Jeanette Hamer

: Social worker

: SW91433

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 07/02/2017 End: 17:00 14/02/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

(As amended)
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Northamptonshire County Council between 2006 and July 2014;
1. You practised as a Social Worker while not registered with the appropriate Social Work Regulator from 2006 until 8 February 2013.
2. Between 8 February 2013 and 4 November 2013 you were responsible for Service User A, and you;
a) Did not visit him in a timely manner after you became aware that Service User A had placed a ligature around his neck with a view to ending his life;
b) Did not inform and / or seek the advice of your manager once you became aware of the immediate risks to his safety and welfare;
c) Did not seek advice and/or support from line management;
d) Did not conduct and/or seek to arrange for a risk assessment to be undertaken;
e) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
3. Between 8 February 2013 and 4 November 2013 you were responsible for Service User B, and you;
a) Did not take any or any appropriate steps to identify whether an alternative placement would be suitable for Service User A in accordance with the recommendations made at a Looked After Child (LAC) review in April 2013;
b) Did not undertake and / or record LAC statutory visits to Service User B in a timely way or at all between 18 February 2013 and 4 July 2013;
c) Scheduled a PEP meeting during school hours;
d) Did not discuss with Service User B the incident regarding his brother’s (Service User A’s) use of a ligature to ascertain how Service User B had been affected by this.
4. Between 8 February 2013 and 10 November 2013 you were responsible for Service User C, and you;
a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
b) Did not complete and / or record a Pathway Plan in a timely way or at all;
c) Did not complete and / or record a LAC Review report in a timely way or at all;
d) Did not ensure a PEP was completed and/or on record;
e) Did not record a Health Assessment on the case file;
f) Did not record significant events on the case file;
g) Did not complete and / or record a Chronology on the case file in a timely way or at all;
h) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
5. Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User D, and you;
a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales
b) Did not monitor Service User D’s behaviour; - This particular was withdrawn
c) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System;
6. Between 8 February 2013 and 15 October 2013 you were responsible for Service Users E and F, and you;
a) Did not take appropriate or any action in light of the risk factors in these cases;
b) Did not record that you sought advice and/or support from line management;
c) Did not undertake and/or record any Permanency Planning and / or PEP meetings between March 2013 and October 2013;
d) Did not ensure that a Kinship Assessment in relation to Service User F was undertaken in a timely manner;
e) Did not undertake and/or record a Kinship Assessment in relation to Service User E.
7. Between 8 February 2013 and 4 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User G, and you;
a) Did not set up a professional network meeting in a timely manner, as directed by manager(s);
b) Did not take appropriate and/or agreed action in a timely manner.
8. From 8 February 2013 you were responsible for Service User H, and you did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System, in that:
a) you did not undertake and / or record on Care First a risk assessment in a timely manner or at all; and
b) you did not record on Care First in a timely way or at all statutory visits that you had undertaken.
9. Between 8 February 2013 and 17 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User I, and you;
a) Did not complete and / or record a Pathway Plan in an adequate and/or timely manner;
b) Did not provide adequate support and/or planning to Service User I and his carers;
c) Did not engage and/or consult Service User I in respect of his Pathway Plan.
10. Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User J, and you:
a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
b) Did not record significant key meetings and/or events on the case file;
c) Did not complete and / or record a Chronology on the case file;
d) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
11. Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User K, and you;
a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
b) Did not complete actions from a previous Review;
c) Did not address a risk issue in relation to a previous assessment;
d) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
12. Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User L, and you;
a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
b) Did not update Service User L’s care plan;
13. From 8 February 2013, you were responsible for Service User M, and you did not visit Service User M on a regular basis;
14. From 8 February 2013 you inappropriately kept confidential information in relation to around 36 Service Users outside of the office.
15. The matters set out in paragraphs 1- 14 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
16. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters:
Service and Proceeding in Absence
1. The Panel heard representations from Mr Walters on behalf of the HCPC and received legal advice.
2. The Panel was satisfied that the notice of hearing dated 4 October 2016 was in proper form and was sent on that date to the Registrant at her registered address by first class post within the time and as required by rule 6(1), Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 as amended (‘the Rules’).
3. As a result, the Panel was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken by the HCPC to serve the notice of hearing on the Registrant in accordance with rule 6(1), for the purposes of r. 11 of the Rules. 
4. The Panel heard further representations from Mr Walters and received legal advice. In deciding whether or not to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel applied the principles set out in R v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162, as explained in the HCPC’s Practice Note entitled, Proceeding in Absence, September 2016. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant has deliberately chosen not to attend, and not to be represented at, this hearing. The notice of hearing was properly served and was also served on the Registrant by email. There has been no response to the notice of hearing, nor to previous correspondence that was sent to her in relation to this hearing. The Panel also took into account the findings of the previous Panel in its decision of April 2016, which concluded that the Registrant had deliberately chosen not to attend that first fitness to practise hearing, which was abandoned on the third day of the hearing for reasons that do not concern this Panel.
5. The allegations date back to 2013 and there is a clear public interest in resolving them at this hearing. Three of the witnesses whose evidence is to be relied on by the HCPC were called to give evidence at the previous hearing. The Registrant has not requested an adjournment of this hearing and there is no reason to believe that she would attend at a later date were the hearing to be adjourned. The expeditious disposal of this case is in the public interest and in the interests of the Registrant.
6. In all the circumstances, therefore, the Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.            
Application for parts of the hearing to be held in private
7. Mr Walters made an application on the first day of the hearing that those parts of the hearing that raised matters concerning the health and other aspects of the Registrant’s private life be held in private. Having received advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel granted that application.  
Further evidence
8. On the second day of the hearing Mr Walters made an application that the HCPC be allowed to rely on a witness statement dated 08 February 2017 of SY, who works in the Registrations Department of the HCPC as Registrations Team Leader. Mr Walters did not propose to call SY to give oral evidence but for his statement to be admitted as hearsay evidence. The evidence was relevant to particular 1 of the allegation. Having received advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel decided that the witness statement constituted relevant and admissible evidence and that in all the circumstances it was fair and appropriate to admit this evidence. It was evidence from the Registrations Department of the HCPC, which had previously been absent in respect of particular 1 of the allegation and which would be likely to assist the Panel in deciding the issues of registration raised in that part of the allegation.
9. Three questions were formulated by the Legal Assessor for Mr Walters to put to the witness, to clarify points made in the witness statement. As a result, a second witness statement dated 09 February 2017 was made by SY addressing these points. On the morning of the third day of the hearing Mr Walters applied to put that witness statement in evidence. Having received advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel decided that it was fair and appropriate to admit this further witness statement.   
Amendment of the allegation
10. Mr Walters applied to amend particulars 3a), 3b) and 5a) of the allegation on the third day of the case, after the evidence had been heard. The amendment of particular 3b) sought to change the dates in sub-particular b) so that they fell within the stem of particular 3, and not outside that period. The amendment of particular 3a) was to change the identity of the service user referred to as ‘Service User A’ instead of ‘B’, as that accorded with the case records. The third amendment (to replace ‘allowed Service User D to manage her own contact with her sister and mother’ with an allegation of ‘did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales’) was applied for on the basis that the allegation in particular 5b) would be withdrawn if it were granted.
11. Having received advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel was satisfied that there would be no injustice to the Registrant in allowing these amendments. The allegation that the Registrant had not undertaken statutory visits to Service User D (the new particular 5a) had been put to her in interview during the investigation and she had had an opportunity to respond to it. All three proposed amendments clarified the issues, and would allow the Panel to make due investigation of the issues in the case, without causing unfairness to the Registrant. Therefore, the Panel granted the application.         
Background:
12. The Registrant was employed by the Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) from 1986 and started to work for NCC as a Social Worker in 2006. She was required to manage the cases allocated to her as detailed in her job description.
13. In approximately October 2013 concerns were raised about one of the Registrant’s cases by an auditor, NC. This case initially concerned a Looked After Child (LAC), Service User A. Approximately two weeks prior to 17 September 2013 he had placed a ligature around his neck. On 17 September 2013, on her return from annual leave, the Registrant was informed of this incident in a telephone call she made to the grandmother of Service User A. This information was revealed by an audit carried out on 7 October 2013 concerning Service User B, his brother. There were concerns that the Registrant had not responded appropriately to the information that had come to her attention regarding Service User A. Those concerns were escalated to the attention of a Service Manager, SS. In view of the concerns, a decision was made by NCC to undertake a disciplinary investigation into the Registrant’s work. The Registrant’s cases were audited and a number of additional concerns were raised. All these concerns have given rise to the allegation which is before the Panel.
Decision on Facts:
14. The Panel heard oral evidence on behalf of the HCPC, which was as follows:-
• SS - Registered Social Worker and formerly employed by NCC as a Service Manager for Specialist Looked After Children and Care Leavers from June 2013;
• NC - Registered Social Worker and Auditor who was contracted to NCC in 2013;
• HB - Registered Social Worker and Social Care Investigator employed by NCC from February - October 2014.
None of the above witnesses line managed the Registrant.
There were also three bundles of documents that were put in evidence including case records for all the service users.
15. The Legal Assessor gave advice, which the Panel has accepted in making its decision on paragraphs 1-14 of the allegation.
16. In accordance with that advice, the Panel considered paragraphs 1-14 on the basis that it was implicit in each that the Registrant did or did not do something that she ought to have done in the circumstances. The findings set out below reflect that approach subject to one exception, the Panel was not addressed on the basis of the obligation of a Social Worker to be registered with his or her regulator. This will be addressed at the next stage of the hearing in view of the findings of fact set out below in relation to this matter.
17. The three witnesses gave evidence as to the contents of the case files held by NCC with respect to the children relevant to the allegation, as to audits carried out and in the case of HB as to the steps taken by him and others to investigate the concerns concerning the 13 children relevant to particulars 2 – 13 of the allegation. Those matters included four interviews with the Registrant and interviews with three colleagues (SS and two others) conducted by HB and by predecessors of his who had been responsible for the first part of the investigation, which started in October 2013.
18. Each of the witnesses also gave opinion evidence as to what actions the Registrant should or should not (as the case may be) have undertaken so far as relevant at this stage. In deciding what weight to give to this opinion evidence, the Panel considered whether the person expressing the opinion had the necessary expertise to give it, to what extent their opinions were fair-minded and independent (not being independent expert witnesses in the strict sense), the cogency of any reasons given for the opinion and the reliability of the underlying factual assumptions or other basis on which the opinion was based.
19. The Panel found that each of the witnesses was credible and gave balanced evidence. The evidence of SS was credible, balanced and professional. The evidence of NC was clear, and she had considerable Social Work experience, having a professional background that included work as a Team Manager and as an Independent Reviewing Officer (‘IRO’); see below as to the role of an IRO. HB was an impressive witness. He had conducted a thorough investigation into the concerns raised and in his oral evidence particularly, he was fair-minded, as he made points to the advantage of the Registrant as well as points adverse to her. All the witnesses referred to the statutory framework which explained the responsibilities of the local authority with respect to LAC children. They also explained the responsibilities of the Registrant in the context of, and arising from, that framework. 
20. The Panel has accepted the opinion evidence, so far as it forms the basis of conclusions set out in this decision.   
21. In deciding what weight to give to the contents of the case records, correspondence, interviews and other documents, the Panel has borne in mind all the relevant circumstances. As to the content of the notes of the interviews, the Panel has concluded that they were substantially accurate records of what was said at those interviews in view of the evidence of HB as to how they were prepared.  
22. It is necessary to set out some further background facts in order to understand the findings set out below in relation to each of paragraphs 1-14 of the allegation.
23. The allegation concerns Looked After Children for whom the Registrant was the allocated Social Worker. Once ‘looked after’, a child is accommodated away from their parents under arrangements put in place by the local authority. The statutory obligations placed on the local authority where it has responsibility for LAC children requires it to appoint an IRO for each Looked After Child. The IRO has the responsibility to ensure that the local authority, as the child’s corporate parent, is providing the child with everything that the child needs while being looked after away from their parents.
24. A LAC review meeting must take place within 20 working days of the date when the child becomes ‘looked after’, a further review meeting must take place not more than three months after the first review meeting and further review meetings must take place at intervals of not more than six months thereafter: r. 33(1), (2), The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (‘the Regulations’). The review is a meeting where the IRO, in conjunction with the Social Worker and others review the care provided to the child in order to assess whether it is suitable.
25. The Social Worker is to complete a number of documents for submission to the IRO before the review meeting. These include a LAC Review report, which should address a number of issues regarding the care provided to the child, such as day-to-day living arrangements, health, education and legal status. The report is submitted to the IRO before the review meeting. The local authority also has a statutory duty to implement decisions made in the course of, or as a result of, a review meeting.   
26. The Regulations required the NCC, in the context of the Looked After Children in its care, to ensure that their representative visited the service user in accordance with specified timescales, wherever the service user lived. The visits were based on intervals of not more than six weeks or not more than every three months, depending on the circumstances: r. 28 of the Regulations. This visit was a task carried out by the allocated Social Worker and was very important for ongoing risk assessment and other matters so that NCC could properly discharge its corporate parenting role. 
27. Every LAC child should have a Personal Education Plan (‘PEP’) in place once he or she has become ‘looked after’, as part of their Care Plan: r. 5(b)(ii) of the Regulations. The PEP must be reviewed at prescribed intervals of three months and six months, depending on the circumstances: r. 33(2) of the Regulations.
28. The purpose of the PEP is to ensure that the educational objectives for the child are set and monitored. During the course of the PEP, professionals with conduct of the case meet to review and agree an agenda to deal with the child’s educational needs. The child is included in the process generally and should be given a proper opportunity to attend the PEP meetings. It is the responsibility of the Social Worker to arrange these meetings.
29. A Pathway Plan is to be completed for a Looked After Child as soon as possible after an assessment of the child’s needs, which must be carried out not more than three months after the date on which the child reaches the age of 16: r. 42(1)(2), 43(1) of the Regulations. It is a plan agreed and compiled by the Social Worker and other professionals with conduct of the child’s case to facilitate the child’s transition to leaving care, i.e. adulthood. The plan should include the following: care and living arrangements, education and training plans, health needs (both physical and emotional) and a range of other issues to enable the child to live independently once the child is no longer in care. In the absence of such a plan, the professionals working with the service user would be unclear as to how best to continue to provide care for that child.
30. A Chronology is a document drafted by the Social Worker that records all significant events for a child in care. It is to be updated regularly by the Social Worker, so that it provides a ready reference for all professionals involved in the care of the child. It is to provide a comprehensive narrative of the child’s journey through care. It is also an important document for the child, to assist the child in understanding their life story. Although there is no statutory obligation requiring a Chronology, the creation and completion of such a document is an aspect of competent Social Work practice.    
31. A local authority caring for LAC children is also required by statute to make arrangements for a registered medical practitioner to carry out an assessment of the child’s health or to satisfy itself that such an assessment has already been carried out. Once the child has reached the age of five, the health assessment must be reviewed every 12 months: r. 7(3) of the Regulations.
32. A responsible authority may approve a temporary placement for a child with a ‘connected person’ (such as a friend or relative) before a fostering arrangement with such a person is put in place. Before granting any such approval, the authority must (among other things) carry out an assessment of the suitability of that person as a foster parent within 16 weeks of the approval: r. 24 of the Regulations.
33. The file system in place at the time at NCC was in electronic form. The main system was known as ‘Care First.’ There was another system named ‘Alchemy’, to which externally created documents could be uploaded. That was not possible on Care First.
Particular 1 – Proved
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Northamptonshire County Council between 2006 and July 2014;
1) You practised as a Social Worker while not registered with the appropriate Social Work Regulator from 2006 until 8 February 2013.
34. The Panel has accepted the evidence of SY in his witness statements. Responsibility for regulation of Social Workers was transferred from the General Social Care Council (‘GSCC’) to the HCPC on 1 August 2012. On that transfer the HCPC was given a database provided by the GSCC which recorded the identity of Social Workers who were registered and who had ever been registered as Social Workers (‘the GSCC database’). On 18 December 2012, AM (an IRO) emailed the HCPC asking whether the Registrant had been registered with the GSCC in view of an assertion of the Registrant that she had been registered since 2007. In its email of response the HCPC stated that the Registrant ‘was never registered with the GSCC’, explaining that the GSCC database included all individuals who had at one time been registered but whose registrations had lapsed.  
35. In his second witness statement, SY stated that he had checked the GSCC database on 8 February 2017 and the name of the Registrant did not appear on it. He confirmed that the GSCC database included every individual who held a registration with the GSCC; both those who held an active registration on 1 August 2012 and those who had held a registration before that date. The GSCC however, did hold a record of the Registrant ‘qualifying’ as a Social Worker in 2006.
36. In accepting SY’s evidence on this point, the Panel has also taken into account that the Registrant was invited by NCC to provide evidence of her registration with the GSCC by evidencing any payments made to the regulator through bank statements. She had been unable to provide any such evidence.
37. The Panel has also accepted SY’s evidence as to the state of the HCPC register for the period between 1 August 2012 and 8 February 2013. The Registrant was first registered with the HCPC on 8 February 2013 and not before. Her application for first registration was made on 22 January 2013.
38. In view of the fact that the Registrant worked for NCC as a Social Worker from 2006, the Panel has found she did so while not registered with the appropriate Social Work regulator until 8 February 2013.    
Stem of Particular 2 a) – Proved
2) Between 8 February 2013 and 4 November 2013 you were responsible for Service User A,
39. The Registrant became the allocated Social Worker for Service User A on 23 March 2012. She was suspended by NCC on 9 October 2013 as part of the disciplinary procedures instituted by NCC against her. Therefore, the stem of particular 2 has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User A between 8 February 2013 and 8 October 2013.
Particular 2 a) – Proved
and you; 
(a) Did not visit him in a timely manner after you became aware that Service User A had placed a ligature around his neck with a view to ending his life;
40. A case note prepared by the Registrant recorded her telephone conversation with the grandmother of Service User A, of 27 September 2013, as follows, -
… GA1 informed me that [SUA] tied a ligature around his through [sic] two weeks last Saturday, this was after having a fight with his sister. [GA1] saying she ws [sic] very worried about him as he was saying he couldn’t cope with his life anymore. [GA1] contacted CAMHS and arranged an appointment …   
41. In her interview of 13 December 2013 the Registrant stated that she made an offer to the grandmother to go and see Service User A after work but she did not go that day. She was ‘swamped’ with paperwork, having just returned from a two week holiday and was told by the grandmother that it was best if she left it to another day in view of the fact that Service User A was going to see DC of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). There was no evidence to indicate that the Registrant visited this Service User at any time after the incident.
42. In the light of the serious and urgent safeguarding concerns raised by that information, the Registrant should have visited the service user urgently as HB explained in his oral evidence.  Therefore this part of the allegation has been found proved.
Particular 2 b) – Proved
(b) Did not inform and / or seek the advice of your manager once you became aware of the immediate risks to his safety and welfare;
43. In her interview of 26 February 2014 the Registrant stated that she had sought advice from a manager, but could not recall the identity of that manager. In her first interview of 13 December 2013, however, she stated, “Apart from speaking to the office and asking if I had done enough, I can’t recall speaking to any senior manager.” There is no record by either the Registrant or any manager on the file that such a conversation took place. In those circumstances, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant did not seek advice from a manager.
44. The Panel has accepted the evidence of HB that in the circumstances she should have sought immediate advice from her Team Manager.
45. Therefore, the Panel has found particular 2b) of the allegation proved in that the Registrant did not inform her manager or seek the manager’s advice once she became aware of the immediate risks to the safety and welfare of Service User A.
Particular 2 c) – Proved
(c) Did not seek advice and/or support from line management;
46. In view of the findings set out under particular 2b), this particular of the allegation has been found proved in that she did not seek advice or support from line management.
Particular 2 d) – Proved
(d) Did not conduct and/or seek to arrange for a risk assessment to be undertaken;
47. In her first interview, the Registrant admitted that she did not consider a risk assessment. There was no record of a risk assessment on the file or evidence that the Registrant sought to arrange one. Therefore, the Panel has found this part of the allegation to have been proved in that she did not conduct or seek to arrange for a risk assessment to be carried out.
Particular 2 e) – Proved
(e) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
48. In her first interview the Registrant was asked to state the location of the records she had made for this case. She stated that she had not written them up and did not put them on Care First. From looking at the case notes the Panel has ascertained that the LAC review on 26 April 2013 was not noted by the Registrant in these notes.
49. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that this part of the allegation has been proved.
Stem of Particular 3  – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 4 November 2013 you were responsible for Service User B,
50. It is clear from the file records that the Registrant had become the allocated Social Worker for this service user before 8 February 2013, though the date of allocation is not clear. In view of the date of her suspension from work, the stem of particular 3 has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User B between 8 February 2013 and 8 October 2013.
Particular 3 a) - Proved
and you;
(a) Did not take any or any appropriate steps to identify whether an alternative placement would be suitable for Service User A in accordance with the recommendations made at a Looked After Child (LAC) review in April 2013;
51. This task was allocated to the Registrant at a LAC Review meeting in April 2013. There is no record that she undertook this work. The audit carried out noted that the task had not been carried out and the report from NC was to the same effect.
52. Therefore, this particular of the allegation has been established in that the Registrant did not take any steps to identify whether an alternative placement would be suitable for Service User A in accordance with the recommendations made at a Looked After Child (LAC) review in April 2013.  
Particular 3 b) – Proved
(b) Did not undertake and / or record LAC statutory visits to Service User B in a timely way or at all between 18 February 2013 and 4 July 2013;
53. In the circumstances of this case, statutory visits should have been conducted every 3 months.
54. There was one record of a statutory visit by the Registrant to this service user, on 4 July 2013. There was no record of any other statutory visit in the period between 18 February 2013 and 04 July 2013. When interviewed, the Registrant stated, “I have done them and they are in my notes. If I see [SUA] I see [SUB]”. HB was asked generally about the notes and the diary to which the Registrant referred at various points in her interviews. He said (speaking in general terms, not by reference to any specific case) that he looked at these documents but derived no assistance from them. Where dates and appointments were referred to, it was not clear from the entries whether the reference was to a future appointment or to one that had taken place and had been recorded.  There was an occasion when the Registrant noted on Care First that she had arranged a statutory visit, after school on 26 January 2013.
55. The Panel has found it to be unlikely in all the circumstances that the Registrant carried out the other statutory visit that should have been completed, three months before 04 July 2013. There was no evidence in the notes that such visit had been undertaken and the Registrant did not give details of specific visits having taken place. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved, in that the Registrant did not undertake a statutory visit between 18 February and 04 July 2013.   
Particular 3 c) – Proved
(c) Scheduled a PEP meeting during school hours;
56. The records showed that this meeting took place on a school day in July 2013 at 10:30am. The Registrant arranged it. The Registrant accepted in interview that when Service User B had been informed of this PEP meeting, he said that it clashed with his favourite school lesson. When asked about re-arranging the meeting she said that Service User B had not attended the previous PEP meeting.
57. The Registrant was at fault, because she arranged the meeting without consulting the child beforehand. The fact that he had not attended the previous meeting would not provide a reason why it would have been unnecessary to consult him. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been proved.
Particular 3 d) – Proved
(d) Did not discuss with Service User B the incident regarding his brother’s (Service User A’s) use of a ligature to ascertain how Service User B had been affected by this.
58. When interviewed on 23 January 2014 the Registrant accepted that she had not spoken to Service User B about the incident. The Registrant was the Social Worker responsible for Service User B. The evidence of HB was that the actions of Service User A, his brother, are likely to have had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of Service User B. As the responsible Social Worker the Registrant should have discussed the incident with Service User B in the circumstances.
59. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been proved.
Particular 4 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 10 November 2013 you were responsible for Service User C,
60. The Registrant became the allocated Social Worker for this service user before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under particulars 2 and 3, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User C from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013. 
and you;
(a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
61. In the circumstances of this case, the statutory visits should have been carried out every three months. The auditor’s evidence was that the records on Care First indicated a gap in statutory visits for 19 months. The records showed that a statutory visit took place on 17 June 2013. There was no record of a statutory visit in the three months before or after that date. When interviewed on 13 December 2013 the Registrant stated that she had carried out visits and these were in her diary, although “the visits were not always on time as it was in my backlog”. For similar reasons to those set out under particular 3b), the Panel finds it is more likely than not that the other two statutory visits did not take place.  
62. Therefore, this particular of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not undertake statutory visits within the correct timescales.
Particular 4 b) – Not Proved
(b) Did not complete and / or record a Pathway Plan in a timely way or at all;
63. The records showed that there was a meeting between the Registrant and Service User C on 22 April 2013. The Panel accepted the evidence of HB that the Social Worker should complete the Pathway Plan within two weeks of such a meeting, once the Social Worker had the necessary information. 
64. The records showed that the Pathway Plan was signed off on 27 June 2013. Although that is well outside the period of two weeks, it was unclear whether or not the document had been made available earlier by the Registrant. There may have been a delay in signing off the document by her manager. There is no evidence as to when the document had been prepared.
65. Accordingly, this part of the allegation has not been established to the required standard of proof and has not been proved.
Particular 4 c) – Not Proved
(c) Did not complete and / or record a LAC Review report in a timely way or at all;
66. In the circumstances of this case, LAC review meetings were to take place every six months. The records showed that the reports of these meetings on 18 February 2013 and 26 July 2013 have been completed. Therefore, this part of the allegation has not been proved.
Particular 4 d) – Proved
(d) Did not ensure a PEP was completed and/or on record;
67. The Service User was a 16 year old female. Her PEP had to be reviewed every six months. The PEP was reviewed on 21 February 2013 but there was no evidence of a review at any time before 9 October 2013. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not ensure that a PEP was completed.   
Particular 4 e) – Not Proved
(e) Did not record a Health Assessment on the case file;
68. The Health Assessment had to be reviewed every 12 months. The records showed that a Health Assessment was performed on 30 October 2012. It was not due to be reviewed until 30 October 2013, which was after the date when the Registrant was suspended. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.  
Particular 4 f) – Not Proved
(f) Did not record significant events on the case file;
69. Mr Walters conceded that in view of the evidence ‘significant events’ were to be recorded in the Chronology and this was to be reflected in particular 4 (g). Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.
Particular 4 g) – Proved
(g) Did not complete and / or record a Chronology on the case file in a timely way or at all;
70. The records showed a Chronology with three events recorded for this 16 year old female. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant did not complete the Chronology, which she should have done as the responsible Social Worker for this service user.
71. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not complete a Chronology on the case file at all. 
Particular 4 h) – Proved
(h) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
72. The records showed that a LAC review meeting took place on 26 July 2013. It was not recorded in the case notes. The written ‘observations’ showed gaps when nothing was recorded for long periods, such as between 04 April 2013 and 17 June 2013.
73. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved.
Stem of particular 5 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User D,
74. The case of Service User D had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under particulars 2-4, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User D from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 5 a) – Proved
and you;
a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
75. When interviewed on 23 January 2014 about this matter the Registrant was specific as to the dates when she carried out statutory visits. For example, she stated, “Yes (refers to diary) I saw her 28th August at home.”  
76. The Registrant did not record this visit on Care First as she was required to do. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not record statutory visits within the correct timescales.
Particular 5 b) – withdrawn 
77. This part of the allegation was withdrawn – see paragraphs 10 and 11 above.
Particular 5 c) – Proved
(c) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System;
78. The records showed that a LAC review meeting was held in June 2013. It was not recorded in the case notes, as it should have been. The statutory visits had not been recorded at all on the electronic file. Therefore this part of the allegation has been found proved. 
Stem of particular 6 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 15 October 2013 you were responsible for Service Users E and F,
79. The cases of Service User E and F had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under particulars 2-5 of the allegation, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service Users E and F from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 6 a) – Proved
and you;
a) Did not take appropriate or any action in light of the risk factors in these cases;
80. These service users were sisters, who lived in Scotland with their grandmother. A risk of domestic violence to them had been identified as a result of information received on 1 September 2012 and recorded on the electronic file.
81. There was no evidence on the file that the Registrant had visited these service users between March 2013 (when they were recognised as being LAC children) and 8 October 2013, even though on 18 June 2013 she was given an instruction by AM, the IRO of those service users, to visit them in July 2013.
82. In interview, the Registrant asserted that they were seen every week by local Social Workers. However, there is no evidence on the case file to support this and the Panel has concluded that the Registrant did not visit either Service User E or Service User F between March 2013 and 8 October 2013.
83. The Panel has accepted the evidence of HB that in the circumstances, the Registrant should have re-assessed the care arrangements in view of the risks to which they were exposed. The Panel has concluded that such an assessment could not have been carried out without visiting the sisters and that she should also have carried out the instruction given to her by AM. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not take any action in the light of the risk factors in these cases.       
Particular 6 b) – Not Proved
(b) Did not record that you sought advice and/or support from line management;
84. The electronic file showed that the Registrant did seek advice and support in respect of these matters during supervisions, as evidenced by the case notes of 12 June 2013 (advice sought of AM) 14 June 2013 (AM), 18 June 2013 (AM) and 16 July 2013 (CBR, her then line manager). 
85. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.
Particular 6 c) – Not Proved
(c) Did not undertake and/or record any Permanency Planning and / or PEP meetings between March 2013 and October 2013;
86. In the interview of 23 January 2014 the Registrant stated that these service users had undergone the process of ‘special guardianship’ which resulted in a decision that they should live with their maternal grandparents. A copy of the Report for Special Guardianship appeared on the electronic file. This constituted permanency planning in the circumstances. A copy of a PEP plan for Service User E was also on the file.
87. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.   
Particular 6 d) – Not Proved
(d) Did not ensure that a Kinship Assessment in relation to Service User F was undertaken in a timely manner;
88. The chronology on the electronic file recorded on 18 June 2013 that the ‘Connected Persons assessment’ (being the Kinship Assessment) had been done. The relevant decision was taken at the LAC review meeting on 25 March 2013. Therefore, the assessment was carried out within the necessary period of 16 weeks, in a timely manner. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.
Particular e) – Not Proved
(e) Did not undertake and/or record a Kinship Assessment in relation to Service User E.
89. There was no evidence that the Registrant was obliged to personally carry out the ‘Connected Persons assessment’ (being the Kinship Assessment). The chronology on the electronic file recorded on 18 June 2013 stated that the ‘Connected Persons assessment’ (being the Kinship Assessment) had been done. The Panel has not seen that assessment but there was evidence that it had been done as indicated in the Chronology. The assessment could have been recorded on Alchemy as an external document to which the Panel did not have access. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.
Stem of particular 7 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 4 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User G,
90. The case of Service User G had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under particulars 2 - 6 of the allegation, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User G from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 7 a) – Not Proved
and you;
Did not set up a professional network meeting in a timely manner, as directed by manager(s);
91. On 18 June 2013 the Registrant was instructed to set up a professional network meeting for Service User G, Her father had been convicted of sexually assaulting her half-sister.
92. The meeting was arranged to take place on 30 July 2013. However, it did not proceed as all the necessary participants could not attend. The Registrant could not be held responsible for this. The meeting was re-arranged for 04 October 2013. This was not an emergency strategy meeting. No date was provided by her supervisor as to the timescale for holding the meeting. There is insufficient evidence that the period of just under six weeks to 30 July 2013 when the Registrant had sought to hold the meeting, was timely or not. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.   
Particular 7 b) – Proved
(b) Did not take appropriate and/or agreed action in a timely manner.
93. The electronic file showed that in a case supervision, which took place on 16 July 2013, CBR instructed the Registrant to carry out a risk assessment to facilitate the coordination of action necessary to safeguard Service User G from sexual abuse.
94. A Care Plan was completed by the Registrant on 26 September 2013. However, the risk assessment was not completed until 11 November 2013, a date after the Registrant was suspended. This was an urgent piece of work in a high-risk case. In the circumstances, the assessment should have been completed well before 9 October 2013 when the Registrant ceased to be the responsible Social Worker for this service user. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not take appropriate and agreed action in a timely manner.  
Particular 8 a) – Not Proved
From 8 February 2013 you were responsible for Service User H, and you did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System, in that:
(a) you did not undertake and / or record on Care First a risk assessment in a timely manner or at all; and
95. The Panel has concluded that the Local Authority delegated completion of the risk assessment to an outside agency. The Panel has accepted HB’s evidence that such a task may properly be delegated to the agency, which is equipped to carry out the work.
96. Although the IRO, JA, could not find the risk assessment on Alchemy or Care First, she was told that it had been done, as recorded in her note of 31 July 2013.
97. The Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant should have done the assessment herself, as opposed to delegating the work to the outside agency. It was also not satisfied on the evidence that the assessment had not be completed in a timely manner. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.      
Particular 8 b) – Proved
(b) you did not record on Care First in a timely way or at all statutory visits that you had undertaken.
98. The Registrant accepted when interviewed on 23 January 2014 that she had not recorded these statutory visits on Care First. The records before the Panel confirmed this to be the case and the evidence of the auditor, SS, further confirmed this.
99. Therefore, the Panel has found this part of the allegation to have been proved in that the Registrant did not record on Care First all the statutory visits she had undertaken with respect to Service User H.
Stem of particular 9 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 17 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User I,
100. The case of Service User I had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under previous particulars of the allegation, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User I from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 9 a) – Proved
and you;
(a) Did not complete and / or record a Pathway Plan in an adequate and/or timely manner;
101. This service user was going to reach 18 years of age in September 2013. In her report of 29 June 2013 to CBR from AG, the IRO, recorded that the Registrant was requested to provide an updated plan for the review meeting (which was held on 23 April 2013). A chasing email was sent to the Registrant on 22 April 2013. No updated plan was made available at that review and no plan had been provided by 28 June 2013.
102. On 1 July 2013, AG made a ‘Stage 1 Formal Escalation’, recording that she had now received the plan but it ‘was dated February/March 2013 and does not include further decisions from the April 2012 review.’
103. In those circumstances, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant did not complete a Pathway Plan in an adequate and timely manner. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved.  
Particular 9 b) – Proved
(b) Did not provide adequate support and/or planning to Service User I and his carers;
104. The records compiled by AG on 29 June 2013 show that in April 2013 the carers complained by email to AG that plans were not in place for Service User I in readiness for his leaving care. By letter dated 18 March 2014 the carers made a formal complaint to NCC that the Registrant had provided no support at all despite the aggressive behaviour of the service user. 
105. In interview on 23 January 2014, the Registrant stated that she had received feedback from CRB that SUI did not consider that he had been let down by the Registrant and felt supported by her.
106. The Registrant’s assertion that SUI felt supported by the Registrant is contradicted by the contents of the emails and the letter of complaint. In the circumstances, the Panel has concluded that it is likely that the Registrant did not provide adequate support and planning to Service User I and his carers. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved. 
Particular 9 c) – Not Proved
(c) Did not engage and/or consult Service User I in respect of his Pathway Plan.
107. In her notes of 22 July 2013 AG recorded that the Registrant had notified her of three meetings she had had with the Registrant on the topic of his Pathway Plan. The first meeting was with the service user and one of the carers. The second meeting with just Service User I took place in a MacDonalds (and then her car), because the Registrant perceived the carers to be difficult to engage with regarding access. The third meeting took place at his school.
108. The Panel has been persuaded on this evidence that these meetings took place. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found not proved. 
Stem of particular 10 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User J,
109. The case of Service User J had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under previous particulars of the allegation, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User J from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 10 a) – Proved
and you:
Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
110. In the circumstances of this case, a statutory visit should have been carried out at intervals of not more than three months. The records showed that visits were carried out on 05 and 21 June 2013 and a LAC review on 01 July 2013. However, the records showed no visit in the previous three months and the Panel has concluded that no such visit was carried out.
111. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not undertake statutory visits within the correct timescales, being in the required period of three months before 05 June 2013.
Particular 10 b) – Not Proved
(b) Did not record significant key meetings and/or events on the case file;
112. The audit carried out with respect to this service user made positive observations with regard to various aspects of the case. LAC reviews had been held within the required timescales, the PEP had been completed and reviewed as required and the evidence on the file showed that the Registrant had generally fulfilled the majority of the tasks allocated to her from the LAC reviews.
113. In those circumstances, this part of the allegation has been found not proved.  
Particular 10 c) – Proved
(c) Did not complete and / or record a Chronology on the case file;
114. The audit recorded that no Chronology had been located on the electronic file and there is nothing in the documents before the Panel to indicate that one was completed. As indicated elsewhere in this decision the creation and updating of a Chronology is a requirement placed on the responsible Social Worker
115. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not complete a Chronology.   
Particular 10 d) – Proved
(d) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
116. The case notes recorded very little of the activity on this case. For example, nothing was recorded in the period between 28 February 2013 and 16 May 2013. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved. 
Stem of Particular 11 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User K,
117. The case of Service User K had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under paragraphs 2-6 of the allegation, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User K from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 11 a) – Proved
and you;
Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
118. In the circumstances of this case, statutory visits were to take place at least every three months. In his written alert of 15 October 2013, the IRO (MA) recorded that no statutory visits had taken place. This was confirmed by a file note made by GW that the evidence on Care First indicated that the Registrant had not undertaken a statutory visit since 16 January 2013. The Registrant was not interviewed about Service User K. However, the Panel has concluded that in the absence of any record of visits since 16 January 2013 it is unlikely that these visits occurred.
119. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in that the Registrant did not undertake statutory visits to this service user within the correct timescales.   
Particular 11 b) – Proved
(b) Did not complete actions from a previous Review;
120. There was a LAC review meeting on 14 May 2013. The conclusions to be drawn from the records of the subsequent LAC review meeting on 1 October 2013 are that the actions tasked to the Registrant were not completed. For example, at the first meeting she was tasked to deal with the request of Service User K regarding contact with his parents. The record of the subsequent meeting showed that this had not occurred, Service User K having repeated his request.
121. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved. 
Particular 11 c) – Proved
(c) Did not address a risk issue in relation to a previous assessment;
122. On 15 May 2013 the IRO (MA) emailed the Registrant stating that Service User K might be a sexual risk to others, and requested the Registrant to establish whether that risk had been addressed. There was no evidence that this issue had been addressed by the Registrant.
123. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved.
Particular 11 d) – Proved
(d) Did not maintain accurate case notes on the Care First Computer System.
124. Neither of the two LAC review meetings that took place were recorded on Care First by the Registrant. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved.
Stem of Particular 12 a) – Proved
Between 8 February 2013 and 28 October 2013 you were responsible for Service User L,
125. The case of Service User L had been allocated to the Registrant before 8 February 2013. For similar reasons to those set out above under other paragraphs of the allegation, this part of the allegation has been proved to the extent that the Registrant was the responsible Social Worker for Service User L from 8 February 2013 to 8 October 2013.
Particular 12 a) – Proved
and you;
(a) Did not undertake statutory visits and/or record these within the correct timescales;
126. In the circumstances of this case, statutory visits were to be carried out at intervals of no more than six weeks, in view of the evidence of HB. The only recorded visit by the Registrant from 08 February 2013 was 27 June 2013 and thereafter no further visits were recorded by her on Care First. The written alert of the IRO (MA) dated 15 October 2013 stated that no such visits had been carried out, with the one exception of 27 June 2013.
127. The concerns regarding Service User L were not put to the Registrant during the investigation. However, the Panel has concluded that, with the exception of a visit recorded as having taken place on 27 June 2013, she did not undertake any statutory visits for this service user during the period between 8 February 2013 and 8 October 2013. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved in those respects.     
Particular 12 b) – Proved
(b) Did not update Service User L’s care plan;
128. The LAC Review Chair’s Report, on 03 October 2013, observed that the Care Plan was out of date and required updating by the Registrant in relation to the then current placement and plans. The IRO’s written alert of 15 October 2013 was to similar effect. Although the Panel has not seen the Care Plan it has concluded that it is probable that the plan required updating and should have been updated by the Registrant before 9 October 2013, but had not been updated.
129. Therefore, this part of the allegation has been found proved.  
Particular 13 – Proved
From 8 February 2013, you were responsible for Service User M, and you did not visit Service User M on a regular basis;
130. The Registrant was the allocated Social Worker for Service User M from 8 February 2013 until 8 October 2013. Service User M resided in Scotland. In the circumstances of this case, statutory visits should have taken place at intervals of not more than three months.
131. The Registrant asserted in interview that she had visited this service user. This is corroborated to the extent that she informed CBR in supervision on 3 October 2013 that she saw her on 3 June 2013. No visits are recorded by the Registrant from 09 May 2013 to 26 September 2013. The Panel has concluded that with the exception of that visit, it is likely that she made no other visits.
132. Therefore this particular of the allegation has been found proved.  
Particular 14 – Proved
From 8 February 2013 you inappropriately kept confidential information in relation to around 36 Service Users outside of the office.
133. When interviewed on 26 February 2014 HB observed that the Registrant had been requested to bring to the interview all documents relating to the work done by the Registrant. At that interview HB stated that the Registrant told him that she had various documents at home concerning various service users.  HB said that after this interview the Registrant produced two plastic bags containing numerous documents, the earliest of which dated back to 2010 and 2011. 
134. HB told the Panel that he passed the documents to a colleague in the Human Resources department who made a list of them. A copy of that list, verified by HB in his evidence, was in the documents before the Panel. The list referred to documents relating to service users the subject of particulars 2-13 of the allegation, and also relating to other service users, amounting to around 36 service users in all.
135. The documents included LAC consent forms, PEP’s, Pathway Plans, health assessments, case review reports, financial documents, school reports, original birth certificates, a passport, a Needs Assessment and other documents all of a confidential nature. Confidential documents relating to around 36 service users were on the list.
136. In the circumstances, these confidential documents should not have been taken by the Registrant and kept at her home. The Panel concluded that the Registrant kept these confidential documents at home inappropriately.
137. Therefore, this particular of the allegation has been found proved.
Decision on Grounds:
138. Mr Walters submitted that the failure by the Registrant to maintain her registration with the appropriate social work regulator was in breach of the obligation placed on her by Article 13B(1), Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, as amended (‘the Order’). This was a fundamental requirement and it was misconduct, he submitted, for the Registrant to have practised as a Social Worker while unregistered. 
139. As to paragraphs 2-14 of the allegation, Mr Walters submitted that the facts found proved showed misconduct, rather than a lack of competence. He said that the evidence showed that the Registrant was able to carry out the various tasks that were not completed, because in a number of instances these actions had been carried out by her previously. For example, she had carried out some statutory visits and had recorded some of them.  He referred to the situations where the Panel’s findings showed that service users had been left at risk; for example, in the cases of Service Users A,B, E and F.
140. The Legal Assessor advised on the issues of statutory ground and current impairment. The Panel has accepted that advice. The Panel has considered whether the facts found proved amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence. The Panel has accepted Mr Walters’ submission that this is not a case involving a lack of competence on the part of the Registrant for the reasons he gave. The Registrant knew what she should have done but did not do it.
141. Therefore, the Panel has asked itself whether the acts and omissions found proved were serious in context: Roylance v GMC [2000] a AC 311, at 330-331 and R(Campbell) v GMC [2005] 1 WLR 3488 CA at [19]-[21].
142. Practising while unregistered for a period of around 7 years was a breach of the requirements imposed on the Registrant by law under Article 13(1) of the Order. It was clear from an interview with the Registrant conducted by AM on 8 January 2013 on the issue of non-registration that the Registrant had been aware of her obligation to be registered with the appropriate regulator from 2006.
143. It is by registration with the appropriate regulator that the protection of the public is secured in relation to the social work profession. The Registrant in a fifth (earlier) interview had given no explanation, except that she thought she was registered. Practising as a Social Worker while not registered for this period of time was serious and no reasonable excuse could be found by the Panel. Therefore, the facts proved under particular 1 constituted misconduct on the part of the Registrant.
144. The Panel has approached particulars 2-13 (so far as found proved) of the allegation together, but its findings under particular 14 separately as the latter raised particular considerations. 
145. The acts and omissions proved under particulars 2 - 13 constituted breaches by the Registrant of the following standards set out in the HCPC’s written Standards of conduct, performance and ethics, 1 August 2012 in force at the relevant time in 2013 (‘the Standards’), namely: –
• 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.
146. The Registrant failed to comply with Standard 1 by failing to carry out statutory visits and reviews at times for long periods, to assess risk, plan appropriately, provide support and prepare key documents in relation to the various service users. She failed to comply with Standard 7 by not communicating with Service Users A, B, E, F and M in particular and also with her manager in respect of Service User A. Her failures with respect to record-keeping established many failures to comply with Standard 10.   
147. The Panel has concluded that those acts and omissions established a wide-ranging course of conduct involving a significant number of failures to comply with the Standards in respect of 13 service users. This put a number of those service users at risk, namely Service Users A, B, E, F and G and hampered the process of transition to adulthood of Service Users I and C. In all the circumstances, these failures were serious and amounted to misconduct. 
148. In respect of particular 14, by keeping confidential documents at home, the Registrant failed to comply with standard 2 of the Standards, ‘You must respect the confidentiality of service users.’ The Registrant was aware of that requirement as appeared from her interview on 26 February 2014. There were many documents of a very sensitive nature relating to around 36 service users, which had been kept away from the office, some of them for a number of years. In all the circumstances, the facts established under particular 14 were serious and also amounted to misconduct.  
Decision on Impairment:
149. Having found that those facts proved under particulars 1, 2 - 13 and 14 amounted to misconduct on the part of the Registrant, the Panel considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of that misconduct, applying the principles set out in Cheatle v GMC [2009] EWHC 645 (Admin) at [17], [21] and [22], Cohen v GMC [2007] EWHC 581 (Admin) at [65] and CHRE v Nursing & Midwifery Council & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin), taking into account all the various matters referred to by the Legal Assessor, including the considerations arising from HCPC’s Practice Note, ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired.’
150. The Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession by failing to act in the best interests of service users in many respects and has brought the profession into disrepute by her repeated failings. These took place over a significant period of time, involved 13 service users and put a number of them at risk and hampered the process of transition to adulthood of two of them. This resulted in complaints concerning two service users. The most serious of all these failings was that in relation to Service User A, in view of the risks to which he was exposed by the Registrant’s failure to take the necessary action to safeguard that service user.     
151. The Panel has taken into account the issues of insight, remediation and remorse. The Registrant did show a limited degree of insight and remorse when interviewed. She understood the importance of maintaining records and that it is important that service users are heard. She disclosed personal issues appropriately in response to the various shortcomings on her part that were put to her in the interviews and she said she had set aside time on her holiday in September 2013 to try and get through the backlog of record-keeping.    
152. The shortcomings that have been found in the Registrant’s practice are capable of remediation. There was some limited evidence of remediation. The Registrant’s attempts to get to grips with record-keeping and her positive response to a suggested performance plan to remedy her practice deficiencies (the plan was overtaken by her suspension) were both matters in her favour. However, the Registrant has not engaged with these fitness to practice proceedings and the Panel has been provided with no evidence of insight, remediation and remorse on her part beyond these matters. Although there were also some aspects of the Registrant’s work that demonstrated good practice apart from the practice failings that have been established, in all the circumstances there remains a risk of repetition of the type of misconduct found proved under particulars 2 - 14 of the allegation.
153. The Panel has concluded that in view of the misconduct found and the risk of repetition of that type of misconduct, the Registrant’s fitness to practice is currently impaired and a finding of impairment is necessary in order to protect service users. Such a finding is also required in view of the need to declare and uphold professional standards and to maintain public confidence in the social work profession. The Registrant practised as a Social Worker for around seven years while not registered with the appropriate social work regulator and thereafter engaged in a broad range of serious practice failings concerning a substantial number of service users over a significant period of time, putting some of them at risk.        
Decision on Sanction:
154. No further evidence was adduced by the HCPC at the final stage of the hearing. Mr Walters submitted that the task for the Panel was to identify a sanction that appropriately met the grounds for the impaired fitness to practice. He submitted that the only appropriate sanction was either suspension or striking off.   
155. The Panel received and accepted legal advice at this stage. In making its decision at this stage of the hearing the Panel has borne in mind that the decision as to sanction is a matter for its own professional judgement.
156. The Panel has taken into account and applied the guidance set out in the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy of September 2015 (‘the ISP’). It has borne in mind the purpose of sanctions, which includes the protection of the public, the maintenance of the reputation of the profession and other purposes set out in the ISP. It has taken into account the findings it made in the earlier parts of this case and all the evidence so far as relevant at this stage. It has also had regard to the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case and all other relevant considerations identified in the ISP, so as to produce an outcome which is a proportionate response to the impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise.
157. The aggravating factors in the case were the following, -
• the period of non-registration continued for around seven years;
• the Registrant’s practice failings related to 13 service users and the failings were many in number;
• several of those service users were put at risk of harm, the risk to Service User A having been particularly serious;
• a number of the service users were distressed as a result of the Registrant’s  failure to support them and complaints were made in respect of two of them;
• the misconduct in respect of the confidential documents related to many documents and concerned sensitive personal information relating to around 36 service users;
• the insight, remorse and remediation demonstrated by the Registrant was limited.
158. The mitigating factors were as follows, -
• the Registrant had undergone two recent close family bereavements; one of which must have been particularly distressing in view of the circumstances;
• there was a further bereavement in 2012 in relation to the death of a child for whom the Registrant was the allocated Social Worker;
• a succession of five managers over three years resulted in poor management and a failure, on the part of the local authority, to support and develop the Registrant as a Social Worker with the necessary supervision. In particular, the Registrant received minimal formal supervision until May 2013 and even then it was entirely case-based. The Registrant was offered no other professional, personal or emotional support;
• the evidence from the HCPC witnesses described a blame culture in the local authority following a failed OFSTED inspection, which resulted in an unsupportive and difficult work environment;
• the Registrant held a caseload that involved long-distance travelling to undertake visits to service users;
• there was some evidence of previous good practice in her work, as commented upon favourably by auditors and by IROs, including at a LAC review meeting in April 2013 concerning one of the 13 service users;
• the Registrant’s acceptance of the usefulness of a performance plan to support her practice;
• her attempts to catch up on her paperwork during her holiday.
• although limited, the insight, remorse and remediation she showed when interviewed.
159. This is not a case where it would be appropriate to take no action in view of the risks to the public that have been found. Mediation would not be appropriate in those circumstances. A caution order would also not secure the necessary degree of public protection. In addition the lapses were not isolated, limited or minor.
160. The Panel next considered whether or not a conditions of practice order would be appropriate. Although the failings in the Registrant’s practice are of a nature which may be capable of remediation through conditions, the Panel has been unable to conclude that the Registrant would comply with conditions of practice in view of her non-engagement with these proceedings. As the Panel has found, there is a risk of repetition of the type of misconduct that gave rise to the finding of impairment, due to the Registrant’s limited insight and limited action taken to remediate the shortcomings in her practice.
161. Therefore, a conditions of practice order would not be a sufficient response to the impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise.
162. The Panel next considered whether a period of suspension would be appropriate. An order of suspension would provide the necessary public protection while giving the Registrant an opportunity to engage with the regulatory process and potentially to remedy the shortcomings in her practice that have been found in this case.
163. That is not an end of the matter. It is necessary to ensure that the sanction reflects the seriousness of the case and the other demands of the public interest, in addition to securing the necessary degree of public protection.
164. In the circumstances of this case the context of the misconduct is very important. In view of what the Panel has concluded were powerful mitigating factors, particularly in respect of the Registrant’s working environment, it has decided that public confidence in the profession and in its regulation would be sufficiently maintained by an order of suspension.
165. The Panel did consider whether a striking off order would be necessary, but decided that it would be a disproportionate response to the impairment. The failings were neither reckless nor calculated and a striking off order would not give recognition to the very important context of the misconduct, despite its seriousness and the aggravating features that accompanied it.
166. In all the circumstances, a period of suspension of six months is proportionate and otherwise appropriate in the circumstances. That period should be sufficient for the Registrant to engage with the fitness to practise process if she wishes to do so, show the necessary insight and remorse and remediate her professional shortcomings. Six months is also a sufficient period to reflect the demands of the wider public interest in view of the context to so much of the misconduct.
167. Before the period of suspension expires, the order will be reviewed at a further hearing at which the Registrant will be given an opportunity to demonstrate that she has acquired the necessary insight and remorse and has taken adequate steps to remediate the practice failings found by this Panel.
168. At that hearing, the reviewing Panel is likely to be assisted by a written reflective analysis by the Registrant of the Panel’s findings in this decision concerning the allegations that were brought against her in respect of the events in and before, 2013.
169. Therefore, the Panel has decided that an order of suspension of six months should be imposed.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Jeanette Hamer for a period of six months from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

Final hearing of the Conduct and Competence Committee to took place at 405 Kennington Road, London from 7 - 14 February 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Jeanette Hamer

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
10/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
07/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended