Ms Leila Annikici Karhu

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW75278

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 15/07/2019 End: 13:00 15/07/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

While registered as a Social Worker and during the course of your employment at Wolverhampton City Council,

 

1. On or around the 01 October 2016, in relation to Child A’s safeguarding referral,

 

a. you did not:

(i) Contact Child A’s father to obtain further information

(ii) Contact medical professionals to assess the gravity of Child A’s injuries

(iii) Contact Child A’s mother to agree a formal safeguarding plan

(iv) Hold a strategy discussion with the police

(v) Undertake background checks on Child A and/or Child A’s family from Wolverhampton City Council’s records

(vi) Visit Child A

 

b. You did not provide Colleague A with handover information about the safeguarding referral about Child A.

 

2. Not proved.

 

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-2 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

 

Finding

Background

Proceeding in private

1. Ms Ktisti, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the entire hearing to be heard in private due to the difficult personal and family circumstances referred to by the Registrant in an email to the HCPC dated 14 June 2019.

2. The Panel reminded itself of the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Conducting Hearings in Private” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

3. The Panel was of the view that the circumstances outlined in the Registrant’s email dated 14 June 2019 were intrinsic to her position in respect of today’s hearing, and therefore decided to hear the entire matter in private, pursuant to Rule 10(1)(a) of the Rules.

Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence

4. Ms Ktisti, applied for the Panel to proceed today. She informed the Panel that the Registrant has not corresponded in a substantive way with the HCPC except for her email dated 14 June 2019. This email from the Registrant was sent in response to the Notice of Hearing which was emailed to the Registrant on 13 June 2019 as well as sent to her by post. Ms Ktisti submitted that the Registrant’s email makes no reference to any adjournment and that the Registrant has made a decision not to attend.

5. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the discretion to proceed in the absence of a Registrant should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel was of the view that there is no indication that an adjournment would secure the Registrant’s attendance at a future date. This is due to the following: the lack of any request for an adjournment from the Registrant, the family circumstances which she refers to in her email dated 14 June 2019, and her position that she would like the HCPC “to cancel my registration now” (although the Panel noted that she also asks for information as to how to “re-register” in the future).  

6. The Panel also noted that the HCPC wrote a further letter to the Registrant dated 19 June 2019 reminding her of today’s hearing, and inviting the Registrant to submit any further information.

7. The Panel took into account the potential disadvantage to the Registrant if it were to proceed. However, taking into account the lack of  a request for an adjournment from the Registrant, the Panel was satisfied that it is in the public interest, as well as being fair, for today’s review to proceed expeditiously.

8. The Panel therefore decided to proceed today.

Background

9. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker. She was employed as a Social Worker by City of Wolverhampton Council (the Council) for some 25 years prior to the matters to which this case relates. The Registrant’s substantive daytime post was in the Older People Service. She also worked as a sessional worker for the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) every Saturday night. She had worked for the EDT for 11 years. She had also recently qualified as an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP) and was on occasions required to exercise that role both as a member of the EDT and in her substantive daytime post.

10. On Saturday 1 October 2016, the Registrant was working a 12-hour shift on EDT between 9:00 pm and 9:00 am the following day. A Child Protection incident was referred to EDT at 21:15 on 1 October 2016 in relation to a child who had been bitten by a dog. The child’s family was subject to a Child in Need plan at the material time.

11. It is alleged that the Registrant did not take the appropriate action upon receiving the referral in various respects as set out in particulars 1a(i)-(vi) of the allegation. It is further alleged that she did not provide any handover to the Social Worker who took over the shift at 9:00 am the following morning as set out in particular 1b.

12. These concerns were looked into by the Registrant’s EDT line manager NM, who was employed by the Council as a Senior Social Work Manager in the EDT. She was informed of these concerns on Monday 3 October 2016 and discussed them with the Registrant at a meeting on 6 October 2016.

13. The concerns relating to the Registrant’s handling of the child protection incident on 1-2 October 2016 were subject to a formal investigation by JE, who was employed as an Independent Investigating Officer by the Council.

14. The investigation led to a disciplinary hearing. However, in July 2016 the Registrant had already been discussing resignation with her line manager and before the disciplinary hearing, she had resigned from her employment with the Council.

Decision of the Panel

15. Ms Ktisti submitted that, in light of the lack of any evidence from the Registrant to address the concerns found, the Registrant remains impaired. Ms Ktisti referred to the Registrant’s email dated 14 June 2019 in which she states that “At the moment I would not be fit to practice as a Social Worker”. Ms Ktisti informed the Panel that the HCPC’s position is that the Suspension Order should be extended to allow the Registrant to engage with the HCPC.

16. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s email dated 14 June 2019 which in which the she states that she is not at the moment fit to practice as a Social Worker. She states that while she is not fit to work as a Social Worker at present and asks the HCPC to “please cancel my registration now”, she also states that she “would like to know what if anything can be done to re-register” in the future “once the inevitable happens”. She states that her previous manager “recognized that I was a good and competent Social Worker who stumbled once due to personal illness and stupidity”.

17. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

18. The Panel was aware that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Registrant’s fitness to return to unrestricted practice and considered the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders”.

19.  The Panel must exercise its own independent judgement with regard to impairment.

20. With regard to the Registrant’s insight and remediation, the Panel noted the Substantive Panel’s observations:

“44. With regard to the “personal” component of impairment, the Panel acknowledged that the Registrant had shown remorse for her failings in relation to the relevant incident. However, the Registrant had provided no adequate explanation either contemporaneously or subsequently as to reasons for her failures. She had provided no evidence of any steps taken to remediate her failures. Nor had she provided any information to reassure the Panel that any factors relating to her health or private life which may have contributed to her failures had since been resolved, so that they would no longer have a negative impact on her ability to practise safely. In the circumstances, the Panel considered that there was a risk of repetition. The Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired in relation to the “personal” component.

45.  The Panel also found the “public” component of impairment to be satisfied in this case. A member of the public with knowledge of the Registrant’s failure to take any effective steps to safeguard a vulnerable child in such circumstances would be extremely concerned to learn that the Regulator had failed to place any restriction on her registration. The Registrant’s misconduct posed a risk to service users, as a result of which public confidence in the profession and in the regulator would be undermined if there were no finding of impairment.”

21. The Panel acknowledges the extremely difficult personal circumstances referred to by the Registrant in her email dated 14 June 2019, as well as the Registrant’s expression of remorse in that email. However, there has been no real evidence before today’s Panel from the Registrant demonstrating the level of her insight since the substantive hearing. Further, there is a lack of any evidence that she has taken any steps to address the misconduct found proved or of any evidence about steps taken to maintain her professional skills and knowledge since the substantive hearing. The Registrant has also not followed the recommendations made by the previous Panel at the substantive hearing.

22. These factors led the Panel to conclude that the Registrant remains impaired in respect of the personal component.

23. With regard to the wider public interest which includes public confidence in the profession, the Panel was of the view that in light of the concerns which have not been addressed, and the consequent risk to patient safety, the Panel was satisfied that a fully informed and fair minded member of the public would be gravely concerned if the Registrant were returned to unrestricted practice. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold proper standards, would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances of this case.

24. The Panel therefore found that there is an ongoing risk to the public Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired in respect of the personal and public components.

25. The Panel next went on to consider sanction, and took into account the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP). The Panel bore in mind that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment, and that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. Further, sanction must be proportionate, so that any order that it makes be the least restrictive order necessary to protect the public interest, including public protection. 

26. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, which has not been remedied, and the ongoing risk to public protection, it would be inappropriate to take no action. It would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

27. The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the ISP which states: “A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate action.”

28. The Registrant’s misconduct was serious in nature, and furthermore, the Registrant has not demonstrated that she has taken any of the steps required to address the concerns. Therefore, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to protect the public and meet the public interest.

29. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. Para. 33 of the ISP states that:
“Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:
where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing…”

30. On the basis of the Registrant’s position expressed in her email dated 14 June 2019, there is no indication that she would be able to comply with conditions. The Panel therefore decided that conditions would be unworkable and neither sufficient to protect the public, nor in the public interest.

31. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and considered para. 39 of the ISP:
“Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice would provide insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited”.

32. The Panel decided that to extend the duration of the Suspension Order would be the most appropriate and proportionate outcome. It would sufficiently protect the public and uphold the public interest. The Registrant has engaged with the HCPC and Panel accepts that she has extremely difficult circumstances which understandably result in these proceedings not being her priority. Therefore a further period of suspension would allow the Registrant to engage with the HCPC and to consider her future. In light of the circumstances as set out by the Registrant, the Panel decided that a further period of 12 months’ suspension would be proportionate and appropriate.

33. The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order but concluded that this would be disproportionately severe at this stage.

34. At the review of this Order, a future Panel may be assisted by the following:

• the Registrant’s engagement with the HCPC prior to the review of this order and her attendance at the review hearing to demonstrate that she has reflected on the seriousness of the incident, its potential consequences for the service users, the profession and her own status as a member of a profession;
• information about her current state of health and personal circumstances;
• up to date references and testimonials from any employer and in relation to any work-related activities since the date of this Order.

35. The Panel therefore decided to extend the Suspension Order for 12 months from the date upon which the current Order would otherwise have expired.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Leila Annicki Karhu for a further period of 12 months from the date of expiry of the existing Order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 25 August 2019.

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 25 August 2020.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Leila Annikici Karhu

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
15/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
25/03/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended