Miss Lisa T Chidavaenzi

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW113671

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 22/07/2019 End: 17:00 25/07/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

Whilst employed at Kent County Council as a Social Worker Case Manager you:

1. On 7 November 2017, were de-registered from the Health and Care Professions Council Register due to non-payment of your registration fees.

2. On 20 November 2017, informed the ASYE Co-ordinator that you would pay your registration fees 'on Friday', but did not do so.

3. Continued to practise as a Social Worker despite not being registered to do so until 22 January 2018.

4. Your actions as described at paragraphs 2 and 3 constitute dishonesty.

5. The matters set out at paragraphs 1 - 4 amount to misconduct.

6. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Application to amend the Allegation

1. Ms Mond-Wedd made an application to amend Particular 2 of the allegation to replace the words “your employer” with the words “the ASYE Co-ordinator”. The Registrant had been given notice of the proposed amendment in the HCPC’s letter of 7 March 2019. Ms Mond-Wedd submitted that the amendment sought was not substantive, but made a factual correction to the particular.  It did not increase the gravity of the allegation against the Registrant and no prejudice would be caused to the Registrant by the amendment.

2. The Panel also proposed to make typographical amendments to Particular 3, to change the word “Continue” to “Continued” and the word “practice” to “practise”.  Ms Mond Wedd and Ms Hurd on behalf of the Registrant did not oppose these amendments.

3. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor. The Panel considered that the amendment sought provided a factual correction of Particular 2 and typographical corrections to Particular 3.  The amendments were not adverse or prejudicial to the Registrant and there was no objection from her. The Panel decided that it was appropriate for the amendments to Particulars 2 and 3 to be made.

Documents

4. The Panel received the HCPC hearing bundle, comprising sections A to D and ending at page D44.  From the Registrant, the Panel received a witness statement dated 13 July 2019 and several exhibits.  

Background

5. The Registrant was first registered as a Social Worker with the HCPC on 26 November 2016.  She was employed by Kent County Council (KCC) as a Newly Qualified Social Worker in the Adult Health and Social Care Directorate.

6. In November 2017, at the time of seeking to register the Registrant for the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (“ASYE”), a mandatory course of assessment on the Skills for Care portal, it was brought to the attention of the ASYE Co-ordinator, EJ, that the Registrant did not appear to be currently registered with the HCPC.  The Registrant was asked to check the position with the HCPC.  In an email dated 20 November 2017, she informed EJ that she was due to make a payment of her HCPC registration fee and would do so on that Friday (24 November 2017). 

7. It was later established that the Registrant had been removed from the HCPC Register for non-payment of her registration fee on 7 November 2017. The removal followed the Registrant having been sent correspondence by the HCPC on 4 October and 24 October 2017 reminding her that her fee required to be paid.  The letter dated 24 October 2017 stated expressly that if the fee was not paid within the next 14 days the Registrant risked her name being removed from the HCPC Register. 

8. The position was not rectified and on 7 November 2017 the Registrant’s name was removed from the HCPC Register.  The HCPC’s letter dated 7 November 2017, at the time of the removal, stated “as you are no longer registered you must stop using any title that is protected by the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 or doing anything else that would lead a person to believe that your name remains on the HCPC Register”. 

9. It subsequently came to the attention of the Registrant’s managers that she had not informed them that her HCPC registration had been removed and therefore, she had practised as a Social Worker in employment with KCC whilst unregistered from 7 November 2017 to 22 January 2018.  
 
10. On 2 February 2018, the Registrant paid the required fee and was re-admitted to the HCPC Register.  She remained employed by KCC.  KCC referred the Registrant to the HCPC on 5 April 2018.

Response to the charge

11. Ms Hurd confirmed that the Registrant admitted the facts alleged in Particulars 1, 2 and 3.  She denied Particular 4 (dishonesty). The Panel took note of the indication that the Registrant would admit that, if found proved, the facts would constitute misconduct, but that she would deny that her fitness to practise is impaired. 

Evidence for the HCPC

Witness EJ

12. EJ was the ASYE Co-Ordinator who administered the ASYE and registered newly qualified Social Workers on the Skills for Care portal.  Following seeking to register the Registrant on the Portal, she was contacted by the Skills for Care team who indicated they had not been able to confirm the Registrant’s HCPC registration number with the HCPC.

13. EJ explained that initially, the management at KCC believed the issue was an administrative matter relating to late payment by the Registrant of her fee.  When EJ contacted the Registrant about the matter on 16 November 2017, she (the Registrant) responded by email dated 20 November 2017 saying she had not realised there was any issue but, having contacted the HCPC, she was now aware there was an outstanding fee and she that she would make payment of the fee on that Friday. EJ said that she trusted that the Registrant would make the payment. 

14. Later in January 2018, it came to EJ’s attention that the fee had not been paid by the Registrant and she and the ASYE Lead, MM, realised that the issue might relate to the Registrant’s registration having been “suspended”, rather than it being a purely administrative matter.  EJ called the Registrant on 22 January 2018 and informed her that KCC believed that her HCPC registration had been suspended and that she needed to inform her line manager urgently as she may be practising whilst suspended.  EJ’s evidence was that she was unsure if the Registrant was aware that her registration had been “suspended” (as she described it), since at no time during the conversation did the Registrant inform her of this.
  
15. When the position came to light in January 2018, the Registrant’s ASYE programme was put on hold.  She re-joined the programme in May 2018, once she had been reinstated to the HCPC Register.

The HCPC’s application to hear the evidence of Witness JM by telephone

16. Ms Mond-Wedd informed the Panel that JM had not attended the hearing to give her evidence in person at the expected time, 12.30 pm on the first day of the hearing.    Preliminary investigations indicated there had been some miscommunication between the HCPC and JM and arrangements for her attendance had not in fact been finalised. JM had however made herself available to give evidence by telephone at 3pm.  Ms Mond-Wedd submitted it was within the powers of the Panel and was in the interests of fairness and expedition for JM to give her evidence by telephone. 

17. Ms Hurd on behalf of the Registrant responded that the resulting delay in the progress of the hearing was unfair to the Registrant, but did not object to JM’s evidence being given by telephone rather than in person, or, were it possible, by video-link or Skype facilities. Ms Hurd did not wish the proceedings to be adjourned in order to hear JM’s evidence in person on a future date. 
  
18. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor.  The Panel determined that although the circumstances and resulting slight delay to the hearing were unfortunate, it was appropriate, and in the public interest, to hear the evidence of JM. In giving evidence by telephone, JM would be able to be cross-examined on behalf of the Registrant and questioned by the Panel.  The Panel noted there was no objection on behalf of the Registrant.  The Panel recognised that the proceedings were stressful for the Registrant and the delay was unfortunate, but took the view that any unfairness to her was minimal and the effect of a short delay in the progression of the case was outweighed by the importance of the public interest in JM’s evidence being heard.

Witness JM

19. JM gave evidence by telephone.  She explained that at the relevant time she was employed by KCC as a Social Care Discharge Co-ordinator.  She was the Registrant’s Supervisor at KCC, but was not her line manager or her supervisor in relation to the ASYE.   

20. JM explained that the Registrant was employed as a Case Manager whose role was to manage a caseload of patients awaiting discharge from hospital, working closely with patients and their families to settle any disputes when a family was not happy for their relative to return home. 

21. JM said that the Registrant approached her on 22 January 2018 informing her that “They’ve found out through my ASYE registration that I’m not HCPC registered”.  She had asked what the problem was and the Registrant said it was because she had not paid her registration fee.  She did not offer any further explanation. JM confirmed that the Registrant had never mentioned the matter to her before 22 January 2018.  

22. When it was established that the Registrant’s name had been removed from the HCPC Register, the issue was escalated within KCC and investigated further, with the result that the Registrant was removed from responsibility for her cases.  From that time until her HCPC registration was reinstated, she worked as a case officer, a paper-based role which did not require HCPC registration.
 
23. JM explained the risk caused by the Registrant having practised as a social worker whilst not registered, namely that her decision-making on patient cases at Best Interest Meetings or in respect of Mental Capacity Assessments (“MCAs”), might be challenged legally.  JM subsequently conducted a visual risk assessment of the Registrant’s work during the period of suspension and counter-signed her work.  She found that the Registrant had conducted MCAs during the period when she was not registered, but JM had countersigned all of these at the time because the Registrant was newly qualified.  

24. JM said that she had found the Registrant a good, reflective practitioner.  She had always found her to be honest and credible.  In her view, the Registrant understood her professional obligations in respect of registration and the legal consequences of not being properly registered. 

Witness MR

25. The Panel received the signed witness statement of MR, dated 4 April 2019.  MR is the HCPC Registrations Manager. His witness statement described how registration fee payments are collected from HCPC registrants.  He also exhibited the letters dated 4 October, 24 October and 7 November 2017 which were sent by the HCPC to the Registrant at her HCPC registered address. He further confirmed that the Registrant’s registered address did not change during the relevant period.  He produced a record showing that on 16 November 2017, the Registrant contacted the HCPC by telephone and she was advised of the readmission process.

Evidence of the Registrant

26. The Registrant gave evidence and confirmed her witness statement dated 13 July 2019. She confirmed her admissions to the facts alleged in Particulars 1, 2 and 3.

27. The Registrant told the Panel that the position at KCC was her first role as a qualified Social Worker.  The Registrant explained that at this time she was trying to cope with the responsibilities of her new role and living away from home and was struggling financially.  She explained that she had moved away from home because of the long commute and to improve her work life balance.

28. During her oral evidence, the Registrant said that she had not seen any of the letters from the HCPC, including the letter of 26 November 2016 initially confirming her registration, and the letters of 4 October and 12 October and 7 November 2017 concerning the outstanding registration fee and informing her about her removal from the register for non-payment of her fee.  The Registrant was unable to explain why she had not seen, or did not recall seeing, these letters.  She accepted they had been sent by the HCPC to the correct address where she was living at the time.  She said she had moved to her mother’s address later, in around July 2018. 

29. The Registrant said that at the time she applied for registration she completed a form sent by the HCPC to set up a direct debit.  However, she thought that she had paid the full fee up to December 2018, as this was the date shown on her HCPC registration card.  She was not aware that direct debit payments were taken from her account in the period up to 3 October 2017 when the direct debit payment was rejected.  She said she did not recall any communications from her bank about the rejected payment. 

30. The Registrant was asked questions about the date when she was actually aware that she had been removed from the HCPC Register.  After questions in cross-examination, she accepted that she was aware from 16 November 2017 when she was in communication with EJ.

31. The Registrant accepted that on 20 November 2017 she told EJ that she would pay the outstanding fee on Friday 24 November 2017.  However, she did not do so due to not having the funds.  She did not accept that she was dishonest in this respect, because she had intended to make the payment, but had later been unable to do so. 

32. The Registrant accepted that she did not make her managers aware that she had not made the required payment and rectified the position and that she therefore remained off the HCPC Register.  She told the Panel that this was because she was worried about her job and that she would not be able to practise any more, and because she did not want to be judged by her colleagues.  When it was put to the Registrant that from that date when she was aware that she was not on the HCPC register and still continued to practise as a Social Worker, this was dishonest, she accepted that it was. 

33. The Registrant accepted that she did not inform her manager that she was no longer registered, but said she assumed that management would be told by EJ.  She could not explain how, given the understanding she expressed of the importance of being registered and the potential consequences, she believed it was possible for her to continue to practise as a Social Worker.  

Legal advice at facts stage

34. The Panel received and applied the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was reminded that the burden of proof was upon the HCPC which brought the allegations: it was not for the Registrant to prove her innocence. The standard of proof was the civil standard, on the balance of probabilities.

35. The Panel was reminded it could take account of the factual admissions made by the Registrant.  If the Panel 

36. found factual Particulars 2 and 3 proved, it should then consider whether these actions constituted dishonesty, as alleged in Particular 4.

37. The Panel was reminded of the test relating to dishonesty as set out by the Supreme Court in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67. The test was set out as follows: “When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”

38. In this case, given the allegation of dishonesty, the Panel should take account of the evidence it had heard concerning the Registrant’s previous good character at the facts stage, as well as the subsequent stages, if reached.  In relation to evidence of personal mitigation, this should be considered in relation to the sanction stage, if reached. 

Decision on Facts

39. The Panel carefully considered all the evidence presented. It accepted and applied the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered the credibility of the HCPC’s witnesses and of the Registrant.

40. The Panel found EJ to be a straightforward, clear and credible witness.  It accepted her evidence, which was largely uncontested.  JM was also a credible and professional witness.  Her evidence was balanced, as she spoke highly of the Registrant’s character and her professional practice, but also recognised the seriousness of the events which had occurred. The Panel accepted the written witness statement of MR, the HCPC Registrations Manager, whose evidence related to factual matters.   

41. In respect of the Registrant, the Panel observed that her explanations had varied over the course of these events.  There were areas of inconsistency in her evidence until, finally, at the end of her oral evidence to the Panel, she accepted that she knew that she had been removed from the HCPC Register from at least 16 November 2017 and was no longer entitled to practise as a Social Worker, and that she had therefore been dishonest in continuing to practise after that date.    The Panel did however find the Registrant’s evidence about the learning, reflection and insight she has worked on and developed since these events to be credible and genuine, albeit the Panel was mindful that the evidence on these issues would be relevant at a later stage of the process, if reached.

Particular 1 – Found Proved

42. It was a matter of fact that the Registrant’s name was removed from the HCPC Register on 7 November 2017 due to non-payment of her registration fees.  This particular was supported by the evidence of MR, the HCPC Registrations Manager, and the documentary evidence.  The Registrant admitted this allegation.   

43. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that this particular was proved.

Particular 2 – Found Proved

44. The Registrant admitted that on 20 November 2017 she informed the ASYE Co-ordinator, EJ, that she would pay the registration fee on Friday (24 November 2017) but she did not do so.  This particular was supported by the evidence of EJ regarding her telephone discussion with the Registrant, the email of 20 November 2017 from the Registrant and the documentary evidence.

45. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that this particular was proved.

Particular 3 – Found Proved

46. The evidence of JM and EJ supported this particular.  The Registrant admitted as a matter of fact that she did practise as a Social Worker from the date of 7 November 2017, when her name was removed from the Register by the HCPC, until 22 January 2018, the date when management at KCC became aware that the Registrant was no longer on the HCPC Register.  She was then removed from her Case Manager role to a case worker position which did not require HCPC registration.

47. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that this particular was proved.

Particular 4 – Found Not Proved in respect of Particular 2; Proved in respect of Particular 3

48. Particular 4 alleged that in respect of Particulars 2 and 3, the Registrant had acted dishonestly.  The Panel as advised took account of the Registrant’s previous good character.
 
49. In respect of Particular 2, the Panel accepted the Registrant’s account that when she told the ASYE Co-ordinator, EJ, on 20 November 2017 that she would pay the outstanding fee on Friday (24 November 2017), it was her genuine intention to pay the fee and resolve the situation regarding her HCPC registration. The Panel did not consider that at this time the Registrant did not really intend to pay the fee. It accepted it was the Registrant’s honest intention to pay the fee to rectify the position regarding her registration.  Due to her financial circumstances it transpired subsequently that the Registrant was not able pay the fee.  Whilst it was unfortunate and unacceptable that the Registrant was not able to comply with the assurance she had given to EJ, the Panel did not consider this could properly be characterised as dishonesty as alleged.  Considering the second part of the Ivey test, the Panel did not believe that ordinary decent people would consider the Registrant’s conduct to have been dishonest.

50. In relation to Particular 3, in her evidence to the Panel, the Registrant ultimately accepted that she had been dishonest in continuing to practise whilst not registered.  Considering the first part of the Ivey test, the Panel concluded that the Registrant was aware of her obligation to be registered with the HCPC in order to practise in her role at KCC, that she was aware from mid-November 2017 that her name had been removed from the Register for non-payment of the registration fee and that she was also aware that she should not practise whilst she was not registered.  The Panel concluded that at this time, the Registrant had a good degree of understanding of the potential risks and harm which could result from practising whilst unregistered, although she has clearly developed a deeper understanding and insight into the significance of these issues during this process. 

51. As to the date, although she initially denied dishonesty and gave differing accounts during the hearing as to the date when she was first aware that her name had been removed from the HCPC Register, it was clear from the evidence that the latest date when the Registrant was aware of this was 16 November 2017, when she was contacted by EJ and then contacted the HCPC herself. The Panel found the Registrant’s evidence about the earlier period (from 7 November 2017) less clear and was not satisfied by the Registrant’s explanations as to why she did not see the three letters from the HCPC in October and November 2017.  She did accept that the correspondence was sent to the address where she was living at the time, which was her registered address with the HCPC. Nevertheless, taking the date as 16 November 2017, the Registrant practised whilst not registered with the HCPC for a period of at least 2 months.
 
52. The Registrant accepted in her oral evidence that she had reasons for not ceasing to practise when she knew she was no longer registered: she was worried about keeping her employment and was worried about being judged by her colleagues. However, the Panel concluded that by continuing to practise, the Registrant was effectively holding herself out as appropriately registered as a Social Worker with the HCPC when she was not.  In the light of the Registrant’s knowledge and state of mind at the time, the Panel concluded that ordinary decent people would consider this to be dishonest behaviour.

53. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that dishonesty was proved in respect of Particular 3.   Dishonesty was not proved in respect of Particular 2.

Decision on Grounds

54. Ms Mond-Wedd submitted that the matters found proved by the Panel constituted misconduct. Ms Hurd, on behalf of the Registrant, confirmed the earlier admission of misconduct.

55. The Panel considered the submissions of both parties. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note, Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired (22 March 2017) (“the Practice Note”).

56. In respect of misconduct, the Panel was advised that this was a matter for its own judgement, rather than the application of the legal standard of proof. The Panel was reminded that according to the regulatory case law authorities, it is accepted that not every falling short of the required standards amounts to misconduct.  In order to find misconduct, the Panel must be satisfied that the falling short is serious.

57. In respect of Particular 1, all HCPC registered Social Workers are required to ensure they comply with their regulatory obligations and they must maintain current and effective registration.  This underpins the statutory regulatory scheme under the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

58. The Panel noted that the HCPC provides a series of reminders about overdue registration fees over a period of time before registration is finally removed and it was unclear to the Panel how these communications did not come to the attention of the Registrant in this case, given that she accepted that she was living at the address to which they were sent.

59. The Panel took the view that for a Social Worker to allow their registration to lapse due to non-payment of fees is unprofessional, but this matter alone would not amount to misconduct.  However, in this case, this matter falls to be considered with the Registrant’s conduct in Particular 3. The Registrant knowingly practised whilst not registered for a period of at least around 2 months. Although there were some extenuating personal circumstances at the time (which the Panel would take account of at the sanctions stage, if reached) this is nonetheless a serious matter and goes to the heart of the regulatory scheme which the HCPC operates in the public interest. The Registrant’s actions put service users and the public at risk and would undermine public confidence in the Social Work profession and in the HCPC as regulator of the profession.

60. The Panel considered that the following paragraphs from the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England (January 2017) are relevant:

2 - Be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession.

2.10 - Understand what is required of them by the Health and Care Professions Council.

61. In respect of Particular 4, the Registrant acted dishonestly in practising whilst not registered and in circumstances in which she knew she was not registered.  The public expects social workers to act with honesty and integrity and to comply with standards.  The Panel considered that the following paragraphs from the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (January 2016) are relevant:

9.1 - “You must make sure your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.”

62. The Panel also considered the following paragraph from the Standards of Proficient for Social Workers in England (January 2017) to be relevant;

3.1 - “Understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and
professional conduct”

63. In the Panel’s judgment, the Registrant’s conduct fell seriously short of the expected standards and the Panel found misconduct proved in respect of Particulars 1, 3 and 4. 

64. In respect of Particular 2, the Panel considered that this was a statement of fact which it had not found to constitute dishonesty and the Panel did not find it amounted to misconduct. 

Decision on Impairment

65. The Panel next considered whether in the light of its finding of misconduct the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.  The Panel referred to the approach set out in the Practice Note. It was reminded by the Legal Assessor that not every finding of misconduct will necessarily result in a conclusion that there is current impairment. This is a matter for the judgment of the Panel. The Panel was mindful of the need to protect service users and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect.  That public interest includes the protection of service users and maintenance of public confidence in the profession.

66. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Mond-Wedd, who submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired in relation to both the personal and public components of current impairment.  Ms Hurd submitted that the Registrant had remedied her past conduct and that the Panel should find her fitness to practise is not currently impaired.
 
67. In relation to the personal component of current impairment, the Panel was of the view that the Registrant had remedied her misconduct in respect of the registration issues.  She had satisfied the Panel in her oral and written evidence that she had made considerable progress in reflecting on her past actions.  She has now demonstrated a full understanding of her responsibilities in respect of maintaining her HCPC registration, of being open and frank with her employer if there are problems and seeking help when she needs it.  The Registrant has also shown that she understands the potential risk to which service users and the public were exposed by her conduct, and the impact upon her colleagues and her employer. 

68. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has learned a salutary lesson from these events and has made significant steps to remedy this conduct such that the Panel is satisfied it is highly unlikely that similar circumstances will arise again in relation to the Registrant’s HCPC registration.

69. The Panel is, however, mindful that dishonesty is an attitudinal issue which is more difficult to remediate. The Panel had a residual concern about the inconsistencies in the Registrants’ account of events.  She maintained her denial that she was aware of her removal from the Register until a late stage in this hearing.  The Panel gives her credit for finally acknowledging that her conduct was not honest, but it came late in the day. 

70. In relation to the public component of current impairment, the Panel concluded that public trust and confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of current impairment were not made in this case, in the light of its finding of dishonesty by the Registrant in relation to the registration matters.  A Social Worker’s failure to adhere to their professional and legal obligations in respect of registration undermines the regulatory scheme for Social Workers and public confidence in the profession and brings the profession into disrepute.  

71. The Panel accordingly finds the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be currently impaired in relation to both the personal and the public components of current impairment.

Decision on Sanction 

72. Ms Mond-Wedd made submissions on the issue of sanction. She did not propose a particular sanction on behalf of the HCPC, but referred the Panel to the guidance in the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (effective from July 2019) (“the Sanctions Policy”) and reminded the Panel of the correct approach at this stage of the process.   She referred to the requirement for the Panel to give full reasons for its decision on sanction, in particular were it to impose a sanction which departed from the Sanctions Policy guidance.

73. In her submissions on behalf of the Registrant, Ms Hurd told the Panel that the Registrant wished to express her remorse and a sincere apology for her action.  She had taken on board the indication in the Panel’s earlier decision of its concern about the inconsistencies in her accounts and her late acceptance of her dishonest conduct.

74. Ms Hurd said that the Registrant accepted the findings of the Panel. She said that the Registrant had found it difficult to admit, even to herself, what she had known and when, but in the course of this regulatory process she had begun to face up to this.  She accepted she now had to regain the trust of the profession, the HCPC and the public. 

75. Ms Hurd reminded the Panel of the context in which the misconduct had taken place and of the difficult personal circumstances of the Registrant at the time.  She referred the Panel to the character references submitted in support of the Registrant. Ms Hurd submitted that when giving evidence about professional matters, the Registrant had demonstrated her commitment and enthusiasm for social work and Ms Hurd submitted that in future, the Registrant would become a credit to the profession.

76. Ms Hurd’s submission was that the Panel might consider that no action or a Caution Order would be sufficient in the circumstances, but the Registrant would be willing to work with a mentor and provide a further reflective piece if the Panel thought this appropriate as part of a Conditions of Practice Order.  

Panel decision on sanction

77. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish, although a sanction may necessarily have a punitive effect. 

78. The Panel bore in mind that its primary function at this stage is to protect the public, while reaching a proportionate sanction, taking into account the wider public interest and the interests of the Registrant. Proportionality required the Panel to consider the available sanctions in ascending order of gravity.  When the Panel reached the appropriate sanction, it should go on to consider whether any higher sanction was necessary to protect the public before reaching its final decision. The Panel referred to the Sanctions Policy and applied it in the context of the Registrant’s case on its own facts and circumstances.

79. The Panel carefully considered the mitigating and aggravating factors in the case.  The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

• There had been no complaints against the Registrant prior to the incidents which were the subject of the present allegation;

• There had been no further complaints against the Registrant since the events;

• There was no concern relating to her competence;

• The Registrant had, in the course of this hearing, come to full acceptance that her actions in practising whilst not registered were dishonest;

• Through her representative she had now expressed her sincere remorse and apology;

• At the time of the events in question, the Registrant was working in her first employment at KCC, as a Newly Qualified Social Worker;

• The Registrant demonstrated in her oral and written evidence that she has undertaken significant reflection and remediation concerning the importance of compliance with requirements relating to registration with the HCPC.  She has satisfied the Panel she has full insight into this aspect;

• The Registrant has satisfied the Panel that she has begun to develop insight into the issues of honesty and integrity and continued to further develop that insight in the course of this hearing;

• The incidents relating to her conduct did not result in direct harm to public safety or to service users;

• The Registrant has provided supportive professional testimonials.  These include references from her former managers at KCC, addressed to the HCPC.  These references indicate that the writers have knowledge of the HCPC proceedings.  They speak highly of the Registrant’s professional practice and also of their own experience of her honesty and integrity;

• A statement was also provided by NC, Practice Development Officer in Adult Social Services at KCC, who was the Registrant’s ASYE Assessor from August 2018. He states that he undertook one to one reflective sessions with the Registrant over a six-month period in which the registration issues were discussed.  He confirmed the development he observed in the Registrant’s understanding of the issues.  He confirmed that the Registrant successfully met the standards required by the ASYE;

• The document “The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment in adult and child and family social work” dated 24 October 2018 included an assessment by NC. This confirmed how the Registrant had reflected on her practice and it referred to service user feedback which it stated was particularly strong and said that the Registrant had been able “to maintain person centred relationships-based practice and also develop strong collaborative relationships with other professionals”.
 
80. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

• The allegation involved dishonesty;

• The Registrant’s conduct had put service users and the public at potential risk of harm;

• There were some inconsistencies in the accounts the Registrant had given during the HCPC process.

81. In this case, the Panel has made a finding of dishonesty concerning the Registrant having continued to practise as a Social Worker when she knew that she was no longer on the HCPC Register. The Panel has concluded that the risk of repetition of any issues concerning compliance with the HCPC’s requirements concerning the Registrant’s registration is low in the light of the insight she has shown and the remediation she has undertaken.

82. The Panel concluded that, during this hearing, the Registrant has begun to fully acknowledge the dishonesty.  In her own words, she “buried her head in the sand”. She has engaged fully with this process and the Panel has acknowledged the Registrant’s acceptance of its findings in this case. It has concluded that there now appears to be developing insight, which reassures the Panel that there is not a significant risk that the Registrant would act dishonestly in the future.
 
83. The Panel referred to the Sanctions Policy on the subject of findings of involving dishonesty, at paragraphs 56 to 58.  The guidance confirms that there are different forms and degrees of dishonesty which need to be considered in an appropriately nuanced way.

84. Considering the factors set out, in the guidance:

a. the Panel was of the view that the dishonesty in this case concerned a single issue, although given that it extended over a period of time, it could not be said to be “isolated”;

b. the Registrant’s role was “passive”, inasmuch as it resulted from a failure to take positive action to rectify matters.  The Panel concluded that her difficult circumstances at the time contributed to her inability to face these matters and she has told the Panel about the strategies she has now put in place to address these issues;

c. there were early admissions to the facts.  Whilst there was no early admission of dishonesty, the Registrant has now reached the position of fully accepting her dishonesty, in the course of this hearing; 

d. there were mitigating factors, as identified above. 

85. The Panel thus considered the issue of sanction and applied the policy with these factors in mind and in light of all of the circumstances. The Panel considered what sanction, if any, should be applied, and considered the sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.

Mediation or No Further Action

86. The Panel concluded that mediation was not a means by which the misconduct in this case would be appropriately addressed.

87. The public interest would not be protected if the Panel were to take no further action in a case of this seriousness.

88. The Panel’s view was that a sanction was necessary to address the Registrant’s misconduct, but also to act as a deterrent and to uphold public confidence in both the profession and the regulator.
Caution

89. The Panel acknowledged that the finding of dishonesty is a serious matter. As indicated above, there were however significant extenuating circumstances in this case.    The Panel considered the factors relevant to a Caution order in the Sanctions Policy:

a. The issue was limited to dishonesty in relation to the registration issue: there is no suggestion of dishonesty in any other aspect and in this case, there were mitigating factors;
 
b. The Panel was satisfied there was a low risk of repetition of any issue relating to registration.  It has indicated it had residual concerns about the dishonesty finding, but it does accept that the Registrant’s process of gaining insight has developed further during this hearing; 

c. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation in relation to her understanding of the registration issues.  She has now begun to reflect fully on the issues of honesty and integrity.

90. The Panel now considers that a Caution Order would be sufficient to mark the seriousness of the Panel’s findings, to protect the public and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel does not consider that an order restricting the Registrant’s right to practise is proportionate or necessary.

Conditions of Practice Order

91. In the circumstances of this case, the Panel did not consider that conditions could be formulated which would appropriately address the issue.  The Panel was mindful of the extensive reflection the Registrant has already undertaken and considers that little more would be achieved by requiring mentoring or further reflection.  

Suspension

92. The Panel did give careful consideration to whether a period of suspension would be appropriate.  However, it reached the conclusion that this would be disproportionate in the circumstances.  The Panel took the view that the public and the Social Work profession, looking at all the circumstances of this case, would consider that a Caution Order would satisfactorily mark the seriousness of the matter, would address the public interest and maintain public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator.

Duration of the Caution Order

93. The Panel determined that two years is the period which adequately marks its finding of misconduct in this matter and which will ensure public confidence is maintained.
 

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register entry of Miss Lisa T Chidavaenzi with a caution which is to remain on the Register for a period of 2 years from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the Order it has made against you.
Under Article 29(10) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  The Panel’s Order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Lisa T Chidavaenzi

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution