Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe

: Social worker

: SW40987

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 09/01/2017 End: 17:00 11/01/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as amended):

During the course of your practice as a Social Worker with Shropshire Council, between October and December 2014:
1. In relation to Service User Family A you:
a. did not record that you had visited the family;
b. did not see and/or record that you saw all four children alone;
c. did not undertake and/or record that you undertook agency checks with health and education professionals;
d. did not undertake and/or record that you undertook a police check;
e. did not complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files.
2. In relation to Service User B:
a. You did not:
i. visit and/or record that you visited the mother;
ii. see and/or record that you saw the child;
iii. access and/or record that you accessed information from health and education professionals;
iv. complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files;
b. You did not arrange a joint visit with the police following information received on 14 November 2014 regarding the mother's relationship with Person A.
3. In relation to Service User C, you did not:
a. liaise with probation and undertake a joint visit to the mother and/or record that you liaised with probation and undertook a joint visit to the mother;
b. ensure that a police check was undertaken on Person B and/or record that you ensured a police check was undertaken on Person B;
c. liaise with and/or record that you liaised with health and educational professionals;
d. complete and/or record that you completed a social work assessment.
4. In relation to Service User D you did not:
a. visit the family home and/or record that you visited the family home;
b. see and/or record that you saw Service User D and/or Child D2 alone;
c. ensure a police check was undertaken and/or record that you ensured a police check was undertaken;
d. liaise with and/or record that you liaised with health and educational professionals;
e. complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files.
5. In relation to Service User E you did not:
a. record the joint visit conducted with police on 20 October 2014;
b. provide sufficient detail in your recording of the visit on 27 November 2014.
6. In relation to Service User Family F, you did not:
a. undertake and/or record that you undertook an assessment and/or adequate assessment of the children's living and sleeping arrangements;
b. assess and/or record that you assessed the status of the parents’ relationship;
c. complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files.
d. liaise with and/or record that you liaised with other involved agencies including school, the General Practitioner and police;
e. adequately complete and/or record that you completed a section 17 and/or 47 report.
7. In relation to Service User G:
a. your social work assessment dated 28 November 2014 was inadequate in that you did not record the views of all relevant professionals, including the General Practitioner;
b. You did not communicate information, received on or around 6 November 2014, regarding housing, to Service User G's mother as instructed;
c. You did not complete and/or record the following as instructed:
i. a closure summary;
ii. a chronology.
8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
9. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied on the documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant, Ms Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe, had been given proper notice of this hearing in accordance with the appropriate Rules. Notice of this hearing was sent by first class post to her address on the Register by letter dated 22 August 2016, and also by email. The notice contained the relevant required particulars.

Proceeding in Absence

2. Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence should only be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

3. The Panel had regard to the communications between the HCPC and the Registrant. The Registrant had sent an email to the HCPC, dated 15 March 2016, indicating that she had health issues, which had affected her at the time of the allegations, which had since deteriorated. In that email she indicated that she would provide details of her current health situation.

4. There is also a copy of a telephone note with the Registrant, dated 16 August 2016, where she explains that she will not be attending the final hearing.  At that stage, she said she would not like to attend and she was not sure when she would be able to attend at a later date as she was not ready to take part in the proceedings either in person or by telephone. She had also sent in a signed pro forma directions form, dated 5 September 2016, indicating that she would not be attending in person as she was not fit for that.

5. There is a letter dated 31 October 2016, sent by the HCPC to the Registrant, asking her to provide medical evidence in respect of her health, and explaining the option of applying for the matter to be heard by the Health Committee. A copy of the HCPC Practice Note regarding health allegations was also sent. The Registrant has not responded to that letter. She has not provided medical evidence nor has she sought an adjournment.

6. The Panel was satisfied that the HCPC had fulfilled its obligations and taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant in accordance with the Rules.

7. There is a public interest in proceeding. The allegation dates back to a period between October and December 2014. The Panel was aware that there was a witness who was in attendance to give evidence.

8. The Panel was mindful of the fact that the Registrant had given information regarding her health, which might impact on her ability to attend the hearing. However, although the Registrant had offered to send medical documents and there had been requests from the HCPC for medical evidence in support of any health conditions, and inquiries as to whether she wished to seek an adjournment or participate in the hearing by other means, there had been no communication from the Registrant since 5 September 2016, and no medical evidence provided.

9. The Panel, therefore, concluded that the Registrant had decided not to attend the hearing and so had voluntarily waived her right to attend. She had not sought an adjournment and there was no evidence that she would attend an adjourned hearing. The Panel considered that it was in the public interest for the hearing to take place.

Application to amend

10. Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the allegation, which had been notified to the Registrant by letter dated 13 July 2016. She submitted that none of the proposed amendments materially affected the case facing the Registrant. She submitted that the amendments were to clarify the allegation and to particularise the matters so as to more accurately reflect the evidence in the witness statement and exhibits.

11. The Panel, having heard advice from the Legal Assessor, determined to allow the application to amend the allegation in its entirety. It took into account that all but one of the proposed amendments had been notified to the Registrant, by letter and no objection had been received from her regarding the proposed amendments. The objection which had not previously been notified was to particular 6(e), and was to amend it from: ‘complete and/or record that you completed a section 17 and/or 47 report’; to add the word ‘adequately’ so that it read: ‘adequately complete and/or record that you completed a section 17 and/or 47 report’. This reflected the anticipated evidence, that a report had been completed but there were alleged deficiencies within it. The Panel was of the view that all of the amendments can be made without unfairness to the Registrant. They properly reflected the likely evidence anticipated to be received, according to the witness statement and exhibits previously served on the Registrant.

Application for parts of the Hearing to be in Private

12. Ms Sheridan applied for those parts of the hearing which related to the Registrant’s health to be heard in private.

13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took into account the Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private. The Panel was satisfied that, for the protection of the private life of the Registrant, those parts of the hearing which made reference to her health or sensitive personal matters in any detail, should be heard in private.

Background

14. The Registrant was employed, through an agency, to work as a social worker at Shropshire Council on a temporary contract for three months from 6 October 2014. She was employed in the Safeguarding Department in Children’s Social Work, and Witness 1 was her line manager.

15. In this role the Registrant would be responsible for working with children in need, children subject to child protection plans and children in care. As part of the role, the Registrant was required to complete assessments under section 17 or section 47 of the Children Act 1989. A section 17 assessment is an assessment of whether a child is in need of services from the Council. A section 47 assessment is an assessment of a child where there is reasonable cause to believe that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

16. Shropshire Council uses a paperless filing system called CareFirst, which is an electronic case management recording system, on which all records in respect of service users are recorded and stored. The Registrant received training in respect of this system, initially shortly after she had arrived and again as a refresher training about a month later. She was issued with a laptop, which was later enabled so that she could access the CareFirst system away from the office and therefore complete work at home.

17. During the Registrant’s time at Shropshire Council, she was allocated seven cases which comprised of 13 children, by Witness 1. The usual procedure of Witness 1 was to allocate cases to a particular social worker, to meet with the social worker to discuss the case being allocated or, if a meeting was not possible, to email the social worker, and to record in the CareFirst notes the issues, expectations and specified actions required of the social worker allocated the case. This was the procedure she adopted in allocating cases to the Registrant.

18. The specified actions required included:

• visiting service users and their families;
• completing police checks;
• liaising with health and educational professionals;
• completing chronologies; and
• completing assessments in respect of identifying any risk and need.  

19. In respect of a number of service users, it is alleged that the Registrant either did not complete the specified actions in respect of a case, or did not record whether or not she had undertaken particular actions, or if she had undertaken any actions, what their outcomes were. It is also alleged that those assessments which she did complete were not done so adequately.

20. The Registrant’s contract was due to end on 19 December 2014, but following a fall at work on 3 December 2014, the Registrant did not return to the office from 4 December 2014 as she was on sick leave.

21. When the Registrant was on sick leave, Witness 1 reviewed the Registrant’s case load to establish whether any cases needed re-allocating, or whether any immediate action needed to be undertaken. It was at this stage that concerns came to light in respect of the Registrant’s case load and the alleged lack of recording and/or taking action.

Decision on Facts

22. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from Witness 1, an HCPC registered Social Worker, who is now the Operations Manager at Shropshire Council in the Early Help and Safeguarding (Children’s Social Work) Department. At the time of the events with which this matter is concerned Witness 1 was a Team Manager in Children’s Social Work with the Council and had been since January 2010. In this role she was responsible for the social workers in the Department, and was the Registrant’s line manager. The panel also received documentary evidence including extracts from the Council’s electronic case record system (CareFirst), copy emails and a copy of a supervision record.

23. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel understood that the burden of proving each individual fact rests always on the HCPC and that the HCPC will only be able to prove a particular, if it satisfies the required standard of proof, namely the civil standard, whereby it is more likely than not that the alleged incident occurred.

24. The Registrant did not attend the hearing, but the Panel did not draw any adverse inference from her absence. The Panel noted that the Registrant had said, in her email of 15 March 2016, that due to her health conditions ‘I have since suffered significant memory impairment and can therefore neither fully accept nor wholly disagree with the allegations’. This meant that the Registrant did not admit the facts, but it also meant that she did not challenge the evidence given by Witness 1. The Panel scrutinised all of the evidence objectively, which included questioning Witness 1, to assess the accuracy and reliability of her evidence.

25. The Panel found that the evidence of Witness 1 stood out as being both credible and reliable. It was of the view that she demonstrated a high degree of professionalism and integrity, and had a strong sense of fairness. The Panel also found that the documentary evidence supported her oral evidence. Witness 1 had not known the Registrant before the Registrant’s arrival at Shropshire Council on 6 October 2014, but had interviewed her by telephone for the temporary post and had seen copies of her CV and references. She had also described the Registrant as personable. It was evident to the Panel that Witness 1 had herself reflected back on the situation and how she might do things differently in the future. The Panel was satisfied that it could place significant reliance on her evidence.

Particular 1

26. Family A had been referred to the Council from a Family Solutions worker. There were concerns that the mother was in an abusive relationship which was impacting upon her children’s behaviour and their mental health. This case was allocated to the Registrant on 29 October 2014.

In relation to Service User A you:

1(a) did not record that you had visited the family

27. The Panel finds this particular proved.

28. In allocating the case to the Registrant, Witness 1 outlined what the issues were involving Family A and her expectations of the Registrant in relation to those issues. These expectations were recorded by Witness 1 in the CareFirst system as follows:

Case allocated to [Registrant] for completion of a SW assessment, concerns that despite lots of early help services and support family seem unable to effect change, family been periodically known to social care over the years.

Agreed:

Planned visit to the family, [Registrant] to contact and discuss further with Family Solutions Worker (referrer) and explore joint visit, all 4 children to be seen (alone with mother’s consent), agency checks needed from health, education, complete a police check and liaise with FS, access archived files and complete up to date chronology. Case to be reviewed in supervision.’

29. Witness 1 said that when she went through the CareFirst records, she found no entry to indicate whether or not a visit had taken place.

30. Witness 1 stated that she found out that a visit had taken place when she received an email sent by the Family Solutions Worker on 16 November 2014, which confirmed that the Registrant had visited Family A on 3 November 2014 but that there had been no further contact since.

31. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that a visit had taken place, but that the Registrant had not recorded her visit. 

1(b) did not see and/or record that you saw all four children alone

32. The Panel finds this particular proved to the extent that there was no record entered by the Registrant to the effect that she had seen all four children alone.

33. Witness 1 stated that the Registrant had made no recordings in CareFirst or elsewhere in this case in respect of any visit to the family.

34. The Panel was of the view that, given there had been a visit to the family by the Registrant, albeit not recorded by her, it could not rule out that the Registrant may also have seen the children alone during the course of that visit.

35. The Panel therefore could not be satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not seen the children alone, but it was satisfied that she had not recorded that she saw all four children alone.

1(c) did not undertake and/or record that you undertook agency checks with health and education professionals:

36. The Panel finds this particular proved, both in respect of not undertaking agency checks and not recording agency checks.

37. Witness 1 explained that although she had instructed the Registrant to carry out agency checks with health and education professionals, the Registrant had made no recordings on this case, so there was no evidence that she undertook agency checks with health and education professionals.

38. Witness 1 stated that the health and education professionals that should have been contacted for their view included the children’s school and the family GP. The purpose of this would be to provide a full view of the children’s needs which prevents a social worker from relying too heavily on the information provided by the child’ parents.

39. Given the evidence of Witness 1 that the Registrant had accessed CareFirst to input information in respect of other cases, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was able to use the CareFirst electronic recording system, but had not done so in this case.

40. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that, in the absence of any entry within CareFirst, and no evidence from any other source, the Registrant had not undertaken the agency checks.

1(d) did not undertake and/or record that you undertook a police check

41. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of not undertaking a police check and not recording a police check.

42. Witness 1 explained that she had asked for a police check to be done as she considered this was necessary due to the referral mentioning domestic abuse. Witness 1 said that as the Registrant had made no recordings in CareFirst on this case, there was no evidence that she had undertaken a police check.

43. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that, in the absence of any entry within CareFirst, and no evidence from any other source, the Registrant had not undertaken a police check nor recorded a police check having been undertaken.

1(e) did not complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files

44. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of neither completing nor recording the completion of an up to date chronology.

45. Witness 1 said she had asked the Registrant to prepare an up to date chronology based on archived files. She explained the importance of a chronology as “a key social work task”; ‘recording significant events in a child’s life. A chronology can assist with showing any patterns of concern and help understand a child’s journey (…)The chronology can assist with establishing whether a parent has been able to effect change.’

46. Witness 1 said that the Registrant had made no recordings in CareFirst on this case, so there was no evidence that she prepared an up to date chronology.

47. Although the Panel acknowledged that the Registrant had been provided with a work laptop, this could not be accessed by Witness 1, and so it was not known what information may have been saved by the Registrant on the laptop and not on the CareFirst system.The Panel was of the view that a chronology would only be ‘completed’ once it had been put on the CareFirst system.

48. As there was no chronology on CareFirst, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not completed an up to date chronology and had not recorded any such completion.

Particular 2

49. Service User B was referred from the Adult Substance Misuse Team who advised Shropshire Council that they had heard from Service User B’s grandmother that Service User B’ mother was in a relationship involving domestic violence and the police and ambulance services had been called to attend at the mother’s home. The case was allocated to the Registrant on 21 October 2014.

50. In allocating the case to the Registrant on 21 October 2014, Witness 1 outlined what the issues were involving Service User B and her expectations of the Registrant in relation to those issues. These expectations were recorded by Witness 1 in the CareFirst system as follows:

‘Case allocated to [Registrant] for completion of a SW assessment, concerns that mother may be in an abusive relationship (although said to now be separated) and concerns about her drinking (phone  (sic) to be intoxicated when police recently attended).

Agreed:

Planned visit to the mother, SUB to be seen, access information from health and education, access archived files and complete up to date chronology.’

In relation to Service User B:
2(a)(i): You did not visit and/or record that you visited the mother
51. The Panel finds this particular proved in respect of not recording whether there was any such visit.

52. Witness 1 said that she had asked the Registrant to visit Service User B’s mother. There was no entry as to any such visit within the CareFirst records. However an email dated 12 November 2014 from a professional in another team reads in part “I believe [the Registrant] went out to do a visit to … Mom and Service User B”.

53. The Panel was not therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not visited the mother but was satisfied to the required that she had not recorded that there had been any such visit.

2(a)(ii): You did not see and/or record that you saw the child
54. The Panel finds this particular proved in respect of not recording whether there was any such visit.

55. Witness 1 said that she had asked the Registrant to visit Service User B. There was no entry as to any such visit within the CareFirst records. However, in the light of the email referred to above ( in particular 2(a) i) the Panel concluded that it could not be satisfied the Registrant did not see the child and so no evidence of any visit taking place.

56. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not recorded that she had seen the child.

2(a)(iii): You did not access and/or record that you accessed information from health and education professionals

57. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of not accessing information from the health and education professionals and not recording whether there had been any such access.

58. Witness 1 said that she had asked the Registrant to access information from health and education professionals but there were no recordings within the CareFirst system or elsewhere, that she did this.

59. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not accessed the information and had not recorded whether there had been any such access.

2(a)(iv): complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files

60. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of not completing and not recording an up to date chronology.

61. The evidence of Witness 1 was that she asked the Registrant to access archived files and complete an up to date chronology in relation to Service User B but there were no recordings in CareFirst or elsewhere, that she had done this.

62. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had neither completed nor recorded an up to date chronology.

2(b): You did not arrange a joint visit with the police following information received on 14 November 2014 regarding the mother’s relationship with Person A

63. The Panel finds this particular proved.

64. Witness 1 said that a call was received from the Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) on 14 November 2014 in relation to Service User B. The log of this call indicated that the DVU had received information that Service User B’s mother was in a relationship with Person A who presented a potential risk to Service User B given Person A’s history of domestic violence and in particular a conviction for assaulting an ex-partner’s child causing broken arms. On the same date this information was emailed by the duty social worker to Witness 1 and the Registrant, with the expectation that the Registrant would carry out a joint visit with the police.

65. Witness 1 said she emailed the Registrant instructing her to make contact with the DVU and arrange a joint visit as soon as possible. Witness 1 said that there were no recordings in CareFirst or elsewhere that such a visit was arranged.

66. Witness 1 said that she re-allocated this case to another social worker on 12 December 2014, at which time, no actions had been recorded on the CareFirst system.

67. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not arranged a joint visit with the police.

Particular 3

68. Service User C’s case was referred by the Probation Service due to the concern that Service User C’s mother’s partner (Person B) was about to be released from custody. There were previous concerns regarding the risk to Service User C regarding substance misuse issues. Person B was previously known to children’s services. The concern was that he would be re-joining the family on his release from custody. The case was allocated to the Registrant on 18 November 2014.

69. In allocating the case to the Registrant on 18 November 2014, Witness 1 outlined what the issues were involving Service User C and her expectations of the Registrant in relation to those issues. These expectations were outlined in the CareFirst records as follows:

‘Case allocated to NB for completion of SW assessment, concerns that Person B will be moving into the household- history of substance misuse, offending and he is also referred to as a PPRC (schedule one offender) which needs further understanding.

Agreed:

[Registrant] to liaise with Probation and complete a joint visit to mother this week to discuss concerns regarding Person B, full police check to be completed on Person B, school and health check needed, assessment to be completed within 10 working days unless fuller assessment required. Case to be reviewed.’

In relation to Service User C, you did not:

3(a): liaise with probation and undertake a joint visit to the mother and/or record that you liaised with probation and undertook a joint visit to the mother;

70. The Panel finds this particular proved in respect of neither liaising with the Probation Service to undertake a joint visit to the mother nor recording that she had liaised with that service.

71. Witness 1 said that nothing was recorded on the CareFirst System until she made an entry on 12 December 2014 recording that she had re-allocated the case to another social worker on that day. She said that there were no recordings on CareFirst or elsewhere to indicate whether or not the Registrant had liaised with the Probation Service to schedule a joint visit.

72. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not liaised with probation and she had not recorded whether or not she had liaised with probation, nor undertaken a joint visit nor recorded such a visit.

3(b): ensure that a police check was undertaken on Person B and/or record that you ensured that a police check was undertaken on Person B

73. The Panel finds this particular proved in respect of neither ensuring that a police check was undertaken nor recording that she ensured that such a check was undertaken.

74. Witness 1 gave evidence that she had stated on the allocation note in the CareFirst records that a full police check of Person B was required. She said that she had sent an email to the Registrant dated 18 November 2014 which stated:

‘Hi [Registrant], I have allocated the case to you…I need you to go this week please, call probation and see if you can do a joint visit, basically concerns that mother is in a relationship with Person B, need a full police check….I need you to complete this in a timely manner please [Registrant] with no delays.’

75. Witness 1 explained that the purpose of the police check would have been to establish why Person B had been in prison and whether there was any historical offending as this sort of information might help to establish whether Service User C was at risk on Person B’s release. Witness 1 said that no police checks were recorded as having been undertaken by the Registrant on Service User C’s CareFirst records.

76. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not ensured that a police check was undertaken, nor had she recorded whether she had ensured that a police check was undertaken.

3(c): liaise with and/or record that you liaised with health and educational professionals

77. The Panel finds this particular proved in that the Registrant did not liaise with health and educational professionals and she did not record any such liaison with them.

78. In allocating this case to the Registrant, Witness 1 said that she had recorded in the CareFirst records that a school and health check was required for Service User C. Witness 1 also sent an email to the Registrant on the same date, which  stated ‘a GP and health visitor check was required’.

79. Witness 1 said that there were no entries relating to checks recorded on Service User C’s CareFirst Records.

80. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not liaised with the relevant professionals and she had not recorded liaising with them.

3(d): complete and/or record that you completed a social work assessment

81. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of the Registrant not completing a social work assessment and in not recording that she had completed any such assessment.

82. Witness 1 said that her entry in the CareFirst records in respect of the allocation of the case to the Registrant on 18 November 2014, stipulated that a social work assessment was to be completed within 10 working days unless a fuller assessment was required. Witness 1 said that she emailed the Registrant on 26 November 2014 setting out timescales for the Registrant to write up the assessments required in respect of her cases. In relation to Service User C, Witness 1 requested that it be completed by the week commencing 8 December 2014. She said she did not receive a response to this email.

83. Witness 1 said that there was no record of a social work assessment in relation to Service User C within the CareFirst records or elsewhere.

84. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant did not complete a social work assessment and there was no record that she had completed a social work assessment.

Particular 4

85. The case of Service User D was referred via the NSPCC following concerns made by an anonymous caller. There were reports that Service User D’s mother had previously threatened to take an overdose, had a history of depression and there were reports that she was not arranging sufficient childcare and was leaving Service User D unsupervised when she went out drinking. It appeared that Service User D’s mother had difficulties in coping and there were increasing concerns for Service User D’s welfare.

In relation to Service User D you did not:

4(a): visit the family home and/or record that you visited the family home

86. The Panel found this particular proved both in that she did not visit the family home and that she did not record any visits to the family home.

87. Witness 1 allocated this case to the Registrant on 16 October 2014. In the case allocation note within the CareFirst records, Witness 1 set out the following issues in the case and her expectations of the Registrant in relation to those issues:

‘Case allocated to [Registrant] for completion of a SW assessment, concerns regarding mother’s mental health and issues of neglect raised

Agreed

Planned visit to the family home, with consent both children need to be seen (alone where age appropriate), police check needed, complete health and education check, also access archived information/file in regard to SUD and up to date chronology, may want to speak further with referrer (who wishes to remain anonymous).’

88. Witness 1 said that the CareFirst Notes for Service User D had no entry in respect of any visit by the Registrant to the family home. Witness 1 said that she re-allocated the case to another social worker on 12 December 2014.
 
89. The Panel had regard to the entries of the later social worker, who did record making a visit to the family home on 14 December 2014 (two days after allocation), a telephone call to the child’s father on 16 December 2014 and a home visit to the mother on 17 December 2014. The Panel was of the view that there was no indication within the entries that there had been an earlier, albeit undocumented, visit by the Registrant to the family home.

90. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant did not visit the family and there was no record that she had visited the family.

(4)(b): see and/or record that you saw Service User D and/or Child D2 alone

91. The Panel finds this particular proved both in not seeing either Service User D or Child D2 alone and in not recording that she had seen them.

92. Witness 1 said: ‘The records do not provide any evidence that the children were seen by [the Registrant], which could be either an issue of lack of recording or lack of visit.’ Witness 1 said that at the time of this allegation, Service User D was seven years old and therefore would have been old enough to be seen by the Registrant alone.

93. As in particular 4(a) above, the Panel had regard to the entry of the social worker to whom the case was re-allocated and the notes of supervision and was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant did not see either Service User D or Child D2 alone, and there was no record that she had done so.

94. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant did not see Service User D nor Child D2 alone, nor record that she had done so.

(4)(c): ensure a police check was undertaken and/or record that you ensured a police check was undertaken;

95. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of not ensuring a police check was undertaken and of not recording the same.

96. Witness 1 gave evidence that as the report to the NSPCC was made by an anonymous caller, it was necessary for the Registrant to conduct a police check to establish whether Service User D’s mother had any criminal history or whether any concerns had been raised before. Witness 1 gave evidence that there were no entries within the CareFirst records for Service User D to show that the Registrant had carried out a police check into Service User D’s mother.

97. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not ensured that a police check was undertaken and had not recorded the same.

(4)(d): liaise with and/or record that you liaised with health and educational professionals;

98. The Panel finds this particular proved in respect of both not liaising with health and educational professionals and not recording the same.

99. Witness 1 said that there were no entries within the CareFirst records for Service User D (seen by the Panel) to show that the Registrant had liaised with health and educational professionals.

100. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not liaised with health and educational professionals nor had she recorded that she had done so.

(4)(e): complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files;

101. The Panel finds this particular proved in respect of both not completing an up to date chronology and not recording the same.

102. Witness 1 said that there were no entries in the CareFirst records for Service User D to show that that an up to date chronology was completed by the Registrant.

103. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that there was no chronology as the Registrant had not completed the chronology, and had not recorded the same.

Particular 5

104. This case was a self-referral by Service User E’s mother who telephoned the Council. The nature of the concern was potential sexual harm from a paternal uncle who had been staying with the family for about 1 month. This case was allocated by Witness 1 to the Registrant on 14 October 2014.

In relation to Service User E you did not:

5(a): record the joint visit conducted with police on 20th October 2014;

105. The Panel finds this particular proved.

106. Witness 1 said that on 20 October 2014 a joint visit was conducted by the Registrant and the Police in respect of Service User E. Witness 1 said that she knew that this visit had taken place as she corresponded by email with the police officer, who confirmed that the visit had taken place and that she, the police officer, had been present at the visit. Witness 1 said she did this as there was no entry in the CareFirst system by the Registrant recording the visit and Witness 1 needed to complete the assessment. Witness 1 said she made the entry in the CareFirst system recording the visit, and used the information provided by the police officer, including it in her record of the visit.

107. The Panel recognised that the exchange that Witness 1 had with the police officer was hearsay, but took account of the fact that it was conducted in an official capacity, and Witness 1 had made a record of the conversation a short time later. In these circumstances the Panel had no reason to doubt its accuracy and was satisfied that it could rely on this hearsay evidence.

108. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that although the joint visit had taken place, the Registrant had not recorded it in the CareFirst system, and the entry which was in the system had been made by Witness 1.

5(b): provide sufficient detail in your recording of the visit on 27 November 2014

109. The Panel finds this particular proved.

110. Witness 1 said that the Registrant completed a visit to Service User E on 27 November 2014. Witness 1 said that this would have been the ‘follow-up’ visit to the joint visit with police. There is an entry regarding this visit completed by the Registrant within the CareFirst system. The Panel had regard to what was recorded in that entry and was of the view that it provided very little detail of the visit. Underneath the heading ‘Analysis and Actions’ the Registrant had recorded ‘Parents are very protective of the child and vigilant and safeguards are very strong.’ There was no reasoning or analysis and no evidence cited to support this brief conclusion in the record. There was no explanation as to why she did not see the child individually or what steps she had taken to speak to other agencies.

111. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not provided sufficient detail in her record of the visit, which would support the conclusion she reached.

Particular 6

112. This case was a referral from the police. The parents in Service User Family F were reported to be separated but living at the same address. There was a history of domestic abuse between the parents and both were alcohol dependant.

113. The case was allocated to the Registrant on 6 October 2014, which was the first day of her employment at Shropshire Council, and it was re-allocated to another social worker by Witness 1 on 27 November 2014. In the CareFirst allocation note of 6 October 2014, Witness 1 set out the following issues in the case and her expectations of the Registrant in relation to those issues:

‘Case allocated to [Registrant] for completion of a SW assessment, concerns of parental dysfunction and alcohol abuse, incident involving police leading to disclosure in school by one of youngest children, long history of periodic involvement by children’s services on a CIN level of intervention.

Agreed:

Planned visit to the family, children to be seen alone in school (with parental consent), establish the children’s living and sleeping arrangements, establish the status of parental relationship (thought to be separated but living together) access archived files and complete up to date chronology. Liaise with all involved agencies including school, GP and police. Consider the children’s needs and current welfare issues and determine whether s.17 assessment is appropriate or whether a strategy meeting needs to be convened in view of past history and lack of sustained charge [sic].’

In relation to Service User Family F, you did not:

6(a): undertake and/or record that you undertook an assessment and/or adequate assessment of the children’s living and sleeping arrangements;

114. The Panel finds this case proved in respect of not undertaking an  adequate assessment of the children’s living and sleeping arrangements  and not recording whether there was any such assessment.

115. The Panel had regard to the entries which the Registrant had made in  the CareFirst system, and it was clear to the Panel that the Registrant  had recorded a number of visits to the family and had recorded some  information regarding the living and sleeping arrangements within the  family. However, the situation was complex: the oldest daughter was   supposed to be living with her aunt but there were reports of her being at  the family home and the local authority had care of another sibling.

116. The recordings did not evidence that the Registrant had properly  researched what was happening; undertaken an assessment or that she  had a clear understanding of the current situation.

117. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the  Registrant did not undertake an adequate assessment of the children’s  living and sleeping arrangements and did not record an adequate  assessment.

6(b): assess and/or record that you assessed the status of the parent’s relationship;

118. This particular is found NOT proved.

119. The Panel had regard to the record of supervision notes completed in  respect of the supervision Witness 1 held on 30 October 2014 with the  Registrant. The record shows that that the Registrant and Witness 1  discussed this case, and the entry records that the parents are  separated but live together ‘for the sake of the children’. From this, the  Panel inferred that the Registrant had assessed the status of the  parent’s relationship and saw that this assessment was recorded within  the supervision notes.

120. Therefore the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the  HCPC had proved that the Registrant had not assessed the status of  the parent’s relationship or recorded that assessment.

6(c): complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files;

121. The Panel finds this particular proved both in respect of not completing  an up to date chronology and not recording completion of such a  chronology.

122. Witness 1 said that she re-allocated this case on 27 November 2014 to  another social worker and the up to date chronology was still  outstanding at the time that she re-allocated it. She said she had made  the entry in the CareFirst system to the effect that: ‘[SS] to complete  the chronology as not done’ and that SS had subsequently completed  an up to date chronology.

123. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Registrant had not  completed a chronology and had not recorded completing any  chronology.

6(d): liaise with and/or record that you liaised with other involved agencies including school, the General Practitioner and police;

124. The Panel finds this particular proved to the extent that the Registrant  did not record that she liaised with other agencies including school, GP  and police.

125. The Panel had regard to the CareFirst system and the entries within it,  made by the Registrant and then the re-allocated social worker. The  later entries show that there had clearly been ongoing engagement   with a number of other agencies, including GP, school and a Drug and  Alcohol Service, in respect of Family F. However, it was not possible  for the Panel to ascertain from the records whether this engagement  had occurred only after the case was re-allocated, or whether the  Registrant had also been liaising with the agencies, but had not  recorded their involvement. It was clear to the Panel that the Registrant  had not recorded within the CareFirst system that she had liaised with  other agencies.

126. The Panel therefore could not be satisfied to the required standard that  the Registrant had not liaised with other agencies, but it was satisfied  that she had not recorded that she had liaised with other agencies.

6(e): adequately complete and/or record that you completed a section 17 and/or section 47 report;

127. The Panel finds this particular NOT proved.

128. Witness 1 in her witness statement said that she had had to amend the  reports quite significantly to get them to an appropriate standard. In  evidence, she described that she had ‘tweaked’ the reports, however  she could not now, with the passage of time, recall how she had  amended them. She also explained that if a line manager did amend a  report on the system, this later version of it was the only copy retained  on the system. Therefore, the original version, as completed by the  Registrant, was not available to the Panel to view.

129. Without the original version, and therefore the opportunity to compare  the original and amended version of the report, the Panel could not be  confident as to what the Registrant had written. Therefore it was not  possible for the Panel to be satisfied to the required standard that the  report which the Registrant had completed was not adequate.

Particular 7

130. This case was referred by the police, who disclosed that the  relationship with Service User G’s mother and father had ended 2  years previously following allegations of domestic abuse, but contact  had been re-established for Service User G. It was unclear what  contact Service User G’s mother was having with the father and an  assessment was required to establish whether or not she was able to  adequately protect Service User G.

131. The case was allocated by Witness 1 to the Registrant on 8 October  2014. Witness 1 set out in the CareFirst system the following issues  and her expectations of the Registrant in relation to those issues:

‘Case allocated to NB for completion of a SW assessment- concerns of ongoing domestic abuse (allegations of rape) despite parental separation

Agreed:

Planned visit to mother, child to be seen, police check to be completed so history of DV can be considered as part of assessment, liaise with GP and H/V to help inform the assessment, need better understanding of mother’s ability to safeguard in view of the concerns and allegations raised, impact of risk on Service User  G and protective factors including support networks.’

In relation to Service User G:
7(a): your social work assessment dated 28 November 2014 was inadequate in that you did not record the views of all relevant professionals, including the general practitioner;
132. The Panel finds this particular proved.

133. The Panel had regard to the CareFirst system and the entries that  appeared there, and it was evident to the Panel that the Registrant had  been liaising with some relevant bodies, for example the nursery,  Women’s Aid, and the health visitor. However, although there was  reference within the assessment that medical appointments were met,  this information appeared to have come from the mother, rather than  the Registrant liaising with the GP directly to ascertain for herself the  accuracy of the mother’s information.

134. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the  assessment was inadequate because the Registrant had not recorded  the views of all relevant professionals, including the GP.

7(b): You did not communicate information, received on or around 6 November 2014, regarding housing, to Service User G’s mother as instructed;

135. The Panel finds this particular NOT proved.

136. Witness 1 said that there was an email to her from the Registrant,  dated 6 November 2014, setting out that the Registrant had written to  the mother requesting documents and giving her the option of  contacting Housing options. Witness 1 said that this was only done  after prompting. The Panel had regard to a copy of that email, and was  of the view that the Registrant did communicate with the mother  regarding housing.

137. The Panel was therefore not satisfied to the required standard that, the  Registrant had not communicated with Service User G’s mother  regarding housing.

7(c) You did not complete and/or record as instructed (i) a closure summary and (ii) a chronology
138. The Panel found both of these sub-particulars proved.

139. The Panel had regard to the CareFirst system and could see that there  was no entry by the Registrant in respect of either a closure summary  or in respect of a chronology.

140. Witness 1 said that on 1 December 2014 she had emailed the  Registrant stating: ‘you will need to complete the closure summary I  have put on SUG’ case (you will now see on your desktop under  ‘assessments’) complete a chronology (needs to be saved in carestore)  and make sure all your visit forms and observations have been added  to carefirst so I can close down the case.’

141. The evidence of Witness 1 was that that these requested actions were  not completed by the Registrant and the case remained open.

142. The Panel was therefore satisfied to the required standard that the  Registrant had not completed the closure summary or the chronology  as requested.


Statutory Ground and Impairment

143. The Panel next considered whether the matters found proved, as set  out above, amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence, and if  so, whether by reason thereof, the Registrant's fitness to practise is  currently impaired.

144. The Panel considered the submissions made by Ms Sheridan on behalf  of the HCPC. She submitted that HCPC was of the view that this case  was effectively a misconduct case. She submitted that the Registrant's  fitness to practise is currently impaired.

145. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The  Panel was aware that any findings of lack of competence and/or misconduct and impairment were matters for the independent judgement of the Panel.

146. The Panel was aware that consideration of impairment only arises in the event that the Panel judges that the facts found proved do amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence that what has to be determined is current impairment, that is looking forward from today.

Decision on Statutory Ground

147. The Panel considered whether the facts found proved amounted to a lack of competence on the Registrant’s part and concluded that they did not.

148. The evidence which the Panel had heard undoubtedly pointed to the conclusion that the Registrant was capable of carrying out the role of a childrens social worker. The Panel had sight of her CV which she had submitted to Shropshire Council in support of her application for the temporary post. It showed that she had undertaken her first social work post in 1984 and had held several senior practitioner posts over the subsequent years, concentrating particularly in child social work.

149. The letter dated 15 March 2016 from the Registrant described that in her time working as a social worker, she had an excellent record of service in all the councils, social work agencies and organisations she had worked for prior to the temporary post at Shropshire Council.

150. In the temporary post itself, the Registrant had engaged in discussions of cases within supervision with Witness 1, and there was evidence that although it had perhaps taken the Registrant longer to grasp the CareFirst system, she was able to use it.

151. In light of this, the Panel therefore concluded that the facts found proved did not amount to a lack of competence.

152. The Panel considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and concluded that they did. The Panel was mindful that these particular Service Users had been referred to the social work team and were identified as children in need who were vulnerable and potentially at risk.

153. In considering whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct, the Panel was of the view that a number of themes emerged in relation to the Registrant’s practice as follows:

• A failure to undertake visits;
• A failure to record visits which had taken place;
• A failure to check, communicate and liaise with other agencies;
• A failure to complete assessments; and
• A failure to complete up to date chronologies.

Failure to undertake visits

154. The Panel identified that required visits had not been undertaken in respect of Service Users B, C and D. The importance of visits is to enable the assessment of risk and needs and what action may be required to safeguard the Service User and other children within the family. Without a visit, the Panel recognised that the social worker cannot undertake an adequate assessment or put in place necessary safeguarding measures.

155. Therefore the Panel concluded that visits are a fundamental aspect of social work and was of the view that such a failure was serious because it breached national guidelines; did not follow management instructions and were a basic task for a social worker, and ultimately exposed service users to potential risk.

Failure to record visits which had taken place

156. The Panel identified that there had been a failure to record visits undertaken in respect of Service User Family A (both in relation to children and mother) and Service User B. The importance of recording visits is to record the analysis and assessment made identifying risks and ensuring the accountability of the social worker. This recording outlines any protective intervention taken and enables other professionals to be aware of the factors which underpin the assessments made. Recording also enables continuity of care for a service user.

157. Therefore the Panel concluded that the failure to record visits undertaken was serious.


Failure to check, communicate or liaise with other agencies

158. The Panel identified that the facts found proved demonstrated instances when the Registrant had not liaised with important and relevant agencies such as the police, health professionals, education professionals and the Probation Service.

159. The Panel was of the view that checking information given by, for example, parents and family members of service users and service users themselves, with other agencies, was important in the triangulation of information so as to be able to ascertain whether the information was accurate. It also enabled the social worker to gain a holistic picture of the service user’s circumstances and any risks emerging.

160. The Panel therefore concluded that such a failure was serious as joint working across relevant agencies is fundamental to the role of safeguarding. The failure to do so undermines the ability to undertake an effective assessment of risk and implement necessary safeguarding measures.

161. The exception to this finding is in respect of particular 7(a) where there was a failure to record the views of all professionals; there was however a record of the views of some professionals and therefore this failure was not so serious. In reaching this conclusion the Panel had regard to the evidence of Witness 1.

Failure to complete assessments

162. The Panel was of the view that assessments were a key aspect of social work. Their purpose is to coordinate information, analyse the circumstances and risks and provide a professional view as to what intervention may be required.

163. The Panel concluded that a failure to complete assessments was serious as it may result in necessary protective intervention not being implemented and leaving a service user at risk of harm, or if an assessment determines that closure of the case is appropriate, it may leave a family in limbo and may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety to the family.

Failure to complete up to date chronologies

164. The Panel was of the view that up to date chronologies, completed from all archived material, are a key tool for a social worker. They enable patterns of potential risk to be identified and support assessments which may be made in the future. The Panel concluded that a failure to complete chronologies was serious, as significant patterns which may point towards risk of harm may not be identified.

165. Having reviewed the themes emerging from the facts found proved the Panel went on to review other aspects of the case.

166. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that no actual harm had been identified to any of the service users in this case, however it was of the view that the failures of the Registrant had the potential to put them at risk of significant harm. In relation to Service User B and Service User F, there were identified risks of domestic violence and alcohol misuse, such that they were left exposed to potentially imminent risks of physical, emotional and psychological harm. Ultimately in relation to Service Users B, C, E and F, real grounds of concern emerged in respect of them, such that in the cases of Service Users B, C and F, strategy meetings and Section 47 assessments were required.

167. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 to the effect that the Registrant did not have an excessive caseload. The evidence was that the Registrant had a caseload of a total of thirteen children whilst a social workers usual caseload within the team would be around twenty children.

168. The Panel also considered in the light of the Registrant’s comments in her letter of 15 March 2016 whether health issues may have impacted on her ability to do her job. The evidence showed that she was contracted on a full time basis and was in work up to 3 December 2014 and that whilst she shared a health issue with Witness 1 it was not a health issue that prevented her from carrying out her work. The Panel therefore concluded that there was no evidence available to the Panel of health issues that may explain the failures identified.

169. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures breached the following HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics:

• 1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.
• 7 - You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners.
• 10 - You must keep accurate records

170. It was also of the view that it breached the following HCPC Standards of proficiency for social workers:

• 1.3 - be able to undertake assessments of risk, need and capacity and respond appropriately
• 1.5 - be able to recognise signs of harm, abuse and neglect and know how to respond appropriately
• 8.9 - be able to engage in inter-professional and inter-agency communication
• 9.7 - be able to contribute effectively to work undertaken as part of a multi-disciplinary team
• 10.1-  be able to keep accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible records in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines
• 10.2 - recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines
• 14.3 - be able to prepare, implement, review, evaluate, revise and conclude plans to meet needs and circumstances in conjunction with service users and carers

171. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant had received support in her role. Witness 1 operated an open door policy for the social workers she was responsible for, and she held supervision with the Registrant. There had also been basic induction training for her when she arrived and training in respect of CareFirst, along with administrative support for this system. Senior practitioners were also available in the team to provide support and consultation.

172. The Panel noted the email dated 26 November 2014 from Witness 1 to the Registrant setting out new timescales for completion of assessments and that some of these timescales had not expired by the time the Registrant went on sick leave. The Panel was of the view that these were not the original time frames for cases which had largely been allocated in October 2014, and the cases were in respect of children in need and the expectation was for action within 7 days. Witness 1 had sent an email to all staff on 17 November 2014 highlighting the importance of assessments being completed and written up within 10 working days. The Registrant had also indicated through text messages to Witness 1 that she would complete the work whilst off sick, although she did not. Therefore the fact that some later timescales were still outstanding at the time the Registrant left on sick leave, did not reduce the seriousness of her failures in the Panel’s view.

173. There was also evidence that other professionals were at the time expressing serious concerns and chasing up about the need for urgent action for children at risk of harm. This evidence came from a senior police officer and a Headteacher in relation to Service User F.

174. The Panel concluded that the failures were basic, repeated, impacted on multiple service users and families, occurred over a period of 8 weeks, were serious and therefore amounted to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

175. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Practice Note on Impairment and in particular the two elements of impairment, namely the ‘personal component’ and the ‘public component’

176. The Panel first considered the ‘personal component’.

177. The Panel was of the view that it had little evidence in relation to insight. It had the Registrant’s letter of 15 March 2016 which suggested that she had reflected to a degree upon her actions at Shropshire Council and that she recognised that her performance may not have been up to standard. However, there was no evidence that she had reflected on why and how she had failed in her practice and what impact this may have had on service users.

178. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures were capable of remediation. The Panel took account of the Registrant’s letter to the effect that she had not practised since early December 2014 and so there was no evidence that she had remediated her practice, in particular through training, reflection, mentoring and practising as a social worker.

179. The Panel was of the view that there remained a high risk of repetition of the failures by the Registrant, and therefore concluded that in respect of the personal component, her fitness to practise was currently impaired.

180. The Panel went to consider the ‘public component’.

181. In light of the Panel’s conclusion that these had been serious failures on the part of the Registrant in respect of vulnerable children, and that the risk of repetition remained high. The panel therefore concluded that there was a need to protect the public. It was of the view that the public would expect the Regulator to take action in order to protect members of the public. It therefore concluded that public confidence in the reputation of the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case. Similarly, the Panel concluded that professional standards would be undermined if it did not make a finding of impairment. Accordingly, in respect of the ‘public component’ the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Decision on sanction

182. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct, the Panel next went on to consider whether it was impaired to a degree which required action to be taken on her registration by way of the imposition of a sanction.

183. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and it exercised its independent judgement. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the wider public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.

184. The Panel first identified what it considered to be the principal mitigating and aggravating factors in this case.

185. Mitigating factors:

• The Registrant had a previous good work record, with no previous history of failings;
• The events occurred over a relatively short period of time in an otherwise lengthy career;
• The Registrant has some limited insight. In her letter of 15 March 2016 she demonstrated some acceptance of her failings, stating: ‘I was not aware that I had become somehow dysfunctional and impaired at the time of my practise with Shropshire Council…’.
• There is evidence that the Registrant had to some extent engaged with the HCPC

186. Aggravating factors:

• The Registrant’s failings related to basic social work tasks and requirements;
• They were repeated, and arose  in respect of a number of service users;
• They exposed Service Users to a potential risk of significant harm;
• The Registrant had the opportunity to tell her line manager that her cases were not being progressed by her, but did not take that opportunity;
• The Registrant’s failings would have impacted adversely on the reputation of the social work team.

187. In relation to the Registrant’s health, which she had raised as an issue which may have impacted on her practice, the Panel noted that it did not have medical evidence before it which might explain or mitigate the Registrant’s failures.

188. The Panel considered the alternative sanctions available, beginning with the least restrictive. The Panel did not consider that the options of taking no further action, or the sanction of a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. Neither option would provide the necessary levels of public protection, nor would they reflect the seriousness of the case and the Registrant’s failures in respect of identifying and analysing risk in respect of those children in need who were allocated to her. The Panel did not consider that the issues were of a minor or isolated nature, and the Panel has identified a real risk of repetition.

189. The Panel moved on to consider the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Indicative Sanctions Policy suggests that this sanction may be appropriate where the issues are capable of correction and there is no persistent or general failure which would prevent the Registrant from doing so. In this case, the Panel has already indicated that it is of the view that remediation of the Registrant’s failures is possible.

190. However, although the Panel was of the view that the failures were capable of being remedied, it was not satisfied that they had, in fact, been remedied as the Registrant had indicated that she had not been practising as a social worker since December 2014. As the last communication from the Registrant had been on 5 September 2016, the Panel did not have before it information about her current personal circumstances. This meant that the Panel could not assess whether or not the Registrant would comply with or be able to comply with conditions. The Panel was of the view that paragraph 27 of the ISP was relevant in this regard. This paragraph states: ‘The imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part of the registrant to resolve matters and therefore conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases: where there are serious (…) overall failings; the registrant lacks insight…’. The Panel therefore concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order was unworkable at this time.

191. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and concluded that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction, both to protect the public and to meet the wider public interest. Given the serious nature of the Registrant’s failings; the potential risk of harm to which Service Users were exposed as a result and the high risk of repetition which had been identified by the Panel, it was satisfied that such an Order would provide appropriate protection to service users. It was also required to maintain public confidence in the professional and uphold professional users.

192. The Panel considered that the length of the Order should be for 12 months. Having identified that the failures of the Registrant were capable of remediation, but that the Registrant had not practised as a social worker since late 2014, the Panel considered that this would be be an appropriate period to allow the Registrant the opportunity to reflect and remediate.

193. The Panel was of the view that a Striking-Off Order would be disproportionate at this time.

194. This Panel did not seek to fetter the discretion of a reviewing Panel, but it did consider that the following may be of assistance to a future Panel:

• Overall evidence of remediation, including a commitment to keeping her skills and CPD up to date;
• Evidence of reflection on her failures, including the potential impact of her failures on service users, how she would avoid a repetition in the future and how her failures would impact on the reputation of the profession
• Any evidence regarding her health condition.

195. Although the Panel had no information as to the Registrant’s current financial situation, beyond that she was not practising as a social worker, it acknowledged that such an Order would be likely to have an impact upon her if she wished to return to practice in the future. However, the Panel determined that the interests of protecting the public and upholding confidence in the profession outweighed the interests of the Registrant.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

An Interim Suspension Order was imposed to cover the appeal period.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
09/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended