Mr Matthew Tagg

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW108779

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 06/11/2019 End: 12:00 06/11/2019

Location: Health and Care Prodfessions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by Suffolk County Council, you

1. Between December 2015 and April 2017, did not

a) Complete Statutory Assessments as instructed by management decisions within relevant timescales to:
i. Service User A
ii. Service User B
iii. Service User C
iv. Service User D

b) Complete Child in Need minutes and/or assessments on cases in a timely manner in relation to:

i. Service User E
ii. Service User F
iii. Service User G

c) Send out Agency Checks in a timely manner in relation to:

i. Service User H
ii. Service User I
iii. Service User J

d) Undertake tasks as requested by your Line Manager in relation to:

i. Service User J, in that you failed to complete the SWA by 17 June 2016
ii. Service User K, in that you did not adequately explore domestic violence and/or substance misuse and/or Service User K’s attendance at school with both parents

iii.Service User L, in that you did not ensure that Service User L completed a Drug Use Screening Tool in a timely manner

e) Communicate effectively with service users and/or colleagues in relation to:

i.  Service User M, in that you referred to the Service User’s father by the wrong name in one or more observation(s)
ii. Service User N, in that you arranged to visit the Service User at school on the same day as a visit by the FSP worker
iii.Service User O, in that you did not offer sufficient support to the FAST social worker and/or identify the benefits of the suggested approach to the family
iv.Service User K, in that you did not challenge Service User K’s mother about her request for support and/or challenge the behaviour of  Service User K’s parents

f) Complete statutory visits within relevant statutory timescales in relation to:

i.  Service User P
ii. Service User Q
iii.Service User H
iv.Service User R

2. Disclosed confidential information to Service User O and her parents without authority to do so.

3. The matters described at particulars 1 and 2 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Additional documentation
1. At the start of the hearing Ms Lyon, on behalf of the Health and Care Professions Council (‘HCPC’), provided the Panel with an email dated 28 October 2019, from CW, the Registrant’s most recent line manager. The email outlined the circumstances surrounding the Registrant’s change of employment and provided an overview of the Registrant’s performance during his employment with Life Resolutions Ltd.

Application for hearing to be heard in private
2. Ms Stephenson, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that parts of the hearing should be conducted in private, under Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003. She submitted that evidence pertaining to the Registrant’s health and private life would be provided to the Panel and therefore these matters should be considered in private.
3. Ms Lyon did not object.
Panel Approach
4. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and considered the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Conducting Hearings in Private’.
5. The Panel was satisfied, given the Registrant’s earlier submissions to the substantive hearing panel, regarding his private life and his own health, that there was a need for requisite parts of the hearing, pertaining to the Registrant’s health and the Registrant’s private life, to be heard in private, pursuant to Rule 10(1)(a) of the 2003 Rules.
6. The Panel had regard to the right to a public hearing but formed the view that in the circumstances of this case the Registrant’s right to a private life superseded it.

Background
7. The Registrant was employed by Suffolk County Council (‘the Council’) from 20 July 2015, initially as a Family Support Practitioner (‘FSP’). In December 2015 having obtained his Health and Care Professions Council (‘HCPC’) registration, the Registrant commenced his Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (‘ASYE’). He worked within the Haverhill Social Care Team as a Grade 5 Social Worker, working with children who potentially met the criteria under s.17 of the Children Act 1989, to be considered a Child in Need (‘CIN’).
8. In March 2016, the Registrant was made subject to an informal capability process due to concerns about his progress and performance as a social worker.
9. On 26 July 2016, JZ, Practice Manager, notified the Registrant in writing that due to on-going concerns relating to his performance and the lack of progress outlined in their meeting on 29 June 2016, the Council was now moving to a Formal Stage 1 of the Capability procedure. A Formal Stage 1 meeting took place on 04 August 2016 and the Registrant’s progress was reviewed against his development plan.
10. On 25 October 2016, the Council informed the Registrant in writing of the outcome of the Formal Review Meeting that had taken place on 21 October 2016. This was to progress the matter to a Stage 2 Formal Capability Meeting, as the Registrant had not met the standards required of him. The Registrant unsuccessfully appealed this decision.
11. The Formal Stage 2 Capability Hearing took place on 27 February 2017. The Registrant unsuccessfully appealed the decision reached at that hearing. The Registrant left his employment with the Council in April 2017.
12. The substantive hearing of the HCPC Allegation took place between 29 April and 02 May 2019. The Registrant attended the hearing. It was determined that the facts found proved amounted to current impairment on both the personal and public interest grounds. The substantive hearing panel’s reasons were as follows:
“In relation to the personal component, the Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s lack of competence and misconduct could be remedied. It was in no doubt that it could be. The Panel then considered whether there was evidence that the Registrant had remedied his shortcomings.
The Panel has reviewed all the documents provided by the Registrant. These show that over the last two years since he left the Council, he has taken up the limited opportunities available to him to keep his skills and knowledge up to date and has taken significant steps towards remedying some of his shortcomings. The Panel noted that the Registrant had focussed his efforts at remediation within the family and social care environment.
The Panel concluded that some of the concerns raised in this case have been remedied. For example, the Registrant is not better equipped to prioritise workload and has used organisational tools such as spreadsheets in his recent employment with the YMCA. He now has a better appreciation of what supervision is for and when he should seek it out. He has learned how to achieve a work/life balance. In terms of the courses and employment he had undertaken during the last two years some are clearly relevant to developmental learning such as the course he attended on safeguarding. His roles in the family and social care environment have provided him with directly transferrable skills to the role of a social worker.
In his current employment with Life Resolutions, CW told the Panel that she had encouraged the Registrant to apply for his current post which was akin to that of a social worker but did not necessarily require a social work qualification to complete the tasks. He has been directly supported by CW in this role.
The Panel found that there were, however, some key areas where the Registrant had been unable to evidence that he had fully remedied the concerns raised by his lack of competence and misconduct: such as, the ability to manage a case load and the ability to meet timescales set for him.
The Panel also considered whether the Registrant had insight into his shortcomings. The Panel was reassured by the Registrant’s evidence and his responses to their questions and considered that he had developed some insight. However, the Panel did not consider that he had yet achieved full insight.
In the letter from CW, she stated “At the time of compiling this letter, I see a practitioner before me, that has a foundation knowledge of social work equal to that of an emerging qualified professional, someone keen to consolidate their learning and to get on with developing their professional skills to become a competent and effective social worker”. She also said of the Registrant that “he does have learning to do, that is clear, but no more than any other newly qualified practitioner that I have supported in the past. He needs a clear framework both in terms of management; and learning”.
The Panel was satisfied based on CW’s evidence and on the testimonials and other references produced by the Registrant during the appeal process during the Capability process and more recently for this hearing, and on the positive personal attributes highlighted by the witnesses, that the Registrant clearly possesses relevant social work skills.
The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s lack of competence and misconduct had in the past put service users at risk of unwarranted harm, brought the Social Work profession into disrepute and breached fundamental tenants of that profession. The Panel was of the view that looking forward as it must, and because the Registrant was still developing insight into his shortcomings and there were still areas which he needed to remedy, there was a low risk that he will repeat his shortcomings in the future.  In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on personal component grounds.
In relation to the public component, the Panel was of the view that a reasonable and informed member of the public would consider that public confidence in the Social Work profession would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case.
The Panel concluded that it would be failing in its duty to protect the public from a social worker who did not meet required levels of competency if it did not find impairment in this case. It is essential the public can have confidence that those employed as social workers have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the role to which they are appointed.
The Panel therefore found, on both the personal and public component grounds, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired”.
13. The substantive hearing panel imposed a 6-month Conditions of Practice Order.
Registrant's evidence before today’s Panel
14. The Registrant gave evidence before the Panel.
15. The Registrant had, prior to the commencement of the hearing, provided the HCPC with the following documentation:
i. 6 Month Personal Development Plan (30 May – 30 November 2019);
ii. A Conditions of Practice Order Update document (undated);
iii. Record of Continuous Professional Development;
iv. Reflective Log Template;
v. MT Reflective Supervision Summary;
vi. Positive reference for Registrant: Letter from Karen Attwood  (Senior Project Worker at the YMCA) dated October 31st 2019; and
vii. CPD evidence record.
16. The Registrant gave evidence to the Panel stating that despite his best endeavours he had been unable to comply with the Conditions of Practice Order. He explained that his role at Life Resolutions Ltd had not been that of a social worker and therefore, he had been unable to complete and comply with all of the conditions of practice. However, he also submitted to the Panel that he had commenced the Conditions of Practice Order “enthusiastically” and that the environment within which he worked at Life Resolutions Ltd was focussed on chargeable hours and he felt under pressure to meet deadlines, which he explained were not “his forte”.  He also acknowledged that he wasn’t always able to meet the required timings expected of him in his role at Life Resolutions Ltd.
17. The Registrant also informed the Panel that his circumstances had recently changed and he had been offered a six-month fixed term contract with the YMCA, working as a Project Manager in a small residential home. He explained that this role would see him manage a caseload of one or two cases, which he indicated would “suit him much more”. He explained that the role would require him to support young people in a similar way to that of a social worker, although he accepted his role at the YMCA was not a social worker role. The Registrant also highlighted to the Panel that his new role would require him to deploy similar skills to that of a social worker, such as case management, assessments including risk assessments, support planning, care planning and multi-agency working.
18. The Registrant informed the Panel that he had completed some training courses, had attended ‘Community Care Live’ and had produced a ‘CPD evidence record’ for the Panel; although he acknowledged that he did not have accompanying CPD certificates to confirm attendance.
19. When further questioned by the Panel, regarding his return to practice, the Registrant stated that he would like to return to a social work role at the conclusion of his fixed-term contract by which time he would have acquired further experience improved his skills. He would seek to apply for jobs at this point.
20. In response to questions regarding insight and what he had learned from the regulatory process, the Registrant stated that he worked well in a team and with other professionals. He stated that he knew “he did good case recording” and that his assessment skills are “good” and that he had developed knowledge around disabilities and issues of mental health in particular. The Registrant also highlighted to the Panel that he had received positive oral feedback from his supervisors in respect of his interaction with clients and he had gained confidence from this feedback.

Submissions
21. Ms Lyon, on behalf of the HCPC, made the following submissions:
i. that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired;
ii. the Registrant has taken some positive steps to remain in the social work profession however, the conditions of practice have not been addressed or remedied;
iii. the Registrant continues to struggle with deadlines, stating they are “not his forte”. He continues to have clear difficulties with time management and both of these tasks are essential to the role of a social worker in that field;
iv. the Registrant has left social work employment;
v. there is a lack of information regarding his compliance with the Conditions of Practice Order including a lack of information from his supervisors and compliance with his CPD plan;
vi. the risk of repetition of his conduct remains high;
vii. the HCPC do not consider his behaviour to have been remedied;
viii. the Registrant has had an opportunity to demonstrate compliance and has failed to do so;
ix. the HCPC consider that the Registrant is impaired on both the personal and public interest grounds;
x. a Suspension Order is necessary – the HCPC position being that  a Conditions of Practice Order should be replaced with a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months. Owing to the limited evidence of remediation and the current Conditions of Practice Order not having not been complied with, further conditions of practice would be unworkable and not in the public interest.
22. Ms Stevenson submitted on behalf of the Registrant that:
i. the Registrant had demonstrated a commitment to learning and a desire to move on;
ii. he was developing insight;
iii. he was in a difficult situation at Life Resolutions Ltd; a great deal of his compliance with the Conditions or Practice Order wasn’t in his control as his manager was not available to provide regular supervision sessions for him; and he had to develop his own Personal Development Plan; and
iv. he was not particularly supported in terms of the evidence which was needed to be provided to the HCPC. To evidence this, Ms Stevenson highlighted the statement made by CW, of Life Resolution Ltd, when she stated ‘We are mindful of the importance of providing you with appropriate detail concerning Mr Tagg’s employment and performance whilst in post (in line with the HCPC Conditions of Practice Order that were IMPOSED on us (not just Mr Tagg) without our permission)’.
23. The Registrant submitted to the Panel that he would like the opportunity to return to social work at some point in the future, albeit that this would not be immediately owing to his new role working as a Project Manager. The Registrant also informed the Panel that he would be willing to comply with any conditions that they might choose to impose.
Further Applications from the Registrant
24. Prior to the Panel retiring to make a decision on impairment, the Registrant made two further applications, which he asked the Panel to consider. His first application was a request that all mention of his new employer, the YMCA, be redacted from the transcript of today’s hearing. His second application was for there to be no mention of his new employer in the Panel’s determination.
25. Ms Stevenson and the Registrant indicated that if his new employer were to become aware of these proceedings, it could “make this difficult” for him in his new role. Although, Ms Stevenson pointed out on the Registrant’s behalf that the Registrant’s new role was that of Project Manager and not Social Worker.
26. The HCPC indicated that they did not have any submissions to make in respect of the two applications.
Panel decision
27. The Panel carefully considered the two applications before it.
28. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor which had reminded the Panel of the general rule of a public hearing, under Article 6(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights and of the need to consider whether the Registrant would suffer disproportionate damage if the information regarding his new employer were to be placed in the public domain.
29. The Panel carefully considered the two applications. The Panel also carefully considered the Registrant’s interests versus those of the public.
30. The Panel determined, in the absence of any evidence that the Registrant would suffer disproportionate damage as a result of his new employer’s name being placed in the public domain, that the public interest in open justice prevailed.
31. The Panel noted that reference was made to the Registrant’s new employer, the YMCA, in the substantive hearing panel’s earlier determination and consequently the name of the Registrant’s new employer’s was already in the public domain.
32. Consequently, the Panel refused both of the Registrant’s applications.

Panel approach
33. The Panel took into account the documents furnished to it by the HCPC and the Registrant and had regard to the parties’ evidence and submissions.
34. The Panel considered the relevant Practice Note issued by the HCPTS, ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’’, together with the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and the HCPC’s Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England.
35. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
 
Decision
36. The Panel had regard to the substantive hearing panel’s determination which had determined that the Registrant was impaired on both the personal and public components.
37. In making its decision, the Panel had regard to both the personal and public elements of impairment.
38. The Panel found the Registrant to be candid, open and genuine when giving his evidence. The Panel also found the Registrant’s responses to questions were honest.
39. The Panel recognised that the regulatory process had been a salutary one for the Registrant and commended the Registrant for engaging, and attending today’s hearing. 
40. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant had done his best to comply with the spirit of the Conditions of Practice Order in a non- social work role at Life Resolutions Ltd and that he had taken steps to comply with the Order. For example, he kept the HCPC up-to-date regarding his supervisors and compiled a personal development plan.
41. The Panel noted that whilst the Registrant hadn’t remediated his conduct he had demonstrated a genuine willingness to do so.
42. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant had demonstrated some insight in respect of the importance of meeting deadlines, that he struggles working in a fast paced environment, and that working in an independent social work environment is not suited to him.
43. Notwithstanding his progress in the aforementioned areas however, the Panel was of the view that the Registrant had provided insufficient evidence to reassure the Panel of his progress in respect of a number of areas of his practice, including his ability to conduct risk assessments, demonstrate critical reasoning and management of timescales.
44. In Particular, the Panel noted that the substantive hearing panel had indicated that the Registrant might provide up-to-date evidence of relevant testimonials, details of how he has kept his skills and knowledge and CPD up-to-date and how he has developed and reflected on the identified failings. The Panel noted that whilst the Registrant claimed to have sought testimonials from previous colleagues, they had not been provided to the Panel. Further, the only testimonial placed before the Panel was from his new employer who was unaware of the full extent of today’s proceedings or the existence of the Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel also noted that whilst the Registrant had provided a document pertaining to his CPD, he had not provided any documentary evidence in support of it.
45. In respect of his insight, the Panel was of the opinion that the Registrant needs to develop further insight. Predominantly, in respect of the skills he needs to develop, how he is going to develop these and how he is going to evidence them.
46. The Panel considered therefore that they could not yet be confident that the Registrant has the required insight and that he has remediated his failings and therefore could not be confident that the behaviour would not be repeated. In light of the aforementioned issues, the Panel was of the view that there is a risk of repetition in respect of the Registrant’s conduct and that public protection is at risk if the Registrant were permitted to practice unrestricted. This being the case, the Panel determined that if it didn’t make a finding on the public component, members of the public would be concerned that professional standards were not being upheld and confidence in the profession would be undermined.
47. The Panel also noted that neither the Registrant nor his representative, Ms Stevenson, submitted that the Registrant had remediated his failings, and that both had advocated for the current Conditions of Practice Order to remain in place. The Panel was of the view that it was therefore implicit that the Registrant accepted that his practise remained impaired.
48. For all of the aforementioned reasons the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired on both the public and personal components.
Sanction
49. The Panel has borne in mind that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment and that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. Further, that any sanction must be proportionate, so that any order must be the least restrictive order that would protect the public interest, including public protection.
50. The Panel considered the option of a Caution Order however, decided that it would not provide adequate protection for the public. It would not address the on-going risk to the public identified by the substantive hearing panel.
51. The Panel next considered the option of replacing the existing Conditions of Practice Order with a suspension order. The Panel considered this option carefully.
52. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s shortcomings were capable of being remedied and that conditions of practice could be devised which were appropriate, realistic and verifiable and would address the Panel’s concerns. The Panel was also confident that the Registrant would comply with any conditions imposed on his registration. The Panel was satisfied that a Conditions of Practice Order would provide the public with the necessary degree of protection and that public confidence in the profession and the regulator would not be undermined by proceeding in this way.
53. The Panel went on to consider a suspension order, having regard to the ‘HCPC Sanctions Policy’. The Panel decided that such an order would be disproportionate and unduly harsh in the circumstances of this case.
54. The Panel therefore decided that the appropriate and proportionate Order, at the current time, is to vary and extend the current Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 18 months.
55. The Panel was of the view that this period of time recognised the Registrant’s intention to work in his new role as a project manager for the YMCA for a period of six months and then apply for social work roles thereafter. The Panel was also of the view that 18 months would allow the Registrant time to settle into his new role, reflect on his areas for development and to demonstrate remediation. This length of order would also provide the Registrant with the time to develop the skills and confidence that he requires to apply for a social work role at which point the conditions of practice would be engaged and he would be afforded a sufficient period of time to comply with the Order.
56. The Panel was also cognisant of the fact that the Registrant could apply for an early review of the Order if his circumstances allow him to demonstrate remediation before the expiry of the Order.
57. The Panel also considered that a review panel may be assisted by the following:
i. his attendance at a future review hearing;
ii. relevant testimonials, for example from his line manager, other professionals within the multi-disciplinary team and user and carer feedback;
iii. details of how the Registrant has kept his skills and knowledge up to date including evidence of any CPD activity;
iv. a report from his social work supervisor;
v. a summary of transferrable learning achieved whether in a social worker or non-social worker role;
vi. a written reflective piece addressing the identified failings.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to vary the Conditions of Practice Order against the registration of Mr Matthew Tagg for a further period of 18 months on the expiry of the existing order:
1. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor who is a registered Social Worker and you must supply details of your supervisor to your regulator within 7 days of the Operative Date.  You must attend upon your social work supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendation.
2. You must work with your social work supervisor to formulate a Personal Development Plan designed to address the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:
- Case management practice and techniques
- Organizing and prioritising case work
- Adhering to and achieving compliance with timescales as required by your caseload and/or your supervisor/manager
3. Within one month of the Operative Date you must forward a copy of your Personal Development Plan to your regulator.
4. You must meet your social work supervisor on a minimum of a monthly basis to consider your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.
5. You must allow your social work supervisor to provide information to your regulator about your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.
6. You must promptly inform your regulator if you cease to be employed in a social work role or take up any social work employment.
7. You must promptly inform your regulator of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer in employment 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 professional work as a social worker;
B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application) in respect of social work; and
C. any prospective social work employer (at the time of your application).

Notes

This Oder will be reviewed again before its expiry on 30 May 2021.

Right of Appeal:
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.
European alert mechanism:
In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been restricted.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so.  Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Matthew Tagg

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
06/11/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
24/10/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
29/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice
19/07/2017 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Hearing has not yet been held