Mrs Josephine Veronica Tait

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW68321

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 30/08/2019 End: 13:00 30/08/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as a social worker with Leicestershire County Council, you:

  1. Did not complete and / or upload case notes to IAS in a timely manner for:
  2. Service User D, between 25 February 2016 and 25 April 2016;
  3. Service User F, between 11 February 2016 and 26 April 2016;
  4. [NOT PROVED];
  5. [NOT PROVED];
  6. [NOT PROVED];
  7. Did not complete required Mental Capacity Act Assessments for:-
  8. Service User F, between 4 February 2016 and 26 April 2016;
  9. Service User R, between 25 February 2016 and 26 April 2016.
  10. Did not complete and or records assessments and or reassessments for:
  11. Service User M, between 25 November 2015 and 26 April 2016;
  12. [NOT PROVED];
  13. Service User K, between 17 November 2015 and 26 April 2016;
  14. [NOT PROVED];
  15. Service User V, between 9 February 2016 and 18 April 2016;
  16. Service User P, between 12 April 2016 and 25 April 2016;
  17. [NOT PROVED];
  18. [NOT PROVED];
  19. Provided delayed and or inaccurate information to service users and their family regarding funding of services and or care and or placements in respect of:
  20. Service User W;
  21. [NOT PROVED];
  22. Service User X;
  23. [NOT PROVED];
  24. Service User C.
  25. Did not follow instructions and guidance provided by managers in relation to:
  26. Service User L;
  27. Service User X.
  28. Did not raise concerns with managers in relation to:
  29. Service User I;
  30. Service User L;
  31. [NOT PROVED];
  32. Delayed in arranging:
  33. Home Care Services for Service User G between 16 February 2016 and 8 April 2016;
  34. [NOT PROVED];
  35. [NOT PROVED];
  36. [NOT PROVED];
  37. [NOT PROVED];
  38. Did not record the exceptional circumstances that justified Service User E’s caring arrangement between 28 September 2015 and 1 March 2016.
  39. On or around 7 January 2016 did not record the outcome of an assessment relating to Service User G.
  40. On or around 6 October 2015 recorded the outcome of a Decision Support Tool meeting incorrectly in that you labelled it as Fast Track Review in relation to Service User X.
  41. On or around 27 April 2016 produced an inadequate support plan for Service User O in that:
  42. there was no consideration of transport costs;
  43. The care exceeded the bracket of care which you were permitted to authorise.
  44. In relation to Service User J:
  45. labelled the service user as having a learning disability when they did not;
  46. did not follow up the service user’s need for assistive technology.
  47. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 16 constitute lack of competence.
  48. By reason of your lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters
Service of Notice
1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared on the register on 31 July 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 Conduct and Competence Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel considered whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the application of Ms Navarro on behalf of the HCPC to proceed with this review today.

4. During the course of his advice the Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that the Registrant’s last communication with the HCPC was by email on 15 May 2018, indicating that she would not be attending the substantive hearing. He reminded the Panel that they should give consideration to the public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. 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 case of Adeogba should remind 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”.

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

7. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPTS to notify the Registrant of the hearing. The Panel was mindful that it should exercise its discretion with the utmost care and caution.

8. 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.

9. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;
• The Registrant disengaged from the regulatory process prior to the substantive hearing and has not engaged since;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.

10. The Panel determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date, in the light of her non-engagement. It was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. 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.

Background
11. Ms Navarro took the Panel through the background to this case and the previous order imposed. The Registrant was a Social Worker employed by Leicestershire County Council (the Council) within the Promoting Independence team.

12. Throughout her employment in that role (September 2015 to June 2016), there were concerns about her competence, as a consequence of which her probationary period was extended and she was provided with additional support by the Council. The Council referred their concerns about her practise to the HCPC. Although the Registrant had qualified as a Social Worker in 2006, the role with the Council was the first she had undertaken as a Social Worker. The Registrant’s employment with the Council ceased in June 2016 with concerns as to her competence remaining outstanding.
13. At the substantive hearing the HCPC provided a bundle of documents in support of the Allegation in relation to the Registrant, and called two witnesses to give evidence to the Panel.

14. The Registrant had, in her email communications with HCPC, provided limited comments on the circumstances of the allegation and as a consequence of voluntarily absenting herself from the hearing, had not given evidence to the Panel.

15. The substantive hearing was held on 3 – 6 September 2018 and proceeded in the absence of the Registrant. The above Particulars of the Allegation were found proved and the Committee imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.


Decision
Submissions
16. Ms Navarro submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, as there is no evidence to show that the deficiencies in the Registrant’s practice have been remedied and she remains impaired on both the public and private components. 

Legal Advice
17. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Registrant to determine if she is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgement.

18. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:
‘Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of her lack of competence in the sense that she:
a) is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) is liable in the future to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute; and/or
c) is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?

19. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel could exercise all options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order, except for the option of striking the Registrant’s name from the Register. He advised that a Striking Off Order cannot be imposed because the Registrant has not been continuously suspended for a period of at least two years, nor has she been subject to a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of at least two years. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC.

Panel’s considerations and decision
20. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her lack of competence. In reaching a decision the Panel took the following into account:
(a) The Registrant’s lack of engagement with the regulatory process and the absence of evidence of her commitment to remaining in the profession, of her level of insight, of remediation or her current circumstances;
(b) The nature of the Allegation found against her by the substantive panel;
(c) The determination of the substantive panel.
(d) The persuasive burden is on the Registrant to demonstrate she has sufficiently addressed the deficiencies in her practice.

21. The substantive panel had indicated to the Registrant the sort of information that would have assisted her. She has not provided that information, nor re-engaged with the HCPC to begin the process of remediation.

22. The Panel noted that the seventeen incidents of lack of competence found by the substantive panel fell into five broad areas of practice:
(a) Completion of case notes and/or record keeping;
(b) Delayed and/or inaccurate communications with service users and their families;
(c) Failure to follow management advice;
(d) Failure to raise concerns;
(e) Failure to provide adequate support to service users.

23. The Panel agreed with the previous panel that the Registrant’s actions had placed service users at risk of harm and could have adversely affected her colleagues. The failings in the Registrant’s practice were fundamental elements of social work and vulnerable adults had been exposed to a risk of harm by her failings.

24. Taking all of the above into consideration and the paucity of evidence before it, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired because of her lack of competence on both the personal and public components.
25. The Panel went on to consider what action to take today. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy document and considered its powers under Article 30(1).

26. The Panel first considered taking no further action and allowing the Order to lapse upon expiry. The Panel determined that this was not appropriate as the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and taking no action would neither protect the public nor be in the public interest. 

27. The Panel went on to consider whether to impose a Caution Order upon the expiry of the current order. For the same reason set out above, the Panel determined that the imposition of a Caution Order upon expiry of the current order is not the appropriate action to take.
28. The Panel next considered whether conditions of practice could be imposed whilst keeping the public safe. A Conditions of Practice Order may be appropriate for cases involving a lack of competence. However, they will rarely serve any useful purpose without the engagement of a Registrant demonstrating their commitment to resolving the issues and to remaining in the profession. The Registrant’s lack of engagement is such that the Panel cannot be satisfied that she is able, or willing, to comply with any conditions it could formulate. Therefore, a Conditions of Practice Order is not sufficient to protect the public and the wider public interest.

29. In the light of the above, the Panel determined that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be sufficient to protect the public and/or the public interest.

30. The Panel then considered whether a Suspension Order was the appropriate and proportionate response to the risk to the public and the public interest identified. It determined that in light of the above considerations a Suspension Order for 12 months is necessary. The Panel determined that this would provide the Registrant with a further period both to demonstrate her willingness to re-engage with the HCPC and to indicate her commitment to the profession. The Panel exercises its powers under Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 and imposes this 12 month Suspension Order upon the expiry of the current order.

31. The Panel wishes to highlight to the Registrant that in reviewing this Suspension Order a future panel would be assisted by the following:
(a) The Registrant’s re-engagement with the regulatory process which could include communications with the HCPC, providing written information and attending a review hearing;
(b) Evidence that she has developed and reflected on the areas of concern in her practice (as detailed by this Panel at paragraph 22 of its determination) which could include a written reflection, details of any relevant training or learning and any other steps she has taken to improve and remediate her practice;
(c) Information about her current circumstances including any work undertaken and an indication of her intention to remain in the profession.
(d) Testimonials from colleagues from either voluntary or paid work.

32. The above observations need not necessarily relate to social work e.g. good record keeping is required in every day working life.

33. The Panel reiterates that any re-engagement by the Registrant would be a positive step for her to take, even if she is unable to provide all of the above information. If the Registrant were to re-engage with the process, then the matter can be looked at again, either at the normal review stage, or at an earlier stage if the Registrant requests it under Article 30(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Josephine Veronica Tait for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply upon the expiry of the current order.
This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 4 October 2020

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Josephine Veronica Tait

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/08/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
03/09/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended