During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Nottinghamshire County Council between June 2003 and November 2011, you:
1. Did not recognise risk, which placed service users at risk of harm;
2. Did not carry out timely Section 47 (child protection) enquiries;
3. Did not keep child protection records up to date;
4. Did not attend scheduled child protection meetings;
5. Did not follow up concerns raised by schools about service users' welfare;
6. Did not compile reports for court hearings or case conferences on time;
7. Did not provide minutes of child protection meetings to families;
8. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence;
9. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.
The Registrant was not present or represented. The case for the HCPC was presented by Ms Tyler of Kingsley Napley. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant in terms of rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules. The Panel thereafter considered Ms Tyler’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence in terms of rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules. The Panel is aware that its discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. Other than submissions to the Investigating Committee, there has been no engagement by the Registrant. There are three witnesses present on day one and a fourth witness available to give evidence on day two. The Panel has therefore determined that it is in the public interest that the hearing should proceed as there is no suggestion that the Registrant would attend at a future date if the matter were adjourned. The Panel also has the benefit of a number of written submissions by the Registrant to her employers and her submissions to the HCPC Investigating Committee and will take reasonable steps to ensure that the points made by her are put to the HCPC witnesses. The Panel will not draw any adverse inference from the Registrant’s failure to attend.
The Panel also considered Ms Tyler’s application to hear evidence in relation to the Registrant’s health in private in terms of rule 10(1)(a) of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules. The Panel agreed that any references to the Registrant’s health would be taken in private as to do otherwise would be a disproportionate interference with the Registrant’s private life.
The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker by Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC), between 2003 and 30 May 2012 when she was dismissed. As a result of concerns about her practice, an audit of her cases was undertaken in October 2009 and issues were identified. The Registrant had a prolonged period of sickness absence from December 2009 until June 2010. In October 2010 her line manager, Noel Beckett, identified that the Registrant required support to improve her practice and it was agreed that an Advanced Social Work Practitioner, Andrew Davies, would mentor her. A further audit was carried out in October 2010 which indicated a lack of documentary evidence to show that the Registrant had progressed plans, failures to visit service users, a lack of understanding about the issues and failures to keep agencies updated with relevant information. The Registrant was suspended on 24 March 2011 pending an investigation and was dismissed from her employment following a disciplinary procedure.
Decision on Facts
The Panel heard evidence from four witnesses on behalf of the HCPC: Ms Amanda Collinson, Children’s Services Manager; Ms Sarah Nardone, Targeted Family Support Manager; Mr Noel Nathaniel Beckett, Interim Team Manager of Ashfield Children’s Services and Andrew Davies, Social Work Practitioner Consultant, all of whom were employed by Nottingham County Council (the Council) in those posts at the time of the allegations. The Panel also considered the written submissions of the Registrant which were provided to NCC in the course of their investigations and the written submissions provided to the Investigating Committee of the HCPC.
The Panel found the witnesses to be credible and reliable and accepted that they had given their evidence clearly and concisely, although Mr Beckett confirmed that he was unsure of the number of cases the Registrant had as he did not have access to case files when he gave his statement as he had left the Council eighteen months earlier.
The Panel was of the view that Mr Beckett gave his evidence to the best of his recollection.
The Panel heard evidence from Noel Beckett, Amanda Collinson, Sarah Nardone and Andrew Davies in relation to service users DW, RG and Family S. The Panel also had sight of the audit notes of service users DW, RG, and KT (a member of family S), together with the service user records for DW, RG and Family S. In her written submissions to her employers the Registrant denied that she had left children at risk.
The Panel heard evidence that the Registrant failed to recognise the risk in relation to service user RG, a five year old child who had engaged in inappropriate sexualised behaviour towards another male schoolmate, had made an allegation of sexual abuse against a family friend, had unsupervised contact with an adult of concern and was collected from school by an uncle smelling of alcohol.
The Panel also heard evidence in relation to the three children of Family S. The Registrant was aware that the father had been released from prison having been convicted of domestic violence against the mother of the three children and did not recognise the risk to the children by allowing the mother to supervise access to the children by their father.
The Panel also heard evidence in relation to service user DW who was involved in a private fostering arrangement. The Registrant failed to conduct a viability assessment or a private fostering assessment and failed to deliberate on the permanency of the child’s placement.
The Panel is satisfied that Registrant failed to recognise the risk in each of these cases and as a result service users were placed at risk of harm.
The Panel is satisfied that the facts of particular one have been proved on the balance of probabilities.
The Panel heard evidence from Noel Beckett, Amanda Collinson, Andrew Davies and Sarah Nardone in relation to service users RG and Family S in relation to this particular.
The Panel has heard evidence that the Registrant should have commenced a Section 47 Enquiry as soon as she received the information from the school about service user RG’s sexualised behaviour. The Panel also heard from Andrew Davies that he advised the Registrant to carry out a Section 47 Enquiry at a mentoring session on 9 November 2010 and again on 7 December 2010 and the Registrant failed to do so. Mr Davies decided to take control of this service user in mid-December as the Registrant failed to take action. The Registrant stated that Noel Beckett advised her that the Section 47 Enquiry was not necessary as a Legal Planning Meeting was taking place. Mr Beckett was clear in his evidence that he would not have said that to the Registrant this and he explained the different purposes of the Legal Planning Meeting and a Section 47 enquiry.
The Panel has also heard evidence of the Registrant’s failure to progress a Section 47 Enquiry in relation to Family S when the risk of the supervision arrangement was identified or when the issue was raised by Andrew Davies in the supervision session on 9 November 2010. The Registrant advised that her line manager, Noel Beckett signed the contact agreement allowing the mother to supervise visits by the father and was aware of the domestic violence. However Mr Beckett accepts he signed the agreement but advised that he was not aware of the level of domestic violence when he signed the agreement.
The Panel is satisfied that the facts of particular 2 have been proved on the balance of probabilities in relation to service user RG and Family S.
The Panel heard evidence from Amanda Collinson and Sarah Nardone in relation to this particular. The HCPC are relying on the records of service users RG, DW, KT, AE. However the Panel note that service user RG is not a child protection case and has therefore not considered this service user in relation to this particular. However the Panel has had sight of audits of the records of service users DW, KT and AE from which it can be seen that the records have not been kept up to date. In her written submissions the Registrant accepts that she made errors in her recordkeeping. In relation to service user DW, there are delays in recording home visits and minutes from a Core Group meeting are missing. In relation to service user KT, there are delays in recording some home visits and in relation to service user AE, there is no record of a Review Child Protection Conference held on 19 October 2010.
The Panel is therefore satisfied that this particular has been proved on the balance of probabilities.
The Panel heard evidence from Amanda Collinson and Noel Beckett in relation to a complaint by a head teacher that the Registrant failed to attend child protection meetings in respect of service user AE on 18 January 2011 and 1 February 2011. The Panel also had sight of the letter of complaint from the head teacher and a record of the complaint by the service user’s mother.
The Panel therefore finds the facts of this particular proved on the balance of probabilities.
The HCPC relied on the evidence of Amanda Collinson and Andrew Davies in relation to the Registrant’s handling of concerns in respect of service user RG. The Panel heard that concerns were raised by RG’s school that RG had alleged a family friend had sexually abused him and that he had engaged in inappropriate sexualised behaviour towards another pupil. The Registrant’s position is that she spoke to the child and the school and concluded that the child had lied in relation to the disclosure he had made. The evidence of Andrew Davies is that she should have commenced a Section 47 Child Protection Enquiry. The evidence of Amanda Collinson was that the Registrant’s actions were extremely concerning and that she potentially placed RG in a situation where he would continue to be abused.
The Panel is satisfied on the evidence that the Registrant failed to follow up a concern raised by a school in respect of service user RG in that she dismissed his comment and did not follow the proper procedure for such disclosures.
The Panel therefore finds this particular proved on the balance of probabilities in relation to one school only.
The Panel has heard no evidence in relation to a failure to compile reports for court hearings. The Panel has heard evidence of the Registrant’s failure to record episodes to show child protection conferences and core group meetings had taken place in respect of service user KT and a failure to present an accurate and factual account of issues in relation to service user RG at a Legal Planning Meeting. The Panel is not satisfied that these are failures to compile reports for case conferences and is not therefore satisfied that the facts of this particular have been proved.
The Panel heard evidence from Noel Beckett and Sarah Nardone in relation to this particular. In her written submissions the Registrant advised that she made attempts to distribute minutes to parents during visits and that there had been occasions when the parents had not been at home or she acknowledged that she had forgotten to give them the minutes. Noel Beckett and Sarah Nardone stated that that they found copies of minutes from Core Group Meetings in the Registrant’s in-tray/pigeon hole and that these minutes should have been distributed to those attending the meetings. The Panel also had sight of a letter of complaint from a head teacher in which he stated that he had not received minutes from Core Group Meetings on 23 November and 15 December 2010 in relation to service user AE.
The Panel is therefore satisfied that the facts of this particular have been proved on the balance of probabilities.
Decision on Grounds
The Panel next considered whether the facts as proved amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.
The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has breached the following sections of the Code of Practice for Social Workers in force at the relevant time:
1 As a social care worker, you must protect the rights and promote the interests of service users and carers
2 As a social care worker, you must strive to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of service users and carers. This includes:
2.4 – Being reliable and dependable.
4 As a social care worker, you must respect the rights of service users while seeking to ensure their behaviour does not harm themselves or other people. This includes:
4.2 – Following risk assessment policies and procedures to assess whether the behaviour of service users presents a risk of harm to themselves or others.
4.3 – Taking necessary steps to minimise the risks of service users from doing actual or potential harm to themselves or other people.
5 As a social care worker, you must be uphold public trust and confidence in social care services. This includes:
5.7 - You must not put yourself or other people at risk.
6 As a social care worker, you must be accountable for the quality of your work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving your knowledge and skills. This includes:
6.1 - Meeting relevant standards of practice and working in a lawful, safe and effective way;
6.2 - Maintaining clear and accurate records as required by procedures established for your work;
6.3 – informing your employer or the appropriate authority about any personal difficulties that might affect your ability to do your job;
6.4 - Seeking assistance from your employer or the appropriate authority if you do not feel able or adequately prepared to carry out any aspect of your work, or you are not sure how to proceed in a work matter;
6.7 - Seeking assistance from your employer or the appropriate authority if you do not feel able or adequately prepared to carry out any aspect of your work, or you are not sure about how to proceed in a work matter.
The Panel has heard that the Registrant was a very experienced social worker. The Panel has considered the Registrant’s written submissions in relation to the serious personal difficulties she was experiencing at the time of the allegations in relation to family illness, bereavement, her own health issues and the impact of a burglary at her home when her work laptop was stolen. In her written submissions the Registrant claims that she had a very high caseload and that it was difficult to catch up as she was working part-time.
The Registrant’s permanent line manager had gone on maternity leave in 2010 and Mr Beckett took over the post after the interim team manager left. The Panel has also heard that on her return to work after a long period of sickness absence, it was agreed that a support package would be put in place including voice activated software. The Panel heard that there were delays in providing the software and training for the Registrant.
The Panel has heard from Mr Beckett that although he was aware that there were some issues, the Registrant did not raise any particular issues with him in regular monthly supervision sessions when there was an opportunity to do so during the health and wellbeing discussions, nor did she raise any issues with Mr Davies during mentoring sessions. The Panel also heard very clear evidence from Mr Davies that the Registrant’s workload was extremely high, although the other witnesses did not consider her workload to be excessive. The Panel has heard from Mr Beckett that when he commenced work in August 2010, the team was chaotic, there were unallocated cases, visits were not taking place and social workers were not being supervised. The Panel accepts that the Registrant was working in a difficult working environment given the changes in her line management and the situation described by Mr Beckett. The Panel also accepts that the Registrant had serious personal difficulties at the time of the allegations. However the Registrant did not seem able to prioritise the most serious cases and address situations where service users were clearly at risk, even when told to do so during mentoring sessions. The Panel is of the view that as an autonomous professional the Registrant should have made her line manager or mentor aware of the fact that she was not able to carry out her duties properly as a result of her personal difficulties and her high caseload. The Panel has heard evidence from Andrew Davies and Noel Beckett that the Registrant would agree that she would do work and then would not carry it out. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has failed to comply with basic principles and her actions potentially put very vulnerable service users at risk and therefore amount to misconduct.
Decision on Impairment:
The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by that misconduct. In reaching this decision the Panel must consider both the personal component and the public component.
In considering the personal component, the Panel recognises that the Registrant was working in very difficult circumstances. However her actions fell well below the standards expected of a professional and potentially put vulnerable service users at risk. In her written submissions to the Investigating Committee in January 2013 the Registrant advised that she was very anxious not to lose her registration and that she was actively seeking employment as a social worker and that having sought help from her GP following her dismissal, her health had now improved. The Panel has no further up to date information from her. While the Registrant has demonstrated limited insight in that she now acknowledges the impact her personal difficulties had on her work, she does not demonstrate insight into the impact her failings had on very vulnerable service users. In addition the Panel has not had any evidence of steps taken by the Registrant to remediate her failings and cannot be satisfied that if the Registrant were to be in a similar situation, she would behave any differently.
The Panel finds that there is a negative subsisting impact on the Registrant’s fitness to practise as she only has limited insight and there has been no remediation in respect of fundamental failures in her professional practice.
The Panel has also considered the critically important public policy issues which include the collective need to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. Members of the public would expect a competent social worker to be able to recognise if personal difficulties were preventing her from doing her job properly and to inform her employers of this. In these circumstances, the Panel is of the view that public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.
Taking account of both the personal and public components, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by her misconduct and the allegation is well founded.
Decision on Sanction:
The Panel is aware that the function of fitness to practise Panels is not punitive and that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing her services in the future. In reaching its decision, the Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest considerations, which include the deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process. The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity and had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy.
The Panel first considered whether to take no further action or to impose a caution and was of the view that these would not address the deficiencies in the Registrant’s practise and would not therefore be appropriate.
The Panel next considered a conditions of practice order. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s failings are remediable. However there has been no evidence of remediation. In addition the Panel has no information about the Registrant’s current circumstances or about her willingness to comply with conditions. In the absence of any evidence of remediation, the Panel is not satisfied that the public would be adequately protected if the Registrant were permitted to practice subject to conditions. The Panel has therefore concluded that a conditions of practice order would not be appropriate as it would not adequately protect the public.
The Panel next considered a suspension order. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant may be able to resolve her failings, given that she has taken steps to address her health issues. The Panel therefore considers that a suspension order would be appropriate as it would both adequately protect the public and address the wider public interest considerations.
The Panel considered that a striking off order would be disproportionate given that the Registrant suffered personal difficulties and was working in a difficult environment at the time of the allegations.
This order will be reviewed prior to its expiry. It may assist a future Panel if the Registrant were to produce evidence of reflective practice particularly in relation to recognising and assessing when service users are at risk and the need for appropriate action to address that risk.
The Panel decided to suspend the Registrant from the HCPC register for a period of 12 months.
An interim suspension order was imposed to cover the appeal period.
History of Hearings for Jeanette Reeve
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|16/10/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|
|14/10/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|
|15/10/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|27/10/2014||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|15/10/2013||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|