Ms Debra Julie Howe

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW78775

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 20/06/2019 End: 13:00 20/06/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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The following allegation was found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 22 June 2018.


Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed with Somerset County Council, you:

1. In respect of Service User A:


a) Allowed Service User A’s transfer to a new residential care home on or about 29 April 2016 and did not:

i. complete and/or record an adequate funding application prior to Service User A’s transfer;
ii. submit a funding application prior to the Service User’s transfer;
iii. complete and/or record a negotiated fee for Service User A prior to her transfer;
iv. complete and/or record the financial agreement and purchase order in a timely manner in that they were completed after Service User A’s transfer on or about 29 April 2016.

b) Did not complete and/or record an adequate assessment of Service User A in that:
i. you used a pre-existing ‘Understanding You D: How you live (UY:D)’ as a basis for your assessment;
ii. the assessment documentation completed in or around May 2016 was not compliant with the Care Act;
iii. you did not complete and/or record your reasoning for making recommendation about Service User A’s residential care;
iv. you did not make an independent assessment of Service User A’s care needs;
v. you did not consider alternative care options for Service User A;
vi. you did not take sufficient account of Service User A’s capacity or wishes about her placement.

c) Submitted a funding application for Service User A on or about 13 May 2016 which was inadequate and/or incomplete;

d) did not obtain Service User A’s consent and/or personal views regarding her potential transfer to an alternative nursing home until you were instructed to do so on or about 11 July 2016;

e) Did not act upon information received on 13 May 2016 that Service User A’s panel application had not been accepted, in that you did not complete and/or record a comprehensive action plan regarding Service User A’s care arrangements before going on annual leave on or about 13 May 2016;

f) Did not communicate effectively with Service User A and/or her family in that you:

ii. Not proved
iii. Did not inform Service User A and/or her family of the next steps following the rejection of her funding application.

2. In respect of Service User B, you:

a) Did not complete and/or record an adequate and accurate UY: assessment documentation in relation to Service User B on or about 21 July 2016, in that you:

i. did not record your professional judgment about Service User B’s likelihood of suicide;
ii. did not record an analysis of Service User B’s vulnerability, risk of harm or likelihood of harm;
iii. did not record the assault on Service User B, his dogs and his property;
iv. Not proved
vi. did not record information in the section of the assessment form relating to eligibility, professional conclusions and support planning.

b) Not proved

c) Did not conduct an adequate assessment about the concerns about Service User B’s safety in his home and whether he felt at risk;

d) Did not take into account and/or seek professional advice regarding the impact of Service User B’s diagnosis in relation to his own assessment regarding risk;

3. In relation to Service User C, you:

a) Not proved

b) Did not complete and/or record an adequate UY: D dated 12 May 2016 in that it did not contain sufficient information relating to:

i. the care provided to Service User C at home;
ii. why Service User C’s home care failed;
iii. what rehab support was given to Service User C.

c) Not proved

4. In relation to Service User D, you:

a) Not proved

b) did not complete and/or record an adequate UY: N1 assessment in that your assessment contained insubstantial evidence and minimal analysis;

c) did not complete a best interest assessment for Service User D.

5. In relation to Service User E, you did not complete and/or record an adequate and/or comprehensive UY: D assessment in that:

a) you indicated that you had requested advice from the Sensory Loss and Community Health teams but did not include any information received in your final assessment;

b) the UY:D assessment contained gaps in the information relating to Service User E’s need for specialist sensory loss input or guidance.

6. In relation to Service User F, you did not complete and/ or record a UY: D assessment, although you were instructed to do so.

7. Your actions described in paragraphs 1 – 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

8. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practice is impaired.



Preliminary Matters


1. The Panel was informed that notice of this review hearing had been sent to the Registrant at her registered address dated 21 May 2019. The Panel was satisfied that there was good service of the notice of hearing.

Proceeding in absence

2. Ms Mbah applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She submitted that the Registrant was aware of this review hearing and had chosen not to attend. Ms Mbah also referred the Panel to emails from the Registrant to the HCPC dated 6 April 2019 and 17 May 2019 in which she informed the HCPC that she no longer wished to practise as a Social Worker and requested that her name be removed from the Register. Ms Mbah informed the Panel that since these emails, the Registrant had not responded to attempts made by the HCPC to contact her. Information about the Voluntary Removal process had been sent to the Registrant.

3. The Panel received and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. The Panel considered that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself and that no purpose would be served by adjourning this hearing. Accordingly, the Panel determined to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.


4. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker with Adult Social Care Taunton Community Team. She had been in this role since 2012. The Registrant’s line manager had developed concerns about her practice shortly after assuming management responsibility for her, and had managed her over a three-year period. There had been performance issues with the Registrant throughout her employment with the Council, and attempts had been made to address these issues by previous managers.


5. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was previously was found to be impaired by reason of her lack of competence. The Previous Panel had found allegations proved regarding fundamental aspects of social work practice including conducting statutory reviews and proper record keeping.

6. The Panel was presented with no information as to the Registrant’s current circumstances or in relation to any steps taken by her to remedy her lack of competence. The Panel had regard to the reasons given by the previous Panel for its finding of current impairment and considered that there had been no change in circumstances. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.


7. The Panel had regard to the wide ranging nature of the matters found proved and the extent of the Registrant’s lack of competence. The Panel considered that the matters to be too serious to take no action or a caution.

8. The Panel carefully considered whether conditions of practise would be workable and practicable, however, in the absence of any information as to the Registrant’s current circumstances, the Panel was not able to formulate any conditions which would adequately protect the public.

9. The Panel considered that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was a suspension order for a further 12 month period. The Panel would also repeat the advice given by the previous Panel that that the following matters are likely to be of assistance to any future reviewing panel:

• The Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing;
• A document written by the Registrant which includes evidence of her reflection upon her failings/lack of competence and how any actions she has may have remediated those failings;

• Evidence of any paid or unpaid work she has undertaken;
• Up-to-date references/testimonials;
• Evidence of an up-to-date CPD record.



The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Debra Julie Howe for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing order. 


This order will be reviewed again before its expiry.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Debra Julie Howe

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
20/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
18/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended