Miss Nichola Jane Evans

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW05653

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 13:00 29/07/2019 End: 17:00 29/07/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

During the course of your employment with Manchester City Council, you;

 

1. Were employed as a Social Worker whilst not registered with the Health and Care Professions Council between 07 May 2014 and 23 May 2016.

 

2. Provided incorrect information in relation to the date on which you last practiced as a Social Worker on your application to re-join the Health and Care Professions Council Register.

 

3. The matter set out at paragraph 2 was dishonest.

 

4. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 3 above constitutes misconduct.

 

5. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practice is impaired.  

Finding

Preliminary Matters 
Notice and Proceeding in Absence
1. The Panel was satisfied that good and proper notice in terms of the relevant Rules had been made on the Registrant by letter from the HCPC to her registered address on 28 June 2019 advising her of the date, time and venue of the review.

2. Miss Simpson advised the Panel that the Registrant had received notice of the review. An email letter was also sent to the Registrant on 10 July 2019 by the HCPC reminding her of the review and the information that would assist the Panel at the review.  Miss Simpson advised that the Registrant had made no contact with the HCPC and has not engaged. She submitted that in the circumstances it was appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant as she had voluntarily absented herself and there was a public interest in proceeding with this mandatory review. The Registrant has not previously engaged with the HCPC and did not attend and was not represented at the substantive hearing.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.  The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and to the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in Absence.  He reminded the Panel of the importance of fairness to the Registrant and the need to balance that with fairness to the Regulator and the public interest.  

4. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant knows about the hearing and took account of the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in Absence.  It weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of a case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.  In reaching its decision the Panel took into account that the Registrant has had good notice of the hearing and had not engaged with the HCPC. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has waived her right to attend, and having weighed the public interest against the Registrant’s interests, the Panel decided to proceed in her absence.

Background
5. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker who at the relevant time was employed by Manchester City Council.  At the substantive hearing on 2 and 3 August 2018 the Panel found that the Registrant had worked whilst not registered with the HCPC and had dishonestly completed her HCPC renewal form.

6. The panel at the substantive hearing found the facts proved and it concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct.  That panel found the Registrant had been dishonest when applying to re-join the HCPC register by declaring that she last worked as a Social Worker on 22 October 2014, when in fact she had practised as a Social Worker whilst not registered with the HCPC for a period between 7 May 2014 and 23 May 2016. It had imposed a 12 month Suspension Order.
 
7. The Registrant was a senior Social Worker with management and policy responsibilities.  That panel found that the Registrant’s actions had fallen far below the standards expected of her and found that the Registrant had altered her position during her employer’s investigation. She had also knowingly provided inaccurate information to the HCPC about her registration.  That panel found her insight was limited and that she had not reflected on her dishonesty. The Registrant’s difficult personal circumstances were taken account of by that panel in its determination.

HCPC Submissions
8. Miss Simpson advised that despite the terms of the substantive hearing decision the Registrant has made no contact with the HCPC and there was no evidence of reflection, insight or remediation.

9. Miss Simpson advised that another HCPC Fitness to Practice hearing has taken place on 3 - 5 June 2019 regarding the Registrant’s fitness to practice. The Allegation found proved related to the Registrant contacting service users inappropriately through social media.  The panel at that hearing found misconduct and the Registrant’s fitness to practice impaired. It imposed a 1 year Caution Order. That panel found the Registrant had shown considerable insight and it had taken account of her personal circumstances. 

10. Miss Simpson submitted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC in this case and there was no evidence of her insight or remediation, and there was a risk of repetition. She submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired and submitted that the appropriate sanction was a Strike Off Order given the lack of evidence of insight and remediation.

11. Ms Simpson reminded the Panel of its powers of review and that it should assess current impairment and, if relevant, consider sanction.  Ms Simpson submitted that the Panel requires to review the Registrant’s fitness to practise as of today and that, if it finds the Registrant’s fitness to practise impaired, it may impose the full range of sanctions.

Legal Advice
12. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if she is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role is not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations or to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment and have regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment. 

13. The Legal Assessor advised that if the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, it should have regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy and be mindful of the principles of fairness and proportionality. He reminded the Panel that any sanction it imposes should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public or is otherwise in the public interest.

Decision
14. The Panel considered all the information before it and Miss Simpson’s submissions.  The Panel noted the further Fitness to Practice finding against the Registrant in June 2019 which resulted in the imposition of a Caution Order and that the Registrant had engaged in this particular matter.

15. However, there has been a complete lack of engagement by the Registrant in this current case and she has provided no evidence of remediation or insight into her actions, despite being a senior Social Worker.  The finding of misconduct, including dishonesty, is serious.  The Panel decided there remains a risk of repetition and, in these circumstances, it concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains currently impaired.

16. The Panel next considered the issue of sanction and the HCPC Sanction Policy.  The findings of misconduct and dishonesty are serious and neither Mediation nor a Caution Order would be proportionate or appropriate as they would fail to protect the public, maintain confidence in the profession or reflect the nature and gravity of those findings.

17. The complete lack of engagement by the Registrant makes the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order inappropriate. There is nothing to suggest that the Registrant is willing to engage with any conditions that might be imposed.  Further, given the lack of any evidence of insight or remediation, and the finding of dishonesty, it would not be possible to devise workable and realistic conditions of practice which would sufficiently protect the public and the public interest. 

18. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order.  The Registrant has already been subject to a period of Suspension. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in paragraph 121 of the Sanctions Policy as regards the imposition of such an order, such as where the Registrant has insight, the issues are unlikely to be repeated and there is evidence that the Registrant can resolve her failings. 

19. The Registrant has been subject to a Suspension Order for 12 months and she has not engaged with the HCPC in respect of this matter. She has provided no evidence of remediation or insight into her misconduct and dishonesty. The Panel has identified a risk of repetition and, there is no evidence that the Registrant is able or willing to resolve or remedy her failings. In these circumstances the Panel concluded that a Suspension Order was not the appropriate or proportionate sanction.

20. The Panel concluded that there is a persistent lack of insight, no evidence of remediation and no evidence of any willingness by the Registrant to resolve matters. Coupled with the finding of dishonesty, the Panel concluded that any lesser sanction than a Striking Off Order would fail to protect the public and would also fail to uphold proper standards and maintain public trust and confidence in the Social Work profession.

21. In all of the circumstances of this case, the Panel concluded that a Striking Off Order is the appropriate and proportionate sanction.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Miss Nichola Jane Evans from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 31 August 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Nichola Jane Evans

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
29/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
03/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution