Mrs Collette C Fowles
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Allegation (as amended at Substantive Hearing):
Whilst registered as a Social Worker at Knowsley Council between 3 May 2010
and 2 September 2016 you:
1. Did not conduct required statutory visits but recorded that you had done
a. Service User A on;
i. 22 March 2016
ii. 20 April 2016.
b. Service User B on 23 March 2016
c. Service User C on;
i. 22 March 2016;
ii. 29 April 2016.
2. Your actions at paragraphs 1a) – 1c) were dishonest.
3. The matters described in paragraphs 1-2 amount to misconduct.
4. By reason of that misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.
Facts proved: 1(a)(i), 1(a)(ii), 1(b), 1(c)(i) 1(c)(ii), 2 (in respect of 1(a)(i), 1(a)(ii),
Proof of Service
1. Written notice of this hearing was posted to the Registrant at her registered address by first class post on 13 March 2019. It was also emailed to her registered email address on the same date. The Panel determined, after hearing and accepting Legal advice from the Legal Assessor, that notice of this hearing had been properly served in accordance with the HCPC’s procedural Rules.
Proceeding in absence of the Registrant
2. The Panel heard the submission of Ms Simpson, to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and paid due regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant’.
3. There has been no communication from the Registrant to the HCPC since the papers in this case were served upon her.
4. The Panel noted that the Registrant has had good service of the Notice of Hearing and that she has not applied for an adjournment, and she has not engaged in the process on this occasion or in the past. The Panel determined that, therefore, it is unlikely that she would attend in any event should this matter be adjourned. The Panel, in exercising the principle of proportionality, determined that the public interest in proceeding expeditiously with this mandatory Review hearing outweighs the interests of the Registrant. If the existing Order expires before any further Review, it lapses and the Registrant would be free to practise without restriction. By contrast, her own interests in having a fair hearing can be preserved by vigilance within the hearing of the Panel and the independent Legal Assessor. Therefore, by reason of the Registrant having voluntarily chosen not to attend this hearing, on the grounds of public protection and in the wider public interest, the Panel has determined that the hearing shall proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
5. The Registrant had commenced employment as a Social Worker for Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council (the Council) in 2001. She was promoted on 1 April 2012 to the role of Senior Practitioner in the Children’s Social Care Team.
6. From November 2014 to July 2015, the Registrant was absent from work. When she returned to work she was given less responsibility in that she had a reduced caseload. The Council’s intention behind this was to support the Registrant. One of the Registrant’s responsibilities was to carry out statutory visits to children on her caseload.
7. The Particulars of Allegation alleged that the Registrant failed to carry out the 5 statutory visits she was required to undertake in March and April 2016 in relation to the three separate service users (A, B and C), but that the Registrant recorded that she had done so. The HCPC alleges that she did so dishonestly.
8. On 17 April 2018, a Panel of the HCPC found all the facts in the allegation proved and found that the Registrant was dishonest as to 4 of the 5 visits, where she knowingly recorded the visits when she knew they had not taken place. That Panel also found misconduct proved and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired at that time. The Panel imposed a sanction of a 12 Month Suspension Order. This is due to expire on 15 May 2019.
9. This is the first mandatory Review of the sanction imposed on 17 April 2018. This Panel heard and noted the submission of Ms Simpson. It noted that there is no information from the Registrant, who has not engaged with this process since the last hearing, when she was also not present or represented.
10. In reaching its decisions, the Panel has noted the submission of Ms Simpson and has read all the documentation provided. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and exercised the principle of proportionality at all times. The Panel also took into account the HCPC’s Practice Note on Impairment and its Indicative Sanctions Policy, respectively, for the Impairment and Sanction decisions.
11. The Panel assessed the Registrant’s case today, after the 12 month period of the initial sanction imposed and noted that she continued not to engage with this process and thus, had not demonstrated that she has understood the consequences of her dishonest misconduct. The findings of the previous Panel centred around the Registrant’s lack of honesty and integrity, with multiple instances of dishonest conduct, albeit over a relatively short period of time. This Panel concurs with that Panel that the misconduct found proved was serious, with a potentially high risk of harm to service users and the wider public. In the Panel’s judgment, the Registrant’s deficiencies identified in the case, if allowed to continue in the present set of circumstances, would lead to a high risk of repetition of those failings and could lead, for example, to a further potential breakdown in the trust that foster carers have in the social work profession. Whilst this Panel considered that the Registrant’s dishonesty was of medium seriousness and, therefore, potentially remediable, by reason of the Registrant having failed, once again, to engage with this process, it has been, and remains today, almost impossible to gauge her approach, if she has one, to the findings of the Panel in 2018. By her lack of engagement, the Registrant has failed to demonstrate any contrition, insight and the commencement, at the very least, of a remediation of the failings identified in the 2018 hearing. The Panel concluded that the public would remain at considerable risk and public confidence would be severely undermined if the Panel were to find that the Registrant was no longer impaired. For these reasons, therefore, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
12. The Panel first considered taking no action, mediation and imposing a Caution Order and rejected these. These outcomes have no ability for checking the progress of a Registrant and, hence, can only be used in case at the lowest end of the scale of seriousness, where remediation has been commenced and/or is virtually complete. It was clear to this Panel that the Registrant had been found to have breached a fundamental tenet of the profession; namely, that she failed to act with honesty and integrity, in situations that had the potential of directly impacting on the health and safety of vulnerable service users. Moreover, the Registrant has not engaged with this process from the beginning and has not demonstrated any remorse, insight or remediation either in 2018 or, 12 months later, today. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s misconduct had, and, in its continuing unremediated form, continues to have, the potential of directly impacting on the health, safety and welfare of vulnerable service users. As such, in the Panel’s judgement, the public would be at considerable risk of harm and the wider public interest would be severely undermined if the Panel were to impose any of the options set out here.
13. The Panel next considered replacing the existing Suspension Order with a Conditions of Practice Order and rejected this. The seriousness of this unremediated Registrant’s practice puts her at considerable continuing risk of potentially harming service users and of undermining the public’s confidence in the profession. With no contact from the Registrant, the Panel has no confidence that any conditions imposed would be workable and enforceable, as it has no information in any form from her as to her aspirations, if any, her plans, if any, and the structure of her remediation, if any.
14. The Panel next considered extending the existing Suspension Order. The Panel noted the mitigating and aggravating factors set out in the previous Panel’s determination. The Registrant had been of previous good character and had been praised in her work by colleagues. Against those factors, the Panel noted that the aggravating factors identified by the previous Panel included that she was an experienced social worker, whose dishonest misconduct had the potential to damage vulnerable service users and, hence, there was a risk of repetition. This Panel concurs with those views on its own analysis of the documentation provided.
15. This Panel also noted that the previous Panel had considered a Striking Off Order disproportionate, and, in imposing the 12 month Suspension Order gave the Registrant helpful direction by its reference to a suggestion of her providing for this Panel a reflective piece, proof of any relevant CPD and training courses and providing references and/or testimonials. From this, it was clear to this Panel that the previous Panel had also considered that the Registrant’s misconduct was potentially remediable. This Panel also noted that the HCPC even wrote to the Registrant in March 2019 to remind her of the chance given to her by the previous Panel for her to provide that information before this Panel. But the Registrant has chosen not to do so by her lack of engagement in any form. That approach has been consistent and this Panel has been forced to conclude that, if the Registrant were to be given another, perhaps shorter, period of suspension, she would still not engage meaningfully or provide the information required. This Panel considered that the information suggested to the Registrant at the end of the last Determination was tapered by the last Panel around remediation.
16. The Registrant's lack of engagement from this process from the beginning and continuing to today has forced this Panel to conclude that no amount of suggestion, hint or advice from this process is going to result in the Registrant engaging and, ultimately, through full remediation, achieving safe and effective practice. It has been nearly 3 years since the Registrant last practised as a social worker and she has still not produced any reflective piece, she has shown no insight and has never attended any hearing. This was a serious misconduct case, where there has been shown, by today, that the Registrant is unwilling to address the issues raised by the case found proved against her and where she still has not shown remorse, apologised or demonstrated any insight.
17. In the Panel’s judgment, this demonstrates that the Registrant is unwilling or unable to acknowledge her failings, with the commensurate high risk of repetition and risk to the health, safety and welfare of vulnerable service users and the wider public. The Panel has concluded that a further period of suspension would be fruitless and, by reason of the 12 months having produced no further contact from the Registrant, disproportionate. For these reasons the Panel has concluded that the only proportionate and appropriate sanction is that of a Striking Off Order.
That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Collette C Fowles from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.
The order imposed today will apply from the expiry of the current order, namely 15 May 2019.
History of Hearings for Mrs Collette C Fowles
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|12/04/2019||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|16/04/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|