Ms Roanna Althia John

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW74722

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 13/08/2019 End: 17:00 13/08/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 11-13 February 2019.

Whilst placed at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council as an agency Social Worker and between 05 January 2017 and 28 April 2018 2017, you:

1) In relation to Service User 1:

a) did not:

i) convene regular Core Group Meetings; and/or

ii) did not record adequate notes of Core Group Meeting on 06 January 2017 and/or 20 March 2017 and/or 04 April 2017.

b) did not record adequate information relating to the Child Protection visits undertaken on:

i) 19 January 2017

ii) 27 January 2017

iii) 13 February 2017

iv) Offered no evidence

v) 03 March 2017

vi) 20 March 2017

vii) 04 April 2017

c) did not undertake and/or record undertaking a Child Protection visit between 05 April 2017 and 28 April 2017.

2) In relation to Service User 2:

a) did not record adequate information relating to the Child Protection visits undertaken on:

i) 26 January 2017

ii) 24 February 2017
 
iii) 15 March 2017

iv) 30 March 2017

b) did not undertake and/or record undertaking a Child Protection visit between 31 March 2017 and 28 April 2017.

c) did not convene a Core Group meeting after 14 March 2017.

3) In relation to Service User 3;

a) did not record adequate Core Group Meeting notes in respect of the meetings held on:

i) 09 January 2017

ii) 30 January 2017

iii) 27 February 2017

b) did not convene and/or record a Core Group Meeting after 27 February 2017.

c) did not record adequate information relating to the Child Protection visits undertaken on:

i) 05 January 2017

ii) 23 January 2017

iii) 13 February 2017

iv) 01 March 2017

v) 16 March 2017

vi) 04 April 2017

d) did not undertake and/or record undertaking a Child Protection visit after 4 April 2017.

4) In relation to Service User 4;

a) did not record adequate information relating to the Child Protection visits undertaken on:

i) 18 January 2017

ii) 20 January 2017

iii) 09 February 2017
 
iv) Not proved

v) 10 March 2017

vi) 20 March 2017

vii) 21 March 2017

viii) 06 April 2017

b) did not convene regular Core Group Meetings after 18 January 2017 and/or not proved.

5) In relation to Service User 5;

a) did not adequately record information relating to the Child Protection visits undertaken on:

i) 20 January 2017

ii) 17 February 2017

iii) 07 March 2017

iv) 23 March 2017

v) 12 April 2017

b) Offered no evidence:

i) Offered no evidence

ii) Offered no evidence

iii) Offered no evidence

6) The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 5 constitute misconduct and/or a lack of competence.

7) By reason of your misconduct and/or a lack of competence your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service

1. The Panel was informed by the Hearings Officer that notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address by letter dated 10 July 2019. A copy was also sent by email on the same date.

2. Having seen copies of the Notice of Hearing dated 10 July 2019, the Registrant’s Certificate of Registration, and the proof of posting, and receiving the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that the Notice of Hearing had been served in accordance with the applicable Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. Ms Ktisti, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant under Rule 11 of the Rules. She reminded the Panel that the Registrant had not attended her substantive hearing and had not engaged at all with the HCPC.

4. Ms Ktisti submitted that the Registrant had waived her right to attend the review hearing today. Ms Ktisti also reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review of a Suspension Order due to expire on 13 September 2019 and submitted that the public interest in proceeding with the hearing today should prevail.

5. The Panel took into account all the factors set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence under the provisions of Rule 11 is one that should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel of the requirement, pursuant to Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, that substantive orders must be reviewed before they expire.

6. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the overall interests of justice and fairness to all parties. The Panel noted that there had been no engagement by the Registrant with the HCPC and concluded that she had waived her right to attend the hearing today. The Panel had no reason to believe that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at some future date. It further recognised that there was a public interest in conducting a mandatory review of the substantive order currently in place.

7. Accordingly, having weighed the interests of the Registrant with those of the HCPC and the strong public interest in an expeditious disposal of this hearing, the Panel determined that it was fair, appropriate and proportionate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Without a review, the Suspension Order will expire on 13 September 2019. In the Panel’s judgment, it was in the public interest that a decision be made at this time as to whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

Background

8. The Registrant was employed as an agency Senior Social Worker within the Children’s Care Management team at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (the Council) from July 2015 until April 2017. At a substantive hearing on 11-13 February 2019, which the Registrant did not attend and at which she was not represented, a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that, over a period of sixteen weeks, the Registrant failed to record adequate case notes of numerous Child Protection visits and Core Group Meetings in respect of five different service users. It was also found that the Registrant did not convene Core Group Meetings and Child Protection visits within the required timescales.

9. The panel determined that the facts found proved constituted misconduct and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. The Registrant had not engaged at all with her regulatory proceedings and the panel had no information before it in relation to what the Registrant had been doing since she left the Council on 28 April 2017. There was insufficient evidence that the Registrant appreciated the overall gravity and potential consequences of her misconduct and the panel was not assured that the misconduct would not be repeated.

10. There was evidence that the Registrant was a competent social worker prior to the period of misconduct and therefore that the misconduct was remediable. The panel at the substantive hearing decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months. The Registrant was advised that the Suspension Order would be reviewed and the panel encouraged her to attend the next review hearing. It made a number of suggestions to the Registrant in relation to the sort of information that might be helpful to a future reviewing panel, including evidence of her insight into the impact of her misconduct on service users, the profession and the public, and evidence of training she has undertaken to address the misconduct identified.

11. This is the first review of the Suspension Order imposed on 13 February 2019.

Submissions

12. Ms Ktisti submitted that this case has not moved forward since the substantive hearing. There has been no engagement at all from the Registrant, no evidence of her compliance with suggestions made to her by the substantive hearing panel, and no evidence of any remediation. Ms Ktisti submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired and that a further Suspension Order would be appropriate in this case.

13. The Panel had no written submissions or representations before it from the Registrant.

Decision

14. This Panel considered the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders”. It is carrying out a comprehensive reconsideration of the Suspension Order in light of the current circumstances. The Legal Assessor advised that, in practical terms, there was a persuasive burden on the Registrant to show that her fitness to practise is no longer impaired and that all the shortcomings which led to the original finding of impairment have now been overcome.

15. The Panel bore in mind that it must first decide if a finding of current impairment is necessary to protect the public from any risk of harm (assessing the extent of that current or future risk), maintain public confidence in the profession, or to declare and uphold the proper standards of conduct or behaviour. This is a matter for the Panel’s independent judgment and is essentially a risk assessment in light of all the information before the Panel today.

16. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s misconduct was serious. It agreed with the substantive hearing panel’s view that the examples of poor record-keeping were central to Child Protection and not merely peripheral. There has been no evidence of change since the substantive hearing in February 2019 or any evidence that the concerns underpinning the Registrant’s impaired fitness to practise have been overcome.

17. The Panel has determined that, in light of all the evidence before it, the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired. In the absence of any evidence of remediation, the Panel remained concerned that there was a risk of repetition of the failings identified. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant remained liable to put vulnerable service users at unwarranted risk of harm in the future and that the Registrant remained impaired on the personal component.

18. The Panel then considered the public component and the wider public interest in the case. The Panel has no information from the Registrant at all and therefore has been unable to assess whether she has appropriate insight into the seriousness of her misconduct. She has not expressed remorse for her actions or explained how she would ensure that they would not be repeated. In the absence of remediation, members of the public would be concerned if such a registrant were able to practise without restriction. In those circumstances, the Panel was of the view that the need to protect the public and to uphold confidence in the profession and the regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Registrant is not safe to practise unrestricted given her current impairment and the public interest requires that she should not be in a position to practise unrestricted.

19. The Panel next considered the issue of sanction, and had in mind the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel was aware that sanction is a matter for its own professional judgement. It has borne in mind that any sanction must be proportionate and that the primary purpose of sanction is protection of the public. Any sanction it imposes must protect the public but must be the least restrictive sanction that achieves that aim.

20. The Panel first considered a Caution Order and decided that this would not be appropriate because it would not place any actual restriction on the Registrant’s practice, which would address the public protection concerns. Further, the Panel was of the view that the misconduct found proved was too serious and that the public interest would not be served by such a sanction.

21. The Panel then considered whether a period of conditions of practice would be appropriate to enable the Registrant to proactively seek employment as a Social Worker and demonstrate to a future panel that she is a safe practitioner. The imposition of a conditions of practice order requires a registrant to engage fully with the fitness to practise process to protect the public and improve her professional practice, with a view to returning her to safe and unrestricted practice. The Panel was also concerned about the Registrant’s failure to engage at all with the suggestions made to her by the previous panel, and the length of time in which she has had to engage. The Panel determined that the imposition of a conditions of practice order would serve no useful purpose, either in relation to public protection or the public interest.

22. The Panel next carefully considered imposing a further Suspension Order. Such an order would protect the public, but the Panel gave careful consideration as to whether it would not meet the public interest considerations of this case, in light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement during the current Suspension Order. The Panel took into account that it had no evidence of the Registrant’s intention or ability to remediate her practice. It was of the view that no engagement and a lack of remediation by a registrant, together with a low level of insight, risk being fundamentally incompatible with being a registered professional.

23. This being the first review of the substantive order, however, the Panel decided that a further period of suspension would afford the Registrant another opportunity to engage with the HCPC and to demonstrate insight and remediation. The Panel considered that to extend the Suspension Order for a period of six months would be sufficient time for the Registrant to consider whether and how she wished to engage with the HCPC and to prepare evidence for the next review hearing, and was appropriate and proportionate in order to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession and its regulation.

24. The Panel did consider whether to impose a Striking Off Order in this case but was mindful of the need for proportionality in deciding what sanction to impose. For the reasons detailed above, the Panel considered that a Striking-Off Order was disproportionate at this stage, but would remind the Registrant that a continued lack of engagement from her may result in a subsequent reviewing panel considering that such an order is appropriate.  

25. This Suspension Order will be reviewed towards the end of the six-month period and this Panel would expect any future panel to be assisted by the following:

• The Registrant’s attendance at the next review hearing, either in person or by telephone;

• evidence of her insight into the impact of her misconduct on service users, the profession, and the public;

• evidence of her adherence to HCPC Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements;

• information and references concerning any paid or voluntary employment and evidence of any training the Registrant has undertaken to address the misconduct identified.

For the avoidance of doubt, this list is not exhaustive and it is provided only for the Registrant’s assistance; she must understand that it does not bind the future reviewing panel in any way.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Roanna Althia John for a further period of 6 months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 13 September 2019. This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 13 March 2020.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Roanna Althia John

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/08/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
11/02/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended