Mrs Julie Denise Harrison

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW48129

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

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

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Hearing has not yet been held

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Allegation

Whilst registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and during your employment with Staffordshire County Council, you:

1. In respect of Service User A, between June 2015 and January 2016:

a) revealed in a Social Work Assessment that Service User A was the person who had made the referral despite being asked by Service User A to maintain her anonymity;

b) did not provide and/ or record sufficient support for Service User A;

c) did not have and/or did not present relevant documentation to a Child Protection Conference held on 23 December 2015;

d) did not share your report with the parents prior to the ICPC on 23 December 2015 resulting in delay;

e) did not make the social work notification which resulted in the police not having the full 7 days to complete their reports;

f) did not undertake and or record visits within timescale;

g) did not inform all relevant professionals of a Core Group Meeting to be held on 7 January 2016

h) did not take reasonable steps to follow up with the police that Service User A’s son wished to make a complaint of assault against his father;

i) on or around 12 January 2016, advised Service User A that she would need police involvement to resolve concerns regarding overnight contact between Service User A’s husband and daughter when this was not the case;

2. In respect of the case of Child B:

a) did not visit Child B on a regular basis and/ or record visits after 13 January 2016;

b) did not complete the Child in Need plan and meeting minutes;

c) did not review the Child in Need plan after it was implemented in November 2015;

d) did not update the Child Social Work Assessment (CSWA) completed in September 2015;

e) did not undertake work to obtain Child B’s wishes and feelings and/ or record that you had done so;

f) did not complete a court report in relation to a Child Arrangement Order.

3. Following receipt of a telephone call from a probation officer on 12 February 2016, advising you that a perpetrator had resumed contact with his child, Child C, you:

a) did not record this on Child C’s file;

b) did not alert Child C’s allocated Social Worker.

4. In respect of Child D:

a) on or around 21 January 2016, did not share your report for the Child Protection conference with Child D’s parents in a timely manner;

b) did not arrange and/or hold core group meetings on time and/ or if at all;

c) did not complete parenting assessment.

5. In respect of Children E and F:

a) did not complete your report for the ICPC in September 2015 until the day of the conference which resulted in delay;

b) did not undertake statutory visits within timescales;

c) did not undertake and/ or record a statutory visit after 3 March 2016;

d) did not progress the plan made at the ICPC in September 2015, in that you:

i. did not make contact with the father of one of the children;

ii. did not make a referral to the NSPCC;

iii. did not obtain police information in relation to household members.

e) recorded a visit on 13 November 2015 to see the children between 10.30 am and 11.30 am when school records show that one of the children was in school and the other was sick;

f) recorded a visit on 29 December 2015 to see the children which was a duplicate of the case record for the visit alleged to have taken place on 13 November 2015;

g) recorded a visit on 3 March 2016 to see the children which is identical to the record for a visit undertaken on 21 January 2016 other than alterations to reflect a visit before school on 3 March and after school on 21 January.

6. In respect of Children G, H and I:

a) a did not complete an assessment for step-father which had been requested in October 2014;

b) did not undertake and/or record undertaking visits within the required timescales for Child Protection;

c) did not attend the initial core group meeting held on 19 June 2015;

d) did not complete the parenting assessment and/or risk assessment;

e) on 30 December 2015 recorded that the step-father, who was recorded as a person posing a risk to children, was alone with Child G contrary to the PPRC but took no further action about this.

7. In the case of Child J, did not hold and/ or record core group meetings following the ICPC held on 1 March 2016.

8. The actions set out at paragraphs 5 (e) - (g) were dishonest.

9. The matters set out in paragraphs 5 (e) –g) and 8 constitute misconduct.

10. The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5(a) –(d), 6 and 7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

11. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitnesS to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:
1.    The case for the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) was presented by Mr Alexis Dite of Kingsley Napley Solicitors. The Registrant was not present or represented. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant at her home address as it appears on the HCPC Register in terms of rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules 2003. Mr Dite thereafter made an application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence in terms of Rule 11. He referred the Panel to two emails dated 26 July 2018 and 27 November 2018 sent by the Registrant’s husband on her behalf, in response to emails canvassing dates for a hearing, in which she confirms that she will not be attending the hearing and makes reference to personal circumstances and health issues and the effect these proceedings are having on her. Mr Dite advised that there had been no further contact from the Registrant since the email of 27 November 2018. He confirmed that the notice of the hearing had been sent by post and email to the Registrant on 19 December 2018, a further email had been sent to the Registrant on 10 January 2019 advising her of the options of attendance by telephone, video link or making written submissions and that the final hearing bundle had been sent by special delivery to her registered address on 18 February 2018 with a copy emailed to her representatives on the same date. Mr Dite also advised that the Registrant had previously been represented by Messrs Thompsons Solicitors, and that he had been in contact with them this morning and they had confirmed that they had been instructed to come off the record.  Mr Dite advised that there had been no application to adjourn and that the Panel had a record of the Registrant’s responses to the allegation given in the course of the disciplinary investigation and that there were four witnesses due to give evidence over the course of the next two days.            

2.    The Panel considered Mr Dite’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence, together with the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel is aware that the discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel has considered the emails dated 26 July 2018 and 27 November 2018 and has concluded that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself from these proceedings. In reaching this conclusion the Panel has taken account of the fact that the Registrant has instructed her legal representatives to come off the record and has not responded to recent correspondence, including the offer of attending by telephone, video link or making written submissions. In addition the Registrant has not asked for an adjournment of today’s hearing and the Panel has no reason to believe that she would attend at a future date, if the matter were adjourned. The Panel is aware that there are four witnesses giving evidence at this hearing and that the allegations date back to 2015/2016. The Panel has therefore concluded that in all of these circumstances it is in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel will not draw any adverse inference from the Registrant’s failure to attend the hearing.

3.    The Panel next considered Mr Dite‘s application to amend the allegation as shown in bold and struck through below. Mr Dite advised the Panel that the Registrant had been put on notice of these amendments by letters dated 18 and 22 February 2018 to which no response had been received. Mr Dite also asked the Panel to allow further amendments to correct typographical errors in the allegation.   Mr Dite submitted that the proposed amendments did not alter the allegation in any significant way and stated that they served to clarify the HCPC’s case in accordance with the evidence. The Panel considered Mr Dite’s submissions and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel agreed to grant the application as it was satisfied that the amendments better reflected the evidence before the Panel and did not cause any injustice to the Registrant.

Whilst registered with the HCPC as Social Worker and during your employment with Staffordshire County Council, you: 

1. In respect of Service User A, between June March 2015 and January March 2016:

a) revealed in a Social Work Assessment that Service User A was the person who has made the referral despite being asked by Service User A to maintain her anonymity;

b) did not provide and/or record sufficient support for Service User A; 

c) did not have and/or did not present relevant documentation to a Child Protection Conference held on 23 December 2015; 

d) did not share your report with the parents prior to the ICPC on 23 December 2015 resulting in delay;

e) did not make the social ,work notification which resulted in the police not having the full 7 days to complete their reports;

f) did not undertake and/or record visits within timescales;

g) did not inform all relevant professionals of a Core Group Meeting to be held on 7 January 2016;

h) did not take reasonable steps to follow up with the police that Service uUser A's son wished to make a complaint of assault against his father Service User A’s husband, Person B;

i) On or around 12 January 2016, advised Service User A that she would need police involvement to resolve concerns regarding overnight contact between sService User A's husband, Person B and daughter when this was not the case;

2. In respect of the case of Child B:

a) did not visit Child B on a regular basis and/or record visits after July 2015 13 January 2016;

b) did not adequately complete the Child in Need plan and meeting minutes;

c) did not hold and/or complete minutes for Child in Need meetings;

c) d) did not review and/or update the Child in Need plan after it was implemented in November 2015;

d) e) did not update the Child Social Work Assessment (CSWA) completed in September 2015;

e) f) did not undertake work to obtain Child B's wishes and feelings and/or record that you had done so;

f) did not complete a court report in relation to a Child Arrangement Order.

3. Following receipt of a telephone call from a probation officer on 12 February 2016, advising you that a perpetrator had resumed contact with his child, Child C, you:

a) did not record this on Child C's file;

b) did not alert Child C's allocated Social Worker and/or a Team Manager.

4. In respect of Child D:

a) on or around 21 January 2016, did not share you report for the Child Protection Conference with Child D's parent's or professionals in a timely manner;

b) did not arrange and/or hold core group meetings on time and/or if at all;

c) did not complete assessments.

5. In respect of Children E and F:

a) did not complete your report for the ICPC in September 2015 until the day of the conference which resulted in delay;

b) the report you completed for the ICPC in September 2015 was inadequate;

b)c) did not undertake statutory visits within timescales and/or;

c)d) did not undertake and/or record a statutory visit after 3 March 2016;

d)e) did not progress the plan made at the ICPC in September 2015, in that you:

i. did not make contact with the father of one of the children;

ii. did not make a referral to the NSPCC;

iii. did not obtain police information in relation to household members.

iv. did not complete a parenting assessment;

e)f) recorded a visit on 13 November 2015 to see the Children between 10.30am and 11.30am when school records show that one of the children was in school and other was sick;

f)g) recorded a visit on 29 December 2015 to see the children which was a duplicate of the case record for the visit alleged to have taken place on 13 November 2015;

g)h) recorded a visit on 3 March 2016 to see the children which was identical to the record for a visit undertaken on 21 January 2016 other than alterations to reflect a visit before school on 3 March and after school on 21 January; 

6. In respect of Children G, H and I:

a) did not complete an assessment for step-father which had been requested in October 2014; 

b) did not undertake and/or record undertaking visits within the required timescales for Child Protection;

c) did not attend the initial core group meeting held on 19 June 2015;  

d) did not ensure that complete the parenting assessment and/or risk assessment were completed;

e) on 30 December 2015 recorded that the step-father, who was recorded as a person posing a risk to children, was  alone with Child G contrary to the PPRC but took no further action about this.

7. In the case of Child J:

i. did not hold and/or record core group meetings following the ICPC held on 1 March 2016.

ii. did not complete and/or make a record of the Child Protection Plan;

iii. did not undertake and/or record visits within specified timescales.  

8. The actions set out at paragraphs 5(ef) - (gh) were dishonest.

9. The matters set out in paragraphs 5(ef) - (gh) and 8 constitute misconduct.

10. The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5(a) - (de), 6 and 7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

4.    Thereafter, Mr Dite applied for issues relating to the Registrant’s health and family circumstances to be heard in private. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and considered the HCPTS Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private. The Panel concluded that the right of the Registrant to protection of her private life and confidentiality of her health issues outweighed the general presumption of hearings being conducted in public and agreed to grant the application. 

Background
5.    The Registrant is a registered Social Worker who qualified in 2010 and at the relevant time was employed by Staffordshire County Council (the Council) as a Senior Practitioner in the Specialist Safeguarding Team. In July 2016, a Stage 1 complaint was made by Service User A relating to the management of her case. This complaint was investigated by RJ, the Registrant’s Line Manager. A number of further concerns were raised about the Registrant’s practice by other members of the social work team, including the Independent Chair Person, CS. These allegations related to non-attendance at meetings, and inadequate preparation for meetings, gaps in case recording and missing casework.

6.    A formal investigation was subsequently conducted by SA, Team Manager. An audit of the Registrant’s cases, undertaken by RJ, formed part of the formal investigation. A disciplinary hearing was held on 25 November 2016.      

Decision on Facts
7.    The Panel heard evidence from four witnesses on behalf of the HCPC: SA, Investigating Officer and Team Manager employed by Staffordshire County Council; Service User A; RJ, the Registrant’s Line Manager employed by Staffordshire County Council and CS, Independent Chair Person, employed by Staffordshire County Council.


8.    The Panel found SA to be a very credible and measured witness who had conducted a thorough investigation into the facts of the case and whose evidence was supported by documentary evidence in the form of service users’ case records and contemporaneous notes of interviews she had conducted in the course of her investigation. The Panel found Service User A to be a credible and reliable witness who was clearly motivated by a desire to improve the process for other service users. In addition she conceded matters when she could not recall details and did not attempt to embellish her evidence. The Panel found RJ to be a credible and reliable witness whose evidence was supported by the audit of the Registrant’s case notes which she had conducted. The Panel found CS to be a credible and fair witness who admitted her limitations and who provided the Panel with helpful evidence of the context of the team at the time of the allegation. In the absence of the Registrant, the Panel had regard to the notes of the informal discussion with CH, County Manager, Safeguarding East, attended in April 2016, the Registrant’s interview with SA on 12 September 2016, her responses given during the Disciplinary Hearing on 25 November 2015 and her written statement which she prepared for the disciplinary hearing in November 2016.

Particular 1a)

9.    The Panel heard evidence from Service User A, SA, RJ and CS in support of these particulars. The Panel also had sight of Service User A’s letter of complaint to the Council dated 4 July 2016, Service User A’s letter to HCPC dated 3 November 2016, screenshots of contact and text messages between Service User A and the Registrant between 4 November 2015 and 18 December 2015, minutes of the Child Protection Conference held on 23 December 2016, Service User A’s notes of that conference and the relevant case records for Child A1 and A2. The Panel has also considered the Registrant’s response to this case in the course of her interview with SA on 12 September 2016 in which she stated that she could not recall who the family was.


10.    The Panel heard evidence from Service User A that she first spoke to the Registrant by telephone on 13 March 2015 and explained that she wished to remain anonymous as she was concerned at the impact her referral would have on an already difficult relationship with Person B. Service User A gave evidence that the Registrant agreed that she could remain anonymous and arranged the visit in line with that request but subsequently sent a copy of the Social Work Assessment addressed to Service User A and Person B in which it was recorded that Service User A had made the referral and raised the issues about Person B. The Panel has had sight of the report sent to Service User A and her husband from which it is clear that Service User A is identified as having made the referral. The Panel has also considered Service User A’s formal letter of complaint dated 4 July 2016 which is consistent with her evidence before the Panel. The Panel also heard evidence from RJ in respect of her involvement with Service User A in relation to Service User A’s formal stage 1 Complaint against the Registrant. RJ also gave evidence that it is not unusual to redact or anonymise reports and that the Registrant should have done so.  The Panel finds the facts of particular 1a) proved.

Particular 1b)

11.    The Panel also heard evidence from Service User A that she texted the Registrant on 4 November 2015 asking for help to move to a refuge. Service User A gave evidence that she had packed the car and was ready to leave with her children. The Panel also had sight of a screenshot of the exchange of texts from which it can be seen that the Registrant responded that she would try Pathways (a refuge) and a further text from Service User A to the Registrant asking if she had found a place for her. The case notes show that the Registrant received a call from Pathways at 4.45pm and that she subsequently left a brief message on Service User A’s answer phone to call her back. This is corroborated by a screenshot showing a missed call at 4.49pm. The next contact from the Registrant to Service User A was on 7 December 2015 asking her to contact the Registrant. The Panel also heard evidence from Service User A that the contact she had from the Registrant throughout the time she was her social worker was sporadic. There were many occasions when the Registrant would not answer her phone and would frequently not call Service User A back or email her. She also gave evidence that there were times when the Registrant would not turn up at arranged visits or cancel meetings with very little notice. RJ gave evidence that following Service User A’s contact on 4 November 2015 asking for support as she wanted to leave a violent relationship, she would have expected the Registrant to secure a refuge placement or other suitable accommodation and to follow up this action with any further support Service User A needed. There was no evidence in the case records that the Registrant did this.  The Panel is satisfied on the evidence of Service User A.  The Panel finds the facts of particular 1b) proved.

Particular 1c)

12.    The Panel heard evidence from Service User A that the Registrant did not provide her with any documentation in advance of the Child Protection Conference on 23 December 2015 and that the Registrant turned up at the meeting without the right information.  She gave evidence that Pathways had sent the Registrant an email in advance of the meeting which was proof that Service User A had been in contact with them, that she had asked for help and was trying to do something about the situation at home. Service User A gave evidence that CS, the Independent Conference Chair, asked the Registrant to go and print this correspondence and bring it to the conference. The Panel finds the facts of particular 1c) proved.

Particular 1d)

13.    The Panel has heard evidence from Service User A that the Registrant did not provide her with any documentation in advance of the Child Protection Conference on 23 December 2015. The Panel also had sight of Service User A’s contemporaneous notes of that meeting which supported her evidence. The Panel heard evidence from SA and CS that in terms of Section 3E of the Council’s Safeguarding Procedures there is a requirement that the lead social worker should have completed a report and provided a copy to the parents and the chair two days in advance of the conference. The Panel has also had sight of that policy document. CS gave evidence that the Registrant had not shared the report in advance with the parents and this led to a delay in the conference starting. CS also provided evidence in relation to the significance of the Conference for Service User A and her children and the importance of this report being available to the parents in advance to enable them to process it and prepare a response. The Panel also had sight of an email from CS to RJ dated 23 December 2015 highlighting this failure.  The Panel finds the facts of particular 1d) proved.

Particular 1e)

14.    The Panel heard evidence from SA that the social worker is responsible for notifying the police 7 days in advance of an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) to enable them to do a check on the individuals involved in the child’s life in order to identify risk.   CS gave evidence that the Registrant did not send out the notification to the police 7 days in advance of the ICPC on 23 December 2015 with the result that the police did not have the full 7 days to produce their report, although she confirmed that the police did in fact provide information for the meeting. The Panel finds the facts of particular 1e) proved.

Particular 1f)

15.    The Panel heard evidence from Service User A that the Registrant would not turn up at arranged visits or would cancel visits at short notice. The Panel also considered Service User A’s formal letter of complaint dated 4 July 2016 in which she lists dates of visits cancelled by the Registrant and describes contact with the Registrant as haphazard. SA gave evidence that she was concerned that visits to Child A1 and A2 were out of timescales and that there were no visits recorded on the children’s files. She gave evidence that there is a statutory requirement that children on Child Protection Plans are visited at least once every 3 weeks and that this was a requirement in terms of Section 3E of the Council’s Safeguarding Procedures, a copy of which was produced. The Panel also heard from CS that she was concerned that the statutory visits were not being completed within timescales.  In addition, the Panel heard evidence from RJ that the Registrant should have been visiting the children a minimum of once every three weeks and this should have included announced and unannounced visits. The Panel also had sight of the recommendations of the ICPC setting out the timescale for visits. The Panel finds the facts of particular 1f) proved.

Particular 1g)

16.    The Panel heard evidence from Service User A that Child A1’s school nurse and Child A2’s Key Worker at nursery were due to attend a meeting on 7 January 2016 and that the Registrant had not told them about that meeting. Service User A gave evidence that Child A2’s Key Worker at the nursery had advised her that he had not been informed of the meeting. Service User A also advised that Child A1’s School Nurse was not at the meeting and the right information was not available to be shared at the meeting as a result of this.  RJ gave evidence that the first core group meeting was held on 7 January 2016 and that all professionals involved with the child should attend. She confirmed that no representatives from health attended the meeting, although she did not know why. She also gave evidence that the usual practice was to agree the date for the next meeting when all the professionals were together at the ICPC. The Panel has had sight of the documentation from the ICPC held on 23 December 2015 from which it is shown that both GF (Nurse) and RH (Key Worker) were present at the ICPC when the date and time of the core group meeting of 7 January 2016 was agreed. This is also included in the ICPC minutes and the Panel also heard evidence from CS that the responsibility for circulating the minutes of the ICPC lay with the minute taker. Given that all relevant persons, with the exception of one individual, were present at the ICPC when the date of the core group meeting was agreed and that it was then the responsibility of the minute taker to circulate the minutes of the ICPC to all Core Group members, the Panel is not satisfied that the Registrant failed to notify all relevant professionals. The Panel does not find the facts of particular 1g) proved.

Particular 1h)

17.    The Panel heard evidence from RJ that Child A1 told the Registrant that he wanted to make a complaint to the police and that the Registrant should have spoken to the police and arranged for them to speak directly to Child A1. She also gave evidence that while there was a record of  a phone call from PC Neil Lowther on 16 December 2015  stating that he had spoken to the allocated social worker on 9 December 2015 who stated that she would call back after visiting, there was no further documentary evidence that the Registrant followed this up. The Panel has also had sight of the relevant case notes. The Panel also heard evidence from Service User A that she contacted the police in mid-January 2016 and they had no record of any complaint made by Child A1, despite Child A1 having made an allegation about Service User A’s husband. The Panel accepts the evidence of Service User A and RJ, which is supported by the case notes, and finds that the Registrant did not take reasonable steps to follow up with the police that Service User A’s son wished to make a complaint of assault. The Panel finds the facts of particular 1h) proved.

Particular 1g)

18.    The Panel heard evidence from Service User A that on 12 January 2016 she asked the Registrant if she could arrange overnight contact between Child A2 and Person B and was told that the Registrant could not take action and that it was for the police to decide. Service User A contacted the police and was told that they knew nothing about Child A1’s allegation and that the decision was not one for them to make, it was a matter for her social worker. The Panel also heard evidence from RJ that recommendations about overnight contact would be made by the allocated social worker along with the multi-agency core group and not by the police. The Panel accepts the evidence of Service User A and RJ and finds that the Registrant advised Service User A that she would need police involvement to resolve concerns regarding overnight contact between Person B and Child A2 when this was the allocated social workers responsibility. The Panel finds the facts of particular 1i) proved.

Particular 2a)

19.    The Panel had sight of RJ’s audit of Child B’s case records which indicates that there were only two visits recorded on the electronic record system, one on 24 July 2015 and one on 21 October 2015. SA also gave evidence that visits should have taken place once every six weeks. The Panel accepts the evidence of RJ and SA which is supported by the documentary evidence and finds that the Registrant did not visit Child B on a regular basis. The Panel notes that there is one visit recorded after July 2015 which is dated October 2015. The Panel finds the facts of particular 2a) proved to the extent that the Registrant did not visit Child B on a regular basis after July 2015.

Particular 2b)

20.    The Panel heard evidence from RJ that she was concerned that the quality of the Child in Need Plan was very poor in that it did not reflect the recommendations of the Child Social Work Assessment fully. The Panel also had sight of RJ’s audit of Child B’s case records which records that the Child in Need Plan dated 26 November 2015 does not reflect the recommendations of the assessment fully. The Panel also heard evidence from SA that she was aware of concerns about the quality of the Child in Need Plan. The Panel finds the facts of particular 2b) proved.         

Particular 2c)

21.    The Panel heard evidence from SA that the Child in Need meetings should take place at least once every 12 weeks in terms  of the Council’s Childs in Need Planning Policies and Procedures.  The Panel also heard evidence from RJ who reviewed Child B’s case file as part of her audit conducted on 5 May 2016 and found that the minutes of Child in Need meetings on the system were not completed. The Panel also had sight of RJ’s audit. The Panel accepts the evidence of RJ and SA which is supported by the documentary evidence and finds the Registrant did not complete the minutes of Child in Need meetings. The Panel finds the facts of particular 2c) proved.      

Particular 2d)

22.    The Panel heard evidence from SA that the Child in Need Plan should be reviewed no less than once every twelve weeks in terms  of the Council’s Policy in relation to Children in Need Planning. The Panel considered RJ’s audit.  The Panel also had sight of RJ’s audit of Child B’s case notes dated 5 May 2016 which records that the Child in Need Plan was not updated until the case was recently re-allocated. The Panel accepts the evidence of SA and RJ which is supported by the documentary evidence and finds that the Registrant did not review the Child in Need plan after it was implemented in November 2015. As the registrant had not reviewed the plan she could not have updated it.  The Panel finds the facts of particular 2d) proved to the extent that the Registrant did not review the Child in Need plan.

Particular 2e)

23.    The Panel heard evidence from RJ that it would be good practice to review the Child Social Work Assessment every six months and that Child B’s Social Work Assessment had not been reviewed. The Panel also had sight of RJ Audit of Child B’s records conducted on 5 May 2016 which she records that the Child Social Work Assessment completed in September 2015 had not been updated and the information was eight months old. The Panel finds the facts of particular 2e) proved.

Particular 2f)

24.    SA stated that there was no evidence in the file that any direct work had been done with Child B as recommended in the Social Work Assessment undertaken in September 2015 and that there is an expectation that all children are seen and spoken to alone and that age appropriate work is undertaken with a child to capture that child’s voice and feelings. The Panel also heard evidence from RJ that given Child B’s young age, weekly visits would be required to enable Child B to become familiar with her social worker in order for her wishes and feelings to be ascertained successfully. RJ gave evidence that Child B’s wishes had not been sought by the Registrant and consequently had not been taken into account. The Panel also had sight of RJ’s audit of Child B’s records conducted on 5 May 2016 in which she states that there was no evidence in the CIN Plan of the wishes and feelings work being undertaken with Child B. The Panel is satisfied on the evidence of SA and RJ that the Registrant did not undertake work to obtain Child B’s wishes and feelings. As the Registrant did not undertake this work she could not have recorded it. The Panel finds the facts of particular 2f) proved to the extent that the Registrant did not undertake work to obtain Child B’s wishes and feelings.    
Particular 3a) -b)

25.    The Panel heard evidence from SA that the Registrant was covering duty on 12 February 2016 and took a call from a Probation Officer who advised that a male person who posed a risk to children had resumed contact with his child, Child C. SA gave evidence that there was no indication on the child’s file that the Registrant had taken any follow up action in relation to this call. The Panel has also had sight of child C’s case notes which support the evidence of SA. In the course of her interview with SA and in the course of the disciplinary hearing this matter was raised with the Registrant. The Registrant admitted that she took the phone call and had written the notes on her pad, that she did not tell the relevant social worker and forgot to pass the information on.  The Panel facts of particulars 3a) and b) are proved
          
Particulars 4a)

26.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that in terms of Section 3E of the Council’s Safeguarding Procedures, a social work report should be available five working days before a conference and that this requirement also applied to parents who would be expected to see a copy of the completed report within the same timescale to give them the opportunity to consider the social worker’s recommendations in advance of the conference. She also gave evidence that the Registrant did not have the report available for the Child Protection Conference for Child D on 21 January 2016 until after 10am when the meeting was due to start which delayed the meeting by 30 minutes as professionals and parents needed to read the report before the meeting started. The Panel also had sight of RJ’s audit of Child D’s case notes which supported CS’s evidence. In her interview with SA, the Registrant confirmed that she was aware that the report had not been shared with the parents ahead of the meeting, that she had given them a draft of the report the previous day and that the parents were fine with this. However, CS gave evidence that the draft report had not been signed off by a manager and could therefore be changed. In the course of the disciplinary investigation, the Registrant accepted responsibility for not sharing the report and apologised for this. The Panel finds the facts of particular 4a) proved.

Particular 4b)

27.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that core group meetings should take place every 4 to 6 weeks and that it was the responsibility of the Lead Social Worker to arrange these meetings. She gave evidence that the gap between these meetings for Child D was more than the minimum of 6 weekly. The Panel also had sight of an email dated 22 January 2016 following the Child Protection Conference on 21 January 2016 from SA to CS stating that during the meeting it was highlighted that core group meetings hadn’t taken place as per timescales. SA gave evidence that the 4-6 week timescale was statutory timescale under Section 3E of the Council’s Safeguarding Procedures and that it was difficult to say whether the core group meetings had not been held or had been held but not recorded.  In her audit of Child D’s records on 5 May 2016, RJ found that the Registrant had not completed core group meetings within timescales. In her interview with SA, the Registrant accepted that core group minutes had not been on file. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant did not arrange and hold core group meetings on time. The Panel finds the facts of particular 4b) proved. 

Particular 4c)

28.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that the deadline for completion of the parenting assessment was 5 January 2016 and that there was no evidence on the Child D’s file that it had been completed on time. The Panel also had sight of an email dated 22 January 2016, following the Child Protection Conference on 21 January 2016, from SA to CS in which she stated that the parenting assessment had not been completed. CS gave evidence that there is an expectation that tasks which are to be completed as part of a Child Protection Plan should be completed ahead of the next Review Child Protection Conference. In her Audit of Child D’s records on 5 May 2016, RJ found that the parenting assessment had not been completed. The Panel finds the facts of particular 4c) proved.

Particular 5)

29.    The Panel heard evidence from SA, RJ and CS in support of these particulars. The Panel also had sight of the Council’s Investigation Report, case records for Child E and F, the relevant section of the Council’s Safeguarding Board Procedures and the Council’s Recording Policy. 

Particular 5a)

30.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that the Registrant did not have a social work report for Child E and Child F available for a Child Protection Conference in September 2015 until the day of the Conference which resulted in a delay in the meeting to allow the parents enough time to read the report. The Panel also had sight of an email dated 11 September 2015 from CS to JH the Registrant’s Line Manager, stating that the social work report was not available until the day of the Conference and the start of the Conference was delayed to allow the children’s mother to read the report.  The Panel finds the facts of particular 5a) are proved.

Particular 5b)

31.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that, as Chair of the ICPC, she was concerned that the content of the Registrant’s report for the ICPC in September 2015 was inadequate in that it only focussed on the risk factors in relation to Child E and not to the younger child, Child F. She gave evidence that if there was no intervention put in place to manage Child E’s behaviours, Child F would be at risk of harm.  The Panel also had sight of an email dated 11 September 2015 from CS to JH the Registrant’s Line Manager, stating that the Registrant’s report was mostly focussed on the risk factors for Child E and there was limited analysis for Child F. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5b) are proved.

Particular 5c)

32.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that Child E’s mother raised concerns that she had not seen the Registrant for some time and that having then reviewed the file, she was concerned that statutory visits were out of timescales.  CS stated that the requirement in terms of the Council’s Policy was that children who were subject to Child Protection Plans should be visited at least once every three weeks. The Panel has had sight of an email from CS to CD dated 9 December 2015 in which she confirms that statutory visits appeared to be out of timescales.  The Panel also heard evidence from RJ that statutory visit documents had been open on the file from January 2016 but these all remained blank. RJ also confirmed that the visits should be undertaken a minimum of three weekly and added to Care Director as soon as possible. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5c) are proved.

Particular 5d)

33.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that there were no visits recorded on Child E’s file after 3 March 2016 and that the requirement in terms of the Council’s policy was that children who were subject to Child Protection Plans should be visited at least once every three weeks. The Panel also had sight of an email from CS to RA dated 27 May 2016 in which she states that there are no records of visits to Child E and Child F since March 2016 saved on Care Director. RJ also gave evidence that statutory visits should be added to Care Director as soon as possible. SA gave evidence that visits should be recorded on the system within 5 days of the visit taking place in terms of the Council’s Recording Policy. In the absence of any entries on Child E’s and Child F’s case notes, the Panel finds that the Registrant did not undertake any statutory visits after 3 March 2016. As the registrant did not undertake any statutory visits she could not have recorded them. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5d) proved to this extent.

Particular 5ei)

34.    The Panel heard evidence from SA that the father of Child E and Child F had not been invited to attend the ICPC held in September 2015 and that there is a standard procedure that a child’s parents will be invited to an ICPC. SA stated that there was no evidence on file that the father was invited and that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to complete the invite list.  While the Panel accepts the evidence of SA and finds that the Registrant did not invite the father of Child E and Child F to the ICPC, the Panel does not find that this amounted to a failure to progress the plan made at the ICPC as this occurred prior to the plan being in place. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5e)i) not proved.

Particular 5eii)

35.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that a number of tasks set out in the Child Protection Plan had not been progressed by the Registrant and that a referral had not been made in respect of Child E to the NSPCC. The Panel had sight of an email from CS to RJ dated 27 May 2016 in which she states that the referral to the NSPCC for Child E was not done. SA also gave evidence that there was lack of progression in the Child Protection Plan in that the Registrant had not made a referral to the NSPCC. RJ gave evidence that direct work for Child E had been recommended by CS with a referral to be made by the Registrant by 18 September 2015 and that there was a delay with this referral as it only happened in July 2016 when the case was transferred to another social worker. RJ’s audit of Child E’s case notes dated 26 April 2016 also records a delay in the referral to the NSPCC. In the course of the disciplinary hearing, the Registrant did not accept responsibility for the lack of progression of the Child Protection Plan.  The Panel accepts the evidence of CS, SA and RJ and finds that the Registrant did not make a referral to the NSPCC and that this was a failure to progress the plan made at the ICPC in September 2015. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5e)ii) are proved.

Particular 5eiii)

36.     The Panel heard evidence from CS that there was no information available for members of Child E and Child F’s household and that when a child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, any adult who has significant involvement with the child must go through a police check. CS’s evidence was that this was the Registrant’s responsibility, as the lead professional, and that the information had still not been requested by the meeting on 24 May 2016 when the case was allocated to another social worker. The Panel had sight of an email from CS to RJ dated 27 May 2016 in which she states that police checks had not been undertaken on all family members who live in the same household of Child E and Child F. In addition the Panel had sight of an email from CS to CD dated 9 December 2015 in which she states that there was no a request for police information in respect of Child F’s father. SA also gave evidence that police information had not been obtained. The Panel accepts the evidence of CS and SA and finds that the Registrant did not obtain police information in relation to household members and that this was a failure to progress the plan made at the ICPC in September 2015. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5e)iii) proved.

Particular 5eiv)

37.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that the Registrant did not complete a parenting assessment in respect of Child E and Child F and that this was requested as there were concerns about the mother’s capacity to meet the children’s needs and to keep them safe. Her evidence was that on 7 December 2015 the RCPC recommended that the Registrant complete a parenting assessment but the Registrant failed to do so. The Panel had sight of an email from CS to RJ dated 27 May 2016 in which she states that the parenting assessment for Child E and Child F had not been completed. RJ gave evidence that a parenting assessment had been recommended by CS and that the decision sheet clearly stated that this was to be actioned by the Registrant. The Panel has had sight of the case notes for Child E dated 25 May 2016 when the case was transferred to another social worker and where it is recorded that the parenting assessment had not been completed. The Panel is satisfied on the evidence of CS and RJ as supported by the documentary evidence that the Registrant did not complete a parenting assessment in respect of Child E and that this was a failure to progress the plan made at the ICPC in September 2015. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5e)iv) proved.

Particular 5f)

38.    The Panel heard evidence from RJ and had sight of an email from JT to RJ dated 6 June 2016. JT had taken over the cases of Child E and Child F and in that email advised that a statutory visit was recorded as taking place from 10.30am to 11.30am on 13 November 2015 at home and that in-depth conversations had taken place with the children, when school records indicated that on that day Child E was in school and Child F was off sick. The Panel has also had sight of the case notes. When the Registrant was asked about this in the course of the disciplinary hearing, the Registrant was unable to provide an explanation. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5f) proved.

Particular 5g)

39.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that she had concerns about the content of the records for Child E and F. The Panel has had sight of the entries in the case records of 13 November 2015 and 29 December 2015 from which it can be seen that the entry for 29 December 2015 is a duplicate of the entry for 13 November 2015. When the Registrant was asked about this in the course of the disciplinary process, she explained that she had been confused about dates on forms and had been told conflicting things by different managers. Having heard evidence from CS and having had sight of the case notes, the Panel is satisfied that the entry in case record of 29 December 2015 is a duplicate of the entry from the case record dated 13 November 2015. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5 g) proved.

Particular 5h)

40.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that she had concerns about the content of the records for Child E and F. The Panel has had sight of the entries in the case records of 21 January 2016 and 3 March 2016 from which it can be seen that the entry for 3 March 2016 is a duplicate of the entry for 21 January 2016. When the Registrant was asked about this in the course of the disciplinary process, she explained that she had been confused about dates on forms and had been told conflicting things by different managers. Having heard evidence from CS and having had sight of the case notes, the Panel is satisfied that the entry in case record of 3 March 2016 is a duplicate of the entry from 21 January 2016. The Panel finds the facts of particular 5 h) proved.
          
Particulars 6b)

41.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that as Children G, H and I were subject to Child Protection Plans, they should have been visited no less than once every three weeks in terms of Section 3E of the Council’s Safeguarding Procedures. The Panel had sight of an email dated 19 May 2016 from CS to RJ in which she states that two statutory visits were out of timescales for Children G, H and I, as the gaps between 30/12/15 to 30/01/16 and 30/01/16 to 10/03/2016 were significantly longer than the statutory requirement of at least three weeks. In the course of the disciplinary process, the Registrant stated that the lack of progression in this case was as a result of the parents not engaging. The Panel is satisfied on the evidence of CS which is supported by the documentary evidence that the Registrant did not undertake visits within the required timescale for child protection in respect of children G, H and I. The Panel finds the facts of particular 6b) proved to this extent. The Panel does not find that the Registrant did not record the visits within the required timescale.  

Particular 6c)

42.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that a concern was raised that the core group meeting held on 19 June 2015 was led by the family support worker as the Registrant was not at the meeting. She gave evidence that either the Registrant or another social worker, if the Registrant was unavailable, should have been present at the meeting and that it would have been the Registrant’s responsibility to arrange for another social worker to cover for her. The Panel also had sight of an email from CS to RJ dated 19 May 2016 in which she states that initial core group meeting for Children G, H and I was chaired by the family support worker with no social worker present.  The Panel finds the facts of particular 6c) are proved.

Particular 6d)

43.    The Panel heard evidence from CS that a parenting assessment and were not completed despite requests made at the ICPC for the parenting assessment and risk assessment to be completed and at the RCPC from both the parenting and the risk assessments to be completed. As the lead professional it was the Registrant’s responsibility to ensure that both assessments were completed. The Panel finds the facts of particular 6d) proved.

Particular 6e)

44.    The Panel has considered the facts of particular 6e). However no witnesses have provided evidence in support of this particular. The panel finds the facts of particular 6e) not proved.

Particular 7ii)

45.    The Panel heard evidence from RJ that Child J was subject to a Child Protection Plan and the Registrant was the allocated Social Worker.  On 14 April 2016, RJ conducted an audit of Child J’s case records. The Panel has also had sight of this audit and of the case records for Child J. RJ’s audit dated 14 April 2016 records that there is no Child Protection Plan for Child J.   In the course of the disciplinary process, the Registrant was asked about the missing work and gaps in recording in Child J’s records. The Registrant stated that she was prioritising other cases. The Panel is satisfied on the evidence of RJ, which is supported by the documentary evidence, that the Registrant did not complete a Child Protection Plan for Child J. As this was not done, the Registrant could not make a record. The Panel finds the facts of particulars 7ii) proved to this extent.
Particular 7iii)

46.    The Panel heard evidence from RJ in relation to the Audit she conducted of Child J’s case records. The Panel has had sight of RJ’s audit dated 14 April 2016 in which she notes that visits to Child J are not recorded.  The Panel has also had sight of Child J’s case records. In the course of the disciplinary process, the Registrant was asked about the missing work and gaps in recording in Child J’s records and stated that she was prioritising other cases. The Panel is satisfied on the evidence of RJ, which is supported by the documentary evidence, that the Registrant did not undertake visits within specified timescales for Child J as there is no evidence in the case records of visits taking place. As visits had not taken place the Registrant could not have recorded them within specified timescales. The Panel finds the facts of particulars 7iii) proved to this extent. 

Particular 8

47.    The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 5f), g) and h) were dishonest. In considering this issue, the Panel has applied the test set out in the case of Ivey v Gentings Casinos Ltd, (2017) UKSC 67.

48.    The Panel has first considered the Registrant’s actual knowledge or genuinely held belief in relation to the entry she made in Child E (and Child F’s) case records in terms of particular 5f). In the course of the disciplinary process, the Registrant stated that she was confused about dates and that she had been given conflicting information by different managers as to how statutory visits should be recorded on the system. The Panel notes that the date of the visit and the date the entry was recorded are the same date, as is the date the manager signed off the visit. The Panel accepts that the Registrant was unclear about the dates to be entered in the statutory visit form and in the light of this is not satisfied that her actions in particular 5f) would be considered to be dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people. The Panel does therefore not find that the Registrant’s actions in relation to particular 5f) amount to dishonesty.   

49.    In each of particulars 5g) and h) the Registrant has duplicated earlier case records. When this was put to her in the course of the disciplinary process, the Registrant was unable to provide an explanation.  The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has done so to conceal the fact that the required visits had not taken place and that the Registrant would have been aware of this when she made the entries. She had also made minor alterations in the wording of the case record to make it appear that this was a new visit on another date. The Panel has therefore concluded that reasonable and honest people would consider her behaviour to be dishonest. The Panel is therefore satisfied that her actions in each of particulars 5g) and h) amount to dishonesty.  

Decision on Grounds

50.    The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 1 (excluding 1g) to 4, 5a) to 5e) (excluding 5ei), 6b) to d) and 7 amount to a lack of competence and/or misconduct. The Panel has also considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 5f) to h) and 8 amount to misconduct. The Panel is aware that this is a matter for its professional judgement. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered the submissions of Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC and has had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practice is Impaired. The Panel has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

51.   The Panel is aware that the Registrant is an experienced social worker, having been a Senior Practitioner since 2012. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out her role and does not find that her actions resulted from a lack of competence.

52.    The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s conduct found proved breached the following standards of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics (2012):
1. You must act in the best interests of service users
2. You must respect the confidentiality of service users
7. You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners
10. You must keep accurate records
13. You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession

 HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics (2016):
1. Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers
2. Communicate appropriately and effectively
5. Respect confidentiality
6. Manage risk
7. Report concerns about safety
9. Be honest and trustworthy
10. Keep records of your work

53.    The Panel considered the Registrant’s conduct in revealing to Person B that Service User A was the person who made the referral, having previously agreed to maintain her anonymity, put Service User A and her children at risk. The Panel also finds that the Registrant’s failure to provide Service User A with support when she wanted to leave a difficult relationship put Service User A and her children at risk as they had to remain in the family home as result of the Registrant’s failure to secure alternative accommodation for them. The Panel considered the Registrant’s failure to share her report with the parents in advance of the ICPC on 23 December 2015 and the resultant delay in the start of the conference, would have a negative impact on the parents who were in a very stressful situation and deprived them of the opportunity to properly digest the report and prepare a response. The Panel has found that the Registrant’s failure to undertake statutory visits within timescales potentially put Service User A and her children who were already vulnerable, at risk of further harm.  The Panel also finds that the Registrant’s failure to take reasonable steps to follow up on Child A1’s complaint to the police put both Child A1 and Child A2 at risk of harm and potentially prolonged the period during which Child A1 was living apart from his family. The Panel heard evidence from Service User A about the negative impact of this period of separation on her and on her children. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 1a), 1b), 1d), 1f) and 1h) fell well below the standards expected of a registered social worker and therefore amount to misconduct. 

54.    The Panel did not find that the failure to present the relevant documentation to the ICPC on 23 December 2015 in particular 1c) was sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. The Panel has heard evidence that the Registrant was able to access the documentation when requested to do so and there was no adverse impact on Service User A. The Panel has also concluded that the Registrant’s failure to notify the police 7 days in advance of the ICPC in particular 1e) is not sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. The Panel has heard evidence that the police attended the conference having completed checks on the family, despite not having 7 days’ notice and there was therefore no adverse impact as a result of the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel has also considered that the Registrant incorrectly advising Service User A that she needed police involvement to resolve concerns regarding overnight contact as set out in particular 1i) is not sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. The Panel is aware that Service User A made this request to accommodate a change in her working hours and while the Registrant’s conduct would have caused inconvenience to Service User A, it did not create any risk to service users.

55.    The Panel has found that the Registrant’s failure to undertake statutory visits within timescales potentially put Child B, who was already vulnerable, at risk of further harm. The Registrant’s failure to adequately complete Child B’s Child in Need Plan resulted in matters identified in the assessment not being included in the plan and potentially not being addressed which could result in Child B being in the system for longer than necessary. The Registrant’s failure to complete minutes of CIN meetings resulted in incomplete information being recorded in respect of Child D and fails to meet the standard of recording required of a registered social worker. The Registrant’s failure to review the Child in Need Plan for a period of eight months and her failure to update the Child Social Work Assessment created a risk to a vulnerable service user for whom the Registrant was responsible and the lack of progress potentially kept the child in the system for longer than necessary. The Registrant’s failure to obtain Child D’s wishes and feelings was a serious concern as the mother had previously alienated herself from service provision and the Registrant was not in a position to establish if Child D was experiencing secure and consistent care.  As a social worker, the Registrant was responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child in need and failed to do so. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 2a) to 2 f) fell well below the standards expected of a registered social worker and therefore amount to misconduct.

56.    The Registrant’s failure to report that a perpetrator had resumed contact with Child C and her failure to alert Child C’s social worker as set out in particular 3, was serious and clearly put Child C at risk of harm and in the Panel’s view, amounts to misconduct.

57.    The Panel considered the Registrant’s failure to share her finalised report with the parents and professionals in advance of the ICPC on 21 January 2016 and the resultant delay in the start of the conference, would have a negative impact on the parents who were in a very stressful situation and it also deprived them of the opportunity to properly digest the report and prepare a response. This also caused delay for all of the professionals who were in attendance. In addition the Registrant’s failure to complete the parenting assessment for Child D resulted in a failure to assess the parents’ capability to look after Child C and to assess whether Child B was at risk or not. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 4a) and 4c) is serious and fell well below the standards expected of a registered social worker and as such amounts to misconduct.

58.     The Panel is not satisfied that the Registrant’s failure to arrange core group meetings within the six weekly timescale is sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. In reaching this view, the Panel notes that the meetings were held at approximately 8 weekly intervals.

59.    The Panel considered the Registrant’s failure to complete her report until the day of the ICPC in September 2015 and the resultant delay in the start of the conference to allow the parents an opportunity to read the report, would have a negative impact on the parents who were in a very stressful situation and also deprived them of the opportunity to properly digest the report and prepare a response. The Panel is of the view  that the Registrant’s inadequate report which failed to assess fully the risk factors in respect of Child F put Child F at risk, as did the Registrant’s failures to undertake the required statutory visits. The Registrant’s failure to progress the plan made at the ICPC potentially put Child E and Child F at greater risk of harm. Not actioning the referral to the NSPCC, not obtaining police information on household members and not completing a parenting assessment may have resulted in these children being the subject of a Child Protection Plan for longer than necessary.  The Panel also finds that the Registrant’s actions in duplicating records of visits on 29 December 2015 and 3 March 2016 amount to dishonesty. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 5a) to d), 5eii) to 5eiv), 5g) and 5h) fell well below the standards expected of a registered social worker and amount to misconduct. 

60.    The Panel does not find that the Registrant’s conduct in recording the visit on 13 November 2015 is sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct as the Panel has already accepted that she was confused about the dates to be entered on the system.

61.    The Panel has found that the Registrant’s failure to undertake statutory visits within timescales potentially put Children G, H and I, who were already vulnerable, at risk of further harm by failing to monitor the children in their home environment. The Panel has heard evidence that one of the children’s siblings died the previous year and that this death was subject to a serious case review. The evidence before the Panel is that the gap between the visits was significantly longer than the minimum requirement. The Panel has also heard evidence that a parenting assessment and a risk assessment were requested in the cases of children G, H and I as a result of neglectful parenting. The Registrant failed to ensure that these were completed despite being told on two separate occasions in September 2015 and December 2015 to do so. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s conduct in not undertaking the required visits and not completing the parenting and risks assessments created additional risks for the children and that her conduct fell well below the standards expected of a registered social worker. The Panel has therefore found that the Registrant’s actions in particulars 6b) and 6d) amount to misconduct.

62.    The Panel does not find that the Registrant’s failure to attend the initial core group meeting on 19 June 2015 is sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. The Panel has heard evidence that there are circumstances where a social worker may not be able to attend a core group meeting. In this case the Panel has heard evidence that it was a well-structured meeting and did not appear to have been any issues arising from the Registrant’s failure to attend.    

63.    The Registrant’s failure to complete Child J’s Child Protection Plan and failure to undertake visits within the required timescales potentially put Child J, who was already vulnerable, at risk of further harm and could potentially result in Child J being in the system for longer than necessary. The Panel has therefore found that the Registrant’s actions in particulars 7ii) and 7iii) are serious and her conduct fell well below the standards expected of registered social worker. The Panel therefore finds that her conduct amounts to misconduct.

64.     The Panel has found that the Registrant’s actions in particulars 5g) and 5h) were dishonest as alleged in particular 8. The duplication of entries in case records in order to create the impression that a visit had taken place is serious and breaches one of the fundamental tenets of the profession and as such clearly amounts to misconduct.
Decision on Impairment

65.    The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by that misconduct. In reaching its decision the Panel has considered both the personal component and the public component. In addition, the Panel has considered the submissions of Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC and has also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practice is Impaired. The Panel has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

66.    In terms of the personal component, the Panel has considered the Registrant’s submissions in the course of the investigatory process. The Registrant met with CH, the County Manager, in April 2016 to discuss her role and appeared to concede that things had slipped, thereby demonstrating some insight. In the course of her investigatory interview in September 2016, the Registrant denied any wrongdoing and highlights the difficulties in her personal life.  She also blames managers for providing conflicting information and blames parents for not engaging with services. When challenged about the duplication of records during the disciplinary process, the Registrant was unable to provide any explanation. This has led the Panel to conclude that the Registrant has very limited insight into her failings and appears to blame others and fails to take responsibility for her actions.

67.    The Panel has also considered the Registrant’s statement to the disciplinary hearing in November 2016, in which she has apologised and expressed remorse and makes reference to her difficult personal circumstances. However in her most recent contact with the HCPC dated 27 November 2018, she does not accept the allegations. While the Panel acknowledges the Registrant’s very difficult personal circumstances and health issues. The Panel has also seen evidence of support provided to the Registrant in terms of a greatly reduced caseload and Occupational Health involvement. However as a registered professional, the Registrant was obliged to limit her work or cease practising if her performance or judgement was affected by her health or personal circumstances.

68.    While the Panel accept that dishonesty is difficult to remediate, the Panel is of the view that the majority of the conduct found proved is remediable, the Panel has seen no evidence of remediation and in the light of this, the Panel has concluded that there is a real risk of repetition.

69.    The Panel’s findings in respect of the allegation found proved and amounting to misconduct, raise concerns that vulnerable service users were potentially placed at risk of harm. The Panel has also heard compelling evidence from Service User A of actual harm caused by the Registrant’s failings in that she was separated from her child for a prolonged period of time and was forced to remain living with Person B with a risk of harm to her and her children.

70.    The Panel has also considered the critically important public policy issues which include the collective need to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, the protection of service users and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of behaviour. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s misconduct would impact on public confidence in the profession. The Panel has found that the Registrant has repeatedly failed to act to provide appropriate support for vulnerable service users and has acted dishonestly on 2 occasions. These are repeated failings in basic social work practice. The Panel has concluded that there is a serious risk of an adverse impact on public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.
The Panel has also considered the approach of Dame Janet Smith in her 5th Report from Shipman referred to in case of CHRE v NMC and Grant. 2011 EWHC 927 (Admin). 

71.    The Panel is of the view that the findings in fact in respect of the Registrant’s misconduct show that her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she:
a/ has in the past acted and is liable to act in the future so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; and
b/ has in the past brought and is liable in the future to bring the profession into disrepute; and
c/ has in the past and is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession; and
d/ has in the past acted dishonestly and is liable to act dishonestly in the future

72.    The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by her misconduct in terms of both the personal component and the wider public component and the allegation is well founded.
Decision on Sanction

73.    The Panel has heard submissions from Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC on the issue of sanction. The Panel has also considered the advice of the Legal Assessor and has regard to the HCPTS’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.

74.    The Panel is aware that the function of fitness to practise panels is not to be punitive, and that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing her services in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

75.    The Panel considered the following mitigating factors: the Registrant has had no previous findings made against her; the Registrant’s personal family and health issues at the time of the allegations; the Registrant has expressed some remorse.

76.    The Panel also had regard to the following aggravating factors: the Registrant’s failings were in core social work skills and were repeated and involved multiple service users; her failings continued despite a robust Personal Improvement Plan and a significantly reduced caseload; there is evidence of actual harm caused to service users and there was potential to cause harm to other service users; there is no evidence of  remediation, the Registrant has limited insight and the Panel has identified a risk of repetition.

77.    The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order would not be appropriate, given that the lapse was not isolated or minor in nature, the Panel has identified wide ranging failings and has identified a risk of repetition. In addition the Panel is of the view that neither option would be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations.

78.    The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. While the Panel is of the view that, in principle, the matters found proved are capable of remediation, in the absence of the Registrant and of any information on her current circumstances, the Panel is not aware if the Registrant is committed to resolving her issues and continuing in her profession. In these circumstances, the Panel could not formulate conditions which would be realistic, workable and verifiable, particularly where there has been a pattern of repeated failings in core skills and minimal evidence of insight. The Panel considers that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be an appropriate or proportionate sanction in this case as it would not address the public interest considerations nor would it protect the public.

79.    The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Guidance, a Suspension Order may be appropriate where there are no psychological or other difficulties from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings.  The Panel has seen evidence from the Registrant’s colleagues that her family circumstances were extremely difficult and this was clearly impacting on her performance. The Panel has also had sight of medical information to support the difficulties as set out in paragraph 67 above. The Registrant had been practising as a Senior Practitioner for three years prior to her change in personal circumstances, without incident.  The Panel also heard evidence from CS that the team was under pressure with a high turnover of staff and change of team managers. Against this backdrop the Panel is of the view that a 12 month period of suspension would be sufficient to provide the necessary degree of public protection and would address the public component.

80.    The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order but was of the view that it would be disproportionate at this stage, given the context of the Registrant’s personal circumstances. 

Order

The Panel directs the Registrar to suspend the Registration of Mrs Julie Denise Harrison from the Register for a period of 12 months from the date on which this Order takes effect.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed prior to its expiry.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Julie Denise Harrison

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
08/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Hearing has not yet been held