Marie Esther Nolan

: Social worker

: SW84927

Interim Order: Imposed on 16 Jan 2014

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 09/06/2016 End: 12:30 09/06/2016

: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

 

Allegation (as amended):

During your employment as a Social Worker for Hampshire County Council you:

 

1. Failed to undertake and/or adequately record the required number of Child

Protection visits and/or statutory visits in relation to the following cases:

 

a) Family 1

b) Family 2

c) Family 3

d) Family 4

e) Family 5

f) Family 6

g) Family 7

h) Family 8

i) Family 9

j) Family 10

k) Family 11

l) Family 12

 

2. Failed to maintain adequate records in that you did not make any entries on the ICS/SWIFT system:

 

a) For more than around 3 months in relation to the following cases:

 

i. Family 7

ii. Family 8

iii. Family 11

 

b) For more than 6 months in relation to the following cases:

 

i. Family 4

ii. Family 9

 

3. Did not conduct risk assessments and/or core assessments as required in relation to the following cases:

 

a) Family 1 in relation to whether the children were safe in their parents care;

b) Family 4 in relation to an incident involving alcohol and drugs where the child was present at the address;

c) Family 5 in relation to the child returning to their parents’ care;

d) Family 10 in relation to:

 

i. The care arrangements in place;

ii. The mother’s new partner.

 

4. Failed to act on potential risk in that, in relation to Family 10, you did not:

 

a) i. Refer concerns about the mother’s drug use to the drug agency

b) ii. Follow up on an assault allegedly perpetrated by the mother on another adult at a school.

 

b) In relation to Family 12, you were made aware of an allegation of a physical assault on a child by his mother and step father but did not raise this with an appropriate manager.

 

5. You did not carry out the required case actions for Family 11 between 8

May 2012 and 8 August 2012.

 

6. Did not complete documents for court hearings in the requested timescales in that:

 

a) In relation to Family 3 you did not complete:

i. The Section 7 report by 20 February or 21 March 2012;

ii. The Addendum report by 18 May 2012.

b) In relation to Family 7 you did not complete the Interim Care Plans by 27

January 6 August 2012.

 

7. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:


Service


1. On the available documents the Panel was satisfied that proper notification of this hearing had been given which was confirmed by the Registrant’s participation.


Background:


2. The Panel does not intend to rehearse the full background to this case suffice to say that the Registrant is a registered Social Worker. She began working for Hampshire County Council (HCC) as a Family Support Worker in 2003 and in 2007 was employed in the Test Valley Children in Need Team as a full time qualified Social Worker. She had responsibility for child protection risk assessments of children aged 0 to 18, at the dates in question. The proven case relates to her management of cases allocated to her and issues with record keeping and failing to complete risk assessments and other reports.


3. It was determined by the Final Hearing panel that the facts were found proved and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired at the time by reason of her misconduct. During the course of its determination, that panel stated the facts found proved were serious in that they occurred over a significant period of time, and involved a significant number of cases and a significant number of failings in many of those cases. Moreover, the failures involved were serious matters which carried potentially serious risks for some very vulnerable service users.


At the hearing today:


4. Miss Okoruwa submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of misconduct. She further submitted that, at the very least, a Suspension Order was appropriate and necessary. Whilst the Panel has taken account of these submissions, it is not fettered by them and the decision as to whether the Registrant is impaired is a matter for this Panel exercising its own independent judgment.


5. The Registrant gave evidence. She explained that she had not had the opportunity to address the deficiencies identified by the previous panel. The Registrant relied on two principal reasons. Firstly, during the past 12 months there had been some additional care obligations as one of her two grandchildren had been unwell. This had now changed as the health situation was now well managed. Secondly, there had been financial constraints connected with the inability to work and through the lack of financial support. This had also changed due to the health situation for one of the children being managed, the availability of financial support and the fact that she had now put in place child care facilities so that she would be able, should the opportunity arise, to return to work, and in any event further training.


6. The Panel particularly noted the Registrant’s evidence that she does wish to return to practice at some point in the future. She was adamant that she would not make the past mistakes in future because she would be hyper-sensitive about those issues. She wanted to be a competent, safe and effective Social Worker. The Registrant was enthusiastic about her ability to address the deficiencies, stating that she would never put Service Users at risk again. The Registrant was confident that she could now give herself enough time and space to address her past failings.


Decision:


7. In reaching its decision, this Panel has accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and exercised the principle of proportionality. It has also had regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.


8. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s case that her personal family circumstances over the past 12 months had prevented her from focusing on the previous panel’s recommendations. The Panel found that, in very specific ways, the Registrant was in a better position to address the past deficiencies which included: her financial situation; the children were in a better situation both emotionally and behaviourally; there was other support in place and a climate had been created to enable the Registrant to consider working and learning. The Panel was impressed by the Registrant’s evidence that she had not wished to start the remedial training when she had so many other issues to contend with, namely prioritising her caring responsibilities for her grandchildren over the past 12 months. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that this amounted to a recognition by her that she could not do everything at once which was one of the past concerns. The Registrant had also taken steps, through voluntary work and arranging a regular child minder, to be in a position to start work. The Registrant’s evidence demonstrated to the Panel that she had begun to learn, reflect and develop an insight into her past failings. The Panel accepted that the Registrant may have learned from this process but she had not provided any written reflections as previously recommended. The Registrant accepted the previous Panel’s decision and she recognised the need for further training to help remedy matters.


9. In light of the available evidence, namely that adequate remedial steps had not yet been taken, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired and in the Panel’s view, the public would not be protected if the Registrant was to be permitted to return to unrestricted practice. The Panel considered that, in the absence of evidence that the Registrant has developed sufficient insight into her failings there remains a risk to the public.


10. Central to the Panel’s consideration on sanction was the public interest. The public interest includes the need to protect service users, to declare and uphold proper  standards  of  behaviour  and  to  maintain  public  confidence  in  the profession. The Panel was satisfied that the public component of the Registrant’s impaired fitness to practise had been addressed by the 12 month period of suspension.

11. The Panel first considered taking no action or mediation and rejected these outcomes as, in the circumstances, it would be wholly inappropriate and inadequate to take no further action.


12. The Panel next considered imposing a Caution Order and rejected this sanction. The Panel determined that this sanction could not meet the safeguards currently required to make the Registrant sufficiently safe to protect the public. The misconduct represents an approach that put the public at risk and undermined that trust in the Registrant, as well as the confidence in the profession that the public was entitled to have. The incidents were not isolated as there was a pattern of misbehaviour. The incidents were serious and not minor. There is insufficient evidence of complete insight. There are outstanding remedial steps. There is an unacceptable risk of repetition.


13. The  Panel  next  considered  replacing  the  current  Suspension  Order  with  a Conditions of Practice Order. The Registrant’s evidence has demonstrated that she has begun to develop insight but this is not complete. There is no evidence of relevant remediation. Also, the Panel determined that, at this time, there were no suitable, enforceable or workable conditions that could meet the level of misconduct or fully address the wider public considerations in this case. Therefore, the Panel has rejected this.


14. The Panel next considered whether to extend the existing period of Suspension.


15. The Panel is persuaded that the Registrant will engage with the process and with a future review. She has begun to develop insight and is likely to take remedial steps in the future. In such circumstances, removing the possibility of a review would be disproportionate.


16. This Panel’s expectation is that the Registrant will take the opportunity to engage with the regulatory process and provide information to a future reviewing Panel. The Panel suggests that, amongst anything else she considers relevant, that she submits:


(a) Evidence of the further development of her insight through a reflective statement focusing particularly on how she would avoid such a situation developing in the future. This should clearly demonstrate what learning has taken place and what steps she proposes to take to ensure that such shortcomings will not be repeated in the future.


(b) Evidence that she has managed to update herself on current social work policy and practice or, at least, that she has a clear and credible plan to be able to do so in a timely manner, in keeping with the HCPC Return to Practise requirements;


(c) Evidence of an improvement in her ability to master computer technology insofar as it is necessary for professional competence, or at least, a clear and credible plan to achieve such an improvement;


(d) Evidence of a realistic prospect that her time and workload management would be better in the future.


17. Furthermore, the Registrant should participate in the next review hearing to demonstrate her commitment, deal with any residual issues and to give evidence.


18. In all the circumstances, the Panel has determined that a proportionate and sufficient order to make is that the existing Suspension Order shall be extended for a further period of 12 months. This will give the Registrant the required time to further develop her insight, take remedial action and evidence the same.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Marie Esther Nolan for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing order

Notes

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 09 July 2017

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Marie Esther Nolan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
08/06/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended