Matthew Todd

: Social worker

: SW35750

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 13/09/2016 End: 17:00 16/09/2016

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Torbay Council you:

 

1. Between January 2013 and August 2014 undertook work for Devon County Council without the knowledge or consent of your manager.

 

2. Did not keep accurate records in that:

 

a. In relation to Case 1 you:

 

i. Recorded the same case notes for the visit on 18 April 2014 as the visit on 1st December 2013;

 

ii. Recorded that a visit took place on Good Friday (18 April 2014) although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;

 

iii. Recorded that a visit took place on 29 May 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;

 

iv. Recorded that a visit took place on 30 June 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day.

 

b. In relation to Case 2 you recorded that a visit took place on 3 April 2014 although you were off on sick leave.

 

c. In relation to Case 3 you:

 

i. Recorded the same case notes for the visit on 18 April 2014 as the visit on 29 January 2014;

 

ii. Recorded that a visit took place on Good Friday (18 April 2014) although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;

 

iii. Recorded that a visit took place on 2 June 2014 although the carer stated that it took place on 10 June 2014;

 

d. In relation to Case 4 you:

 

i. Recorded that a visit took place on May Day bank holiday (5 May 2014) although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;

 

ii. Recorded that a visit took place on 18 March 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;

 

e. In relation to Case 5 you:

 

i. Recorded notes for a visit on 9 June 2014 although it does not appear in the calendar and contains inaccurate information.

 

ii. Did not produce notes for a visit in the calendar on 11 July 2014.

 

f. In relation to Case 6 you recorded that a visit took place on 12 June 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day.

 

3. Between approximately December 2013 and August 2014, you did not carry out the required number of visits in relation to the Following cases:

 

a. Case 1

 

b. Case 3

 

c. Case 4

 

d. Case 6.

 

4. Your actions as set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 were dishonest

 

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

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:
Service
1. The Panel had sight of a letter dated 15 March 2016, sent to the Registrant at his registered address, giving notice of today’s hearing, and determined that service had been properly complied with in accordance with the requirements of the Health Professions Council Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).
Proceeding in absence
2. Miss Binding, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who took the Panel to the Practice Direction on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant, to Rule 11 and to the guidance given in the cases of Jones (2003) 1 AC 1 and Tait –v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34.
3. The Panel was informed that the Registrant last communicated with the HCPC when he submitted a partially completed pre-hearing questionnaire in February 2016 in which he anticipated attending the hearing. At the time that this application was considered it appeared that there had been no further communication from him since; in particular, he had not responded to the notice of hearing in March 2016 or to a letter sent by the HCPC in August 2016 regarding the non-availability of an HCPC witness or to a letter sent by the HCPC in September 2016 regarding an application to call an HCPC witness by telephone link. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had absented himself voluntarily. He had made no application to adjourn the hearing today. The Panel concluded that it was unlikely that the Registrant would attend on a future occasion if the matter were to be adjourned. The Panel noted that there was a witness ready to give evidence, and another ready to give evidence the following day, and that it was in the public interest for the matter to be heard expeditiously. The case involved serious allegations of dishonesty, dating back to 2013 – 2014, some of which relied upon the memories of witnesses. In all the circumstances, the Panel decided to proceed today in the absence of the Registrant.
4. It subsequently transpired that the Registrant had sent an email response on 12 September 2016 at 20:36pm in which he indicated that he was “content” for the witness CH to give evidence by telephone. The Panel concluded that this response did not materially affect its decision to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Admission of witness statement
5. Ms Binding applied to read the statement of witness PT. She explained that as a result of personal circumstances that were explained to the Panel the witness PT was now no longer able to attend and was in a part of the country where he could not be contacted by video or telephone link.
6. The Panel accepted the advice of the legal assessor regarding the cases of Ogbonna v Nursing and Midwifery Council [2010] EWCA Civ 1216; R (on the application of Bonhoeffer) v General Medical Council [2011] EWHC 1585 Admin 35 and Thorneycoft v NMC [2014] EWHC 1565.
7. The Panel understood that in relation to some, but not all, of the allegation, the evidence of PT formed the sole and decisive evidence against the Registrant. The Panel took note of the nature and extent of the challenge that the Registrant had made to the content of the statement; whilst he had denied acting dishonestly he had accepted that he had made errors in his recording. The Panel concluded that there was no basis upon which to conclude that PT had any reason to fabricate his evidence; to the contrary he had made some positive remarks about the Registrant. The Panel took into account the seriousness of the allegation of dishonesty and the impact that adverse findings might have upon the Registrant’s career. The Panel considered that there was a good reason why PT had not been able to attend, namely the health of a close family member. The Panel accepted that the current location of the witness meant that there were no further steps that the HCPC could have taken to secure his attendance today by means of video or telephone link, although thought had been given to this. Finally the Panel took account of the fact that the Registrant had been notified of the fact that the HCPC intended to apply to have this witness statement read, albeit this was done very recently, and to which there had, at the time the Panel considered this application, been no response. Subsequently, as referred to above the Panel was made aware of a response by the Registrant in which he stated that he was content with the application.
8. The Panel concluded that the statement was relevant and that it would be fair to allow it to be read. The Panel reserved the right to question the weight of this evidence when making its decisions of fact.
Admission of additional evidence
9. Ms Binding applied to adduce in evidence copies of the calendar referred to in sub-particular 2 (e). The Registrant had recently been notified of this application and had not sent in any objection.
10. The Panel concluded that this material would be familiar to the Registrant and that it had been referred to in interview. The Panel concluded that it was relevant and that it would be fair to allow it to be adduced in evidence.
Application to hear evidence in private
11. Witness CH, told the Panel that a health condition had prevented her from attending the hearing in person today and the Panel decided to hear that part of her evidence in private in accordance with Rule 10.
12. The papers made reference to the Registrant’s health and the health of family members, and the Panel decided that these references should also be heard in private in accordance with the same Rule.
Witnesses
13. CH, Head of Service and Investigating Officer, at Torbay Council gave evidence by telephone link. An application had been made prior to the commencement of the hearing for her evidence to be presented in this way, and had been granted.
14. SG, the Registrant’s former line manager, gave oral evidence in person
15. The witness statement of PT, the Registrant’s line manager, was read, pursuant to the decision of the Panel set out earlier in this determination.
Background:
16. On 16 January 2013 the Registrant was employed as a Social Worker by Torbay Council within the Fostering Service. 
17. On 19 March 2014 his line manager, PT, raised with him his concern that the Registrant had not recorded any supervision visits with any foster carer since December 2013. In response the Registrant claimed that he had made notes of his visits but had not yet transferred them onto the electronic recording system, Paris. He was asked to transfer them. At a subsequent supervision on 30 May 2014 he was given until the end of the day to transfer his notes, which he failed to do.
18. On 24 June 2014 Torbay Council Fostering Services was contacted by a foster carer who needed support. The Registrant was the foster carer’s social worker and was working that day, albeit not in the office. Repeated efforts were made, in line with normal procedure, to contact the Registrant about this matter but without success. The Registrant’s Outlook calendar showed that he was scheduled to be visiting two other foster carers at that time. SG telephoned those foster carers to make contact with the Registrant but was advised by those foster carers that they were not expecting any planned visits from the Registrant that day. One reported that the Registrant had made a telephone call to them earlier that day. The other foster carer reported that they had not received a visit from the Registrant in a long while.
19. On 23 July 2014 the Registrant was placed on a management plan with requirements which included the timely uploading of notes of his foster carer visits onto the Paris system. This process was superceded when it was discovered that the Registrant had been working for Devon County Council during the course of his contract with Torbay Council.
20. The investigation revealed that in addition to his full time position with Torbay Council the Registrant had worked an average of 74.5 hours per month for Devon County Council between January 2013 and June 2013, an average of 108 hours per month from July 2013 to December 2013, and an average of 123 hours per month between January 2014 and June 2014. It was alleged that in the month of February 2014 alone he had accumulated 194 hours with Devon County Council. His contractual arrangements with Torbay Council were for a full time post at 37 hours per week, equating with 148 hours in four weeks.
21. In relation to Particular 1 it was asserted that the Registrant had acted dishonestly in that he had been under a positive obligation to inform Torbay Council that he was working for Devon County Council during his contract but had deliberately concealed this. The Registrant was interviewed as part of Torbay Council’s Investigatory and Disciplinary Proceedings and accepted that he had worked for Devon County Council at the time of his contract with Torbay Council. He claimed that he had been on flexi time and that he had obtained consent from his previous line manager at Torbay Council, who he named, to work for Devon. This was investigated by CH who could find no record to that effect despite conducting an audit of the relevant documentation, including emails concerning his remuneration. His previous line manager had left the Council and was not contacted as part of its investigation.
22. In relation to Particular 2 it was asserted that the Registrant’s records were inaccurate in that he had recorded visiting foster carers on dates when in fact he could not have visited, because, for example, the visits had purportedly taken place on bank holidays, on a day when the Registrant had taken sick leave and on dates when the relevant foster carers had stated that the Registrant had not visited. The Registrant was interviewed about this as part of Torbay Council’s Investigatory and Disciplinary Proceedings and admitted that on occasion he could not have conducted the visits that he had recorded, claiming that his record keeping was sloppy and that he had made mistakes. This was not accepted by the HCPC who asserted that he had acted dishonestly in that he knew that the visits to the foster carers had not taken place and made inaccurate records to create a false impression that visits had taken place when in fact they had not.
23. It was alleged in Particular 3 that between December 2013 and August 2014 the Registrant did not carry out the required number of visits in relation to the foster carers he was responsible for supervising.
Decision on Facts:
24. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account all the evidence before it, which included the Registrant’s evidence given in the Investigatory and Disciplinary Proceedings.
25. The Panel found all the HCPC witnesses to be credible reliable and consistent. They did not appear to be prejudiced against the Registrant in that they had positive things to say about him about him. For example, the feedback from the foster carers, on the occasions when he did make contact with them, was positive.
Particular 1
‘Between January 2013 and August 2014 undertook work for Devon County Council without the knowledge or consent of your manager.’
26. The Registrant had admitted that he had worked for Devon County Council at the same time as working for Torbay Council. This was supported by the record of hours worked per month up to July 2014, provided to the Panel. It was in August 2014 that Torbay Council learnt that he was working for Devon County Council. The Panel had sight of the Registrant’s contract of employment with Torbay Council which clearly stated that in order to work elsewhere he would need the express consent of his employers. The Registrant agreed in interview that he had read his contract before signing it.
27. In his interview the Registrant claimed that he had obtained the consent to work elsewhere from a previous manager based at Torbay Council, who he named. The Panel took into account the fact that this previous manager, who had now left the Council, had not been called as a witness. However, the Panel accepted the evidence of CH that she had found no evidence during the course of the investigation to support this assertion, despite conducting a thorough search through past email correspondence concerning the Registrant’s level of remuneration.  The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s first manager had not been informed.
28. The evidence from SG and PT that they had not been made aware of the Registrant’s employment in Devon County Council was clear and compelling. SG had been the Registrant’s line manager from April 2013 to January 2014. This was a lengthy period of time, in the course of which SG had two hourly supervision meetings with the Registrant on a monthly basis, and it appeared to the Panel that SG had an open and accessible approach with the Registrant. In the course of those meetings the Registrant told SG about his family, about a new house that he had bought and about the concerns he had regarding his income, and yet he failed to mention his work with Devon County Council. PT had given written evidence that was consistent with SG. The Panel also heard evidence of the genuine surprise expressed by the Registrant’s managers when they first discovered that the Registrant was working for Devon County Council.
29. Accordingly, the Panel found this particular proved.
Particular 2:
‘Did not keep accurate records in that:
(a) In relation to Case 1 you:
i. Recorded the same case notes for the visit on 18 April 2014 as the visit on 1st December 2013’
30. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (a) (i) the Panel noted that the entry made in the case note for the visit that purportedly took place on 18 April 2014 was identical to the note that appeared on 1 December 2013. From the content of the notes it was clear that the same identical events could not have taken place in the course of both visits; for example there was reference to a new puppy and to the fact that the carers were looking forward to Christmas. The Panel also noted that 18 April 2014 was a Good Friday, which was a bank holiday, and the Panel had heard that social workers did not undertake visits to families on bank holidays. CH informed the Panel that in interview the Registrant accepted that he had duplicated these records but claimed that he had been “sloppy” with his case recording, had made a lot of mistakes and was confused about dates.
31. The Panel concluded that whilst the entry for 1 December 2013 may have been a genuine reflection of some contact between the Registrant and the foster carers, either by means of a visit to the premises or a telephone call, the note of 18 April 2014 was inaccurate in that there had been no visit on that date. The Registrant had recorded the note for 1 December 2013 on both dates.
32. Accordingly the Panel found this sub-particular proved.
‘ii. Recorded that a visit took place on Good Friday (18 April 2014) although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day
iii. Recorded that a visit took place on 29 May 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day
iv. Recorded that a visit took place on 30 June 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day’
33. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (a) (ii), 2 (a) (iii) and 2 (a) (iv) CH informed the Panel that she telephoned the foster carer relating to this case on 8 August 2014, who complained that the Registrant had not visited for the past seven or eight months or since the previous Christmas. CH was not able to provide a record of this conversation but told the Panel that she had a very clear recollection of it. The Panel bore in mind that this was hearsay evidence. The Panel noted that the conversation with the foster carer occurred before Torbay Council knew about the fact that the Registrant had been working in Devon County Council and so CH could not have felt prejudiced against the Registrant at that time in that regard. The Panel concluded that CH would have no reason to fabricate this conversation. Further, the Panel concluded there was little room for error on the part of the foster carers, bearing in mind the lengthy time they alleged that they had been waiting for a visit, namely some seven or eight months. Lastly in relation to Sub-Particular 2 (a) (ii), CH’s evidence was that it would not have been good practise to visit on Good Friday.
34. Accordingly the Panel found Sub-Particulars 2 (a) (ii), 2 (a) (iii) and 2 (a) (iv) proved.
‘(b) in relation to Case 2 you recorded that a visit took place on 3 April 2014 although you were off on sick leave’
35. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (b) CH took the Panel to an entry in the case notes which recorded a visit which the Registrant purported to have made on 3 April 2014 despite the fact that he was on sick leave at the time. The Panel had sight of the sick leave record which showed that he had been on sick leave that day. The Panel had sight of the record of interview in which the Registrant admitted that he could not have made this visit as he was on sick leave at the time. CH’s recollection was that he claimed to have entered notes of a visit onto the record on the wrong date by mistake.
36. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had recorded that a visit took place on 3 April 2014, at a time when he had in fact been on sick leave, and found the sub-particular proved.
‘(c) In relation to Case 3 you:
i. Recorded the same case notes for the visit on 18 April 2014 as the visit on 29 January 2014;
ii. Recorded that a visit took place on Good Friday (18 April 2014) although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;’
37. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (c) (i) and 2 (c) (ii) the Panel noted that the entry made in the case note for the visit that purportedly took place on 18 April 2014 was identical to the note that appeared on 29 January 2014. From the content of the notes it was clear that the same identical events could not have taken place in the course of both visits. The 29 January 2014 entry made a reference to Christmas that was in context, whereas the same entry appeared on 18 April 2014 and was out of context. The 18 April 2014 was a Good Friday, which was a bank holiday, and the Panel had heard that the Registrant would not have been working on bank holidays. PT stated in his witness statement that he had asked the foster carer directly whether she had received a visit on Good Friday 18 April 2014 and she had informed him that she had not.
38. The Panel found that the Registrant had recorded the case notes for 29 January 2014 twice, that the case notes for 18 April 2014 were the same as those for 29 January 2014 and that the foster carer had stated that no visit had taken place on 18 April 2014.
39. Accordingly, the Panel found both Sub-Particular 2 (c) (i) and 2 (c) (ii) proved. 
‘iii. Recorded that a visit took place on 2 June 2014 although the carer stated that it took place on 10 June 2014;’
40. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (c) (iii) PT said in his witness statement that he had spoken to the foster carer who was very clear that she had received a visit on 10 June 2014, and not on 2 June 2014. The Panel had sight of the record which showed that the Registrant had recorded this visit on 2 June 2014. It appeared to the Panel that on this occasion the Registrant had made an error in recording a visit on 2 June 2014 when in fact it had taken place on 10 June 2014.
41. Accordingly, the Panel found Sub-Particular 2 (c) (iii) proved.
‘(d) In relation to Case 4 you:
i. Recorded that a visit took place on May Day bank holiday (5 May 2014) although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day;
ii. Recorded that a visit took place on 18 March 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day’
42. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (d) (i) and 2 (d) (ii) PT stated in his witness statement that he had asked the foster carer whether she had received a visit on either 18 March 2014 or May Day bank holiday 5 May 2014 and she informed him that she had not received a visit on either day. PT took notes of this conversation which he emailed to CH and which appears to have been sent contemporaneously with the time of the conversation. The carers said that the last visit made by the Registrant was in December 2013, which was a significant time gap, and the Panel concluded that their evidence regarding18 March 2014 and 5 May 2014 was reliable. In addition, in relation to Sub-Particular 2 (d) (i), the Panel had heard that the Registrant would not have been working on a bank holiday and also that it would not have been appropriate to make family visits on bank holidays.
43. Accordingly, the Panel found both sub-particular 2 (d) (i) and 2 (d) (ii) proved.
‘(e) In relation to Case 5 you:
i. Recorded notes for a visit on 9 June 2014 although it does not appear in the calendar and contains inaccurate information’
44. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (e) (i) the Panel noted that the entry made in the case note for the visit that purportedly took place on 9 June 2014 was identical to the note that appeared on 14 January 2014. The Panel had sight of the Registrant’s Outlook calendar and noted that there was no record of a visit on 9 June 2014. From the content of the notes, it was clear that the same identical events could not have taken place in the course of both days, and the notes for 9 June 2014 were out of context, stating, for example: in the entry for 14 January 2014 it referred to the foster carers requiring respite care for the period 31 May 2014 to 9 June 2014, which was in context, whereas when the same entry was made in relation to 9 June 2014, it was out of context. The Panel noted that in interview the Registrant had no explanation other than to say that he had “so many notes”. The Panel found that there had been no note of the visit on 9 June 2014 in the calendar, that the Registrant had replicated the case notes for 14 January 2014 for 9 June 2014, and that the notes for 9 June 2014 therefore contained inaccurate information.
45. Accordingly the Panel found Sub-Particular 2 (e) (i) proved.
‘ii. Did not produce notes for a visit in the calendar on 11 July 2014’
46. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (e) (ii) CH gave evidence, and the Panel saw, that the Registrant’s Outlook calendar showed that a visit was planned for 11 July 2014 but that there was no entry on the Paris system for that date. PT said in his statement that the foster carer had said that this visit did not happen. The Panel concluded that either the Registrant had made the visit but had not noted it, or that he had not made a visit but had not recorded this as would be expected. Either way, there was no entry on the Paris system for this date.
47. Accordingly the Panel found Sub-Particular 2 (e) (ii) proved.
‘(f) In relation to Case 6 you recorded that a visit took place on 12 June 2014 although the foster carer stated that no visit took place on this day.’
48. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (f) CH gave evidence that in September 2014 she telephoned the foster carers who told her that they had only had one visit from the Registrant, back in August 2014. However, SG gave evidence that following the Registrant’s resignation, another social worker visited the foster carers who claimed that they had had no visits from the Registrant whatsoever. The hearsay evidence emanating from the foster carers appeared to be inconsistent and therefore unreliable.
49. Accordingly the Panel found this sub-particular not proved.
Particular 3
‘Between approximately December 2013 and August 2014 you did not carry out the required number of visits in relation to the following cases:
a. Case 1
b. Case 3
c. Case 4
d. Case 6’
50. In relation to Particular 3 CH informed the Panel that a visit to foster carers should take place at least once every 6 weeks in line with Torbay Council’s written policy. The case notes showed that far fewer visits were taking place in relation to Cases 1, 3, 4, and 6.
51. Accordingly the Panel found Particular 3 proved.
Particular 4
‘Your actions as set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 were dishonest’
52. The Panel had already concluded, when considering Particular 1, that the Registrant had been under an obligation to inform his manager before seeking employment elsewhere, and that he had undertaken work for Devon County Council without the knowledge or express consent of his employers at Torbay Council The Panel had had sight of the Registrant’s contract, which clearly stated that he would need express consent and the Registrant had agreed in interview that he had read and signed this contract. The Panel had concluded that the Registrant was aware of his obligation.
53. The Panel had not accepted the Registrant’s explanation that he had been working flexi-time with the consent of a previous line manager. CH had given evidence of the audit that she had conducted of the emails exchanged between the Registrant, his first line manager and the HR Department at Torbay Council. These concerned the Registrant’s remuneration, but had revealed no discussion of any employment with Devon County Council.  SG had given evidence that the maximum time permitted for flexi time would total 18 hours at any one time and so this could not account for the much larger amount of time worked by the Registrant in Devon County Council.
54. The Panel took into account evidence provided by the witnesses that the Registrant was often out of the Torbay office, and that he never mentioned that he was working in Devon County Council, despite numerous lengthy supervision meetings and other formal and informal interactions with his line managers over a substantial period of time. The Panel concluded that the Registrant must have known that Torbay Council would never have agreed to him working such a large number of hours that he worked in Devon County Council. The number of hours recorded meant that it would have been impossible for him to have juggled the two jobs. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s lack of disclosure had been deliberate and was done in order to conceal the fact that he was working in Devon County Council when he knew he should not have been. The Panel concluded that this was dishonest.
55. In relation to Sub Particular 2 (c) (iii)   the Panel was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant had acted dishonestly because, as set out earlier in this determination, the Panel accepted that it could not be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that he had not made an innocent error in the date of recording a visit that had taken place.
56. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (e) (ii) the Panel was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant had acted dishonestly because the Panel could not be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the failure to produce notes for the visit in the Outlook calendar on this occasion was because the Registrant had fabricated a visit, or because he had made the visit but innocently failed to note it. 
57. In relation to Sub-Particular 2 (f) the Panel was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant had acted dishonestly because it had found Sub-Particular 2 (f) not proved.
58. In relation to the remaining sub-particulars of Particular 2, namely, Sub-Particulars 2 (a) (i), 2 (a) (ii), 2 (a) (iii), 2 (a) (iv), 2 (b), 2 (c) (i), 2 (c) (ii), 2 (d) (i), 2 (d) (ii) and 2 (e) (i) the Panel found on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant had acted dishonestly in that he knew that a visit had not taken place. By making inaccurate records he was attempting to create a false impression that visits had taken place on those dates when they had not. On these instances the Registrant had duplicated entries, claimed to have worked on bank holidays, claimed to have worked on a day when he was on sick leave, and claimed to have worked on days when the foster carers said that he had not. The Panel did not accept that these could have been innocent mistakes on his part. The Panel concluded that the number of hours that the Registrant had been working in Devon County Council made it impossible for him to fulfil his contract with Torbay Council and for that reason he had sought to cover his tracks by making false entries of visits that had never been made.
Decision on Grounds:
59. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who addressed the Panel on the meaning of lack of competence, misconduct and impairment. She referred to the cases of R-v- Roylance –v- General Medical Council No 2 [2001] 1 AC p311 and Grant ([Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v (1) Nursing and Midwifery council (20 Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 927]). The Panel was aware that this was a matter for the Panel’s judgment.
60. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s failings were so serious as to amount to misconduct.
61. The Panel took into account the fact that the Registrant’s behaviour:
• had involved dishonesty in a work context
• was deliberate and motivated by self-interest and personal gain
• involved the fabricating of records concerning foster carers and children placed with them
• was sustained over a substantial length of time.
62. The Panel concluded that it must have been obvious to the Registrant that he could not properly juggle the two roles. He had been warned by his managers at Torbay about his record keeping deficiencies and yet continued in this course of conduct.
63. The Panel took into account that there was no evidence of any actual harm suffered by foster carers or the children placed with them. However, the National Minimum Standards (Fostering Regulations) which require visits to be made at least once every 6 weeks are there for a reason, namely, to protect foster carers and the children placed with them. By failing to meet those minimum standards and by failing to keep accurate records, the Registrant had put foster carers and the vulnerable children placed with them at risk of harm over a substantial period of time.
64. The Panel found that the Registrant had breached the following Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics: 1,10 and 13 and the following Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers: 1.2, 2.1, 2.2,  2.3,  2.5, 2.10 and 10. 
65. In all the circumstances the Panel had no doubt that the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct.
66. In light of the Panel’s finding of misconduct, the Panel found that the Registrant’s failings did not demonstrate a lack of competence on his part.
Decision on Impairment:
67. In considering whether the Registrant is currently impaired by reason of his misconduct, the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took note of the Practice Note on Fitness to Practise provided by the HCPC.
68. The Panel concluded that whilst the Registrant had acknowledged that his record keeping was “sloppy” and that he had fallen short of professional standards in that regard, nevertheless he had made no admissions as to dishonesty and did not appear to recognise the adverse impact on his employers and foster carers of working for Devon and Torbay at the same time.
69. The Panel had sight of a Certificate of Training dated 13 January 2015 which had been provided by the Registrant in the course of the HCPC Investigating Proceedings which indicated that he had completed a course entitled “Record Keeping in Foster Care” with a score of 100%. The Panel was also informed that in the same proceedings the Registrant indicated that he had gained employment in a similar role as a Supervising Social Worker. However, the Panel had not seen any up to date information from the Registrant regarding his current circumstances, nor had it received any evidence of remediation or insight on his part.
70. In light of the seriousness of the misconduct, the number of Particulars found proved, and the nature of the misconduct, namely dishonesty, the Panel concluded that even if it were possible for the Registrant to remediate his dishonesty, the Panel had been provided with no evidence of remediation or insight. As a consequence the Panel concluded that there remained a high risk that the Registrant would repeat his misconduct.
71. In considering the public component, the Panel found that the Registrant had failed in his duty towards service users and had acted dishonestly towards his employer. The Panel concluded that public confidence in the profession and the HCPC would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.
72. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.
Decision on sanction:
73. In considering what sanction, if any, to impose, the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and referred to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.
74. The Panel bore in mind that its purpose was not to be punitive, but to protect the public interest. It understood that it must act proportionately, balancing the interests of the Registrant with those of the public. It considered the range of available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness, starting with the option of taking no action.
75. The Panel found, by way of mitigation, that the Registrant had an unblemished record hitherto, and the Panel heard that there had been positive feedback from some of the foster carers in relation to the visits he had in fact made. SG, the line manager who had longest oversight of him, gave evidence that capability was not the issue with the Registrant. CH had accepted that there had been no evidence of actual harm. The Registrant had completed a training course in record keeping, albeit that the Panel recognised that record keeping did not form the core of this case.
76. The Panel also noted that the Registrant appeared to have been under financial pressure at the time of his misconduct, which might have provided the motive for his misconduct, whilst in no way excusing it.  Further, the Panel noted that whilst the Registrant had not admitted his dishonesty in interview, nevertheless he had recognised that he had acted unprofessionally and had become visibly upset.
77. The Panel found, by way of aggravating factors, that the misconduct amounted to serious failings that had posed an obvious risk to foster carers and the children placed with them, had been conducted in breach of the trust that his employers had placed in him, had been for personal gain, and had continued over a substantial period of time, even when it must have been obvious to him that he was not meeting his professional obligations.
78. In view of the continued risk to the public, to take no further action or to impose a caution order would not be sufficient to protect the public, maintain confidence in the profession or maintain confidence in the regulatory process. It could not be said that the Registrant’s failings had been isolated, limited or minor in nature; to the contrary the Panel had found the Registrant’s failings to be numerous.
79. The Panel then considered a conditions of practice order, but concluded that this would be neither sufficient nor workable. The allegation of dishonesty was serious, and the Panel had found that the risk of repetition was high. Furthermore, it was not possible to formulate workable conditions as the Registrant had not attended to demonstrate a willingness to abide by any conditions that the Panel might seek to impose.
80. The Panel then went on to consider a suspension order. The Panel had found that whilst being aware of his positive obligation to inform Torbay Council that he was working for Devon County Council, he had made a deliberate decision not to do so. The Panel had also found that whilst knowing or suspecting that foster carer visits had not taken place, he had nevertheless made inaccurate records to create the false impression that visits had in fact taken place. This was serious dishonesty which merited a serious sanction. The Panel noted that dishonesty is difficult to remediate. The Panel had received no evidence of remediation or insight. The Panel balanced these negative factors against the fact that the Registrant had no adverse findings against his name.  The Panel had heard evidence which indicated that he was capable of doing the job properly and professionally. The Panel had heard that since leaving Torbay Council he had been working as a social worker. The Panel noted the Certificate of Training, which suggested that he had completed a course on record keeping in foster care on 13 January 2015.
81. In all the circumstances the Panel concluded that a suspension order was the appropriate order and that to move on to a striking off order would be disproportionate in the circumstances of the case, at this time, taking into account protection of the public and the wider public interest.
82. The Panel concluded that a period of one year was appropriate and proportionate, and would give the Registrant time to submit evidence of remorse, remediation and insight. The Panel reviewing this order will have all sanction options open to it including a striking off order.
83. The reviewing Panel might be assisted by:
• a written piece in which the Registrant reflects on his misconduct and the impact of his misconduct
• information about what, if any, social work he has undertaken since leaving Torbay Council
• character references from professionals relating to his work as a social worker
• any training courses and CPD that he has undertaken to maintain his professional skills and knowledge.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Matthew Todd for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

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.

 

This Conduct and Competence Committee Final hearing took place over the course of four days from Tuesday 13 September 2016 to Friday 16 September 2016. 

 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Matthew Todd

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
19/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
05/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
13/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
13/09/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended