Mrs Eulale Brown-Hickling

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW40360

Interim Order: Imposed on 30 May 2018

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 28/05/2019 End: 17:00 28/05/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

As found proven at the final hearing on 30 May 2018:

 

During the course of your employment at Islington Council Children Services from November 2010 to May 2013 you:

1) In relation to Child A:

a.information was disclosed to you by Person A in relation to Person B's violent past and you did not advise your manager of the information disclosed.

2) In relation to Child B you:

a.did not make and/or record enquiries as to whether Child B was taking medication as part of her psychiatric treatment until February 2012;
b. did not seek approval regarding Child B taking medication as part of her psychiatric treatment;
c. found not proven

d. did not maintain detailed or timely case records.

3) In relation to Child D you did not:
a. record all statutory visits;
b. undertake and/or record life story work;
c. make and/or record any adequate enquiries in relation to Child D being reported missing;
d. Maintain detailed and timely case records.

4) In relation to Child E, F and Child G you did not maintain detailed and timely case records.

5) In relation to Child H you did not:

a. record all statutory visits in a timely manner;
b. did not complete and/record the follow up on all actions required from Child/Young Person's Adoption Review dated:

  1. 19 December 2011.

c. found not proven

6) In relation to Child I you did not:

a. Maintain detailed and timely case records.

7) The matters described in paragraphs 1 to 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Background
1. The Registrant was present at the HCPC Final Hearing but not represented. The panel at that hearing found proved Particulars 1(a), 2(a), 2(b), 2(d), 3(a) – (d), 4, 5(a), 5(b), and 6(a). Particulars 2(c)(i), and 5(c) were not found proved. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired by reason of her misconduct.

2. In its Decision on Impairment, the Final Hearing panel stated:
“The Panel noted that there was no evidence of the Registrant’s remediation of proven deficiencies in her role as a registered social worker relating to her failings with regard to both record-keeping and carrying out necessary tasks and enquiries. The Panel considered that the Registrant displayed limited insight into her past failings by her continued insistence that she is a good social worker but was let down by Islington failing to provide her with sufficient support given her dyslexia. Her failings had led to a real risk of harm to the vulnerable children whom she was employed to support, and her limited insight leads to the present risk of repetition of those failings if she were to resume unrestricted social work practice. Additionally, these extensive failings would put the public’s confidence in the social work profession and its regulation at risk if there were no finding of current impairment. The Panel also took the view that it would be failing in its duty to promote and maintain proper standards in social work if it did not make a finding of impaired fitness to practise. Accordingly, the Panel does find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her past misconduct.”

3. In its Decision on Sanction, the Final Hearing panel stated:

“The Panel…considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel determined that such an order would not be sufficient or proportionate in this case because, as stated in paragraph 33 of the “Indicative Sanctions Policy”, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable where, as here, there were serious and persistent overall failings.
 
The Panel therefore moved on to consider a Suspension Order. Paragraph 42 of the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” states that suspension may be appropriate “where a less restrictive sanction would:
• be unlikely to provide adequate public protection;
• undermine public confidence; or
• be unlikely to have a deterrent effect upon the Registrant concerned or the profession at large…”
 
The Panel determined that all three of those indicators applied. The failings amounting to misconduct had been persistent over a substantial period of time and were serious and wide-spread. There was a risk of repetition of the misconduct at this time and any repetition would present a real risk to service users and the wider public. The Panel also recognised that it had a duty to uphold and declare proper standards for social workers, and public confidence in the profession and its regulation would be undermined if this Panel imposed a lesser sanction for this misconduct.
 

The Panel considered whether a Striking Off Order was the appropriate order. Paragraph 48 of the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” states:
 
“Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a 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.”
 
The Registrant has begun to show insight and has expressed a willingness to address her failings and acknowledged that “having gaps in my work… it’s not safe” she said she would seek assistance earlier and keep her records up to date. The Panel therefore determined that a Striking Off Order would not be the appropriate order to make and would be disproportionate. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the appropriate, sufficient and proportionate order to make in this case is a Suspension Order.

The Panel considered what the duration of the Suspension Order would be. It recognised that the Registrant has been the subject of an Interim Suspension Order since the end of January 2018. The Panel considered that the duration of the Suspension Order must be proportionate to the misconduct and must be sufficient to achieve public protection, to maintain public confidence in the profession and to send a sufficient signal to the profession and the Registrant to maintain and promote proper standards in the profession. Balancing all these matters, the Panel determined to make a Suspension Order for 12 months.
  
Before the expiry of the Suspension Order, the order will be the subject of a review hearing. That future reviewing panel may be assisted by evidence from the Registrant of her further insight into her misconduct and remediation of that misconduct by, for instance:
a) the Registrant’s written reflections on the misconduct and the impact of that misconduct upon service users, her employers and the profession, with an explanation of how she will work differently in the future;
b) evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and other activities undertaken since this hearing, whether in employment or not, addressing the misconduct and the maintaining of her professional skills and knowledge;
c) references and testimonials from any organisation or employer for whom the Registrant has undertaken paid or unpaid work.”

4. At today’s hearing, Ms Iskander on behalf of the HCPC took the Panel through the background to this matter, including the findings of the Final Hearing panel. She noted the suggestions of that panel as to how this Panel might be assisted by the provision of evidence from the Registrant, as set out above.

Submissions
5. In accordance with the suggestions of the Final Hearing panel, the Registrant produced a written reflective piece and written evidence of continuing Professional Development undertaken during the period of her suspension.

6. In her reflective piece, the Registrant recognised the role of the HCPC in addressing concerns about the ability of a Registrant to practise safely and effectively, and accepted the findings of the Final Hearing panel. Further, she stated:

“I accept that during my previous employment that my employers done everything to ensure that I received the support needed to ensure that my recordings were completed in a timely manner….I accepted that my written work i.e. recordings and timescales were problematic in that it did not always meet my previous employers’ organisation policy and procedures…and now accept that I should have sort help from the onset to remedy this problem…I knowledge and accept that the welfare of the children that I work with, their safety is paramount. Recordings not completed life story work not appropriately recording hinders a child not knowing their history and especially when I fail to there is little or no information recorded for the child.”

7. The Registrant told the Panel that she takes full responsibility for the fact that her notetaking and reports were not accurate and complete, and that she had put young people at risk.

8. In her oral representations the Registrant informed the Panel that, during the period of her suspension, she had kept her professional knowledge up to date by researching changes in the field of Social Work. She referred the Panel to the documentary evidence she had provided in respect of that research. She told the Panel she had also spent a great deal of time attempting to find appropriate work in the field of Social Care. She said that on 15 April 2019 she had started agency work as an Operations Support Grade Officer within the prisons system. She referred the Panel to the certificates evidencing training she had undertaken in this regard and suggested that there was an element of overlap in terms of some of the skills required for the role of a registered Social Worker.

9. The Registrant told the Panel that during her period of suspension she had been assessed by the ‘Access to Work’ service, and that as a result she now understood what she needs to do to ensure that in the future she  provides accurate reports that reflect a child’s history. She said the ‘Access to Work’ service will provide her with a year of assistance from a support worker as well as regular supervision. She said they will help her to learn to take full notes and write more substantial reports.  She told the Panel that “with my adjustments I am confident I will write better, fuller notes and reports without any gaps.”

10. In her reflective piece, the Registrant informed the Panel that she acknowledges and accepts that it is her responsibility to identify and obtain adjustments that enable her to ensure that she produces work of the required standard. She identified the following steps she intended to take to ensure that her failings are not repeated in the future:

a) Notify employer of the requirement for adjustment from the start of employment;
b) Use a dictaphone to take verbal notes and to organise those notes into files and folders;
c) Use Dragon software to allow her to use her voice to give commands to her computer;
d) Undertake appropriate training such as ‘Report Writing’ in order to enhance her skills and knowledge;
e) Use supervision sessions to identify areas of weakness and to address failings in her practice.

11. Ms Iskander informed the Panel that the HCPC was encouraged by the Registrant’s efforts and recognised that she had continued to demonstrate growing insight into her failings. However, Ms Iskander noted that the Registrant had not provided specific evidence of training in relation to record keeping. Ms Iskander stated that while the certificates of training provided do evidence some elements which are relevant to the role of a registered Social Worker, there was insufficient evidence before this Panel to enable it to conclude that the Registrant was no longer liable to repeat failings of the kind found by the Final Hearing panel. Ms Iskander submitted that in these circumstances, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, both in terms of public protection and also in the wider public interest.

12. Ms Iskander submitted that while the issue of sanction is always a matter for the independent judgment of the Panel, it might feel that in light of the current evidence of insight and remediation, that a Suspension Order is no longer appropriate and that a Striking Off Order would be excessive and disproportionate.

Decision:

13. In reaching its decision, the Panel has taken account of all the evidence put before it, together with the submissions of Ms Iskander, on behalf of the HCPC and the representations of the Registrant. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

14. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired by reason of her misconduct. To that end, it asked itself what had changed since the Final Hearing which might enable it to conclude that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is no longer impaired.

15. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has developing insight, has shown remorse and takes responsibility for her failings. However, by reason of her suspension, she has been unable to practise as a registered Social Worker and has not had the opportunity to demonstrate the level of remediation which would be required to enable the Panel to find that her fitness to practise is no longer impaired. While she accepts the decision of the Final Hearing panel, the Registrant has emphasised the need for adjustments to ensure her future practise is both safe and effective. The Panel regards this as practical. The Panel has concluded that there remains at this time a risk of repetition. For this reason, the Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired on public protection grounds.

16. The Panel also considered whether the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and performance would be undermined if it did not make a finding of continuing impairment. In the light of its findings, as set out above, the Panel concluded that confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be undermined if it did not find continuing impairment of fitness to practise on public interest grounds.

17. For all these reasons, the Panel decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired by reason of her misconduct.

18. Having found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, the Panel went on to consider what if any action to take. The options open to it were to make no order, to impose a Caution Order or a Conditions of Practice Order, to extend the current Suspension Order or to impose a Striking-Off Order.

19. For the same reasons identified by the Final Hearing panel, this Panel concluded that any order less restrictive than a Conditions of Practice Order would be insufficient and inappropriate. The Panel considered that it would be possible to formulate conditions which would both protect the public and safeguard the public interest. In those circumstances, it concluded that an extension of the current Suspension Order is no longer necessary and would be inappropriate and disproportionate.

20. The Panel concluded that an 18 month Conditions of Practice Order would be sufficient, appropriate and proportionate.

Order

Order: 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, Mrs Eulale Brown-Hickling, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1. Within two weeks of taking up any employment as a social worker (or work that requires you to be registered as a social worker) you must inform the HCPC of the name and contact details of the employer.

2. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor registered by the HCPC or other appropriate statutory regulator. You must supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within two weeks of taking up any employment.

3. You must meet with your supervisor at least every two weeks for the first three months and thereafter monthly or at the discretion of your supervisor. The purpose of your supervision meetings is to provide your supervisor with an opportunity to assess your record keeping including timeliness and quality; and your performance in passing on appropriate information relating to service users.  You must follow the advice and recommendations of your supervisor.

4. You must submit to the HCPC, signed quarterly reports from your supervisor outlining your progress in those areas identified in particular 3 (above) two weeks before the date of the next review hearing.

5. You must promptly inform the HCPC if you cease to be employed as a social worker.

6. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.

7. 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 application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from the expiry date of the current order of suspension on 28 June 2019.
This order will be reviewed again before its expiry.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Eulale Brown-Hickling

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
30/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended