Miss Mary Wangui

: Social worker

: SW19115

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 08/02/2017 End: 17:00 14/02/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

While working for The Council between 24 September 2012 and 17 November 2014, you:

 

1. In relation to Children A, B and C;

 

a) On or around 4 August 2014, arranged for them to be placed with Person 1 and you:

 

i) Did not undertake an adequate assessment of Person 1’s suitability to care for the children;

 

ii) Did not provide Team Manager 1 with all of the relevant information in relation to the placement of the children with Person 1 when requesting authorisation for the placement.

 

b) Your actions at paragraphs 1a) i) and/or 1a) ii) placed the children at risk.

 

2. You did not consult with and / or obtain the consent of Service User A in respect of the care placement of children A, B and C with Person 1.

 

3. In relation to Service User H:

 

a) You told the Court under oath that:

 

i) You had filed viability assessments with the court in relation to potential carers for Service User H which was not the case;

 

ii) The viability assessments were in the court bundle, which was not the case.

 

b) In or around July 2014, you did not ensure that viability assessments in relation to potential carers for Service User H’s baby were completed.

 

c) You did not arrange DNA testing following a Court direction.

 

4. In relation to Service User B, between March and June 2014

 

a) You did not complete a risk assessment;

 

b) You did not act on the concerns of other professionals and / or agencies involved with Service User B.

 

5. Your actions at paragraph 3a) i) and/or ii) were dishonest.

 

6. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 to 5 constitute misconduct and / or lack of competence.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

 

Service

 

1.             The available documents showed that the Hearing Notice was sent to the Registrant’s registered address on 5 October 2016, in accordance with Rule 3 of the Health and Care Professions Council Procedure Rules. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that proper service of Notice of this hearing had been given.

 

Proceeding in absence

 

2.             In reaching a decision on whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel considered the submissions of Ms Partos, on behalf of the HCPC and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel considered the HCPC Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and gave anxious scrutiny that a decision to proceed in the absence of a Registrant is to be taken only with the utmost care and caution. The Panel took into account the guidelines in Jones [2001] EWC A Crim 168 and in Adeogba & Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162, as set out by the Legal Assessor.

 

3.             The Panel exercised its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant because:

 

     There had already been considerable delay in this case, the final hearing having initially been listed for July 2016;

 

     The Registrant had not made an application to adjourn the hearing and there was no evidence to suggest she would attend any future hearing;

 

     Witnesses had attended and the Panel was concerned that the quality of the evidence would diminish with the passage of time as these allegations relate to events in 2014. The Panel considered it was in the interests of justice to deal with matters expeditiously and in a timely manner, without undue delay, and concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself;

 

4.             Accordingly, the Panel determined that in all the circumstances, the proper course of action was to proceed with the hearing.

 

 

 

Background

 

5.             The Registrant was employed by Hertfordshire County Council (the Council) as a Social Worker within the Broxbourne South Safeguarding Locality and Family Support Team (SLFS). She commenced her employment with the Council on 24 September 2012 but started with Broxbourne South SLFS on 25 March 2013.

 

6.             It is the HCPC’s case that on 4 August 2014, the Registrant was informed that one of her service users, Service User A, had fallen ill and had been taken to hospital in an ambulance. Service User A had three children, and care arrangements needed to be made for the children whilst Service User A was in hospital (Child A, B, and C). The Registrant made arrangements for the children to be cared for by Person 1, Child A and B’s father. In placing Child A, B, and C with Person 1, the Registrant did not carry out an adequate assessment to ensure Person 1’s suitability in caring for the children. The Registrant approached LG, the team manager of another team, to obtain authorisation for placing the children with Person 1, because her team manager, RP, was out of the office. When she spoke with LG, the Registrant did not provide all of the relevant information in relation to the placement. Despite Service User A having parental responsibility for Child A, B, and C, the Registrant did not ask for her consent for the children to be placed with Person 1.

 

7.             It is alleged that Service User H was 17 at the time of the allegation and she was pregnant. The Council was involved throughout her pregnancy because there were concerns surrounding her ability to adequately care for the baby once it was born. It was determined that it would be unsafe for the baby to be in its mother's care once born. The Registrant was responsible for undertaking viability assessments in order to ascertain potential carers for the unborn baby. The Registrant did not complete the viability assessments, but during a Court appearance, she said that she had filed the viability assessments, and that they were in the court bundle. Following a court direction, the Registrant also did not arrange for a DNA test to be carried out.

 

8.             It is the HCPC case that the Registrant was the allocated social worker for Service User B. There were domestic violence and parenting concerns around Service User B. The Registrant attended a meeting at a school on 24 March 2014 following a domestic violence complaint, but she did not communicate any of the information to her manager. In May 2014, the Registrant was informed of a further domestic violence incident, but she did not conduct a risk assessment. Further to this, the school had raised concerns with the Registrant about Service User B, but she had not acted on the concerns.

 

9.             LW, Service Manager, was appointed to investigate the concerns.

 

 

Decision on Facts

 

10.          On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from:

 

     LW, the Investigating Officer;

 

     LG, a Team Manager at the Council;

 

     RP, who at the time was also a Team Manager at the Council and the Registrant’s line manager;

 

     SG, a Social Worker at the Council;

 

     DOB, a Consultant Social Worker at the Council; and

 

     JA, a Senior Practitioner at the Council, who gave evidence via telephone.

 

11.          The Panel felt that all of the HCPC witnesses were credible and gave their evidence in a clear, straightforward manner. However, the Panel did note that some witnesses could not recollect some issues with clarity. The Panel does not criticise the witnesses for this and recognises that with the passage of time, their recollections may have been affected.

 

12.          The Panel also took into account a notable absence of key documentation, in particular the Child Protection Plan for Child A, B and C, case notes regarding Service User B, and supervision notes between the Registrant and RP.

 

13.          The Panel also had written representations from the Registrant dated July 2015.

 

Particular 1a)i) - Proved

 

1. In relation to Children A, B and C;

 

a) On or around 4 August 2014, arranged for them to be placed with Person 1 and you:

 

i) Did not undertake an adequate assessment of Person 1’s suitability to care for the children;

 

14.          The Registrant, in her written representations, said that she visited the home of Person 1 on 4 August 2014. The Panel found that there was no evidence of the Registrant having done so immediately prior to Child A, B and C being placed with Person 1. SG, who visited Person 1’s property on 7/8 August 2014, spoke of the property having significant clutter, dirt, dust, dog excrement on the floorboards, and that there was a large barking dog being kept in an upstairs bedroom, which could potentially have placed Child A, B and C at risk, for example, by knocking the children over. SG also said there was a lack of toiletries, washing facilities, and bedding, which was wholly inconsistent with placing young children in such a property. Further, LW said there was no written risk assessment on the Council’s system. The Panel was also assisted by a number of colour photographs of the interior of Person 1’s property.

 

15.          Whilst the Panel noted the Registrant’s representations that Person 1’s home environment was adequate, it considered that in assessing Person 1’s suitability, his home would be an integral part of that assessment. The Panel found the evidence of SG to be compelling and found that, on balance, the HCPC has made out the particular.

 

16.          Therefore, the Panel found this particular proved.

 

Particular 1a)ii) – Proved

 

1. In relation to Children A, B and C;

 

a) On or around 4 August 2014, arranged for them to be placed with Person 1 and you:

 

ii) Did not provide Team Manager 1 with all of the relevant information in relation to the placement of the children with Person 1 when requesting authorisation for the placement.

 

17.          The Panel accepted the written and oral evidence of LG that the Registrant did not provide details regarding Person 1’s history of domestic violence. The Panel considered that the Registrant was under a professional obligation to provide sufficient and relevant information to LG to enable her to make an informed decision regarding the placement of Child A, B and C. LG was clear in her evidence that she had not been told of the risks associated with Person 1 and his home environment.

 

18.          For this reason, the Panel found that the Registrant did not provide LG with the relevant information when seeking authorisation for the placement.

 

19.          Therefore, the Panel found this particular proved.

 

Particular 1b) – Proved

 

b) Your actions at paragraphs 1a) i) and/or 1a) ii) placed the children at risk.

 

20.          The Panel found the actions and/or omissions of the Registrant in not undertaking an adequate assessment and in not providing all the relevant information to LG did place Child A, B and C at risk of harm.

 

21.          Therefore, the Panel found this particular proved.

 

Particular 2 – Not Proved

 

2. You did not consult with and / or obtain the consent of Service User A in respect of the care placement of children A, B and C with Person 1.

 

22.          Whilst the Registrant acknowledged in her written representations that she should have obtained written consent from Service User A, the Panel heard evidence from RP to the effect that, in an emergency situation, written consent was not always necessary. RP also agreed that, from her knowledge of Service User A, it was possible she may have changed her mind. DOB further supported this contention, saying that from her knowledge of working with Service User A, she was prone to changing her mind.

 

23.          On balance, the Panel found that the HCPC had not made out this particular. Therefore, the Panel found this particular not proved.

 

Particular 3a) – Not Proved

 

3. In relation to Service User H:

 

a) You told the Court under oath that:

 

i) You had filed viability assessments with the court in relation to potential carers for Service User H which was not the case;

 

24.          The Registrant denied this particular in her representations. The burden is on the HCPC and on, balance, the Panel found the particular had not been made out, as the only evidence for it was the recollection of RP, which appeared to contradict evidence within the HCPC bundle, where it is stated the Registrant “had completed such viability assessments and that they were negative and gave the impression [Panel’s emphasis] to the court that these were included within the court bundle”. This falls short of the Registrant actually swearing on Oath to the Court that the documents had been filed.

 

25.          Therefore, the Panel found this particular not proved.

 

Particular 3a)ii) – Not Proved

 

3. In relation to Service User H:

 

a) You told the Court under oath that:

 

ii) The viability assessments were in the court bundle, which was not the case.

 

26.          The Panel found Particular 3a)i) not proved and it follows the Panel also find Particular 3a)ii) not proved for the same reasons. Therefore, the Panel found this particular not proved.

 

Particular 3b) – Proved

 

3. In relation to Service User H:

 

b) In or around July 2014, you did not ensure that viability assessments in relation to potential carers for Service User H’s baby were completed.

 

27.          The Panel considered the evidence of JA, who was subsequently tasked with completing these assessments. JA gave evidence regarding the timelines for such viability assessments and when they should have been undertaken in relation to the birthdate of Service User H’s baby. JA said she had been provided with the Registrant’s handwritten notes, which did not assist her, and partially completed case notes, but these did not amount to completed viability assessments. Whilst the Registrant says in her written representations that the viability assessment for Service User H were positive when she went off sick on 11 August 2014, the Panel preferred the evidence of JA that they had not been completed in or around July 2014.

 

28.          Therefore, the Panel found this particular proved.

 

Particular 3c) – Not Proved

 

3. In relation to Service User H:

 

c) You did not arrange DNA testing following a Court direction.

 

29.          The Registrant, in her written submissions, said she was never directed by the Court to carry out DNA testing, as this was the task of the legal team. The Panel considered the evidence of RP that, in her view, she would have expected the Registrant to have been “proactive” in arranging the DNA testing. However, the Panel also noted an exchange of emails between RP and Legal Services, which suggested there was some ambiguity regarding who took the lead role in facilitating the DNA testing. There was no evidence before the Panel regarding any policy that social workers were required to arrange DNA testing and consequently, the Panel found this particular not proved.

 

Particular 4a) – Not Proved

 

4. In relation to Service User B, between March and June 2014

 

a) You did not complete a risk assessment;

 

30.          The Panel considered the HCPC had not provided sufficient evidence in support of this particular. The Panel was not provided with the case records of Service User B. Whilst RP gave oral evidence that in preparing her statement for the HCPC she would have looked at the case notes, there was no documentary evidence available to the Panel.

 

31.          Therefore the Panel found this particular not proved.

 

Particular 4b) – Not Proved

 

4. In relation to Service User B, between March and June 2014

 

b) You did not act on the concerns of other professionals and / or agencies involved with Service User B.

 

32.          The Panel found this particular not proved, for the same reasons as those given in relation to particular 4a). The Panel acknowledges that RP was candid in saying that she could not recall the specific concerns raised by the school, and, in the absence of documentary evidence, the Panel could not find this particular proved.

 

Particular 5 – Not Proved

 

5. Your actions at paragraph 3a) i) and/or ii) were dishonest.

 

33.          In light of the Panel’s findings that particulars 3a)i) and 3a)ii) were not proved, it follows that the Panel does not find these amounted to dishonesty.

 

 

Decision on Grounds

 

34.          The Panel went on to consider whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence. The Panel considered Ms Partos’ submission on behalf of the HCPC that, if found proved, the particulars would be sufficiently serious as to amount to misconduct. She submitted that the failings amounted to a number of breaches of the HCPC “Standards of Conduct, Performance, and Ethics” and the HCPC “Standards of Proficiency” for social workers.

 

35.          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 were matters for the independent judgement of the Panel.

 

36.          The Panel considered that the Registrant’s failings in those particulars found proved fell below the standards expected of a registered social worker.

 

37.          The Panel found that the Registrant had breached the following “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.

 

9              You must get informed consent to provide care or services (so far as possible).

 

38.          The Panel also found that the Registrant had breached the following “Standards of Proficiency” for social workers:

 

4.1          be able to assess a situation, determine its nature and severity and call upon the required knowledge and experience to deal with it

 

4.3          recognise that they are personally responsible for, and must be able to justify, their decisions and recommendations

 

4.4          be able to make informed judgements on complex issues using the information available

 

8.2          be able to demonstrate effective and appropriate skills in communicating advice, instruction, information and professional opinion to colleagues, service users and carers

 

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

 

39.          The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct, but it noted LG, in her evidence, stated she did not believe that the Registrant had deliberately misled her by not providing the relevant safeguarding information. The Panel also took into account the relative inexperience of the Registrant as a registered social worker.

 

40.          The Panel also considered whether the Registrant’s actions could have amounted to a lack of competence. The Registrant’s line manager, RP, confirmed that the Registrant had completed work to a satisfactory standard at times. Although the Registrant was under a Work Performance Development Plan, she was allowed to work independently and attend statutory visits unsupervised. The Panel considered that the failings of the Registrant were not due to a lack of competence. The failings related to two families and the Panel considered that this was unlikely to represent a fair sample of the Registrant’s practice.

 

41.          The Panel found that those particulars found proved amounted to misconduct.

 

 

Decision on Impairment

 

42.          Having determined that the Registrant's actions amounted to misconduct, the Panel went on to consider whether her fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of that misconduct.

 

43.          The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPC's Practice Note on “Finding That Fitness to Practise is Impaired”.

 

44.          The Panel considered the following mitigating features:

 

     The Panel is not aware of the Registrant having any previous fitness to practise history;

 

     The Registrant had partially engaged with the HCPC at the Investigating Committee stage;

 

     The Registrant had shown some insight in her written representations of July 2015, although this was limited.

 

45.          The Panel also considered the following aggravating features:

 

     The Registrant is not currently engaging with her Regulator;

 

     The Registrant has shown limited insight and there is no evidence of remorse in her written representations;

 

     These matters put three vulnerable young children at risk of harm;

 

     The Registrant’s failings included two separate incidents, but were over a period of time.

 

46.          With regard to the personal component of impairment, the Panel has not been provided with information as to the Registrant’s current practice, training or any testimonials on her behalf. The Registrant has not provided any evidence to show that she has remediated her failings or reflected on her actions. The Panel were unable to assess the Registrant’s current level of insight and therefore considered that there remained a real risk of repetition. The Panel therefore finds the Registrant is currently impaired.

 

47.          With regard to the public component, the Panel found that the Registrant’s actions undermined the reputation of and public confidence in the profession, failed to uphold and maintain proper standards, and that a finding of no impairment would fail to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the Regulator.

 

48.          In all the circumstances, the Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired.

 

 

Decision on Sanction

 

49.          Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct, the Panel went on to consider whether it was necessary to impose a sanction.

 

50.          The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and exercised its independent judgement. The Panel had regard to the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. The Panel understood that the purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive, although they may have a punitive effect.

 

51.          The Panel considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. In reaching its decision, the Panel accepted that the purpose of a sanction is to protect members of the public and to safeguard the wider public interest, which includes upholding professional standards and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

 

52.          The Panel did not consider that the options of taking no further action or mediation to be appropriate or proportionate in this case.

 

53.          The Panel next considered a Caution Order. The Panel found that a Caution Order would not meet the need to protect the public due to the serious nature of the misconduct, the fact that these were not isolated incidents, and the Registrant’s limited insight. The Panel therefore finds that such an Order would not address the serious nature of the misconduct found.

 

54.          The Panel next considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be workable, measurable or appropriate. There was no evidence regarding the Registrant’s current circumstances and, in the absence of insight and remorse, the Panel found that a Conditions of Practice Order would not adequately protect the public.

 

55.          The Panel next considered whether a Suspension Order would be an appropriate sanction. Having accepted that the Registrant was relatively inexperienced and had not purposefully misled LG, but given that there was no evidence of reflection or remediation and no evidence as to the Registrant’s current employment, the Panel found that a 12-month Suspension Order would both protect the public and would be proportionate.

 

56.          The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order. However, the Panel found that there was evidence in the bundle that the Registrant is capable of remediating her failings. Such an Order would be disproportionate as there was no evidence of attitudinal issues which would suggest that the Registrant’s current impairment renders her incompatible with remaining on the Register.

 

57.          The Panel therefore imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.

 

58.          A future reviewing panel might be assisted by the Registrant providing:

 

     A written reflective piece;

 

     Evidence of relevant CPD and/or recent training addressing the issues identified;

 

     Workplace testimonials.

Order

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

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 10 March 2017 (the operative date).

 

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 10 March 2018.

 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Mary Wangui

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
01/02/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Hearing has not yet been held
08/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended