Mr Jonathan Mason

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW89918

Interim Order: Imposed on 16 Oct 2017

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 08/04/2019 End: 17:00 12/04/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via tsteam@hcpts-uk.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.

 

Allegation

Allegation (as amended)
Whilst registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and employed by The Children's Society between 28 November 2016 - 12 April 2017:

1. You created approximately 11 fictional cases on Mosaic electronic case record system;

2. You recorded client appointments on Mosaic case notes, which did not take place, including:
a. Not proved.
b. 3 appointments with Service User 2;
c. 7 appointments with Service User 3;
d. 6 appointments with Service User 4.

3. Not proved.

4. You authorised closure of the following case prior to obtaining management approval:
a. Service User 4.

5. You did not ensure that the following Service Users were seen in a timely manner and/or at all:
a. Service User 1;
b. Service User 3.

6. Not proved.

7. On or around 28 March 2017, you:
a. Arranged the booking of a hotel room via an administration department, to attend a conference which you did not have permission to attend;
b. Falsely advised Colleague A that you had obtained line management request for this booking.

8. On or around 20 March 2017, you advised Person A you had received a promotion when you had not.

9. Not proved.

10. On or around 28 March 2017, you advised Person B that you worked part-time at The Children's Society, when you did not;

11. Your actions at paragraphs 1, 2, 7.b, 8 and 10 were dishonest.

12. Your actions at paragraphs 1-2, 7-8, 10-11 constitute misconduct.

13. Your actions at paragraphs 3 - 6 and 9 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. On 20 February 2019, the HCPC sent the notice of this hearing by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address. A copy of the notice was also sent by email. The notice contained the required particulars.

2. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel was satisfied on the documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant had been given proper notice of this hearing in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in absence of the Registrant
3. Mr Bridges, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the discretion to proceed in a Registrant's absence should only be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

4. The Panel had regard to the chronology of events provided to it by the HCPC.

5. The allegation dates back to a period between 28 November 2016 and 12 April 2017. The Panel was aware that there were two witnesses in attendance to give evidence.

6. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived his right to attend and there was no evidence that he would attend an adjourned hearing. The Panel also considered that it was in the public interest for the hearing to take place.

Application to amend the Allegation
7. Mr Bridges, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the particulars of the allegation, which had been notified to the Registrant by letter, dated 18 January 2019. He submitted that the HCPC were offering no evidence in relation to the original particulars 3(b), 3(c), 3(d), 3(e), 3(g), 3(h), 4(b), 6(a)(i), 6(a)(ii), 6(a)(iii), 6(a)(iv), 6(a)(v) and 6(a)(x), as the HCPC conceded that there was no realistic prospect of proving them in light of the witness statements which had been received. He also submitted that none of the other proposed amendments materially altered the nature of the allegation, but were sought in order to better reflect the anticipated evidence.

8. Mr Bridges submitted that there would be no prejudice to the Registrant if the proposed amendments were allowed, as he had been notified of them on 18 January 2019; had had ample time to respond; and the allegations were essentially based on the same evidence.

9. The Panel, having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, determined to allow the application to amend in its entirety. It took into account that the proposed amendments had been notified to the Registrant in good time, and no objections had been received from him regarding them. The Panel was of the view that all of the proposed amendments can be made without unfairness to the Registrant. In the Panel’s view they properly reflect the evidence anticipated to be adduced according to the witness statements and exhibits, and do not materially change the nature of the particulars.

Application to adduce hearsay evidence

10. As a preliminary matter, the Legal Assessor invited the Panel to consider the admissibility of hearsay evidence, in light of the authority in El Karout v NMC [2019] EWHC 28 (Admin), which established that the questions of admissibility and weight are separate and distinct considerations for hearsay evidence.

11. Mr Bridges applied to admit the hearsay evidence recorded in a matrix prepared by the witness, Mrs JM, detailing her telephone conversations with the Social Worker of Service User 1, the Social Worker of Service User 2, Service User 3 herself, and the Social Work Support Officer of Service User 4. Mr Bridges submitted that the hearsay evidence was relevant to particular 2, which alleged that the Registrant had recorded client appointments with the respective Service Users in the electronic case recording system (‘Mosaic’) which had not taken place.

12. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. She advised the Panel in respect of El Karout v NMC [2019] EWHC 28 (Admin); NMC v Ogbonna [2010] EWCA Civ 1216; and Thorneycroft v NMC [2014] EWHC 1565 (Admin).

13. The Panel considered each of the factors identified in the case of Thorneycroft as being relevant for determining the admissibility of hearsay evidence. It understood that such evidence should not be routinely admitted, but an assessment of whether it would be fair in all the circumstances to admit it was required.

14. The Panel recognised that the hearsay evidence was essentially the sole and decisive evidence to the effect that the client appointments recorded on Mosaic did not take place. It also understood that particular 2 and the consequent allegation of dishonesty were serious allegations. The Registrant had given general blanket denials of the allegations during the Society investigation stage, but he was neither present nor represented at this hearing to challenge the reliability of the hearsay evidence, nor had he provided submissions to be considered at this hearing to challenge it. The documentation before the Panel indicated that Mrs JM had contemporaneously recorded the telephone conversations in her document matrix, which the Panel considered was relevant to the issue of whether the conversations had been accurately recorded.

15. The Panel recognised that the hearsay evidence in respect of Service Users 1, 2, and 4 was ‘multiple hearsay’, in that the information about whether or not the consultations had taken place was sought by the allocated Social Worker who then reported back to Mrs JM directly or, in the case of Service User 4, through a support worker. In relation to Service User 3, Mrs JM had spoken to her directly. In each case, the Panel did not identify any suggestion that either the professionals or the Service Users and their families had any reason to fabricate or embellish what information was reported to Mrs JM, or for Mrs JM to fabricate or embellish what she was told.

16. The Panel was mindful that Service Users 1, 2, 3, and 4 were vulnerable children and young persons who had been the victims of sexual abuse. In the particular circumstances of this case, the Panel was satisfied that it was a proportionate decision for the HCPC not to seek witness statements from, or to call, the Service Users or their families. The Panel considered that the same reasoning did not apply to the professionals, and that it would have been preferable if the HCPC had sought witness statements from them, to lessen the risk of inaccuracy from multiple hearsay. Notwithstanding this, the Panel was satisfied that the absence of witness statements from the professionals did not render the hearsay matrix of telephone conversations inadmissible, although it may go to the question of weight to be afforded to those statements.

Parts of Hearing in Private

17. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that it was justified to hold in private those parts of the hearing which related to the private life of the Registrant, in respect of both his health, and sensitive personal family matters.


Background

18. The Registrant is a Social Worker registered with the HCPC. At the time of the allegations he was working as a Senior Counsellor/ Therapist at the Society in Nottinghamshire.

19. The Society is a national charitable organisation which works with vulnerable children and young people. On 31 May 2016 it was awarded a contract with Nottinghamshire County Council to provide counselling services (the Safe Time Service) to children and young people within Nottinghamshire who had suffered sexual abuse and who were referred to the Society. Referrals could be made by the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), the police, social workers and other relevant agencies.

20. In August 2016, Mrs JM, the Area Manager for Nottinghamshire and Practice Systems Team, interviewed the Registrant for a vacancy. He was offered a full time post in the Safe Time Service in Nottinghamshire. He started the post in November 2016. His post was both managerial and clinical. As Service Manager he was the line manager for two therapists/counsellors as well as carrying his own caseload. Mrs JM was his line manager.

21. The Safe Time Service used an electronic case management system called ‘Mosaic’ to record all actions and interventions with service users who had been referred to the service. Each service user had their own case file and identification number on Mosaic. The relevant information expected to be added to Mosaic included the referral details; case notes recording each time the service user was seen by their allocated worker and details of any unattended, cancelled or re-scheduled appointments; scanned documents such as risk assessments, risk management plans, and reviews; and entries relating to any contact with the service user, their family/carers or other professionals.

22. On 3 April 2017, concerns were raised by Mrs JM about what appeared to be a ‘glitch’ in the Mosaic system in respect of cases the Registrant was purporting to close but for which Mrs JM had not given mandatory line management approval. Following this Mrs JM looked through some of the Registrant’s case recording, and had concerns about the standard of the recording. On 5 April 2017, Mrs JM telephoned the Registrant to discuss some of her concerns. Around an hour later he emailed Mrs JM resigning his role from the Society with immediate effect.

23. Following the Registrant’s departure, Miss KB, Quality Practice Manager at the Society, was instructed to undertake a case file audit of all the cases that had been allocated to the Registrant. Mrs JM jointly supported the investigation by reviewing the Registrant’s emails; making follow up enquiries with referral agencies, service users, their families and other professionals involved in their care.

24. On 19 April 2017, Mrs JM had a telephone conversation with the Registrant, in which he outlined personal difficulties, and difficulties with the post. He denied having made up clients. On 15 June 2017, the Registrant attended a meeting with the Area Director, Mrs JM, and a representative from the Human Resources Department. He denied the allegations and suggested that another employee may have ‘messed with files’. He again cited personal difficulties, and difficulties with the post.

25. As a result of the investigation process, it is alleged that the Registrant had maintained inadequate records; falsified records; created fictitious service users; acted against management instruction; and sent dishonest emails to staff or other persons.


Decision on Facts
26. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from Miss KB, who, at the time of the allegations, was employed at the Society as a Quality Practice Advisor. This was a national role which involved providing quality assurance and safe working practice advice to those in the Society providing front line delivery services. In April or May 2017, she was instructed to undertake a case file audit of all the cases that had been allocated to the Registrant. This involved going through all of the Registrant’s case files on Mosaic and completing a case file audit standard checklist for each case.

27. The Panel found Miss KB to be a credible witness doing her best to assist the Panel. She was reliable insofar as her evidence covered her audit role and the methodology of the audit. She had left the Society in August 2017, and struggled to recall some of the details of the systems, given the passage of time.

28. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel also heard evidence from Mrs JM, who, at the time of the allegations was the Area Manager at the Society with overall responsibility for services covering Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire. She had worked for the Society for twenty years. She directly line managed the service managers, one of whom was the Registrant. They were responsible for the day to day practice within the Society’s services. As part of the investigation into the Registrant, Mrs JM reviewed the Registrant’s activities and caseload. This involved looking through his case records and email account; conducting enquiries with agencies recorded as making referrals; and speaking with service users, their families and other professionals involved in their care.

29. The Panel found Mrs JM to be a credible and reliable witness. She was knowledgeable about the Society and the Safe Time Service it ran in Nottinghamshire, as well as being familiar with the systems used, in particular the Mosaic electronic case recording system. In the Panel’s view she was measured in her evidence and readily conceded that she was challenged by the printed format of the Mosaic case files before the Panel, which differed in layout from how they appeared on screen.

30. The Panel also received documentary evidence, including Miss KB’s completed case file audit checklists; extracts from the Mosaic case notes; relevant emails sent to or by the Registrant. It also had a copy of the Employer’s Investigation Report, dated June 2017; matrices of recorded enquiries undertaken by Mrs JM; relevant policies; and records of the telephone call (19 April 2017) and meeting (5 June 2017) with the Registrant.

31. In his closing submissions, Mr Bridges, in light of the error in redaction which had emerged, effectively conceded that there was insufficient evidence to prove particular 2(a) to the required standard.

32. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel understood that the burden of proving each individual fact rests on the HCPC and that the HCPC will only be able to prove a fact if it satisfies the required standard of proof, namely the civil standard, whereby it is more likely than not that the alleged incident occurred.

33. The Registrant did not attend the hearing, but the Panel did not draw any adverse inferences against him from his absence.

Particular 1
You created approximately 11 fictional cases on the Mosaic electronic case record system;

34. The Panel finds this particular proved.

35. The Panel considered the evidence of Mrs JM, and her part of the investigation into the activities of the Registrant. She said that she had established that the Registrant had 19 allocated cases in total. Of those 19 cases, she identified 11 cases which required investigation to establish whether or not they concerned real service users. She explained that her enquiries included attempting to locate the original referral, either in hard copy in the locked cabinet in the office for hard copy documents, or in email form in the Registrant’s email account. Further, where the referrer was recorded on the Mosaic system, for example the police or CAMHS or a social worker, she contacted those agencies for information. She recorded the dates and results of her enquiries contemporaneously in a table of which the Panel had a copy.

36. In each of the 11 cases, Mrs JM was unable to locate a referral form, either in hard copy or through email, or any other paperwork, such as signed consent forms for the service. In 5 of the cases, the referrer was recorded on Mosaic as the police, either by telephone, email or face to face, but with no further details. In each of the 5 cases, Mrs JM checked with the Police Sergeant at the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for Nottinghamshire Police and was informed that there was no match for the child/young person. In one of the cases, that of MS, the referrer was recorded on Mosaic as a named CAMHS Social Worker. Mrs JM contacted that Social Worker who informed her that she had not made the referral and the child was not on their system. Mrs JM also shared the details of MS with Children’s Social Care (CSC) who confirmed that the child was not known to them. In the remaining 5 cases, the referrer was recorded on Mosaic as a social worker, either by telephone, email or face to face, but with no further details. In each of those remaining 5 cases, Mrs JM contacted CAMHS and CSC and in each case she received confirmation that the child/young person was not known to either service.

37. In each of the 11 cases, Mrs JM explained that she had investigated the addresses which were recorded on Mosaic. In each case she discovered that the addresses either did not exist; or were non-residential; or were outside the Nottinghamshire area and so would not be eligible for the Safe Time Service; or, were the addresses of other real service users whose information was mixed up in the same Mosaic file.

38. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM. It considered that she had made considerable efforts to establish whether or not the 11 cases related to real service users. Taken together, the lack of referral paperwork and other recorded documentation; false addresses; the fact that none of the purported referrers had any knowledge or details of either a referral or the child/young person concerned, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had created 11 fictional cases on the Mosaic electronic case record system.

Particular 2
You recorded client appointments on Mosaic case notes, which did not take place, including
2(a) 8 appointments with Service User 1;

39. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

40. Mrs JM, in her investigation had discovered that the fictitious case of SL shared the same Mosaic record as Service User 1. All of the case file documentation before the Panel had been redacted so the names and details of Service Users could not be seen. During the course of the hearing it emerged that the case notes of the consultations which had been attributed to Service User 1, had been incorrectly redacted, and the unredacted copy indicated that they were a list of consultations for the fictitious case of SL.

41. In those circumstances, there was no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant had recorded appointments on Mosaic for Service User 1.

2(b) 3 appointments with Service User 2;

42. The Panel finds this particular proved.

43. The Panel had regard to the case notes for Service User 2. It recorded sessions as taking place on 22 December 2016, 3 January 2017, 5 January 2017 and 6 January 2017. The case notes also had contemporaneous records entered by Mrs JM of her enquiries to ascertain the identity of Service User 2’s allocated Social Worker, and that she had subsequently had a conversation with the Social Worker.

44. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM, and considered that it could give considerable weight to the hearsay evidence of her conversation with the allocated Social Worker, as recorded in her matrix. It was satisfied that the record was accurate. The entry recorded that on 23 May 2017, Mrs JM spoke to the Social Worker who confirmed that she had made the referral in November 2016 and that the Registrant only carried out one session, the assessment, with Service User 2 and her mother at school. The Registrant had subsequently emailed the school to say that he did not consider that Service User 2 or her mother were ready for therapy.

45. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had recorded three client appointments on Mosaic case notes which did not take place.

2(c) 7 appointments with Service User 3;
46. The Panel finds this particular proved.

47. The Panel had regard to the case notes for Service User 3. It recorded sessions as taking place on 9 December 2016, 15 December 2016, 5 January 2017, 27 January 2017, 1 February 2017, 6 February 2017, and 14 February 2017. The case notes also had contemporaneous records entered by Mrs JM of her enquiries with Service User 3. Mrs JM said that she had made contact with Service User 3 directly as she was over 18 years of age. She had written to Service User 3 who had telephoned her back on 11 May 2017 at 16:45. Mrs JM had entered the details of that communication with Service User 3 on Mosaic on the same day at 17:09.

48. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM, and considered that it could give considerable weight to the hearsay evidence of her conversation with Service User 3, as recorded both in her matrix and on Mosaic. It was satisfied that the records were accurate. The entries recorded that Service User 3 did not receive any counselling from the Registrant. She knew that a referral had been made but never heard anything.

49. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had recorded seven client appointments on Mosaic case notes which did not take place.

2(d) 6 appointments with Service User 4.
50. The Panel finds this particular proved to the extent that at least two appointments were recorded on Mosaic which did not take place.

51. The Panel had regard to the case notes for Service User 4. It recorded sessions as taking place on 8 December 2016, 15 December 2016, 3 January 2017, two sessions on 4 January 2017 and 6 January 2017, 12 January 2017, and 25 January 2017.

52. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM, and considered that it could give considerable weight to the hearsay evidence of her conversation with the Social Worker Support Officer on 15 May 2017, as recorded in her matrix. The entries recorded that the Support Officer confirmed that Service User 4’s mother had seen the Registrant, however Service User 4 had missed one session and so the Registrant had closed the case. The mother had confirmed that they only had two sessions and would think about whether they wanted to refer back in.

53. The Panel noted that there was some ambiguity as to whether the mother was referring to family sessions or to all of the sessions with Service User 4. The Panel decided it could not establish the precise number of sessions that had been falsely recorded, but was satisfied that there were sessions which were recorded but which did not take place. For example, the Registrant recorded two sessions with Service User 4, discussing closure of the case, but the mother said that the Registrant had ended therapy abruptly after Service User 4 had missed an appointment.

54. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had recorded at least two client appointments on Mosaic case notes which did not take place.

Particular 3
You failed to carry out and/or record risk assessments in respect of the following cases:
3(a) Service User 4;
55. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

56. The Panel heard evidence that an initial risk assessment, akin to triage, was undertaken at the point of referral, and that once a service user was accepted into the service, a clinical risk assessment was subsequently undertaken. The Panel considered the allegation to be about the clinical risk assessment, noting that both Service User 4 and Service User 9 had been accepted into the service for counselling.

57. The Panel considered that the evidence in respect of risk assessments was confusing. Both Miss KB and Mrs JM had struggled with the paper format of the Mosaic files which had been printed off and exhibited for the Panel. Both explained that in their investigation, they had worked from the Mosaic information which appeared on screen, and the paper versions differed, or were not always the complete version of what they had looked at during their investigation.

58. From the case notes the Panel noted that there was no specific section in the form to confirm that an individual risk assessment had been uploaded, unlike the safe worker risk assessment, which did have a section showing whether or not it had been completed. Further, in none of the case notes for any of the service users was the Panel able to identify an uploaded clinical risk assessment form.

59. The Panel also noted that in her witness statement, Mrs JM had noted that ‘from July 2016 the Service was without a scanner, although I seem to recall that one was installed January 2017’.

60. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had adduced sufficient evidence to satisfy it to the required standard that the Registrant had failed to carry out or record the required clinical risk assessment.

3(b) Service User 9.
61. The Panel finds this particular not proved for the same reasons as given for particular 3(a).

Particular 4
You authorised closure of the following case prior to obtaining management approval:
4(a) Service User 4.
62. The Panel finds this particular proved.

63. The Panel had regard to the case file in respect of Service User 4, which recorded as the next action for the case of Service User 4 was ‘close case’. That action was recorded as ‘assigned to’ the Registrant. There was no narrative in the section for ‘reason’.

64. Mrs JM had been clear in her evidence that a case should not be closed by the clinician allocated without the approval of the manager. She added that it should not have been possible for the allocated clinician to be able to close a case on Mosaic, but that this was a ‘glitch’ in the system which had been identified in the course of the investigation.

Particular 5
You did not ensure that the following Service Users were seen in a timely manner and/or at all:
5(a) Service User 1;
65. The Panel finds this particular proved.

66. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM regarding her enquiries in respect of Service User 1. Although the Panel recognised that the information was multiple hearsay, the Panel considered that it could place significant weight on the information, as it had come from the mother through two professionals, each of whom had the responsibility to understand the importance of ensuring the information was accurate. In her matrix, Mrs JM had recorded that on 18 May 2017, she had received a call from the CAMHS Social Worker confirming that following the referral to Safe Time, the mother of Service User 1 had stated that they were not contacted or seen by the Registrant.

67. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant did not ensure that Service User 1 was seen at all.

5(b) Service User 3.
68. The Panel finds this particular proved.

69. As for particular 2(c), the Panel accepted the accuracy of Mrs JM’s hearsay matrix recording her conversation with Service User 3, in which Service User 3 said that she had never received counselling from the Registrant; she knew that a referral had been made, but had never heard anything.

70. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant did not ensure that Service User 3 was seen at all.

Particular 6
You did not keep adequate records in that:
(a)In relation to Service User 4:
6(a)(i) You did not record any outcomes and/or follow ups;
71. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

72. As for particular 3, the Panel noted that both Miss KB and Mrs JM had struggled with the paper format of the Mosaic files which had been printed off and exhibited for the Panel. Both explained that in their investigation, they had worked from the Mosaic information which appeared on screen, and the paper versions differed, or were not always the complete version of what they had looked at during their investigation.

73. The Panel had regard to the case files printed off from Mosaic which it was provided with. It noted that in that part of the form entitled ‘Youth Support – Review Form’, in the summary of the review, a number of matters, which appeared to the Panel to be ‘outcomes’ were recorded. For example, it was recorded: ‘They (the parents) are delighted with the changes in Service User 4 and find him a lot calmer. As a result their bond had improved.’

74. In the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had proved to the required standard that the Registrant had not recorded any outcomes in Service User 4’s records.

6(a)(ii) You did not record any evidence of your utilisation of outcome tools;
75. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

76. The Panel had regard to the case files printed off from Mosaic which it was provided with. Given its findings in respect of recording outcomes in particular 6(a)(i), the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had proved to the required standard that the Registrant had not recorded any evidence of his utilisation of outcome tools in Service User 4’s records.

6(a)(iii) You did not record a SMART action plan;
77. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

78. The Panel had regard to the case files printed off from Mosaic which it was provided with. In the section entitled ‘Action Plan’, a ‘next step’ had been recorded, and ‘by whom’ and with a ‘target date’ for completion. The Panel also took account of the oral evidence of Miss KB that the printed Action Plan did not show all the entries that she had seen on the Mosaic system.

79. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had proved to the required standard that the Registrant had not recorded a SMART action plan in Service User 4’s records.

6(a)(iv) You did not record and/or undertake an initial assessment in a timely manner.
80. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

81. The Panel had regard to the case files printed off from Mosaic which it was provided with as well as the checklist of the file audit undertaken by Miss KB, but the Panel considered that the two were not consistent. In her checklist, Miss KB had recorded the assessment as completed on 2 March 2017. In the case files, in the section entitled ‘Assessment Form’, the date assessment was completed was recorded as 5 December 2016.

82. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had proved to the required standard that the Registrant had not recorded or completed an initial assessment in a timely manner.


Particular 7
On or around 28 March 2017, you:
7(a) Arranged the booking of a hotel room via an administration department, to attend a conference which you did not have permission attend;
83. The Panel finds this particular proved.

84. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM who was clear in both her witness statement and her oral evidence that she had not authorised the Registrant’s attendance at a conference in Exeter over the Bank Holiday weekend. The Panel had regard to the email located by Mrs JM in the Registrant’s email account sent by him to Colleague A, stating: ‘[Mrs JM] has asked me to ask you to please book accommodation for an upcoming conference in Exeter for me and a colleague. Please could you book 2 rooms here [link to hotel]’.

85. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had arranged the booking of a hotel via the administration department, to attend a conference that he did not have permission to attend.

7(b) Falsely advised Colleague A that you had obtained line management request for this booking.
86. The Panel finds this particular proved.

87. For the same reasons as above, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had falsely advised Colleague A that he had been requested by line management to seek the booking.

Particular 8
On or around 20 March 2017, you advised Person A you had received a promotion when you had not.
88. The Panel finds this particular proved.

89. The Panel had regard to the email which Mrs JM had located in the Registrant’s email account, sent to Person A from the Registrant. Within that email was written: ‘You see I have been promoted to National Lead on CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation) for Children’s Society and this takes effect from next month…’. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM in her witness statement and oral evidence that the Registrant had not received a promotion at the Society, and further, there was no such post of National Lead on CSE within the Society.

90. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had advised Person A by email that he had received a promotion when he had not.


Particular 9
On or around 07 March 2017, you arranged to meet with the commissioner, against management instruction.
91. The Panel finds this particular not proved.

92. The Panel had regard to the evidence of Mrs JM, who said that at the three month review on around 3 March 2016 with the Registrant, he had informed her that he had arranged to meet a number of individuals to promote the service. One of the names he gave her was that of the Commissioner, and Mrs JM told him not to meet her. The Panel also had regard to the emails which Mrs JM had located in the Registrant’s email account, in particular an email, dated 7 March 2017, sent by the Registrant to the Commissioner, with the subject heading ‘Re: Meeting with Consultant Paediatricians’. The copy of that email before the Panel was missing the content of the email.

93. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had proved to the required standard that the Registrant had subsequently arranged to meet with the Commissioner following Mrs JM’s management instruction not to. The Panel considered that the evidence provided a possible alternative explanation that the Registrant and the Commissioner happened to meet at a meeting of Consultant Paediatricians.

Particular 10
On or around 28 March 2017, you advised Person B that you worked part-time at The Children’s Society, when you did not;
94. The Panel finds this particular proved.

95. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mrs JM that the Registrant had been offered and had accepted a full time post at the Society. This was supported by the copy of the offer of employment letter, dated 14 October 2016, which was sent to the Registrant stating that his hours of work would be 37 hours per week. The Registrant had signed and dated the offer letter to confirm his acceptance of the post. Mrs JM had made clear that the Registrant had not requested nor discussed compressed hours into a four day week.

96. The Panel had regard to the email which Mrs JM had located in the Registrant’s email account, dated 28 March 2017, sent by the Registrant to Person B, stating that: I am currently looking to work in CAMHS one day a week. I am currently working 4 days a week with Safe Time…’.

97. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had advised Person B by email that he worked part-time at the Children’s Society, when he did not.


Particular 11
Your actions at paragraphs 1, 2, 7(b), 8 and 10 were dishonest.
98. The Panel considered dishonesty separately in respect of each of the paragraphs 1, 2, 7(b), 8 and 10.

99. Regarding particular 1, the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It therefore finds that particular 11 is proved in respect of particular 1.
100. The Panel considered that the creation of 11 fictional cases on Mosaic was a deliberate act on the part of the Registrant. He knew that no such individuals had been referred to Safe Time, and so the creation of fictitious case files, would have taken time and planning to achieve. The Panel had little difficulty in concluding that by the standards of ordinary decent people, such actions would be regarded as dishonest.

101. Regarding particulars 2(b), 2(c) and 2(d), the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It therefore finds this particular proved in respect of particulars 2(b) to (d).

102. The Panel noted that the Registrant had recorded that on 6 February 2017 he had undertaken over 21 hours of work, including travel time with three real and four fictional service users.

103. The Panel considered that the recording of appointments which did not take place was deliberate on the Registrant’s part. He knew that he had not conducted the sessions in respect of Service Users 2, 3, and 4. The Panel did consider whether it was possible that the records may have been incorrectly added by mistake. However, in relation to Service User 3, it noted that the Registrant had not seen her at all. In relation to Service User 2, he had emailed the school to say that the mother and Service User 2 were not ready for therapy and so the sessions ended. In relation Service User 4, he had said that a missed appointment was the reason for the sessions ending. In light of this, the Panel was satisfied that the recorded appointments could not have been added by mistake, but were deliberately added in the knowledge that the appointments had not taken place. The Panel had little difficulty in concluding that by the standards of ordinary decent people, such actions would be regarded as dishonest.

104. Regarding particular 7(b), the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It therefore finds this particular proved in respect of particular 7(b).

105. The Panel considered that the Registrant knew that he did not have permission to attend a conference. It was of the view that falsely advising a colleague that he had line management authority to arrange a hotel booking, which would have financial implications, was a deliberate act on the Registrant’s part. The second room that he had asked to be booked was not for an employee of the Society. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that by the standards of ordinary decent people, the Registrant’s actions were dishonest and led to a financial loss to the Society.

106. Regarding particular 8, the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It therefore finds this particular proved in respect of particular 8.

107. The Panel considered that the Registrant knew that he had not been promoted, and that he would have known that the post which, in his email, he said he had been promoted to did not exist. The Panel was of the view that writing such an email, which the Registrant would have known to be untrue, was a deliberate act. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that by the standards of ordinary decent people, the Registrant’s actions were dishonest.

108. Regarding particular 10, the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It therefore finds this particular proved in respect of particular 10.

109. The Panel considered that the Registrant knew that he had been offered and had accepted a full time post of 37 hours per week at the Society. It had regard to Ms JM’s evidence that he had not raised the possibility of working a four day week. The Panel was of the view that writing an email describing himself as working four days a week and available for work on one day a week, which the Registrant would have known was untrue, was a deliberate act. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that by the standards of ordinary decent people, the Registrant’s actions were dishonest.


Statutory Ground and Impairment

110. The Panel next considered whether the matters found proved as set out above, amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence, and if so, whether by reason thereof, the Registrant's fitness to practise is currently impaired.

111. The Panel considered the submissions made by Mr Bridges on behalf of the HCPC.

112. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that any findings of misconduct and/or lack of competence and impairment were matters for the independent judgement of the Panel.

113. The Panel was aware that consideration of impairment only arises in the event that the Panel judges that the facts found proved do amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence and that what has to be determined is current impairment, that is looking forward from today.


Decision on Grounds

Lack of Competence

114. Of the particulars which alleged lack of competence in the alternative to misconduct, only particulars 4 and 5 were found proved by the Panel at the fact finding stage. The Panel did not consider this to be a fair sample of the Registrant’s practice. In any event, having regard to the findings on the facts, the Panel considered that the three service users specified in particulars 4 and 5, were service users that the Registrant had either not seen at all (Service User 1) or had dishonestly recorded in the case files that he had seen when he had not (Service Users 3 and 4). In light of this, the Panel therefore concluded that the facts found proved in particulars 4 and 5 did not amount to a lack of competence.

Misconduct

115. The Panel considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and concluded that they did in respect of all the particulars found proved except particular 4.

116. In relation to particular 1, creating fictitious cases on a case file electronic recording system, and doing so dishonestly, the Panel had little hesitation in concluding that this fell far below the standards to be expected of a social worker, to the extent that fellow practitioners would consider the Registrant’s actions to be deplorable. The consequences of such behaviour meant that a false impression would have been created on the case management system, indicating that the Safe Time Service was operating at a higher capacity than was the case, potentially meaning that fewer additional referrals could be accommodated by the service.

117. In relation to particular 2, recording client appointments in the case file which had not taken place, and doing so dishonestly, the Panel again had little hesitation in concluding that this fell far below the standards to be expected of a social worker, to the extent that fellow practitioners would consider the Registrant’s actions to be deplorable. The consequences of such behaviour meant that vulnerable service users were badly let down by the service. They had been referred for therapy and counselling to a new service which had been set up to help victims of sexual abuse. Their and their families’ trust in the service, and potentially other professionals, would have been broken.

118. In relation to particular 4, authorising the closure of Service User 4’s case before obtaining management approval, the Panel did not consider that this amounted to misconduct. The evidence indicated that this was a fault with the Mosaic system, as the clinician counsellor/therapist should not have been able to close a case on Mosaic without management approval. The Panel determined that a single incident of closure of a case without management approval did not amount to a significant departure from the professional standards.

119. In relation to particular 5, not ensuring that Service Users 1 and 3 were seen at all, the Panel considered that this fell far below the standards to be expected of a social worker, charged with the responsibility of ensuring that vulnerable service users who were eligible for counselling/therapy received it. The consequences of not ensuring that they were seen meant that the service users were badly let down.

120. In relation to particulars 7(b), 8 and 10, the sending of emails containing untrue information, and doing so dishonestly, the Panel was satisfied that this fell far below the standards to be expected of a social worker. Each email was sent in connection with his employment, and demonstrated a pattern of dishonesty in the Registrant’s communications.

121. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures had breached the following HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2016):

• 1 – Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers;
• 6.1 – You must take all reasonable steps to reduce risk of harm to service users, carers and colleagues as far as possible;
• 9.1 – You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession;
• 9.2 – You must be honest about your experience, qualifications and skills
• 10.1 – You must keep full, clear, and accurate records for everyone you care, treat, or provided other services to.


Decision on Impairment

122. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment and in particular the two elements of impairment, namely the ‘personal component’ and the ‘public component’.

123. In relation to the degree of harm which the Registrant’s actions had caused, the Panel considered that this was significant. There was evidence of actual harm in respect of Service Users 3 and 4. Service User 3 had been angry about having had no contact from the Safe Time Service, despite having received a referral. Mrs JM described that she had tried to persuade Service User 3 back into the service, offering Service User 3 assurances that she would be seen and supported, but had been unsuccessful, as the trust had been broken. Service User 4 had just started to open up before the sessions ended and so then did not get any further. The family had said it would think about whether it wanted to return to the service, but no further referral was made. The Panel considered that the harm to the reputation of the Safe Time Service would also have been considerable. It was a new service set up to help potentially traumatised children and young people and as a result of the Registrant’s actions, had not achieved this in a number of cases.

124. In relation to the Registrant’s culpability, the Panel considered that this was very high. There was a significant and persistent level of dishonesty in a number of situations, namely to service users and their families; recording in case files; to management, colleagues and others outside the service.

125. The Panel went on to consider the ‘personal component’.

126. The Panel was mindful that there had been no engagement on the part of the Registrant. The consequences of this were that there was no evidence before it of any insight or remorse particularly in relation to the impact of his misconduct, including dishonesty, on service users, their families, the Society or the profession. There was also no evidence of any remediation. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the risk of repetition remained high, and therefore concluded that in respect of the personal component, his fitness to practise is currently impaired.

127. The Panel went on to consider the ‘public component’.

128. In light of the Panel’s conclusion that the Registrant’s actions, including dishonesty, fell far below the standards to be expected of a social worker, and that the risk of repetition was high, it is of the view that the public would expect the Regulator to take action in order to protect members of the public. It therefore concluded that public confidence in the reputation of the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case. Similarly, the Panel concluded that professional standards would be undermined if it did not make a finding of impairment. Accordingly, in respect of the ‘public component’ the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.


Decision on Sanction
129. Having concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel went on to consider what would be the appropriate, proportionate and sufficient sanction or other outcome in this case.

130. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (the Policy) and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive, but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.

131. The Panel did not identify any mitigating factors in this case.

132. The Panel considered that the following were aggravating factors:

• There was a pattern of dishonest behaviour towards vulnerable service users, their families, colleagues and other professionals;
• The Registrant’s dishonesty was committed in breach of trust of his position;
• Vulnerable service users were put at actual harm;
• The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC proceedings.

133. The Panel does not consider the options of taking no further action, mediation, or a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. None would address the identified risks, including that of the high risk of repetition. The case is also too serious, and none would meet the wider public interest.

134. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel had regard to paragraph 33 of the Policy which reads: ‘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.’ In light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement with the process and lack of evidence of insight, remorse or remediation, the Panel could not be satisfied that the Registrant would be willing or able to be trusted to comply with conditions.

135. In light of the Panel’s judgement that there was a high risk of repetition, the Panel was not satisfied that conditions would be either appropriate or proportionate. Further, the Panel was not satisfied that it would be possible to formulate workable conditions to address the misconduct, which includes dishonesty, as well as providing appropriate protection to members of the public. In any event, a Conditions of Practice Order would not maintain public confidence in the profession or the HCPC as its Regulator, as the case is too serious.

136. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Panel had regard to paragraph 39 of the Policy which states: ‘Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking-off is not merited’. In this case, as stated above, the Panel has identified a high risk of repetition, given the absence of evidence of insight, remorse or remediation.

137. The Panel also had regard to paragraph 41 of the Policy, which states: ‘If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failing’s then striking-off may be the more appropriate option’. As the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC process, the Panel has no information to suggest that the Registrant may be in a position to resolve or remedy his behaviour. The Panel therefore considered that a Suspension Order is not the appropriate and proportionate response.

138. The Panel next went on to consider a Striking Off Order and concluded that this was the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case. The Panel had regard to paragraph 47 of the Policy and recognised that a Striking Off Order is a sanction of last resort for serious or deliberate acts involving abuse of trust, such as dishonesty. The Panel was satisfied that this was such a case, given that it had found a deliberate and persistent pattern of dishonesty in the workplace.

139. The Panel had regard to paragraph 48 of the Policy which states: ‘Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight’. For the reasons previously given, including: a high risk of repetition; no evidence of insight, remorse or remediation; and a lack of engagement in these proceedings, the Panel concluded that there was no way to both protect the public and to meet the wider public interest in this case other than by imposing a Striking Off Order.

140. The Panel also had regard to paragraph 49 of the Policy which states: ‘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.’ The Panel considered that this was applicable in this case. For the reasons earlier identified, the Panel had found the Registrant’s actions to be a pattern of dishonest behaviour in a number of situations in the workplace, and included dishonesty which had consequently caused actual harm to a number of service users. The Panel concluded that a lesser sanction would undermine public confidence in the Social Work profession.

141. The Panel was mindful of the principle of proportionality when considering the appropriate sanction. It acknowledged that such an order will preclude the Registrant from working as a social worker. However, the Panel was of the view that only a Striking Off Order was appropriate in this case, and no lesser sanction would serve the purpose of both protecting the public and meeting the wider public interest.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Jonathon Mason from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Jonathan Mason

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
08/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off