Mr Michael Roger Herbert

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW27344

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 05/02/2019 End: 13:00 05/02/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

Whilst registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and employed as Drugsworker, you:

1. Tested positive in 2 hair strand tests for the use of opiates and/or cannabis and/or cocaine and/or crack cocaine between approximately the middle of June 2014 and August 2014.


2.Not proved.

3. Have admitted to Children’s Services having used cannabis and/or cocaine occasionally.


4. The matters set out in Paragraphs 1-3 constitute misconduct.

5. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proceeding in Private

1. An unopposed application for those parts of these proceedings that made reference to the family life of the Registrant to be held in private was granted, in accordance with the provisions of Rule (1)(a) of the 2003 Rules.

Background

2. The Registrant qualified as a registered Social Worker in 2005.  At the relevant time, in the summer of 2014, he was employed as a Support Worker for service users who had drug dependency problems.

3. The Registrant provided hair strand testing for evidence as to whether he had used controlled drugs. The results of those tests proved positive.

4. The Registrant had told a third party that he had used cocaine between December 2013 and February 2014 for recreational use.
 
Decision
 
5. The Panel heard the submission of Ms Iskander that the fitness to practise of the Registrant remained impaired and that, as a minimum sanction, the appropriate course for the Panel to adopt today would be to impose a Conditions of Practice Order.

6. In so submitting, Ms Iskander repeated the view of the previous panel that the use by a Social Worker of Class A controlled drugs must call into question his suitability to practise as a Social Worker, especially when employed as a Support Worker for service users experiencing drug dependency issues.

7. However, Ms Iskander pointed out that a recently received reflective statement from the Registrant tended to show that he has now developed insight into his previous failings.

8. The Registrant, in his evidence, told the Panel that he had smoked cannabis since he was a teenager and that he had also used cocaine recreationally. He added that he has been drug-free since these matters came to light in 2014, having abandoned his association with those he used to take drugs with. He informed the Panel that, since 2014, he has been working as a paid Support Worker working with substance misusers, but his ambition is to return to work as a registered Social Worker, preferably in the field of Mental Health.

9. He provided to the Panel a number of CPD certificates as evidence of his desire to “improve my skill base”.

10. He amplified the contents of his written reflective statement during his oral evidence to the Panel. He stated that he did now understand that his drug misuse would have impacted on his practice as a Social Worker because, although he never attended work “under the influence”, if his service users had known that he was using controlled drugs, they would have regarded him as a “hypocrite”. He stated that it “hasn’t sat right on me since”. He added that, given that his role involved working with vulnerable people, if he were taking drugs himself it might have impaired his ability to respond to situations in the right way. He might have appeared to be “condoning” the misuse of drugs by his service users.

11. Considering all the material in this case, the Panel took the view that, the Registrant has undoubtedly progressed since the final hearing in terms of insight. However, paying due regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”, the Panel’s view is that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired on both the personal and the public components, for the protection of the public and in the public interest. The misconduct identified at the substantive hearing was serious. There still exists a risk of repetition in the judgment of the Panel, if restrictions are not placed upon his practice. It is imperative that independent information be obtained to confirm the Registrant’s abstinence from the taking of controlled drugs.

12. The Panel, in considering its next step and in referring to the contents of the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy, took into account the fact that the Registrant has taken the advice of the previous panel and done his best to address its concerns. This Panel was grateful that the Registrant appeared today in person and answered the questions posed of him with appropriate candour.

13. The Panel noted that the certificate of toxicological analysis provided by the Registrant, which bore a collection date of 30 January 2019, only referred to an oral examination and thus provided information which was limited to confirmation of non-use of controlled drugs for a short period of days.

14. In all the circumstances, the Panel decided that an imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 12 months was the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose in this case. This would strike a balance between the interests of the Registrant and those of the public.

15. The Panel considered that in addition to fulfilment of the conditions below, a future reviewing panel would be assisted by being provided with a copy of the results of the hair strand test regarding drug use which the Registrant stated he had undergone in July or August 2018, as this would provide confirmation of a longer period of abstention from the misuse of controlled drugs.

16. The conditions are as follows:

1. You must promptly inform the HCPC if you cease to be employed by your current employer or take up any other or further employment.

2. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.

3. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

4. You must abstain absolutely from the consumption of controlled drugs.

5. You must make arrangements for independent testing to prove that you have consistently abstained from ingestion of controlled drugs for the duration of this Order. You must provide to the HCPC details of the testing arrangements and forward copies of the test results to the HCPC within 14 working days of any such test being received by you.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to replace the Suspension Order with a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 12 months with immediate effect. The conditions are as follows: 


1. You must promptly inform the HCPC if you cease to be employed by your current employer or take up any other or further employment.

2. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.

3. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

4. You must abstain absolutely from the consumption of controlled drugs.

5. You must make arrangements for independent testing to prove that you have consistently abstained from ingestion of illegal drugs for the duration of this Order. You must provide to the HCPC details of the testing arrangements and forward copies of the test results to the HCPC within 14 working days of any such test result being received by you.

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply with immediate effect.

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 5 February 2020.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Michael Roger Herbert

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/02/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
05/02/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended