Miss Charlotte E Briggs
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During the course of your employment as a Social Worker by with Somerset County Council between January 2012 and February 2016, you:
1. Between November 2015 and January 2016, did not maintain your registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
2. on or around 22 December 2015, attended Court in the capacity of a Social Worker even though you had been de-registered by the HCPC on 6 November 2015.
3. did not maintain adequate records, in that:
a. in relation to Case A, you did not record on AIS (Somerset County Council’s Case Management System):
i. Not proved;
ii. Not proved
iii. Not proved.
b. in relation to Case B, you did not take sufficient action to resolve an issue in relation to the non-compliance with direct payments.
c. Not proved
d. in relation to Case D, you:
i. Not proved
ii. Not proved
e. in relation to Case E, you did not:
i. Not proved.
ii. Not proved
f. in relation to Case F, you did not:
i. Not proved
ii. upload a witness statement on AIS until 13 February 2015.
4. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 3 constitute misconduct and / or a lack of competence.
5. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing dated 7 June 2019 had been served on the Registrant at her home address. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted to the address on the register on 7 June 2019.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Registrant did not appear nor was she represented.
3. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Dudrah applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. The Registrant had not attended the substantive hearing in December 2017 or the first review in December 2018 and there had been no contact between her and the HCPC since 6 June 2019 when the Registrant sent an email in which she stated she would not be attending the review hearing which was scheduled for that date. Ms Dudrah reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review and submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.
4. Having considered the revised HCPTS Practice Note on proceeding in absence and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba  EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable notice of today’s hearing. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment and had voluntarily absented herself. There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned. The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.
5. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in the Adult Learning Disability Team at Somerset County Council (the Council) between January 2012 and February 2016. Between November 2015 and January 2016, the Registrant failed to maintain her registration with the HCPC, during which time she attended care proceedings at Bristol County Court in circumstances in which she would have been perceived as a registered Social Worker. There were further concerns in relation to her record keeping. It was alleged that she did not take appropriate action in relation to social work plans and assessments from 2013 to 2016.
6. A final hearing of a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC was held on 11-12 December 2017. The Registrant did not attend the hearing but she had admitted the particulars of the Allegation in relation to failing to maintain her registration and attending court in the capacity of a Social Worker after her de-registration (Particulars 1 and 2) in a written response before the hearing, and the panel found those matters proved. In relation to record keeping, the panel found that she failed to take sufficient action to resolve non- compliance with direct payments in relation to one service user (Particular 3(b)) and that she had failed to index a document (particular 3(f)(ii)).
7. The panel found that the facts as proved in relation to Particulars 1, 2 and 3(b) amounted to misconduct that was serious. The failure to maintain her registration was deplorable and her conduct in attending court as a Social Worker when de-registered had placed her employer at risk of serious reputational damage.
8. In relation to impairment, the panel found that the Registrant had failed to engage effectively with the regulatory process so there was no evidence as to her current circumstances. Her written response showed a lack of understanding and insight, in particular in relation to her attendance at court. There therefore remained a likelihood of repetition of her misconduct so her fitness to practise was impaired.
9. The panel found that the Registrant’s acts and omissions were such as to undermine public confidence in her profession and that a finding of impairment was required to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.
10. The aggravating factors included limited insight, lack of remediation, and abuse of trust in relation to her registered status. The mitigating factors included her admissions and previous good character. A Suspension Order of 12 months duration was imposed as the sanction. The misconduct was too serious for any lesser order. There remained a risk to the public and a risk of repetition.
11. The panel recommended that the next panel would be assisted by:
• A reflective piece demonstrating insight into the conduct that led to these proceedings;
• Evidence that the Registrant has kept her professional knowledge up to date;
• Any relevant references or testimonials for paid or unpaid work.
First Review 6 December 2018
12. The Order was first reviewed on 6 December 2018 when the Registrant did not attend and was not represented. Nor had the Registrant provided any of the material recommended by the original Panel.
13. The Reviewing Panel on 6 December 2018 found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was sill impaired and extended the Suspension Order for a further period of 6 months. The Reviewing Panel stated that, “the Registrant should be in no doubt that the next reviewing panel would have strong grounds to strike her name from the register if she continues to fail to engage with the HCPC”. That Panel also recommended that the Registrant provided the same material as the original Panel had recommended.
14. Ms Dudrah for the HCPC reminded today’s Panel of the history of the case, the decision on current impairment and, if required, it’s powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the order or imposing another order. Ms Dudrah referred the Panel to the only communication received from the Registrant since 2017 which consisted of an email from her to the HCPC dated 6 June 2019. Ms Dudrah contended that the Registrant remained impaired on both personal and public grounds. The conduct was found to be deplorable and there was a risk of repetition of her misconduct in the absence of any evidence of insight, remorse or remediation. Ms Dudrah referred to paragraph 48 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy and submitted to the Panel that striking off may be an appropriate sanction.
Decision on Impairment
15. The Panel was aware that it had first to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and if so, what, if any, sanction should be imposed. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Notes on Impairment. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor when considering impairment.
16. The Panel reminded itself of the public component in Cohen v GMC  EWHC 581: “the need to protect the individual and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect…and that the public interest includes, amongst other things, the protection of service users and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.”
17. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including changes of circumstances and an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case.
18. The Panel considered the two component parts relating to impairment, the personal component and the public component. It first considered the personal component, namely whether the conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and whether it was likely to be repeated.
19. In considering the issue of personal impairment, the Panel noted that the Registrant had failed to respond to any of the recommendations of the panel at the substantive hearing and the first review hearing.
20. The Panel carefully considered the contents of the Registrant’s email dated 6 June 2019 in which the Registrant stated, “at this point in time I have no wish to be a Social Worker”. Whilst the Registrant referred in her email to not having been supported appropriately, the Panel considered that the Registrant had still not demonstrated any insight or provided evidence of reflection or remediation on her misconduct and that there was a continuing risk of repetition. Therefore the Panel concluded the risk to the public remains and the Registrant’s fitness to practise was therefore still impaired on personal grounds.
21. In considering the wider public interest, the Panel concluded that a finding that the Registrant was not currently impaired would undermine public confidence in the profession. The nature of her misconduct was such as to risk serious damage to the reputation of her profession if repeated. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was therefore impaired on public grounds.
Decision on Sanction
22. The nature of the misconduct was too serious to make no order. The Panel considered whether to impose a Caution Order, but decided that it was inappropriate, because this was not an isolated instance of misconduct and it would not provide sufficient public protection. A Conditions of Practice Order would not be workable or verifiable in the absence of any engagement or insight on the part of the Registrant.
23. The Panel noted that the Registrant has now been subject to two periods of suspension and had still not provided any of the material recommended by the two previous Panels. The Panel did not consider that a further period of suspension would serve any useful purpose or would result in the Registrant being able to practise safely as a Social Worker.
24. The Panel had regard to paragraph 48 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy: ‘Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.’
25. The Panel considered that the Registrant had demonstrated an inability and unwillingness to resolve matters, having been given two opportunities to provide evidence by both the original hearing Panel and the First Reviewing Panel. The Panel also had regard to the contents of the Registrant’s email in which the Registrant has made it clear that she no longer wishes to practise as a Social Worker. As well as passages from the email quoted above, the Registrant also stated. “However, given the current climate, and talking with friends who are still social workers, this is definitely not an environment that I wish to return to”. Further, she acknowledged she had not engaged with the HCPC, “mainly because I had no desire to work as a social worker, in order to preserve my own health and wellbeing.”
26. For all of the above reasons, the Panel determined that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Striking Off Order.
The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Miss Charlotte E Briggs from the Register with immediate effect.
No notes available