Mr Robert Anthony Ngawoofah

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW37019

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 11:30 10/01/2019 End: 17:00 10/01/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 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 January 16 2017:

 

While employed as a Social Worker at Trafford Council, you:

 

  1.  Did not maintain accurate records on Trafford Council's case management system, including:
  1.  In relation to Service User 1, record and/or did not record in a timely manner:
  1.  Pathway plan;
  2.  A statutory visit on 20 May 2013;
  3. statutory visit on 21 June 2013;
  4. Case Chronology

 b.  In relation to Service Users 2 and 3, did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1. Statutory visit on 3 June 2013;
  2.  Protection Plan updates; and/or
  3. .Parenting assessments.

 

c. In relation to Service Users 4 and 5, did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1. An unannounced home visit on 7 June 2013
  2.  A child protection review on 6 May 2015 for Service User 4;
  3.  The minutes of a Public Law Outline meeting held on 21 August 2013;
  4. The minutes of a Public Law Outline meeting held on 9 January 2014;
  5. The minutes of a Public Law Outline meeting held on 23 January 2014;
  6. The minutes of a Public Law Outline meeting held on 14 April 2014;
  7.  Care Protection Plan updates between 15 November 2013 and 6 May 2014 in relation to Service User 4, and/or
  8. Complete Genogram and/or parenting assessment.

 

 d. In relation to Service Users 6 and 7, did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1.  Updates to Service User 7’s child protection plan between 16 July 2013 and 25 November 2013 and/or between 16 January 2014 and 16 May 2014;
  2. The minutes of Public Law Outline meetings held between June 2013 and January 2014;

 

e. In relation to Service User 8, did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1.  Family Support Meeting (Child in Need) minutes held on 12 September 2013, and/or
  2.  Case notes between July 2013 and October 2013.

 

f. In relation to Service User 9, did not record and/or did not complete record in a timely manner:

 

  1. Core Group meeting minutes and/or case records referencing those meetings;
  2.  Updates to the Child protection plan from November 2012 to May 2013 and/or May 2013 to November 2013; and/or
  1. Statutory visit (child protection) on 16 August 2013.

 

g. In relation to Service User 10/ and Service User 11, between November 2012 and November 2013 did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1. A Core assessment due to be completed by 20 December 2012;
  2.  A Core assessment due to be completed by 2 October 2013.

 

 h. In relation to Family 12, did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1. The minutes of Core Group meetings held on 6 March 2013 and/or 14 May 2013 and/or case records referencing those meetings;
  2. The minutes of Family Support Meetings (Child in Need) held between August 2013 and June 2014; and/or
  3.  Visits to the family between 12 February 2013 and 30 April 2013.

 

i. In relation to Service User 13/14/15, did not record and/or did not record in a timely manner:

 

  1. The minutes of core group meetings held between April 2014 and June 2014 and/or
  2.  Updates to the 3 monthly summaries.

 

j. In relation to Service User 16, did not record a pre-birth assessment between April 2014 and July 2014.

 

2. The matters set out in paragraph 1a) – 1j) constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

3.  By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise 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 21 December 2018. A copy was also sent by email on the same date.

2. The Panel was reminded that today’s review hearing was the first effective review, the matter having been adjourned on 20 December 2018. Having seen copies of the Notice of Hearing dated 21 December 2018, 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. Mr Mason, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant under Rule 11 of the Rules. He referred the Panel to a letter dated 9 January 2019 from the Registrant’s legal representative which stated, “I write to inform you that neither the registrant nor a representative from UNISON will be in attendance at the substantive order review hearing on Thursday 10 January 2019. The registrant is agreeable to the review hearing proceeding in his absence.”  

4. Mr Mason submitted that the letter of 9 January 2019 was a clear indication that the Registrant had waived his right to attend the review hearing today. Mr Mason also reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review of a Conditions of Practice Order due to expire on 16 January 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 the clear indication from UNISON that the Registrant was content for the hearing to proceed today in his absence and 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 Conditions of Practice Order will expire on 16 January 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. Moreover, it was in the Registrant’s own interests that decisions be made as to whether any further order is needed in respect of his registration.

Background

8. The Registrant is a Social Worker, who was employed by Trafford Council (“the Council”) from 5 December 2005 as a Social Worker. He was a Level 3 (Band 8) Social Worker and initially worked in the South Area Family Support Team. From November 2014, he worked in the Central Area Team based in Sale. His role involved assessing children and their families/carers and formulating, implementing and reviewing plans to improve outcomes for children.

9. Concerns were raised from 2010 onwards regarding the Registrant’s capability in terms of maintaining records. These included case notes, statutory visits, Core Assessments not being completed in a timely manner and not complying with actions from supervision, e.g. ensuring case closures and identifying actions required to progress plans. These concerns were highlighted by a number of managers and clear expectations were outlined regarding timescales for the completion of outstanding recordings. Progress was monitored through supervision, agreed action plans, the informal capability process and a performance improvement plan.

10. The outcome of a Stage 3 Capability hearing in September 2014 was that the Registrant was found not to have achieved an “acceptable professional standard of recording and caseload and time management”, and suggested there was “an obvious lack of confidence” in his ability to improve in these areas. The Registrant was dismissed by the Council.

11. The Registrant admitted the allegation in full. The Registrant and the HCPC entered into a draft Consent Order, imposing a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 2 years.

12. At a hearing on 16 January 2017, a panel approved the Consent Order, concluding that its terms would secure an appropriate level of public protection and would be in the public interest. The panel noted that the allegation related solely to record keeping and considered that the Registrant had demonstrated insight and taken some remedial action; hence, a 2 year Conditions of Practice Order would have been an appropriate sanction to impose.

13. That panel made a number of suggestions to the Registrant in relation to the sort of information that might be helpful to a future reviewing panel:

“ Whilst not in any way seeking to bind a future panel, when undertaking a substantive review of this Consent Order, the Panel is of the view that the following matters are likely to be of relevance:

(a) It would be helpful if the monthly reflective practice profile, which the Registrant is required to send to the HCPC every 3 months pursuant to Condition 7, demonstrated the Registrant’s continuing development and understanding of the need to keep accurate records, for the protection and quality of life of service users and to enable effective collaboration with colleagues and other agencies.

(b) It would be helpful if the Registrant provided evidence as to his continued understanding of the importance of timely record keeping in accordance with statutory requirements, applicable local policies and best practice guidelines.”

14. This is the re-scheduled first review of the Conditions of Practice Order imposed on 16 January 2017. A first review hearing was scheduled for 20 December 2018 but, at that stage, the Registrant was giving careful consideration to whether he wished to enter into a Voluntary Removal Agreement. On 20 December 2018, the Registrant notified the HCPC by email stating that, following discussions with his legal representative, he did not wish to sign the Voluntary Removal Agreement as he did not feel that he had “a clear and thorough enough understanding of the full implications of the agreement… I await hearing from you regarding the outcome of the hearing.” The scheduled review on 20 December 2018 was adjourned with no evidence heard.

Submissions
 
15. Mr Mason submitted that this case has not moved forward since the consent hearing in January 2017. The Registrant has not obtained work as a Social Worker since the Conditions were imposed on his registration. There has been little engagement from the Registrant, no evidence of his compliance with suggestions made to him by the previous panel and no evidence of any remediation. Mr Mason submitted it is the HCPC’s view that the Registrant’s updated reflective piece of 9 January 2019 demonstrates reduced insight on his part in that one of the few amendments made by him is to have removed the statement that he accepts his role as a Social Worker required that all relevant paperwork be completed in a timely manner. Mr Mason submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired and that a Striking-Off order would be appropriate in this case.

16. The Panel gave careful consideration to the Registrant’s updated reflective statement. An additional paragraph to the previous version of November 2018 stated, “Though I take some responsibility for my part in such delays [in recording information], the responsibility also lay with Trafford Council who needed to offer social workers the required level of administrative support to be able to adequately meet the requirement of the role.” The Registrant continues to work as a Residential Support Worker, a role he has carried out since September 2016. He reiterated that he would like to return to some form of social work in the future and has kept up to date with developments in social work through social work journals and remaining in contact with colleagues still in the profession.

Decision

17. This Panel considered the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders”. Its function is to carry out a comprehensive reconsideration of the Conditions of Practice 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 his fitness to practise is no longer impaired and that all the shortcomings which led to the original finding of impairment have now been overcome.

18. 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.

19. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s misconduct and/or lack of competence was serious and involved breaches of his professional standards, which persisted over a significant period of time despite his employer’s interventions. There has been no evidence since the final hearing in January 2017 that the concerns underpinning the Registrant’s impaired fitness to practise have been remediated. 

20. 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 sufficient evidence of remediation, the Panel remained concerned that there is a significant 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 public protection grounds.

21. The Panel also considered the wider public interest in the case. The Registrant has not worked as a Social Worker for over four years and, 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 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 his current impairment and the public interest requires that he should not be in a position to practise unrestricted.

22. 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.

23. 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 and/or lack of competence found proved was too serious and that the public interest would not be served by such a sanction.

24. The Panel next considered whether a further 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 he is a safe practitioner. Despite the Registrant’s expressed commitment to return to work as a Social Worker at some time in the future, the Panel considered that there has been a real lack of progress by the Registrant for the last two years while he has been subject to conditions of practice. 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 his professional practice, with a view to returning him to safe and unrestricted practice.  The Panel accepts that the Registrant as not been working as a Social Worker, however his current role requires him to keep records and he has not provided any independent information that his current records are of an appropriate standard. He has not provided any evidence in relation to the CPD he says he has undertaken since 2017. The Panel was also concerned about what it considered to be a reduced level of insight from the Registrant. In light of this Registrant’s failure to engage at all with his conditions of practice, or even the suggestions made to him by the previous panel, and the length of time in which he has had to engage, the Panel determined that the imposition of another conditions of practice order would serve no useful purpose, either in relation to public protection or the public interest. 

25. The Panel next carefully considered imposing a Suspension Order. Whilst such an order would protect the public, the Panel considered that it would not meet the public interest considerations of this case, in light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement and apparent unwillingness to resolve matters during his two year Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant has been afforded ample opportunity to demonstrate that the deficiencies in his practice has been addressed. A Suspension Order envisages the constructive engagement of a registrant and a willingness and ability to remediate are essential. Those features appears to be absent in this case. For these reasons, the Panel determined that a Suspension Order which, in the circumstances of this case would have to be reviewed, would serve no practical purpose.

26. The Panel determined that the only sanction that would adequately protect the public and serve the public interest was a Striking-Off Order. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account that it had no real evidence of the Registrant’s intention or ability to remediate his practice since he last worked as a Social Worker in 2014. The Panel concluded that the Registrant posed a risk to the safety of the public, which would continue without remediation in the future. The Panel was mindful of the need for proportionality in deciding what sanction to impose, but was of the view that such limited engagement and lack of remediation, together with a decreased level of insight, is fundamentally incompatible with being a registered professional. It is for these reasons that the Panel has concluded that a Striking-Off Order is the only sanction that would adequately protect the public and serve the public interest. This includes maintaining confidence in the regulatory process. 

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the registration of Mr Ngawoofah from the register on the expiry of the existing order.  

The Order imposed today will apply from 16 January 2019.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Robert Anthony Ngawoofah

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
10/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
20/12/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
16/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice