Miss Gemma Williamson

: Social worker

: SW23778

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:09:30 15/12/2016 End: 12:30 15/12/2016

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

The Panel confirmed the following allegation:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker you:

 

1. Applied for a position at Sunderland Social Services, where you:

a) provided misleading information to an employment agency who prepared and submitted a curriculum vitae on your behalf which stated that you were on a career break between August and October 2013 when you in fact were working at South Tyneside Council from 30 August to 8 October 2013;

b) mislead Sunderland Social Services as to the nature of your contract termination with South Tyneside Council.

 

2. Your actions at paragraphs 1a and 1b were dishonest.

 

3. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct.

 

4. By reason of that misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Proof of service
1. On 17 November 2016 the Registrant had been sent a notice of hearing setting out all the relevant information regarding today’s hearing to her registered address. The Panel was satisfied, on the basis of the available documents, that proper notification of this hearing had been given to the Registrant, in accordance with Rule 3 of The Health Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules Order of Council 2003 (“the Rules”).


Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
2. The Registrant was neither present nor represented. Ms Alexander-Victor, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application that the Panel hear the case against the Registrant, in her absence. She referred in particular to the Registrant’s response by email of 30 November 2016 which was received following the notice of hearing. The Registrant stated that she was unable to attend and would send a statement. She did not seek an adjournment. Ms Alexander-Victor submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself.
3. The Panel considered carefully all the documentation before it including the Registrant’s email of 30 November 2016. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It considered that there would be no benefit in adjourning the case, and there was an obligation to deal with cases expeditiously. It noted that this was a mandatory review. Accordingly, it determined to proceed with the case in the Registrant’s absence.

Background
4. On 1 and 2 December 2014 a panel of the HCPC Conduct and Competence Committee (CCC) heard evidence of fact upon the basis of which the panel found misconduct. By reason of this misconduct the panel found the fitness to practise of the Registrant was impaired. It then went on to consider which sanction, if any, should be imposed and determined that a two year Caution Order was the appropriate sanction.
5. The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) appealed the decision of the CCC and at a hearing in the High Court on 10 July 2015 Mr Justice Blake ordered that the appeal be allowed upon the basis that the imposition of a Caution Order was unduly lenient. He quashed the Order and remitted the case for a re-hearing before the CCC, such re-hearing limited to the issue of sanction.
6. Following the judgment of Mr Justice Blake of 10 July 2015 a panel of the CCC sat on 23 December 2015 and reconsidered the sanction of a Caution Order previously imposed. Having considered all the circumstances and the available sanctions, the panel imposed upon the Registrant a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months, commencing 20 January 2016.

Decision 
7. In undertaking its task today, the Panel is conducting a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant’s current abilities with a view to establishing whether she is now fit to return to unrestricted practice.  The Panel is not undertaking the task of rehearing the matters that had been brought against the Registrant nor going behind any previous findings.
8. This Panel has taken into account all the documentation placed before it and has heard and given appropriate weight to the HCPC’s submissions; taken and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor; and it has reminded itself of the terms of the HCPC’s Practice Notes on ‘Impairment’ and ‘Indicative Sanctions’.
9. The Panel first considered the issue of current impairment. The Panel noted the reasons given previously for a finding of impairment and took these into consideration but the Panel also carried out an independent review of the current circumstances. In doing so the Panel was assisted by the Registrant’s statement submitted on 7 December 2016 as well as the two undated references submitted on the same date by the Registrant from colleagues. The Panel noted there was no testimonial from an employer. The Panel does not consider that this sufficiently demonstrates insight in relation to the impact of her actions on the profession, although it does indicate some remorse. There is no further information today before the Panel that indicates the Registrant has developed sufficient insight into her actions of dishonesty or the impact of her actions on her profession. Similarly, there is no information upon which to draw regarding any remedial action undertaken by the Registrant or evidence of her Continuing Professional Development. Therefore on the basis of the personal component the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
10. In relation to the public component, the Panel did not consider that the misconduct identified could reasonably be regarded as minor in nature, and considered the dishonesty and the nature of the omissions as serious in the context of the role of a Social Worker. The Panel noted that it has limited information upon which to draw regarding the risk of repetition. The Registrant has demonstrated only limited insight. She still needs to address her probity, the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession. Hence a finding of current impairment remains necessary in order to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as it regulator, and to declare and uphold proper standards of professional behaviour.
11. On the issue of sanction, the Panel noted the representations of the HCPC, accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took into account in its deliberations the guidance set out in the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel applied the principles of proportionality, and as advised, the Panel started its consideration at the lowest level of sanction.
12. In view of its decision on current impairment, the Panel considered that it would not be appropriate to allow the order to lapse or to impose a Caution Order; neither of these actions would protect the public or adequately address the public interest concerns. The Panel considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be workable or suitable in view of the finding of dishonesty.
13. The Panel was of the view that whilst the Registrant is currently engaging with the HCPC and has developed some insight she has not provided sufficient supportive information and evidence of insight to allow her Suspension Order to be removed.
14. The Panel determined that in light of the Registrant’s engagement and her developing insight, a further period twelve months of suspension would be proportionate. This Panel considers a future panel would be assisted  in determining the case by the following :
• The Registrant’s attendance
• A full reflective statement  from the Registrant regarding the impact of her actions and  their  effect on the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession;
• Testimonials from recent employer(s);
• Character references, particularly from those aware of the current proceedings;
• Evidence of continuing professional development.

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar be directed to suspend the registration of Miss Gemma Williamson for a period of twelve (12) months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 16 January 2017.
This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 16 January 2018.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Gemma Williamson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
15/12/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
23/12/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
01/12/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution