Deljinder Singh Powar
Allegations (as amended at Final Hearing 20 January 2016)
Whilst practising as a registered Social Worker with Kent County Council between 2007 and September 2012:
As Team Leader in the Tunbridge and Malling DIAT;
1. In relation to Child 1, you;
a. did not identify that the core assessments undertaken on 15 April 2010 and 10 June 2010 were inadequate;
b. on 30 June 2010 endorsed a decision that Child 1 did not meet the criteria for services as a child in need and closed the case;
c. did not ensure that the individual who made a referral to the Council in relation to Child 1 was spoken to directly;
d. did not ensure that a Genogram was completed;
e. did not ensure that strategy meetings were convened and/or recorded;
f. did not ensure that information relating to the siblings of Child 1 was shared in order to that information about the risks posed to these children was identified.
2. In relation to Child 2, you;
a. did not ensure that a strategy meeting was convened following a referral received in August 2010;
b. did not ensure adequate steps were taken to safeguard Child 2 in light of concerns raised to Children’s Social Services;
c. did not ensure that strategy meeting notes were recorded.
3. In relation to Child 12, you;
a. did not ensure a strategy discussion and/or planned multi-agency response was instigated following a referral received in June 2009;
b. did not ensure that the family of Child 12 were visited in a timely manner following a referral received in June 2009;
c. did not ensure that the assessment of Child 12 and her family conducted on 14 July 2009 was recorded on the ICS System;
d. did not ensure that the outcome of the assessment conducted on 14 July 2009 was shared with the family of Child 12;
e. did not provide adequate supervision and/or management oversight of this case
4. In relation to Child 21, you;
a. did not ensure that an initial strategy meeting was held;
b. did not ensure that agency checks were completed;
c. did not ensure that a risk assessment was undertaken regarding the risks Child 20 posed to Child 21;
d. did not ensure that an assessment was undertaken of Child 21’s mother’s ability to protect her children.
5. In relation to Child 33, you;
a. did not ensure that strategy meetings were held and/or recorded;
b. did not ensure that sufficient visits were made to Child 33 before the core assessment was completed;
c. did not ensure that sufficient steps were taken to address the risk posed by an individual who had committed an offence against Child 33;
d. closed and/or allowed the case to be closed, despite insufficient action having been taken.
6. In relation to Child 48, you;
a. Did not ensure that a strategy meeting was conducted and/or recorded on ICS;
b. Closed and/or allowed the case to be closed, despite the records for Child 48 being incomplete on ICS.
During your secondment to the role of Independent Reviewing Officer;
7. Between April 2012 and September 2012;
a. you did not complete writing up the minutes, decisions and recommendations from the Looked After Child Reviews within the required time-scales; and
b. you did not ensure that you completed your backlog of:
i. section 47 cases;
ii. initial assessments;
iii. core assessments; and
iv. 74 sets of LAC review minutes which you were responsible for completing.
8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 5 constitute misconduct and / or lack of competence;
9. By reason of your misconduct and / or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.
The Panel determined that there has been sufficient notice of the hearing sent to the Registrant, beyond the 28 days required under the HCPC’s procedure rules. The HCPC’s letter, dated 06 November 2015, referred to the time, place and nature of the hearing, and was verified as having been sent by first class post on 06 November 2015. Thus, in the Panel’s judgement, there has been good service in this case.
The Panel heard the application by Mr Chalmers for the Panel to proceed in the Registrant’s absence and it accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice on this issue. The Legal Assessor drew the attention of the Panel to the factors set out in the case of R v Hayward and Jones  1 AC 1 and the more recent decision in Dr Adeogba v GMC  EWHC 3872 (Admin). The Panel noted that the factual basis of the Registrant’s case is different from Adeogba in that, here, the Registrant has engaged throughout the process (from his submission to the Investigating Committee in January 2014) and is clearly aware of the hearing dates. The notice of hearing of 6 November 2015 explains that the hearing may proceed in his absence. The Panel took into consideration the Registrant’s documentation, including the contents of his letter dated 15 January 2016 and attachments to the Panel for this hearing. The Panel also paid regard to the HCPC’s Practice Note on Proceeding in Absence and, in reaching its decision, the Panel exercised the principle of proportionality.
The Panel noted that the Registrant has expressly stated that he was not able to obtain legal or union representation due to financial and personal circumstances. He further stated that “unfortunately, I shall not be able to attend the above Hearing.” However, he also stated that he wished his written comments in his letter and attachments to be taken into consideration by the Panel with respect to the Particulars of Allegation and the case against him generally.
The Panel further noted that the Registrant has not requested any adjournment. The Panel concluded that the Registrant was aware of the hearing date, had been informed that the hearing may proceed in his absence, and that he had chosen not to attend.
The Panel considered that any prejudice to the Registrant in not being able to present his case in person can be reduced by the Panel and the Legal Assessor raising issues with the HCPC witnesses. The Registrant’s written submissions are sufficiently detailed to help Panel identify relevant issues for exploration with the HCPC witnesses. In the Panel’s view, this will protect the Registrant’s position despite his decision not to attend.
The Panel considered that this was the type of case, put at its highest, that could potentially result in a sanction at the middle to top end of sanction, if the Facts, Grounds and Impairment were all established.
Therefore, to provide further safeguards for the Registrant, the Panel considered the following should take place hereafter:
1. The HCPC should contact Mr Powar immediately with a copy of this decision;
2. At the same time, by email, the HCPC should state that, firstly, the Panel is going to consider the following 2 Stages:
(ii) The Grounds of Misconduct and/or Lack of Competence.
The Panel will then ask for the Registrant to be contacted with a copy of the Determination as to Stages 1 and 2 and invite him, if he wishes, to provide a further written submission for the next Stage (Stage 3), which will deal with current impairment. The Registrant will be given the opportunity to attend in person or by telephone, in addition to being able to provide further written submissions.
Also, if necessary, and if the process reaches that stage, the Registrant will be given an opportunity to provide a further submission (in writing, in person, and/or by telephone) on Stage 4, Sanction, taking into account the contents of the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance. The HCPC should ensure that the Registrant has a copy of the Indicative Sanctions Guidance, whether by email attachment first class post.
In reaching this decision, the Panel has sought to balance public protection and the wider public interest with the Registrant’s own interests in having a fair hearing. The Panel determined that, as the Registrant’s own interests can be protected throughout this hearing in the manner set out above, those interests are properly balanced with the wider public interest in the hearing taking place as soon as possible.
The Panel has determined that the hearing shall proceed in the absence of the Registrant, subject to the arrangements above being put in place.
The Panel noted the Mr Chalmers’ application to amend the Particulars of Allegation. It accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice.
The Panel concluded that there would be no prejudice to the Registrant in allowing the amendments sought by the HCPC. They related to four instances of typographical errors and one instance relating to the form of the Particular of Allegation.
In the Panel’s judgement, the changes should be made to reflect the true nature of the case and this could effected without altering the nature of the allegation.
Thus, the Panel determined that the amendments are allowed.
The Panel noted the Mr Chalmers’ application for the hearing to go into private session, if matters refer to the private and family life of the Registrant. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. In reaching its decision, the Panel paid regard to Rule 10(1)(a) of the HCPC’s procedural Rules, which states that all hearings should be in public except where the private and family life of the Registrant (and others) was likely to be breached, when hearing s should then be in private session.
The Panel concluded that, were there was a risk that any of the Registrant’s private or family life might be revealed in the hearing, it would be fair and proportionate to allow the hearing to go into private session at that time and this could be done on the basis of the need for that from time to time, if necessary.
Therefore, the HCPC’s application for potential parts of the hearing to go into private session was granted.
The Registrant commenced employment with Kent County Council (the Council) on 1 October 1998 as a Social Worker in the Private Fostering Team. He subsequently transferred to the Tonbridge and Malling locality. From 2001 to 2002, the Registrant was seconded to the Legal and Secretarial Directorate as a Policy Overview Officer. In 2002, the Registrant returned to Tonbridge and Malling as a Social Worker. The Registrant then moved to a Senior Practitioner role, followed by a Practice Supervisor role. In 2007, the Registrant was promoted to the role of Team Leader in the Duty Intervention and Assessment Team (DIAT) for the Tonbridge and Malling district. In 2009, after a Council reorganisation, the Tonbridge and Malling district was merged with the Tunbridge Wells district, and the Registrant was responsible for both areas until summer 2010, when the two districts were de-merged. The Registrant continued in post as a Team Leader until April 2012.
On 2 April 2012, the Registrant was seconded to an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) post with the Independent Reviewing Service until 3 September 2012. The secondment was made following concerns raised about the Registrant’s performance as a Team Leader. The Registrant was told that, if further concerns were raised during the period of his secondment, or following his return to the role of Team Leader, formal action would be taken under the Council’s capability procedures. During the secondment, concerns were raised in relation to the Registrant’s failure to write up recommendations, decisions and minutes of Looked After Children Reviews.
On 30 October 2012, PN, a Service Manager with the Council, was commissioned by the Council to undertake an investigation in respect of the Registrant. Her investigation initially focused on concerns raised during the Registrant’s secondment to the role of IRO, but also looked into the Registrant’s performance as a Team Leader prior to his secondment.
The Registrant returned to a Team Leader post on 3 September 2012 in the Family Support Team for Tonbridge and Malling. From 27 September, he took annual leave until 8 October. He then went on sick leave after this time. As part of the investigation process, the Registrant was suspended by the Council on 5 November 2012. Following the completion of the disciplinary proceedings, the Council reported the Registrant to the HCPC.
The HCPC’s Allegation against the Registrant is based around the concerns raised about his performance as a Team Leader and IRO. It is alleged that, as Team Leader, he did not personally to take appropriate action or did not ensure appropriate action was taken within his team, in relation a number of children. These concerns give rise to particulars 1-6 in the Allegation. It is further alleged that, during his secondment to the IRO role, he did not write up recommendations and reports and did not address a developing backlog of cases. These concerns give rise to particular 7. The HCPC asserts that the Registrant’s actions amount to misconduct and/or a lack of competence and that his fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.
The Panel heard from the following HCPC witnesses:
PN - at the relevant time, Interim Integrated Service Manager for the Maidstone district of the Council. She carried out the investigation into the Registrant’s performance in October 2012;
JL - at the relevant time, a Performance and Standards Officer based in the Safeguarding Unit of the Council and overseeing the DIAT Performance Improvement Programme after an Ofsted inspection in November 2010. She worked with the Registrant and his team from 25 July to 19 August 2011. She comments on his general performance and specifically on cases involving Child 1, Child 2 and Child 21;
JD - at the relevant time from February 2011 to September 2013, a Performance and Standards Officer in the Safeguarding Unit of the Council, responsible for completing internal management reports on Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). She carried out a review following the death of Child 12, a child who had been the responsibility of the Registrant’s team at various times. She also carried out case audits involving Child 33 and Child 48. JD had, prior to February 2011, been a Team Leader in Ashford, Kent;
TS - at the relevant time, an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Team Leader for West Kent and the Registrant’s supervisor in his IRO role from 2 April 2012 until September 2012;
MT - at the relevant time, a District Manager with the Council and, from 3 January 2011 until approximately the end of March 2012, the Registrant’s Supervisor and Line Manager.
The Panel read and considered the statements of those five witnesses and a bundle of exhibits, comprising 920 pages. The Panel also took careful note of the written submissions made by the Registrant to the Investigating Committee on 5 January 2014 and to the Panel dated 15 January 2016. Whilst the Registrant did not make any individual comments on each particular of the Allegation, he provided background to the case. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not expressly admit or deny any particulars, and, therefore, in fairness to him, the Panel has treated all the particulars as being not accepted and has formed its own judgement on all the facts, from all the evidence, both written and oral.
Mr Chalmers, on behalf of the HCPC, provided the Panel with written and oral opening submissions. At the conclusion of the evidence, Mr Chalmers made closing submissions in which he summarised the key evidential points and, in doing so, fairly identified the weaknesses in certain of the particulars in the Allegation. Mr Chalmers also addressed the Panel on the statutory grounds, namely whether the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct and/or a lack of competence.
In reaching its decisions on the facts, the Panel applied the civil standard of proof and reminded itself of the burden of proof, that the HCPC must prove the facts on the balance of probabilities; it is not for the Registrant to disprove the facts. However, it has been helpful for the Panel to have the Registrant’s comments to put matters into context. The Panel approached each particular of the Allegation individually. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice on the Facts stage.
In reaching its decisions on the Grounds, the Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it exercised the principle of proportionality at all times. It paid regard to the relevant Standards in operation at the time, being the GSCC’s ‘Codes of Practice For Social Care Workers’ (the GSCC Codes).
Decision on Facts
The Panel formed the view that, generally, the HCPC witnesses gave balanced, fair, unbiased and consistent evidence. Some witnesses had a longer length of service with the Council, some had closer contact with the Registrant on a day to day basis (for example, MT in 2011 and TS, the Registrant’s direct Line Manager in his IRO role) but the Panel took all these factors into account when assessing the HCPC witnesses’ evidence.
The Panel also noted that PN’s more positive view of the computerised Integrated Childrens System (ICS) used by the Council was different from MT’s more critical view of it. The Panel noted the Registrant’s comment in his submission letter for this hearing about part of Ofsted’s finding with regard to the ICS. The Ofsted Report stated as follows: “The ICS system is recognised as being ineffective in supporting the business processes of the organisation”, with a recommendation that the ICS system used by the Council should be reviewed for its effectiveness and value for money.
The Panel also took into account that from 2009 to summer 2010 the Registrant had been responsible for two districts, rather than just his normal one. From around June 2010, the Registrant did not have a Principal Social Worker (PSW) as his deputy for a period of some months.
In the light of these general observations, the Panel made the following decisions on the particulars of the Allegation.
This particular concerned Child 1, a 16 year-old girl who was in a relationship with a 41 year-old registered sex offender and was pregnant with his child. The allocated Social Worker was a member of the Registrant’s team. Two core assessments were carried out, on 15 April and 10 June 2010, in relation to Child 1. Concerns were also raised about the living environment of Child 1 and her siblings, Child 2 and Child 3. Their brother, who had been convicted of a sexual assault on Child 2, had recently moved back to live with the family.
1a) - Proved
The Panel was provided with the two core assessments and accepted the evidence of JL regarding their content. In the Panel’s view, the assessments were inadequate because they failed to address the risk to Child 1 with regard to her relationship with her 41 year-old partner. There was no evidence that either assessment had been signed off by a manager. The Panel was told by JL that either the Registrant, as Team Leader, or his PSW could sign off assessments. There was no evidence to show that the Registrant was directly responsible for signing off the assessments. However, the Registrant chaired the Child in Need meeting on 30 June 2010 where the decision was taken to close Child 1’s case. The conclusion at that meeting, to the effect that Child 1 did not meet the criteria for services as a child in need, was based on the inadequate core assessments. Whether or not he had had previously seen the core assessments, the Registrant had an opportunity at the meeting to challenge the quality of the assessments but he failed to do so. Therefore, the Panel found this particular proved.
1b) - Proved
As stated above in relation to particular 1a, the decision that Child 1 did not meet the criteria was taken at the meeting chaired by the Registrant on 30 June 2010. The minutes of that meeting were in the bundle of exhibits provided to the Panel. Therefore this particular was found proved.
1c) - Not Proved
The evidence before the Panel established that, on 8 March 2010, a person known to the Council reported concerns about Child 2 and Child 3 being the subjects of neglect, together with other concerns about the inappropriate living environment impacting on other children in the family, including Child 1. The Panel took into consideration that the referrer was spoken to by a Social Worker at the time of the referral, as was apparent from the case file; that a detailed note was made of that contact discussion on the case file; and that the children’s father was then spoken to about the referral. Furthermore, the Panel noted that the Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures (the Procedures) did not provide a mandatory requirement for a follow-up discussion with a referrer. The Panel considered JL’s evidence on this point, that this would have been an opportunity to clarify what the referrer had said as against the father’s response, but the Panel took the view that this was a matter of professional judgement for the individual Social Worker. It could be said that such a conversation might have risked compromising the confidentiality of the information obtained from the father. In conclusion, the Panel found that the referrer had been spoken to directly by the Social Worker who took the referral, and the Panel was not persuaded that further discussion with the referrer was in fact necessary or appropriate. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
1d) - Not Proved
The Panel noted that the Procedures did not specify any mandatory requirement for a Genogram to be completed. In the Panel’s opinion, the Genogram was a tool at the disposal of practitioners and whether the Social Worker chose to use it or not was a matter of professional judgement. Information about the inter-relationship between the various family members and others was available from the case files. The preparation of a Genogram may well have been helpful, but the Registrant should not be criticised because one was not prepared. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
1e) - Not Proved as to not convening; Proved as to not recording
The Panel noted from JL’s Management Review Report of 7 February 2011 that a strategy meeting had taken place on 15 March 2010, which was chaired by the Registrant’s deputy, DG. There were discussions at that meeting with the Police and this was confirmed by the Social Worker and the Registrant. Furthermore, there was an outcome strategy meeting on 29 April 2010, which is referred to in the core assessment of 10 June 2010 and the closure record of 5 July 2010. Therefore, the Panel concluded that strategy meetings were convened.
There was no evidence that the meetings were recorded in the ICS or elsewhere. The responsibility for updating ICS with the minutes of the meetings lay initially with DG as he chaired the strategy meetings. However, the Registrant was responsible for supervising DG and so the Panel concluded that he had not ensured that DG had recorded the strategy meetings. Therefore this particular was found proved in relation only to the “not recording” element.
1f) - Not Proved
Particular 1f is linked with particular 2. It is based on the evidence of JL. In her witness statement, she identified seven referrals about the family of Children 1, 2 and 3 between June and August 2010 which were made to Social Services and were not apparently actioned properly within the DIAT. However, in her oral evidence, JL explained that she now accepted that six of those referrals were in fact made to the Children and Families Team. This is a separate team within Children’s Services, for which the Registrant had no management responsibility. Child 2’s case had been transferred from the DIAT to the Children and Families Team on 30 June 2010.
The one referral which was made to the DIAT was on 6 August 2010. It was made by a General Practitioner. Child 2, who was 12 at the time, had attended the surgery and told the GP that she was pregnant and that she had bleeding of unknown aetiology. She had bruising around her neck. The GP contacted the DIAT in the light of this consultation.
The Panel noted that the referral by the GP was fully recorded on Child 2’s case file. Although more should have been done within the DIAT following the GP’s referral (for example, by way of holding a strategy meeting – see particular 2a below) the Panel concluded that the HCPC has not provided sufficient evidence to establish that the information was not shared. The case was not the ultimate responsibility of the Registrant’s Team, the information was entered into the ICS system and the information concerned only one and not seven referrals relating to this family. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
As explained above in relation to particular 1f, particular 2 was originally put on the basis of seven referrals. In making its findings, the Panel only considered the GP referral of 6 August 2010.
2a) - Proved
The Panel accepted JL’s evidence that there should have been a strategy meeting after the 6 August 2010 referral to DIAT in relation to Child 2, even though the case was not ultimately the Registrant’s team’s responsibility. JL stated, and it was accepted by the Panel, that such a referral would have necessarily invoked concerns about safeguarding Child 2, and this would have been clear from the referral. The Panel was provided with the case notes for Child 2 up to 13 August 2010 and there was no evidence of any strategy meeting being convened up to that date. If a meeting was to be held, it should have been as soon as possible after the referral. The case notes do identify action being taken within the DIAT immediately after the referral; contact was made with the father of the family. The Panel considered it more likely than not that reference would have been made to a strategy meeting in the case notes if one had been convened. The Panel also noted that, when a strategy meeting was recorded to have taken place on 20 October 2010, there was no reference to any previous strategy meeting. Taking all these factors into consideration, the Panel found this particular proved. No strategy meeting was convened. At this time, the Registrant did not have a PSW or other deputy, and so it was his sole responsibility to ensure that appropriate actions were taken by all Social Workers in his team. In making this finding, the Panel drew a contrast between the sole responsibility carried by the Registrant in the absence of a deputy and the position in 2009 where an established deputy was in place (as explained below with regard to particular 3).
2b) - Not Proved
In his closing submissions, Mr Chalmers acknowledged the weakness of this particular in view of the fact that it now related only to the referral on 6 August 2010. The Panel agreed. Child 2’s case was not being handled within the DIAT at this time. The referral from the GP was properly recorded on ICS and would have been accessible by the Children and Families Team. Other than holding a strategy meeting (which is dealt with under particular 2a) there was no evidence adduced of any other steps which the DIAT should have taken. Therefore this particular is not proved.
2c) - Not Proved
The only occasion when a strategy meeting would have been appropriate was after the referral by the GP on 6 August 2010 and no such meeting was held. As there was no meeting to record, it would be duplicitous to find the Registrant culpable for a separate failure to make a record of a meeting which did not take place. The mischief is covered in particular 2a. Therefore, the Panel found this particular not proved.
Whilst the Panel considered each part of particular 3 separately, there were certain factors which underpinned the Panel’s deliberations. These related to the extent of the Registrant’s personal responsibility for the work of his team.
The Panel noted that some HCPC evidence appeared to suggest that the Team Leader had total and ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the team’s work. The Panel sought an understanding of where responsibility in fact lay, as regards the individual team member, the deputy, the Team Leader and indeed those higher in the management chain; if it could properly be said that the Team Leader had total responsibility, why would the same not apply to the District Manager and above?
In order to effect this analysis, the Panel started with the Registrant’s job description. This required the Registrant, amongst other duties, “to monitor professional standards within the team in liaison with senior practitioners, Principal Social Workers and the Training and Development Team to ensure compliance with all policies and that procedures and Performance Assessment Framework indicators and other agreed targets are met.” This envisages some sharing of responsibility.
The Panel also considered documentation from the Serious Case Review which followed Child 12’s death. In the Registrant’s interview for the Serious Case Review on 11 April 2012, the following reference to the Registrant’s role at the relevant time is recorded: “Deljinder was the Team Leader. He did not supervise any of the social workers directly involved in the case.” The Registrant is recorded as saying: “DG was the PSW in the team and oversaw this case… [Deljinder] did not supervise the social worker involved.” These comments from the Registrant’s interview appear to have been accepted in the Management Review Report dated 20 April 2012, prepared by JD for the Serious Case Review Overview Panel. JD stated as follows: “At the time, he [the Registrant] was responsible for managing two teams across two sites with a PSW in each site taking responsibility for initial decision-making.”
Part of JD’s evidence referred to there having been no record of any supervision carried out between the Registrant and the Social Worker allocated to Child 12. However, JD also stated that whilst the Registrant was the responsible manager at the time, he had been supported by several different PSWs and various social workers, and, as such, “it is not possible to attribute full responsibility to him for the concerns in relation to this case.”
In the Panel’s judgement, the evidence of JD with respect to the extent of the Registrant’s responsibility at that time is supported by the other evidence set out above. With those general observations in mind, the Panel turned its attention to the specific allegations set out in particular 3.
3a, 3b, 3c, and 3d - Not Proved
The Panel concluded that the HCPC had not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it fell to the Registrant to ensure all the matters alleged in particulars 3a-d were undertaken; on the contrary, the Panel has identified several clear and express examples that show that the Registrant did not have the responsibilities alleged in relation to Child 12. He had an established deputy who was supervising the allocated Social Worker.
The HCPC evidence left the Panel in considerable doubt as to the nature of the inter-relationship between the team leader and the team leader’s deputy within the Council. As a consequence, the Panel did not consider that the HCPC had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the extent of the Registrant’s responsibility for the case of Child 12 as reflected in particulars 3a to 3d. In the Panel’s view, it was too simplistic to assert that it was the Registrant’s responsibility in the light of the analysis the Panel carried out. The Registrant may have carried overall accountability, but this is not the same as a personal responsibility to ensure that actions were taken. Therefore, the Panel found these particulars not proved.
3e - Not Proved
The Panel considered particular 3e in a slightly wider context, including the extent to which the Registrant carried out effective supervision and oversight of DG, the Principal Social Worker who was supervising the allocated Social Worker in Child 12’s case. Whilst the evidence suggests general concerns about the level of supervision carried out by the Registrant, there is no evidence that he was failing to supervise DG during the period covered by particular 3. For this reason, the Panel found particular 3e not proved.
This particular related to a referral made by the police on 24 September 2011 relating to Child 21. Concerns were about her brother, Child 20, who had a criminal conviction for a sexual assault on her. He had moved back into the family home, where Child 21 and her two siblings resided.
4a) and 4b) - Proved
The Panel noted from JL’s evidence that on 24 September 2011 there had been a referral from the Police relating to Child 21, although JL was unable to provide the Panel with any documentation from the case notes relating to this referral. However, the Panel did have sight of an email dated 30 September 2011 from JL to the Registrant in which she appeared to reproduce part of the case record, together with her own commentary about the actions which she stated had not been taken within the Registrant’s team. Furthermore, the Panel had other documents from around the same time, which indicated two similar referrals about this family and which had been received on 18 August 2011 from a Health Visitor and on 11 September 2011 from the father of Child 21.
Based on these documents, the Panel considered that the team was carrying out various actions in relation to Child 21 and her siblings and had commenced a Core Assessment on 23 August 2011, which was completed on 19 October 2011.
From JL’s email, it was clear to the Panel that the Registrant had intended to carry out an initial Strategy Meeting and to complete agency checks following the Police referral on 24 September 2011, but he had not done so. Therefore the Panel found particulars 4a and 4b proved.
4c) and 4d) - Not Proved
In the Panel’s opinion, the Risk Assessment and the assessment of Child 21’s mother’s ability to protect her children were subsumed into the Core Assessment, which was carried out under the knowledge and supervision of the Registrant. It was clear to the Panel that the Core Assessment demonstrated that a Risk Assessment had been done, and also that the Core Assessment recognised the positive safeguarding steps that had been taken immediately by Child 21’s mother (she had reported the initial sexual assault at the time to the Police) and subsequently. The Panel further noted that the Core Assessment recommended that more work was required to be carried out in view of Child 20’s return to the family home, but there was no evidence to state whether or not that had taken place. The Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the HCPC case had been proved in relation to particulars 4c and 4d. Therefore the Panel found those particulars not proved.
This particular was based on a referral received on 31 August 2011 from a sexual health clinic. It concerned Child 33, a 12-year old girl who had had sex with a 16-year old boy. She attended the clinic with her mother.
5a) - Not Proved
The Panel considered that there was clear evidence from the HCPC documentation that a strategy meeting had taken place on 1 September 2011, chaired by the Registrant and attended by the allocated Social Worker, a healthcare representative and a Police Officer. There is some uncertainty as to when that was recorded on the ICS. The Panel concluded that it may have been recorded on the ICS on 17 January 2012, as the Registrant and MT had discussed doing so during a supervision session on 12 January 2012. However, other documentation indicates that, equally, it could have been minuted on or about 1 September 2011 and not uploaded onto ICS at the time in the correct format. The Panel took into account the criticisms by Ofsted about the quality of the ICS. Moreover, the HCPC produced no evidence as to how the system should have worked with respect to the entry of such material. Thus, the Panel concluded that the evidence was inconclusive and inconsistent and, in any event, the particular does not allege a failure to record the strategy meeting timeously, merely that it was not recorded. There was no evidence adduced that further strategy meetings were required, over and above the meeting held on 1 September 2011. The Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had proved either that strategy meetings were not held, or that they were not recorded, and therefore this particular was not proved.
5b) - Not Proved
No evidence was adduced to establish that there was either a legal or a policy requirement for the Registrant and others to ensure that more than one visit was made to Child 33. The Panel noted that guidance following the Ofsted report suggested that there should be sufficient visits to establish trust with a child and the family. In this case, the Registrant and the Police had visited the child and her family on 1 September 2011. The Police were satisfied that there was sufficient information to decide not to pursue any criminal investigation and the outcome of that visit had been written up by the Registrant in detail in his Core Assessment of the child’s case dated 29 October 2011. There was insufficient evidence to prove that any further visit was required. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
5c) - Not Proved
At the meeting held on 1 September 2011, involving the Registrant, a police officer, Child 33 and her mother, Child 33 she refused to identify the boy concerned. The Police decided not to take any further action. There had been sufficient information to carry out and complete the core assessment. The Panel determined that, from the evidence, there were no other steps identified as being necessary or appropriate to address the alleged risk posed by the boy to Child 33. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
5d) - Not Proved
For the reasons stated above, the Panel did not consider that the Registrant’s actions were insufficient. The Panel identified a clear difference of professional judgement between JD on one side and MT and the Registrant on the other side, as to whether closing Child 33’s case was premature. JD considered it to be premature but both the Registrant and MT took the opposite view. At its highest, this particular was based on the professional view of JD. The Panel saw no reason to prefer that over the equally valid professional views of the Registrant and MT. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
This particular concerned a referral on 7 September 2011 by Child 48’s school involving a possible disclosure of a sexual assault on her sibling of Child 48.
6a) - Not Proved
A strategy meeting was held to consider the referral on 8 September 2011, chaired by the Registrant and attended by the allocated Social Worker, the referrer from the school, a representative from the Council and the Police. As with particular 5a above, there was some uncertainty about when the recorded minutes were entered onto the ICS system or whether they were entered in the correct format. However, the Panel was not satisfied that the HCPC had discharged the burden of proof; on the face of the documentation, a meeting was held and it was recorded, apparently on ICS. In the bundle of documentation the Panel noted that there was a copy of the record of the strategy meeting from the ICS, although no evidence was adduced to establish when the record of the strategy meeting was actually made. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
6b) - Not Proved
In the Panel’s opinion, the evidence presented by the HCPC demonstrated that the records relating to Child 48 were not incomplete. There appeared to be a record of the referral, the strategy meeting, a core assessment and a record of the outcome of the Section 47 enquiries. This concluded that the concerns raised had not been substantiated, that comments made had been misinterpreted and that there was nothing to indicate that there had been abuse. No Interim Child Protection Plan had been deemed necessary. Whilst there may have been some uncertainty as to when the strategy meeting from 8 September had been put onto ICS (as outlined above), there was nonetheless ample documentation and information about the events to make the situation clear, should there be any future referral about Child 48 or her family. Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.
7a) - Proved
The Panel noted that the Registrant suggested his induction to the IRO role was inadequate. However, on 1 May 2012, in an email to TS, he stated as follows: “Having worked in the districts I am fully aware of the importance of reviews and maintaining time scales.” He confirmed this in a supervision session on 24 May 2012.
The evidence demonstrated that the Council’s timescales required recommendations to be completed within 5 days of a meeting and the full report to be completed within 15 days. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was fully aware of these requirements.
The evidence showed that by 24 May 2012, the Registrant already had at least 21 cases outstanding. He volunteered an action plan at that supervision session that would result in him clearing that backlog by 15 June 2012.
However, by his next supervision session on 6 July 2012, the Registrant’s backlog of cases had risen to 74.
The Panel noted that, during his secondment as an IRO, according to the analysis of his electronic diary carried out by PN, he would have had 5 days available to write up case records in April; 8 days available in May; 7.5 days available in June 2012; 7.5 days available in July; and 10 days available in August. The Registrant continued to chair new Looked After Children meetings until 13 August 2012.
It was clear to the Panel from the evidence that, despite ample opportunities and time being afforded to the Registrant, he did not complete writing up the minutes, decisions and recommendations from the Looked After Child Reviews within the required timescales. Therefore the Panel found this particular proved.
7b) i, ii, and iii - Not Proved
It was confirmed by PN and TS during their oral evidence that Section 47 cases, initial assessments and core assessments did not form any part of the IRO’s role. There was no expectation that the Registrant would carry with him into that role any of the work from his time as a Team Leader. The intention was for him to have what was described as a ‘clean break’. In his closing submissions, Mr Chalmers suggested that these particulars were not substantiated by the evidence. The Panel agreed. These particulars were not proved as there was no requirement on the Registrant to undertake this work during his secondment.
7b iv - Proved
The Panel noted that in an email to TS on 19 September 2012, the Registrant informed her that he had 13 reports left to proof read and a further 18 reports to write up. However, by 11 December 2012, when TS was interviewed by PN for the internal investigation, TS told PN that she had had to annotate 6 to 8 files in her own name to indicate that the minutes were not available. Moreover, on 26 February 2013, PN, in her Management Report stated that there had been 33 sets of review minutes outstanding at that time.
The Panel concluded that the evidence clearly pointed to the Registrant, by the end of his period of secondment on 3 September 2012, having not completed the backlog of 74 sets of review minutes which had accrued. Therefore the Panel found this particular proved.
Decision on Grounds
Having found particulars 1a, 1b, 1e, 2a, 4a, 4b, 7a and 7b iv proved, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s conduct amounted to misconduct and/or demonstrated a lack of competence. The particulars which were found not proved did not form any part of the Panel’s consideration at this next stage.
Mr Chalmers invited the Panel to consider the extent and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct. He referred the Panel to the GSCC Codes, which set the standards that social care workers were obliged to follow at the time. Mr Chalmers drew the Panel’s attention in particular to standards 3 and 6, which provided that social care workers must:
3. Promote the independence of service users while protecting them as far as possible from danger or harm;
6. Be accountable for the quality of their work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving their knowledge and skills.”
Mr Chalmers said that protecting service users was at the heart of the Registrant’s work and that he had committed wide and repeated failures which led to a significant potential of serious harm to vulnerable children. He pointed out that the Registrant was an experienced Social Worker who would have been well aware of the expectations of him in his roles. Mr Chalmers acknowledged the points made by the Registrant in his written submissions regarding the difficult working environment and the personal pressures which the Registrant was facing, but he pointed out that the Registrant should have ensured that these factors did not prevent him from working to the required standard and that he had the opportunity to seek help from his managers.
The Registrant, in his written submissions, explained that his working environment was challenging due to the limited experience within his team, the inconsistent provision of a deputy who was able to carry out that role effectively, and changing District Managers who did not always provide him with the level of support he required. He also made reference to his personal difficulties at the time. The Panel took these factors into account, although with regard to the Registrant’s personal difficulties the Panel noted that he consistently denied, at the time, that these were having an impact on his performance. Furthermore, paragraph 6.4 of the GSCC Codes states that a practitioner must “seek 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.”
The Panel considered first whether the Registrant’s actions in relation to any of the proven facts amounted to misconduct. The Panel bore in mind the explanation of that term given by the Privy Council in the case of Roylance v GMC (No.2)  1 AC 311 where it was said that: “misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a [medical] practitioner in the particular circumstances.” The Panel considered the GSCC Codes and it accepted the advice received from the Legal Assessor.
The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions during his period of secondment as an IRO were particularly serious. In that role, the Registrant was overseeing the provision of care services to a large number of vulnerable children. He was, in the words of TS, the ‘mouthpiece’ for the children. Despite his awareness of the timescales and the importance of the reports for which he was responsible, he quickly caused a backlog to develop. When this backlog was discussed during supervision, he agreed to deal with his outstanding reports within a short period of time but then failed to act in accordance with this agreement. In fact, the backlog rapidly increased.
In the Panel’s view, these actions not only exposed vulnerable service users to the risk that their care provision was not properly reviewed but demonstrated an unacceptable lack of professionalism to the extent that the reputation of his employer and the social work profession was adversely affected. The Panel agreed with Mr Chalmers that the Registrant had breached standards 3 and 6 of the GSCC Codes. In addition, the Panel also considered that the Registrant had breached standard 5, which required social care workers to “uphold public trust and confidence in social care services”. These were repeated and serious breaches of the required standards. The Panel concluded that, with regard to particular 7 of the allegation, the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct.
The Panel did not consider that the Registrant’s actions during his time as a Team Leader of the DIAT amounted to misconduct or demonstrated a lack of competence. It could be said that his actions were indicative of poor performance, which rightly attracted the scrutiny and criticism of his employer. The facts proved in particulars 1a and 1b were potentially serious in that they resulted in Child 1’s case being closed prematurely. The Panel regarded the other findings as being of a less serious nature, in view of the lower risk of harm. But even the more serious failings must be seen in context. There do appear to have been legitimate concerns about certain aspects of the Registrant’s management of his team with regard to supervision, recording and throughput of work. These general concerns do not form part of the allegation against him, although it would have been open to the HCPC to make such allegations. The Registrant faces very precise allegations about his handling of certain cases, and the Panel has found the large majority of the particulars not proved. The proven facts do not, in the Panel’s view, represent systematic failings. They suggest a Team Leader who was struggling to manage effectively in a difficult environment. Particulars 1a and 1b should be seen as mistakes when set against that background. Mistakes can occur in professional practice for many reasons and these errors do not, in the Panel’s view, amount to misconduct or demonstrate a lack of competence by the Registrant.
Decision on Impairment
Having found misconduct in relation to particulars 7a and 7b iv, the Panel went on to consider whether, by reason of that misconduct, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. In accordance with its earlier determination regarding proceeding in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel asked the Hearings Officer to provide the Registrant with a copy of the decision on Facts and Statutory Grounds. This was to enable the Registrant to make further representations on the issue of impairment, should he wish to do so. The Panel initially gave the Registrant two hours (ie. from 3pm until 5pm) to provide his submissions.
The Registrant indicated, by a response at 4.34pm that he wished to make representations but would like to have a longer period of time, until 8am the following morning to do so. In the circumstances, having heard from Mr Chalmers and the Legal Assessor, the Panel considered that the Registrant’s request was reasonable. He was engaging with the process and it would be proportionate to accede to his request. Therefore the Panel adjourned the hearing until 9.30am the following morning.
On resuming the hearing, the Panel was informed that the Registrant had provided further written representations. The Panel heard from Mr Chalmers. He submitted that the Registrant’s misconduct was remediable and that the Registrant had indicated a number of measures which, if carried through, could avoid repetition of the misconduct. However, the Registrant had not been in paid employment since April 2013 so there was no actual evidence of remediation. The Registrant’s proposed measures had not been tested in the working environment and their effectiveness had not been assessed. Mr Chalmers submitted that, as a consequence, there remained a risk of repetition which could result in harm being caused to vulnerable service users. Mr Chalmers further submitted that a finding of current impairment was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper professional standards.
The Panel took into account all of the submissions made by the Registrant, and in particular his most recent representations received overnight. The Panel noted that the Registrant acknowledged that he had put service users at risk of harm and he apologised for letting down his profession and service users. In the Panel’s view, this was significant. In his earlier representations, the Registrant’s focus had been more on the impact of events on him personally. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s level of insight had developed during the regulatory process, and this gave the Panel confidence with regard to the Registrant’s willingness and ability to take remedial action. The Registrant also explained that his health and other domestic issues had now improved and were no longer adversely affecting him.
In reaching its decision on Impairment, the Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and paid regard to the HCPC Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’. The Panel exercised the principle of proportionality at all times, seeking to achieve an appropriate balance between the interests of the Registrant and the interest of the public.
The Panel reminded itself of the observations of Silber J in Cohen v GMC  EWHC 581 Admin and Cox J in CHRE v NMC & Grant  EWHC 927 Admin. In Cohen, Silber J made reference to “the critically important public policy issues which are: the need to protect the individual and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect…and that the public interest includes amongst other things the protection of service users and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession”. At paragraph 65, he stated: “It must be highly relevant in determining if a [doctor's] fitness to practise is impaired that first his or her conduct which led to the charge is easily remediable, second that it has been remedied and third that it is highly unlikely to be repeated.” In Grant, at paragraph 74, Cox J stated that: “In determining whether a practitioner's fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, the relevant panel should generally consider not only whether the practitioner continues to present a risk to members of the public in his or her current role, but also whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances.”
The Panel considered that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired during the period of his secondment as an IRO, as borne out by the evidence of the HCPC witnesses with respect to the substantial and increasing number of Looked After Children reviews that he had not written up. By these failings, he put vulnerable service users at potential risk of serious harm. Effective oversight of care provision was not being maintained, and other professionals involved in the provision of that care did not have access to necessary documentation to enable them to ensure the needs of the children were being met. The Panel heard that, in at least one instance, the plans for the permanent placement of a child had been compromised. The Registrant brought the profession had into disrepute by reason of his failure to recognise and address his shortcomings, despite these issues being raised through formal supervision and communications from other colleagues.
The Panel accepts that the Registrant now recognises the deficiencies in his practice. In his written submissions dated 27 January 2016, the Registrant stated: “I am aware that my practice was unacceptable and below the standard which is expected of a professional social worker”. The Panel noted the Registrant’s observations that he would act differently in the future with regard to time management, managing his own stress and seeking help when needed. However, the Panel has not been provided with any evidence at this stage to demonstrate that the Registrant has been able to carry these intentions forward into his professional practice.
For that reason, the Panel has concluded that there remains a risk to service users because the Registrant has not yet demonstrated remediation of his misconduct. In the Panel’s judgement, without remediation, there remains a high risk of repetition, especially as the Registrant would be free, if found not impaired, to take on any social work role, including that of an IRO.
In his written submissions, the Registrant stated: “I acknowledge the need to consider the deterrent effect to other registrants; the reputation of the profession; and public confidence in the regulatory process”. The Panel agrees. The Registrant’s misconduct was persistent and serious. Confidence in the Social Work profession and in the regulatory process would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.
Therefore, for these reasons, the Panel has determined that, in order to protect the public and in the wider public interest so as to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process and to declare and uphold the standards of the profession, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains, and therefore, is, impaired.
Decision on Sanction
Having found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Social Worker is currently impaired, the Panel next considered the issue of sanction. Again, for the reasons explained previously, the Panel provided the Registrant with its decision on Impairment and allowed the Registrant time to make additional representations in relation to sanction. The Registrant provided a response in which he confirmed his desire to return to practice and asked the Panel to refrain from imposing a Suspension or Striking Off Order.
The Panel heard further submissions from Mr Chalmers. He did not request the Panel to consider any particular form of sanction. He addressed the Panel on general principles, including the purpose of sanction being primarily for public protection and not punishment; the need to take account of aggravating and mitigating features; and the requirement for the Panel to exercise the principle of proportionality.
The Panel took account of the submissions made by Mr Chalmers and the Registrant, and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. In reaching its decision on Sanction, the Panel paid regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and exercised the principle of proportionality. In doing so, the Panel sought to balance the public interest (which includes the protection of the public, the maintenance of public confidence in the social work profession, and the need to declare and uphold proper professional standards) with the interests of the Registrant. The Panel reminded itself that it should impose the lowest level of sanction which was sufficient to achieve the requisite level of public protection.
The Panel identified and took into account the following aggravating and mitigating factors:
- The potential for significant harm to be caused to vulnerable service users over a 5-month period.
- The Registrant’s failure to take action to address the developing concerns regarding his work as an IRO, despite the interventions by his supervisor and other colleagues.
- The Registrant’s lack of insight during the period of his secondment as an IRO into the full risks and consequences of his actions.
- The Registrant had previously displayed good skills as a Social Worker and was said to “have a good feel for child protection issues.”
- The failure of senior managers to inform the Registrant’s new line manager in his IRO role of concerns regarding his performance as Team Leader.
- The degree of insight that the Registrant has now developed, and his understanding of the need for remediation of aspects of his practice.
- The personal and domestic problems which, with hindsight, the Registrant now recognises as having impacted on his performance and which he has indicated no longer exist.
The Panel considered taking no action, mediation or imposing a Caution Order and rejected these options. The finding of misconduct in this case reflects serious failings by the Registrant which had the potential to put vulnerable service users at considerable risk of harm. These sanctions would not provide sufficient protection to the public from the on-going risk which the Panel has identified. Furthermore, they would be insufficient to reassure the public or the profession that proper steps were being taken by the Regulator to ensure public safety.
The Panel next considered imposing a Conditions of Practice Order. It was clear to the Panel that the Registrant’s failings are remediable and that the Registrant has expressed his willingness to take appropriate action to make the necessary improvements to his practice. In the Panel’s judgment, a Conditions of Practice Order if carefully structured would adequately reflect the public protection concerns in the case because it would enable the Registrant’s work to be closely monitored until such time as he was considered suitable to return to unrestricted practice. In this way, the Panel could achieve a proper balance between the public interest and the Registrant’s own interests.
In order to ensure that it was exercising the principle of proportionality correctly, the Panel examined the appropriateness or otherwise of a Suspension Order. The Panel considered that this would be disproportionately severe and punitive. It would prevent the Registrant from practicing as a Social Worker when, in the Panel’s view, he has much to offer the profession. The necessary level of public protection can be achieved through the imposition of conditions. In addition, in the Panel’s opinion, a right-minded and well-informed member of the public or the profession would not consider it necessary to prevent the Registrant from practising.
The Panel determined that a period of 12 months would be the most appropriate and proportionate period for this sanction, as this would give the Registrant time to obtain employment and demonstrate through evidence that he had made sustained improvements in his practice. This Order must be reviewed before its expiry.
The Registrar is directed to annotate the HCPC Register to show that, for a period of 12 months from the date that this Order takes effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Mr Deljinder Singh Powar, must comply with the following conditions of practice:
1. You must not carry out any role which requires you to undertake line management or supervisory responsibility.
2. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a line manager registered by the HCPC or other appropriate statutory regulator and supply details of your line manager/supervisor to the HCPC within 14 days of the commencement of your employment. You must attend upon that supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations.
3. You must inform the HCPC within 14 days of your accepting any offer of employment, or if you cease to be employed, or if you change your employer.
4. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.
5. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:
• any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work as a social worker;
• any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and
• any prospective employer (at the time of your application).
6. You must work with your supervisor to formulate a Personal Development Plan designed to address the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:
• Time management
• Organisational skills
• Record keeping
• Managing personal stress
• Reflective practice (ie. being open with your supervisor about any difficulties you are experiencing in your practice and the measures taken to overcome those difficulties)
7. Within one month of commencing employment you must forward a copy of your Personal Development Plan to the HCPC.
8. You must meet with your supervisor on a monthly basis to consider your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.
9. You must provide a written record of your monthly supervision meetings to the HCPC every three months. The written record should be signed by you and your supervisor.
10. You must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC about your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.
11. Any condition requiring you to provide any information to the HCPC is to be met by you sending the information to the offices of the HCPC, marked for the attention of the Director of Fitness to Practise.
The Order imposed today will apply from 25 February 2016.
This order will be reviewed before its expiry on 25 February 2017.
History of Hearings for Deljinder Singh Powar
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|24/01/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Hearing has not yet been held|
|27/01/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|
|20/01/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Conditions of Practice|