Rebecca Jane Andrew

: Social worker

: SW00690

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 20/05/2014 End: 17:00 22/05/2014

: Health and Care Professions Council, Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BU

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a social worker at the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), between 01 June 2011 and December 2012 you:

 

1. Did not submit your Newly Qualified Social Worker (NQSW) portfolio due on 5 November 2012.

 

2. Did not adequately plan and manage your workload, in that you:

 

a) did not complete the case closures identified in July 2010 in 10 of your 33 cases;

 

b) did not consistently prepare case plans within the 10 day timeframe;

 

c) did not file your reports in time to allow for reflection, learning and development.

 

 

3. Did not produce adequate cases plans in that:

a) you did not evidence liaison with relevant agencies;

 

b) you did not demonstrate an holistic approach to understanding Service Users needs within your case plans;

 

c) you did not demonstrate clear reasoning to support your

recommendations.

 

4. The matters described in paragraphs 1 to 3 constitute lack of

competence.

 

5. By reason of your lack of competence, your fitness to practise is

impaired.

Finding

1. The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) was represented by Miss Laura Ryan of Kingsley Napley Solicitors. Miss Andrew was neither present nor represented at the hearing.

2. The Panel found that there had been good service of the proceedings, by notice dated 5 March 2014, sent to the registered address of Miss Rebecca Andrew (the Registrant).

3. The Panel has had regard to all of the circumstances of the case, including the factors in the HCPC Practice Note entitled Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant. The Panel noted the pro forma submitted by the Registrant which indicated that she was aware of the Hearing and would not be attending. The Panel has no reason to believe that were it to adjourn this matter Miss Andrew would attend any reconvened hearing. The Panel concluded that she has waived her right to attend the hearing and determined that it is appropriate to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant. For the avoidance of doubt, the Panel has not drawn any adverse inference with regard to the absence of the Registrant.

4. The Panel noted from the papers that the Registrant’s health might be referred to during the Hearing and so considered the HCPC Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private. Panels need to establish a compelling reason for deciding that, due to exceptional circumstances, a hearing should be held in private. The decision to sit in private may relate to all or part of a hearing. The Panel decided to sit in private for those matters relating directly to Miss Andrew’s health.

5. The HCPC applied to amend factual particular 2a, to alter the wording from "2010" to "2012". The Panel has a general discretion to allow allegations to be amended, subject to the requirements of a fair hearing being met. In addition, under Regulation 3(4) of the 2001 Order: the main objective of the HCPC in exercising its functions shall be to safeguard the health and well-being of persons using or needing the services of registrants.

6. Miss Andrew was notified of the proposed changes to the particulars in the case summary (by way of amendments to the particulars). She raised no objection to these amendments, in her signed Response dated 12 April 2014 which states that the factual particulars are admitted.

7. The Panel granted the application to amend particular 2a to enable a typing mistake concerning the date to be corrected because there is no prejudice to Miss Andrew in granting this application and she was notified of the proposed amendment and has raised no objection to it.

8. The HCPC also indicated an intention to offer no evidence in respect of particulars 2b, 3a, 3b and 3c, as there is insufficient evidence. The Panel considered the HCPC Practice Note entitled "Discontinuance of Proceedings" (August 2012) and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel is satisfied that it does not amount to under-prosecution, for the HCPC to offer no evidence in respect of particulars 2b, 3a, 3b and 3c. There is insufficient evidence to support these particulars.

9. The Panel has considered and accepts the advice of the Legal Assessor to apply the civil standard of proof to the factual particulars, namely: the balance of probability. The burden of proving the factual particulars rests upon the HCPC. The Panel took the following three stage approach:

(1) to decide whether the factual particulars are proved;

(2) decide if the proved factual particulars demonstrate lack of competence;

(3) if there is any lack of competence, to decide whether fitness to practise is impaired.

Background

10. The Registrant was employed by CAFCASS from 1 September 2010 and commenced their three-year NQSW training programme on 1 June 2011. A portfolio of evidence must be completed at the end of the first year of the programme. Miss Andrew failed to submit her portfolio, by the due date of 2 July 2012. A third and final extension was granted to 5 November 2012 but Miss Andrew again failed to submit a complete portfolio by the due date. She did submit limited paperwork by 30 November but this fell far short of the expected standard. A meeting was held on 13 November 2012, when it was decided that a further extension could not be granted to Miss Andrew to complete her portfolio and the matter was referred to a formal capability meeting which was held on 5 December 2012 which resulted in her dismissal on the grounds of lack of capability.

Decision on Facts:

11. The Panel has heard oral evidence from Ms AJ (CAFCASS Service Manager) the Registrant’s line manager, Ms ED (CAFCASS Enhanced Practitioner), the Registrant’s mentor, and Ms DB (CAFCASS Practice Learning and Development Manager). In her signed Response dated 12 April 2014 Miss Andrew states that she admits the facts set out in the amended HCPC allegation namely particulars 1, 2a and 2c. All three HCPC witnesses gave clear evidence corroborated by emails, reports and paperwork. The Panel finds that the HCPC witnesses were supportive and sympathetic towards Miss Andrew with no suggestion of collusion or hostility towards her and they took into account her health problems. The comprehensive contemporaneous supervision documents corroborate this finding. The Panel took into account the HCPC bundle of documents and received no written evidence from Miss Andrew apart from her signed pro forma.

In respect of particular 1

12. The Panel makes the following findings of fact: The completion date for Miss Andrew’s portfolio was originally 2 July 2012 and eventually extended to 5 November 2012. However she did not make significant progress towards the completion of her portfolio or provide an explanation for her failure to do so. She was absent due to sickness for a significant period during 2012, but she had been given a 20% reduction in her case load, to assist her to complete the portfolio. She failed to complete the first year of the NQSW programme despite being given 17 months to complete it. She failed to meet the agreed targets discussed with her mentor at their fortnightly meetings, for the completion of her portfolio, although she was able to produce some competent reports. The limited paperwork provided by Miss Andrew just prior to the formal capability meeting on 5 December 2012 fell far below the required standard. This particular was admitted by the Registrant and the Panel finds that it is proved.

In respect of particular 2

13. The Panel makes the following findings of fact:

As to particular 2a, at her Performance Learning Review on 11 July 2012 Miss Andrew demonstrated some good learning and practice in relation to safeguarding practice and report-writing. However concerns were identified in respect of case planning and closures. From a total caseload of 33, 10 of her cases had not been closed within the required time frame, without explanation. Case closure is important to ensure that case records are accurate and workers have the capacity to take on new cases, but Miss Andrew failed to close a significant number of her cases in a timely fashion. There was an expectation that cases would be closed within two to four weeks. Some cases had not been closed by the Registrant at any stage during her time with the CAFCASS team. This particular was admitted by the Registrant and the Panel finds that it is proved.

14. Particular 2b is not proved because the HCPC has offered no evidence in respect of it and there is insufficient evidence to support this particular.

15. As to particular 2c, the Panel heard evidence that Miss Andrew was informed that the timely filing of reports is required to avoid delays and consequent failures to comply with Family Court timescales. The timely completion of reports is required to enable discussion and reflection to take place before they are filed at court. Miss Andrew failed to produce reports on at least five of her cases in a timely fashion:

Case M) date requested 7 June 2012; date filed at court 23 November 2012.

Case H) date requested 7 December 2011; date filed at court 24 April 2012.

Case M) date requested 6 March 2012; dated filed at Court 3 July 2012.

Case C) date requested 25 June 2012; date filed at Court 25 September 2012.

Case D) date requested 29 May 2012; date filed at Court 26 September 2012.

This particular was admitted by the Registrant and the Panel finds that it is proved.

16. The problems evidenced by Miss Andrew’s failures in 2a and 2c make it clear that she did not adequately plan and manage her workload.

 

In respect of particular 3

17. Particular 3a is not proved because the HCPC has offered no evidence in respect of it and there is insufficient evidence to support this particular.

18. Particular 3b is not proved because the HCPC has offered no evidence in respect of it and there is insufficient evidence to support this particular.

19. Particular 3c is not proved because the HCPC has offered no evidence in respect of it and there is insufficient evidence to support this particular.

 

Decision on Grounds:

20. The Panel has considered Article 22 of The Health and Care Professions Order 2001, in respect of the alleged lack of competence. A lack of competence may arise if a Registrant’s proficiency in professional practice is below the minimum acceptable level, in respect of a fair proportion of the practitioner’s work over a reasonable period.

21. The Panel finds Miss Andrew is in breach of the following Codes of Practice for Social Care Workers:

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;

22. The Panel also finds Miss Andrew is in breach of the following Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers (applicable from August 2012):

Registrant social workers must:

1.2 Recognise the need to manage their own workload and resources and be able to practice accordingly

3.1 Understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.

10.1 be able to keep accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible records in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines

10.2 recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines

11 be able to reflect on and review practice;

14.3 be able to prepare, implement, review, evaluate, revise and conclude plans to meet needs and circumstances in conjunction with service users and carers.

23. The Registrant failed to evidence any of the eleven NQSW core outcomes or the skills of a safe and effective social worker. She failed to produce evidence of the outcomes having been achieved and concerns were identified in respect of her closure of cases and filing of reports. Despite the support that was offered, these concerns continued.

24. In respect of particular 1, the Panel noted that not all Social Work organisations require a Social Worker to have completed an NQSW training programme or the presentation of a portfolio of evidence which meets the appropriate standards for Social Work practice. However, the Registrant had agreed to undertake the training for her post with CAFCASS and as a consequence had agreed to the standards and requirement to produce a portfolio as part of the training requirements. These included evidence of the 11 core outcomes having been achieved: referral, assessment, planning, review, formal meetings, recording, communication, relationships, multi-agency working, disadvantaged groups, professional development and accountability.

25. These skills are essential to the Social Work profession. The Panel noted that the CAFCASS NQSW programme was moderated by the University of Central Lancashire to ensure it was of the required standard. The Registrant was not able to produce evidence that her practice had reached the required standards of the CAFCASS programme and the Panel is satisfied that she failed to meet the relevant standards of practice for Social Workers and the HCPC standards of proficiency set out above. Therefore the Panel finds there is a lack of competence in respect of particular 1.

26. In respect of particular 2.a. the Panel noted the evidence of the witnesses called by the HCPC that case closure is essential to the Social Work role in respect of service users and families and allows the Registrant to then take on further cases. In failing to close cases the Registrant failed to meet the standard of competence required of a registered Social Worker, in particular standard 1.2 of the HCPC standards of proficiency set out above. Her failure to close cases in a timely manner was likely to cause detriment to service users. Therefore the Panel finds there is a lack of competence in respect of particular 2.a.

27. In respect of particular 2.c. the Panel finds that in failing to produce the reports required by family courts in a timely fashion the Registrant failed in her duty towards vulnerable service users and their families. In providing reports late the Registrant also prevented discussion with her colleagues and mentors from taking place which was required as part of her NQSW training. This was in breach of the relevant standards set out above. The Registrant did not adequately manage her caseload and she was in breach of the Codes of Practice for Social Care Workers 6.1 and 6.2. There was also a serious breach of the HCPC standards of proficiency for Social Workers. The Panel concludes that the Registrant’s ability to manage her caseload effectively in order to provide an adequate and timely service for service users was lacking despite this being an essential requirement for a social work professional. This was a significant failure on the part of the Registrant. Therefore the Panel finds there is a lack of competence in respect of particular 2.c.

28. The Panel finds the allegation of lack of competence is well-founded in respect of particulars 1, 2a and 2c.

Decision on Impairment:

29. In considering whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired the Panel noted that impairment must be current. The Panel has followed the guidance in the HCPC Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has considered the Registrant’s past conduct in reaching a judgment on her likely future behaviour and has taken into account both personal and public policy issues. The latter include: the need to protect service users, to maintain confidence in the profession and to uphold the relevant Codes of Practice and Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers. Miss Andrew failed to complete her portfolio which was a mandatory requirement of her training for practice as a social worker at CAFCASS. She also failed to demonstrate the necessary competencies for a Social Worker or to address the concerns raised about her practice.

30. The Panel considered the question of current impairment in the light of the lack of competence found arising from the proved facts. The lack of competence demonstrated establishes that Miss Andrew’s Fitness to Practise was impaired at that time. In reaching their conclusion on current impairment the Panel considered the issues of insight and remediation. The Panel finds the Registrant has shown some limited insight in relation to the factual admissions made by her and set out in the pro forma reply dated 12 April 2014. However, the Registrant has not attended the hearing or supplied any further evidence to demonstrate her reflection on these matters and the Panel finds no evidence of in-depth insight in relation to the seriousness of the failures and consequent risk to service users. The Panel has no information concerning the Registrant’s current employment or any further training or testimonials or future plans. Without this information the Panel is unable to conclude that any remediation has occurred. The Panel cannot be satisfied that the failures giving rise to these proceedings would not be repeated.

31. The Panel finds that Miss Andrew’s Fitness to Practise is currently impaired on the grounds that this finding is necessary to protect service users and to maintain confidence in the regulatory process and in the profession.

Decision on Sanction:

32. The Panel has considered in detail the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (dated December 2013) (the Policy) which states that fitness to practise proceedings are not intended to be punitive. Even though a Panel has determined that fitness to practise is impaired, it is not obliged to impose a sanction.

33. A sanction is only to be imposed to the extent that it is required in the public interest. The public interest includes the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

34. The Panel has heard submissions from Miss Ryan and taken advice from the Legal Assessor, before deciding what, if any, sanction to impose.

35. Miss Andrew has demonstrated limited insight by her admissions to the factual particulars. The Panel has also taken into account her significant periods of ill-health and the evidence that she was capable of writing some reports competently. However, there is a lack of evidence from her showing insight into the serious nature of the matters giving rise to these proceedings. There is no information before the Panel concerning her current employment. Miss Andrew has only engaged with the HCPC process to a very limited extent.

36. The Panel has taken into account the lapse of time and the evidence of Miss Andrew’s ability to produce some competent reports. Completion of the NQSW training is not a mandatory requirement for all social workers and the Panel has taken into account Miss Andrew’s health problems at the relevant time.

37. The Panel has received no evidence of any remediation.

38. The Panel has considered the available sanctions under Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, in ascending order of gravity.

39. Given the seriousness of the lack of competence found the Panel considers that it would be inappropriate to take no further action, or refer the matter to mediation.

40. The Panel next considered imposing a Caution Order and concluded this was also not an appropriate sanction, in view of the potential risk to vulnerable service users which could arise, if the Registrant was permitted to return to unrestricted practice, with no evidence of insight or remediation. A Caution would therefore be inappropriate as a sanction as the identified lack of competence has not been addressed.

41. The option of a Conditions of Practice Order, as a rehabilitative measure was considered by the Panel. Conditions of Practice Orders must be limited to a maximum of three years and are remedial or rehabilitative in nature. The Panel must be satisfied that appropriate, realistic and verifiable conditions can be formulated before making such an Order. The Registrant has not given evidence to the Panel in relation to her retraining or career development and there were significant failures in her practice despite considerable support received during her employment with CAFCASS. The Panel is not satisfied that Conditions of Practice which are practicable or sufficient to mark the seriousness of the lack of competence can be formulated in the absence of any information concerning current or future employment.

42. The Panel next considered a suspension order. A Suspension Order must be for a specified period not exceeding one year. Suspension completely prohibits a registrant from practising her profession. Short term suspension may be appropriate where a Registrant’s current status means that she would be unable to respond to and comply with Conditions of Practice but where there is a realistic prospect that the Registrant can resolve those difficulties whilst suspended. If a short term Suspension is imposed the Panel should give clear reasons to the Registrant as to what is expected of them.

43. Although the indicative sanctions guidance advises that Suspension Orders should normally be for a period of one year and that short suspensions may not be advisable, in this case, the Panel decided that a Suspension Order for 9 months would be proportionate to the level of the lack of competence and would give the Registrant the necessary time to remedy the deficiencies.

44. The Order will be reviewed before it expires. The reviewing Panel is likely to be assisted by evidence from Miss Andrew that remediation has taken place and that the concerns raised have been addressed by her which may enable her to return to social work practice. In particular the reviewing Panel is likely to be assisted by: a statement from Miss Andrew, concerning her reflection upon the matters giving rise to these proceedings and the extent to which this has brought about changes in her behaviour and further development of her level of insight. The Panel would also be assisted by Miss Andrew’s attendance at the review hearing, details of any training undertaken, employment references and any other steps taken to remedy the deficits identified.

45. The Panel does not have the more serious sanction of a Striking Off Order available because this is a competence case. Striking off is not available until a Registrant has been continuously suspended, or subject to Conditions of Practice, for two years.

46. A Suspension Order for a period of 9 months is proportionate taking full account of the personal circumstances of Miss Andrew and the nature and seriousness of the findings.


Order

Order:

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Rebecca Jane Andrew for a period of 9 months from the date this order comes into effect.


Notes

The Panel decided to impose a 9-month Suspension Order.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Rebecca Jane Andrew

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed
18/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
14/08/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
27/01/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
20/05/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended