Ms Amanda Muir
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While registered as a Social Worker with the Health and Care Professions Council:
1. On 3 November 2016 during the course of your work duties, you transported a service user whilst driving under the influence of alcohol.
2. On 22 November 2016 at North Yorkshire Harrogate Magistrate's Court, you were convicted of driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath exceeded the prescribed limit.
3. Your actions as described at particulars 1 and 2 amount to misconduct.
4. By reason of your conviction and/or misconduct as set out in particulars 1-3, your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.
1. The Panel had sight of the service bundle which confirmed that notice of the hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address on 20 February 2019. This sets out the date and location of today’s review hearing, purpose of the review, the Panel’s powers; and importantly, the Registrant’s rights to participate in the review hearing. The Panel was satisfied that notice had been properly served in accordance with the rules.
Application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence
2. Ms Dyas applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Ms Dyas referred the Panel to the HCPC Practice Note and requested the Panel proceed today as it is clear the Registrant has not engaged with these proceedings since prior to the substantive hearing. There was no suggestion that if the matter were adjourned this would change. The Panel was also mindful that the HCPC sent an email to the Registrant on 11th March 2019 reminding her of some things she could do to assist today’s Panel.
3. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
4. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing and had chosen not to attend. The Panel also noted that the Registrant had not requested an adjournment and has not engaged with the HCPC since prior to the substantive hearing. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself and there was nothing to be gained by adjourning. It was also in the public interest to conclude the proceedings expeditiously. The Panel therefore determined to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Application to proceed in Private
5. Ms Dyas addressed the Panel as to the allegations proved by the last panel relating to misconduct and conviction she requested todays review to be held in private. This had been the case when the last panel heard the matter. Ms Dyas said this was because there are matters within that panel’s determination which reference the Registrant’s health which she will refer to today. Having considered the Panel’s powers and reference to the Practice Note, accepting the Legal Assessors advice, this Panel decided that the hearing should, in line with the public interest, be in public save and except where the Registrant’s health and/or private life is discussed.
6. The Registrant had been employed as a registered Social Worker at North Yorkshire Council [the Council] since 27 November 2012. The Registrant was appointed to the role of Social Care Assessor based within the Ripon Rural Assessment Team and was responsible for undertaking assessments of vulnerable adults and their carers. The Registrant was also a Safeguarding Enquiry Officer and was responsible for some of the most complex cases in the team.
7. On 3 November 2016, the Registrant was assisting Service User A to move house and drove Service User A from his previous address to his new address. Service User A was a vulnerable adult with complex needs who required assistance with daily living. A Community Nurse was present at Service User A’s new address when the Registrant and Service User A arrived. The Community Nurse observed the Registrant appearing unsteady on her feet, slurring her words and smelling of alcohol. She suspected that the Registrant had been under the influence of alcohol whilst transporting Service User A. She made an emergency call to the Police because she was concerned that the Registrant had driven while she was drunk. She also contacted her manager who subsequently attended Service User A’s home to offer support.
8. The Police attended and the Registrant was subsequently breathalysed. She provided a positive specimen of breath, leading to her being arrested. The Registrant’s breath test result was 93 microgrammes per 100ml. The legal limit for driving is 35 microgrammes per 100ml.
9. On 22 November 2016, the Registrant was convicted at North Yorkshire Harrogate Magistrates Court “for driving a motor vehicle when the alcohol level was above limit”. The Registrant was disqualified from driving for 23 months, as well as being ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge. Subsequently, the Registrant was also ordered to complete 40 hours of unpaid community work to be completed within 12 months.
10. The Registrant drove Service User A, during the course of her employment as a Social Worker, whilst she was under the influence of alcohol. The level of alcohol on the Registrant’s breath was almost three times the legal limit. Her actions put Service User A, members of the public and herself at serious risk of harm. That Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions were serious and had the potential to damage the reputation of the profession. Further, her actions breached the following ‘Standards of conduct, performance and ethics’;
“ 1. you must act in the best interest of service users”;
“13. You must ….make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession”.
11. For all of the above reasons, that Panel was satisfied that the statutory ground of misconduct had been established in relation to both Particulars 1 and 2.
12. That panel was aware of some of the Registrant’s circumstances and references were made to her health. Some information was made available by way of references, as to the difficult and demanding caseload relating to the most serious of cases which the Registrant had previously undertaken without prior concern. A Senior Manager had provided that panel with information to the effect her work up until this point was of the highest order.
Decision on Impairment
13. This Panel in conducting a review of this Order should consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. The Panel carefully considered the HCPC practice note on ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired’. The Panel received legal advice.
14. The Panel considered that since the substantive hearing the Registrant had failed to engage with the HCPC. Furthermore, there was no evidence of insight, remorse or remediation available to the Panel.
15. The Panel also bore in mind that the Registrant has failed to comply with any of the suggestions of the previous panel; for example, attending the hearing in person, providing a reflective piece, providing testimonials and references and submitting independent medical evidence.
16. In the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired on public protection grounds because it could not have confidence that the Registrant will not repeat the same behaviour in the future and thereby place the public and service users at risk.
17. The Panel was mindful that a fully informed member of the public would expect that a Registrant should not be returned to unrestricted practice without having shown the appropriate insight and remediation. Accordingly the Panel also considered that the Registrant was impaired on the public interest ground.
18. For all of the above reasons, the Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired
Decision on Sanction
19. Ms Dyas on behalf of the HCPC submitted that a further 12 month suspension would be appropriate. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
20. The Panel were mindful of the need to protect service users and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour in the profession and balance this with the principle of proportionality.
21. In considering the appropriate sanction to apply in this case, the Panel considered the sanctions in ascending order. The Panel was satisfied that a sanction was required and in light of the ongoing risk to the public that it would not be appropriate or in the public interest to take no further action or to refer the matter to mediation.
22. The Panel next considered a Caution Order. The Panel was mindful of its findings that the Registrant’s conduct fell far below what is expected of a registered Social Worker. Her actions were not of a minor nature, but were serious and had the potential to damage the reputation of the profession. The Panel determined that a Caution Order would not protect the public, as it would allow the Registrant to be in unrestricted practice.
23. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel had regard to paragraph 33 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) which sets out that conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases where a registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process. Further, the Panel has been unable to formulate any appropriate or workable conditions of practice which would address the nature of the misconduct and which would be adequate to protect the public and satisfy the public interest.
24. In next considering a Suspension Order, the Panel has had regard to paragraph 39 of the ISP which sets out that suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice would provide insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not warranted.
25. While the Panel found that the Registrant had not provided any evidence or remediation, it considered that such evidence could potentially be provided, should the Registrant choose to engage with these proceedings in the future.
26. The Panel considered that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate in all the circumstances of this case at this time.
27. Taking all matters into consideration, the Panel concluded that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months. In deciding that period, the Panel had regard to the need to protect the public and maintain the public interest. The Panel also considered that 6 months would be an appropriate period of time to allow the Registrant to re-engage with her regulator and provide an update on her current situation and future intentions.
28. The Suspension Order will be reviewed prior to its expiry. The reviewing panel would be assisted by the following:
• The Registrant’s attendance (by phone or in person) at the review hearing;
• A reflective piece which demonstrates full insight into the effect that her actions had on Service User A and the reputation of her profession;
• Given the references made in the Registrant’s submissions, regarding health and personal circumstances, any independent and up to date information regarding these matters;
• Any testimonials and references from any work, paid or unpaid.
Order: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Amanda Muir for a period of 6 months upon the expiry of the current Order.
This Order will be reviewed by the Committee no later than 25 June 2019 or earlier if new evidence which is relevant to the Order becomes available after it was made.