Mrs Ranjana Varia

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW64130

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 02/04/2019 End: 17:00 02/04/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

Your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired by reason of your health.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice

1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the Register on 4 March 2019. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Health Committee Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Simpson on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Simpson submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. Ms Simpson told the Panel that the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC, and indicated in an email dated 19 March 2019 that she did not intend to attend this hearing. The Registrant also indicated that she would not be sending a legal representative to act on her behalf. Ms Simpson submitted that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised the Panel that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice were maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.

8. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing.

9. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPTS practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

10. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:

• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing and implicit in her correspondence is an expectation that proceedings today proceed in her absence;
• The Registrant has engaged with the process and has signed the Voluntary Removal Agreement;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.

11. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. There is a distinction between a case where the Registrant is clearly aware of the hearing date, and one where there has been no response from the Registrant. It determined that an adjournment in these circumstances would serve no useful purpose. The Panel have the decision of the previous review hearing, wherein the representations of the Registrant are recorded. The correspondence from the Registrant since the last hearing make it clear that she has not changed her stated position. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Proceeding in private

12. The Panel heard that matters relating to the Registrant’s health were to be discussed as part of this application. Ms Simpson submitted that it was appropriate that the entire hearing be held in private as the Registrant’s health was intrinsically linked to the issues in this case. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Health Committee) Procedure Rules 2003 (“Procedural Rules”) whereby matters pertaining to the private life of the Registrant, the complainant, any person giving evidence or of any Patient or Client should be heard in private. The Panel agreed the entire hearing should be in private as the Registrant’s health issues form a major part of the HCPC’s case at this stage. As such this is the public version of the determination.

Decision

13. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Simpson on behalf of the HCPC. She outlined the background to the allegations, the outcome of the Substantive Hearing in 2016, and the reasons for the decision on that date and at subsequent review hearings. Ms Simpson submitted that, following representations from the Registrant, and a full review of the case, the HCPC considers a Voluntary Removal Agreement to be the appropriate method of finalising this case. The HCPC was satisfied that the Registrant fully understood the effect of the Voluntary Removal Agreement and that granting the application would not compromise the protection of the public or have any detrimental effect on the wider public interest. It did not consider that this was a case that only a Striking-Off Order would suffice to protect the public and the public interest.

14. The Panel had before it correspondence from the Registrant, from which it is clear that she no longer wishes to practise as a Social Worker and has no intention of applying for restoration to the HCPC register as a Social Worker in the future.

15. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He drew the Panel’s attention to the case of Matthew Clarke v The General Optical Council [2017] EWHC 521 (Admin).

16. The Panel considered all of the information and representations by Ms Simpson. The Panel has applied its own judgement to the application and also had regard to the HCPTS’ Practice Note on “Disposal of Cases by Consent” and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor in this regard.

17. The Panel noted that the HCPC is satisfied that it would be meeting its statutory objective of protecting the public and of the public interest, if the Registrant was permitted to be removed from the Register on similar terms to those which would apply if she were subject to a striking off order under article 29(5) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

18. The Panel had before it a Voluntary Removal Agreement that had been agreed between the HCPC and the Registrant and signed and executed by both parties. The Registrant also signed a Declaration that there was no other matter of which the Registrant was aware which might give rise to any other allegation.

19. The Panel firstly considered whether there were any factors that would make it undesirable to allow this matter to be concluded on the consensual basis set out in the Voluntary Removal Agreement. The Panel has concluded that, given the nature of the allegation, there are no overriding public interest factors that would require this matter to conclude by way of striking the Registrant’s name from the HCPC Register.

20. Further, the panel at the substantive hearing determined that a Striking-Off Order was disproportionate and imposed a Suspension Order, as it would be “sufficient to reflect the seriousness of the situation and the need to protect the public whilst concerns remained outstanding. It would also maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process”. That panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of five months because it considered that period to be the “minimum required to give the Registrant time to address the underlying concerns.”

21. However, a significant period of over three years has passed and the Registrant has expressed her intention not to return to the profession.

22. The Panel is aware that if the Registrant seeks to return to the HCPC Register at any time in the future, her application would be treated as if she had been struck off as a result of the allegation.

23. The Panel was satisfied that this Voluntary Removal Agreement would not meet any public protection issues in this case.

24. In all the circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that both public protection and the public interest would be adequately protected by the terms of the agreement reached between the Registrant and the HCPC in as much as the Registrant will henceforth be prevented from practising as a Social Worker and, should she wish to apply to return to the Register, she will be treated as though she had been struck off.

25. Furthermore, the Panel is satisfied that this method of finalising this case is appropriate and proportionate, and is jointly in the interest of the public, the HCPC and the Registrant. Accordingly the Panel approves the Voluntary Removal Agreement.

26. In light of the Panel’s determination in relation to the Voluntary Removal Agreement, it is exercising its power to review the Order under Article 30(2) and 30(4) and revokes the current Suspension Order with immediate effect.

Order

The Panel directs that the Suspension Order (the Existing Order) be revoked and approves the VRA on the basis that the Registrar will remove the name of Ms Ranjana Varia from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Ranjana Varia

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed
05/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
27/10/2017 Health Committee Review Hearing Suspended
07/11/2016 Health Committee Review Hearing Suspended
10/06/2016 Health Committee Final Hearing Suspended