Mr Iain Paul Dickinson

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW24532

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 30/07/2019 End: 17:00 20/08/2019

Location: Mercure Hull Grange Park Hotel Hull, HU10 6EA, United Kingdom

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

(As amended at the final hearing commencing 30 July 2019)

Between March 2016 and March 2017, whilst registered as a Social Worker, you:

1. Knew that Person A had been suspended and / or removed from the HCPC Register, and you:

a) Did not take reasonable steps to ensure that Person A did not continue to hold herself out as a Social Worker and / or carry out social work; and / or

b) Did not inform one or both of the following that Person A was holding herself out as a Social Worker and / or was carrying out social work after or despite her being suspended and / or removed from the HCPC Register:

i) the Governors of Adoption Agency 1;

ii) the HCPC.

2. Provided misleading information, in or around January 2017, to Ofsted when asked about Person A's day to day role within Adoption Agency 1, including:

a) That Person A had no direct contact with adopters of Adoption Agency 1, other than at social events;

b) That Person A had not done any direct work with adopters as a Social Worker.

3. Behaved in an intimidating and / or bullying manner towards your colleagues, namely:

a) Colleague 1;

b) Colleague 2;

c) Colleague 3

4. Your actions at particular 2 were dishonest.

5. The matters described at particulars 1 to 4 constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. The Panel agreed to conduct the hearing dealing first with facts alone and all parties would submit written submissions at the close of the facts stage.

2. Ms Barlow, for Kathleen Roche (KR), explained that she would not be attending to represent her client on days when the evidence would not be challenged by her client. However, Ms Barlow indicated that this should not be taken to mean necessarily that this evidence was accepted by her client. She indicated that she would attend for the Registrant’s evidence at the close of the HCPC’s case.

3. Mr Noon, for Iain Dickinson (ID), clarified his client’s position as regards particular 2. He stated that his client denied dishonesty as the information he had provided to Ofsted had been to the best of his client’s knowledge and belief at that time.

4. Mr Millin, for the HCPC, clarified that the references in the Allegation against ID which referred to anonymised colleagues concerned the following individuals:

• Colleague 1 is Registrant KR;
• Colleague 2 is Registrant Jane Bradley (JB);
• Colleague 3 is the half-sister of ID;
• Person A is the mother of both ID and Colleague 3.

5. Mr Lloyd, for JB, indicated that his client would rely on the handwriting expert’s report (commissioned by the HCPC) in her evidence. That report concluded that JB had not signed the Prospective Adopter Reports (PAR). Ms Barlow, for KR, confirmed that she adopted the same position for her client.

6. The Panel considered the order in which the Registrant’s evidence would be heard and the parties accepted that the Panel should proceed as it considered fair and appropriate. Having accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to fairness, proportionality, expediency, and the avoidance of complexity in proceedings, and mindful of the difficulties faced by KR with her representation, the Panel decided that it was fair, appropriate and expedient that, after hearing the HCPC case, it would hear the evidence of ID, JB and KR in that order.

Application to Amend Allegation in respect of ID

7. Mr Millin advised that the words “and/or” had been inadvertently missed out between particulars 1(a) and 1(b) in the allegation in respect of ID. Mr Noon did not object and, having taken legal advice, the Panel decided to allow that amendment as no prejudice arose and the amendment corrected a simple, typographical error.

The Registrants’ response to the Allegation

8. The three Allegations were read. JB admitted particular 1(a) in part, 1(b) and 1(c). Mr Lloyd, for JB, explained that from December 2016 JB was aware of the Striking Off from the HCPC Register of Person A, and she was aware Person A was holding herself out as a Social Worker. JB believed, however, that Person A was not carrying out social work. JB accepted that she should have reported Person A and she admitted misconduct. JB admitted Particular 2, but denied dishonesty.

9. KR denied the Allegation, but admitted particular 6.

10. ID denied the Allegation in its entirety.

Background

11. Adoption Agency 1 (the Agency) is a Voluntary Adoption Agency which was registered on 20 January 2014. It was set up by Person A, then the Director and Adoption Manager, and the Registrant Iain Dickinson (ID), who was the Responsible Individual, Agency Decision Maker and a Director. The Agency was owned by Person A and ID, both of whom were Registered Social Workers.

12. The Agency recruited, prepared, assessed, and approved adopters for domestic adoption and worked with Local Authorities nationwide in order to place children with approved adopters. The Agency provided support to the adoptive families, including the assessment of prospective adopters and the placement of children. Person A is the birth mother of ID and also witness Colleague 3.

13. In or around March 2016, Person A was suspended pending investigation by the HCPC. It is understood that Person A then took on a non-social work role within the Agency. At this point, JB was recruited by the Agency as the Adoption Manager. At the same time, KR was also employed by the Agency as a Senior Social Worker. Both JB and KR had previously carried out work for the Agency as independent Social Workers. KR had previously worked with Person A at Hull City Council.

14. On 1 December 2016, Person A was struck off the HCPC Register following a substantive hearing before a panel of a Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC. She remained at the Agency in an allegedly non-social work, administrative role.

15. The Agency underwent an Ofsted inspection from 20–24 February 2017. On the first morning of the Ofsted inspection, it is alleged that JB and KR told ID that Person A had, whilst suspended and whilst struck off, regularly been completing visits to prospective adopters and completing PARs, some of which had been signed off by JB and KR. This was alleged to have been taking place during the period when Person A was suspended from the HCPC Register.

16. It is alleged that all three Registrants, ID, JB and KR, knew that Person A had been undertaking social work and holding herself out as a Social Worker after she had been suspended in March 2016, and after she had been struck off the HCPC Register on 1 December 2016. It is further alleged that KR allowed Person A on several occasions to present, as KR’s, social work reports in KR’s name when in fact they had been completed by Person A.

17. On 25 February 2017, JB was informed by ID that a full investigation would need to be carried out in relation to these issues, and on 27 February 2017, JB and KR resigned from the Agency. It is alleged that shortly after this date they both deleted all the information from their computers at the Agency and that this was a dishonest act.

18. In March 2017, the matter was referred to the HCPC by ID. In March 2017, concerns were also raised with Ofsted by an anonymous caller which alleged that ID had concealed information from Ofsted. Further concerns were also raised in relation to ID’s alleged bullying and intimidation of staff at the Agency. A further complaint was made to the HCPC on 3 April 2017 regarding ID’s alleged behaviour.

19. The Panel heard from 13 live witnesses, including the three Registrants:

• RC - the Ofsted Inspector who inspected the Agency in February 2017;
• LA and PW - the Governors at the Agency;
• DF - the current Business Manager at the Agency;
• VJ (via videolink) - an administrative worker at the Agency at the time of the allegations, who typed minutes and reports and created paper files;
• Adopters A, B, and D - three Adopters who were service users with the Agency at the relevant time (Adopters B and D gave evidence via videolink);
• Colleague 3 - the Receptionist and a Parenting Worker at the Agency. She is the half-sister of ID;
• IB - a Social Worker at the Agency, who was called to give evidence on behalf of ID.

Witness 1 - RC

20. RC is a Social Care Regulatory Inspector with Ofsted. She inspected the Agency over five days between 20–24 February 2017. RC explained her role and said that she recalled there was a lack of written evidence at the Agency, which was very unusual.

21. RC explained that PARs are required to be completed by individuals who have 3 years’ post-qualifying experience in adoption, failing which the person signing the PAR must have that experience, and the person signing the PAR takes responsibility for the report. The person who writes the report is usually the person who also gathers and analyses the information. The point of the PAR assessment is to decide who is suitable to adopt.

22. RC said that the computers at the Agency were not linked. The PAR assessments were all in hard copy and she did not check the computers. RC said that she spoke to ID, who had told her that JB and KR had told him that day that Person A had conducted an assessment visit and asked KR to write the report. RC said that, when questioned, KR had confirmed to her that this had happened.

23. RC stated that ID had told Ofsted in writing that Person A was being replaced. She did not recall whether or not ID had advised that Person A was under investigation and had been suspended by the HCPC. She stated that it would be prohibited for Person A to gather information in respect of a PAR whilst she was suspended, as the capacity to practise as a Social Worker was required to complete a PAR. RC said there was a lack of clarity about who made management decisions at the Agency.

24. RC referred to her Ofsted report and stated that the Adoption Manager should be responsible for running the adoption agency. She reported that ID had not shown sufficient oversight and that JB had been “hampered” by Person A. However, as JB was the Manager, it was her responsibility. RC said she considered that ID was naive and lacked experience but did not, at the time of the inspection, consider ID had been dishonest or deceitful to her.

25. RC said that when she interviewed JB during the inspection, she formed the view that JB’s understanding of the practical effect of the HCPC suspension was not what she would have expected from a Social Worker.

26. RC said she considered that there was a potential for harm to service users given that less-than-thorough assessments were being done. RC said that ID had been tearful and seemed genuinely surprised when he learned that Person A had been carrying out social work tasks whilst suspended.

Witness 2 - LA

27. LA said she ran her own business providing consultancy to small businesses. She understood that JB had been taken on by the Agency as Person A had been suspended.

28. LA said she did not witness ID behaving in an abusive manner, but had heard about that from others. LA accepted she had little interaction with JB and met her only once. She said ID had never told her that Person A was under investigation by the HCPC and had been suspended. LA said she thought that ID had wanted JB to leave the Agency and was plotting to make her leave. She thought ID was manipulative. LA said she had received a text from ID talking about his “cunning plan” to make JB and KR leave the Agency.

29. LA said she received an email from Person A on 10 December 2016 telling her that Person A had been struck off by the HCPC. LA told the Panel that at the meeting with Person A and ID at Christmas 2016, Person A had been very confrontational. She thought that ID knew Person A had been suspended and had said it would “blow over”.

Witness 3 - PW

30. PW is a freelance business consultant and was a volunteer lay Governor at the Agency. He was involved in the Agency from October 2014 to March 2017. He said he thought things were kept from him when he worked for the Agency. He said that his role as Governor had no legal status.

31. PW referred to his texts with KR, where he had said the reasons for his resignation from the board of the Agency were because, “I felt the board was having the truth withheld, and that despite denial that Person A had been working as a social worker during her suspension a fact she had hidden from the board.”

32. PW confirmed that he did not know before the Governors meeting in December 2016 that Person A had been suspended by the HCPC. He agreed that the board of the Agency should have been told about that by Person A and by ID, if he knew. PW said that he did not have a detailed knowledge of the roles in the Agency and did not know about the role of an Adoption Manager. He did not recall the meeting with Person A and ID at the emergency meeting of Governors.

Witness 4 - DF

33. DF is a Business Manager who worked voluntarily at the Agency, and became full time Business Manager at the Agency in April 2017. She said she assisted Social Workers and worked as a panel member on the Agency Adoption Panel. She said that, in her time at the Agency, the business grew and Person A had moved to a more business-focused role in the Agency.

34. DF dealt with staff issues and she had not received any complaints about ID. ID was the Agency Decision Maker and so he was not involved in the details of the assessment process.

35. DF said that the files at the Agency consisted of emails, forms, and references, and computers were used to produce the paper files. She explained that PARs were a standard form that were completed and updated by the Social Workers during the assessment process.

36. DF said that the chaotic arrangements at the Agency were dealt with when she joined as a Business Manager, following the Ofsted report. DF said that when reorganising the office it appeared that many signatures on documents had been forged. She had checked with the alleged signatories and found many signatures had been forged on Agency documentation.

37. DF explained that by using the word “presented” in respect of a PAR she meant that the written report was the work of a particular Social Worker but the PAR was not orally presented to the Panel. DF said that she was sure that JB told her about Person A being suspended and struck off by the HCPC in mid-February 2017.
The Adoption Panel minutes of 21 July 2016

38. Mr Millin advised that, following her evidence, DF had located a typed version of the Adoption Panel minutes of 21 July 2016. In agreement with all parties, those minutes were produced and placed in the HCPC evidence bundle.

Witness 5 - VJ

39. VJ said that at the Agency she had checked hard copy files and kept the files up-to-date. She said the PARs would be printed off from a computer at the Agency and she recalled that ID had backed up the computers. She did not know whether the data remained on the computers.

40. VJ explained that she took the minutes of meetings by hand and also took a Dictaphone. She would then type them up at home and usually email them to Person A or DF. The minutes would then be printed off and sent to Adoption Panel members and she would place a paper copy on the file. She had no involvement in the distribution of the minutes once emailed to Person A and she would delete the electronic copy on her computer. She would not alter her notes or her recording in any way. VJ said she had also proofread reports for the Adoption Panel and Person A would sometimes send her PARs to proofread.

41. VJ said that she saw ID backing up her computer. ID had said that the computers needed to be backed up each month. She said ID was “in a flap” when Ofsted were coming to inspect. She said that everything on the computers was printed off for each child and placed in a paper file.

42. VJ confirmed that her typed copy of the minutes of 21 July 2016 stated on page 3 that Person A was invited in to the room. VJ said she did not type “KR” as she was not in attendance; it was Person A who attended and that was what she typed. She had not previously seen the version of the minutes which stated that KR had attended.

43. VJ said she did not trust ID as he would say things like he wanted Person A to leave the Agency. VJ recalled that towards the end of 2016, and that it was probably correct to say that Person A told them that she had been struck off by the HCPC and not just suspended. JB had told her that Person A had said she had been suspended, and that Person A had said she would not be doing social work.

44. VJ said she had first learned that Person A had been struck off when JB had told her. VJ said she knew at the meeting on 21 July 2016 that Person A was not a Social Worker as she had not described her as a Social Worker in her typed minutes of that meeting. VJ accepted she must have known at that date that Person A had been suspended as Person A had not been struck off by the HCPC until December 2016.

45. VJ said she had seen ID and Colleague 3 clash and she went on to say that she had felt bullied, possibly as she was part of a cohort of staff appointed by Person A. ID and Colleague 3 often “had a go at each other” and there was always tension between them.

Witness 6 - Adopter D

46. Adopter D said that she had been told by Person A that she, Person A, was the matching Social Worker dealing with the case. Adopter D had not dealt with KR prior to the visit around 12 or 13 January 2017 and had only met KR three times. When she met KR, the Adoption Panel had already taken place and she only met KR regarding the matching process.

47. Adopter D said that Person A had told her to say that KR was her Social Worker and that KR had written the PAR. Adopter D had not been aware at that time that Person A had not been qualified to complete the PAR. Adopter D said that this was the “gist” of what KR had said to her.

Witness 7 - Adopter B

48. Adopter B said that Person A communicated with her at all times and she thought that Person A was the Social Worker on her case, although Person A did not say that to her. Adopter B was shocked when she learned KR was her Social Worker, as Adopter B had assumed that it was Person A as she had gathered all the information. KR had later explained to her that Person A was just gathering information, but Adopter A said she had not been told that and did not understand why KR had not introduced herself before. 

49. Adopter B felt she had done “something wrong”, but it finally became clear that KR was her Social Worker when that was explained by ID on the second day of the training course in December 2016.

50. She recalled that ID said that Person A was no longer working with the Agency as she had been investigated. Adopter B said she felt vulnerable as she had trusted Person A, whom it emerged was not allowed to gather the information from her. Adopter B said she had received the PAR from the Agency by email and was not told why KR had not attended the meeting with her in January 2017.

51. Adopter B stated that ID had told those attending the course that Person A had left the Agency, and did not recall if suspension or strike off had been mentioned by ID and could not recall exactly what ID had said.

52. Adopter B told the Panel that she felt she had opened up about her life to Person A, who ought not to have been obtaining information from her. She said that she was left feeling uneasy and, although no harm was done, Person A had been in a position of trust. She said the Agency as a whole had lied to her. It seemed to her that Person A should not have been doing any of the work on her case and should not have been in her house gathering information.

Witness 8 - Adopter A

53. Adopter A stated that Person A had told them that KR would be their assigned Social Worker. She did not know who completed the PAR or how it was completed, but she had assumed that the social worker who liaised with her would complete the report. Adopter A stated that KR had visited them several times before the PAR was written, but Person A had visited more often. KR had attended two meetings with Adopter A. 

54. Adopter A said her partner had found the Agency unprofessional and did not like ID. At the training with ID she said he had cut them off when they were discussing matters and did not seem interested. She had felt rushed at the training and it was a negative experience, but she had nevertheless learned a lot. She felt that she needed to keep ID “on side” as he had said he had the final say, “so you have to suck up to me”. She told ID that Person A was visiting her and ID had not expressed any concerns. Her partner and son were both upset by the situation and she said she was disgusted.

55. Adopter A stated that ID contacted her in May 2017 and told her what to say if the HCPC enquired about Person A. She could not recall exactly what was said, but he told her he had just found out that Person A had been stealing from him and had been suspended as a Social Worker. ID told her that the baby placed with her would not be taken away.

56. Adopter A said she had been stressed and became unwell as a result of the situation, as she was concerned she may lose the baby, particularly as ID had said he made the final decision. Adopter A said she felt Person A was motivated by money and that the Agency had treated her and her baby as if they were not important. It had not followed the proper process and fabricated references and Adopter A said that as a result of the experience with the Agency she did not want to go through the adoption process again.

57. Adopter A clearly understood that KR was her Social Worker and she had found KR to be very supportive. She stated she was shocked to hear about Person A’s suspension from the HCPC. Adopter A said ID did not tell her that Person A had been suspended or struck off and she considered JB had been caught up in the situation. She thought that the Agency had rushed the adoption process through in order to get paid. Adopter A said she thought that Person A and ID were working together and were fabricating evidence to get the money for the placement of the child. It was her view that these actions were motivated by financial gain.

Witness 9 - Colleague 3

58. Colleague 3 is the half-sister of ID, and the daughter of Person A. She worked with ID and Person A at the Agency and was responsible for recruiting and training adopters. Colleague 3 had relevant training but no relevant formal qualifications. Colleague 3 said ID was abrupt with all Agency staff except for one of the parenting workers, CB.

59. Colleague 3 stated that relationships soured with ID when Person A was suspended by the HCPC in January 2016. Colleague 3 said Person A told her and ID in January 2016 that Person A was being investigated and she anticipated being suspended by the HCPC. Colleague 3 stated that when Person A was suspended, ID had suggested bringing in a Manager for the Agency.

60. Colleague 3 stated that KR and JB were not told about this when they later joined the Agency. Person A was embarrassed and did not want others knowing about the HCPC investigation. Colleague 3 had assumed Person A was not doing Social Work as Person A was running the office whilst she was suspended. She said ID knew what Person A was doing as he had white boards in his office with details of who was doing what and who was working on each case. She said that ID shouted a lot at work, and always claimed that he was stressed with other issues in his family life and in his other businesses. 

61. Colleague 3 said JB had been brought in as the new Manager as a result of the suspension of Person A. Colleague 3 said that it was ID’s idea to do so and that JB would not be told of the real reason for her recruitment. She said both KR and JB had always been supportive, and she had seen ID bully JB, saying he had been “horrible” to her. ID had made clear that he was “in charge” and they had all been fearful of losing their jobs.

62. Colleague 3 said she complained about ID bullying her to Person A and JB. As a result, feedback forms were completed by all staff and reviewed by the Governors of the Agency. She said that ID “got the upper hand” once Person A had been suspended, and she had become unwell as a result of the HCPC investigation. She said the “tables turned”. Colleague 3 said she was scared by ID’s behaviour and he would make jokes that he could sack her at any time. Colleague 3 said she felt bullied by ID, and felt intimidated and upset by him a lot of the time.

63. Colleague 3 said that ID told the staff that Person A had been struck off by the HCPC around the Christmas period, 2016. By that time it had been reported in the local papers and she recalled that either Person A or ID had referred to the need to tell the staff before they read about it in the papers. She said ID had become aggressive at that meeting, banging the desk, and that ID’s behaviour upset, shocked and scared her and the staff, including KR and JB. She reported ID to the HCPC on 3 April 2017.

64. Colleague 3 stated that ID still had a good relationship with Person A, who had supported her, but said she no longer had a relationship with ID.

Witness 10 – IB

65. IB is a registered Social Worker who joined the Agency in February 2017, with no adoption experience. He qualified in 2013. He said that he thought something was “not right” as all the staff at the Agency left shortly after he started. He said that although he had been recruited by Person A, he never met her and that ID and a Governor had interviewed him.

66. IB explained the current use of white boards in the Agency office which set out where people are and are updated weekly. IB said he contacted the families who had been involved in the police investigation to provide support. IB said that ID backed up the computers as they were not part of a system and new computers had been purchased when he joined the Agency.

67. IB said that the fact that some PARs had not been completed properly at the Agency would have had an impact on the families, both emotionally and in that this would have undermined confidence in the profession.

Witness 11 - Registrant ID
 
68. ID stated he had set up the Agency in 2014 and was a Director, but his chief role was the Agency Decision Maker so he was not operational in completing reports or working with adopters. He had an “arm’s length” role and would have final approval on the PARs. ID said that Person A set up the business with him and she was the Manager in 2015. ID did the initial training of adopters and staff.

69. ID said that at the end of 2015 the Agency work increased and for that reason he decided to employ a Social Work Manager. ID said that he delegated the day-to-day running of the office to the Manager and a Social Work Manager was involved in the preparation and supervision of PARs.

70. ID stated that at the end of March or beginning of April 2016, Person A told him about the HCPC allegations against her. Person A had by that stage already been suspended from practice. He recalled JB and KR being present. ID said that he respected Person A and trusted her implicitly. ID said that he told JB it was important to be very clear about Person A’s role and that Person A was not to do any social work. He said he was not overseeing the work of the Agency and was not often present in the office.

71. ID said that in December 2016 he received a message to call Person A, who said that she had been struck off by the HCPC and that details of this had been publicised in a local newspaper. ID said that he explained Person A’s role at the Agency to Ofsted in response to their enquiry. He said that Person A’s core responsibilities were running the office, including marketing, finance, payroll, and administrative duties. He said Person A would attend meetings about prospective matches with adopters who were already approved. He said she would never identify herself as a Social Worker or do work that was holding herself out as a Social Worker. He said he had made it explicitly clear to Person A and that as far as he was concerned, Person A had no direct contact with adopters as a Social Worker.

72. ID said that the letter he wrote to Ofsted in January 2017 was accurate on the day he wrote it and he had drafted it with the Governors.

73. ID said he repeatedly asked Person A not to send him emails to his personal email account, which he read on his mobile phone. He often could not, and did not, read emails sent to him in this way. ID denied fully reading the emails from Person A sent to his personal email. He said the 19 April 2016 email which referred to “social worker” visits did not in itself indicate that Person A was doing social work. ID said that the email of 18 June 2016 from Person A referred to her doing a PAR, but he said he wanted to “keep his work emails clear” and had only glanced at the email and did not read it properly. He said that he only checked the dates referred to in this email once prompted by Person A the following Monday.

74. ID replied to the email from Person A on 30 June 2016, and said Person A could have been doing many things that were not social work and he had not raised any concerns with her. He interpreted the emails as having other meanings and that Person A saying “got a PAR to write up” on 4 July 2016 did not mean Person A was doing social work. He said that could mean anything, possibly that she was writing it up for KR. ID said that the email of 30 June 2016 which states Person A was doing “a social work visit” also did not mean that she was doing social work, because that expression could mean a number of different things.

75. ID said that if he had read the 5 December 2016 email from Person A he accepted that it was clear she was doing social work given the reference to Person A “seeing potential adopters.” ID said that he had looked at hundreds of emails and denied that he had selected only those that helped him during the course of these proceedings.

76. ID said he did not read the emails sent to his personal email on his phone due to his condition and there was a huge volume of emails in his personal account. He stated nothing was in the emails that explicitly said that Person A was doing social work and there were many other possible explanations. He said he considered Person A to be a second mother and he trusted her implicitly, and it did not occur to him that Person A was doing any social work. ID said he replied to some of the personal emails but he was not always replying to the content of the email.

77. ID said Person A had deliberately sent them to his personal account to cause him difficulties. He said that the emails from Person A were personal and he was under no obligation to read them as there were other communications routes in the office through JB. He said it did not occur to him to make other arrangements. He said he was only doing the basic tasks required of him by the Agency and did not consider that his personal emails merited the same attention as his work emails. He said Person A was on the telephone daily to him and he kept telling her not to use his personal email address. ID said he never linked his emails to allow access from his work computer to his personal email account.

78. ID said that Person A’s name was never recorded on the white boards as doing an assessment. ID said he had never instructed Person A to do social work. There was no reason for him to do so as they had adequate staff levels. ID said that everyone knew Person A was suspended and there was no reason for her to do social work, and to suggest so was “ludicrous”.

79. In respect of Adopter A, ID said that the mention of visits by Person A to the parents would not have concerned him as there were many reasons for a visit that would not involve social work. He said that when he called Adopter A to advise her about the Police and Ofsted investigations he had tried to reassure her, but she had been distraught. He had said the situation was not her fault and she should tell the truth.

80. ID said there was no meeting with JB and KR in January 2016 as alleged by them. ID said he did not treat JB badly and they had a good relationship. He was not rude, hostile or bullying in the office. ID said that KR and JB knew that Person A had been suspended as it was no secret in the office. ID said he held a meeting to tell all the staff about the strike off in December 2016. He recalled KR and JB were there, but they already knew about it and they seemed hostile and indifferent.

81. ID told the Panel that on the morning of the Ofsted inspection, JB and KR had asked to speak to him. They then told him that Person A had been doing assessments. He said he was bewildered and was also told that KR had been allowing Person A to do assessments and sign them off as KR. He said he had immediately told the Ofsted inspector. ID denied making any threats to JB or KR. He later found that both of their computers had been “wiped” and nothing was recoverable. ID said he had done a back-up just before the Ofsted inspection.

82. ID stated that JB did not tell him that Person A was doing social work, and he denied telling JB and KR to tell the Ofsted Inspector that they had known about Person A being suspended and he had threatened them if they did not do so. ID said the meeting on 3 January 2017 was an “ambush” instigated by Colleague 3 and Person A. He attended the meeting and at the meeting he was told by KR or JB that if Person A was not allowed back into the Agency they would all walk out. He said this was aggressively put to him and he had tried to explain the position He said he cried in frustration as the situation was “unbelievable”.

83.  ID explained that from 2017 his personal circumstances improved and the Ofsted support had assisted. The Agency faced some problems and was in debt. He said that the emails recovered indicated to him that KR and JB had connived with Person A. ID said that, with the help of his IT support, he had been able to retrieve Person A’s emails which had been deleted, but he was not able to recover KR or JB’s email.

84. ID said neither KR nor JB had raised concerns about Person A working on a PAR for Adopter B until after the Ofsted inspection and he refuted KR and JB’s version of events. He said that Person A’s position was an act of revenge.

85. ID said he was not surprised to receive the Ofsted letter of 3 January 2017, by which time he knew Person A had been struck off. He replied and accepted that if Person A had been undertaking supervisory roles after 31 March 2016 that would be a problem. He said Person A had no “direct” contact with clients and had not used the word “direct” to try cover his position.

86. ID accepted that he had not told Ofsted or the Ofsted inspection that Person A had been suspended by the HCPC. ID said he did not recall whether he had told Ofsted about Person A being struck off. He said he had drafted the letter with the Governors. ID did not tell the Local Authority, the adopters, or the Adoption Panel about Person A’s suspension. ID said that, despite quarterly meetings with the Governors, the issue of Person A’s suspension had never arisen and he did not tell them. He said there was no duty on him to tell the Governors as he did not consider that they actually had that status.

87. ID stated that he could not account for what he said in his referral to the HCPC, which stated that “I and the Governors made it clear to Person A that she was to take no Social Work role”. He said this was a difficult time for him and he simply could not remember the Governor meetings.

88. ID said he had seen nothing to lead him to believe Person A was holding herself out as a Social Worker. He said the filing in the office was a mess and he was not aware of anything in his emails that would alert him to the issue. He stated that he applied “due diligence”, which meant he acted on what he knew. He said he did not know that Person A had been doing social work. ID understood that Person A had told the Governors, and he did not tell the Governors as he knew Person A was not doing social work.

89. ID denied that he had bullied or intimidated any of the staff. He said that Colleague 3 was not telling the truth as her action was motivated by revenge. ID denied ever threatening any member of staff with losing their job if they did not comply with his demands and said that KR and JB were trying to blame him.

90. ID said that since 2017 he has had no contact whatsoever with Person A.

91. ID said that he still questioned his judgement at the time regarding Person A and the family members he employed, but he was aware of professional boundaries. At the time he thought he was coping, but with hindsight he said he realised his stress levels were high and he had reduced his work levels and discussed this with JB. He thought service users had been harmed by Person A’s actions. He accepted that the “buck stops” with him as the person in charge of the Agency.

Application by ID to receive further evidence

92. During the course of the cross-examination of witness JB, Mr Noon, for ID, made an application to receive new evidence.

93. Firstly, he submitted that JB, in her evidence, spoke about an email of 30 January 2017 about a complaint from a family. This email had an attachment which was not exhibited in the HCPC bundle and had not been referred to in JB’s witness statement. He now sought to have admitted the attachment in order to challenge JB’s credibility. Secondly, ID had now located the supervision contract with JB, which he sought to produce.

94. Thirdly, he explained that ID had the previous evening located two emails from Person A to JB. He submitted that these went to the state of knowledge of KR and JB regarding Person A doing social work after December 2016. He also sought to produce emails about JB’s recruitment to the Agency.

95. Mr Noon said that ID found the emails the previous night in the retrieved emails from Person A, of which there were 1045 in the inbox and 1625 in the trash folder. Mr Noon told the Panel that in providing material for the hearing, ID had missed these emails. Mr Noon submitted that it was in the interests of fairness for the Panel to see the documents, being about ten in total.

96. Ms Barlow, for KR, opposed the application. She noted that the application was being made halfway through day nine of the hearing. She objected to all the documents and said the issues had been apparent for some time, had not arisen from live evidence, and were clear from the witness statement of KR. Ms Barlow reminded the Panel that she was not present during the evidence of Adopter B and, if this evidence were to be admitted, she would have to seek to recall that witness. It was therefore prejudicial to her client to admit the new evidence. She submitted that ID ought to have produced all the emails from Person A and he had stated in his evidence that he had not “cherry picked” the emails he had produced.

97. Mr Lloyd, for JB, opposed the application. He submitted that the reference to the complaint had been available for some time. He reminded the Panel that there was a three-day preliminary hearing in this case in October 2018 and Mr Noon was instructed at that stage. Mr Lloyd advised that the complaint issue had been covered by JB in her evidence and the complaint mentioned in the emails was not the subject of any allegation, and was not decisive.

98. Mr Lloyd said he would also have asked a number of earlier witnesses about the issue had he had notice of this evidence. He was concerned that, had he had proper notice of the emails sought to be admitted, it may have altered his approach to the evidence as a whole. He also reminded the Panel that ID had given evidence that he had not selected only the emails that assisted him. He said these emails were not new and it was not credible that they had only just been found by ID. Mr Lloyd said that he, Ms Barlow, and Mr Millin were now not able to cross-examine ID about these emails. He submitted that the emails were not, in any event, central to the case.

99. Mr Millin, for the HCPC, opposed the admission of the evidence. He did not consider they were prejudicial as such to the HCPC, but they were prejudicial to KR in particular. He submitted that this was “too little too late”, and the danger was that it would delay proceedings and was not proportionate. The case against each Registrant had been known for some time and the application revealed that ID was indeed “cherry picking” the emails that supported his position.

Decision on admission of new evidence

100. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to fairness and proportionality and whether the evidence would be relevant and would assist the Panel. It considered the submissions from all three Registrants.

101. The Panel was mindful of both proportionality and fairness. This was a complex hearing scheduled for 16 days and this application was made on day nine of the hearing. The Panel had heard the evidence of nine witnesses, and the extensive evidence of ID had concluded. The Panel heard that admission of this evidence would likely be prejudicial to both KR and JB, who had not had prior notice of the evidence and who could not now put it before witnesses who had already been heard, or properly prepare their case in light of it.

102. The Panel noted that admission of the evidence at this stage would also likely involve the recalling of witnesses. The Panel heard that some of the evidence went to the question of credibility, and that a portion of the evidence related to part of the allegation.

103. The Panel concluded that the evidence did not appear to be material or significant, particularly given the extent and volume of evidence already heard in this case over the previous nine days. The Panel decided that the explanation for the application being made at this advanced stage of the proceedings was not satisfactory. Proper and fair notice of the HCPC case had been given to ID, and there was no suggestion that it had not. ID had been represented by Mr Noon since at least October 2018. There was no credible explanation as to why the evidence sought to be produced had only just been located by ID the previous evening. The evidence sought to be admitted now was evidence that could, with reasonable diligence, have been anticipated and served on the other parties within the appropriate time scales in advance of the hearing.

104. The Panel concluded that to admit the evidence at this stage would likely give an advantage to ID and prejudice the ability of both KR and JB to respond and to properly prepare and present their cases. The Panel concluded that in all the circumstances it would not be fair to KR or JB to admit this evidence at this advanced stage in the proceedings. Further, it would not be proportionate to admit the evidence at this advanced stage given the serious impact and the delay it would very likely have on the proceedings. The Panel was also mindful of the public interest in the expedient and proper progress of proceedings. The Panel accordingly refused the application.

Witness 12 – Registrant JB

105. JB accepted that she was made aware of Person A’s striking off in December 2016 and accepted that she should have done more to prevent Person A from performing social work. She had not known about Person A’s suspension; ID did not tell her. ID was her Line Manager. ID and Person A were her bosses as they were the owners of the business.

106. JB said she would not have taken the job had she known Person A had been suspended. She accepted that she should have been robust and reported Person A to the HCPC, but she had been reassured by ID and Person A. JB said then when she received the emails from Person A about social work, JB had challenged her and also repeatedly informed ID face-to-face about her activities. JB said that she also spoke to KR about her concerns about Person A, and encouraged KR not to let Person A do any social work. JB said with hindsight she was shocked by the volume of emails from Person A offering to do social work. 

107. JB said she had never agreed to Person A doing any social work after December 2016. JB accepted she should have spoken to the HCPC, the Local Authority, and the Governors. She said she was caught between a “rock and a hard place” between ID and Person A, whose relationship had deteriorated.

108. JB said she learned that Person A was struck off on 5 December 2016 from KR. She said that the mention of “doing assessments” meant social work and JB told Person A that her work would be re-allocated. JB said ID had also reassured her that he had spoken to Person A and told her not to do social work. JB said she was not happy with Person A doing any family support work after she had been struck off, but she did not think she had done any.

109. In January 2017, the relationship between ID and Person A was very strained. JB said she told Person A not to do social work again and again in December 2016 and January 2017, and told ID. In January 2017, JB also learned from KR that Person A had gathered information on a PAR during her suspension and passed it to KR to write up the PAR. KR had told her that Person A had checked matters with the Governors and with the HCPC and both had confirmed that Person A was able to do this work during her suspension.

110. JB said that on reflection she thought she should have been more robust with Person A and she should have resigned. She ought to have told Person A that she would report her. She had reported the matter to ID around 10 January 2017 and again during the Ofsted inspection.

111. JB said that ID made threats to her and KR about their jobs, and ID told them that they had to tell Ofsted they had known about Person A’s suspension from March 2016 or they would lose their jobs and would be responsible for adopters losing their children and destroying the Agency. She said she felt fearful of ID and was scared and intimidated by him. ID also threatened to report her and KR to the HCPC and had said that, as Director, his account would be believed. JB said that ID was forceful and would not listen, and this threat had been made only about 20 minutes before her scheduled meeting with Ofsted.

112. JB said she met the Ofsted inspector and said that she told her she had not known the implications of Person A’s suspension. She accepted that was untrue and she regretted it. ID had then made it clear that he wanted her and KR to resign and leave the Agency.

113. JB said she was not a computer expert and she did not buy software to delete the data on her computer. She explained that due to data protection concerns, she understood that it was appropriate to delete files that contain personal information. She said there was no live, current work on the computer and that everything had been printed off and put on the paper files. She used paper files as the computer system was “Dickensian”. JB said the computers were not on a network and she had wiped the computer following instructions she had searched for online. She did not delete anything that was not backed up by ID. She accepted the deletion was “a bit drastic”, but she did not want ID having access to any of her personal information on that computer.

114. JB said she found the working environment hostile and intolerable and she did not get the training or support she needed and expected. JB said there was no advantage to her to let Person A do social work whilst she was suspended. JB explained that she had wanted to support the adopters and had intended to leave after the Ofsted inspections. That was why she had lied to Ofsted, as she did not want to leave at that point, and she felt that she had been subject to bullying by ID.

115. JB said that ID was in the office typically about twice a week for a half day, 10am–2pm. JB stated that the emails from Person A to ID in July and September 2016 seemed to relate to social work being done by Person A and that, if she had received them, they would have rung alarm bells.

116. JB said she considered Person A was forthright and loud and liked to do things her own way, but was open to being challenged. JB said she would describe herself as fair but not as strong as Person A. They had a respectful working relationship and she had respected both her and ID as they had good experience and were Directors of the Agency. After learning about the strike off, she felt deceived and realised how deceitful Person A was.

Witness 13 - Registrant KR

117. KR said she had been deceived all along and her reputation had been damaged. She was concerned because she was retired that she would not be listened to. She qualified as a Social Worker when she was 48 in 2001, having previously been a volunteer in victim support and teenage sexual health.

118. KR had worked at Hull City Council from 2001 until she retired in March 2016. She said she had no history of complaints, disciplinary proceedings or HCPC referrals. She worked from 2003 until 2013 with Person A who had been her Manager at Hull City Council. KR said that Person A was a very hands-on and supportive Manager whom she trusted. They had worked well l together in a good team. KR said that Person A was a Manager, not a friend.

119. Person A had sent KR an email at work and asked if she and JB would do some independent work for the Agency. KR said she did three or four PARs for the Agency. She joined the Agency in March 2016 part time, two days a week. She said the work grew and she did a lot of PARs and there had been a lot of travelling. She was never in a Managerial role. 

120. KR stated that she was never told that Person A had been suspended and she never heard that issue discussed in the office. KR said she heard from her daughter that Person A had been struck off when she read it in the Hull Daily Mail on 5 December 2016. That was the first KR knew. KR said that Person A had seemed to be doing social work tasks but, as far as she was concerned, this was not an issue as she was entitled to do so because she was a Social Worker.

121. KR explained that the documents and diary entries apparently signed in her name were not signed by her. She did not know Person A was doing this and she would not have let her do so. She did not know that Adoption Panel minutes had been altered to show she was present.

122. KR said she did not know what ID knew about the work Person A was doing at the Agency, but she had assumed ID did know as he was a fellow Director and she was his mother. KR said seeing the emails of June 2016 now indicated to her that Person A was doing social work and, if it was not clear to ID, he should have made the relevant enquires.

123. KR said that she had done the PAR for Adopter A after Person A had been struck off, as she could not then do it. She did not tell the Adopters what the issue was, but she took on the work. KR said she had not told Adopter D that she had completed the PAR as it had been completed by Person A.

124. KR stated that Person A had gathered the information for the PAR for Adopter B earlier and that would have been checked with the Adopter. Adopter B was keen to be at the January 2017 Adoption Panel, but in hindsight, KR said she should have reassessed Adopter B. KR said that it was Person A who had presented the PARs as KR’s work, not her.

125. KR said she was not aware that Person A was holding herself out as a Social Worker or doing social work, so had nothing to report. As regards Adopter A and the panel meeting minutes of 21 July 2016, KR confirmed these were the minutes which had been altered to show her attendance when she was not there.

126. In the email on 10 June 2016, KR said she was asking Person A to do the assessment as she could not do it having had surgery. She said that the Social Workers in the Agency would often present each other’s PARs at Adoption Panels because this was necessitated in a small team environment. They would often copy emails to JB as she was the Manager. Person A was hands-on and it was not unusual that she would be sending emails with a PAR. 

127. Throughout that period, KR was not aware that Person A had been suspended and nothing in the emails alerted her to that. KR said she had not seen the emails between Person A, ID, and JB until she received the HCPC bundle. She knew nothing about forged references. She did not need them as she had genuine references.

128. When KR heard about Person A’s strike off on 5 December 2016 when her daughter called her, she said she was shocked and rang JB, her Manager, straight away, who also was not aware. KR said she went to the Agency the next day, 6 December 2016. ID was not there and everyone knew that Person A could then not do any social work; that was obvious.

129. JB had told KR that Person A repeatedly attempted to do social work and JB told KR that she reported it to ID. Person A never asked KR if Person A could do social work. KR recalled accompanying JB several times when she told ID about Person A attempting to do social work. She said that she now knew that Person A had been deceitful.

130. KR said she made the note at the staff meeting on 3 January 2017. She had asked some questions about training and asked ID what he knew. ID seemed to know very little about the Agency’s work. KR said the meeting had not been an ambush; KR said she had just wanted to know what was happening and the staff were fearful of losing their jobs.

131. KR said the Ofsted Inspector spoke to her twice. Before the first meeting KR and JB had a meeting with ID about how to deal with the inspection. The inspector had raised a concern about Adopter B and JB had reminded ID that the PAR work had been done by Person A. KR said that ID had panicked and said to KR and JB that they were implicated, as Person A had done some of the work. KR said that she did not know when ID knew about Person A’s suspension.

132. ID had told KR and JB that they both needed to tell Ofsted they had known about the suspension or the Agency would be shut down, the adopters would lose the children, and the staff would lose their jobs. KR said that ID told them to tell Ofsted they both knew about Person A’s suspension as Ofsted would accept they had been misled by Person A. KR said her thoughts were with the adopters and children and she had felt intimidated. ID said he would report them both to the HCPC and that he would be believed as the Director.

133. KR accepted she then did lie to the Ofsted Inspector and should not have done so. She was concerned about the devastating effect on the adopters and children. She saw the Ofsted Inspector about 30 minutes later and lied about knowing Person A was suspended. The topic was not discussed at the second Ofsted meeting.

134. KR said she had no idea how to wipe a computer hard drive. She thought for data protection reasons she should delete files from the computer, and said there was no live work on the computer and she had forwarded any work required to LC before deletion. She said she had googled “reset to factory settings” in order to remove her own data. It had been backed up by ID just before the Ofsted inspection. With hindsight KR accepted that the deletion was “silly”, but she had felt she wanted to delete personal things.

135. KR said her year contract with the Agency was due to expire in March 2017 and so the impact of ID’s threats about her knowledge of Person A was different from that for JB. KR said she was going in March 2017 anyway, possibly earlier if her adoptive families were settled before then, and she said she would never want to let her families down.

136. KR said she had not told the Governors or the HCPC, but she had told ID and JB about Person A’s behaviour. Between December 2016 and February 2017 she accepted she should have taken responsibility to report the issue. KR said Person A did not do any social work between those dates, although she had tried to.

Submissions

137. Representatives for the HCPC and for each Registrant made detailed written submissions and briefly summarised their client’s position. Mr Lloyd, for JB, and Ms Barlow, for KR, disagreed with a number of issues about the evidence summarised by the HCPC, but accepted that it was for the Panel to determine the evidence.

Legal Advice

138. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised the Panel on the approach to facts and that the applicable civil burden of proof is the “balance of probabilities”, which rested on the HCPC. The Registrants need prove nothing. The Panel must assess the witnesses and all the evidence and make individual findings of fact on each particular of the allegation. It should also, when assessing the evidence, be mindful of the evident acrimony between the three Registrants and Colleague 3.

139. He reminded the Panel that the Registrants were all of previous good character and that should form part of its assessment of the Registrant’s credibility and propensity to be dishonest. He provided advice about the treatment of the small amount of hearsay evidence in the case.

140. In respect of dishonesty, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the guidance in Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67, where the court stated:
“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”.

Assessment of the 13 witnesses

Witness RC

141. The Panel considered that RC was professional, experienced, and balanced. She had no interest in the outcome nor had any “axe to grind”. She was credible and reliable.

Witness LC

142. The Panel found that LA had some limited recall of events but her evidence was of little assistance to the Panel. She was clear about not being informed about Person A being suspended.

Witness PW

143. The Panel found that PW was defensive and cautious. His recall was limited and his evidence was vague at times. Overall, his evidence was of limited assistance. He did not recall being told about any action by the HCPC against Person A.

Witness DF

144. The Panel found DF had a good recall of events and was credible. She was open and sought to be helpful and of assistance to the Panel.

Witness VJ

145. The Panel found VJ was helpful, open, and credible. She had limited involvement in the events, but she sought to be of assistance to the Panel.

Witness Adopter D

146. The Panel found that whilst her evidence was limited to a discrete matter, Adopter D was clear, consistent and credible, and she displayed a good recollection of events.

Witness Adopter B

147. The Panel found the witness willing to assist, open, and helpful, and her evidence was clear and credible.

Witness Adopter A

148. The Panel found the witness helpful, clear, and credible. She had “no agenda” and sought to assist the Panel.

Witness Colleague 3

149. The Panel found the witness clear and objective in her evidence and she sought to assist the Panel. However, it was clear from her evidence that she disliked ID. The Panel nevertheless found that, in the round, she provided credible evidence.

Witness IB

150. The Panel found IB was helpful as regards the current preparation of PARs, but that he was otherwise guarded. The Panel found his evidence was limited and it noted that his witness statement had been drafted by ID, who is his current employer.

Witness ID

151. The Panel found ID’s evidence lacked coherency and was often inconsistent. He was consistent in his evidence only where it was to his advantage. He was frequently evasive and argumentative in his answers. He repeatedly posed questions in his answers and when being cross-examined he would often avoid addressing the question. He had a selective memory, clearly recalling some matters in detail but having no recall of other significant matters, such as meetings and emails. His position on how often he was in the Agency office was inconsistent. He claimed to work long hours in the office, and at other times he stated he was only rarely in the office.

152. ID’s explanations about the emails from Person A lacked logic and made little sense. He took numerous opportunities to blame and accuse others. The Panel found that his evidence as a whole lacked coherency and cogency and was neither credible nor reliable.

Witness JB

153. The Panel found the witness open, candid, and consistent. She sought to assist the Panel and she reflected and showed regret. She accepted errors and made admissions. The Panel found her evidence credible and reliable.

Witness KR

154. The Panel found the witness open, candid, and clear in her evidence. Her evidence made clear that she had the interests of service users at heart. The Panel found her evidence consistent, credible, and reliable.

The Hearsay Evidence

155. The Panel considered the hearsay evidence in the witness statements of LC, CB, the letter from the computer consultant, and the handwriting expert report. The Panel admitted this evidence as it considered it was relevant, fair, and of assistance. This evidence was, however, wholly untested and consequently the Panel concluded that it would attach little weight to it.

Decision on Facts

156. The Panel was mindful of the health condition disclosed by ID. As a result, the Panel made a number of adjustments and allowances for ID when he gave his evidence. It allowed ID to make notes as he gave his evidence and permitted him to use his bundle of evidence that he had highlighted and structured through the use of tabs. During his evidence, the Panel adjourned proceedings early on several occasions to avoid undue strain on ID. The Panel and the Legal Assessor were vigilant throughout the proceedings and considered that ID appeared to cope well during his extensive examination and was able to keep abreast of the documentation that he was referred to. The Panel also raised the issue of adjustments with Mr Noon. The Panel was provided with no medical evidence regarding ID’s condition.

Particular 1

157. The Panel found that the meeting between Colleague 3, Person A, and ID did take place in January 2016. The Panel accepted the evidence of Colleague 3 that, at that meeting, Person A had disclosed to her and to ID that Person A had been investigated and suspended by the HCPC. It accepted Colleague 3’s evidence that the three of them had at that meeting agreed that they would keep the matter secret from the staff at the Agency. The Panel found that ID therefore knew from March 2016 that Person A had been suspended.

Particular 1(a) – Proved

158. The Panel considered the evidence of ID and Colleague 3 and considered the issue of whether ID took any reasonable steps to ensure that Person A did not continue to hold herself out as a Social Worker and/or do social work.

159. ID accepted that he had no experience of adoption work. Person A had considerable experience in that field. The Agency had been set up by the two of them to do adoption work. Person A’s social work experience was essential in the operation of that business. In those circumstances, it was plainly going to be difficult to maintain professional boundaries between ID and Person A, particularly given the family relationship and ID’s lack of experience in adoption work.

160. ID admitted receiving emails from Person A throughout 2016 and early 2017 referring to various pieces of work she was doing for the Agency. She told ID that she was “seeing an adopter”; “got a Par to write up”; “seeing prospective adopters”.

161. The Panel considered the emails from Person A to ID in April, June, July, and December 2016 and January 2017. ID accepted that he had received and replied to these emails, which were sent and received in his personal email account. ID asserted in his evidence that the emails were ambiguous and that the words used by Person A did not necessarily mean she was doing social work, and could have meant something else.

162. ID did not deny receiving these emails. He asserted that he had not read all of the text in the emails, even when he had replied. The Panel saw no emails from ID where he challenged Person A or told her to desist from social work, or where he simply queried whether she was doing social work.

163. ID did not give evidence that he was unable to read the emails. Rather, he said that he did not read them fully as they had been sent outside of office hours and to his personal email address, which he said meant they were not “so important”. He said he could not always easily read the emails on his mobile telephone but he said that he took no steps to forward the emails on to his work email address, which he accepted would have allowed him to read them on his office computer.

164. The Panel did not find ID’s evidence credible, particularly in light of the terms and frequency of the emails he received from Person A. The Panel found that ID’s position on the emails made little sense. On a reasonable and fair reading of the emails, it was clear that Person A was telling ID that she was doing various aspects of social work. The Panel did not accept ID’s evidence that the emails did not indicate that nor raised concerns that Person A was doing social work. That was plainly what they did indicate. 

165. The Panel concluded that ID did not take reasonable, or indeed any, steps to ensure that Person A did not continue to do social work in the period after she was suspended and after she was struck off.

Particular 1(b)(i) & 1(b)(ii) - Proved in part

166. The Governors of the Agency appeared to be Governors in name only and their precise role and status was not clear, despite their evidence and that of ID. However, ID accepted that that he had never told the Governors about the suspension of Person A, and he did not raise the issue of Person A’s suspension or her strike off with them despite two meetings during the period. Neither of the Governors, LA or PW, said ID told them about the suspension. ID accepted that he did not tell the HCPC or the Local Authority.

167. The Panel concluded there was not sufficient evidence regarding Person A holding herself out as a Social Worker to make any finding in that regard. Accordingly, the Panel found these particulars proved to the extent that ID did not inform the Governors of the Agency, nor the HCPC, that Person A was carrying out social work despite being suspended and removed from the HCPC Register.

Particular 2(a) and 2(b) - Proved

168. The Panel concluded that it was clear from the Ofsted letter of 3 January 2017 that they were enquiring about Person A’s role at the Agency. It has found that ID knew Person A was doing social work whilst she was suspended and after she was struck off.

169. Person A was in direct contact with adopters. Person A had done direct social work with Adopter B, whom Person A had visited in preparation of a PAR. Adopter B gave evidence that she had assumed Person A was her social worker who had visited her “quite a few times”, and she was left feeling vulnerable when she learned Person A was not her social worker. Person A was also in direct contact with Adopters D and A, as stated in their evidence.

170. The Panel also found that it was clear Person A was doing social work from the terms of the emails sent to ID by Person A.

171. ID stated in his response to Ofsted that Person A “has however in no way done any direct work” as a Social Worker. That was not true and ID knew that was the case given the emails he received from Person A and given the finding that ID knew from March 2016 that Person A was suspended and was doing social work. The Panel found that ID deliberately misled Ofsted in his response given his state of knowledge at that time.

Particular 3(a), 3(b) and 3(c) - Proved

172. KR, JB, and Colleague 3 all gave clear and credible evidence that ID had behaved towards them in an intimidating and bullying manner. They were scared of him.

173. Colleague 3 said she was bullied and intimidated by ID and this was supported by the evidence of VJ, who had witnessed that behaviour. The Panel accepted that evidence and found that ID bullied and intimidated Colleague 3.

174. KR was clear in her witness statement that she felt intimidated by ID. JB was also clear about the circumstances of the meeting with JR and KR some 20 minutes before the Ofsted meeting. The Panel accepted that evidence. The Panel concluded that ID bullied and intimidated KR and JB at that meeting.

175. The Panel was mindful of the acrimony between the three Registrants and Colleague 3. With that in mind, it concluded that the version of events recounted by KR and JB and by Colleague 3 was clear, consistent, credible, and reliable, and it preferred their evidence to that of ID. 

176. The Panel considered that the weight to be attached to the 360 Feedback that was highly critical of ID was, given its anonymity, limited.

Particular 4 (dishonesty) - Proved

177. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in Ivey. The Registrant had a number of days to consider his response to Ofsted. His letter was carefully crafted and the words appeared well-chosen to set out the purported position. The Panel made its findings as to the state of knowledge of ID at the time that letter was written. He knew at that time that Person A had been doing social work with adopters at the Agency and had direct contact with adopters.

178. The Panel concluded that ID knew when he wrote the letter to Ofsted that it was not true and that he was being dishonest. This was a pre-meditated lie designed to mislead Ofsted. The letter was not written with the interests of vulnerable service users in his mind, who were being dealt with by a Social Worker who had been struck off. Further, ID’s behaviour in writing that letter, given his state of knowledge at that time, was dishonest when objectively viewed by the standards of ordinary decent people.

Decision on Grounds & Impairment

Submissions

179. The Panel heard from Mr Millin for the HCPC, who referred to his written submissions. He referred the Panel its findings in respect of each Registrant and to the relevant case law on misconduct, including the guidance in Roylance v GMC (No. 2) [2000] 1 AC 311. He submitted that the findings for each Registrant were such as to amount to misconduct and he invited the Panel to make a finding of misconduct in respect of each Registrant. Mr Millin also invited the Panel to make a finding of impairment of fitness to practise in respect of each Registrant.

180. Mr Noon submitted that his client accepted that its findings on ID inevitably would lead to a finding of misconduct and impairment.

181. Mr Lloyd, for JB, submitted that the findings reflected JB’s admissions and she had accepted that the admissions were serious. She had admitted misconduct, but he accepted that a finding of misconduct remained a matter for the professional judgement for the Panel. Mr Lloyd asked the Panel to consider whether there was a risk of repetition and said that JB had been operating in unusual and difficult circumstances. He asked the Panel to take account of JB’s health issues at the time, as well as the findings of bullying and intimidation by ID. Despite being a Manager, Mr Lloyd submitted that JB had not been given full management control.

182. Mr Lloyd referred to the excellent references in support of JB. He added that she recognised the seriousness of not escalating her concerns about Person A. Mr Lloyd emphasised JB’s regret, the fact that she had undertaken training and education, and he stressed that she would never behave in such a way again. He submitted that, in relation to the finding concerning the deletion of records, the Panel’s determination that this was “mischievous and ill-conceived” would not necessarily amount to a finding of misconduct. He submitted that JB had reflected over a long period of time and had shown insight, and he submitted that JB’s fitness to practise was not currently impaired.

183. Ms Barlow, for KR, submitted that KR’s deletion of records was not misconduct. She submitted KR had not breached standards requiring the keeping of proper records as the computer she had wiped had been backed up. She submitted that the findings in respect of KR did not amount to misconduct. She submitted that the actions of her client would not be considered “deplorable” in the eyes of fellow practitioners. She submitted that the context of the behaviour was relevant and submitted that the working conditions at the Agency had been horrendous.

184. On the issue of impairment, Ms Barlow submitted that in respect of KR the Panel should consider her positive references, including from one of the adopters in this case. She submitted that KR had shown insight and was now retired, and she had no intention of working again as a Social Worker.

Legal Advice

185. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the relevant principles. He reminded the Panel that on the question of grounds, there was no burden of proof and it was a matter for its own professional judgement. He referred it to the guidance on misconduct found in Roylance.

186. On the issue of impairment of fitness to practise, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and to the guidance on the assessment of impairment and consideration of the public interest in the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin). He reminded the Panel that it should consider insight, remediation, remorse, and the risk of repetition of the behaviour leading to the facts found proved. It must also keep in the forefront of its mind the central importance of the need to protect the public, maintain confidence in the profession, and the wider public interest.

Decision on Grounds

187. Exercising its professional judgement, the Panel considered its findings in respect of ID.

188. ID held several senior roles at the Agency, including Agency Decision Maker. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in the case of Roylance. This states that the obligation to take responsibility for service users does not cease when a professional exercises Managerial or administrative functions.

189. The Panel considered its findings in respect of ID. It concluded that the following matters were serious and comprised conduct which fell far short of what would have been proper in the circumstances:

• From January 2016 until March 2017, ID persistently lied. Knowing what he did, ID chose not to inform JB and KR, Ofsted, the Governors, the LADO, or the HCPC about Person A;
• In his letter to Ofsted, ID actively, and in a premeditated way, lied to Ofsted, which is the Government Agency designed to inspect and uphold standards to protect the public;
• ID used his senior position at the Agency to lie, bully, and intimidate staff, including KR, JB, and Colleague 3;
• ID failed to take any steps to ensure that Person A did not carry out social work despite his knowledge that she had been investigated, suspended, and then struck off by the HCPC. He thereby placed service users at unwarranted risk of harm;
• ID’s behaviour brought the profession into disrepute. The evidence was that some adopters were left with a poor impression of the social work done by the Agency, one describing her sense of disgust about the Agency’s activities and questioning whether their motivations were financially driven.

190. The Panel considered that ID contributed to the creation of a toxic and chaotic environment at the Agency which led to a risk that adopters were not reliably assessed and matched, which posed a risk of real harm to service users.

191. The Panel concluded that the findings of fact amounted to conduct which was serious, fell far short of what would have been proper in the circumstances, would be considered deplorable by fellow professionals, and amounted to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

192. The Panel considered the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and was mindful of the guidance in Grant. It kept in the forefront of its mind the importance of the public interest.

193. The Panel did not have before it any evidence which indicated any insight by ID. He actively and repeatedly sought to blame others, and throughout his extensive evidence he did not indicate that he had ever taken time to reflect on his actions and the impact on both service users and colleagues. He refused to accept responsibility for his actions. The Panel had no evidence of remorse by ID. It did not have any evidence that ID had taken steps to remediate his practice. He did not accept that he had done anything wrong, and he did not accept any responsibility for his actions.

194. The Panel found that ID had in the past acted and is liable in the future to act so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm. It found that ID has in the past brought and is liable in the future to bring the profession into disrepute, and that he has in the past and is liable in the future to breach fundamental tenets of the profession, namely integrity and honesty. Further, the Panel found that ID has in the past and is in the future liable to be dishonest.

195. The Panel determined that there is a serious lack of insight by ID. It could not be satisfied that he would not repeat his actions. Given the lack of evidence of any remorse, remediation, and the lack of insight, the Panel found that there is a real risk of repetition of the behaviour which led to the allegations and, accordingly, that ID’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

196. On the public component of impairment of fitness to practise, the Panel decided that a well-informed and reasonable member of the public would be most concerned were a Social Worker who had been found to have repeatedly lied, had failed to inform the proper authorities about what he knew about Person A, and actively lied to Ofsted, not be found to be impaired.

197. A finding of impairment is therefore required in order to uphold and declare proper standards of behaviour. The Panel determined that in the circumstances of this case public confidence in the profession, and in the Regulator, would be undermined were a finding of impairment not made.

198. The Panel determined that on both the personal and the public component ID’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction

Submissions

199. Ms Eales, who was now presenting for the HCPC, submitted that it took a neutral position with regard to the issue of sanction, which was a matter for the Panel. She reminded the Panel of the HCPC Sanctions Policy (2019) and the need to consider insight, remorse, and remediation.

200. With regard to ID, Ms Eales highlighted that the Panel’s findings included persistent lying and intimidation, thus placing service users at unwarranted risk of harm. She also referred to the finding of dishonesty and referred the Panel to the Sanctions Policy in that regard.

201. With regard to JB, Ms Eales reminded the Panel about its findings as to good insight and remorse and the finding that the risk of repetition was low. She suggested that the seniority of JB as a social worker was an aggravating feature.

202. Mr Noon, for ID, advised the Panel that his client fully appreciated the seriousness of the findings. He submitted that Person A was the instigator of the circumstances in which the allegations arose, not ID. He submitted that the circumstances in this case arose when ID was facing particular, extreme stresses in his life and that such a combination of events was unlikely to arise again in the future. He submitted that ID was of previous good character and had practised as a Social Worker for 18 years.

203. Mr Noon reminded the Panel of the positive steps taken by ID at the Agency since February 2017 and submitted that ID had worked hard to reform the Agency and provide continuity of support for adoptive families. Mr Noon submitted that much of the evidence largely relied upon by the HCPC was evidence supplied by ID as part of his referrals to the HCPC and the Police. Mr Noon also pointed out that it was ID who had removed Person A from the Agency, and that this had not been an easy task in light of the co-directorship with her. Mr Noon submitted that the allegations at particulars 2 and 4 related to an isolated incident of dishonesty in writing the Ofsted letter. As regards bullying, Mr Noon said that it was never ID’s intention to bully and intimidate. ID had considerable regret at what people had felt about his behaviour. Mr Noon reminded the Panel of the evidence of DF, who now manages the Agency, and said that bullying would no longer be tolerated.

204. On sanction, Mr Noon submitted that a Striking Off Order was not appropriate and that the Panel should take a nuanced approach. He referred to paragraph 121 of the Sanctions Policy. He submitted that, since February 2017, the ability of ID to resolve matters was evident in his management of the Agency, having now steered matters “on to a safe course”. Mr Noon submitted that a period of Suspension would be a very serious sanction that would remove ID’s practice as an Independent Social Worker. He submitted that the findings alone, without any sanction, would prevent ID from ever being appointed as an expert witness.

205. If ID were suspended, Mr Noon submitted that would allow the Agency to continue in business with another person in place as the Agency Decision Maker. Mr Noon stated that ID’s personal experience of adoption meant that he remained focused on providing a good adoption experience for others.

206. Mr Lloyd submitted that JB’s case derived from exceptional circumstances, having been recruited in a scenario where she was deceived by Person A and ID from the start of her employment at the Agency. Mr Lloyd told the Panel that JB had been suspended from practice on an interim basis since 17 July 2017, she had engaged throughout with the HCPC, and she had acted with dignity during the proceedings. He stated that the Interim Suspension Order, which has now been in place for two years and necessitated a High Court extension, has had a substantial impact on JB. He submitted that the Panel should take account of this long interim suspension period in determining what action to take, particularly given the public-interest-only finding on impairment. He referred the Panel to Kamberova v NMC [2016] EWHC 2955 (Admin) regarding the approach to Interim Suspension Orders at the sanction stage.

207. Mr Lloyd reminded the Panel it had found that JB presented a low risk of repetition. He submitted that the following were mitigating factors:

• No previous regulatory proceedings;
• Admissions from the outset;
• Full engagement with the HCPC;
• Very positive references from former colleagues and service users who were aware of the HCPC proceedings;
• JB’s good insight and her remorse and regret;
• The further training and professional development she had undertaken.

208. In particular, Mr Lloyd submitted that matters were kept hidden from JB by ID and Person A until December 2016. Once she knew about Person A’s Striking Off and her attempts to undertake social work, JB had escalated concerns to ID and also to Person A. Mr Lloyd said that JB was not the instigator of the situation. He stressed that the Panel had found the working environment to be toxic and that JB was scared of ID; this had made it more difficult for JB to be robust. He reminded the Panel of JB’s personal difficulties, and he submitted that there were family and emotional pressures on JB at the time of the allegation. Mr Lloyd submitted that it was not clear whether Person A had actually carried out social work after December 2016, although JB accepted that she should have done more to raise concerns.

209. Mr Lloyd referred to the Sanctions Policy and reminded the Panel about proportionality and remediation. He pointed to the Sanctions Policy on Caution Orders and he highlighted the isolated and exceptional nature of the findings on misconduct. He suggested that Conditions of Practice may be an option, but that Suspension would be disproportionate. He submitted that this was an exceptional and unusual case and that JB had much to offer the profession. He submitted that this case ought not to be career-ending and submitted that a Caution Order was the appropriate sanction.

The Legal Advice

210. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He referred the Panel to the Sanctions Policy and reminded the Panel to act proportionately. He recommended that the Panel consider sanction in ascending order, applying the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public. He reminded the Panel of the guidance in the case of Kamberova as to the approach to interim orders when considering sanction. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that the Interim Suspension Order had been extended by the High Court and had therefore been in place for longer than the conventional maximum period of 18 months. He advised the Panel to identify and consider any aggravating and mitigating factors. He advised that the Panel should keep in mind the public interest and that the primary purpose of sanction was protection of the public. It should balance the interests of the Registrant with the need to protect the public and the public interest.

Decision on Sanction

211. The Panel considered the Sanctions Policy and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered the mitigating and aggravating factors for ID. It found that the mitigating factors were:

• Previous good character and no fitness to practise history;
• Full engagement and attendance at a lengthy hearing;
• Difficult personal circumstances.

212. The Panel considered that the aggravating features were:

• The risk of serious harm to service users;
• The serious lack of insight and remorse;
• The apparent complete failure to consider the interest of service users;
• Premeditated and repeated dishonesty, including misleading Ofsted;
• The abuse of his position and power as a senior Manager and Director in bullying and intimidating staff.

213. The Panel considered the apology given by ID through his representative Mr Noon at the sanction stage. It considered that the apology was highly conditional and was limited. It also came very late in the proceedings.

214. Mr Noon submitted that ID had remediated his practice by improving the management of the Agency. There was some evidence from DF about the improvements in the Agency since February 2017. However, the Panel found that it was not clear from her evidence that it was ID who was driving the improvements, nor that it was ID’s management that was behind the improvements at the Agency. The Panel did not consider it had sufficient evidence to conclude that ID has remediated his practice in this manner.

215. The Panel concluded that ID breached the fundamental tenets of the profession. It was mindful of the Sanctions Policy on Serious Cases at paragraphs 56 to 62. ID behaved in a premeditated and persistently dishonest way, he bullied and intimidated colleagues, he plainly failed to work in partnership with colleagues, he failed to raise concerns, and he abused his professional position. He also failed to act with candour. Given the Panel’s findings, this is undoubtedly a serious case.

216. The Panel noted that ID breached the following standards of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016):

1 Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers

2 Communicate appropriately and effectively

2.5 You must work in partnership with colleagues, sharing your skills, knowledge and experience where appropriate, for the benefit of service users and carers.

2.6 You must share relevant information, where appropriate, with colleagues involved in the care, treatment or other services provided to a service user.

8 Be open when things go wrong

8.1 You must be open and honest when something has gone wrong with the care, treatment or other services that you provide by:

– informing service users or, where appropriate, their carers, that something has gone wrong;
– apologising;
– taking action to put matters right if possible; and
– making sure that service users or, where appropriate, their carers, receive a full and prompt explanation of what has happened and any likely effects.

9 Be honest and trustworthy

217. The Panel approached sanction beginning with the least restrictive first, bearing in mind the need for proportionality. Taking no further action and the sanction of a Caution Order would not reflect the seriousness of the allegation found proved and the finding of impairment. There was a serious lack of evidence of insight, remorse, and remediation by ID, and these sanctions would fail to protect the public or satisfy the wider public interest in maintaining confidence in both the profession and the regulatory process. Neither order would be appropriate nor proportionate in the circumstances of this case.

218. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The allegation found proved is serious and the Panel found there is a risk of repetition and a serious lack of insight. There was little evidence of an ability or willingness by ID to comply with conditions, particularly so given his lack of insight and his unwillingness to take responsibility.

219. The failings identified include dishonesty, which the Panel accepted is hard to remediate, but it had no evidence of any remediation with regard to dishonest conduct or any other misconduct. In these circumstances, the Panel could not formulate workable, realistic, and proportionate Conditions of Practice that would be sufficient and which would serve to protect the public and the public interest. Furthermore, given the gravity and nature of its findings, the Panel concluded that such an order would fail to maintain public confidence in the profession or the Regulator, or uphold and declare proper standards.

220. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Panel found that ID behaved dishonestly for over a year, and that he bullied and intimidated colleagues. ID failed to work in partnership with colleagues, and he deceived colleagues and service users and failed to raise concerns about Person A. He placed vulnerable service users at real risk of harm. The Panel heard evidence that ID brought the profession, colleagues, and the Agency into disrepute.

221. ID’s behaviour was not isolated but was a premeditated course of dishonest conduct involving manipulation and lies, designed to conceal Person A’s actual position. Over a lengthy period of time, ID lied to his Social Work colleagues, whom he manipulated, and he lied to the HCPC and Ofsted. He took no action to report what he knew about Person A and he had no regard for the interests of service users.

222. ID has not accepted any culpability for his behaviour. The Panel heard no evidence from ID indicating any reflection on his behaviour and its impact on service users, colleagues, the wider profession, or the public. The Panel found there is a serious lack of insight and, coupled with the nature and the gravity of its findings, and the risk of repetition, it concluded that Suspension was not an appropriate or proportionate sanction.

223. The Panel considered paragraphs 130 and 131 of the Sanctions Policy on when Striking Off may be appropriate. It found ID to have been persistently dishonest, that he failed to raise concerns, failed to work in partnership with colleagues, and abused his professional position to bully, intimidate, and manipulate colleagues at the Agency. Further, it found that ID has a serious lack of insight.

224. The Panel has considered the impact of this sanction on ID and on the Agency. However, its findings are serious, and ID’s insight is so deficient that in all the circumstances the Panel has concluded that the only proportionate and appropriate sanction is that of a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Iain Paul Dickinson from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order

1. The Panel heard from Ms Eales and took account of all the information before it. Ms Eales applied for an Interim Suspension Order given the Panel’s findings, in order to protect the public and in the public interest. She advised that ID had received notice of the possibility of the HCPC applying for an interim order in the Notice of Hearing from the HCPC on 14 January 2019. She sought an 18-month Interim Suspension Order.

2. Mr Noon opposed the Interim Order and advised the Panel that ID had worked without any interim order in place for some time, and ID would require time to make an orderly transfer of responsibilities at the Agency.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Interim Orders” and reminded the Panel that the primary purpose of an interim order is protection of the public, and that it is necessary to balance the interests of the Registrant with the need to protect the public. He reminded the Panel that ID was given notice of the possibility of an interim order within the Notice of Hearing.

4. The Panel did not accept that the handover of responsibilities at the Agency would require ID to be a registered Social Worker. Further, the Panel decided that it would be wholly incompatible with its findings, in particular that ID has acted dishonestly and breached fundamental tenets of the profession, and with the sanction it has imposed, to conclude that an Interim Order is not necessary for protection of the public or in the public interest. The Panel accordingly found that an Interim Order is necessary on both public protection and public interest grounds.

5. Given its findings, the Panel determined that it is appropriate that a Suspension Order is imposed on an interim basis for a period of 18 months to cover any appeal period. When the appeal period expires this interim order will come to an end unless there has been an application to appeal. If there is no appeal the Striking Off Order shall apply.

6. The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.  This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Iain Paul Dickinson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off