Julie Ann Edmond

: Social worker

: SW76179

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 24/06/2015 End: 17:00 26/06/2015

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as amended on 24 June 2015)
Between 11 December 2012 and 15 November 2013, whilst employed as a Social Worker at Hertfordshire County Council, you:
1. Were late for scheduled appointments with Foster Carers including with:
a) Foster Carers I and J on:
i. 12 December 2012;
ii. 24 April 2013;
iii. 05 June 2013;
b) Foster Carer C on:
i. 01 May 2013;
ii. 08 May 2013;
c) Foster Carers D and E:
i. 09 September 2013


2. Failed to complete statutory carer/reviews within agreed timeframes, including:
a) Case B;
b) Case S;
c) Case A;
d) Case N


3. Destroyed written case notes on Case CN relating to a Foster Carer Assessment for Applicant H.


4. Did not complete an accurate statutory carer/review for Case S, in that you:
a) Duplicated most of the information from a previous Social Worker’s statutory/carer review; and/or
b) Did not record many of your own observations.


5. The matters described in paragraphs 1-4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.


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

Finding

Preliminary Matters:
1. Ms Edmond has neither attended this hearing nor been represented at it.


2. At the commencement of the case the Panel considered whether there had been good service of a notice of hearing sent to Ms Edmond.  The Panel was satisfied that the letter dated 12 March 2015 addressed to Ms Edmond’s address as it appears on the HCPC Register satisfied this requirement.


3. Having decided that there had been good service of the notice of hearing, the Panel then considered the HCPC’s application that the hearing should proceed in the absence of Ms Edmond.  In considering this application the Panel took into account the HCPC’s Practice Note entitled, “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that a decision to exercise the discretion to proceed with the hearing in the absence of Ms Edmond should only be taken with the utmost care and caution.  The Panel concluded that the hearing should proceed in Ms Edmond’s absence, the reasons for that decision being the following:
• Ms Edmond’s absence from the hearing was voluntary.  Mention has already been made of the fact that the notice of hearing letter was sent on 12 March 2015.  That letter was also sent by email.  Furthermore, the date of this hearing was also contained in the hearing bundles sent to Ms Edmond by the HCPC’s Solicitors on 06 May 2015.  It follows from this that she has been informed of the date of the hearing.  Her non-attendance is consistent with her non-engagement throughout the entirety of this fitness to practise process.
• There had been no request for an adjournment made by or on behalf of Ms Edmond.
• It followed from the foregoing that there were no grounds on which the Panel could conclude that Ms Edmond would be likely to attend a hearing on another occasion if it did not proceed at the present time.
• Although there have been no representations made by Ms Edmond, Ms Lister, on behalf of the HCPC, informed the Panel that she proposed to draw attention to factors identified in the employer’s capability process as having been advanced by Ms Edmond in mitigation.  Furthermore, the Panel would have the opportunity to explore such matters with the witness.  When the Panel determined that the hearing should proceed in the absence of Ms Edmond it reserved, to be decided at the conclusion of the oral evidence, whether it would request the HCPC to call for the production of a long appeal document that had been submitted by Ms Edmond in the context of her appeal against the dismissal from her employment.  The decision whether to call for this document was postponed until the Panel could assess the extent to which it would be informed as to Ms Edmond’s position by the witness, Ms JH.  In this way the disadvantage to Ms Edmond of proceeding with the hearing without any submission made by her would be reduced.
• Although not a case depending upon witness memories unsupported by relevant documentation, nevertheless there is a clear public interest in the allegations being resolved with expedition as the issues are serious and involve matters of legitimate public concern.
• It followed from these factors that the public interest considerations in the hearing proceeding outweighed any prejudice resulting from the absence of Ms Edmond.


4. After the Panel announced its decision that the hearing would proceed in the absence of Ms Edmond, Ms Lister on behalf of the HCPC applied to amend the allegations made against Ms Edmond.  The terms of the proposed amendment had been communicated to Ms Edmond by letter dated 24 April 2015.  The Panel was satisfied that the proposed amendments were appropriate in the sense that they accorded with the evidence contained in the hearing bundles and that they represented appropriate clarification and particularisation of the HCPC’s case.  The Panel was also satisfied that they were consistent with the “case to answer” decision of the Investigating Committee made on 07 October 2014 and that they did not give rise to any risk of prejudice to Ms Edmond.  Accordingly, the Panel acceded to the HCPC’s application to amend the allegation.

Background:
5. Ms Edmond commenced her employment with Hertfordshire County Council in December 2000.  At the time of the events with which the Panel has been concerned she was working part-time as a Supervising Social Worker in the Specialist and Safeguarding Service, South Fostering Team.  In this role it was Ms Edmond’s responsibility to ensure that foster carers received the support and supervision they need in order to care properly for the children placed with them.


6. As a result of concerns about her performance, on 12 February 2012 Ms Edmond was put under a formal capability procedure.  It is the HCPC’s case that during this procedure there was no sustained improvement in her performance.  Following a Performance Capability Hearing on 18 September 2013 she was dismissed from her employment, and an appeal by her against that decision held in November 2013 was unsuccessful.

Decision on Facts:
7. Before turning to the specific factual contentions relied upon by the HCPC in its case against Ms Edmond, the Panel will explain its general view of the evidence.
• The HCPC relied upon the oral evidence of a single witness, Ms JH, a Social Worker who was a Team Manager in the Fostering-South Team in which Ms Edmond worked.  She line managed Ms Edmond from 2008 until the latter’s employment came to an end.  The Panel is satisfied that Ms JH knew Ms Edmond and her work well.  In the view of the Panel the credibility of Ms JH was enhanced both by the fact that she volunteered positive aspects of Ms Edmond’s work and by the acceptance of responsibility for some confusion that arose over the performance management process that commenced in 2012. In summary, the Panel considered that Ms JH was a good witness, whose evidence could be safely relied upon.
• The reliability of Ms JH as a witness, and the picture of Ms Edmond she was able to give, resulted in the Panel concluding at the completion of her evidence that it was neither necessary nor proportionate to call for the production of the appeal document Ms Edmond had submitted in the context of her appeal against dismissal.
• So far as the hearsay evidence relied upon by the HCPC is concerned, the Panel concluded that it could be accepted as the essential elements of it had been shared with Ms Edmond in supervision sessions during her employment.  No significant areas of factual dispute had been identified when the relevant matters had been discussed.
• In summary, the Panel concluded that it could safely rely on the evidence tendered by the HCPC in reaching its decisions on the facts.


8. The Panel has approached its decision on the facts on the basis that each and every relevant aspect of the facts is to be proved by the HCPC against Ms Edmond, the standard of that burden being the civil standard of the balance of probabilities.  The Panel has also proceeded on the basis that no adverse inference is to be drawn against Ms Edmond as a result of her absence from this hearing.


9. Particular 1.  In relation to these allegations of late attendance on the part of Ms Edmond for appointments she had scheduled with Foster Carers, the Panel has been provided with evidence from a number of sources.  The Team Diary was exhibited.  The Panel has been provided with the evidence obtained by a member of the Team’s administrative staff, Ms KG, who undertook monitoring of Social Worker’s appointments.  It has also seen a copy of letter dated 30 June 2013 written by Foster Carer C, as well as notes of conversations been Ms JH and Foster Carers.  The Panel is satisfied that this evidence forms a sound basis for making the following decisions:
• Particular 1(a)(i).  The meeting with Foster Carers I and J was scheduled for 10:30am on 12 December 2012, but Ms Edmond arrived at 12:30pm.
• Particular 1(a)(ii).  The meeting was arranged for 10:30am on 24 April 2013, but Ms Edmond arrived after 12:00noon.
• Particular 1(a)(iii).  Again, the meeting was arranged for 10:30am on 24 April 2013, but Ms Edmond arrived after 12:00noon.
• Particular 1(b)(i).  This appointment with Foster Carer C on 01 May 2013 was arranged for 4:30pm, but Ms Edmond contacted the Foster Carer by telephone at 5:45pm to say she was just leaving the office.  The Foster Carer told her that her visit would be too late, and as a result the appointment was re-scheduled for 08 May 2013.
• Particular 1(b)(ii).  This was the appointment re-scheduled from 1 May 2013 and was again made for 4:30pm.  Ms Edmond arrived late.
• Particular 1(c)(i).  This appointment with Foster Carers D and E was made for 10:30am on 09 September 2013.  When Ms KG of the Team telephoned the Foster Carers at 11:30am in order to speak to Ms Edmond, she had not arrived, eventually turning up at approximately 11:50am.
• The Panel is satisfied that each element of lateness alleged by this particular has been proved to the required standard.


10. Particular 2.  In relation to this particular, which is concerned with allegations of failure to complete statutory/carer reviews within agreed timeframes, the Panel has received and accepted the evidence of Ms JH, the records of discussions during performance review meetings and the reports themselves.  On the basis of this evidence the Panel makes the following findings:
• Particular 2(a).  For Case B the report was due by 16 December 2012, but was not signed off by Ms Edmond until 15 April 2013 (and signed off by the Foster Carer the following day).
• Particular 2(b).  The report for Case S was due by 15 February 2013.   The original draft was completed by Ms Edmond on 01 June 2013, but it required amendment, and that was not signed off by her until 22 August 2013.
• Particular 2(c).  For Case A the report was due on 18 July 2012.  Ms Edmond did not complete it until 10 June 2013, and it was not signed off by the Foster Carer until 24 June 2013, and by the manager until two days later.
• Particular 2(d).  The report for Case N was due on 05 January 2013.  Ms Edmond did not sign it off until 15 July 2013 (and it was signed off by the Foster Carer and the manager some days after that).
• The Panel is satisfied that each element of particular 2 is proved to the required standard as these delays were significant.


11. Particular 3.  In relation to this particular the Panel has received evidence that Ms Edmond made visits to a prospective foster carer at her home during the Autumn of 2012.  In early January 2013 the applicant withdrew their application to become a foster carer, and at subsequent supervision meetings held between Ms Edmond and Ms JH on 21 January 2013 and 05 February 2013 there was discussion about notes made by Ms Edmond during the home visits to the prospective foster carer.  The Panel has been provided with copies of the notes of the supervision meetings.  The Panel finds this particular to be proved to the required standard for the following reasons:
• In the ordinary course of events it would be expected that a Social Worker in the position of Ms Edmond would make notes when interviewing a prospective foster carer.
• Brief entries had been made in the electronic recording system relating to the home visits.
• On 21 January 2013 Ms Edmond said herself that she had made notes, stating at that time that she thought she had them at home.
• On 05 February 2013 Ms Edmond said that she had shredded the notes in a tidying-up exercise, believing that it was not necessary to keep them.


12. Particular 4.  In relation to this particular, the Panel has been provided with copies of the report prepared by Ms Edmond as well as that from which the copying was allegedly undertaken.  To aid comparison of the two, the Panel was provided with a coloured copy showing the passages duplicated.  The Panel has also been provided with a copy of the report annotated by the Foster Carer highlighting the errors contained in it.


13. On the basis of this evidence the Panel is satisfied that there were substantial passages copied by Ms Edmond into the report she prepared, and that the extent of the duplication results in limb (a) of the particular being proved.  It is also satisfied that the report as presented by Ms Edmond contained inaccuracies.  It is, however, important to stress that not only were the inaccuracies contained in the report from which the copying was undertaken, but also that they were inaccurate at the time that earlier report was prepared.  It follows from this that by duplicating material Ms Edmond permitted the continuation of errors made before her involvement.


14. The Panel does not find limb (b) to have been proved against Ms Edmond by the HCPC.  Although a substantial part of the report was duplicated from the previous report, a number of those areas would not necessarily have required significant up-dating if they had been accurate in the first instance.  Further, the Panel is satisfied that Ms Edmond made and recorded her own observations about important matters, including of the development of the young person in the placement and of the Foster Carer’s competence.  For these reasons the Panel does not consider that it can properly be said that she did not record many of her own observations.


15. The consequence of these findings is that all of the facts alleged, with the exception of particular 4(b), are proved.


Decision on Grounds:
16. In considering whether Ms Edmond’s actions amounted to misconduct or lack of competence, the Panel first examined whether she had breached any of the standards set out in the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England.


17. The Panel considered that Ms Edmond’s actions breached the following provisions of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics, namely:
• Standard 1, “You must act in the best interests of service users.”
• Standard 10, “You must keep accurate records.”
• Standard 13, “You must …. make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.”


18. The Panel further considered that Ms Edmond’s actions breached the following provisions of the Standards of Proficiency:
• Standard 1.2, “… recognise the need to manage their own caseload and resources and be able to practise accordingly.”
• Standard 2.2, “…. understand the need to promote the best interests of service users and carers at all times.”
• Standard 2.9, “… recognise the power dynamics in relationships with service users and carers and be able to manage those dynamics appropriately.”
• Standard 8.11, “… be able to prepare and present formal reports in line with applicable protocols and guidelines.”
• Standard 9.1, “… understand the need to build and sustain professional relationships with service users, carers and colleagues as both an autonomous practitioner and collaboratively with others.”
• Standard 10.2, “… recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines.”
• Standard 12.1, “… be able to use supervision to support and enhance the quality of their social work practice.”


19. In the Panel’s opinion, Ms Edmond’s performance fell well below that which can reasonably be expected of a Social Worker.  The Panel’s findings demonstrate that Ms Edmond was incapable of working to the required standard.  The Panel decided that the case is better categorised as lack of competence rather than misconduct, for the following reasons:
• the errors in Ms Edmond’s practice were basic and fundamental;
• the errors persisted over a long period of time despite the efforts of her supportive and dedicated line manager;
• Ms Edmond’s performance was actively managed over a period several months, during which time priorities were set for her;
• appropriate training was provided (for example, a time management course in March 2013);
• Ms Edmond’s caseload was reduced to enable her to focus her attention on the effective management of a small number of cases;
• the performance management process resulted in Ms Edmond receiving a first written warning on 16 April 2013 and a final written warning on 10 June 2013;
• despite all these efforts, there was no significant improvement in Ms Edmond’s performance.


20. The Panel’s conclusion was that Ms Edmond continued to lack insight into the weaknesses in her practice.  She seemed unaware of how her inability to perform to an acceptable standard impacted negatively on colleagues and foster carers and on the reputation of both the service for which she worked and the social work profession.


21. The Panel took very careful note of the environmental and personal factors which Ms Edmond raised at the Performance Capability Hearing and her subsequent appeal.  There is no evidence to suggest that these factors explained the failings in her practice.  In particular, the personal factors were not raised with her line manager and only came to light very near the end of her employment.  There is no evidence to suggest that these issues had any bearing on her performance at work.


22. Therefore the Panel concluded that Ms Edmond’s actions amounted to lack of competence.


Decision on Impairment:
23. Having established that Ms Edmond’s actions demonstrated a lack of competence, the Panel went on to consider whether her fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of that lack of competence.  The Panel bore in mind the guidance in the HCPC’s Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”.


24. The Practice Note distils the legal principles into two components.  The first, referred to as the “personal” component, concerns the “current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant”.  The second, “public”, component concerns the “need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain confidence in the profession”.  The Panel considered each component in turn.


Personal component.
25. The Panel was given no information about Ms Edmond’s current employment status.  There is no evidence to suggest that she has worked as a Social Worker since September 2013, when she was dismissed by Hertfordshire County Council.


26. The Panel noted that Ms Edmonds had not achieved any demonstrable improvement in her performance despite the various supportive measures taken by her employer.  She lacks insight into the weaknesses in her practice and appears unwilling or unable to accept personal responsibility for her failings.


27. The Panel concluded that Ms Edmond’s lack of competence has not been remediated and, furthermore, there is little evidence to suggest that she is capable of remediation.  Consequently, there is a very high risk of Ms Edmond repeating the errors in her practice.


Public component.
28. Whilst there is no evidence that any of the children or foster carers have been caused actual harm by Ms Edmond’s lack of competence, there is potential for harm because of her failure to carry out timely reviews.  This could result in placements not being properly supervised and monitored, and a failure to identify developing problems.  As a consequence, the safeguarding of vulnerable children could be compromised and opportunities missed to provide effective support to foster carers.


29. The Panel considered that Ms Edmond’s performance fell far below what could reasonably be expect of a Social Worker.  Individual foster carers were adversely affected and had made complaints about Ms Edmond.  This impacts on the reputation of the Service and on the profession as a whole.


30. Furthermore, Ms Edmond was working with foster carers who provide a vital and challenging role in the safeguarding of vulnerable children.  Her lack of competence would cause concern amongst the public, who rightly expect consistently high standards of behaviour and proficiency to be demonstrated by those who work in this area.


31. In conclusion the Panel found that Ms Edmond’s fitness to practise is currently impaired based on both the personal and the public components.


32. It follows from these findings that the lack of competence allegation is well-founded with the consequence that the Panel must proceed to consider the issue of sanction.


Decision on Sanction:
33. Following the announcement that the lack of competence allegation is well-founded the Panel heard submissions from the Presenting Officer, Ms Lister, on the issue of sanction.  Ms Lister reminded the Panel of the proper approach to the consideration of sanction and urged the Panel to have regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document in reaching its decision.  She did not, however, urge the Panel to adopt any particular sanction.


34. The Panel has approached the matter on the basis that a sanction is not to be imposed to punish.  Rather, a sanction is only to be applied to the extent that it is required to protect the public and to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the relevant profession and in this regulatory process.  To ensure that these principles are applied it is necessary for the Panel first to decide whether the findings on the allegation require the imposition of any sanction.  If they do, then the available sanctions must be considered in an ascending order of seriousness until one is reached that provides adequate protection for the public and maintains a sufficient degree of confidence.  As the finding of the Panel in this case is one of lack of competence, the sanction range extends to, but not beyond, the making of a suspension order.


35. The Panel began its deliberations on sanction by considering the identifiable aggravating and mitigating factors.


36. The Panel considers that the aggravating factors are the following:
• the persistent and long-standing nature of the failings;
• the lack of response to substantial support and management intervention;
• the potential of risk of harm to vulnerable children and foster carers;
• the degree of inconvenience to foster carers.


37. The Panel was unable to identify any significant mitigating factors.


38. In the judgement of the Panel the identifiable risk to public safety requires the imposition of a sanction.  A Caution Order would not provide sufficient protection against that risk, nor would it be in the wider public interest.


39. The Panel has no evidence as to Ms Edmond’s current activities, and there is no evidence that she would be either willing or able to comply with conditions of practice.  Furthermore, in view of the continuing and general failings despite the close supervision that took place during the period relevant to the Panel’s enquiry, the Panel is of the view that it would not be possible to formulate conditions that would adequately manage the risk presented by Ms Edmond.  For these reasons a Conditions of Practice Order is not appropriate.


40. The result of these findings is that a Suspension Order is required.  The Panel finds that no other sanction would provide a sufficient degree of protection against the extensive and fundamental failings identified.  Furthermore, no other sanction would serve to uphold proper standards or maintain a sufficient degree of public confidence.  In the judgement of the Panel it is necessary that the Suspension Order should be for a period of 12 months.


41. In common with all such orders, the Suspension Order made today will be reviewed before it expires.  On that review the reviewing panel will consider whether a further sanction is required, and in making that decision it will have all the sanction powers available today.  The present panel acknowledges that it is customary and desirable to offer guidance to a suspended registrant as to the sort of information he or she would be well advised to present to the reviewing panel.  However, in view of the on-going fundamental failings that occurred during a period of close supervision, the Panel is unable to formulate any helpful guidance to Ms Edmond.

Order

Order:
That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Julie Ann Edmond for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal:
The Registrant may appeal to the appropriate court against the decision of the Panel and the order it has made. In this case the appropriate court is the High Court in England and Wales.


Under Articles 29 and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, an appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on the Registrant. The order made against the Registrant will not take effect until that appeal period has expired or, if they appeal during that period, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Interim Order:
The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest. This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Julie Ann Edmond

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
22/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
16/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
24/06/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended