Mr Stuart Marshall

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW34596

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 10/05/2019 End: 13:00 10/05/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, you:

 

1. Were allocated the case of Child B on 21 October 2009 and you:

a. Did not conduct statutory visits in the required timescales between:

i. October 2009 and February 2010;

ii. 15 February 2011 and 2 August 2011; and

iii. 5 September 2011 and 16 May 2012;

b. Did not always see Child B during statutory visits;

c. Did not make records for all of the statutory visits that you made to Child B; and

d. Did not follow a management instruction of 2 August 2011 in that you did not conduct a risk assessment for Child B.

 

2. Were allocated the case of Child A in November 2011 and you:

a. Did not conduct statutory visits in the required timescales between November 2011 and 16 May 2012;

b. Did not make records for all of the statutory visits that you made to Child A; and

c. Did not follow a management instruction in that you did not investigate and/or record your investigation concerning a disclosure made by Child A that he had been assaulted.

 

3. Not proved.

 

4. On 24 January 2013, were asked to conduct a home visit to the B family following concerns highlighted in a referral by a nursery and you: 3

 

a. Did not follow a management instruction to take a duty worker along with you to the visit;

b. Did not report back to your manager following your visit until 28 January 2013; and

c. Did not make a record for your visit until 29 January 2013.

 

5. Did not keep accurate records of your whereabouts on dates including:

a. 24 January 2013; and

b. 25 January 2013.

 

6. Your actions at paragraphs 3-4 were in breach of a Final Written Warning issued to you on 28 June 2012.

 

7. The matters described at paragraphs 1-6 amount to 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

Proof of Service

1.The Registrant did not attend the hearing. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted on 10 April 2019 by first class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC register.  The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).

Proceeding in Absence

2.Having determined that service of the Notice of Hearing had been properly effected, the Panel went on to consider whether to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and followed that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.


3.The Panel determined that it was fair, reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Registrant in a letter dated 30 April 2019, stated he would not be attending the hearing. The Panel further noted that the Registrant told the Case Manager during telephone conversations on 9 May 2019 and again today, 10 May 2019, that he would not be attending. There are File Notes of these conversations in the bundle before this Panel. It is clear from those Notes that the Registrant did not wish to attend the hearing in person or via telephone. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that it was reasonable to conclude that the Registrant has chosen not to attend the hearing. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s absence demonstrated a voluntary waiver of his right to be present. Finally, given that this is a mandatory review hearing, there is a strong public interest in ensuring that it is considered expeditiously. It is also in the Registrant’s interest that this review is considered as soon as possible.

Background

4.At the conclusion of the substantive hearing, which took place on the 09 - 11 February 2015, the Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired due to misconduct, in relation to the particulars found proved, with the exception of particular 5 which was not found to be intentional. The Registrant did not attend the Final Hearing and was not represented.

5.The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The case concerned the Registrant’s failure to undertake statutory visits, to maintain accurate records and to carry out management instructions.

6.The Final Hearing Panel found that over a long period of time the Registrant did not conduct statutory visits within the required timescales to the families of children who were vulnerable service users, failed to make adequate records of visits that he did make and failed to abide by a number of basic management instructions. He failed to live up to his responsibilities. His failings were repeated even after a formal management warning. The Final Hearing Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. There was no evidence that the Registrant had remedied his previous misconduct and the risk of repetition was said to be high, without further training and support. There was no evidence of insight into his failings.

7.The Final Hearing Panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months. The Final Hearing Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that no appropriate conditions could be framed partly because the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing.

8.At the review hearing on 14 August 2015, the Registrant did not attend, although he did provide written submissions. The first review Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. In the absence of evidence of remedial action there remained a risk of repetition of professional failings. The first review Panel pointed out that the Registrant’s non-attendance at the hearing significantly limited the ability of the Panel to engage with him, regarding his insight and understanding of the need for change in his professional practice.

9.At the second Review on 11 August 2016, the Registrant attended by telephone and gave evidence. He was working as a butcher, but still wanted to return to practice as a Social Worker. He had worked for some years in child protection and there had been no problems. When he had joined the “Looked After Children” team a lot of work had been placed on him, and he had made mistakes in prioritising his workload. The Registrant accepted that he had failed to manage his time and workload properly. He had struggled to record his work but if given another chance would “sort it out”. He had learnt not to respond immediately to all matters referred to him. He had been the sole carer for his father at the time, prior to his death. He stated that he should have been more upfront with his employers regarding his workload and the struggle he was experiencing in recording his work.

10.The second review Panel concluded that the Registrant had not remedied his practice and that he continued to have limited insight into the full extent of his failings, although he had expressed some remorse. The Panel noted that the Registrant indicated in his evidence that he was not ready to return to practice, needing more training on time management and prioritisation. The second review Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. They imposed a further Suspension Order for 6 months, and set out steps which a future reviewing Panel was likely to find of assistance:

a)Evidence of experience in the social care sector,
b)Evidence of relevant training to address specific failures,
c)Evidence of the implementation of a plan of remedial activities to address identified failings,
d)A reflective practice piece which shows the development of insight into the full range of his failings.

11.The third review hearing took place on 16 February 2017. The Registrant did not attend the hearing but submitted a letter, dated 27 January 2017. He had recently commenced voluntary work, as a Project Worker for 10 hours per week, with People Focused Group. Their aim is to promote mental well-being through positive community action and expanding social networks.

12.The Registrant stated that he had become more aware of his failings and the need to carry out his work in a documented and efficient manner, since he commenced his voluntary position. He stated that he developed some insight through supervision into being more open and honest about his weaknesses and seeking help with these. He added that he now realized that not carrying out visits in the set timescales, and failing to carry out management instructions, was not acceptable and is dangerous.


13.The third review Panel accepted that the Registrant’s experience in his volunteering role had “rejuvenated” his interest in continuing as Social Worker. He had been open and honest about his failings with the Project Manager. He had attended a 5-day Wellness Recovery Action Planning training programme, and learnt about having a clearer work pattern, and setting achievable goals, whilst not placing himself under pressure. He was more aware of the need for ongoing training and felt that he was ready to progress in his social work career, with continued support and training.

14.The third review Panel had been provided with a testimonial letter from Kelly Hicks, Manager of the People Focused Group. She noted that the Registrant’s confidence has grown, and that he has been keen to attend regular supervision sessions. During supervision he had openly discussed his practice and reflected on his work. The Registrant had developed strong relationships, working with end of life care, and individuals with substance misuse and learning difficulties. In addition, his knowledge of children’s services had been “invaluable” in supporting a family to make changes to a child protection plan. He was described as a “valuable asset”. The feedback had all been positive. There was a continued plan of development in place, with places secured on training in Comprehensive Record Keeping and Adult Safeguarding. Ms Hicks confirmed that she was of the belief that the Registrant now “fully understands and accepts the gravity of his suspension and the need to address these areas to avoid any future failures….”


15.The third review Panel considered the evidence provided of developing insight. However, the Panel concluded that his fitness to practise remained impaired. The Panel stated:

“Firstly, although the Registrant has undertaken some training, this does not pertain directly to the deficiencies previously identified. Secondly, although there is an action plan in place, the training identified in the plan has yet to occur. Overall the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s misconduct, although not yet remedied, is remediable, and there is some evidence of progress.”

16.That Panel concluded that there were workable and identifiable conditions which would allow the Registrant to return to work as a social worker, with an appropriate degree of public protection. It imposed a Conditions of Practice Order:

17.At the fourth review of this hearing the Panel took the view that the Registrant’s inability to demonstrate that he was fit to practise unrestricted was due to a lack of understanding rather than a lack of commitment. The Panel concluded that a further Conditions of Practice Order, with amended conditions, could be formulated, which would assist the Registrant in focussing on the actions he should take to place himself even whilst working in a voluntary setting in a better position to provide evidence that he is fit to return to practise unrestricted.

The current review hearing

18.At this, the fifth review, Mr Stephens, on behalf of the HCPC, outlined the procedural history of this case and the background circumstances. He reminded the Panel of the previous findings of the review Panels and of its powers to make no order, replace the order, extend the current order or amend the order.  He submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. He acknowledged that the Registrant was engaging with the HCPC and expressed a desire to return to social work practice. He invited the Panel to consider imposing a further Conditions of Practise Order for a period of 12 months. He stated that it was a matter of concern that this case has been under review now for a number of years.

19.The Registrant, in his letter dated, 30 April 2019, confirmed that he has continued to volunteer at the People Focus Group on a weekly basis, it appeared for two days a week whilst continuing his paid employment as a butcher. He stated that since the last review he has continued to seek opportunities to return to full-time social work, though no details have been provided of this by the Registrant, and he has attended training sessions relevant to his voluntary work.


20.In the File Note of 10 May 2019, it refers to the Registrant as “being hopeful that something would arise out of the volunteer work, which may lead to paid opportunities rather than volunteer work”. The Registrant explained that there is no recent up to date PDP because his supervisor had been in hospital, but she would provide an up date within the next two weeks.

Decision

21.In undertaking this review, the Panel took into account the submissions by both parties and the documentary evidence before it.

22.The Panel accepted and applied the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as to the proper approach it should adopt. In particular that the purpose of the review is to consider the issue of impairment based on the previous Panel’s findings of fact, the extent to which the Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process, the scope and level of his insight and the risk of repetition. The Panel is considering whether his previous misconduct has been sufficiently and appropriately remedied. It noted relevant factors include whether the Registrant:

(i)fully appreciates the gravity of the previous Panel’s finding of impairment; (ii) has maintained his skills and knowledge; (iii)is likely to place service users at risk if he were to return to unrestricted practice.

The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired and must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:

(ii)the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and (ii) the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

Further the Panel accepts that if it determines that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, the Panel should go on to consider sanction by applying the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP), and the principles of proportionality which require the Registrant’s interests to be balanced against the interests of the public.

23.The Panel noted that the substantive hearing Panel found that over a significant period of time the Registrant did not conduct statutory visits to families of children who were vulnerable service users, within the required timescales.

24.Since the original finding of impairment was made, the Panel notes that the Registrant has developed some insight and has expressed a wish to return to social work practice.

25.The Panel is concerned at the limited evidence presented to it of the details of the short online training courses attended, what he has learned from that training or how that training has been embedded into his work as a volunteer and how the Registrant intended to incorporate this learning into his practice as a social worker to address his past deficiencies.

26.Further the Registrant had been previously informed that a future reviewing Panel would be assisted by a reflective piece which shows the development of insight into the effect of his misconduct on the profession and on service users. But the reflective piece provided to this Panel is somewhat dated; it was written in August 2018 and does not demonstrate adequately how his misconduct impacted on the lives of service users. The Registrant has provided a personal development plan dated 1 August 2018 but with no documented meaningful evidence of progress against the plan. The Panel also took into account that the Registrant has not secured employment as a social worker or within a statutory social work setting. He therefore, has not been able to demonstrate development of his practice as a social worker.

27.In the absence of any positive evidence of further insight and independent evidence of remediation, the Panel was not satisfied that there has been any material change in circumstances, since the last review, with regards to the risk to service users and the consequential impact on public trust and confidence. Therefore, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. 
 
28.Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired that Panel went on to consider what sanction, if any, to impose.

29.The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct which has not been remedied, to take no action on his registration would be inappropriate. Furthermore, it would be insufficient to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession.

30.The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order. As the Registrant has not demonstrated sufficient insight into his misconduct, only limited evidence of remediation and whilst the risk of repetition remains, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to protect the public and meet the wider public interest.

31.In considering whether to maintain the current Conditions of Practice Order, with or without amendment, the Panel noted paragraph 37 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, which states:

‘Similarly, whilst conditions of practice may be imposed on a registrant who is currently not practising, before doing so Panels should consider whether there are equally effective conditions which could be imposed and which are not dependent upon the registrant returning to practice. For example, not all training, reflection or development requires a registrant to be in practice or have a workplace-based mentor.’

32.The Panel concluded that a further Conditions of Practice Order, with amended conditions, could be formulated.

33.The Panel determined that the following amended Conditions of Practice Order should be imposed:

1)You must promptly inform the HCPC if you commence any role for which HCPC registration is required,
2)You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer,
3)You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

a)Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work,
b)Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of the application); and
c)Any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

4)On commencement of employment as a Social Worker you must access supervision and remain under the formal supervision of a supervisor who is registered with the HCPC.
5)In the event of obtaining employment as a Social Worker you must supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 28 days of the commencement of any employment as a social worker.
6)You must attend upon this supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations.
7)Whilst working in a voluntary capacity at People Focused Group or any subsequent paid/unpaid social-care based position you must work with a supervisor to formulate a personal development plan relevant to the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:

•Compliance with the requirements of service user-centred statutory visits,
•Compliance with management instructions,
•Record keeping.

8)As part of the personal development plan you must include:

i.A diary or learning and development log setting out:

a.The name, description and date of any training courses attended, or any self-directed learning undertaken.
b.The date and nature of supervision received (with voluntary supervisor or any other supervisor) on specific topics.

ii.If there is any documentary evidence of learning (such as copies of the Certificates of attendance) relating to any courses undertaken. Copies of these should be provided at least 14 days before the date of the next review hearing along with information on the content of the courses.

9)Within 3 months of this Order coming into effect you must forward a copy of your updated personal development plan to the HCPC.
10)You must meet with your supervisor on a monthly basis to consider your progress toward achieving the aims set out in your personal development plan.
11)You must produce evidence of progress against the personal development plan.
12)You must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC regarding your progress towards achieving the aims set out in the personal development plan.
13)You must provide evidence of your CPD.
14)You will be responsible for meeting any and or all costs associated with complying with these conditions, which are not otherwise met.
15) Any condition requiring you to provide information to the HCPC is to be met by you sending the information to the offices of the HCPC marked for the attention of the Director of Fitness to Practise.

34.The Panel determined that the amended Conditions of Practice Order should be imposed for a period of 12 months. In determining the length of the Order the Panel took into account the amount of time it would take for the Registrant to compile evidence of specific training and insight.

35.Before concluding this determination the Panel makes the following observations.

36.The facts relating to this case occurred between 2009 - 2013. The substantive hearing in this case is now four years ago. This is the fifth review of this matter. The level of progress by the Registrant to remedy his failings and demonstrate full insight is limited. The Panel does not doubt the Registrant’s wish to be a social worker but such expression of commitment to the profession must be backed up by evidence of concrete steps and a realistic timescale for making actual progress in this regard. The Registrant cannot remain indefinitely on a Conditions of Practice Order: he needs to demonstrate the efforts he has made to remedy his failings and show meaningful progress towards a return to practise. His expression of “hope” that his current voluntary work may lead to paid employment as a social worker falls short of what is needed at this stage of proceedings.

37.Whilst it is for the Registrant to verify, it appears that he is now been out of practice for so long that he will be required to fulfill the return to practice requirements of the profession.


38.The Panel also noted that an unusual feature of this case is that the Registrant has never appeared in person for any hearing of this matter (save for one telephone attendance). As has previously been indicated any future reviewing Panel is likely to be greatly assisted by the Registrant’s attendance in person so that the Panel can adequately assess his insight and degree of remediation. In the absence of adequate evidence from the Registrant, supported by reliable independent evidence, a future reviewing Panel may consider that a different and more severe sanction may be the only appropriate course of action at that time. 

Order


The Panel determined that the following amended Conditions of Practice Order should be imposed:

1)You must promptly inform the HCPC if you commence any role for which HCPC registration is required,
2)You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer,
3)You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

a)Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work,
b)Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of the application); and
c)Any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

4)On commencement of employment as a Social Worker you must access supervision and remain under the formal supervision of a supervisor who is registered with the HCPC.
5)In the event of obtaining employment as a Social Worker you must supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 28 days of the commencement of any employment as a social worker.
6)You must attend upon this supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations.
7)Whilst working in a voluntary capacity at People Focused Group or any subsequent paid/unpaid social-care based position you must work with a supervisor to formulate a personal development plan relevant to the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:

•Compliance with the requirements of service user-centred statutory visits,
•Compliance with management instructions,
•Record keeping.

8)As part of the personal development plan you must include:

i.A diary or learning and development log setting out:

a.The name, description and date of any training courses attended, or any self-directed learning undertaken.
b.The date and nature of supervision received (with voluntary supervisor or any other supervisor) on specific topics.

ii.If there is any documentary evidence of learning (such as copies of the Certificates of attendance) relating to any courses undertaken. Copies of these should be provided at least 14 days before the date of the next review hearing along with information on the content of the courses.

9)Within 3 months of this Order coming into effect you must forward a copy of your updated personal development plan to the HCPC.
10)You must meet with your supervisor on a monthly basis to consider your progress toward achieving the aims set out in your personal development plan.
11)You must produce evidence of progress against the personal development plan.
12)You must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC regarding your progress towards achieving the aims set out in the personal development plan.
13)You must provide evidence of your CPD.
14)You will be responsible for meeting any and or all costs associated with complying with these conditions, which are not otherwise met.
15) Any condition requiring you to provide information to the HCPC is to be met by you sending the information to the offices of the HCPC marked for the attention of the Director of Fitness to Practise.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Stuart Marshall

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
10/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
30/04/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice
16/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
11/08/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
14/08/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/02/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended