Mr Matthew Tagg

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW108779

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 29/04/2019 End: 17:00 03/05/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Suffolk County Council, you

1.Between December 2015 and April 2017, did not

a)Complete Statutory Assessments as instructed by management decisions within relevant timescales to:

i.Service User A

ii.Service User B

iii.Service User C

iv.Service User D

b)Complete Child in Need minutes and/or assessments on cases in a timely manner in relation to:

i.Service User E

ii.Service User F

iii.Service User G

c)Send out Agency Checks in a timely manner in relation to:

i.Service User H

ii.Service User I

iii.Service User J

d)Undertake tasks as requested by your Line Manager in relation to:

i.Service User J, in that you failed to complete the SWA by 17 June 2016

ii.Service User K, in that you did not adequately explore domestic violence and/or substance misuse and/or Service User K’s attendance at school with both parents

iii.Service User L, in that you did not ensure that Service User L completed a Drug Use Screening Tool in a timely manner

e)Communicate effectively with service users and/or colleagues in relation to:

i.Service User M, in that you referred to the Service User’s father by the wrong name in one or more observation(s)

ii.Service User N, in that you arranged to visit the Service User at school on the same day as a visit by the FSP worker

iii.Service User O, in that you did not offer sufficient support to the FAST social worker and/or identify the benefits of the suggested approach to the family

iv.Service User K, in that you did not challenge Service User K’s mother about her request for support and/or challenge the behaviour of Service User K’s parents

f)Complete statutory visits within relevant statutory timescales in relation to:

i.Service User P

ii.Service User Q

iii.Service User H

iv.Service User R

2.Disclosed confidential information to Service User O and her parents without authority to do so.

3.The matters described at particulars 1 and 2 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Background:

1.The Registrant was employed by Suffolk County Council (the Council) from 20 July 2015, initially as a Family Support Practitioner (FSP). In December 2015 having obtained his HCPC registration, the Registrant commenced his Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).   He worked within the Haverhill Social Care Team as a Grade 5 Social Worker, working with children who potentially met the criteria under s.17 of the Children Act 1989, to be considered a Child in Need (CIN).   

2.In March 2016, the Registrant was made subject to an informal capability process due to concerns about his progress and performance as a social worker.

3.On 26 July 2016 JZ, Practice Manager, notified the Registrant in writing that due to on-going concerns relating to his performance and the lack of progress outlined in their meeting on 29 June 2016, the Council was now moving to a Formal Stage 1 of the Capability Procedure.   A Formal Stage 1 meeting took place on 04 August 2016 and the Registrant’s progress was reviewed against his development plan.   On 25 October 2016, the Council informed the Registrant in writing of the outcome of the Formal Review Meeting that had taken place on 21 October 2016.   This was to progress the matter to a Stage 2 Formal Capability Meeting as the Registrant had not met the standards required of him.  The Registrant unsuccessfully appealed this decision.  The Formal Stage 2 Capability Heating took place on 27 February 2017.   The Registrant unsuccessfully appealed the decision reached at that hearing.  The Registrant left his employment with the Council in April 2017. 

Decision on Facts

Evidence

4.The Panel heard evidence from two witnesses called by the HCPC: (i) KD, a Consultant Social Worker who was the Registrant’s Line Manager, AYSE Assessor, and also supervised him between March 2016 and April 2017, and (ii) JZ, who was the Practice Manager for the Haverhill Social Care Team at the material time.   The Panel also received documentary evidence from the Council, including representations provided by the Registrant during the Formal Capability process.   The Registrant gave evidence before the Panel and produced written representations and further documentary evidence. 

5.The evidence called by the HCPC included some hearsay evidence.  The Panel has received and accepted legal advice as to how to approach hearsay evidence.   The Panel has borne in mind that this evidence has not been tested by cross examination or by any questions from the Panel, and has therefore taken particular care when considering it.
    
6.The Panel found KD to be an impressive witness.   Her evidence was thorough, she had good recall, was reflective and the Panel found her to be credible and reliable.   The Panel considered that KD had been balanced in her assessment of the Registrant.

7.The Panel found JZ to be credible and reliable.   She was similarly thorough and showed that she had a solid grasp of the background and the overall picture of the team to which the Registrant was allocated.  
 
8.The Registrant:  at the outset of the proceedings, Mr Anderson on behalf of the Registrant indicated which particulars of the Allegation were admitted by the Registrant, and which were denied.   At the end of the evidence called by the HCPC, Mr Anderson indicated that the Registrant wished to admit two further particulars of the Allegation.   The Registrant gave evidence and the Panel found him to be a well-meaning and genuine witness whose passion for social work was clear.    However, the Panel found that the focus of his evidence tended to be on the more positive aspects of the case and that in his responses to the questions that he was being asked, he tended to minimise the matters of concern in the case. 

Findings of fact:

Particular 1a)i – was found proved

9.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that when a child is referred to the CIN team, a Social Work Assessment (SWA) must be completed as this assessment involves gaining an understanding of the child’s experience and is used to ascertain what, if anything needs to happen to address unmet needs and safeguard against harm. There is a statutory requirement for SWAs to be completed within a maximum of 45 days.   Within the Council, a manager uses his or her discretion to set a timescale based on an assessment of the complexity of the case and operational need.  The date by which the manager decides that SWA should be completed is recorded on the child’s electronic case file.      In addition to being recorded on the child’s electronic case file, the manager’s decision is also emailed to the allocated social worker by copying the management decision from the electronic case notes into the email.   The management decision is also revisited during supervision sessions and recorded on CareFirst, which is the Council’s computer record system. 

10.In finding this Particular proved the Panel has seen documentary evidence of screenshots from CareFirst which show that the case of Service User A was allocated to the Registrant on 06 April 2016 and the SWA was to be completed by 29 April 2016.   According to KD, at a supervision session with the Registrant on 26 April 2016 the date for completion was extended to 13 May 2016.   The Registrant did not complete the SWA by the revised date and during a supervision session on 02 June 2016, the date was further revised to 03 June 2016.   The Panel found that the Registrant did not complete the SWA by the date set by KD.

11.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.
   
Particular 1a)ii – was found proved

12.In finding this Particular proved the Panel has seen documentary evidence of screenshots from CareFirst which show that, in relation to Service User B, the case was allocated to the Registrant on 26 August 2016 and the SWA was to be completed by 07 October 2016.   According to KD, at a supervision session with the Registrant on 21 September 2016, the entry on CareFirst showed “in progress”.   However, at a supervision with JZ on 13 October 2016, it was clear that the Registrant had missed the original completion date and he was told to complete the assessment as a matter of priority.    The Panel has seen the supervision records of both KD and JZ for the relevant dates and is satisfied that the Registrant was sent copies of these.  

13.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.   

Particular 1a)iii – was found proved

14.In finding this Particular proved the Panel has seen documentary evidence of screenshots from CareFirst which show the case of Service User C was allocated to the Registrant on 22 August 2016 and the SWA was to be completed by 30 September 2016.   According to KD, at a supervision session with the Registrant on 21 September 2016, the Registrant had told her the SWA was underway.   He did not tell her that he was struggling with timescales.  The Registrant completed the SWA outside the timeframe set for him by KD, on 10 October 2016.   The Panel has seen the relevant supervision notes.

15.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.   

Particular 1a)iv – was found proved

16.In finding this Particular proved the Panel has seen documentary evidence of screenshots from CareFirst that the case of Service User D was allocated to the Registrant on 11 February 2016.  KD’s evidence was that she set the date by which the SWA was to be completed during a supervision session with the Registrant on the same date.   The completion date set was 11 March 2016.   According to KD, she set a revised completion date of 05 April 2016 at a supervision session with the Registrant on 23 March 2016 because he had not completed the SWA.   The Panel has seen the relevant supervision notes.

17.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.
  
Particular 1b)i – was found proved in relation to the completion of minutes only; it was found not proved in relation to assessments

18.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that it was the Council’s practice that a Child In Need (CIN) meeting should take place within 15 working days of the case being allocated to a social worker. It also accepted KD’s evidence that the minutes of the meeting should be ready for distribution to all those who have attended within 12 working days of the CIN meeting.  Those who might have attended included GPs, school nurses, teachers, midwives, parents and other family members of the child concerned.   The Panel has also seen documentary evidence of the Council’s CIN Policy and Procedures in force at the relevant time which confirm the timescales given by KD in her evidence.  

19.In finding this Particular proved in relation to minutes only, the Panel accepted the evidence of KD that a CIN meeting in relation to Service User E took place on 14 July 2016.  The Registrant did not complete the minutes of that meeting until some 43 days later on 12 September 2016.  This is referred to in Service User E’s case notes which the Panel has seen.  

20.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

21.There was no evidence before the Panel as to CIN assessments which appears in the stem and so this part of the Particular was found not proved.

Particular 1b)ii – was found proved in relation to the completion of minutes only; it was found not proved in relation to assessments

22.In finding this Particular proved the Panel accepted the evidence of KD that a CIN meeting in relation to Service User F took place on 13 December 2016.  The Registrant did not complete the minutes of that meeting until some 32 days later on 26 January 2017 and so did not complete them within 12 working days of the CIN meeting.   This is referred to in Service User F’s case notes which the Panel has seen.
 
23.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

24.There was no evidence before the Panel as to CIN assessments which appears in the stem and so this part of the Particular was found not proved.

Particular 1b)iii – was found proved in relation to the completion of minutes only; it was found not proved in relation to assessments

25.In finding this Particular proved the Panel accepted the evidence of KD that a CIN meeting in relation to Service User G took place on 06 December 2016.  The Registrant appears to have completed two sets of minutes of this meeting – on 12 January 2017 and on 16 January 2017, neither of which was within 12 working days of the CIN meeting.  The first set of minutes was completed 27 days after the meeting.   Both sets of minutes are referred to in Service User G’s case notes which the Panel has seen.

26.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

27.There was no evidence before the Panel as to CIN assessments which appears in the stem and so this part of the Particular was found not proved.

Particular 1c)i – was found proved

28.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that when a child is initially allocated to the Haverhill Social Care Team, agency checks are carried out with various agencies such as the child’s GP, school, wider family, mental health services, religious groups, local sports groups, nursery schools, pre-school teachers, child minders and any other professionals involved with the child.   KD explained that the agency checks should be carried out as soon as possible so that as much relevant evidence as is available can be gathered about the child and the family.   The Panel accepted KD’s evidence that a SWA cannot be started until relevant agency checks have been completed as the information these checks might provide is necessary when completing the SWA for a child. 

29.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that Service User H was allocated to the Registrant on 02 November 2016.   A management decision was taken on the same date that the agency checks should be completed by the Registrant by 08 November 2016.   The task was not completed until 22 November 2016.   The Panel has also seen the relevant entries on the CareFirst record.   The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not sent out the agency checks in a timely manner.

30.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1c)ii – was found proved

31.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that Service User I was allocated to the Registrant on 17 March 2016.   A management decision was taken on the same date that the Registrant should complete agency checks.   As the SWA was due by 17 April 2016, the agency checks should have been completed before that date.   However, the Registrant did not send a request to at least one agency until 09 May 2016.  In that request, the Registrant had asked for the form to be returned within three days because of the urgency of the check.   The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not sent out the agency checks in a timely manner.

32.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1c)iii – was found proved

33.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that Service User J was allocated to the Registrant on 21 April 2016.  A management decision was taken on the same date that the Registrant should complete agency checks by 27 April 2016.  At a supervision on 19 May 2016, it became clear that the Registrant had not completed agency checks with Service User J’s school nurse or teachers at the school.   KD instructed the Registrant to complete these as soon as possible.  The Registrant completed them on 14 June 2016 despite being told on 01 June 2016 that the SWA was to be completed by 17 June 2016.   The Registrant could not complete the SWA until all the agency checks had not only been sent out, but replies had been received.   The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not sent out the agency checks in a timely manner.

34.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1d)i – was found proved

35.As set out in paragraph 33 above, the Registrant was allocated the case of Service User J on 21 April 2916.   On 01 June 2016, he was told by KD to complete the SWA by 17 June 2016.   As the Registrant had not completed the agency checks until after that date, he failed to complete the SWA by the deadline, and in doing so he had not undertaken a task requested of him by his line manager, KD.   The Panel therefore found this Particular proved.

36.The Panel also relied on admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.   

Particular 1d)ii – was found proved

37.The Panel found all three aspects of this Particular proved.  The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that when the case of Service User K was allocated to the Registrant on 27 January 2017, KD had given him a number of tasks to complete.   These included exploring the incidents of domestic violence thoroughly with both parents, raising with them issues of substance misuse and urging the parents to send Service User K to school each day.   From KD’s evidence and documentary evidence relating to the case of Service User K, the Panel was satisfied that, despite being told to do so by KD, the Registrant did not explore the incidents of domestic violence with both parents but spoke only to the mother.  He did this via telephone when the mother was on her way to a meeting.   The Registrant should have spoken to both parents in the family home.  

38.The Panel was also satisfied that despite being tasked by KD to do so, the Registrant did not ask either parent about substance misuse.   Nor did he urge the parents to sent Service User K to school each day.

39.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this particular

Particular 1d)iii – was found proved

40.The Panel has accepted the evidence of KD that during a supervision session with the Registrant held on 26 April 2016, she told him that he needed to get Service User L to complete a Drug Use Screening Tool (DUST) form to assess Service User L’s drug misuse.   The Registrant had not completed this task by 19 May 2016, when KD raised the matter with him during a further supervision session.   KD then emailed the Registrant confirming what he needed to do.   On 09 June 2016, the Registrant made a note in Service User L’s notes that as he could not get Service User L to complete the DUST form, he (the Registrant) “would most likely be able to complete the form anyway”. This was an inappropriate suggestion by the Registrant.   The Panel has seen the relevant supervision notes where the DUST form to be completed by Service User L was discussed.    The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not undertaken the task set for him by KD relating to this matter.

41.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1e)i – was found not proved

42. In finding this Particular was not proved, the Panel considered the entries on Service User M’s case record which referred to Service User M’s father.  Two different names were used to describe the same person.  The Panel accepted KD’s evidence that the effect of doing this might be to cause confusion to anyone unfamiliar with the family who was reading the case file.  However, the Panel also accepted the Registrant’s evidence that Service User M’s father was known by both names and so in using both names in the child’s records, the Registrant had not in fact use the “wrong” name in the observations, as is alleged in this Particular.  

Particular 1e)ii -– was found proved in relation to colleagues only

43.The Panel was satisfied that in arranging to visit Service User N at school on the same date as a visit by the FSP worker, the Registrant did not communicate effectively with that colleague.    The Panel was not satisfied that there was any evidence that the Registrant had not communicated effectively with either Service User N or any other service user involved with this visit.

44.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1e)iii – was found not proved

45.The Panel was satisfied that on 26 August 2016 the Registrant and WS, from the Council’s FAST Service visited Service User O and her family.   The Panel has seen an email from WS to KD dated 28 August 2016 which refers to the meeting.   This email is hearsay evidence and so the Panel considered it with some care.   It contained relevant evidence and was sent very shortly after the meeting.  The Panel noted that in his evidence, the Registrant did not challenge its contents but rather sought to explain his approach to that meeting.  

46.The Panel decided that this Particular of the Allegation did not specify that it was confined to the date of the visit on 26 August 2016.   In fact, no date is set out and so the Panel decided that it did not relate to the Registrant’s communication on a single date.   The Panel accepted the evidence of both KD and the Registrant that Service User O’s family did later accept the support offered by the FAST Service.   The Panel was of the view that it was more likely than not that this change of heart was the result of the Registrant later identifying and reinforcing with the family, the benefits of the support on offer.   In so doing, the Registrant was effectively supporting his colleague, WS.

Particular 1e)iv – was found proved

47.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that on 07 November 2016, she had observed a meeting with Service User K’s family at which Service User K’s mother had asked the Registrant for help.   At a supervision session held on 06 January 2017 the Registrant had told KD that Service User K’s mother had told him two days earlier during a CIN meeting that she did not want the support of an FSP worker.   When KD had raised this shift in position with the Registrant, he had not remembered Service User K’s mother’s earlier request for help and he said he had not made a note of this.    KD then showed the Registrant her notes of the meeting where she had recorded the request for help.   As the Registrant had not made a note at the time, and because he did not remember Service User K’s mother requesting help, the Registrant was unable to challenge her on her shift in position about the need for help.   The Panel considered this to be a lack of effective communication with Service User K’s mother which could have resulted in Service User K’s needs not being met and her remaining vulnerable to neglect and exposure to drug use and domestic abuse.

48.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.   

Particular 1f)i – was found proved

49.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that statutory visits where the allocated social worker goes to see the child, obtain their wishes and feelings and assesses their safety and any potential risk that may be present, should be undertaken within agreed timelines.   For CIN cases, statutory visits are required at a minimum of every 20 working days.  Where possible and appropriate, it is a requirement that children are seen alone and outside of the family home in order that they may express themselves more freely.   The Children Act 1989 requires local authorities to give due regard to a child’s wishes when determining what services to provide under section 17.

50.The case of Service User P was allocated to the Registrant after it had been stepped down from a Child Protection Plan to a CIN plan.  A Family Network Meeting (FNM) had taken place on 30 November 2016.   The Registrant did not then visit Service User P until 06 January 2017.   The statutory requirement was for Service User P to be seen every 20 days and so the Registrant was late in conducting his statutory visit.      The Panel therefore found this Particular proved.

51.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1f)ii – was found proved

52.The case of Service User Q was allocated to the Registrant on 02 November 2016.  Service User Q and Service User H are siblings.  The Registrant visited Service User Q on 07 December 2016 and then did not visit again until 09 January 2017 which was outside the statutory timescales.   The Panel therefore found this Particular proved.  
 
53.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1f)iii – was found proved

54.The case of Service User H was allocated to the Registrant on 02 November 2016.    The Registrant visited Service User H and her sibling Service User Q on 07 December 2016 and then did not visit again until 09 January 2017 which was outside the statutory timescales.    The Panel therefore found this Particular proved.

55.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 1f)iv – was found proved

56.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that Service User R was seen by the Registrant on 17 June 2016.    The Registrant next visited Service User R on 18 July 2016 which was outside the statutory timescales.    The Panel therefore found this Particular proved.

57.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Particular 2 – was found proved

58.The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that the Registrant had disclosed to Service User O and her adoptive parents, a letter marked “Private and Confidential” sent to him from an Art Psychotherapist at the Connect Service Children’s Treatment Centre.   The Panel has seen the the letter which clearly showed that it was intended to be between professionals and was not one to be shared directly with the family.   The Registrant did not show the letter to his line manager, KD or the Practice Manager, JZ or seek any guidance from them as to whom the letter could be shown.  He did not have any authority to disclose the letter to Service User O and her adoptive parents. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had disclosed confidential information without authority and found the Particular proved.

59.The Panel also relied on the admission of the Registrant in relation to this Particular.

Decision on Grounds

60.In reaching its decision on the statutory grounds, the Panel has taken into account the submissions of Ms Manning-Rees  for the HCPC and those of Mr Anderson for the Registrant.   It has also received and accepted legal advice.   It first considered whether those matters found proved amounted to lack of competence before considering whether those same matters amounted to misconduct.

Lack of competence

61.The Panel was satisfied that it had received evidence of a fair sample of the Registrant’s work over a period of time on which it can form a judgment as to his level of competence during the relevant period.    In relation to all those matters where the facts alleged have been proved, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s standard of competence was unacceptably low and so it found this statutory ground proved.   In reaching this conclusion, the Panel noted that at the outset of the proceedings, Mr Anderson indicated that the Registrant accepted lack of competence in relation to those matters which he admitted.   

Misconduct

62.In deciding whether the facts found proved amount to misconduct, the Panel has considered the Particulars individually.   It has had in mind that misconduct must be serious and that it was different from lack of competence. 

63.In relation to Particular 1a)i to iv, which related to the Registrant not completing SWAs for four service users as instructed by management decisions within relevant timescales, the Panel found misconduct.   The Registrant repeatedly failed to carry out the actions required of him by the management decisions.   He did not seek support or raise any reasons why he did not complete the SWAs within the timescale set for him.  A SWA determines what action, if any, is required to meet the child’s needs and to provide appropriate safeguarding measures.   The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that the potential consequences for the service users involved was that their cases were left to drift with risks to them not being addressed and their needs not being met.  

64. In relation to Particular 1b)i to iii, which related to the Registrant not competing CIN minutes for three service users in a timely manner, the Panel decided that this did not amount to misconduct.  Although the Council set its own timescale of 12 days, the Panel could not be certain based on the evidence it had heard, that because the minutes were delayed this alone had caused risks to the service users.   It was essentially a matter of lack of competence rather than serious misconduct.

65.In relation to Particular 1c)i to iii, which related to the Registrant not sending out agency checks for three service users in a timely manner, the Panel found misconduct.   The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that the completed agency checks forms inform what level of concern the Council should have about a child.   An SWA cannot be completed or even started without the agency checks being completed.   It is important that the allocated social worker knows if other agencies have concerns about a child.  The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that the potential consequences for the service users involved was that their cases were left to drift with risks to them not being addressed and their needs not being met.   

66.In relation to Particular 1d)i, which related to the Registrant not undertaking a task requested by his line manager in relation to Service User J, the Panel has found misconduct.   The task set by KD was to complete the SWA by 17 June 2016 which the Registrant failed to do.   A SWA determines what action, if any, is required to meet the child’s needs and to provide appropriate safeguarding measures.   The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that the potential consequences for the service user involved was that her case was left to drift with risks to her not being addressed and her needs not being met.
 
67.In relation to Particular 1d)ii, which related to the Registrant not undertaking a task requested by his line manger in relation to Service User K, the Panel did not find misconduct.   KD’s evidence was that “this was a classic case of false compliance on the part of the parents.  [The Registrant] was not able to understand this.   He did not demonstrate the skills to engage the parents suitably and impress upon them the seriousness of the situation…”.   Accordingly, the Panel has found this to be lack of competence but not misconduct.

68.In relation to Particular 1d)iii, which related to the Registrant not undertaking a task requested by his line manager in relation to Service User M, the Panel concluded that was lack of competence but not misconduct.    The Panel decided that in not getting Service User M to complete the DUST form as he was requested to do, this was not so serious as to amount to misconduct.

69.In relation to Particular 1e) ii and iv, which related to the Registrant not communicating effectively with colleagues, the Panel concluded that this was a matter of lack of competence but not misconduct.   The ineffective communication was not so serious as to amount to misconduct.

70.In relation to Particular 1f)i to iv, which related to not completing statutory visits to four service users within the relevant statutory timescales, the Panel found misconduct.   The Panel accepted the evidence of KD that for CIN cases, statutory visits should take place at a minimum of every 20 working days.   The Panel also accepted her evidence that the potential consequences for the service users involved where these statutory visits were not undertaken within the timescales set was that the cases were left to drift with risks not being addressed and needs not being met. 
 
71.In relation to Particular 2, which related to the communication of confidential information without authority, the Panel found misconduct.   The letter in question was addressed to the Registrant, it was clearly marked “Private and Confidential”.   It related to a very vulnerable service user who was at risk, and also to her parents.   The Registrant did not have any authority to show this letter to the service user and her parents.   There had been no discussion about the letter with either KD or JZ or any other social worker as the Registrant had not sought any guidance from anyone as to how he should deal with the letter.   The Panel considered that this breach of confidentiality was serious and amounted to misconduct. 

72.The Panel was satisfied that Registrant’s conduct in relation to those matters where it has found misconduct fell far below the standards to be expected of a Social Worker.
 
73.In respect of both the lack of competence and the misconduct found, the Panel considers that the following standards are engaged and have been breached by its findings of fact:

A.The Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016)

Standard 1 - Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers

Standard 2 – Communicate appropriately and effectively

Standard 3 – Work within the limits of your knowledge and skills

Standard 5 – respect confidentiality

B.The Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England (2012)  :

Standard 1 – be able to practise safely and effectively within their  scope of practice

Standard 4 – be able to practise as an autonomous professional,  exercising their own professional judgement

Standard 7 – understand the importance of and be able to  maintain confidentiality

Standard 8 – be able to communicate effectively

Standard 11 – be able to reflect on and review practice

Standard 12 – be able to assure the quality of their practice

Decision on Impairment 

74.In reaching its decision on impairment, the Panel has considered the submissions of Ms Manning-Rees for the HCPC and those of Mr Anderson for the Registrant.  It has had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”.   It has received and accepted legal advice.   The Panel has borne in mind that the purpose of this hearing is not to punish the Registrant for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise. 

75.The Panel has also considered the evidence of CW, the Principal and Managing Director of Life Resolution, an independent social work practice for whom the Registrant has been working in a non-social work capacity for the last 6 weeks.  CW is a qualified social worker.  For the past 16 years, she has also been a Stage 2 Practice Educator and a Post-Qualifying Mentor for the former PQ Framework, and more recently for those completing their own Practice Education training.  CW stated that she has “directly supported over 300 individuals to progress (or not in some cases) in their social work careers over the last 16 years”.   The Panel heard her evidence via the telephone link and found her to be a very clear witness who was credible,  forthright and business like in her evidence.

76.The Panel noted that no known actual harm was caused to any of the service users whose cases were allocated to the Registrant.   The Panel also noted that the Registrant had engaged with the HCPC throughout the entirety of these regulatory proceedings.   He had attended this hearing, made admissions and given evidence to the Panel. 
        
77.In relation to the personal component, the Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s lack of competence and misconduct could be remedied.   It was in no doubt that it could be. The Panel then considered whether there was evidence that the Registrant had remedied his shortcomings.

78.The Panel has reviewed all the documents provided by the Registrant.   These show that over the last two years since he left the Council, he has taken up the limited opportunities available to him to keep his skills and knowledge up to date and has taken significant steps towards remedying some of his shortcomings.  The Panel noted that the Registrant had focused his efforts at remediation within the family and social care environment.  

79.The Panel concluded that some of the concerns raised in this case have been remedied.   For example, the Registrant is now better equipped to prioritise his workload and has used organisational tools such as spreadsheets in his recent employment with the YMCA.  He now has a better appreciation of what supervision is for and when he should seek it out.   He has learned how to achieve a work/life balance.   In terms of the courses and employment he has undertaken during the last two years some are clearly relevant to developmental learning such as the course he attended on safeguarding.   His roles in the family and social care environment have provided him with directly transferable skills to the role of a social worker.  

80.In his current employment with Life Resolutions, CW told the Panel that she had encouraged the Registrant to apply for his current post which was akin to that of a social worker but did not necessarily require a social work qualification to complete the tasks.  He has been directly supported by CW in this role.  

81.The Panel found that there were, however, some key areas where the Registrant had been unable to evidence that he had fully remedied the concerns raised by his lack of competence and misconduct: such as, the ability to manage a case load and the ability to meet timescales set for him.  

82.The Panel also considered whether the Registrant had insight into his shortcomings.   The Panel was reassured by the Registrant’s evidence and his responses to their questions and considered that he had developed some insight.   However, the Panel did not consider that he had yet achieved full insight.

83.In the letter from CW, she stated “At the time of compiling this letter, I see a practitioner before me, that has a foundation knowledge of social work equal to that of an emerging qualified professional, someone keen to consolidate their learning and to get on with developing their professional skills to become a competent and effective social worker”.   She also said of the Registrant that “he does have learning to do, that is clear, but no more than any other newly qualified practitioner that I have supported in the past.   He needs a clear framework both in terms of management; and learning”.

84.The Panel was satisfied based on CW’s evidence and on the testimonials and other references produced by the Registrant during the appeal process during the Capability Process and more recently for this hearing, and on the positive personal attributes highlighted by the witnesses, that the Registrant clearly possesses relevant social work skills.

85.The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s lack of competence and misconduct had in the past put services users at risk of unwarranted harm, brought the Social Work profession into disrepute and breached fundamental tenants of that profession.   The Panel was of the view that looking forward as it must, and because the Registrant was still developing insight into his shortcomings and there were still areas which he needed to remedy, there was a low risk that he will repeat his shortcomings in the future.   In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on personal component grounds.

86.In relation to the public component, the Panel was of the view that a reasonable and informed member of the public would consider that public confidence in the Social Work profession would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case.
  
87. The Panel concluded that it would be failing in its duty to protect the public from a social worker who did not meet required levels of competency if it did not find impairment in this case.   It is essential the public can have confidence that those employed as social workers have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the role to which they are appointed.

88.The Panel therefore found, on both the personal and public component grounds, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.  Accordingly, the Panel found the Allegation is well founded. 

 


Sanction

89.In considering the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case the Panel was referred to and took account of the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy.   It has had regard to the positive testimonials submitted on behalf of the Registrant.  The Panel has also considered the submissions of both parties  and it has received and accepted legal advice.

90.The Panel is aware that the purpose of any sanction it imposes is not to punish the Registrant, although it may have that effect, but it is to protect service users and to maintain confidence in the Social Work profession and to uphold its standards of conduct and behaviour.   It has also had in mind that any sanction must be appropriate and proportionate bearing in mind the lack of competence and misconduct involved.

91.The Panel has considered mitigating and aggravating factors.    The Panel first looked at the mitigating factors.  It noted that the Registrant was newly qualified, inexperienced and in his first Social Work role.  It also noted that he had fully engaged with the regulatory process and that he had made significant admissions.  

92.The Panel then looked at the aggravating factors.   It noted that, despite being within a structured and supportive environment, the Registrant’s lack of competence and misconduct had been repeated over a prolonged period of time with the result that service users were put at risk of potential harm.

93.The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.   It decided that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order in this case would not be appropriate or proportionate given the lack of competence and the misconduct involved.  Neither could be described as either relatively minor or involving only an isolated incident.   There was also a low risk of repetition.  The Panel was satisfied that to ensure public confidence in the profession was not undermined it must consider a more severe sanction.

94.The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order.  The Panel is satisfied the Registrant’s developing insight and the steps he has already taken to remedy his shortcomings in caseload management and compliant with timescales means that this sanction is both proportionate and appropriate in all the circumstances.   The Panel considered the matters set out in paragraph 31 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy which states:

“Before imposing conditions a Panel should be satisfied that:
the issues which the conditions seek to address are capable of correction;
there is no persistent or general failure which would prevent the registrant from doing so;
appropriate, realistic and verifiable conditions can be formulated;
the Registrant can be expected to comply with them
a reviewing Panel will be able to determine whether those conditions have or are being met.”

95.The Panel was satisfied that the concerns about the Registrant’s shortcomings were capable of being remedied and that it could devise appropriate, realistic and verifiable conditions which would address those concerns.   It was also confident that the Registrant would comply with any conditions imposed on his registration. 

96.The Panel then went on to consider a Suspension Order.   Having taken note of the relevant paragraphs in the Indicative Sanctions Policy, the Panel decided that such an order was inappropriate as it would be disproportionate and unduly harsh in the circumstances of this case as the deficient areas identified in the Registrant’s practice are capable of remediation.   

97.The Panel decided to impose a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 6 months.    This was to allow the Registrant sufficient time to achieve full insight into his shortcomings, and to address the outstanding concerns.  

98.This Order will be reviewed before it expires and the Panel considered that the reviewing panel might be assisted by:

•Relevant testimonials

•Details of how the Registrant has kept his skills and knowledge up to date including evidence of any CPD activity

•A report from the supervisor

•A summary of transferable learning achieved whether in a social worker or non-social worker role

•Anything else that the Registrant thinks is appropriate.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the register to show that for the period of 6 moths from the date this Order comes into effect (the Operative Date), you, Matthew Tagg, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1.You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor and you must supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 7 days of the Operative Date.   You must attend upon your supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendation.

2.You must work with your supervisor to formulate a Personal Development Plan designed to address the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:

-Case management practice and techniques

-Organizing and prioritising case work

-Adhering to and achieving compliance with timescales as required by your caseload and/or your supervisor/manager

3.Within one month of the Operative Date you must forward a copy of your Personal Development Plan to the HCPC.

4.You must meet your supervisor on a minimum of a monthly basis to consider your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.

5.You must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC about your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.

6.You must promptly inform the HCPC if you cease to be employed by your current employer or take up any other or further employment.

7.You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer

8.You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with you  to undertake professional work;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered  with (at the time of application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Matthew Tagg

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
29/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice
19/07/2017 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Hearing has not yet been held