Ms Adelaide Arkorful

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW66537

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 25/06/2019 End: 17:00 27/06/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

Allegation (as amended on 18 March 2019)

Whilst registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and during the course of your employment with the London Borough of Newham (LBN) between around 6 June 2016 and 9 December 2016, you:
1. In relation to Family A,
a) Did not visit and/or record visits to Family A between around 23 June 2016 and 12 August 2016;
b) In the Child in Need Visit Forms dated 12 August 2016, 18 August 2016, 20 September 2016, 21 October 2016 and 03 November 2016, you:
i. Did not address the concerns from the Child in Need plan made on 6 June 2016;
ii. Did not progress the Child in Need plan;
iii. Gave minimal detail about observations and/or interactions with the children.
c) Did not record minutes and/or keep any written records regarding issues discussed at Child in Need meetings;
d) Did not set any actions following the Child in Need meetings;
e) Did not consider and/or put in place any additional support for Family A;
f) Did not explore why Adult Services had stopped working with the mother;
g) Did not explore why a Family Support Worker provided by Adult Services had stopped escorting the mother and Child A to and from the Children’s Centre;
h) Did not safeguard Child B (a small baby) when advised by Family Support Worker A that its mother leaves Child B at home alone when she drops Child A to school, in that you:
i. Did not record sufficient information relating to home visits.
ii. Did not update/communicate with the Family Support Worker following the home visits
iii. Did not take any further action in relation to this concern.

2. In relation to Family B:
a)  Lent approximately £20.00 to Child C’s mother.
b)  On or around 18 November 2016, took 3 hours and 20 minutes to arrive at Child C’s school after being informed that child C’s mother was not at school to pick up Child C at 15:40 hours.
c)  On the morning of 21 November 2016, you:
i. did not update Child C’s school about Child C’s welfare,
ii. when Child C’s school telephoned you, you were uncertain about where Child C had stayed over the weekend and/or whether it would be okay for Child C’s mother to collect Child C from school.
d)  during your telephone conversation with staff at Child C’s school on 21 November 2016 referred to Child C’s mother as “manipulating everyone”, or words to that effect.
e)  on or around 25 November 2016, indicated to Child C’s school that care proceedings would be brought but did not take any further action in relation to this.
f) Did not ensure attendance by a social worker at the core group meeting on 15 December 2016, in that you did not inform a manager that you were unwell after 9 December 2016.

3. Did not undertake statutory visits and/or consistently record child protection visits on the LBN’s Carefirst system in a timely manner, in that you:
a) In the case of Child D, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 27 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
b) In the case of Child E, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 27 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
c) In the case of Child F, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 31 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
d) In the case of Child G, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 10 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
e) In the case of Child H, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 10 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;

4. Did not undertake and/or consistently record Child in Need visits on LBN’s Carefirst system in a timely manner, in that you:
a) In the case of Child A, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 3 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
b) In the case of Child J, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 29 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
c) In the case of Child K, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 29 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
d) In the case of Child B, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 03 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;

5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Initial Hearing on 1 October 2018
Allegation  (As amended at the Substantive Hearing commencing 1 October 2018).
Whilst registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and during the course of your employment with the London Borough of Newham (LBN) between around 6 June 2016 and 9 December 2016, you:
1. In relation to Family A,
a) Did not visit and/or record visits to Family A between around 20 June 2016 and 12 August 2016;
b) In the Child in Need Visit Forms dated 12 August 2016, 18 August 2016, 20 September 2016, 21 October 2016 and 03 November 2016, you:
i. Did not address the concerns from the Child in Need plan made on 6 June 2016;
ii. Did not progress the Child in Need plan;
iii. Gave minimal detail about observations and/or interactions with the children.
c) Did not record minutes and/or keep any written records regarding issues discussed at Child in Need meetings;
d) Did not set any actions following the Child in Need meetings;
e) Did not consider and/or put in place any additional support for Family A;
f) Did not explore why Adult Services had stopped working with the mother;
g) Did not explore why a Family Support Worker provided by Adult Services had stopped escorting the mother and Child A to and from the Children’s Centre;
h) Did not safeguard Child B (a small baby) when advised by Family Support Worker A that its mother leaves Child B at home alone when she drops Child A to school, in that you:
i. Did not record sufficient information relating to home visits.
ii. Did not update/communicate with the Family Support Worker following the home visits
iii. Did not take any further action in relation to this concern.

2. In relation to Family B:
a) Lent approximately £20.00 to Child C’s mother.
b) On or around 18 November 2016, took 3 hours and 20 minutes to arrive at Child C’s school after being informed that child C’s mother was not at school to pick up Child C at 15:40 hours.
c) On the morning of 21 November 2016, you:
i. did not update Child C’s school about Child C’s welfare,
ii. when Child C’s school telephoned you, you were uncertain about where Child C had stayed over the weekend and/or whether it would be okay for Child C’s mother to collect Child C from school.
d) during your telephone conversation with staff at Child C’s school on 21 November 2016 referred to Child C’s mother as “manipulating everyone”, or words to that effect.
e) on or around 25 November 2016, indicated to Child C’s school that care proceedings would be brought but did not take any further action in relation to this.
f) Did not ensure attendance by a social worker at the core group meeting on 15 December 2016, in that you did not inform a manager that you were unwell after 9 December 2016.

3. Did not undertake statutory visits and/or consistently record child protection visits on the LBN’s Carefirst system in a timely manner, in that you:
a) In the case of Child D, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 28 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
b) In the case of Child E, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 27 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
c) In the case of Child F, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 28 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
d) In the case of Child G, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 10 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
e) In the case of Child H, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 10 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;

4. Did not undertake and/or consistently record Child in Need visits on LBN’s Carefirst system in a timely manner, in that you:
a) In the case of Child A, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 20 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
b) In the case of Child J, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 29 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
c) In the case of Child K, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 29 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
d) In the case of Child L, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 01 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
e) In the case of Child M, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 01 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
f) In the case of Child N, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 01 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
g) In the case of Child B, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 03 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;

5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Preliminary Matters on 1 October 2018
Amendment of Allegation
1. Mr Foxsmith told the Panel that the HCPC had intimated to the Registrant the proposed amendments on 17 December 2017. These seek to further clarify and specify the allegation and better reflect the evidence. He submitted that the proposed amendments did not make the case more serious than that originally drafted. The Registrant had not objected and he submitted that no prejudice arose from the proposed amendments.

2. The Registrant was unclear why the changes were being made and considered the changes were unfair as she said she had done the visits and had recorded them via business support.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to its discretion to allow amendment and he reminded it of the importance of fairness to all parties and the interests of justice. The Panel is of the view that the proposed amendments provide further clarification and do not alter the nature or gravity of the allegation. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been given notice of these proposed amendments by the HCPC in a letter dated 18 December 2017. It determined that no unfairness to the Registrant arose and that the amendments were fair and appropriate. The Panel determined to allow the amendments as sought by the HCPC.

4. The Registrant denied all particulars of the allegation except for 1(b)(ii), 1(h)(iii) and 2(b).

5. Mr Foxsmith sought to amend what appeared to be an error where the word “and” appears between sub-particulars 2(c)(i) and (ii). The Registrant did not object. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to fairness and the interests of justice. It determined that no prejudice arose by the deletion of the word “and”, the word added nothing to the allegation and could create confusion between the two sub-particulars. It seemed to be a typographical error and the Panel determined that it was fair and appropriate to allow the amendment to delete the word “and”.

Background
6. The Registrant was employed as an agency Social Worker by the London Borough of Newham Council (“the Council”) from 6 June 2016 to 12 December 2016. The Registrant worked in the Intervention Team South as a Social Worker for vulnerable children in need, or those at risk of significant harm.

7. It is alleged that the Registrant did not carry out and / or did not accurately record statutory visits with children on Child in Need (CIN) and Child Protection Plans (CP). It is further alleged that the Registrant did not undertake work in relation to Family A and Family B despite directions to do so, and that she did not escalate a significant safeguarding issue in relation to Child B in Family A.
Witness 1 – RR  (on 1 October 2018)

8. The Panel heard from RR who affirmed and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a Senior Family Support Worker with the Council. She supports the professionals working with children in need and she attends core group meetings, case conferences for Children in Need and Child Protection Plans.

9. The Registrant commenced cross examination of the witness.

Applications by the Registrant to Produce Documentary Evidence
10. During the course of cross examination of RR, the Registrant told the Panel that she had further papers she wanted to produce and rely upon. This included her 2016 diary covering the period from June to December 2016. She advised the Panel that she has found further documents which were relevant and she sought to produce these to the Panel. The Registrant also advised that she had a note book at home which she considered was also relevant and which she wanted to produce. This contained her notes of meetings over the relevant period.

11. Mr Foxsmith for the HCPC referred to the standard directions issued to the Registrant for the management of hearings. He acknowledged the fact that the Registrant was unrepresented and there was nothing to suggest any ambush by her. He advised there were two witnesses available today and he was conscious of the need to proceed, but accepted there was a fundamental requirement to be fair to the Registrant. Having taken time to consider the documentation, Mr Foxsmith advised that, having taken instructions, the HCPC did not object to the production of the diary or to the further pages of documentation.

12. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded it to consider the issue of fairness and the interests of justice and of its discretionary powers to manage its own proceedings. It carefully considered the position and the requirement for fairness. It determined that it would be unfair to the Registrant to refuse to allow her to produce the documentation now, despite its late production and the disruption to the proceedings.

13. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant as an unrepresented person had genuinely not fully understood or appreciated the importance and relevance of the documentation. It accordingly determined that it was fair and appropriate to allow the additional documents into the evidence, being the diary and the additional pages which it appeared were relevant and would be of assistance to the Panel.

14. The Panel heard a second application on 2 October 2018 from the Registrant seeking to produce further documentary evidence being a further diary, two note books and receipts. Mr Foxsmith did not object to that application having reviewed the documents which appeared to be relevant and of assistance to the Panel. Having accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor the Panel determined that, although late, it was fair and appropriate to allow the documents to be received into the evidence. The Panel noted that the material required to be redacted to protect personal information and it understood that the HCPC would now undertake that process.

Release of Witness RR
15. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the HCPC will require time to reconsider the present allegation in light of the evidence now received from the Registrant. In that regard, he sought that witness RR be released from her affirmation. He submitted that no prejudice would arise and that would allow the HCPC to consider matters. The Registrant did not object.

16. Having taken legal advice the Panel determined to release RR from her affirmation as it would be inappropriate and unfair not to do so. It would be difficult for the HCPC to prepare its case before the continued hearing were the witness to remain under affirmation until the reconvened hearing in March 2019.

Order for Directions
17. Mr Foxsmith sought that Directions be made for all material to be relied upon to be produced some weeks before the next hearing dates. Further, he referred to an email in the bundle from the Registrant to the HCPC which sought disclosure from the Council of a print out of her allocated cases and records of core management meetings and other meetings in the relevant period.
18. Mr Foxsmith sought that an order for production be made to order that the Council produce those records, or an explanation of why they are not available. He suggested that the Council be asked to produce that material within two months and that the new bundles be paginated. The Registrant advised that she sought no further directions.
19. The Panel took and accepted legal advice on Case Management Powers and Production Orders. It determined to make the following Case Management Directions, thereafter adjourning the hearing :-
1. The Registrant must serve any further, relevant, redacted material on which she wishes to rely no later than 28 days from today.
2. All documents in the Registrant’s bundles must be redacted by the Registrant to meet Data Protection requirements.
3. The material sought by the HCPC from the Council to be exhibited to the Registrant within two months of today.
4. All bundles to be paginated and redacted where required.
5. That, within 3 months of today’s date, the HCPC serve any proposed amendment to the allegation together with any further evidence on the Registrant.
6. That the Registrant prepare and send to the HCPC within 28 days of receiving the information in direction 5 and the documents, if any, received under the Order for Production, a detailed response to the allegation identifying the particulars of the allegation and cross referring her statement to the relevant documents.

Order for Production
The Panel orders that the London Borough of Newham Council produce within 2 months all the records on it’s Carefirst IT system relating to the Registrant’s case load in the period from around 6 June 2016 to 9 December 2016.”

 

Continued Hearing on 18 March 2019
Allegation  (As further amended at the Substantive Hearing commencing 18 March 2019).
“Whilst registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and during the course of your employment with the London Borough of Newham (LBN) between around 6 June 2016 and 9 December 2016, you:
1. In relation to Family A,
a) Did not visit and/or record visits to Family A between around 23 June 2016 and 12 August 2016;
b) In the Child in Need Visit Forms dated 12 August 2016, 18 August 2016, 20 September 2016, 21 October 2016 and 03 November 2016, you:
i. Did not address the concerns from the Child in Need plan made on 6 June 2016;
ii. Did not progress the Child in Need plan;
iii. Gave minimal detail about observations and/or interactions with the children.
c) Did not record minutes and/or keep any written records regarding issues discussed at Child in Need meetings;
d) Did not set any actions following the Child in Need meetings;
e) Did not consider and/or put in place any additional support for Family A;
f) Did not explore why Adult Services had stopped working with the mother;
g) Did not explore why a Family Support Worker provided by Adult Services had stopped escorting the mother and Child A to and from the Children’s Centre;
h) Did not safeguard Child B (a small baby) when advised by Family Support Worker A that its mother leaves Child B at home alone when she drops Child A to school, in that you:
i. Did not record sufficient information relating to home visits.
ii. Did not update/communicate with the Family Support Worker following the home visits
iii. Did not take any further action in relation to this concern.

2. In relation to Family B:
a)  Lent approximately £20.00 to Child C’s mother.
b)  On or around 18 November 2016, took 3 hours and 20 minutes to arrive at Child C’s school after being informed that child C’s mother was not at school to pick up Child C at 15:40 hours.
c)  On the morning of 21 November 2016, you:
i. did not update Child C’s school about Child C’s welfare,
ii. when Child C’s school telephoned you, you were uncertain about where Child C had stayed over the weekend and/or whether it would be okay for Child C’s mother to collect Child C from school.
d)  during your telephone conversation with staff at Child C’s school on 21 November 2016 referred to Child C’s mother as “manipulating everyone”, or words to that effect.
e)  on or around 25 November 2016, indicated to Child C’s school that care proceedings would be brought but did not take any further action in relation to this.
f) Did not ensure attendance by a social worker at the core group meeting on 15 December 2016, in that you did not inform a manager that you were unwell after 9 December 2016.

3. Did not undertake statutory visits and/or consistently record child protection visits on the LBN’s Carefirst system in a timely manner, in that you:
a) In the case of Child D, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 27 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
b) In the case of Child E, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 27 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
c) In the case of Child F, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 31 October 2016 and 5 December 2016;
d) In the case of Child G, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 10 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
e) In the case of Child H, did not record and/or undertake child protection visits between 10 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;

4. Did not undertake and/or consistently record Child in Need visits on LBN’s Carefirst system in a timely manner, in that you:
a) In the case of Child A, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 3 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;
b) In the case of Child J, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 29 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
c) In the case of Child K, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 29 September 2016 and 5 December 2016;
d) In the case of Child B, did not record and/or undertake child in need visits between 03 November 2016 and 5 December 2016;

5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Preliminary matters on 18 March 2019
20. The Final Hearing resumed on 18 March 2019. The Chair sought and received information from both parties in respect of the Case Management Directions issued on 2 October 2018. The Registrant produced a detailed witness statement and further material. 

21. Mr Bradbury explained that he had not received the care records from the Council until February 2019 and had then required to review them. Mr Foxsmith did not object. The Panel also received a witness statement produced by Mr Foxsmith for the HCPC witness AW, and was satisfied that the Registrant had received prior notice of this. The new material was received after accepting legal advice from the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel as to the issues of fairness and the relevance. 

HCPC Application to amend the allegation
22. Mr Foxsmith sought to amend the allegation. He advised that the HCPC were seeking to amend the dates in particulars 1 a), 3 a), 3 c) and 4 a).  Further, the HCPC intended to offered no evidence on particulars 4 d), 4e) and 4 f) (with existing 4 g) becoming 4 d).)  He submitted that these amendments reduced the number and the scope of the allegation and were made to better reflect the evidence. They were not prejudicial to the Registrant. Mr Bradbury did not object.

23. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and decided to allow the proposed amendments. These amendments reduced the scope of the allegation, were not prejudicial to the Registrant and sought to better reflect the evidence. It was in the interests of justice to allow the amendment. 

24. The Registrant responded to the allegation. Mr Bradbury indicated that having considered the position carefully the Registrant now denied particulars 1 b) ii) and 1 h) iii), although these had been admitted at the hearing in October 2018. The Registrant denied the remainder of the allegation, except for particular 2 b) which was admitted, but only in relation to the facts, not misconduct.

25. Mr Foxsmith advised that he intended to call his first witness RR, but had learned that RR was not available due to illness. The Panel indicated it expected that in order to ensure fairness that the HCPC would start its case again and examine witness RR. This was particularly important as the Registrant was now represented by Mr Bradbury (having been unrepresented at the earlier part of the hearing in October 2018). The hearing was adjourned until 9.30am on Tuesday, 19 March 2019.

26.  The Panel heard from three witnesses, as well as the Registrant. RR, a registered Social Worker employed by the Council as a Senior Family Support Worker; SA is a registered Social Worker employed by the Council at the time as a Service Manager for Safeguarding  who conducted an investigation in to the concerns raised; and AW the Principal of the school attended by Child C.

Summary of the HCPC Witnesses 
Witness 2 - SA

27. Mr Foxsmith called witness SA. The witness confirmed the contents of his witness statement were true to the best of his knowledge and belief.  He was employed by the Council at the time of the allegation as a Service Manager for Safeguarding. He is now a Service Manager at another Council.

28. SA said that he had conducted an investigation in respect of two complaints relating to the Registrant after she had left the Council, earlier than planned, on 9 December 2016. Complaints had been received from RR and AW in respect of the Registrant’s performance, and further concerns were also raised about the Registrant’s work after she left the Council and her case load was taken over by other Social Workers. SA conducted an audit of the CIN and CP visits, which were stored on the Council’s Carefirst IT system. He explained the print outs to the Panel.

29. SA told the Panel about the Children in Need (CIN) plan for Family A. This required a visit by the Registrant every four weeks. He explained the lack of expected detail in the visit form which contained minimal detail and no evidence of actions being progressed. He explained that the impact of the actions taken should also be clear from the form. The lack of records could cause problems for Service Users and could complicate matters, but that was dependent on the trajectory of the issues identified. He explained the importance of the CIN meetings to review and identify actions to be undertaken in the six weekly cycle of CIN meetings.

30.  SA further explained the lack of action by the Registrant in respect of Family A despite supervision notes of 7 December 2016 indicating she would do so. He told the Panel about the concerns raised by RR regarding the Registrant’s work in respect of Family A. SA also explained his concerns and investigation regarding the allegation about Child C and said that the Registrant had failed in the basic, minimum standards expected of a Social Worker in failing to communicate with Child C’s school.  

31. In respect of particular 2 and 3 of the allegation, SA explained the importance of proper record keeping. This was to allow for accurate and timely records to be accessed by other care professionals such as night time services and for seamless handovers.

Application to receive further evidence
32. Mr Bradbury applied to have two documents relating to particular 2 a) received in to evidence. The Panel accepted the advice of Legal Assessor as to fairness and relevance. Mr Foxsmith did not object. The Panel decided to allow the document to be received in to the evidence, bearing in mind that it would be tested in evidence, and was relevant and of assistance to the Panel. 

Cross examination of SA    
33. SA explained he was not aware that the Registrant had not conducted a formal handover. He accepted that the Registrant had been ill during her last weeks at the Council but understood that handovers from the Registrant did not occur.  SA explained that as part of his investigation he had reviewed the Carefirst on a daily basis. That check was also part of his regular duties. SA said he did not question the Registrant’s Line Manager as she had retired. SA also said he had not contacted the Registrant as there had been difficulties contacting her. He said the Registrant’s employment agency had not been asked to contact the Registrant to request she take part in the investigation.

34. SA said that he could not say whether or when the Registrant had been given access to the Carefirst system. Without training the Registrant may have had access, but otherwise he was not sure. It was the Registrant and the Manager’s responsibility to ensure training on the Carefirst system was undertaken, and he had not investigated that aspect. He explained that an identified Social Worker appears on the system irrespective of access or training on the system, as they are responsible for the particular service user. He was not aware of colleagues using their access to place details on the system for others, such as the Registrant.

35. SA explained that others in the Social Work team could potentially undertake aspects of the required actions noted on the system in respect of Family A but most actions were the Social Worker’s responsibility.  There was a need for input from the Social Worker in order to record the impact on service users. SA explained the need for quality information in the CIN visit form and that there as a lack of detail in the Registrant’s notes in respect of Family A. He said he was left with the impression that there were no concerns and the note which appeared could cover “any child in the UK”.

36. SA said he expected the Registrant to liaise with the housing team and for there to be notes and analysis of the interaction with a non-verbal young child. Further, there was no record of the Registrant contacting other team members. He said that he did check that issue with RR who had raised the concerns and he had not interrogated the Registrant’s emails. He stressed that records of any discussions had to be recorded on the system to ensure a proper handover if anything happened to the allocated Social Worker.

37. SA said he relied upon information from RR, who was the Family Support Worker (FSW). He accepted that different opinions could be held by different professionals but there should be a close liaison between a FSW and the Social Worker, and proper notes recorded.

38. SA said he could not comment further as regards the exploration of the issues set out in particular 1 f) and 1 g). In relation  to Child B, particular 1 h) i),  ii) and iii), SA said that emails sent by the Registrant to the FSW did mitigate the risk to the child, but that was not sufficient as it was not clear whether the issue of the child being left alone had been properly addressed. He said he accepted the concerns raised by RR appeared well founded.

39. SA told the Panel that lending money to Family B was not appropriate as Social Workers were not budget holders. Any money to be given should be requested in advance by the Social Worker following an assessment of need. A manager would then be required to authorise any payment to be made to a family. He said that the “petty cash” document was a receipt that would be signed by the service user and then sent to the Finance department. SA explained that the complaint made related to the issue of the £20 not being repaid to the Registrant as lending to a service user was not appropriate.

40. On record keeping in respect of particular 2 relating to the school, SA said that the issue was that of safeguarding over the weekend. He accepted that the Registrant could not complete records over that weekend but the position ought to have been assessed on the Friday and a position agreed with the mother of Child C to cover the weekend.  He said the problem was the lack of discussion between the Registrant and the School, a lack of planning to safeguard Child C and lack of discussion the following Monday. He accepted that the Registrant was in court that day and could not contact the school. He accepted the Practice Manager could have followed up the issue with whom the Registrant shared aspects responsibility.

41. SA explained that once the threshold for care had been reached it was the Social Worker’s responsibility to escalate that if their Line Manager was not taking action. He accepted it was the Line Manager’s responsibility to organise the Core Group Meeting on 15 December 2015, as the Registrant was then absent from work. In respect of particular 3 and 4 SA explained his understanding was that managers were pressing the Social Workers, including the Registrant, made the required visits, and he explained the importance of timely visits.

42. On re-examination, SA explained clearly the process for providing cash to service users which, would never be lent and repayment sought. He said any personal diary entries such as those produced by the Registrant should be entered on the system so that others can have access. He explained the culture at the Council as regards missed visits, and if entries on Carefirst had been done by a colleague for the Registrant he said the system would show the entries made.

Witness 3 – AW
43. The witness adopted her witness statement as her evidence and confirmed that it was signed by her and was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is the Principal of the school which Child C attended at the time of the allegation.

44. AW said that she did not actually witness the claimed conflict between the Registrant and the mother of Child C. These events had been reported to her by her Deputy. She said she had no social work training and at the time did not know what a police protection order was or when it would be sought.

45. AW said that the Registrant said directly to her that the mother of Child C was “manipulating people”. AW explained that the school had repeatedly raised concerns about Child C and the mother’s ability to keep the child safe. AW clarified the school pick up times for the Panel.

Application to receive further evidence
46. On 20 March 2019, the Panel heard an application from Mr Bradbury to receive in to evidence a page that had been missed from the bundle.  There being no objection, and having accepted legal advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel admitted into evidence page 1 of the reference from Liquid Personnel in respect of the Registrant.

Witness 1 - RR
47. The Panel heard once again from witness RR (having decided it was fair and appropriate to do so). She confirmed that her signed witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a Family Support Worker at the Council. RR told the Panel about the concerns she raised with her Manager regarding the Registrant’s practice. She told the Panel that the Registrant did not take appropriate action and put support in place for Family A which she said led to increased risk for Child A and Child B.

48. RR said that she had first worked with the Registrant in July 2016. She had some concerns about the Registrant’s practice and raised them with her Service Manager, witness SA. She referred to her emails in this regard. RR told the Panel that she had not been able to find any notes of the meetings with Family A either taken at the time or sent by email at a later date. The absence of the notes meant that the family could not be properly supported.

49. RR understood that the Registrant was allocated Family A in July 2016. RR explained that the family needed additional support. She understood that the Registrant had been responsible for arranging this support but she had not done so. RR said that she had made a referral and secured a child minder for the mother. She told the Panel that the mother of Family A had health issues which affected her mobility and that she considered the Registrant’s inaction in relation to Family A had raised the risk of harm to the children of Family A.

50. RR told the Panel that she had expressed concerns about the baby, Child B, in Family A being left at home alone and she had raised them with the Registrant. RR said she had repeatedly raised concerns by email with the Registrant. RR had also attended a CIN meeting with the Registrant where the issue was discussed. She told the Panel that the Registrant had not taken sufficient action to escalate the risk identified.

Cross examination of RR
51. RR accepted that at the time she was relatively inexperienced and that she was not a Social Worker. RR explained her concerns about the Registrant failing to take minutes at CIN meetings and that none were being circulated after meetings. RR said that progress was made with Family A, but that was not due to the Registrant who had taken some, but limited, steps. RR said that she expected the Registrant to take steps such as providing an interpreter as the mother of Family A had poor English. She accepted that other professionals, such as a GP, also had a part to play in assisting Family A. 

52. RR said there was a lack of information from the Registrant and she did not know why adult support services had stopped working with Family A.  RR said she considered the Registrant could have done more for Family A. RR told the Panel that she saw the mother and youngest child of Family A every week, but knew the dad less well as he worked. She said she saw them about twenty times. RR said that her email raising concerns was sent sometime later as she had waited to see if issues were resolved at CIN meetings and she had also raised concerns with her Line Manager. RR said she had a good working relationship with the Registrant and had not had a disagreement with the Registrant.

53. Mr Foxsmith closed the case for the HCPC.   

The Registrant’s Evidence
54. The Registrant was sworn and confirmed that the witness statement was her evidence. She was taken through it by Mr Bradbury and explained the problems she experienced in gaining access to the Carefirst system at the Council. She said that between 23 June 2016 and 12 August 2016 she had sent the information from CIN meetings to a colleague who entered the details on the system in the “documents” area of the Carefirst system. 
55. The Registrant explained the circumstances in which she provided funds to Family B having noticed they had no food. She had asked the mother of Family A to sign a handwritten receipt prepared by the Registrant in her note pad in October 2016. She explained that she did not get the money back from the Council as she was told in November 2016 that she could not make the claim because she was an agency worker.
56. With respect to particulars 4 b) and 4 c) regarding Child J and Child K, the Registrant referred to her email to the Core Group professionals. She said that she had carried out the CIN visits by attending the children’s school. The Registrant told the Panel about her diary entries. She confirmed that she had visited Children D, E, F, G, H, J and K, and she had noted that in her diary entries for November and December 2016. She had also attended the Core Group meetings as noted in her diary on 25 and 30 November 2016 and at the school on 2 December 2016.  

57. The Registrant explained her diary entry of 7 December 2016. She said this recorded that she had a handover meeting for all her cases with a colleague. On 12 December 2016 the Registrant said her diary noted that she made calls and sent an email to colleagues regarding her absence from work. She said that her last day at the Council was 9 December 2016.

Cross examination of the Registrant 
58. The Registrant said she had a good relationship with RR. She said that she and the previous Social Worker had disagreed about Family A but RR had no grievance against her. The Registrant said that she carried out and recorded the visits to Family A.  Her colleague had input those records on the Carefirst system as the Registrant did not have access at the time. The Registrant said that those records would therefore appear in her colleague’s name, and not her own.

59. With regard to particular 1, the Registrant accepted that it was her responsibility to carry out action points. She said she had no access to the system and never received a copy of the CIN plan. She accepted that she was sent an email with some of the action points on it and said she had acted on the housing issues but that the child care issues had been resolved. She said she had made that clear at a meeting and there was no need to insert more detail in the records. She said that progress did not require to be detailed in the CIN plan, that minutes of CIN meeting were placed on the documents section not in the CIN plan, and that RR did the required minutes and circulated them.

60. The Registrant said she did not consider further support for Family A once the child care and housing were resolved. The family did not need further support. In respect of the withdrawal of Adult services for Family A, the Registrant said that she had made enquiries and she had explained the position at the handover on 7 December 2016. She told the Panel that she had been detained in court and had told her manager about the FSW and Family A.

61. With respect to particular 2, the Registrant denied that she had said to the school that Child’s C mother was “manipulating everyone”. She had spoken to the Principal, AW, but the school had misunderstood the position about court proceedings.

62. The Registrant told the Panel that in respect of particular 2, there was no conflict between her and the Mother of Child C at the Core Group meeting.  The Registrant said that she had given the money to the service user and obtained a written receipt. She did not accept that there was any issue with professional boundaries in lending money to a service user.

63. In respect of particular 3 the Registrant said that she had made all of the required visits to Children D, E, F G and H and had recorded them all. At this time the Registrant accepted that she access to the Carefirst system, but she said the system had changed again and she recorded them on the new system which she thought may have been called “Eagle”. She said the records appeared on that system and reports were run every Friday.  The Registrant said she had wanted to see all correspondence with the Council IT staff.

64. In response to particular 4, the Registrant said she had done the visits to Children A, B, J and K, and had also recorded them on the Council’s recording system, but she did not know which system. She said that she did not know when the new “Eagle” system came in to effect but she thought that Carefirst may still record the information.

65. The Registrant said that between 5 - 12 December 2016 her colleague recorded visits for her. She accepted that she but did not mention any new IT system in her witness statement and she had not recalled it. She denied any inconsistency in her evidence. The Registrant was referred to her witness statement and said that the HCPC had not spoken to certain people at the Council about the allegation and she did not know that it was for her to request that was done. She accepted with regard to the records she could have put more information in the child protection plan.

66. The Registrant explained that the diary entries were made in her own diary which she could also use for personal appointments. She could not recall whether or not she got it from the Council. She did not return the diary to the Council when she left in December 2016 and no one else had access to that diary which was for her own use. The Registrant said she attended some meetings and would cross out any meetings she missed or rearranged. She denied forging any entries.

67. The Registrant was referred to standard 10 of the HCPC Standards for Social Workers regarding record keeping.  She said her records were very accurate. In re-examination the Registrant said there was also an electronic diary that could be used and was accessible by other colleagues.

68. In response to Panel questions, the Registrant said she received no induction whatever at the Council other than introductions to colleagues. She had asked for access to the Carefirst system several times. As regards the minutes of CIN meetings, the Registrant confirmed that RR had taken minutes. She explained in respect of particular 2 b) that her manager had called her and told her that Child C was being dealt with.

Closing Submissions of the HCPC
69. Mr Foxsmith summarised the HCPC case and produced written submissions. He reminded the Panel that the HCPC had the burden of proof and must prove the allegation on the balance of probabilities. He made clear that the admissions initially made by the Registrant at the hearing on 1 October 2018 were not relied upon to any extent given her position on  the allegation at this hearing admitting particular 2 b) only.

70.  Mr Foxsmith invited the Panel to accept the evidence of the HCPC witnesses as truthful and consistent. He invited the Panel to note the matters arising in the Registrant’s evidence which had not been put to the HCPC witnesses and attach such weight to that evidence as it considered appropriate. He also pointed out some elements of hearsay evidence on which the Panel should place such weight as it considered appropriate.

71. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the Registrant’s evidence was at times unclear and that she had failed to answer some of the questions put to her. Further, the Registrant’s evidence was in places inconsistent. Much of her evidence was not supported by the evidence of other witnesses and he submitted the diary entries were of little weight or value.

72. On particular 1a), Mr Foxsmith submitted that he remained unclear what the Registrant’s position was. The Registrant appeared to have access to the system, but even if she did not have access the Carefirst system then was still under an obligation to make accurate records. It is not clear how or where the Registrant made the record she said she made. The Registrant’s evidence on the IT system was unclear and the evidence of witness SA should be preferred.

Closing Submissions for the Registrant
73. Mr Bradbury set out the Registrant’s case and produced written submissions. He referred the Panel to evidence of the Registrant regarding the entries on the Carefirst system made on her behalf by a colleague. He took the Panel through each of the particulars of the allegation.

74. Mr Bradbury emphasised that the Registrant was not sole lead in respect of Family A and her evidence was that she had made the required visits, documented the steps she had taken to progress the CIN action plan, and explored the required issues. He invited the Panel to accept the Registrant’s evidence that she had made all the visits in the allegation and had recorded them. On particulars 3 and 4 he submitted that the reports from the Carefirst system produced by SA, which in places did not contain accurate dates, and was not accurate or reliable.   

75. The heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel it must apply the balance of probabilities, that the onus of proof rests on the HCPC and that the Registrant need prove nothing. He reminded the Panel of the guidance on the admission and the weighing of hearsay evidence in Thorneycroft v NMC [2014] EWHC 1565 (Admin) and NMC v Ogbonna [2010] EWCA Civ 1216.   


Continued Hearing on 25 June 2019

Preliminary Matter on 25 June 2019
Application to Proceed in Absence
75. On resuming the hearing on 25 June 2019, the Panel heard an application from Mr Foxsmith, on behalf of the HCPC, to proceed in the absence of the Registrant who was not present nor represented.

76. Mr Foxsmith told the Panel that the Registrant had sent in a Statement for Fitness to Work for Social Security or Statutory Sick Pay. It is dated 5 June 2019 and states the Registrant is not fit for work because of a health condition. Her former representative, Mr Bradbury had also contacted the HCPC advising that he had no instructions to act for the Registrant or apply for an adjournment. Mr Bradbury stated that he had been unable to contact the Registrant.

77. Mr Foxsmith made an application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. He pointed out that the Panel had heard the Registrant’s evidence and was at the stage of handing down its decision on facts.  He submitted therefore that the Panel was at a stage in proceedings where the Registrant’s attendance may be of less significance. He referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in Absence and stated that there required to be a compelling reason not to proceed.

78. Mr Foxsmith advised that the Registrant has not requested an adjournment or, for example, asked to attend by telephone or provided any submission. She has not responded to attempts to be contacted by the HCPC. He submitted that it was not clear whether an adjournment would secure the Registrant’s attendance at a later date and submitted that the Panel ought to proceed in her absence and that it was in the public interest to do so. 
Legal Advice

79. The Legal Assessor advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel was reminded by the Legal Assessor that it must approach the exercise of its discretion with care and caution. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and reminded it of the prime importance of fairness to the Registrant, but with a need to balance that with fairness to the Regulator and the public interest.
 
80. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of Hayat v GMC [2017] EWHC 1899 (Admin).  It states that “there is a burden on medical practitioners subject to a regulatory regime to engage with the regulator…its follows that where a medical practitioner seeks an adjournment of a hearing on the basis that they are not fit enough to attend, then it is their responsibility to ensure sufficient evidence is presented to the Tribunal.”

Decision on Proceeding in Absence

81. This case commenced in October 2018 and relates to events in 2016. On 2 October 2018 the hearing was adjourned to allow the Registrant to produce further documents and a Case Management Order was issued. The hearing resumed on 18 March 2019 when the Panel allowed the Registrant to produce more evidence. The evidence of the witness and the Registrant was heard. When the hearing was adjourned on 22 March 2019 due to lack of time, the Panel noted that the Registrant expressed concern about the delay in proceedings and the effect that had on her, and she was visibly upset.

82. There is no application from the Registrant to adjourn and no indication that she would attend a future hearing. The Statement of Fitness to Work is dated 5 June 2019. The Registrant did not provide this to the HCPC until 20 June 2019 when she also emailed the HCPC to refer to it. She said no more. The HCPC Case Officer has since been unable to make contact with the Registrant on the contact details provided.

83. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s former representative, Mr Bradbury, had contacted the HCPC by email on 25 June 2019. He told the HCPC Case Manager that he had been advised on 24 June 2019 in an email from the Registrant that she would not be attending the hearing through ill health. He stated he was not engaged to represent the Registrant and had no instructions to seek an adjournment and that he had been unable to contact the Registrant.

84. The Panel considered the submissions from Mr Foxsmith and heard and accepted the legal advice. The Panel took account of the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant and on Postponement and Adjournment. It weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of a case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing. The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the information. 

85. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant knows about the hearing as a notice of hearing was sent to her registered address on 18 April 2019. She has sent to the HCPC on 20 June 2019 a Statement of Fitness to Work setting out her health condition, as well as an email to the HCPC Case Officer on that date referring to the Statement. That Statement advises that the Registrant is not fit to work from 5 - 30 June 2019. There is no other medical evidence, and no medical evidence that states that the Registrant is not able to attend this hearing. There is no further information about the Registrant’s circumstances.

86. The Panel was mindful of the Registrant’s witness statements and oral evidence which does contain further information it may find useful in considering grounds and impairment, if relevant, in due course.

87. The Panel took account of the advanced stage of the hearing.  It has heard the evidence, including the written and oral evidence of the Registrant. It has made its decision on the facts. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in Adeogba and in Hayat. The Panel was also mindful of the overarching function of the Regulator being to protect the public and maintain confidence in the profession. The presence and advice of the Legal Assessor will ensure that, so far as possible, the proceedings are fair.

88. It is incumbent on the Registrant to engage with her Regulator, and it is her responsibility to provide the Panel with sufficient evidence to allow it to decide if she is fit to attend this hearing. The Panel determined that the Statement for Fitness for Work is not sufficient to allow it to decide whether or not the Registrant is fit to attend this hearing. The Registrant has made no other statement as to her health or her position regarding the hearing. She has submitted no further information to the HCPC. She has not requested an adjournment or postponement, although the Panel note she sent an email with her sick certificate on 20 June 2019 drawing attention to the sick note.

89. The Panel are also concerned that further delay in this case, bearing in mind its history with two previous adjournments, may undermine public confidence in the process. A further adjournment, resulting in more delay, may also undermine the Panel’s ability to consider and assess the ground of misconduct, and impairment if relevant.

90. The Panel balanced the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and the need for expedition. It determined that it does not have proper and sufficient evidence to conclude that the Registrant is medically unfit to attend this hearing. Whilst the Registrant has engaged to some extent, she has not sought an adjournment and she has provided very limited information to the HCPC. She has waived her right to attend and the Panel determined that in all the circumstances it is fair and appropriate to proceed in her absence. 

 

Decision on Facts
Assessment of the witnesses
91. The Panel considered all the evidence and the submissions for both parties. It carefully considered the legal advice and was mindful that the onus rested on the HCPC to prove the allegation on the balance of probabilities. The Panel also reminded itself of the terms of the Case Management Order on 2 October 2018 which had required both parties to produce to the Panel all and any documentation that it wished to rely upon at this hearing.

92. The Panel considered and assessed each of the witnesses. It considered that none of the witnesses appeared to bear any ill will toward the Registrant. In particular, RR, with whom the Registrant worked, gave no indication in her evidence of any bad feeling or animosity toward the Registrant. The Registrant said she had a good working relationship with RR.

93. SA was confident and certain in his evidence. He was credible and reliable. His view was somewhat limited as his report was quite restricted in scope. He was clear on the structure and responsibilities of the team, but he did not know the Registrant and did not speak to her when conducting his report.

94. AW was professional, principled and candid. Some elements of her evidence were hearsay but she addressed that, and the Panel was satisfied it was fair and appropriate to admit that hearsay evidence and it placed some weight on it. AW was collected and measured in her evidence and she accepted where she did not have full knowledge of social work procedures.

95. RR was highly competent, candid and frank. She was an impressive witness who gave compelling evidence. She was open, enthusiastic and caring and had a comprehensive understanding of her role and responsibilities. She was credible and reliable. Where there was any conflict between her evidence and that of the Registrant, the Panel preferred the evidence of RR.

96. The Registrant was clearly passionate about her work as a Social Worker.  She tried to assist the Panel but her evidence was frequently confused and it lacked consistency and coherency. At times she appeared to provide new explanations that had not previously been given by her. Several times she gave explanations which she had not set out in her witness statement and she also referred to material which she had not produced to the Panel. For example in her oral evidence the Registrant referred for the first time to an IT system used by the Council called “Eagle” which had not been mentioned by her at any earlier stage, in her written statement or by any other witness. The Registrant’s evidence at times lacked both credibility and reliability.

Findings of Fact

Particular 1a) - Not proved
97. There was no evidence from either party that the Registrant did or did not visit and/or record the visits to Family A. There was a lack of evidence. This is not proved.

Particular 1b)  - 12 August 2016

98. i) Not proved
ii) Proved - The evidence of SA was accepted as to lack of progress in the CIN plan
iii) Proved - SA’s evidence was accepted that more detail was required, and the documentary evidence showed that there was minimal detail on interactions and observations.

Particular 1b)  - 18 August 2016
99. i) Not proved
ii) Not proved
iii) Proved – SA’s evidence was accepted.

Particular 1b) i), ii) & iii) -  Not proved as to 20 September, 21 October & 3 November 2016

Particular 1 c) – Proved
100. The Panel accepted RR’s evidence that the Registrant did not record and/or keep any minutes of CIN meetings

Particular 1 d) – Proved
101. There was no evidence of any record of setting any actions.

Particular 1 e) – Proved
102. RR’s evidence was accepted that additional support was not considered and was not put in place for Family A by the Registrant.

Particular 1 f) Not Proved
103. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s explanation that she did explore the issues.

Particular 1 g) – Proved
104. The Panel heard from the Registrant that she tried to call the Adult Social Services but could not get an answer and did not follow the matter up.  She said she left the matter for the father to deal with.  

Particular 1 h) i) – Not proved
Particular 1 h) ii) – Not proved
105. The Panel accepted the evidence of RR and the Registrant that an update and communication had taken place.

Particular 1 h) iii) -  Not proved
106. There was documentary evidence that a discussion had taken place with the mother.

Particular 2a) – Proved
107. The Registrant said in her evidence she did lend money to Child C’s mother and the Panel accept that evidence.

Particular 2b) – Proved
108. The Registrant accepted this particular in her evidence.

Particular 2c)  i) – Proved
109. AW confirmed this in her evidence, which is preferred to the Registrant.

Particular 2c) ii)  - Proved in part
110. The Registrant was clear in her evidence and that she was “uncertain” about where Child C had stayed over the weekend and this was confirmed by AW. However, the Registrant’s evidence was that she not “uncertain” whether it would be okay as she knew there was no court order.

Particular 2d) -  Proved
111. AW was clear that words to the effect alleged were said by the Registrant, and said she had made a statement to that effect, although she denied the precise words alleged.

Particular 2e) -  Not Proved
112. The Registrant said she filled in the form, although no such form was produced to the Panel. On balance, the Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that she completed the form which she said passed to her Line Manager to commence proceedings. SA was not aware of this was and was not in a position to contradict this evidence.

Particular 2f) -  Not Proved
113. The Registrant was absent from work at the time and the Panel consider this task was therefore not her responsibility.

Particular 3a) 3b), 3c), 3d) & 3 e) -  Proved in part
114. The Panel found that the Registrant did not record the CP visits to the children as alleged. On balance, and with the assistance of the Registrant’s diary, the Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that she did carry out the CP visits, but there is no documentary evidence of any record of those visits.

Particular 4 a) & 4 d)-  Proved
115. The Registrant’s evidence was that she admitted she had not made a visit to Child A or Child B and therefore she made no records of such visits on the dates alleged.

Particular 4 b) & 4 c) -  Proved in part
116. The Panel found that the Registrant did not record the CIN visits but on balance, and with the assistance of the Registrant’s diary, the Panel found that the Registrant did carry out the CIN visits.  There is no documentary evidence of any record of visits.

 

HCPC Submissions on Grounds and Impairment
117. Mr Foxsmith made submissions in respect of the alleged ground of misconduct and on impairment. He submitted that in light of the facts proven it was for the Panel to decide whether they amount to lack of competence and/or misconduct. He referred to the guidance in Roylance v GMC (No 2) [2000] 1 AC 311 as to misconduct and submitted that the findings of fact fell far below the standards to be expected of a Registered Social Worker.

118. Mr Foxsmith also submitted that the facts found proved were a fair sample of the Registrant’s work and amounted to a lack of competence.

119. Mr Foxsmith referred to the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and submitted that Standards 1, 2, 6 and 10 had been breached by the Registrant. He also submitted that the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers 1.2, 2, 8, 9 and 10 had also been breached.

120. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the Panel is also required to consider the issue of impairment should it find either ground established. He submitted that the Registrant had showed a lack of insight and recognition of risk of harm. The Registrant had tended to blame others, systems and circumstances. He submitted that the Registrant was currently impaired on both the personal and public component and he referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment.

121. The Panel heard and 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 v GMC (No 2) [2001] 1 AC 311 and on lack of competence he referred the Panel to the guidance in Calhaem v GMC  [2007] EWHC 2606, Holton v GMC [2006] EWHC 2960.

122. On the issue of impairment of fitness to practise, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding 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, remorse and the risk of repetition of the behaviour leading to the facts found proved. It must keep in the forefront of its mind the central importance of the need to protect the public and the wider public interest.

 

Decision on Grounds - Misconduct

123. The Panel considered all the evidence and was mindful of the guidance in Roylance. Exercising its professional judgement, the Panel found that the findings of fact showed that the Registrant’s work fell seriously short of the standards expected of a registered Social Worker.

124. The Panel found that the facts proved were a breach of the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics, Standards 1, 2, 6 and 10.  It also found that the Registrant had breached the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers 1, 1.2, 2.3, 8, 9.1, 9.7 and 10.  

125. The Registrant’s failures were serious. The Panel determined that the quality and depth of the records kept by the Registrant fell far below the standards to be expected of a registered Social Worker. Records keeping and escalating concerns is a crucial and fundamental part of the role of a Social Worker. The Registrant repeatedly failed to make records or meaningful records of some of her work during the period in question. This undermined the safe, timely and effective provision of services to vulnerable service users, including children. In 11 sub-particulars found proved, or part proved, the Registrant failed to practise safely and so placed vulnerable service users at potential risk of harm. 

126. The Panel found in the circumstances and context of this case that the sub-particulars found proved in 2 a) and in 2 c) ii) did not amount to misconduct.

127. The Panel determined that its findings in respect of all the other particulars found proved fell short of what would be proper in the circumstances and amounted to misconduct.

 

Decision on Grounds -  Lack of Competence

128. The Panel found that the Registrant appeared to understand what was expected of her on record keeping and on escalating concerns. There was no evidence heard by the Panel that suggested that the Registrant did not know what she ought to do. 

129. Mindful of the guidance in Holton and Calhaem, the Panel determined that it had no evidence that the allegations before it represented a fair sample of the Registrant’s work. In these circumstances the Panel do not find the facts found proved amount to a lack of competence.

 

Decision on Impairment

130. The Panel considered the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment and was mindful of the guidance in Grant. It kept in the forefront of its mind the importance of the public interest.

131. The Panel did not have before it evidence that indicated any meaningful insight by the Registrant. The oral and documentary evidence that the Panel had been provided with demonstrated she lacked insight as she had a tendency to deflect blame onto others and to system failures. She did not appear to accept responsibility for her actions, nor did she appear to consider or appreciate the impact of her actions on service users and colleagues. Further, the Registrant’s evidence did not indicate that she had taken time to reflect on her actions, although she did express some regret.

132. The Panel had no evidence of remorse and no evidence of any steps taken by the Registrant to remediate her practice, or to keep her professional knowledge and practice up to date.

133. The Panel determined that there is a serious lack of insight by the Registrant. It cannot be satisfied that the Registrant would not repeat her actions. Given the lack of evidence of remorse and any remediation, and the serious lack of insight, the Panel found that there is a real risk of repetition of the behaviour that led to the allegations. 

134. On the public component of impairment of fitness to practise, the Panel decided that the well informed and reasonable member of the public would be rightly concerned were a Social Worker who had been found to have repeatedly failed to record visits to vulnerable service users, failed to practise safely and placed service users at potential risk of harm, be in a position to practise on an unrestricted basis. A finding of impairment is required in order to uphold and declare proper standards of behaviour. The Panel determined that in the circumstances of this case that public confidence in the profession, and in the Regulator, would be undermined were a finding of impairment not made. 

135. The Panel accordingly found that the Registrant has 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 the Registrant has in the past brought, and is liable in the future, to bring the profession into disrepute.

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

HCPC Submissions on Sanction
137. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the Panel is now required to consider sanction, be mindful of proportionality and be guided by the HCPC Sanctions Guidance in exercising its professional judgment. He submitted that sanction was a matter for the Panel and he suggested that neither Mediation, a Caution Order, nor a Conditions of Practice Order were appropriate sanctions given the Panel’s findings as to seriousness and the Registrant's lack of insight and remediation. He suggested that the seriousness of the findings and the potential for harm were aggravating factors that the Panel may wish to consider.

138. Mr Foxsmith submitted that if, but only if, a restrictive sanction were to be imposed the Panel would then be required to consider whether to impose an interim order to protect the public pending the expiry of the appeal period. It also required to consider once again proceeding in the Registrant’s absence.

139. The Panel took the advice of the Legal Assessor.  He advised it to consider the HCPC Sanctions Policy and reminded it to consider sanction in ascending order and to apply the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public. It must act proportionally and also should also consider any aggravating and mitigating factors. It should be mindful of the public interest and that the primary purpose of sanction was protection of the public. He reminded the Panel of the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Notes on Interim Orders and Proceeding in Absence.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors
140. The Panel first identified what it considered to be mitigating and aggravating factors in this case. The mitigating factors identified were :-
a. The positive testimonials from fellow professionals who worked with the Registrant. The Panel considered the positive reference from her manager at the Council at the time of the incident. However, the Panel noted that none of the testimonials provided acknowledged the current HCPC proceedings.
b. Sixteen years of experience as a Social Worker without previous regulatory concerns.
c. The limited number of cases involved in the allegation, which were complex cases.
d. No actual harm caused to service users.

141. The aggravating feature identified was that the failures were serious and repeated.

 

Decision on Sanction

142. The Panel heard and accepted the legal advice from the Legal Assessor. The Panel approached the ladder of sanction, beginning with the least restrictive first, bearing in mind the need for proportionality. Mediation, taking no further action and the sanction of a Caution Order would not reflect the seriousness of the allegation found proved and the lack of insight and remediation. The lapses found proved are not isolated, limited or minor in nature. Further, these orders would not be adequate or proportionate given the wider public interest of maintaining confidence in both the profession and the regulatory process. The Panel concluded that neither order is appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case.

143. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel considered the deficiencies identified in its finding of fact are remediable and that conditions may facilitate remediation whilst protecting the public and the wider public interest.

144. The Panel had heard from and assessed the Registrant’s oral and written evidence. The Panel is mindful that, whilst it has found that the Registrant demonstrated a serious lack of insight, however it was not a total absence of insight. For example, she recognised she could improve her record keeping. She has evidenced commitment and enthusiasm in her practice and to the protection of vulnerable service users. The Panel considered that she has the ability to engage with the Conditions of Practice Order and there was no suggestion that the Registrant lacked honesty or integrity. Prior to the incidents giving rise to the allegation, the Registrant had 16 years experience as a Social Worker with no regulatory concerns raised and she has positive references received from personal and professional colleagues.

145. The Panel considered that the Registrant can be trusted to engage with conditions. Working under appropriate supervision the Panel considered that the Registrant would not pose a risk of harm to service users and would also be able to undertake remedial action in respect of the deficiencies identified in her practice.

146.  The Panel concluded that it is able to formulate Conditions of Practice that are realistic, verifiable, appropriate and proportionate. It imposed these conditions for one year as it considered that is a fair and proportionate period in which the Registrant can take steps to demonstrate that she can remedy her practice.

147. The Panel determined to impose the conditions set out in the Order below for a period of 12 months.

148. The Panel considered a Suspension Order. It concluded that such an order goes further than is necessary, and is more restrictive than is required, to protect the public and the public interest at this time. A Suspension Order would protect the public but would be disproportionate and would fail to balance the Registrant’s interests with the public interest. It would not allow the Registrant to take meaningful steps to remedy her practice which it has determined can be managed by appropriate Conditions of Practice.  

149. The Panel considered that a future reviewing Panel may be assisted by :-
a. A written, reflective piece on the importance of the depth and quality of record keeping and communication.
b. Evidence that the Registrant has met her PDP objectives.
c. Any relevant references and testimonials.
d. Provide details from any other employment in the social care field which can demonstrate evidence of transferable skills development.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, for 12 months, from the date that this order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Ms Adelaide Arkoful must comply with the following conditions of practice:
1. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor (the Supervisor) registered by the HCPC and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 14 days of taking up any role as a registered Social Worker. You must attend upon that Supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations.

2. You must work with your Supervisor to formulate a Personal Development Plan (PDP) specifically designed to address the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:
• Record keeping, to include the quality and depth of record keeping
• Communication with colleagues and service users
• Making  effective and meaningful notes at meetings
• Prioritising your workload

3. Within one month of taking up any post as a registered Social Worker you must forward a copy of your PDP to the HCPC.

4. You must meet with your Supervisor on a monthly basis to consider your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your PDP.

5. You must allow your Supervisor to provide information to the HCPC about your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your PDP.

6. You must send a report, signed and dated by your Supervisor, to the HCPC about your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your PDP Plan every three months.

7. You must promptly inform the HCPC if you cease to be employed by your current employer or take up any other or further employment as a registered Social Worker.

8. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.

9. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:
A.  any organisation or person employing or contracting with  you to undertake professional work as a registered Social  Worker;
B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be   registered with as a registered Social Worker (at the time of   application); and
C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application) for  the role of a registered Social Worker.

Notes

This order will be reviewed before its expiry.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Adelaide Arkorful

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice
18/03/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard
01/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard