Mr Kenneth Moore

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW30843

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 04/02/2019 End: 17:00 06/02/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

(As amended at the final hearing which commenced on 4 March 2019)

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you:

1. In or around February 2016, during a meeting with the parents of Child A, stated that:

a. you had ‘been drinking so much alcohol that you had been over the limit on arrival at work in the mornings’, or words to that effect;

b. Child A "would not know or remember who his parents were after 3 days of not seeing them given his disability", or words to that effect;

c. "If you tell me you are not coping then I will start looking for a residential placement”, or words to that effect.

2. On or around 2 February 2016, during a meeting with Colleague A and B, stated that:

a. you ‘would be having a lot to drink’ at a funeral wake on or around Thursday 4 February 2016, or words to that effect;

b. ‘you would be fine’ to visit a child and adult service user at home during lunchtime on or around Friday 5 February 2016, or words to that effect.

3. Between around 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016, did not complete and / or record:

a. Child Social Work Assessments in respect of:

i. Child B; and / or
ii. Child E.

b. Child in Need Reviews in respect of:

i. Child C;
ii. Child E;
iii. Child F; and / or
iv. Child G.

c. A Risk Assessment in respect of:

i. Child F.

4. In relation to Child B, you:

a. Between 3 December 2015 and 14 January 2016, did not visit Child B; and

b. Between 3 December 2015 and 2 February 2016, were not aware of where Child B was staying;

c. Did not follow up safeguarding concerns.

5. Did not conduct and / or record a home visit to Child C between:

a. 12 September 2014 and 8 April 2015; and / or

b. 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016.

6. Did not conduct and / or record a home visit to Child D between:

a. October 2014 and 8 April 2015; and / or

b. 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016.

7. The matters set out 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 practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant at his address as it appeared on the register on 25 October 2016. The notice contained the date, time and venue of the hearing.

2. On 26 February 2019, the HCPC sent a letter placing the Registrant on notice of their intention to amend the Allegation.

3. No response was received from the Registrant to either of these letters.

4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, namely that notice appeared to comply with the relevant rules.

5. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant in accordance with the rules.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

6. The Panel considered, as the Registrant is neither present nor represented at a hearing, whether it should nevertheless proceed with the hearing.

7. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve the notice of the hearing under rule 6(1) on the Registrant.

8. The Panel also took account of a file note dated 31 August 2016. It related to a telephone call the Registrant made to the HCPC in which he stated that he was no longer working as a Social Worker and had not done so since he had resigned in February/March 2016. That email marked the last contact the Registrant made with the HCPC.

9. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor particularly with regard to its duty to proceed in the absence of a Registrant with the utmost care and caution.

10. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of this hearing and that he had voluntarily absented himself. The Panel does not consider that an adjournment would serve any useful purpose, since it would not be likely to lead to the Registrant’s attendance, and the public interest in dealing expeditiously with this case was important.

Application to Amend the Allegation

11. Ms Manning-Rees applied to amend the Allegation. The Registrant had been put on notice of the intention to amend the Allegation in a letter dated 26 February 2019.

12. The proposed amendments related to Particulars 5 and 6 as follows:

Particular 5 – alter the dates of the Particulars from between on or around 12 September 2014 and 2 February 2016 to:

a. 12 September 2014 and 8 April 2015; and / or

b. 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016

Particular 6 – alter the dates of the Particulars from between around October 2014 and 2 February 2016 to:

a. October 2014 and 8 April 2015; and / or

b. 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016.

13. Ms Manning-Rees stated that the guiding principle was whether the amendments were fair. She submitted that the reason for the amendments were to exclude periods of time when it was known that the Registrant was on sick leave. She said that far from causing prejudice to the Registrant, the amendments were to ensure that the Allegation was fairer to him. 

14. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, namely that the Panel should consider whether the proposed amendments were fair and / or caused injustice to the Registrant.

15. The Panel concluded that the proposed amendments should be allowed for the following reasons:

i. The Registrant had been provided with notice of the HCPC’s intention to amend the Allegation, in a letter dated 26 February 2019 although he had not responded to it.
ii. The proposed amendments did not materially affect the nature of the Particulars themselves. Rather, they sought to ensure that they related to the correct periods of time, by excluding periods when the Registrant was on sick leave.

16. The Panel therefore concluded that there is no likelihood of injustice to the Registrant and accepted the amendments as they ensured fairness.

Hearing in Private

17. Ms Manning-Rees made an application for parts of the hearing to be held in private concerning the Registrant’s health or private life. She suggested that she would make clear, in advance, when such issues were going to be raised, either with a witness or in her submissions.

18. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice who referred to Rule 10 of the HCPC (Conduct and Competence) (Procedure) Rules 2003, namely that the hearing should generally be held in public, save where it is in the interests of justice not to do so, or where it is done to protect the private life of the Registrant, a complainant or any person giving evidence.

19. The Panel acceded to the application on the basis that there were likely to be occasions when the Panel would be required to hear about the Registrant’s health, in order to fully understand the nature of the Allegation. The Panel considered that the most proportionate method of doing this would be for the hearing to be held in public, save that when a matter concerning the Registrant’s health was to be discussed, that part of the hearing would be held in private.

Background

20. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker at Staffordshire County Council, specifically working with the Children’s Disability Service.

21. Whilst in employment, the Registrant had periods of sick leave due to anxiety and alcohol dependency, between April and October 2015.

22. From 19 October 2015, the Registrant was on a phased return to work programme.

23. It is alleged that whilst in employment at the Council, the Registrant made verbal statements to a family, that constituted part of his caseload, which the HCPC say were inappropriate, crossed professional boundaries or were insensitive to a child’s carers. One of these comments related to the Registrant divulging personal information and the others were about Child A, his disability and the ability of his parents to care for him.

24. It is further alleged that the Registrant failed to undertake tasks expected of a social worker, such as conducting service user visits, completing important social work reports and addressing safeguarding concerns.

25. As a result of these concerns, the Registrant’s line manager, Colleague A, made a referral to the HCPC on 5 May 2016.

Decision on Facts

26. The Panel has considered the following material:

i. The Notice of Allegation dated 9 April 2018 and amended Notice of Allegation dated 26 February 2019.
ii. The Registrant’s Certificate of Registration dated 9 April 2018 and amended Certificate of Registration dated 25 October 2018.
iii. A case summary
iv. Witness statements from Mother A, Colleague A and Colleague B.
v. 23 separate exhibits

27. The Panel heard oral evidence from Mother A by video-link and Colleague A and Colleague B in person.

Further Application to Amend the Allegation

28. Prior to making closing submissions, the HCPC sought to amend the Particulars of Allegation 1(c), namely:

In or around February 2016, during a meeting with the parents of Child A, stated that:

c. “If you start asking for more hours with Child A I am going to question whether you are a capable parent in caring for Child A” or words to that effect.
The proposed change is to replace Particular 1(c) with:

“If you tell me you are not coping then I will start looking for a residential placement” or words to that effect.

29. The basis for the amendment was that when Mother A gave oral evidence, she clarified her witness statement to make it clear that the Registrant had mentioned ‘residential placement’ and therefore this Particular did not accurately reflect her evidence.

30. Ms Manning-Rees relied on the case of the Professional Standards Authority v (1) Health and Care Professions Council (2) Benedict Doree [2017] EWCA Civ 319, paragraph 54 which provides that:

“A professional disciplinary committee is entitled to make necessary amendments to the allegations before it, so as to avoid undercharging”

31. The Legal Assessor gave advice that the Panel should consider whether the amendment was fair and did not cause injustice to the Registrant. In particular, the Legal Assessor advised that the Panel should consider whether the change to the particular was a material change, and if so, the potential for injustice to the Registrant of not having notice of the change, and his consequent inability to respond to it. 

32. The Panel determined to accede to the application on the basis that the HCPC had incorrectly charged the matter, the new Particular more accurately reflected the evidence, and rather than causing prejudice to the Registrant, the Panel considered the amendment to be potentially less serious and / or less accusatory than the original Particular.

HCPC Closing Submissions

33. Ms Manning-Rees then commenced making closing submissions on facts, the statutory grounds of misconduct / lack of competence and impairment.

34. She said that the evidence of Colleague A, Colleague B and Mother A was credible in relation to the relevant allegations. For example, she submitted that Mother A was clear that she found the Registrant to be unprofessional in relation to his comments towards her and her husband.

35. She further submitted that in relation to Particulars 3-6, Colleague A told the Panel that she had looked through the entire Local Authority electronic records to search for the actions completed by the Registrant and there were none.

36. In light of the above, she invited the Panel to find the Allegation, in whole or in part, proved on a balance of probabilities.

37. Next, Ms Manning-Rees submitted that it was open to the Panel, if it found the facts proved, to make a finding on either statutory ground, namely lack of competence or misconduct.

38. In relation to lack of competence, she submitted that the Registrant’s professional performance over a lengthy period of time was unacceptably low in respect of numerous service users.

39. In relation to misconduct, she submitted that taken together, or individually, the behaviour outlined in the factual Particulars, and the consequences, or potential consequences, of that behaviour, was easily capable of amounting to misconduct in that it constituted serious conduct falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances.

40. In relation to her submissions as to lack of competence and misconduct she referred the Panel to the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics 2012 and 2016:

• Acting in the best interests of service users;

• You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners;

• You must keep accurate records.

41. She also referred the Panel to the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers:

• Be able to practise safely and effectively within their scope of practice;

• Be able to communicate effectively;

• Be able to maintain records appropriately;

• Be able to assure the quality of their practice.

42. Finally Ms Manning-Rees reminded the Panel that, in relation to Particulars 1 and 2, it must also consider the potential harm to service users resulting from the Registrant’s actions. Future service users may have been deterred from approaching the Local Authority for help if they became aware of this conduct.

43. In respect of impairment, she submitted that, if the statutory ground is proven, the Panel should consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and invited the Panel to consider the HCPC Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is “Impaired”. She submitted that this was a matter for the Panel’s own professional judgement.

44. She submitted that, as the Registrant had not attended, the Panel may be able to consider the evidence given by Colleague A and Colleague B, who cast doubt on the level of insight shown by the Registrant when they met with him in February 2016.

45. In summary, Ms Manning-Rees submitted that on the basis of the personal and public components, the Panel should find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

Assessment of witness credibility

46. The Panel considered the credibility of each of the HCPC witnesses.

47. It considered that both Colleague A and Colleague B were very balanced in their oral evidence. The Panel considered that each gave their evidence fairly and showed empathy toward the Registrant. The Panel considered that Colleague A in Particular had made great efforts to attempt to support and encourage the Registrant.

48. In relation to Mother A, the Panel considered her to be a credible witness. Her evidence was that she was reluctant to complain as the Registrant’s conduct did not directly impact on her and she was sympathetic to his apparent fragile state of health.  In fact, she made the complaint after the Registrant resigned and only after a new social worker was allocated to her son, Child A. It was clear that Mother A’s main concern was the potential impact of the Registrant’s conduct on other service users. In oral evidence, Mother A presented as an articulate witness who was knowledgeable about local authority procedures, and whilst she was not intimidated by the comments made by the Registrant, she felt that other more vulnerable service users could have been adversely impacted. 

Particular 1 – Found Proved

49. It is alleged that:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you:

In or around February 2016, during a meeting with the parents of Child A, stated that:

a. you had ‘been drinking so much alcohol that you had been over the limit on arrival at work in the mornings’, or words to that effect;

b. Child A "would not know or remember who his parents were after 3 days of not seeing them given his disability", or words to that effect;

c. “If you tell me you are not coping then I will start looking for a residential placement” or words to that effect.

50. Child A and his family were involved with the Local Authority because of Child A’s autism and behavioural issues. The Registrant was Child A's allocated Social Worker from at least November 2014 until February 2016.

51. These allegations were made by Mother A in around May 2016 to the newly allocated social worker after the Registrant had resigned. She indicated that the Registrant made these remarks to her, and in the presence of her husband, during a meeting in February 2016.

52. Mother A said that she found the Registrant’s comments strange, as all previous meetings with the Registrant had been positive.

53. The Panel found Mother A’s account credible. It therefore considered it more likely than not that the Registrant made the inappropriate comments.

54. Accordingly, the Panel found this Particular proved.

Particular 2 – Found Proved

55. It is alleged that the Registrant:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you:

On or around 2 February 2016, during a meeting with Colleague A and B, stated that:

a. you ‘would be having a lot to drink’ at a funeral wake on or around Thursday 4 February 2016, or words to that effect;

b. ‘you would be fine’ to visit a child and adult service user at home during lunchtime on or around Friday 5 February 2016, or words to that effect.

56. During the meeting, Colleague A and Colleague B expressed concern as to the Registrant’s comments, his current health issues and his ability and / or willingness to manage these.

57. The Registrant told Colleague A and Colleague B that he was due to attend his friend’s funeral ‘wake’ and that he intended to drink heavily during the day and into the night and that he would not be able to attend work the next day until lunchtime. Further, he indicated that he felt he would be fine to visit a parent and child at their home after lunchtime on that day.

58. Colleague A and Colleague B did not consider these remarks to be indicative of safe practice and found it very concerning that, given his past alcohol dependency and subsequent sobriety, the Registrant was drinking again. Colleague B suggested that this was indicative of a lack of awareness by the Registrant of the impact that consuming alcohol was having on his professional judgement.

59. The Panel considered that the evidence of Colleague A and Colleague B was credible. Colleague A indicated in oral evidence that, although she had some difficult interactions with the Registrant, she remained prepared to assist and support him to remain in his role, but was unable to do so due to his lack of engagement with her.

60. Accordingly the Panel found this Particular proved.

Particulars 3 - 6

61. As a Social Worker, the Registrant was responsible for completing Child in Need Plans and Reviews (CINR), Child Social Work Assessments (CSWA) and recording visits to children following visits to families. Between 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016, it is alleged by Colleague A that he only completed one report and failed to complete all the other reports that he was required to undertake.

62. Before the Panel considered these Particulars, it reminded itself of the evidence of Colleague A, namely that she had undertaken a full search of all the Local Authority case files, in order to ascertain whether the Registrant had/had not undertaken visits and completed assessments, as required. The Panel accepted her evidence in this regard.

Particular 3 – Found Proved

63. It is alleged that:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you:

Between around 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016, did not complete and / or record:

a. Child Social Work Assessments in respect of:

i. Child B; and / or
ii. Child E.

b. Child in Need Reviews in respect of:

i. Child C;
ii. Child E;
iii. Child F; and / or
iv. Child G.

c. A Risk Assessment in respect of:

i. Child F.

64. In respect of the CSW assessments for Child B and Child E, the Panel reviewed the documentary evidence which indicated that the Registrant was instructed to complete these assessments. He did not do so within the expected 40 day period, whereupon his work had to be re-allocated.

65. In respect of the CINR’s for Child C, Child E, Child F and Child G, the Panel has reviewed the documentary evidence which indicated that the Registrant was directed to complete these reviews, and his inaction can be summarised as follows:

a. Child C – The Registrant was instructed to complete the assessment within the relevant period but failed to do so.

b. Child E – The Registrant was instructed to complete the assessment within the relevant period but failed to do so.

c. Child F – Although the Registrant visited Child F on 1 December 2015, he did not update or complete the CINR, as required.

d. Child G – On 3 December 2015, the Registrant was instructed to complete the CINR following a home visit on 14 December 2015. Although a home visit was made, the CINR in relation to Child G remained outstanding.

66. Further, the Panel considered the documentary evidence as to whether the Registrant completed a risk assessment in relation to Child F. The documentary evidence demonstrated that he did not do so and there was no record of the assessment on the relevant file.

67. Accordingly, the Panel found this Particular proved.

Particular 4 – Found Proved

68. It is alleged that:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you:

In relation to Child B you:

a. Between 3 December 2015 and 14 January 2016, did not visit Child B; and

b. Between 3 December 2015 and 2 February 2016, were not aware of where Child B was staying;

c. Did not follow up safeguarding concerns.

69. The evidence of Colleague A was that the Registrant failed to visit Child B between the relevant dates. She indicated that this concerned a potentially serious safeguarding issue involving an individual with whom Child B, a young child, had significant contact.
70. The Panel reviewed the documentary evidence which did not demonstrate that the Registrant had undertaken the necessary visits.
71. Accordingly, the Panel found this Particular proved.

Particular 5 – Found Proved

72. It is alleged that the Registrant:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you:
“Did not conduct and / or record a home visit to Child C between:

a. 12 September 2014 and 8 April 2015; and / or

b. 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016.”

73. The evidence of Colleague A was that the Registrant should have undertaken visits to Child C every 3 months in accordance with statutory guidelines. The records show that a home visit was arranged for 14 January 2016 but that on examination of the records, there was no recording that the visit took place.

74. The Panel reviewed the documentary information which confirmed Colleague A’s evidence. It is acknowledged that the Registrant was away for lengthy periods on sick leave in 2014 and 2015. However, in fairness to the Registrant, this fact is now reflected by the amended allegation.

75. The Panel found this Particular proved.

Particular 6 – Found Proved

76. It is alleged that the Registrant:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Staffordshire County Council, you: 
 “Did not conduct and / or record a home visit to Child D between:

a. October 2014 and 8 April 2015; and / or

b. 19 October 2015 and 2 February 2016.”

77. The Panel reviewed the relevant case notes, in which the Registrant was asked to prioritise visiting Child D. However there is no record that the Registrant visited Child D between October 2014 and February 2016. It is acknowledged that the Registrant was away for lengthy periods on sick leave in 2014 and 2015 and in fairness to the Registrant, this fact is now reflected by the amended allegation.

78. Accordingly, the Panel found this Particular proved.

Decision on Grounds

79. The Panel next considered whether the proven facts amount to a statutory ground. This is a matter for the professional judgment of the Panel.

80. Ms Manning-Rees relied on two statutory grounds, namely misconduct and / or lack of competence. The Panel observed that the HCPC requested the Registrant’s consent for disclosure of his medical records, but the Registrant declined this. If the Registrant had cooperated with this request, the HCPC may have relied on the statutory ground of the Registrant’s health.

81. The Panel reminded itself that lack of competence is different to negligence and misconduct. It connotes a standard of professional performance which is unacceptably low and which, save in exceptional circumstances, has been demonstrated by reference to a fair sample of the Registrant’s work.

82. As for misconduct, the Panel considered the case of Roylance v GMC (No 2] [2000] 1 AC 311 as follows:

“Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a... practitioner in the particular circumstances.”

83. Having considered all the evidence, and applying the test above, the Panel decided that the Registrant’s conduct did not amount to lack of competence. The Panel had no doubt that the Registrant, an experienced Senior Social Worker, was well aware of the duties and responsibilities of the role, as well as the importance of carrying out core tasks. Despite being given clear direction, support and encouragement, he simply failed to carry out what was required of him.

84. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s conduct fell far short of what would be expected in the circumstances and overwhelmingly amounted to misconduct.

85. The Panel also took account of the following HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics 2012 and 2016, namely:

• Acting in the best interests of service users,

• You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners and

• You must keep accurate records.

86. The Panel considered that each of these standards was engaged and that the Registrant fell short of these expectations.

87. The Panel considered each Particular individually and / or collectively as follows:

i. Particular 1(a) – The Panel considered that this amounted to misconduct, since sharing information about his drinking habits breached professional boundaries and was likely to result in service users losing trust in social work professionals.
ii. Particular 1(b) – The Panel considered that this amounted to misconduct. The remarks were inaccurate, hurtful and unkind.  If Mother A had been a vulnerable service user, the Registrant’s remarks could be devastating. Additionally these remarks could have led to a service user taking a negative course of action, such as not engaging with the Local Authority.
iii. Particular 1(c) – The Panel considered that this amounted to misconduct. Mother A’s comments, about requiring some extra hours of respite for her autistic son, were reasonable in the context of a family attuned to their son’s needs. It was wholly inappropriate for the Registrant to make the implied threat of residential care in these circumstances. In particular, the Panel had regard to the email note dated 6 May 2016 in which the Registrant had indicated to Mother A that he had previously removed a child from its family on the basis that the child’s needs were not being met. It was wrong for the Registrant to reject Mother A’s request and state “I’m not going to do that”. Mother A considered the Registrant’s proposal for residential care as “ludicrous” and a “ridiculous jump” from her request for a modest number of respite hours.
iv. Particular 2(a) - The Panel concluded that this Particular did not amount to misconduct as it did not consider that informing your employers that you may ‘have a lot to drink’ at a funeral wake was, in itself, serious enough to amount to misconduct.
v. Particular 2(b) – The Panel considered that this amounted to misconduct. It took account of its finding of fact in relation to 2(a). The Panel accepted the evidence of Colleague A and B that the Registrant was defiant and belligerent in wishing to visit a service user on the afternoon after a previous day of heavy drinking. He intended his visit to take place after lunch that day, when he had indicated that he would be unfit to attend work on that morning, because of his heavy drinking. Colleague B said his behaviour was provocative and ‘toddler like’, ‘gruff’ and ‘matter of fact’. His actions could have had significant repercussions for the family and child concerned. His employer would have had no means of assessing his fitness to work on the afternoon of that day.
vi. Particulars 3 - 6 - The Panel considered that the Particulars either individually or collectively amounted to misconduct. The Panel considered that the thread running through all of these allegations was that of safeguarding, which is the bedrock of social work. The Registrant’s actions placed and / or could have placed service users at risk of harm. The Panel was particularly concerned that the Registrant failed to carry out a visit, despite being urged to do so, in respect of Child B who was at potential risk of harm. This could have had serious repercussions. The Panel considered this to be deplorable behaviour.

Decision on Impairment

88. The Panel then went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his misconduct.

89. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He drew the Panel’s attention to the approach set out in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) for this purpose. The Panel adopted the approach formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her fifth report of the Shipman inquiry by asking itself the following questions:

“Do our findings of fact in respect of the Registrant’s misconduct show that his fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that he:

a)  has in the past acted and / or is liable in the future to act so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; and / or

b)  has in the past brought and / or is liable in the future to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute; and / or

c)  has in the past breached and / or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession;”

90. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions were serious and that he had acted in the past so as to place service users at unwarranted risk of harm, bring the social work profession into disrepute and breach fundamental tenets of the profession.

91. The Panel considered that the misconduct is potentially remediable. However, the Panel had no evidence to suggest that the Registrant had remediated his conduct, particularly since he had not engaged with the HCPC or this Panel.

92. The Registrant last contacted the HCPC on 31 August 2016 and indicated that he had resigned from being a Social Worker. The Panel considered that the HCPC gave the Registrant an opportunity to engage with the regulator, for example, by inviting him to give consent for the release of his medical records. However, the Registrant rejected this.

93. In light of these factors, the Panel has no evidence as to what the Registrant’s current circumstances are, save that he had previously indicated that he no longer wishes to practise social work. His current position remains unknown.

94. Similarly, and for the same reasons, the Panel was unable to carry out an assessment of the Registrant’s insight. The only evidence that the Panel had was that the Registrant appeared to lack insight during his meeting with Colleague A and B on 2 February 2016.

95. For all these reasons, the Panel concluded that there was a risk of repetition and the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired in relation to the personal component.

96. Further, the Panel considered that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is also currently impaired in relation to the public component. The Panel considered that a finding of impairment is necessary on this ground in order to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession. The Panel considered that the public would be concerned, in light of the Registrant’s persistent and serious misconduct across key areas of social work practice, if such a finding was not made.

Decision on Sanction

97. The Panel then turned to consider what, if any, sanction to impose.

98. Ms Manning-Rees submitted that she did not intend to make any submissions as to which was the most appropriate sanction as this was a matter for the Panel’s independent judgment. She referred the Panel to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP). She stated that the purpose of sanctions is not to punish the Registrant but it may have that effect. She submitted that mitigating factors may include the Registrant’s personal circumstances. She suggested that the aggravating factors did not simply relate to the Registrant’s record keeping but also his personal conduct towards individuals. She submitted that the Panel should consider sanctions from the least restrictive upwards and it should take account of the principle of proportionality.

99. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s ISP and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It reminded itself that the purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is to protect the public.

100. The Panel considered the following mitigating factors to be present in this case:

• The Panel was aware that there are no previous fitness to practise findings against this Registrant and, on that basis, determined that he is a person of good character. The evidence was that ordinarily he was an open and honest Social Worker, who could be supportive of his colleagues. His behaviour over the period of time to which the Allegation relates was out of character;

• There was no actual harm caused to service users;

• At the time of the incidents the Registrant was suffering from alcohol dependency; 

101. The Panel considered the following aggravating factors to be present in this case:

• The Registrant’s misconduct was serious, in that it was repeated and persistent. It related to inappropriate/unprofessional interactions with service users and failures to undertake basic and core tasks of a social worker, such as record keeping and undertaking visits to vulnerable children. The Panel considered these tasks to be fundamental tenets of the social work profession.

• When the Registrant’s senior colleagues attempted to assist and guide him as to his responsibilities, he was defensive and wilful.

• The Registrant appeared to lack insight during his interactions with senior colleagues, particularly when discussing the potential impact of his actions on service users.

102. The Panel considered each sanction in ascending order, applying the principle of proportionality. In doing so, the Panel balanced the need to protect the public and the public interest, against the right of the Registrant to practise his profession without restriction.

103. The Panel considered that it would be wholly inappropriate to conclude this case by taking no further action in light of the seriousness of the misconduct.

104. The Panel also considered that a Caution Order was not the appropriate or proportionate sanction to protect the public or maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. In addition, it did not meet the risks identified in this case as the misconduct was not minor in nature, there was no evidence of insight or remediation and there remained a risk of repetition.

105. The Panel next considered whether the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate or proportionate. The Panel had no evidence as to the Registrant’s current circumstances, particularly as to whether he has any intention to practise as a Social Worker, now or in the future. Even if conditions of practice were formulated, the imposition of conditions were unlikely to be workable, as the Registrant had failed to engage with this fitness to practise process and was unlikely to comply with conditions, as demonstrated by his previous non-cooperation with senior colleagues.

106. The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is a Suspension Order as it would protect the public and maintain the public’s confidence in the regulatory process.

107. The Panel decided that the appropriate period of suspension is 12 months. This period reflects the seriousness of the misconduct and will enable the Registrant to provide evidence of his insight and remediation. 

108. The Panel also considered whether to impose a Striking Off Order. It noted that is a sanction of last resort, and concluded that this was disproportionate to the misconduct found proved.

109. Accordingly, the Panel decided to impose a Suspension Order of 12 months.

110. Before the Suspension Order expires, the Registrant’s case will be reviewed by another panel at a further hearing. A future reviewing panel may be assisted by:

• the Registrant’s attendance, whether in person or by some other means;

• a reflective statement dealing with his responses to the findings made and his insight into those findings;

• evidence dealing with the up to date position in relation to his mental health and alcohol issues;

• evidence he may wish to put before the reviewing panel showing steps he has taken to resolve the deficits in his practice;

• evidence he may wish to put before the reviewing panel showing steps he has taken to keep his knowledge and skills up to date;

• evidence of steps he has taken to arrange to comply with the requirements set out in the HCPC ‘Returning to Practice’ booklet.

111. The Registrant should be aware that if he chooses not to engage with the HCPC’s fitness to practise process, a future review Panel may consider imposing a Striking Off Order.

Interim Order

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

112. Ms Manning indicated that she intended to apply for an Interim Order in this case.

113. The Panel considered, as the Registrant is neither present nor represented, whether it should nevertheless proceed with the decision in relation to the imposition of an interim order.

114. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve the notice of the hearing under rule 6(1) on the Registrant.

115. The Panel relied on the previous advice given by the Legal Assessor, as well as whether there had been any material change of circumstances, since it last considered the issue of proceeding in absence.

116. The Panel considered that there had been no change of circumstances since it last considered the issue of proceeding in the Registrant’s absence.

117. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of this hearing and that he had voluntarily absented himself. The Panel does not consider that an adjournment would serve any useful purpose, since it was unlikely to lead to the Registrant’s attendance, and the public interest in dealing expeditiously with this case was important.

Decision

118. Ms Manning-Rees submitted that an Interim Suspension Order was necessary and proportionate for the protection of the public and otherwise in the public interest and in the Registrant’s own interests.

119. The Panel has already decided that a Suspension Order is the appropriate order in this case. The Panel was also satisfied that an Interim Suspension Order was necessary to cover any period when the Registrant may appeal against the Suspension Order, and if such an appeal is made, whilst that appeal is in progress.

120. The Panel considered that the imposition of an Interim Suspension Order during this appeal period was necessary for the protection of the public and otherwise in the public interest. The Panel concluded that if there was no immediate restriction on the Registrant’s practice there would be an ongoing risk to service users and / or the public.

121. The Panel concluded that the appropriate length of this Interim Order is 18 months to allow for the disposal of any appeal.

122. 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; or (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Kenneth Moore for a period of 12 months from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 3 April 2020.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Kenneth Moore

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
04/02/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
11/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
22/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
04/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Hearing has not yet been held
10/09/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned
06/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
15/02/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
22/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
04/09/2017 Investigating committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
19/06/2017 Investigating committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension