired

 

Finding

Preliminary matters
Service
1. The Panel had information before it that Notice of today’s hearing dated 2 August 2018 was sent to the Registrant’s address on the register on the same date by first class post. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and was satisfied that service had been effected in accordance with Rules 3 and 6 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003.


Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence
2. Ms Royer, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the Panel to proceed today. She informed the Panel that the Registrant has not corresponded or engaged at all with regard to today’s hearing. He had not therefore made any request for an adjournment and has voluntarily waived his right to attend.  Ms Royer reminded the Panel that the Order expires on 12 October 2018 and in light of that imminent expiry, it is in the public interest to proceed, taking into account the seriousness of the matters found proved.

3. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant’ and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the discretion to proceed in the absence of a Registrant should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel was of the view that there is no indication that an adjournment would secure the Registrant’s attendance at a future date on the basis of the lack of  a response or request for an adjournment from the Registrant, and noting that he has not engaged with the the HCPC since he self-referred in September 2013. The Panel took into account the potential disadvantage to the Registrant if it were to proceed. However, taking into account the lack of  a response or request for an adjournment from the Registrant, the Panel was satisfied that it is in the public interest, as well as being fair to the Registrant, for today’s review to proceed expeditiously.

4. The Panel therefore decided to proceed today.

Background
5. The Registrant is a registered social worker. The allegations against the Registrant concerned the Registrant’s work as a Social Worker working in the 16+ Service of Cheshire East Council (“the Local Authority”). The Registrant qualified as a Social Worker in 1995 and by the time of the relevant events he had been employed by the Local Authority and its predecessor body for approximately 19 years. The Registrant moved to the 16+ Service in November 2010, having previously managed a range of services within residential care and family support.

6. The 16+ Service was for young people aged 16 years and above who are in need or who are in care. It was a specialist service and was staffed by a combination of Social Workers and personal advisors. One aim of the service was to work towards independence of young people leaving the care system. The matters found proved related to three service users.

Decision
7. Ms Royer submitted that,  in light of the lack of any evidence from the Registrant to address the concerns found, and that he has not practised since 2013, the Registrant remains impaired. Ms Royer also submitted that it would be appropriate to consider a Striking Off Order in light of  the Registrant’s lack of engagement and the ongoing risk of repetition.

8. There were no submissions from the Registrant before the Panel.

9. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

10. The Panel was aware that  its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Registrant’s fitness to return to unrestricted practice and considered the HCPTS Practice Note entitled ‘Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders’.

11. The Panel must exercise its own independent judgement with regard to impairment.

12. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment.  In the Panel’s view, the failures found proved are, in principle, remediable. The Panel noted that the previous Panel at the substantive hearing found impairment both on the basis of the personal component as well as the public component. There is no evidence from the Registrant with regard to the level of his insight. In this regard, the Panel noted the substantive Panel’s observation a year ago in 2017 that:

“the absence of any evidence from [the Registrant] in the three years since the local authority process concluded has the consequence that the Panel is unable to conclude that his insight is any greater now than it was at the time”.

13. As at today’s date, a further year has elapsed without such information.  In addition, there is no information which could allow today’s Panel to conclude that the Registrant has taken any steps at all to address his failures. In addition, The Panel was made aware that the  Registrant has not worked since 2013. In respect of all of these factors, the Panel was satisfied that there remains a significant risk of repetition on the part of the Registrant which would be liable to place vulnerable service users at risk of harm. As such, impairment remains on the basis of the personal component.
 
14. With regard to the public component, in light of the ongoing risk of repetition, and the lack of engagement over several years, the Panel was satisfied that a fully informed and fair minded member of the public would be gravely concerned if the Registrant were returned to unrestricted practice. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold proper standards, would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances of this case.

15. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

16. The Panel next went on to consider sanction and took into account the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP). The Panel bore in mind that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment and that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. Further, any sanction must be proportionate, so that any order that it makes be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public interest, including public protection. 

17. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct which has not been remedied and the ongoing risk to public protection, it would be inappropriate to take no action. It would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

18. The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the ISP which states:

“A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate action.”

19. The Registrant’s misconduct was not minor in nature, and furthermore, the Registrant has not demonstrated that he has taken any of the steps required to address that misconduct. Therefore, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to protect the public and meet the public interest.

20. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. Paragraph 33 of the ISP states that:

“Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:
where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing…”

21. On the basis of the Registrant’s lack of engagement there is no indication that he would be willing to comply with conditions, and while he has not denied wrongdoing during the regulatory proceedings, there has been silence from him. The Panel therefore decided that conditions would be unworkable and neither sufficient to protect the public, nor in the public interest.

22. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and considered paragraph 39 of the ISP:

“Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice would provide insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited”.

23. Further paragraph 41 of the ISP states :

“If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option. However, where there are no psychological or other difficulties preventing the registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings then suspension may be appropriate.”

24. The Panel was of the view that there is a significant risk of repetition of the serious failings, and in light of the Registrant’s continued silence in the face of regulatory proceedings, he is either unable or unwilling to resolve his failings. The Panel took into account that the previous panel considered a Striking Off Order, but “stepped back” from it in order to give the Registrant a “last opportunity to consider engaging in this process”. While today’s Panel is not bound by the previous decision, the Registrant was put on notice that striking off was a strong possibility today, and yet he still has not engaged with proceedings. Therefore, the underlying issues of a total lack of engagement with this and the previous hearing, the lack of indication that the Registrant wishes to return to the profession, and the ongoing risk  of repetition, led the Panel to conclude that Suspension would not be appropriate or sufficient to protect the public or uphold the wider public interest.

25. The Panel  considered paragraphs 48 and 49 of the ISP which state:

“48. 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.
49. Striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process. Where striking off is used to address these wider public protection issues, Panels should provide clear reasons for doing so. Those reasons must explain why striking off is appropriate and not merely repeat that it is being done to deter others or maintain public confidence.”

26. The Panel took into account the continuing lack of engagement during the period of Suspension over the last year, the lack of any indication from the Registrant that he wishes to return to the profession, the lack of any evidence of insight or resolution of the failures found proved, as well as the ongoing significant risk of repetition of misconduct and therefore the ongoing risk to public safety. The Registrant is either unable or unwilling to resolve the concerns. All of these factors led the Panel to decide  that striking off is the only way in which the public can be protected, and which can uphold the wider public interest.

27. In coming to its decision, the Panel took into account the principle of proportionality, and the impact that such a sanction will have on the Registrant’s right to practise his profession, as well as the likely reputational and financial impact. However, the Panel decided that the need to protect the public and uphold the public interest outweighed the Registrant’s interests in this regard.

28. The Panel therefore decided to impose a Striking Off Order which will come into effect on the expiry of the current Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Kevin A Sharratt from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

 

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 12 October 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Kevin A Sharratt

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/09/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
12/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
14/11/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Hearing has not yet been held