Mrs Elizabeth Anne Chambers

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW43424

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 22/05/2019 End: 13:00 22/05/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Between 01 April 2009 to 30 April 2015, during the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Cheshire West and Chester Council:

 

1. In relation to Service User A and Service User B:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that:

i. in June 2014, you did not complete a Placement Information Report (PIR) prior to Service User A and Service User B moving placements and/or within 5 working days of their move;

ii. in June 2014 you did not update the care plan of Service User A and/or Service User B in a timely manner to reflect that they had moved placements;

iii. you did not record statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately 26 occasions between October 2012 and August 2014.

 

2. In relation to Service User C:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that in or around November/ December 2014:

i. did not record a statutory visit in a timely manner;

ii. did not complete a care plan in a timely manner;

b. Between September 2014 and January 2015, you did not consistently carry out statutory visits in a timely manner.

 

3. In 2014 you did not update the case summary for Service User Q in a timely manner.

 

4. In relation to Service User D:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that, from January 2014 until January 2015:

i. You did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. You did not consistently complete care plans in a timely manner;

b. You did not consistently carry out and/or record statutory visits in a timely manner.

 

5. In relation to Service Users E1 and E2, Service User F and/or Service User G:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that, from September 2012 until January 2015:

i. You did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. You did not upload care plans in a timely manner;

iii. You did not consistently record statutory visits in a timely manner.

b. You did not complete the assessment(s) for the Special Guardianship Order (SGO) application in a timely manner.

 

6. In relation to Service User H:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that, from August 2014 until January 2015:

i. You did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. You did not complete a PIR form prior to Service User H moving placements and/or within 5 working days of the move;

iii. You did not consistently record statutory visits in a timely manner;

b. You did not consistently carry out statutory visits in a timely manner;

 

7. In relation to Service User I:

 

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that:

i. From January 2013 until January 2015, you did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. From September 2009 until January 2015, you did not consistently record statutory visits in a timely manner;

iii. Between December 2013 until January 2015, you did not adequately update the care plan,

b. You did not carry out statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately seven occasions between January 2011 and November 2014.

 

8. In relation to Service User P and/ or Service User O:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that:

i. Between December 2013 and January 2015, you did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner and/or at all;

ii. From September 2009 until January 2015, you did not consistently record statutory visits in a timely manner;

iii. From May 2014 until January 2015, you did not adequately update the care plan,

b. You did not carry out statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately five occasions between January 2011 and December 2014.

 

9. In relation to Service User J:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that:

i. Between August 2013 and January 2015, you did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. Between October 2013 and January 2015, you did not adequately update the care plan,

iii. Between June 2009 and January 2015, you did not record statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately 30 occasions;

 

b. You did not carry out statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately five occasions between June 2009 and February 2013.

 

10. In relation to Service User K:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that:

i. Between August 2012 and 31 January 2015, you did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. Between June 2014 and January 2015, you did not adequately update the care plan;

iii. Between 7 December 2011 and 14 January 2015, you did not record statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately 13 occasions;

b. You did not carry out a statutory visit in a timely manner between 5 August 2014 and 5 November 2014.

 

11. In relation to Service User L:

a. You did not keep accurate and/or contemporaneous records in that:

i. Between August 2013 and January 2015, you did not consistently update the case summary in a timely manner;

ii. Between January 2012 and January 2015, you did not record statutory visits in a timely manner;

b. You did not carry out statutory visits in a timely manner on approximately five occasions between November 2012 and February 2014;

c. You did not inform your team manager in a timely manner that the foster carer had locked Service User L in her bedroom at night.

 

12. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 11 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Service

1. The Panel was aware that written notice of these proceedings was posted by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address on 18 April 2019.  Notice was also served by email on the same date. The Panel was shown documents which established both the fact of the service and the identity of the Registrant’s registered address and also of her email address. In these circumstances the Panel accepted that proper service of the notice had been effected in accordance with the rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Ms Knight on behalf of the HCPC submitted that the Panel should consider the case in the absence of the Registrant.

3. Ms Knight told the Panel that the Registrant had informed the HCPC by a manuscript letter dated 30 April 2019 that she would not be attending this hearing. In that letter she stated “I have no intention of returning to social work now or at any time in the future. I will not be attending [the] hearing on 22 May 2019”. The Panel has seen and read that letter. 

4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

5. The Panel was aware that a decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant was one to be taken with great care and caution.  However the Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The reasons are as follows:

• Service of the appropriate notice of this hearing has been properly effected.
• The Registrant has not applied for an adjournment and has stated that she would not be attending this hearing.
• There is no reason to suppose that an adjournment would result in the future attendance of the Registrant.
• There is a public interest in proceeding.
• This review of the order is mandatory.
• In all the circumstances the absence of the Registrant should be treated as voluntary.

Background:

6. The Registrant qualified as a Social Worker in 1984. She started working for Cheshire County Council in 1995. She was employed by Cheshire West and Chester County Council (the Council) as a grade 10 Social Worker in the Children in Care and Leavers Team based in Northwich and Winsford. She was responsible for children in care. Her duties included care planning, statutory visits and managing cases that were subject to court care proceedings.

7. The Registrant faced capability proceedings in 2013 in relation to multiple failures to record service user information and work within statutory timescales. The HCPC’s case is that she did not carry out her statutory duties in relation to fifteen service users in that she did not update case summaries, prepare care plans or other documents, carry out or record statutory visits in a timely manner or at all. In one specific case, it is alleged that she was aware that one of her service users was locked in her bedroom by her foster carer, but she did not report the matter to her manager in a timely manner.

The substantive hearing in August and November 2017

8. Registrant was present at the substantive hearing and was represented throughout.

9. Having considered all the material before it, the panel made the findings of facts that are set out above. The panel determined that the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and that her fitness to practise was thereby impaired. In explaining their determination as regards impairment the panel stated:

“The Panel found that the Registrant’s failures and omissions were such as to place vulnerable service users at risk of harm. In acting in this way, the Panel found that the Registrant had brought her profession into disrepute. It must also be a fundamental tenet of her profession hat service user safety should not be jeopardised by failures in basic record keeping.

The Panel found that fitness to practise is currently impaired. In relation to the personal component, there was only limited evidence of insight. The Registrant acknowledged in evidence that she had made mistakes and that she would do things differently now. However she continued to blame Liquid Logic and the lack of time for her failings. There was therefore limited evidence of insight and none of remediation, but not sufficient evidence to prevent a finding of current impairment. The Panel’s finding of impairment is also made on the basis of the need to protect the public and in the wider public interest in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. The Panel notes that a reasonable member of the public would expect a finding of current impairment on the facts of this case.

In making our finding of impairment, the Panel acknowledged that there was evidence that the Registrant was otherwise capable, conscientious and well regarded in her dealings with service users. She had not previously been the subject of any referral to the HCPC during the course of a long career in social work. These factors are of significant weight when it comes to the next stage.”

10. In determining the appropriate sanction the panel concluded that to take no action, to refer the matter for mediation or to impose a Caution Order were inappropriate. The panel concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate and would sufficiently and proportionately protect the public and maintain public confidence. It concluded that a Suspension Order was not necessary or proportionate. The panel explained its reasons for coming to these conclusions in the following terms:

“The Panel then considered carefully whether a Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate. In considering paragraphs 30-39 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s failings were capable of remedy in relation to record keeping and time management and that the public could be protected, subject to appropriate and verifiable conditions on her practice. The Panel did not consider that the persistence of her past failings would prevent the Registrant from complying with conditions. She has engaged with the regulatory process and can be expected to comply with conditions and to make a determined effort to do so. The Panel has formulated conditions that are not wholly dependent on her returning to practice or finding a social work position in the near future. The Panel was satisfied that conditions of regular and frequent focussed supervision and reporting would provide appropriate protection for the public and maintain confidence in the profession if the Registrant were to return to practice as a Social Worker. A period of 18 months was necessary for the Registrant to demonstrate remediation whilst ensuring public protection and satisfying the wider public interest.

A Suspension Order was not necessary or proportionate where Conditions of Practice Order can provide adequate public protection and maintain public confidence. The Panel ultimately decided that the Registrant’s behaviour was capable of remedy and wanted to give her the opportunity to demonstrate this. In relation to a Striking-Off Order, the Panel did not think that it was able to conclude that the Registrant’s behaviour was fundamentally incompatible with her continued registration if she is able to gain greater insight and remedy her failings. Such an order was neither necessary nor proportionate.”

11. The panel imposed a Conditions of Practice Order in the following terms:

The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, for a period of 18 months from the date that this Order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Elizabeth Anne Chambers, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1. Whether or not employed as a Social Worker you must formulate a Personal Development Plan designed to address the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:

• Record keeping

• Time management

• Use of the relevant social work case management recording system (if employed in social work).

2. Whether or not employed as a Social Worker, within three months of the Operative Date you must forward a copy of your Personal Development Plan to the HCPC.

3. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 14 days of commencing work as a Social Worker. You must attend upon that supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations.

4. If employed as a Social Worker you must meet fortnightly with your supervisor for the first three months and thereafter on a monthly basis to consider your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.

5. If employed as a Social Worker you must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC about your record keeping, time management and progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan. Such reports are to be provided every six months and 14 days prior to any review of this order.

6. You must promptly inform the HCPC if you commence or cease to be employed as a Social Worker.

7. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you as a Social Worker.

8. 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 social work;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with as a Social Worker (at the time of application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application) as a Social Worker.

12. The panel gave guidance as to what might assist a reviewing panel. It stated as follows:

A future Panel reviewing this case may be assisted by the following:-

• Testimonials from any relevant paid or unpaid work;

• Evidence of regular continuing professional development, demonstrating that she is keeping her knowledge and skills up to date, whether employed or not as a Social Worker.

Decision:

13. Ms Knight summarised the relevant facts and the conclusions of the previous panel. In summary, she submitted that the Panel should find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. She said that the Registrant had not addressed any of the failings established at the substantive hearing; she had not engaged with the HCPC since the substantive hearing; she had failed to formulate and deliver to the HCPC a Personal Development Plan as required by conditions 1 and 2 of the Conditions of Practice Order. She was therefore in breach of the order and she had not complied with any of the suggestions made by the substantive panel as to what might assist a reviewing Panel. Ms Knight submitted that in all the circumstances a Conditions of Practice Order was now inappropriate and she reminded the Panel that a Striking Off Order was now also available.

14. The Panel has read the letter from the Registrant dated 30 April 2019. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not met any of the guidance made by the substantive panel as to what would assist this Panel. The Panel also noted that the Registrant had not produced a Personal Development Plan as required by the Conditions of Practice Order and was thereby in breach of the order. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not engaged effectively with the HCPC since the substantive hearing.

15. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

16. The Panel is aware that it has all the powers that are set out in Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 [The Order] and which are summarised in the letter dated 18 April 2019 sent to the Registrant and giving notice of this hearing.

17. This Panel is aware that the process under Article 30 (1) of the Order is one of review and not one of appeal and that its function is to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired and if so, whether the order under review remains the appropriate and proportionate means of public protection or should be varied or replaced by some other order.

Decision of this Panel on Impairment

18. Having taken account of the submissions made by Ms Knight and noted the contents of the Registrant’s letter dated 30 April 2019, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. In coming to this conclusion the Panel noted that the Registrant has not addressed any of the concerns expressed at the substantive hearing; also she has not complied with any of the guidance made by the substantive panel as to what would assist a reviewing panel. The Panel also noted that the Registrant’s failure to formulate a Personal Development Plan was a clear breach of the Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel has therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired for all the reasons identified by the substantive panel together with the additional matters identified by this Panel.

Decision on Sanction

19. In considering the appropriate sanction the Panel had regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy [ISP] and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

20. The Panel has applied the principle of proportionality. The Panel is aware that the purpose of sanction is not to be punitive and that it must consider the risk the Registrant may pose to service users in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel has considered the sanctions available in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order would not be appropriate and this would not afford the necessary public protection.

21. The Panel next considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would adequately address the concerns identified. The Panel has determined that a Conditions of Practice Order would no longer be appropriate. In coming to this conclusion the Panel noted that the Registrant is in breach of the existing Conditions of Practice Order and also that she has clearly stated that she does not wish to return to work as a social worker.

22. The Panel next considered making a Suspension Order. It has concluded that in the particular circumstances of this case no purpose would be served by such an order.  Accordingly, the Panel has decided that a Striking Off Order is the only appropriate sanction to impose. In coming to these conclusions the Panel had in mind the importance of avoiding unnecessary hearings and the need to ensure the efficient regulation of the profession. The Panel also had regard to the guidance in the ISP that “striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example where there is lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate”. In the opinion of the Panel these considerations apply to this case.

 

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Elizabeth Anne Chambers from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Elizabeth Anne Chambers

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
24/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice