Miss Lucy Alice Gatrell

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW07201

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 12:30 17/01/2019 End: 02:00 17/01/2019

Location: 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

Whilst registered as a Social Worker, you were the allocated social worker for Children A from 27 October 2011 until June 2013 and during this time:

1.You did not adequately identify and/or record safeguarding concerns regarding Children A.

2.You did not adequately report safeguarding concerns regarding Children A to your managers.

3.You did not take adequate steps to safeguard Children A from harm and/or the risk of harm through neglect.

4.You completed a core assessment of Children A in May or June 2013 and:

a.You did not complete the core assessment in the required timeframe and/or in a timely manner.
b.Your core assessment did not adequately reflect the conditions that Children A were living in.
c.You did not adequately record and/or report the safeguarding concerns in your core assessment.

5.The matters described in paragraphs 1 to 4 constitute misconduct and / or lack of competence.

6.By reason of your misconduct and / or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proof of Service

1.The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted on 12 December 2018 by first class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC register.  The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).

Proceeding in Absence

2.Ms Senior, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She informed the Panel that the hearing bundle for the substantive hearing was not delivered and marked ‘gone away’. However, she stated that no other documentation has been returned and the emails that have been sent to the Registrant have not ‘bounced back’. She confirmed that there has been no communication from the Registrant since 8 November 2015 when she submitted written representations for consideration by the Investigating Committee Panel.

3.The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and followed that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

4.The Panel determined that it was fair, reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence for the following reasons:

a.The Registrant provided the HCPC with written submissions during the investigation stage, approximately 12 months before the substantive hearing in January 2017, but there has been no engagement from her since. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing and did not attended the previous review hearings which took place on 24 January 2018 and 17 July 2018. There has also been no response to the HCPC’s letter dated 19 December 2018 reminding the Registrant of the information that the last reviewing panel thought would be of assistance at this review hearing. In these circumstances the Panel was satisfied that it was reasonable to conclude that the Registrant had chosen to disengage from these proceedings and therefore her absence was deliberate and demonstrated a voluntary waiver of her right to be present.

b.There has been no application to adjourn and no indication that the Registrant would attend on an alternative date. Therefore, it is unlikely that re-listing this review hearing would serve any useful purpose.

c.As this is a mandatory review hearing there is a strong public interest in ensuring that it is considered expeditiously, particularly as the current order is due to expire on 21 February 2019, and the public interest outweighs any potential disadvantage to the Registrant.

Background

5.The Registrant is a Social Worker. During the relevant period she was employed at Hampshire County Council within the Children In Need Team. She commenced employment with Hampshire County Council in June 2008 and qualified as a Social Worker the same year.

6.The Council commenced an internal investigation into concerns regarding the Registrant’s handling of a case involving a family of five children which alleged that she had not dealt with the case in a timely way and had failed to identify risks and safeguard the children appropriately. The concerns about the family were sufficiently serious for the Local Authority to consider taking the matter to court in order to safeguard the children. At the conclusion of the Council’s internal investigation, the matter was referred to the HCPC.

7.At the substantive hearing which concluded on 24 January 2017, the Allegation was found proved in its entirety. The panel took the view that the Registrant’s written submissions ‘demonstrated some insight, but that the Registrant’s insight was limited. The Registrant does not demonstrate insight into the significant adjustments that would be required to her own practice for her to practice safely as a Social Worker. She does not acknowledge that she allowed herself to be led by the parents, and that it was entirely inappropriate that they were describing her as a “friend”.’ The panel concluded that her fitness to practise was impaired. At the sanction stage the panel imposed a 12-month Suspension Order ‘to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. It also provides time for the Registrant to reflect, develop insight, and gather evidence to demonstrate remediation.’

8.At the first review hearing on 24 January 2018, the Suspension Order was reviewed and extended for a further period of 6 months. A further 6-month extension was imposed at the second review hearing on 17 July 2018. The second review panel noted ‘that a further reviewing Panel may consider that continued lack of engagement by the Registrant presents further difficulties which may make a Striking Off Order much more likely.’ The panel suggested that a future reviewing panel may be assisted by the following:

•A reflective piece setting out the Registrant’s insight and any steps taken by her to remedy her practice;
•Any references or testimonials from any relevant employment, including any voluntary work;
•Details of steps taken to keep the Registrant’s knowledge and skills up to date;
•The Registrant’s attendance at the next review hearing.

 

HCPC Submissions

9.Ms Senior, on behalf of the HCPC, outlined the background circumstances and the history of this case. She invited the Panel to conclude that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired as there has been no material change in circumstances since the original Suspension Order was imposed and that the balance had now tipped in favour of imposing a Striking Off Order.

Panel’s Approach

10.In undertaking this review, the Panel took into account the documentary evidence and the submissions from Ms Senior, on behalf of the HCPC.

11.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 her 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 her skills and knowledge;
iii)is likely to place service users at risk if she were to return to unrestricted practise.

12.The Panel should have regard to the HCPTS Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practice is impaired and take account of the following components:

(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.

13.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

14.The Panel noted that the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing and has not attended any of the subsequent review hearings. The Registrant’s last communication with the HCPC was during the investigation stage and consequently none of the information that the previous hearing panels have indicated would be of assistance has been provided. 

15.The Panel noted that given the Registrant’s non-engagement there was no evidence that she recognises the seriousness of her misconduct, or the impact on service users, nor has she taken the opportunity to demonstrate that she has taken any steps towards remediation. In the absence of any positive evidence of insight and remediation, the Panel was satisfied that there has been no material change in circumstances, since the last review hearing. Therefore, there remains a risk of harm to service users and a risk of repetition.

16.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 her wrongdoing and take the opportunity to persuade the Panel that she 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.

17.Therefore, the Panel was led to the inevitable conclusion that, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired on the basis of the personal and public components.  

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

Sanction

19.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 her registration would be inappropriate. Furthermore, it would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

20.The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order. As the Registrant has demonstrated no further insight into her 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.

21.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 …failings;..’

22.The Panel took the view that the Registrant is either unwilling or unable to provide the information and evidence that was suggested by the previous panels. Although the Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s failings are potentially capable of being remedied, in the absence of engagement from the Registrant, 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 she 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 her previous misconduct the Panel concluded that there were no conditions it could devise which would be appropriate, workable and measurable.

23.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 second review panel concluded that a Striking Off Order was disproportionate ‘at this time’ and that at the next review such an order ‘was much more likely.’ The Panel noted that the Registrant has failed to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to her to re-engage and concluded that no useful purpose would be served by providing her with a further opportunity.

24.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.’

25.The Panel noted that the Registrant has not worked as a Social Worker for a considerable period of time and was satisfied that she had exhausted the opportunities to demonstrate that she is fit to return to practise. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s failure to demonstrate any insight and take any steps taken towards remediation strongly indicated that she had no intention of doing so.

26.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.’

27.The Panel noted that the adverse findings were limited to the Registrant’s contact with one family. However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s repeated failure to address the serious concerns that have been identified, the absence of insight and her inability or unwillingness to engage with these proceedings is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. With regret, the Panel concluded that removal from the register is the only means to protect service users and the wider public interest.

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

Order

The Panel decided to impose a Strike Off Order.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Lucy Alice Gatrell

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
17/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
24/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
16/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
23/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended