Mrs Julia Nanki Disemelo

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW49916

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 13/05/2019 End: 17:00 20/05/2019

Location: Bourne Hall Country Hotel, Luccombe Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, PO37 6RR

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via tsteam@hcpts-uk.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.

 

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a registered Social Worker with the Isle of Wight

Council, you:

1. Over claimed expenses for mileage for the period 6 August 2015 to 14 October 2016 on at least 29 occasions, including those set out below:

i) 13 April 2016 for dates between 6 August and 31 August 2015; and/or

ii) 13 April 2016 for dates between 11 January and 29 January 2016; and/or

iii) 13 April 2016 for dates between 1 February and 29 February 2016; and/or

iv) 15 April 2016 for dates between 2 September and 28 September 2015; and/or

v) 13 April 2016 for dates between 1 March and 31 March 2016; and/or

vi) 15 April 2016 for dates between 5 April and 15 April 2016; and/or

vii) 22 April 2016 for dates between 18 April and 22 April 2016; and/or

viii) 3 May 2016 for dates between 25 April and 29 April 2016; and/or

ix) 9 May 2016 for dates between 3 May and 6 May 2016; and/or

x) 13 May 2016 for dates between 9 May and 13 May 2016; and/or

xi) 20 May 2016 for dates between 16 May and 20 May 2016; and/or

xii) 27 May 2016 for dates between 21 May and 27 May 2016; and/or

xiii) 3 June 2016 for dates between 28 May and 4 June 2016; and/or

xiv) 9 June 2016 for dates between 6 June and 9 June 2016; and/or

xv) 13 June 2016 for dates between 10 June and 11 June 2016;and/or

xvi) on an unknown date for dates between 17 June and 18 June 2016; and/or

xvii) 17 June 2016 for dates between 13 June and 16 June 2016; and/or

xviii) 9 August 2016 for dates between 19 July and 22 July 2016; and/or

xix) 18 August 2016 for dates between 25 July and 29 July 2016; and/or

xx) 19 August 2016 for dates between 1 August and 5 August 2016; and/or

xxi) 19 August 2016 for dates between 8 August and 12 August 2016; and/or

xxii) 19 August 2016 for dates between 15 August and 19 August 2016; and/or

xxiii) 2 September 2016 for dates between 22 August and 25 August 2016; and/or

xxiv) 2 September 2016 for dates between 31 August and 2 September 2016; and/or

xxv) 8 September 2016 for dates between 5 September and 8 September 2016; and/or

xxvi) 16 September 2016 for dates between 12 September and 16 September 2016; and/or

xxvii) 30 September 2016 for dates between 19 September and 23 September 2016.

2. On one or more of the mileage claim forms specified in Paragraph 1(i)-(xxvii), amended the amount of mileage claimed after the form had been authorised and signed by a manager, including:

i) 20 May 2016 for dates between 16 May and 20 May 2016; and/or

ii) 27 May 2016 for dates between 21 May and 27 May 2016; and/or

iii) 3 June 2016 for dates between 28 May and 4 June 2016; and/or

iv) 13 June 2016 for dates between 10 June and 11 June 2016; and/or

v) on an unknown date for dates between 17 June and 18 June 2016; and/or

vi) 8 September 2016 for dates between 5 September and 8 September 2016; and/or

vii) 18 August 2016 for dates between 25 July and 29 July 2016; and/or

viii) 19 August 2016 for dates between 1 August and 5 August 2016; and/or

ix) 19 August 2016 for dates between 8 August and 12 August 2016; and/or

x) 19 August 2016 for dates between 15 August and 19 August 2016; and/or

xi) 2 September 2016 for dates between 22 August and 25 August 2016; and/or

xii) 2 September 2016 for dates between 31 August and 2 September 2016; and/or

xiii) 16 September 2016 for dates between 12 September and 16 September 2016; and/or

xiv) 30 September 2016 for dates between 19 September and 23 September 2016

3. Falsified a senior colleague’s authorising signature on a mileage claim form on at least one occasion, including on the dates referred to in Paragraph 1 as:

i) 9 June 2016 for dates between 6 June and 9 June 2016; and/or

ii) 17 June 2016 for dates between 13 June and 16 June 2016; and/or

iii) 8 September 2016 for dates between 5 September and 8 September 2016; and/or

4. Your actions at paragraphs 1 - 3 were dishonest.

5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct.

6. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service

1. On 12 March 2019, the HCPC sent the notice of this hearing by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address. A copy of the notice was also sent by email. The notice contained the required particulars.

2. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel was satisfied on the documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant had been given proper notice of this hearing in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in absence of the Registrant

3. Ms Eales, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the discretion to proceed in a Registrant's absence should only be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

4. Ms Eales took the Panel through the chronology of events.

5. On 11 July 2017, the HCPC received a completed response pro forma from the Registrant. Within the form, the Registrant had stated that the allegations were not admitted. She had answered ‘yes’ to the question of whether she would be represented at the hearing, and the question of whether she would be attending was left blank. On 17 April 2018, the Registrant had provided written representations for consideration by a panel of the Investigating Committee (ICP), where she indicated that she would like to participate fully in the proceedings and to give evidence and call witnesses.

6. Subsequently, on 26 April 2019, the case officer had a telephone call with the Registrant regarding service of the bundle of statements and exhibits for the substantive hearing. Previously, the bundle had been served but had been returned to the HCPC. In the telephone call of 26 April 2019, the Registrant had confirmed it could be sent to her registered address. The second bundle had not been returned.

7. The Panel was satisfied from the information before it that the Registrant was aware of the forthcoming hearing, and had been spoken to by the case manager as recently as 26 April 2019 regarding the service of the bundle for the hearing. There had been no application by her for an adjournment, nor any reason provided as to her non-attendance.

8. The Panel was satisfied that the HCPC had fulfilled its obligations and taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant in accordance with the Rules.

9. The allegation dates back to the period between 6 August 2015 to 14 October 2016. The Panel was aware that six witnesses were scheduled to give evidence over the course of the substantive hearing.

10. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived her right to attend and there was no evidence that she would attend an adjourned hearing. The Panel also considered that it was in the public interest for the hearing to take place.

Parts of Hearing in Private

11. The Panel heard from Ms Eales that she wished to ask some questions about the Registrant’s personal circumstances, and she invited the Panel to hear those parts of the hearing in private. The Panel determined that it was justified to hold in private, those parts of the hearing which related to the private life of the Registrant.

Background:

12. The Registrant is a Social Worker registered with the HCPC. At the time of the allegations she was working as a Social Worker at the Isle of Wight Council (the Council). She was an agency worker, provided by Healthcare Locums Limited (HCL) Social Care. The Registrant worked within three separate teams during her time at the Council; the Hospital Team, the First Response Team and the Review Team.

13. The Registrant was line managed by AM in the Hospital Team, AD in the First Response Team and then AM again in the Review Team. In October 2016, a member of the Administration Team at the Council first raised concerns over the levels of mileage expenses which the Registrant had been claiming. The mileage was noted to be overly high when compared to the relatively small size of the Isle of Wight.

14. The process for HCL agency workers claiming mileage expenses was to complete a paper claim form, have it signed by a manager at their place of work, and then submit the form electronically to HCL Workforce Solutions. The worker would then be reimbursed by the agency, who, in turn, would invoice the Council.

15. On 17 October 2016, the concerns over the expense claims were escalated to AM, the Registrant’s line manager at the time. AM, in turn, escalated the matter to her manager, KLB. The mileage claim forms were reviewed and compared to the Registrant’s Outlook calendar entries by KLB, following which KLB and AM had a meeting with the Registrant on 18 October 2016 in order to ask her about the mileage claim forms. At the meeting, the Registrant’s position was that she had done nothing wrong. Following the meeting, KLB required the Registrant to leave the premises and not return, and her contract was terminated.

16. JK, the head of Clinical Governance at the HCL agency, was informed that the Registrant’s contract had been terminated and that there were allegations regarding over-claiming her expenses. JK made contact with the Registrant to inform her of the allegations, and that the Council was seeking to recover the over-claimed mileage. On 14 November 2016, the Registrant paid back £3360.

17. It is alleged that the Registrant acted dishonestly in her mileage expense claims and over-claimed by over £3000. Firstly, in respect of Particular 1, it is alleged that the Registrant over-claimed mileage on the mileage expense form before the designated manager signed the claim forms, by inaccurately recording or inflating the distances she had driven. Secondly, in respect of Particular 2, it is alleged that she amended the mileage figures or added additional trips which had not been undertaken after they had been signed or authorised by the manager. Thirdly, in respect of Particular 3, it is alleged that she falsified a manager’s authorising signature on a mileage claim form.

Decision on Facts

18. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from JK, who, at the time of the allegations, was the head of Clinical Governance at HCL. The Panel found Ms JK to be a credible witness, although her evidence was limited in scope, in that she provided confirmation of the Registrant’s placement as a locum at the Council; copies of correspondence between her and the Registrant following the Registrant’s departure from the Council; and the original mileage expense claim forms.

19. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from AM, who, at the time of the allegations was the Registrant’s line manager on two occasions, firstly as the Team Manager of the Hospital Team; and then again as the Deputy Team Manager of the Review Team. The Panel found that Ms AM struggled to recall some of the details given the passage of time. As a consequence, the Panel found that there were inconsistencies in her evidence. Where her recollection accorded with the contemporaneous documentation, the Panel was satisfied that her evidence was reliable, but where her recollection was not supported by contemporaneous documentation, or other witnesses, the Panel approached her evidence with caution.

20. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from KLB, who, between July 2016 and April 2017, was the Group Manager in the Adult Social Care teams at the Council. In that role she was AM’s line manager. The Panel found KLB to be a broadly credible witness, although on occasion, the Panel did not consider that her recollections were always accurate.

21. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from AD, who had been a Group Manager at the Council from approximately 2009 until April 2016. In that role she was responsible for the First Response Team and Self Directed Support. The Panel found her to be a credible witness, who readily acknowledged the difficulties she was having in recalling events due to the passage of time. She had left the Council in April 2016, and so did not have access to the documentation which may have assisted in recollections.

22. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from DP, who, at the time of the allegations, was a Group Manager at the Council responsible for the Hospital Team and Adult Social Care Transition Team. The Panel found him to be a particularly credible witness who readily conceded when he was unable to recall events.

23. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from MR, who had been a Group Manager at the Council until 3 July 2016. In that role he had been responsible for the Review Team and the Long-Term Conditions Team. The Panel found him to be a credible witness, who readily accepted that he was finding it difficult to recall events due to the passage of time. He had left the Council in July 2016, and so did not have access to the documentation which may have assisted in his recollections.

24. The Panel also received documentary evidence, including copies of and the originals of the mileage expense claim forms; notes of the meeting of 18 October 2016 between AM, KLB, and the Registrant; relevant emails sent to or by the Registrant or between managers at the Council; a copy of the Registrant’s Outlook diary; copies of pages from the Registrant’s notebooks; and a mileage matrix of distances between set locations on the Isle of Wight (mileage matrix).

25. In her closing submissions, Ms Eales explained that in light of the evidence, the HCPC did not advance a case on Particulars 1(v), 2(i), 2(ii), 2(iv), 2(vii), 2(viii), and 2(x). She also explained that Particulars 2(vi) and 3(iii) were in the alternative, and that the HCPC pursued particular 3(iii).

26. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel understood that the burden of proving each individual fact rests on the HCPC and that the HCPC will only be able to prove a fact if it satisfies the required standard of proof, namely the civil standard, whereby it is more likely than not that the alleged incident occurred.

27. The Registrant did not attend the hearing, but the Panel did not draw any adverse inferences against her at the fact finding stage from her absence. The Panel had regard to the written representations that had been provided to the Investigating Committee and that had been agreed by the Panel and the HCPC were in the Registrant’s interest to be seen by this Panel. However, the Panel noted that the representations had not been tested by cross examination.

The Panel’s approach

28. The Panel, in evaluating the reliability and accuracy of the evidence, had particular regard to the contemporaneous documentation of the Registrant’s Outlook diary and her original mileage expenses claim forms (mileage forms). It also had regard to the mileage matrix. The Panel compared the trips listed on mileage form to the relevant entries in the Outlook diary. It also compared the mileage recorded for a trip on the mileage form to the relevant mileage given in the mileage matrix.

29. In respect of the Outlook diary, the Panel noted that on many dates, a visit was listed first thing in the morning, and then a second visit was listed in the afternoon. KLB said in evidence that she had calculated the alleged over claiming of mileage by working out the distance from one location to the next. She did not, in her calculations, allow for the possibility that the Registrant may have returned to the office between visits. She said that if a visit, or a return to the office between visits was not recorded in the Outlook diary, then she did not consider that the visit or return to the office had taken place. She said that there were ‘hot desking’ facilities at various facilities on the Island for social workers to use if they were out.

30. However, the Panel noted that the evidence was that the Registrant had not been provided with a lap top, the inference being that she may not have been in a position to benefit from ‘hot desking’ arrangements away from the office. The Panel did not consider that the HCPC had adduced sufficient evidence to satisfy it that the Registrant did not return to the office between visits. Accordingly, the Panel factored in this potential additional mileage when assessing whether mileage had been over-claimed.

31. The Panel also considered that while the mileage matrix provided specific distances between locations, there may be factors which may affect the accuracy of those distances. The Panel considered that the precise location being visited may be beyond or outside of the location given in the mileage matrix. There may have been diversions due to roadworks; or the Registrant, as stated in her representations, used a preferred route. Therefore, the Panel made due allowance where the mileage between the mileage matrix and the mileage forms differed, but was not clearly excessively different.

Particular 1

Over claimed expenses for mileage for the period 6 August 2015 to 14 October 2016 on at least 29 occasions, including those set out below:

(i) 13 April 2016 for dates between 6 August and 31 August 2015;

32. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

33. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AD. It claimed for a total of 237.14 miles between August and 31 August 2015, and no individual trip being more than 25.4 miles. The Panel considered the evidence of AD. In her evidence she could not recall having signed the forms, and said that the discrepancies had been brought to her attention by KLB over a year after she had left the Council. She accepted that she would have had authority to sign the Registrant’s mileage forms, but would have checked it. She said that when the Registrant came to her for the forms to be signed she was generally on a deadline.

34. The Panel noted that none of the individual trips within the mileage form was excessively higher than those in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over claimed in this mileage form.

(ii) 13 April 2016 for dates between 11 January and 29 January 2016;

35. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

36. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 279.8 miles between 11 January and 29 January 2016. MR said that he could not recall if he signed the mileage claim form or not. He said that the Council discouraged back claiming of over two months, but he would have signed the form and would have had the conversation about late claiming of expenses. He could not now recall whether or not he had that conversation with the Registrant.

37. The Panel noted that none of the individual trips within the mileage form was excessively higher than those in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over claimed in this mileage form.

(iii) 13 April 2016 for dates between 1 February and 29 February 2016

38. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

39. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 550.4 miles between 1 February and 29 February 2016. It included a mainland review to Colchester. MR said that he could not recall if he signed the mileage claim form or not. He said that the Registrant undertook mainland reviews, she was prepared to do them. He said that the reviews were allocated by AW, and he would be aware of when the Registrant undertook one because he would sign off her assessments when she did one.

40. Apart from the trip to mainland Essex, the Panel noted that none of the individual trips within the mileage form was excessively higher than those in the mileage matrix. In relation to the Colchester trip, the Panel noted that such a visit was recorded in the Registrant’s Outlook diary for that day, and that MR accepted that the Registrant undertook such trips. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over claimed in this mileage form.

(iv) 15 April 2016 for dates 2 September and 28 September 2015.

41. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as in particular 1(i). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AD. It claimed for a total of 295.4 miles between 2 September and 28 September 2016.

(v) 13 April 2016 for dates between 1 March and 31 March 2016;

42. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

43. The calculations of KLB identified that the mileage claimed was not excessive and was the amount which should have been claimed.

(vi) 15 April 2016 for dates between 5 April and 15 April 2016;

44. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(ii). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 136.6 miles between 5 April and 15 April 2016.

(vii) 22 April 2016 for dates between 18 April and 22 April 2016;

45. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(ii). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 189 miles between 18 April and 22 April 2016.

(viii) 3 May 2016 for the dates between 3 May and 6 May 2016;

46. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(ii). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 154 miles between 25 April and 29 April 2016.

(ix) 9 May 2016 for dates between May and 6 May 2016;

47. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(ii). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 173 miles between 3 May and 6 May 2016.

(x) 13 May 2016 for dates between 9 May and 13 May 2016;

48. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

49. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of MR. It claimed for a total of 194 miles between 9 May and 13 May 2016. The Panel had regard to the mileage form, and in particular, the entry for 12 May 2016, described as ‘Review – drive to Totland from Office’ claim for 41 miles. The Panel noted that the distance on the mileage matrix indicated that a round trip would be 25 miles. Further, the Panel noted that on a previous occasion, on 28 April 2016, the Registrant had claimed 29 miles for the same journey.

50. The Panel was of the view that the 41 miles claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix, and that the Registrant had provided a more accurate figure on a previous occasion. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xi) 20 May 16 for dates between 16 May and 20 May 2016;

51. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

52. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 229 miles between 16 May and 20 May 2016. The Panel had regard to the evidence of AM. AM told the Panel that she did not recall having issues with the mileage form when she looked at it and authorised and signed it off on 20 May 2016.

53. The Panel noted that none of the individual trips within the mileage form was excessively higher than those in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over claimed in this mileage form.

(xii) 27 May 2016 for dates between 21 May and 27 May 2016;

54. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 368 miles between 21 May and 27 May 2016.

(xiii) 3 June 2016 for dates between 28 May and 4 June 2016;

55. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 238 miles between 28 May and 4 June 2016.

(xiv) 9 June 2016 for dates between 6 June and 9 June 2016;

56. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

57. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of KLB. It claimed for a total of 327 miles between 6 June and 9 June 2016. The Panel had regard to the mileage form, and in particular, the entries for 7 June 2016 and 8 June. For 7 June 2016, there were two entries for visits on the Island, totalling 77 miles, and for 8 June 2016 there were two entries for visits on the Island totalling 117 miles. The Panel considered that by June 2016, the Registrant would have known her way around the Island, and so instances of becoming lost were less likely.

58. The Panel was of the view that the mileage of nearly 200 miles over two days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xv) 13 June 2016 for dates between 17 June 2016;

59. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 140 miles between 10 June and 11 June 2016.

(xvi) On an unknown date for dates between 17 June and 18 June 2016;

60. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

61. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 440 miles between 17 June and 18 June 2016, including the last entry for 18 June 2016 for a ‘review – drive to the mainland Essex’, claiming 300 miles. The Panel had regard to the evidence of AM, who told the Panel that at the time that she was the Registrant’s line manager, the Registrant was no longer undertaking trips to mainland Essex, and she would know if the Registrant went to Essex.

62. The Panel considered that by June 2016, AM had been the Registrant’s line manager for a couple of months and it accepted her evidence that the Registrant was no longer allocated visits to the mainland, and that she would know if the Registrant were to go to Essex. Further, the Registrant’s Outlook diary had no entry for a visit to Essex for 18 June 2016. Although the Panel was mindful that not every trip undertaken by the Registrant may be recorded in her Outlook diary, it did consider that a trip of such a distance, would be expected to be recorded, and it would be unlikely not to be recorded through oversight.

63. In all the circumstances the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not made the trip to Essex, and accordingly had over-claimed her expenses by claiming for such a trip.

(xvii) 17 June for dates between 13 June and 16 June 2016;

64. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

65. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of KLB. It claimed for a total of 350 miles between 13 June and 16 June 2016. The Panel had regard to the mileage form, and in particular, the entries for 14 June 2016 and 16 June. For 14 June 2016, there were two entries for visits on the Island, totalling 98 miles, and for 16 June 2016 there were two entries for visits on the Island totalling 92 miles. The Panel considered that by June 2016, the Registrant would have known her way around the Island, and so instances of becoming lost were less likely.

66. The Panel was of the view that the mileage of nearly 200 miles over two days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xviii) 9 August 2016 for dates between 19 July and 22 July 2016;

67. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 131 miles between 19 July and 22 July 2016.

(xix) 18 August 2016 for dates between 25 July and 29 July 2016;

68. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 261 miles between 25 July and 29 July 2016.

(xx) 19 August 2016 for dates between 1 August and 5 August 2016;

69. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 231 miles between 1 August and 5 August 2016.

(xxi) 19 August 2016 for dates between 8 August and 12 August 2016;

70. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

71. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 432 miles between 8 August and 12 August 2016, including the last entry for 12 August 2016 for a ‘review assessment: Essex mainland’, claiming 200 miles.

72. For the reasons given in Particular 1(xvi), the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not made the trip to Essex, and accordingly had over-claimed her expenses by claiming for such a trip.

(xxii) 19 August 2016 for dates between 15 August and 19 August 2016;

73. The Panel finds this Particular not proved for the same reasons as for Particular 1(xi). The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 184 miles between 15 August and 19 August 2016.

(xxiii) 2 September 2016 for dates between 22 August and 25 August 2016;

74. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

75. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 644.8 miles between 22 August and 25 August 2016. Over the course of these four days, the Registrant had recorded seven trips, all of which were on the Isle of Wight. For the 24 August there were two entries totalling 297.8 miles.

76. The Panel was of the view that the mileage in excess of 600 miles over four days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xxiv) 2 September 2016 for dates between 31 August and 2 September 2016;

77. The Panel finds this particular proved.

78. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 490 miles between 31 August and 2 September 2016. Over the course of these three days, the Registrant had recorded six trips, all of which were on the Isle of Wight. For the 1 September there were two entries totalling 279 miles.

79. The Panel was of the view that the mileage of nearly 500 miles over three days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xxv) 8 September 2016 for dates between 5 September and 8 September 2016;

80. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

81. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of DP. It claimed for a total of 744 miles between 5 September and 8 September 2016. DP told the Panel that his signature appeared on the form, but he had no recollection of signing the form and said that he would have questioned the mileage amounts. Over the course of the four days, the Registrant had recorded eight trips, all of which were on the Isle of Wight. For the 8 September 2016 there were three entries totalling 298 miles.

82. The Panel was of the view that the mileage in excess of 700 miles over eight days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xxvi) 16 September 2016 for dates between 12 September and 15 September 2016;

83. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

84. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 746 miles between 12 September and 15 September 2016. Over the course of these four days, the Registrant had recorded eight trips, all of which were on the Isle of Wight. Five of the trips were recorded of being each 100 miles or more.

85. The Panel was of the view that the mileage in excess of 700 miles over four days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

(xxvii) 30 September 2016 for dates between 19 September and 23 September 2016.

86. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

87. The mileage form contained the Registrant’s signature and that of AM. It claimed for a total of 756 miles between 19 September and 23 September 2016. Over the course of these five days, the Registrant had recorded eight trips, all of which were on the Isle of Wight. Five of the trips were recorded of being each 100 miles or more.

88. The Panel was of the view that the mileage in excess of 750 miles over five days for trips on the Isle of Wight, claimed by the Registrant was excessively higher than that given in the mileage matrix. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had over-claimed in this mileage form.

Particular 2

One or more of the mileage claim forms specified in Paragraph 1(i)-(xxvii), amended the amount of mileage claimed after the form had been authorised and signed by a manager, including:

89. In evaluating the evidence in respect of Particular 2, the Panel had regard to its findings for Particular 1. Where the Panel had not been satisfied to the required standard that there had been an over-claim within a mileage form (Particular 1), the Panel was of the view that, consequently, there was insufficient evidence to satisfy it that the claim form had been amended after authorisation and signing by a manager (Particular 2). Therefore, where the Panel has found a sub-particular of Particular 1 not proved, the Panel found the corresponding sub-particular in particular 2 also not proved. Accordingly, the Panel finds the following particulars not proved:

• Particular 2(i) – having found Particular 1 (xi) not proved;
• Particular 2(ii) – having found Particular 1 (xii) not proved;
• Particular 2(iii) – having found Particular 1 (xiii) not proved;
• Particular 2(iv) – having found Particular 1 (xv) not proved;
• Particular 2(vii) – having found Particular 1 (xix) not proved;
• Particular 2(viii) – having found Particular 1 (xx) not proved;
• Particular 2(x) – having found Particular 1 (xxii) not proved;

2(v) on an unknown date for dates between 17 June and 18 June 2016;

90. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

91. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and the evidence of AM. The last entry on the mileage form was a visit to Essex on 18 June 2016 claiming mileage of 300 miles. The Panel accepted the evidence of AM to the effect that the Registrant did not undertake any mainland reviews once AM was her team manager. She would therefore not have authorised and signed a mileage form with an entry for a visit to Mainland Essex.

92. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had added the trip to Essex subsequent to AM having authorised and signed the mileage form.

2(vi) 8 September 2016 for dates between 5 September and 8 September 2016;

93. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

94. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and the evidence of DP. The mileage form had a total of 744 miles for a period of four days all for visits on the Isle of Wight. The Panel accepted the evidence of DP to the effect that he would not have signed a mileage form containing such high claims. Therefore, the Panel inferred that the Registrant had amended the mileage form subsequent to DP having authorised and signed it, either by adding the visits themselves, or by increasing the mileage claimed.

2(ix) 19 August 2016 for dates between 8 August and 12 August 2016;


95. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

96. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and the evidence of AM. The last entry on the mileage form was a visit to Essex on 12 August 2016 claiming mileage of 200 miles. The Panel accepted the evidence of AM to the effect that the Registrant did not undertake any mainland reviews once AM was her team manager. She would therefore not have authorised and signed a mileage form with an entry for a visit to Mainland Essex.

97. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had added the trip to Essex subsequent to AM having authorised and signed the mileage form.

2(xi) 2 September 2016 for dates between 22 August and 25 August 2016;


98. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

99. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and evidence of AM. The mileage form claimed for a total of 644.8 miles between 22 August and 25 August 2016 for visits on the Isle of Wight. The Panel also had regard to AM’s evidence about finding a notebook belonging to the Registrant with numbers and working out. One entry, apparently for ‘week ending 28-8-16’, contained figures which corresponded to the mileage claim form, and appeared to have recorded accurate mileage next to excessive mileage, with the excessive mileage figures ticked. The excessive mileage figures were the same as the figures which appeared on the mileage form.

100. The Panel accepted the evidence of AM that she would not have authorised and signed a mileage claim form with such high figures. It also had regard to the notebook which the Panel was satisfied contained the workings out as to how to amend the mileage form. Therefore, the Panel inferred that the Registrant had amended the mileage form subsequent to AM having authorised and signed it, by increasing the mileage claimed.

2(xii) 2 September 2016 for dates between 31 August and 2 September 2016;

101. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

102. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and evidence of AM. The mileage form claimed for a total of 490 miles between 31 August and 2 September 2016 for visits on the Isle of Wight. The Panel had regard to the same page in the Registrant’s notebook, which although it had no date reference, contained figures which corresponded to the mileage claim form in the same way as for particular 2(xi).

103. The Panel accepted the evidence of AM that she would not have authorised and signed a mileage claim form with such high figures. Therefore, the Panel inferred that the Registrant had amended the mileage form subsequent to AM having authorised and signed it, by increasing the mileage claimed.

2(xiii) 16 September 2016 for dates between 12 September and 16 September 2016

104. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

105. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and the evidence of AM. The mileage form had a total of 746 miles for a period of five days, all for visits on the Isle of Wight. The Panel accepted the evidence of AM to the effect that she would not have signed a mileage form containing such high claims. Therefore, the Panel inferred that the Registrant had amended the mileage form subsequent to AM having authorised and signed it, either by adding the visits themselves, or by increasing the mileage claimed.

106. The Panel finds this Particular proved.

2(xiv) 30 September 2016 for dates between 19 September and 23 September 2016.

107. The Panel had regard to the mileage form and the evidence of AM. The mileage form had a total of 756 miles for a period of five days all for visits on the Isle of Wight. The Panel accepted the evidence of AM to the effect that she would not have signed a mileage form containing such high claims. Therefore, the Panel inferred that the Registrant had amended the mileage form subsequent to AM having authorised and signed it, either by adding the visits themselves, or by increasing the mileage claimed.

Particular 3

Falsified a senior colleague’s authorising signature on a mileage claim form on at least one occasion, including on the dates referred to in paragraph 1 as:

3(i) 9 June 2016 for dates between 6 June and June 2016;

108. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

109. The Panel had regard to the original mileage form. KLB gave evidence that it was her signature on the form, but had not signed the form and did not know how her signature came to be on the form. She agreed that she had previously signed one of the Registrant’s mileage forms, and she would regularly sign the Registrant’s time sheets. The Panel accepted that KLB genuinely believed that she had not signed the form. However, the Panel was mindful that KLB would have signed many forms and documents in the course of her employment, and the mileage form was dated 9 June 2016, which was some three years ago.

3(ii) 17 June 2016 for dates between 13 June and 16 June 2016;

110. The Panel finds this particular not proved for the same reasons as for particular 3(i).

3(iii) 30 September 2016 for dates between 19 September and 23 September 2016.

111. The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

112. The Panel had regard to the original mileage form. DP, in his witness statement stated that it was his signature on the form, but that he had not signed the form. In his evidence, he said that it was clearly his signature, but did not recall the Registrant asking him to sign the form and he thought it was unlikely that he had signed it, as he would not sign it ‘blindly’. DP did not rule out the Registrant’s assertion in her written submissions of the possibility of the form being put before him when he was busy and distracted, so as not to notice the excessive mileage. The Panel was mindful that DP would have signed many forms and documents in the course of his employment, and the mileage form was dated 8 September 2016, which was nearly three years ago.

Particular 4

Your actions at paragraphs 1 – 3 were dishonest.

113. The Panel finds this Particular proved in respect of those sub-particulars it found proved in particulars 1 and 2.

114. Regarding Particular 1, the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It noted that she had been working at the Council for over a year by the time of her over-claiming, and so would have a reasonable knowledge of the Isle of Wight, and have become aware of the approximate distances between locations, and would be less likely to get lost. In her representations she said that she had satellite navigation in her car and would check her mileometer. It was clear to the Panel that the latter mileage claim forms were so excessively inflated that the possibility of innocent mistake was not plausible. In relation to the purported visits to Essex on 18 June and 12 August 2016, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not undertaken these visits. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant’s over-claims were deliberate, and she knew that the claims were excessive. The Panel concluded that by the standards of ordinary decent people, such actions would be regarded as dishon est.

115. Regarding Particular 2, the Panel finds the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. It therefore finds this particular proved in respect of particulars 2(b) to (d).

116. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions in amending the mileage forms subsequent to having them authorised and signed off by a manager were deliberate, in order to inflate her mileage claims to receive additional reimbursement to which she was not entitled. The Panel concluded that by the standards of ordinary decent people, such actions would be regarded as dishonest.


Statutory Ground and Impairment

117. The Panel next considered whether the matters found proved as set out above, amounted to misconduct, and if so, whether by reason thereof, the Registrant's fitness to practise is currently impaired.

118. The Panel considered the submissions made by Ms Eales on behalf of the HCPC.

119. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that any findings of misconduct and impairment were matters for the independent judgement of the Panel.

120. The Panel was aware that consideration of impairment only arises in the event that the Panel judges that the facts found proved do amount to misconduct and that what has to be determined is current impairment that is looking forward from today.

Decision on Grounds:

121. The Panel considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and concluded that they did in respect of all of the particulars found proved.

122. In relation to Particular 1, over-claiming mileage expenses and doing so dishonestly, the Panel concluded that this fell far below the standards to be expected of a Social Worker. The Panel was of the view that honesty was a fundamental tenet of the profession and the Registrant had breached this.

123. In relation to Particular 2, amending mileage forms after having them authorised and signed off, and doing so dishonestly, the Panel again concluded that this fell far below the standards to be expected of a Social Worker,.

124. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures had breached the following HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2013):

a. 3 – …;
b. 13 – ….

Decision on Impairment:

125. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment and in particular the two elements of impairment, namely the ‘personal component’ and the ‘public component’.

126. In relation to the ‘personal component’, the Panel was mindful that there had been little engagement on the part of the Registrant, aside from her written representations submitted in April 2018, where she denied the allegations. The consequences of this were that there was no evidence before the Panel of insight or remorse particularly in relation to the impact of her dishonesty on the reputation of the profession. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant had paid the money back, but there was no other evidence of remediation. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that there remained a risk of repetition. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that in respect of the personal component, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

127. The Panel went on to consider the ‘public component’. In light of the Panel’s conclusion that the Registrant’s dishonesty fell far below the standards to be expected of a Social Worker, and that there remained a consequent risk of repetition, it is of the view that the public would expect the Regulator to take action to declare and uphold standards of conduct and behaviour. It therefore concluded that public confidence in the reputation of the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case. Accordingly, in respect of the ‘public component’ the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

128. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired in respect of both the personal and public components.

Decision on Sanction

125. Having concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel went on to consider what would be the appropriate, proportionate and sufficient sanction or other outcome in this case.

126. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (the Policy), and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive, but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.

127. The Panel identified the following mitigating factor in this case.

a. The Registrant had been regarded by the HCPC witnesses as a good and competent Social Worker.

128. The Panel considered that the following were aggravating factors:

• There was a pattern of dishonest behaviour in claiming excessive mileage expenses, which included amending previously authorised and signed mileage forms to add visits which did not take place, or to inflate mileage distances;

• The Registrant’s dishonesty escalated over time, from over-claiming for around 20 miles, up to over-claiming for hundreds of miles over a few days;

• The Registrant’s dishonesty was committed at work;

• The Registrant’s engagement with the HCPC proceedings has been limited.

129. The Panel does not consider the options of taking no further action, mediation, or imposing a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. The dishonesty could not properly be described as isolated, limited or minor in nature. None of the options would address the identified risks, including that of the risk of repetition. The case is also too serious, so consequently, none would meet the wider public interest.

130. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel had regard to paragraph 33 of the Policy which reads: ‘Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so.’ In light of the Registrant’s lack of recent engagement with the process and lack of evidence of insight or remorse and limited remediation (by way of paying back the over-claimed expenses), the Panel could not be satisfied that the Registrant would be willing or able to be trusted to comply with conditions.

131. In light of the Panel’s judgement that there was a risk of repetition, the Panel was not satisfied that conditions would be either appropriate or proportionate. Further, the Panel was not satisfied that it would be possible to formulate workable conditions to address the dishonesty. In any event, the Panel did not consider that Conditions of Practice would maintain public confidence in the profession or the HCPC as its Regulator, as the case is too serious.

132. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Panel had regard to paragraph 39 of the Policy which states: ‘Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking-off is not merited’. In this case, as stated above, the Panel has identified a risk of repetition, given the absence of evidence of insight or remorse and limited remediation.

133. The Panel also had regard to paragraph 41 of the Policy, which states: ‘If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking-off may be the more appropriate option’. As the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC process only to a limited extent, the Panel has no information to indicate that the Registrant acknowledges that she acted dishonestly or that she may be in a position to resolve or remedy her behaviour. The Panel therefore considered that a Suspension Order is not the appropriate and proportionate response.

134. The Panel next went on to consider a Striking Off Order and concluded that this was the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case. The Panel had regard to paragraph 47 of the Policy and recognised that a Striking Off Order is a sanction of last resort for serious or deliberate acts, including acts of dishonesty. The Panel was satisfied that this was such a case, given that there had been repeated and deliberate dishonesty in the workplace, escalating in seriousness.

135. The Panel had regard to paragraph 48 of the Policy which 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’. For the reasons previously given, including: the risk of repetition; no evidence of insight or remorse and limited remediation; together with a lack of recent engagement in these proceedings, the Panel concluded that it was not possible to satisfy the wider public interest in this case other than by imposing a Striking Off Order.

136. The Panel also had regard to paragraph 49 of the Policy which states: ‘Striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process.’ The Panel considered that this was applicable in this case. The Panel considered that service users and the public more generally were entitled to expect Social Workers to be honest and act with integrity. The Panel concluded that a lesser sanction would undermine public confidence in the Social Work profession.

137. The Panel was mindful of the principle of proportionality when considering the appropriate sanction. It acknowledged that such an Order will preclude the Registrant from working as a Social Worker. However, the Panel was of the view that only a Striking Off Order was appropriate in this case, and no lesser sanction would serve the purpose of both protecting the public and meeting the wider public interest.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Julia Nanki Disemelo from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Julia Nanki Disemelo

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off