Ms Kathleen Murphy

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW77815

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 17/06/2019 End: 17:00 21/06/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Allegation (as amended by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee on 17 June 2019):

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Stockton on Tees Borough Council between 6 January 2014 and 1 December 2016, you:

1. In regards to Children 1 and 2:

a) did not visit these children on a monthly basis as required;

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not on:

i. 22 December 2015;
ii. on 4 January 2016;
iii. on 15 February 2016.
iv. 3 March 2016;
v. 24 March 2016;
vi. 5 April 2016;
vii. 26 April 2016;
viii. 9 May 2016;
ix. 11 July 2016.

c) Did not complete direct work with Child 1.

2. In regards to Child 3:

a) did not visit this child on a monthly basis as required;

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that you had visited Child 3 at school on the 19 July 2016 when you had not done so.

3. In regards to Children 4 and 5:

a) undertook a visit to these children on 21 January 2016 but did not record this visit on the RAISE computer system;

b) did not visit these children on a monthly basis as required;

c) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not:

i. on 4 December 2015;
ii. on 8 December 2015;
iii. on 23 December 2015;
iv. on 14 January 2016;
v. on 4 February 2016;
vi. on 10 March 2016;
vii. on 30 March 2016;
viii. on 20 April 2016;
ix. on 12 May 2016;
x. on 2 June 2016;
xi. on 23 June 2016.

d) did not seek Child 4’s views for Court proceedings but said you had.

e) recorded that you had sought Child 4’s views when you had not.

4. In regards to Child 6:

a) between 13 January 2016 and 6 September 2016 did not visit this child every 3 weeks as required;

b) did not ensure that core group meetings were held monthly as required;

c) recorded on the RAISE computer system that core group meetings had been held on 2 June 2016 and/or 30 June 2016 when they had not;

d) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not.

5. In regards to Child 7:

a) between 23 March 2016 and 6 September 2016 did not visit this child on a monthly basis as required;

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not;

c) did not hold and/or record planning meetings every 4 - 6 weeks as required.

6. In regards to Child 8:

a) did not visit Child 8 on a monthly basis as required.

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not.

7. The matters set out at paragraphs 1(b), 2(b), 3(c), 3(e), 4(c) were dishonest.

8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1(b), 2(b), 3(c), 3(e), 4(c), 4(d), 5(b) and 6(b) constitute misconduct.

9. The matters set out in paragraphs 1(a), 1(c), 2(a), 3(a) - (b), 3(d), 4(a), 4(b), 5(a) - (b) and 6(a) constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

1. The case for the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) was presented by Ms Reka Hollos of Kingsley Napley Solicitors. The Registrant was not present or represented. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant at her home address as it appears on the HCPC Register, under Rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules 2003. Ms Hollos thereafter made an application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence, under Rule 11. She referred the Panel to the history of the case and advised that the hearing had previously been adjourned on 23 July 2018 on the grounds of the Registrant’s ill health. She advised that on 1 March 2019 the Registrant’s daughter submitted an application to postpone the current hearing on the grounds of her mother’s ill health and that this application was supported by a letter from the Registrant’s General Practitioner and Care Co-ordinator. Ms Hollos advised that the HCPC had opposed this application and that the application was refused by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service on 19 April 2019. Ms Hollos advised that there had been no further contact from the Registrant since the email of 1 March 2019 and noted that the application to adjourn had not been renewed before the Panel that morning.

2. Ms Hollos submitted that while the HCPC was sympathetic to the Registrant’s health issues, the Allegation dated back to 2014/2016 and the HCPC had a statutory obligation to deal with allegations expeditiously. She submitted that the Registrant’s health condition was complex and that her Care Co-ordinator had estimated a period of a year before the Registrant would be well enough to attend a hearing and Ms Hollos said that any adjournment would therefore be for an indefinite period. Ms Hollos also advised that while the Registrant’s legal representatives had ceased acting for her, it would have been open to her to seek alternative legal representation as there was no medical evidence to suggest that she was unable to provide instructions to a representative. Ms Hollos said that there were four witnesses due to give evidence over the course of the next two days.

3. The Panel considered Ms Hollos’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence, together with the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel is aware that the discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel has considered the history of this case and accepts that the Registrant is unable to attend as a result of health issues. The Panel is aware that there are four witnesses giving evidence at this hearing and that the Allegation dates back to 2014/2016. The Panel is of the view that any adjournment would have to be for an indefinite period as it is not clear when the Registrant would be well enough to attend and it has concerns about the effect of any such delay on the memories of the witnesses. In addition, the Panel is of the view that the Allegation is serious and any further delay is not in the public interest. The Panel has therefore concluded that in all of these circumstances, it is in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel will not draw any adverse inference from the Registrant’s failure to attend the hearing.

4. The Panel next considered Ms Hollos‘s application to amend the Allegation as shown above and to discontinue particular 1c) of the Allegation. Ms Hollos advised the Panel that the Registrant had been put on notice of these amendments by letters dated 18 and 22 February 2018 to which no response had been received. Ms Hollos submitted that the proposed amendments did not alter the Allegation in any significant way and stated that they served to clarify the HCPC’s case in accordance with the evidence. Ms Hollos also submitted that the application to discontinue particular 1c) was based on the evidence of GT, the Registrant’s Line Manager, that there was a difference of opinion between the Registrant and the Foster Carer and this information was not in fact incorrect. The Panel considered Ms Hollos’s submissions and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel agreed to grant the application as it was satisfied that the amendments better reflected the evidence before the Panel and did not cause any injustice to the Registrant. In addition, the Panel agreed to grant the application to discontinue particular 1c) as it was satisfied that the HCPC had provided an objectively justified explanation for doing so and it would not result in under prosecution of these matters.

Background:

5. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker and at the relevant time was employed by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (the Council) from January 2014. At the relevant time the Registrant was a Level L Social Worker and was responsible for managing a caseload of complex Child Protection and Looked After Children cases. On 1 September 2016, the Registrant’s Line Manager, FM, was contacted by the Supervising Social Worker, MA, who raised a number of concerns about the Registrant’s management of Child 1 and Child 2’s case. MA was concerned that visits to the children had not been completed, that false recordings had been made on the electronic record system “RAISE”, and that no direct work had been done with Child 1 in terms of his care plan.

6. Following the exploration of these concerns, FM conducted an audit of eight of the Registrant’s cases, including the case of Child 1 and Child 2. The audit raised a number of further concerns and a full investigation was carried out by the Investigating Officer, SM. The investigation focussed on visits to children and records on the RAISE system. It is understood that the Registrant left the employment of the Council prior to the matter proceeding to a Disciplinary Hearing. The matter was thereafter reported to the HCPC.

Decision on Facts:

7. The Panel heard evidence from four witnesses on behalf of the HCPC: FM, Team Manager; SM, Investigating Officer; MA, Supervising Social Worker and GT, Team Manager all of whom were employed by Stockton on Tees Borough Council at the relevant time.

8. The Panel found that FM was reluctant at times to expand on her evidence when asked to do so by the Panel. Although her recollection was hindered by the passage of time, it found her to be an honest witness.

9. The Panel found SM to be a credible and reliable witness who was clear about the limitations of his investigation and was candid when he could not answer a question. He accepted that his investigation was limited by the fact that the Registrant resigned prior to any disciplinary hearing and that he may have conducted further enquiries if the matter had been proceeding to a disciplinary hearing within the Council.

10. The Panel found MA to be a credible and reliable witness who did her best to be helpful to the Panel. The Panel found her to be honest and fair. She readily acknowledged the effect of the passage of time on her recollection.

11. GT had worked closely with the Registrant and was able to give a balanced and fair view of her. She gave helpful examples of the unusually challenging nature of the Registrant’s caseload and of her commitment to service users. The Panel found her to be a credible and fair witness who provided the Panel with helpful evidence about the context of the team at the time of the allegation.

12. In the absence of the Registrant, the Panel had regard to the notes of the Registrant’s interviews with SM on 12 October and 3 November 2016 in which she accepted that she had found herself in a situation which had been totally overwhelming, that she had not made a number of statutory visits, although she disputed the level of missed visits. She also accepted that she had not been honest with her line manager about it.

Particular 1a)

In regards to Children 1 and 2:

a) did not visit these children on a monthly basis as required;

13. The Panel heard evidence from FM that in terms of Stockton-on-Tees Visiting Requirements Policy, Looked After Children had to be visited within one week of the start of a placement and at least every six weeks thereafter. The Panel also had sight of the relevant policy. FM gave evidence that her expectation was that visits should take place at least once every four weeks. GT’s evidence was that there was an expectation that Looked After Children within the Team would be visited four-weekly. When asked in interview, the Registrant stated that she was required to visit the Looked After Children for whom she had responsibility every four weeks. She added that this was a statutory requirement. The Panel therefore found that there was a requirement to visit these Looked After Children on a monthly basis as alleged in particular 1a).

14. The Panel has also heard evidence from FM that the Registrant was allocated the case of Child 1 and Child 2 on 23 November 2015 and that they were Looked After Children. FM stated that she visited the foster carer on 2 September 2016 and the foster carer had confirmed that that there had only been three visits by the Registrant, one pre-Christmas 2015 visit, one on 25 January 2016 and one on 11 August 2016.

15. The Panel also heard evidence from MA that the foster carer for Child 1 and Child 2 raised concerns with her in relation to the Registrant’s management of Child 1 and Child 2 in February 2016 and that when she visited on 15 June 2016, the foster carer told her she had only seen the Registrant on one occasion since the children had been placed with her. MA also gave evidence that she visited the foster carer on 1 September 2016 to check the dates of the visits recorded by the Registrant on the electronic records system and that the foster carer said there had been a visit in December 2015 (just prior to Christmas) when Child 2 was placed with her, although she could not remember the date and that she thought there had been one or two other visits. MA also gave evidence that the foster carer did not keep any written records or a calendar recording visits made by social workers and that the foster carer’s recollection of visits was therefore from her memory and she also believed from text messages, although she said that the foster carer did not look at her phone during the visit on 1 September 2016.

16. The Panel has also considered the Registrant’s response to SM in the course of her interview on 12 October 2016 in which she confirmed that she found her position at work totally overwhelming and that in general terms she had put visits on the RAISE system which she had not done but that she did speak to foster carers on the telephone. She also stated that she was aware that the requirement for visits to Children 1 and 2 was every four weeks. In the course of that interview and the interview on 3 November 2016, the Registrant disputed that she had only seen the children once or twice since their placement with the foster carer but could not say when the visits took place. She advised that there were several visits and that on one occasion she took photographs and sent them to MA for family finding. She accepted that she had missed some visits but denied that there was a gap of over eight months. The Panel has noted that the foster carer reported that there had been three visits. In addition MA gave evidence that the Registrant visited the children on 22 July 2016 when she took photographs. The Panel also noted that in the parts of FM’s investigatory interview notes that appear as track changes (but that she denied making because she does not know how to do track changes), a further visit on 28 April 2016 is mentioned as having taken place. Taking this evidence at its highest, there were a total of five visits from 23 November until 6 September 2016 whereas the Registrant was required to make at least nine visits. The Registrant has also accepted that she had missed some visits. The Panel therefore finds the facts of this particular proved.

Particular 1b)

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not on:

i. 22 December 2015;
ii. on 4 January 2016;
iii. on 15 February 2016.
iv. 3 March 2016;
v. 24 March 2016;
vi. 5 April 2016;
vii. 26 April 2016;
viii. 9 May 2016;
ix. 11 July 2016.

17. The Panel heard evidence from FM that she reviewed the case records for Child 1 and Child 2 and noted that the Registrant had recorded visits as having taken place on 22 December 2015, 4 January 2016, 15 February 2016, 3 March 2016, 24 March 2016, 5 April 2016, 26 April 2016, 9 May 2016 and 11 July 2016 on the electronic records system RAISE. The Panel also had sight of the case records for Child1 and Child 2. FM stated that she visited the foster carer on 2 September 2016 and the foster carer had stated that there had only been three visits by the Registrant, one pre-Christmas 2015 visit, one on 25 January 2016 and one on 11 August 2016. The Panel also heard evidence from MA that the foster carer for Child 1 and Child 2 told her that there had been a visit just before Christmas in December 2015 when Child 2 was placed with her, although she could not remember the date and that she thought there had been one or two other visits. MA also gave evidence that the foster carer did not keep any written records or a calendar recording visits made by social workers and that her recollection of visits was therefore from her memory and, she also believed, from text messages, although she said that the foster carer did not look at her phone during the visit on 1 September 2016. The Panel finds that the hearsay evidence of the foster carer is vague as to dates and is not based on any contemporaneous written record of visits. The Panel has therefore concluded that the HCPC has not discharged its burden of proof in relation to the specific dates and finds the facts of this particular are not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 1c)

c) Did not complete direct work with Child 1.

18. The Panel heard evidence from both FM and MA that the foster carer was particularly concerned that no work had been done with Child 1 to prepare him for his move to a new family and that he did not realise his contact with his mother had been stopped. The Panel accepts the evidence of FM and MA and finds the facts of particular 1c) proved.

Particular 2a)

In regards to Child 3:

a) did not visit this child on a monthly basis as required;

19. The Panel heard evidence from FM that in terms of Stockton-on-Tees Visiting Requirements Policy, Looked After Children had to be visited within one week of the start of a placement and at least every six weeks thereafter. FM also gave evidence that her expectation was that visits should take place at least once every four weeks and that the requirement was at least one visit every four weeks. GT’s evidence was that there was an expectation that Looked After Children within the Team would be visited four-weekly. When asked in interview, the Registrant stated that she was required to visit the Looked After Children for whom she had responsibility every four weeks. She added that this was a statutory requirement. The Panel therefore found that there was requirement to visit these Looked After Children on a monthly basis as alleged in particular 2a).

20. The Panel has heard evidence from FM that the Registrant was the allocated social worker for Child 2 from 13 May 2016 until 31 August 2016 and that Child 2’s foster carer had confirmed that the Registrant had visited Child 2 on 23 June 2016 in school and had visited on 24 August 2016. The Panel has heard evidence that the foster carer was very well organised and always documented visits and was able to confirm the dates of visits from her documentation. The Panel therefore finds the facts of particular 2a) proved.

Particular 2b)

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that you had visited Child 3 at school on the 19 July 2016 when you had not done so.

21. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the foster carer had advised that the visit which the Registrant had recorded as having taken place at school on 19 July 2016 had not taken place as the school had broken up for summer holidays on 15 July 2016. FM accepted that she had not checked the term dates with the school and accepted what the foster carer told her. The Panel also had sight of the extract from Child 3’s records outlining details of the visit on 19 July 2016. The Panel accepts the evidence that the foster carer was very well organised and always documented visits. The Panel therefore finds the facts of particular 2b) proved.

Particular 3a)

In regards to Children 4 and 5:

a) undertook a visit to these children on 21 January 2016 but did not record this visit on the RAISE computer system;

22. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the foster carer for Children 4 and 5 had documented all visits by the Registrant and confirmed from these records that a visit had taken place on 21 January 2016. FM gave evidence that this visit was not recorded on the RAISE records system by the Registrant. The Panel also had sight of the case records for Children 4 and 5 from the RAISE system which supported the evidence of the foster carer. The Panel accepts the evidence that the foster carer was very well organised and always documented visits and finds the facts of particular 3a) proved.

Particular 3b)

b) did not visit these children on a monthly basis as required;

23. The Panel heard evidence from FM that in terms of Stockton-on-Tees Visiting Requirements Policy, Looked After Children had to be visited within one week of the start of a placement and at least every six weeks thereafter. FM also gave evidence that her expectation was that visits should take place at least once every four weeks. GT’s evidence was that there was an expectation that Looked After Children within the Team would be visited four-weekly. When asked in interview, the Registrant stated that she was required to visit the Looked After Children for whom she had responsibility every four weeks. She added that this was a statutory requirement. The Panel therefore found that there was a requirement to visit these Looked After Children on a monthly basis as alleged in particular 3b).

24. The Panel also heard evidence from FM that the Registrant was the allocated social worker for Children 4 and 5 from 10 October 2014 until 6 September 2016 and that these children started a new placement on 26 November 2015. FM stated that she visited the foster carer on 7 September 2016 and compared the list of dates of visits the Registrant had recorded on the RAISE system with the visits recorded by the foster carer. She stated that the foster carer confirmed that the Registrant had visited the children on 21 January 2016, 18 February 2016 and 11 July 2016 and that these were the only visits since they were placed with her. The Panel accepts the evidence that the foster carer was very well organised and always documented visits and finds that the children were not visited on a monthly basis and finds the facts of particular 3b) proved.

Particular 3c)

c) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not:

i. on 4 December 2015;
ii. on 8 December 2015;
iii. on 23 December 2015;
iv. on 14 January 2016;
v. on 4 February 2016;
vi. on 10 March 2016;
vii. on 30 March 2016;
viii. on 20 April 2016;
ix. on 12 May 2016;
x. on 2 June 2016;
xi. on 23 June 2016.

25. The Panel heard evidence from FM that she reviewed the case records for Children 4 and 5 and noted that the Registrant had recorded visits as having taken place on 4 December 2015, 8 December 2015, 23 December 2015, 14 January 2016, 4 February 2016, 10 March 2016, 30 March 2016, 20 April 2016, 12 May 2016, 2 June 2016 and 23 June 2016 on the electronic records system RAISE. FM gave evidence that the foster carer was clear that the visits had not taken place on the dates listed in this particular. The Panel also had sight of those RAISE records from which it notes that the entry of 8 December was made by a student social worker and not by the Registrant. The Panel also noted that when it was put to the Registrant that she had falsely recorded 10 visits, she replied that she saw the children on a couple of occasions. The Panel found this to be a partial admission. The Panel accepts the evidence that the foster carer was very well organised and always documented visits and finds that, with the exception of the entry in particular 3c)ii), the Registrant recorded visits on the RAISE computer system which had not taken place and finds the facts of particular 3c) proved.

Particular 3d)

d) did not seek Child 4’s views for Court proceedings but said you had.

26. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the initial care plan for Children 4 and 5 had been adoption and that a family member came forward at the last minute to care for Child 5, as a result of which the plan for the children changed to reflect these new circumstances. Thereafter, the plan was that the children would be separated. FM told the Panel that the foster carer told her that no work had been done with Child 4 regarding the change in plan. The Panel also had sight of a record of a Family Finding meeting on 6 September 2016 in which it is recorded that no preparation had been done with Child 4 regarding the move to a long term placement. The Panel has also noted the Registrant’s response in the course of her investigatory interview on 3 November 2016 in which she confirmed that she had sought the child’s views on a couple of occasions. The Panel accepts the evidence of FM which is supported by the record of the Family Finding meeting and finds the facts of particular 3d) proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 3e)

e) recorded that you had sought Child 4’s views when you had not.

27. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the Registrant recorded in reports that had been filed for court that she had completed direct work with Child 4, but that when she visited the foster carer, she was told that no work had been done with Child 4 regarding the change in plan in that he was going to be separated from Child 5. The Panel has previously found that the Registrant has recorded ten visits to Child 4 on the RAISE system which had not occurred. The Panel has had sight of these entries from the RAISE system and, on many of these entries, the Registrant has recorded the views of Child 4. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant had recorded that she had sought the views of Child 4 when she had not done so and finds the facts of particular 3e) proved.

Particular 4a)

In regards to Child 6:

a) between 13 January 2016 and 6 September 2016 did not visit this child every 3 weeks as required;

28. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the Registrant was the allocated social worker for Child 6 from 13 January 2016 until 6 September 2016. FM advised the Panel that Child 6 was placed on a Child Protection Plan on 28 January 2016 and visits should have been undertaken at least every 3 weeks. The Panel also had sight of the Stockton-on-Tees Policy on Visiting Requirements which states that between the first and second reviews, visits to children on a Child Protection plan must take place at least every three weeks. FM gave evidence to the Panel that the social worker who took over from the Registrant in September 2016 relayed comments made to her by Child 6’s father that the Registrant had only visited three times since 19 April 2016. The Panel accepts the evidence that visits to Child 3 should have taken place at least every three weeks. The evidence relied upon to prove that the Registrant did not comply with this requirement is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 6’s father to the new social worker. The Panel is of the view that the comment was not specific, there is no written record of that comment, it does not appear to have been explored further with the father and no statement has been taken from the new social worker. In these circumstances the Panel has concluded that the HCPC has not discharged its burden of proof and finds the facts of this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 4b)

b) did not ensure that core group meetings were held monthly as required;

29. The Panel heard evidence from FM that Core Group Meetings for a child on a Child Protection Plan should be held monthly and that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to arrange these meetings. FM gave evidence that in September 2016 she followed up on comments made by Child 6’s father to the new social worker in respect of a lack of Core Group Meetings. FM stated that she contacted three members of the Core Group, all of whom confirmed that no meetings had taken place since 5 May 2016 which was the only meeting held following the Child Protection Conference on 19 April 2016. In her investigatory interview on 3 November 2016, the Registrant stated that there were more Core Group Meetings and that one had to be cancelled. The Panel accepts the evidence of FM and finds the facts of particular 4b) proved.

Particular 4c)

c) recorded on the RAISE computer system that core group meetings had been held on 2 June 2016 and/or 30 June 2016 when they had not;

30. The Panel heard evidence from FMn that from her audit of the RAISE case notes for Child 6, she noted that the Registrant has recorded Core Group Meetings as having taken place on 2 June 2016 and 30 June 2016. She also gave evidence that in the course of her supervision session with the Registrant on 26 July 2017, the Registrant advised that two Core Group Meetings had been held in June and that the minutes were still to be uploaded onto RAISE. The Panel has had sight of the case notes for Child 6 which have been taken from the RAISE computer system and there is no record of Core Group Meetings having been held on either 2 or 30 June 2016 within those records. In addition, the Panel has had sight of FM’s Audit of Child 6’s case notes dated 30 September 2016 in which it is recorded that “KM has upload core groups for June x2 and informed me in supervision that that monthly core groups had been held but that she needed to upload the minutes to RAISE.” Notwithstanding FM’s evidence and what appears in her audit, in the absence of evidence of the entries recorded on the RAISE computer system, that Core Group Meetings had been held on 2 and 30 June 2016, or other supporting evidence, the Panel finds the facts of particular 4c) not proved.

Particular 4d)

d) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not.

31. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the social worker who took over from the Registrant relayed comments made to her by Child 6’s father that the Registrant had only visited three times since 19 April 2016. The Panel also heard evidence from FM that she reviewed the case records for Child 6 and noted that the Registrant had recorded visits as having taken place on 26 April 2016, 10 May 2016, 31 May 2016, 21 June 2016, 23 June 2016, 14 July 2016, 22 July 2016, 12 August 2016 and 1 September 2016 on the electronic records system RAISE. The Panel also had sight of the case records for Child 6. The evidence relied upon to prove that the Registrant recorded visits that had not occurred is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 6’s father to the new social worker. The Panel is of the view that the comment was not specific, there is no written record of that comment and the Panel cannot be satisfied that it was accurately reported. In addition, it does not appear to have been explored further with the father and no statement has been taken from the new social worker. In these circumstances, it follows that the HCPC has not discharged its burden of proof as to making records of visits that had not occurred and the Panel finds the facts of this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 5a)

In regards to Child 7:

a) between 23 March 2016 and 6 September 2016 did not visit this child on a monthly basis as required;

32. The Panel heard evidence from FM that the Registrant was the allocated social worker for Child 7 from 23 March 2013 until 6 September 2016 and that Child 7 was a Child In Need case and therefore should have been visited at least once every four weeks. The Panel has also had sight of the Visiting Requirements Policy which sets out this requirement. FM gave evidence that Child 7’s new social worker reported to her that in the second week of September 2016 Child 7’s family told her that the Registrant had only visited on two occasions since 23 March 2016, that the family did not confirm the dates and that she was unsure if the new social worker recorded this conversation. FM confirmed that she did not speak directly to the family. In her investigatory interview with SM on 3 November 2016, the Registrant stated that she spent time with the mother and grandmother and that she did not know why they would say that they had only seen her on two occasions. While the Panel is satisfied that the visits should have taken place every four weeks, the evidence relied upon to prove that they did not is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 7’s mother and maternal grandmother to the new social worker. The Panel is of the view that the comment was not specific and was not explored in detail to establish its accuracy. There is no written record of the comment and the Panel cannot be satisfied that it was accurately reported. In addition, no statement has been taken from the new social worker. The Panel has concluded that the HCPC has therefore not discharged its burden of proof and finds the facts of this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 5b)

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not;

33. The Panel heard evidence from FM that she reviewed the case records for Child 7 and noted that the Registrant had recorded visits as having taken place on 25 March 2016, 15 April 2016, 6 May 2016, 3 June 2016, 23 June 2016, 20 July 2016 and 17 August 2017 on the electronic records system RAISE. The Panel also had sight of the case records for Child 7. In her investigatory interview with SM on 3 November 2016, the Registrant stated that she spent time with the mother and grandmother and that she did not know why they would say that they had only seen her on two occasions. The evidence relied upon to prove that the Registrant recorded visits that had not occurred is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 7’s mother and grandmother to the new social worker. The Panel is of the view that the comment was not specific and was not explored in detail to establish its accuracy. There is no written record of the comment and the Panel cannot be satisfied that it was accurately reported. In addition, no statement has been taken from the new social worker. The Panel has concluded that the HCPC has therefore not discharged its burden of proof as to making records that had not occurred and finds the facts of this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 5c)

c) did not hold and/or record planning meetings every 4 - 6 weeks as required.

34. The Panel heard evidence from FM that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to arrange Planning Meetings and that they should have been taking place 4 - 6 weekly. The Panel accepted this evidence and was satisfied that there was a requirement for 4 – 6 weekly Planning Meetings. FM gave evidence that Child 7’s new social worker reported to her that in the second week of September 2016 Child 7’s family told her that no planning meetings had been held. FM’s evidence was that she was unsure if the new social worker recorded this conversation. FM confirmed that she did not speak directly to the family. The Panel also had sight of the Supervision records from June, July and August 2016 which make reference to Planning Meetings having taken place on 21 January 2016, 3 March 2016, 14 April 2016, 12 May 2016, 9 June 2016 and 6 July 2016 and the need for them to be uploaded to the RAISE system. The evidence relied upon to prove that the Registrant did not hold Planning Meetings within the required timescale is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 7’s mother and grandmother to the new social worker. The Panel notes that this comment was not explored to establish its accuracy. It has not been provided with any written record of that comment and cannot be satisfied that it was accurately reported. In addition, no statement has been taken from the new social worker. In these circumstances the Panel has concluded that the HCPC has not discharged its burden of proof in relation to the Allegation that the Registrant did not hold Planning Meetings as required. However the Panel is satisfied from the evidence of FM which is supported by the records of the Supervision meetings that the Registrant did not record Planning Meetings every 4 - 6 weeks as required and finds the facts of this particular proved to this extent.

Particular 6a)

In regards to Child 8:

a) did not visit Child 8 on a monthly basis as required.

35. The Panel heard evidence from FM that Child 8 was a Looked After Child and that in terms of Stockton-on-Tees Visiting Requirements Policy, Looked After Children had to be visited within one week of the start of a placement and at least every six weeks thereafter. FM also gave evidence that her expectation was that visits should take place at least once every four weeks. GT’s evidence was that there was an expectation that Looked After Children within the Team would be visited four-weekly. When asked in interview, the Registrant stated that she was required to visit the Looked After Children for whom she had responsibility every four weeks. She added that this was a statutory requirement. The Panel therefore found that there was requirement to visit these Looked After Children on a monthly basis as alleged in particular 6a).

36. The Panel has heard evidence from FM that the Registrant was the allocated social worker for Child 8 from 22 March 2016 until 6 September 2016. FM gave evidence that Child 8’s new social worker reported to her on 13 September 2016 that Child 8’s father had told her that the Registrant had not been visiting, although Child 8’s father did not say how often or how many times the Registrant had visited and that she was unsure if the new social worker recorded this conversation. In her investigatory interview on 3 November 2016, the Registrant did not accept that she had not been visiting Child 8. While the Panel accepts that Child 8 was a Looked After Child and that visits should have taken place on a monthly basis, the evidence relied upon to prove that they did not is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 8’s father to the new social worker. The Panel notes that this comment was not explored to establish its accuracy. It has not been provided with any written record of that comment and cannot be satisfied that it was accurately reported. In addition, no statement has been taken from the new social worker. The Panel has concluded that the HCPC has therefore not discharged its burden of proof as to making records of visits that had not occurred and finds the facts of this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 6b)

b) recorded on the RAISE computer system that visits had occurred when they had not.

37. The Panel heard evidence from FM that she reviewed the case records for Child 8 and noted that the Registrant had recorded visits as having taken place on 5 April 2016, 3 May 2016, 27 May 2016, 24 June 2016, 18 July 2016 and 15 August 2016 on the electronic records system RAISE. The Panel also had sight of the case records for Child 8. FM also gave evidence that Child 8’s new social worker reported to her on 13 September 2016 that Child 8’s father had told her that the Registrant had not been visiting, although Child 8’s father did not say how often or how many times the Registrant had visited. The evidence relied upon to prove that the Registrant did not visit Child 8 on the dates listed in this particular is in the form of a double hearsay comment made by Child 8’s father to the new social worker. The Panel notes that this comment was not explored to establish its accuracy. It has not been provided with any written record of that comment and cannot be satisfied that it was accurately reported. In addition, no statement has been taken from the new social worker. The Panel has concluded that the HCPC has therefore not discharged its burden of proof as to recording visits that had not occurred and finds the facts of this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

Particular 7

The matters set out at paragraphs 1(b), 2(b), 3(c), 3(e), and 4(c) were dishonest.

38. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 2b), 3c) and 3e) were dishonest. In considering this issue, the Panel has applied the test set out in the case of Ivey v Gentings Casinos Ltd [2017] UKSC 67.

39. The Panel has first considered the Registrant’s actual knowledge or genuinely held belief in relation to recording on the RAISE system that she had visited Child 3 at school when she had not in fact done so, recording on the RAISE system that visits to Children 4 and 5 had occurred when they had not and recording that she had sought Child 4’s views when she had not. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has done so to conceal the fact that the required visits had not taken place and that the Registrant would have been aware of this when she made the entries. The Panel has therefore concluded that reasonable and honest people would consider her behaviour to be dishonest. The Panel finds that the Registrant’s actions in each of particulars 2b), 3c) and 3e) amount to dishonesty.

Decision on Grounds:

40. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 2b), 3c), and 3e) amount to misconduct and whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 1a), 1c), 2a), 3a), 3b) and 4b) amount to a lack of competence and/or misconduct. The Panel is aware that this is a matter for its professional judgement. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered the submissions of Ms Hollos on behalf of the HCPC and has had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practice is Impaired. The Panel has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

41. The Panel is aware that the Registrant is a very experienced social worker who was responsible for complex cases. It is clear that she was in a very responsible position as a professional whose views were relied upon and had the ability to influence outcomes for vulnerable children. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out her role and does not find that her actions in particulars 1a), 1c), 2a), 3a), 3b) and 4b) resulted from a lack of competence.

42. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s conduct found proved breached the following standards of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012):

• Standard 1 – You must act in the best interests of service users.
• Standard 10 – You must keep accurate records.
• Standard 13 – You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016):

• Standard 1 – Promote and protect the interest of service users and carers
• Standard 8 – Be open when things go wrong
• Standard 9 – Be honest and trustworthy
• Standard 10 – Keep accurate records

43. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s failure to undertake statutory visits within timescales put children, who were already vulnerable, at risk of further harm by failing to monitor them regularly. The failure to complete direct work with Child 1 to prepare him for a move to a new family and to help him understand that he would have no further contact with his mother had a direct impact on this child as it delayed planning for his future. The Registrant’s actions in dishonestly recording visits which had not occurred are serious and breach a fundamental tenet of the profession. In addition this would lead other social workers to believe that work had been undertaken with children when, in fact, it had not. The Registrant’s failure to ensure that Core Group Meetings were held regularly resulted in Child 6’s plan not being reviewed to establish if further support could be provided. The Registrant’s failure to record a visit to Children 4 and 5 is serious as it is essential that accurate records are kept of all contact with vulnerable children. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 1a), 1c), 1d), 2a), 2b), 3a), 3b), 3c)i, 3c)iii, 3c)iv, 3c)v, 3c)vi, 3c)vii, 3c)viii, 3c)ix, 3c)x, 3c)xi, 3d), 3e) and 4b)) fell well below the standards expected of a registered social worker and therefore amount to misconduct.

Impairment:

44. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by that misconduct. In reaching its decision the Panel has considered both the personal component and the public component. In addition, the Panel has considered the submissions of Ms Hollos on behalf of the HCPC and has also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practice is Impaired. The Panel has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

45. In terms of the personal component, the Panel has considered the Registrant’s responses in the course of the investigatory process. It is clear to the Panel that the Registrant expressed genuine remorse for letting down her colleagues and for the impact on her employers. It appears to the Panel that the Registrant had been an extremely committed and conscientious social worker who held herself to high standards and of whom others had high expectations. In addition there is evidence from the investigatory interview that the Registrant had demonstrated some insight in that she recognised how serious her actions had been. However the Panel did not see any evidence that she fully understood the potential impact her actions had on vulnerable service users.

46. The Panel has no information on the Registrant’s current situation and recognises that the Registrant’s health issues have impacted on her level of engagement with these proceedings. In the absence of any written submissions, the Panel has no evidence of remediation on the part of the Registrant. In the absence of evidence of remediation, the Panel cannot be assured that the Registrant would act differently if she were under the same personal and professional pressures. The Panel has therefore concluded that there is a risk of repetition.

47. The Panel has also considered the critically important public policy issues which include the collective need to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, the protection of service users and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of behaviour. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s misconduct would impact on public confidence in the profession. The Panel has found that the Registrant’s actions have been repeatedly dishonest and have placed vulnerable service users at risk of harm. The Panel has concluded that there would be a serious risk of an adverse impact on public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.

48. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by her misconduct in terms of both the personal component and the wider public component and the Allegation is well founded.

Decision on Sanction:

49. The Panel has heard submissions from Ms Hollos on behalf of the HCPC on the issue of sanction. The Panel has also considered the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.

50. The Panel is aware that the function of fitness to practise panels is not to be punitive, and that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing her services in the future and to determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

51. The Panel considered the following mitigating factors: the Registrant had made limited admissions in the course of the investigatory interview; the Registrant has had no previous findings made against her; the Registrant had significant and ongoing personal issues at the time of the Allegation; the Registrant has expressed some remorse and limited insight; the Registrant was considered to be a very committed and conscientious social worker prior to the Allegation.

52. The Panel also had regard to the following aggravating factors: the Registrant’s admissions were very limited; the Registrant did not express any insight or remorse in respect of the risk of harm to particularly vulnerable children who could be legally separated from their birth parents and siblings; the Registrant’s failings involved a number of service users; the Panel found repeated dishonesty over a nine month time period; there is no evidence of remediation, and the insight was limited; the Panel has identified a risk of repetition.

53. The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order would not be appropriate, given that the lapse was not isolated or minor in nature, the Panel has found dishonesty and has identified a risk of repetition. In addition the Panel is of the view that neither option would be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations.

54. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. While the Panel is of the view that, in principle, the matters found proved may be capable of remediation, in the absence of the Registrant and of any information on her current circumstances, the Panel does not know if the Registrant is committed to resolving her issues. In these circumstances, the Panel could not formulate conditions which would be realistic, workable and verifiable, particularly where there have also been findings of dishonesty. The Panel considers that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be an appropriate or proportionate sanction in this case as it would not address the public interest considerations nor would it protect the public.

55. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Guidance, a Suspension Order may be appropriate where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated. The Panel has identified a risk of repetition. In addition, the Registrant was a very trusted professional who was responsible for life-changing decisions about particularly vulnerable children and she was trusted by fellow professionals and the Court’s (which made decisions based on her reports) to be the voice of those children. The Panel has found that the Registrant has repeatedly breached that trust and acted dishonestly. In these circumstances, the Panel has concluded that while a Suspension Order might protect the public and afford the Registrant time to remediate her conduct, it would not address the wider public interest considerations referred to above.

56. The Panel has therefore concluded that a Striking off Order is the only appropriate sanction, given the nature and gravity of the Allegation, in particular the repeated dishonesty and the extent of breach of trust, any lesser sanction would undermine confidence in the profession and in the regulatory body.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Kathleen Murphy from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal:
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Article 29(10) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. The Panel’s order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

European alert mechanism:
In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been prohibited.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.

Application for an Interim Order:

1. Ms Hollos thereafter applied for an Interim Suspension Order for a period of 18 months under Article 31 of the Health and Care Professions Order 2001 on the grounds that it was necessary for the protection of the public and was in the public interest.

2. The Panel had sight of the notice of hearing dated 19 February 2019 in which the Registrant was put on notice that an application for an interim order may be made, as required by Article 31(15) of the Health and Care Professions Order 2001. The Panel is of the view that it would be in the public interest to consider this application in the absence of the Registrant in light of the matters found proved and in particular the risk of repetition identified.

3. The Panel considered Ms Hollos’s submissions together with the advice of the Legal Assessor and agreed to grant the application as it was satisfied that an Interim Suspension Order for a period of 18 months was necessary for the protection of the public and was otherwise in the public interest given the seriousness of the conduct and the risk of repetition. The Panel considered that an Interim Conditions of Practice Order would not adequately protect the public or address the wider public interest.

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

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Kathleen Murphy

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
23/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Hearing has not yet been held