Mr Gawain Adrian Minney

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW31546

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 02/01/2019 End: 17:00 02/01/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As found proven at the final hearing on 2 January 2018:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and working as an agency worker for Staffordshire County Council:

1) On or around 19 August 2016, at a multi-agency meeting regarding Service User A, when discussing the management of Service User A’s behaviour, you said:

a) one option would be ‘to hit her with a sledgehammer’ or words to that effect;

b) ‘chuck her in a padded room’ or words to that effect.

2) On or around 24 August 2016, you behaved in a threatening, violent and/or aggressive manner towards Colleague A in that you:

a) raised your elbow near Colleague A’s face;

b) stated ‘if you ever do that again this is what will happen to you’ or words to that effect.

3) The facts as described in paragraphs 1a, 1b, 2a and/or 2b constitute misconduct.

4) By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Application for Partially Private Hearing
1. Mr Mason made an application for part of the hearing to be conducted in private. He stated that although his opening submissions would be made in public, he anticipated that the Registrant, during his submissions would be referring to matters relating to his private life including his health. 

2. The Panel, having accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, determined that to protect the Registrant’s right to a private life and in the interests of justice, any references to his personal circumstances and health should be excluded from the public record.

Background
3. The Registrant is a registered social worker. He was employed as an agency social worker at Staffordshire County Council (‘the Council’) from April 2016 until August 2016. Towards the end of the Registrant’s placement at the Council, two incidents arose that raised concerns with regard to his conduct.

4. The first incident occurred on 19 August 2016 during a multi-agency meeting. Service User A had severe learning disabilities and, at the time of the meeting, was in her early twenties. Carer A had been Service User A’s carer since she was a very young child and regarded her as a ‘daughter’. Carer A also had caring responsibilities for a foster child (Service User A’s foster brother), who was terminally ill. The purpose of the meeting was to plan for respite services for when Service User A’s foster brother passed away to relieve Carer A during that period. Although Service User A was not present at the multi-agency meeting, Carer A was present to represent her interests. During the meeting, the Registrant allegedly made inappropriate comments regarding Service User A.

5. The second alleged incident occurred on 24 August 2016 in the Council’s coffee shop. It was alleged that whilst standing in the queue, Colleague A had placed some money on the counter in payment for a cup of coffee. The Registrant and Colleague exchanged words which allegedly culminated in the Registrant ‘jabbing’ his elbow towards Colleague A’s face in an aggressive and threatening manner, having said that “if you ever do that again this is what will happen to you”.

6. As a result of these two incidents, the Locality Manager, Witness EM, made a referral to the HCPC.

7. The factual particulars of the Allegation were found proved in their entirety at the substantive hearing and that panel found that the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour amounted to the statutory ground of misconduct. The substantive hearing panel concluded at paragraph 38 of its written determination that:

‘…both incidents were serious. The Registrant was in a position of trust and there was a legitimate expectation from service users, carers, his employer, his colleagues and the public that he would conduct himself in a professional manner at all times. On two separate occasions, within a short period of time, the Registrant failed to uphold the high standards of professional conduct and behaviour expected of a registered social worker. His behaviour in both instances was alarming and deplorable.’

8. The substantive hearing panel went on to find the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired on both the personal and public interest component. The panel stated at paragraph 50:

‘The Registrant’s conduct is likely to have caused Carer A emotional harm, in that his comments caused her distress. Furthermore, his overall conduct in relation to both incidents of unprofessional behaviour brought the profession into disrepute and undermined a fundamental tenet of the profession. Although the Panel recognised that the two incidents are isolated events within the context of the Registrant’s 17-year social work career, it concluded that public confidence would be significantly undermined if a finding of fitness to practise impairment was not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour. Furthermore, a finding of impairment is required to deter other registrants and to declare and uphold the high standards expected of all registered practitioners.’ 

9. The substantive hearing panel imposed a 12-month Suspension Order and stated that it was likely that the reviewing panel would be assisted by the following:
• The Registrant’s attendance in person;

• A written reflective piece which demonstrates the Registrant’s insight into his misconduct and, in particular, the implications for Carer A, Colleague A, his employer, his profession and the wider public interest. These reflections may include what the Registrant has learned from this experience, the steps he has taken to ensure that it does not happen again, and his future career plans;

• Any personal development, including courses he has undertaken that might address the issues that impacted on his ability to conduct himself in a professional manner;

• Evidence that the Registrant has brought his social work knowledge and skills up to date, together with evidence of CPD;

• Up-to-date and relevant testimonials from paid or unpaid work;

• Any other evidence that may be of assistance to the review panel.

HCPC Submissions

10. Mr Mason, on behalf of the HCPC, outlined the background circumstances and the history of this case. He referred the Panel to the information that the substantive hearing panel had suggested the Registrant may wish to provide to assist this reviewing panel. Mr Mason submitted that although the Registrant had not provided any of the information that the substantive hearing panel suggested may be of assistance, by attending the hearing he had demonstrated some commitment to returning to practise at some point in the future. Mr Mason referred the Panel to the Registrant’s email dated 16 November 2018, in which he stated, ‘I am presently unable to complete the recommendations of the panel and am requesting an extension of approximately 12 months at the hcpts’ discretion, in order to allow me to stabilise my situation and hopefully obtain sustainable employment’.

11. Mr Mason submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired. He invited the Panel to consider an extension of the Suspension Order on the basis that a Striking Off Order at this time would be disproportionate.

Registrant’s Submissions

12. The Registrant informed the Panel that following the substantive hearing he was ‘heartened by the whole process’ and had a clear sense of what was required of him. He stated that prior to the substantive hearing he had undertaken agency work and that this continued following the hearing. He informed the Panel that he was employed under several short-term contracts; the last contract being within a small family-owned industrial business. The Registrant described being very happy at this place of work and envisioned being able to take on a part-time role in a social work setting to facilitate a return to the register unrestricted. The Registrant stated that a 19-year-old was subsequently employed to manage him and a week later made ‘totally inappropriate’ comments, which the Registrant found offensive. He stated that he was unable to continue working for the firm. The Registrant informed the Panel that there was then a breakdown in his relationship with the employment agency and from July/August 2018 he was no longer offered any work. The Registrant confirmed that he is currently in receipt of benefits.

13. The Registrant stated that he has begun the process of drafting a reflective piece, as suggested by the substantive panel, but it is not sufficiently well-developed to present to the Panel today. He also stated that he is registered on the online course which he had mentioned during the substantive hearing but did not provide any evidence relating to the course as he was not sure what to present. The Registrant confirmed that he has not undertaken any Continuing Professional Development relevant to social work and felt unable to obtain references from the employment agency.

14. The Registrant accepted that his fitness to practise is currently impaired and reiterated his request, as set out in his email dated 16 November 2018, that the Suspension Order be extended for approximately 12 months. In addition, he stated that, unless he had been able to make progress in the interim, he would not make any further request for an extension, as he ‘needs the process to end at some point.’

Panel’s Approach

15. In undertaking this review, the Panel took into account the documents within the hearing bundle and the oral submissions made on behalf of both parties.

16. The Panel accepted and applied the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as to the proper approach it should adopt. In particular that:
• The purpose of the review is to consider the issue of impairment based on the previous panel’s findings of fact, the extent to which the Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process, the scope and level of his insight, and the risk of repetition.

• In terms of whether the Registrant’s previous misconduct has been sufficiently, and appropriately remediated, relevant factors include whether the Registrant:

(i) fully appreciates the gravity of the previous panel’s finding of impairment;

(ii) has maintained his skills and knowledge;

(iii) is likely to place service users at risk if he were to return to unrestricted practise.

• The Panel should have regard to the HCPTS Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practice is impaired and must take account of a range of issues, including:

(i) the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and

(ii) the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

• It is only if the Panel determine that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, that the Panel should go on to consider sanction by applying the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP), and the principles of proportionality which require the Registrant’s interests to be balanced against the interests of the public.


Decision  
Impairment
17. The Registrant, at the substantive hearing, demonstrated that he had some appreciation of the gravity of his conduct and behaviour. The substantive hearing panel took the view that the Registrant had reflected on his behaviour and had considered his suitability to continue with his career in social work. The Panel noted that, at the time of the substantive hearing, the Registrant had not sought professional help, nor had he resolved his own dilemma regarding whether to return to front line social work, explore teaching within the social work field or pursue a career in an alternative field. Although the Registrant attended today’s hearing there was no information before the Panel to indicate that there has been any material change within the last 12 months. There was no evidence that the Registrant had further reflected on the seriousness of his misconduct, or the impact of his behaviour on Carer A, Colleague A, his previous employer, his profession or the wider public interest. Nor, by his own admission, had the Registrant taken steps towards updating his social work skills and knowledge.  

18. The Registrant addressed the Panel at length and throughout his submissions he focussed on his personal issues. The Panel noted that he had to be prompted to explain why he had not taken the opportunity to provide some, if not all, of the information that the substantive hearing panel suggested may be of assistance.

19. In the absence of any positive evidence of further developed insight and remediation, the Panel concluded that there has been no material change in circumstances, since the finding of impairment at the substantive hearing. Therefore, there remains a risk of harm to others and the risk of repetition. Consequently, the Panel concluded that the Registrant remains impaired on the basis of the personal component.

20. The Panel noted that a significant aspect of the public component is upholding proper standards of behaviour. Members of the public would be extremely concerned to learn that a social worker that had been found to be impaired subsequently demonstrated an unwillingness or an inability to take any steps to acknowledge his wrongdoing and take the opportunity to persuade the Panel that he is committed to upholding the high standards expected of registered practitioners. The Panel concluded that, in these circumstances, a finding of no impairment would fail to declare and uphold proper standards and would undermine public trust and confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as a professional regulator.

21. Therefore, the Panel was led to the inevitable conclusion that, the Registrant’s fitness to practise also remains impaired on the basis of the public component.  

22. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired the Panel went on to consider what sanction, if any, to impose.

Sanction

23. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, which remains un-remediated, to take no action on his registration would be inappropriate. Furthermore, it would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

24. The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order. The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the ISP which states:

“A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate action.” 

25. The Registrant’s conduct and behaviour was not minor in nature and had the potential to have wide-ranging adverse consequences. Furthermore, as the Registrant has demonstrated only limited insight into his misconduct and provided no evidence of remediation, the risk of repetition remains. Therefore, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to protect the public and meet the wider public interest.

26. In considering conditions of practice the Panel took into account paragraph 33 of the ISP which states:
‘Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:
• where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight…;
• where there are serious or persistent overall failings...’

27. The Panel took the view that the Registrant is either unwilling or unable to provide the information and evidence that was suggested by the substantive hearing panel. Although the Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s failings are potentially capable of being remedied, in the absence of meaningful engagement with the regulatory process, there was no indication that the Registrant is committed to addressing the issues which led to the previous findings of impairment. In these circumstances, the Panel could have no confidence that he would comply with a Conditions of Practice Order, even if suitable conditions could be formulated. The Panel was aware that the suggestions made by the previous panel are only indicative and do not have any binding authority, unlike conditions which require compliance. However, both involve willingness on the part of the Registrant and a determined effort. In the absence of any evidence that the Registrant is willing and able to remediate his previous misconduct the Panel concluded that there were no conditions it could devise which would be appropriate, workable and measurable.

28. The Panel next considered extending the current Suspension Order for a further period. The Panel noted that a Suspension Order would prevent the Registrant from practising during the extended suspension period, which would therefore protect the public and the wider public interest. However, the Panel noted that the Registrant has failed to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to him and has failed to provide any evidence that this was for good reason. In these circumstances the Panel concluded that no useful purpose would be served by providing him with a further opportunity. In reaching this conclusion the Panel took into account paragraph 41 of the ISP which states,
‘If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option.’

29. The Panel noted that the Registrant does not appear to have worked as a social worker since August 2016 and was satisfied that he had exhausted the opportunity to demonstrate that he is fit to return to practise. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s failure to demonstrate that his insight has developed during the last 12 months and his failure to take significant steps towards remediation strongly indicated that he would not be willing or able to do so in the future.

30. The Panel also took into account paragraph 48 of the ISP which states:
‘Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.’

31. The Panel noted that the Registrant is a social worker with approximately 17 years’ experience and prior to the incidents in August 2016 there had been no cause for concern. However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s repeated failure to address the serious concerns that have been identified at the substantive hearing and at this hearing, the absence of sufficiently developed insight and his inability or unwillingness to fully engage with the regulatory process is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. The Panel was satisfied that removal from the register is the only means to protect service users and the wider public interest.

32. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the appropriate and proportionate sanction would be a Striking Off Order.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Gawain Adrian Minney from the Register upon the expiry of the current order.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Gawain Adrian Minney

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
02/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended