Reginald Anthony Frankum
Allegation (as amended at Final Hearing)
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Bolton Council, you:
1. Did not adequately safeguard Children A, B and C, following a statutory visit on 30 June 2014 in that you delayed in arranging a strategy meeting concerning Children A, B and C.
2. Following receipt of an email from the NSPCC dated 11 July 2014 raising safeguarding concerns in respect of Person F’s contact with Family A you did not:
a) identify the risks of harm posed by Person F to Children A, B and C;
b) notify your managers of these concerns in a timely manner;
c) inform other agencies of these concerns in a timely manner;
d) arrange a strategy meeting in light of these concerns in a timely manner;
e) discuss the concerns in the Core Group Meeting on 13 August 2014;
f) discuss the concerns in the Core Group Meeting on 18 September 2014.
3. Following notification that Person F had been arrested for allegations of rape on or around 20 October 2014 you did not:
a) notify a team manager in a timely manner;
b) conduct a joint visit to Family A in a timely manner.
4. The matters set out in paragraph 1 – 3 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
5. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Registrant had two addresses, known to the HCPC, to which correspondence had been sent by the HCPC. His registered address, was in Bolton, from which he had sent letters to the HCPC up to 6 May 2015. There have been no further communications received from the Registrant since this date. The HCPC also contacted Bolton Council, where the Registrant had worked, to ask whether it had an up to date address for the Registrant. Bolton Council provided details of an address in Wigan. On 3 November 2016, the HCPC sent the notice of this hearing by first class post both to the registered address in Bolton and to the second known address in Wigan. A copy of the notice was also sent by email. The notice contained the required particulars.
2. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel was satisfied on the documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant, had been given proper notice of this hearing in accordance with the Rules.
Proceeding in absence of the Registrant
3. Ms Eales, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the discretion to proceed in a Registrant's absence should only be exercised with the utmost care and caution.
4. The Panel had regard to the chronology of communications between the HCPC and the Registrant.
5. On 9 April 2015, the Registrant wrote to the HCPC to request documentation. Following attempts by the HCPC to contact the Registrant by telephone, letter and email on 10 and 14 April 2015, the Registrant wrote to the HCPC on 20 April 2015 stating that he wished all future communications to be in writing. On 29 April 2015 the HCPC wrote to the Registrant, adopting his suggestion of sending documentation by recorded delivery, and re-sending all previously sent documentation by that method. On 6 May 2015 the Registrant sent a letter to the HCPC acknowledging the letter and enclosures of 29 April 2015, and further confirming that all correspondence should be in writing by recorded delivery. All letters sent by the Registrant up to 6 May 2015 were sent from his registered address in Bolton.
6. No communications have been received from the Registrant since 6 May 2015. It follows that the Registrant has not applied for an adjournment, nor has he submitted any representations. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had decided to disengage with the HCPC.
7. The Panel was satisfied that the HCPC had fulfilled its obligations and taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant in accordance with the Rules.
8. The allegation dates back to a period between June and October 2014. The Panel was aware that there were two witnesses in attendance to give evidence.
9. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived his right to attend and there was no evidence that he would attend an adjourned hearing. The Panel also considered that it was in the public interest for the hearing to take place.
Application to amend the Allegation
10. Ms Eales, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the particulars of the allegation, which had been notified to the Registrant by letter, dated 16 August 2016. She submitted that the amendments effectively offered no evidence in respect of the original 1(a)(i) and 1(a)(ii), and made 1(a)(iii) the stem of proposed particular 1; in respect of proposed particular 2, the amended wording better reflected the evidence but was substantially the same and based on the same evidence; and in respect of proposed particular 3, this was essentially the original 1(c).
11. Ms Eales submitted that there would be no prejudice to the Registrant if the proposed amendments were allowed, as he had been notified of them on 16 August 2016; had had ample time to respond; and the allegations were essentially based on the same evidence.
12. The Panel, having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, determined to allow the application to amend in its entirety. It took into account that the proposed amendments had been notified to the Registrant in good time, and no objections had been received from him regarding them. The Panel was of the view that all the proposed amendments can be made without unfairness to the Registrant. They properly reflect the evidence anticipated to be received according to the witness statements and exhibits previously served on the Registrant on 15 December 2016, and, in the Panel’s view, do not change the nature of the particulars.
13. The Registrant is an HCPC registered Social Worker. He started working at Bolton Council (the Council) in 1994. He then worked there as a Social Worker from 1996. He was working in the Safeguarding Team and was responsible for children in need, as a Grade 8 social worker from 1996.
14. On 14 March 2014, Witness 2, the Registrant’s Line Manager, allocated Children A, B and C (the Children), of Family A, to the Registrant. The case was allocated to the Registrant because it was a complex case involving a number of siblings who were subject to Child Protection Plans and he was an experienced Social Worker.
15. On Monday 30 June 2014, the Registrant carried out a statutory visit to see the Children, such visits being required on a regular basis when children are subject to a Child Protection Plan, so that the social worker can check the children’s welfare, assess their home conditions, or carry out specific work.
16. On Thursday 3 July 2014, the Registrant discussed the case and his visit to the Children with GF, the Looked-After Children Team Manager. It was agreed during this discussion that contact between the Children and Person E (Child A’s father) would be stopped and they would speak to the NSPCC to get more information before considering a strategy meeting. On Wednesday 30 July 2014, a strategy meeting was held.
17. On Friday 11 July 2014, an email was sent to the Registrant from JM, a worker at the NSPCC, following a session which she had held with Child A which raised concerns about the sexual boundaries in the Children’s home, and specifically in respect of Person F (Child A’s step father). In that email, JM suggested that she and the Registrant conduct a home visit the following week. The Registrant forwarded this email to Witness 2 on Thursday 17 July 2014. On that date the Registrant sent a further email to Witness 2 asking for Witness 2’s views about whether involvement from the police was required at that stage.
18. A strategy meeting with the police and the NSPCC was arranged by the Registrant, to be held on 30 July 2014. Attendees at that meeting included the Registrant, Witness 2, the NSPCC worker, JM, who had sent the 11 July 2014 email, a second NSPCC worker and a police officer, SP. Witness 2 chaired the meeting.
19. On 13 August 2014 and 18 September 2014, Core Group Meetings were held in respect of the Children, and attendees at both of these meetings included the Registrant, the Children’s mother, Person F and professionals from other agencies. The Children’s head mistress was present at the meeting of 18 September 2014.
20. On Monday 20 October 2014, the Registrant received a telephone call from the Children’s mother informing him that Person F had been arrested the day before for an allegation of historical rape of a child some years earlier. The Registrant visited the Children’s mother that day and told her that Person F must not be allowed to have contact with her or the Children, to which the mother agreed.
21. On Wednesday 22 October 2014, the Registrant sent Witness 2 an email informing him of Person F’s arrest.
22. On Friday 24 October 2014, Children A, B and C were removed from the care of their mother.
23. It is alleged that the Registrant did not adequately safeguard the Children in respect of suspected sexual abuse. The alleged failures in respect of safeguarding the children included:
• Delay in arranging a strategy meeting concerning Children A, B and C following a statutory visit to them on 30 June 2014;
• Not identifying the risk of harm posed by Person F to the Children following receipt of an email from the NSPCC dated 11 July 2014 raising concerns;
• Not notifying his manager of the concerns raised in the NSPCC email in respect of Person F, in a timely manner;
• Not arranging a strategy meeting in light of those concerns in a timely manner;
• Not discussing the concerns raised in the NSPCC emails in Core Group Meetings held on 13 August 2014 and 18 September 2014;
• Not informing a team manager that Person F had been arrested for rape in a timely manner; and
• Not conducting a joint visit to Family A in a timely manner.
24. On 7 November 2014 the Registrant was suspended from duty by Bolton Council who instigated a disciplinary process.
Decision on Facts
25. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard evidence from Witness 2 and Witness 1.
26. Witness 2 was an HCPC registered Social Worker, who, at the time of the allegations was employed at the Council as a Team Manager in the West Safeguarding Team. In that role he managed a safeguarding team of social workers working with children who are subject to Child Protection Plans, Children in Need and Children who are subject to care proceedings. The Registrant was one of the social workers in that team, and Witness 2 was his line manager.
27. Witness 1 was an HCPC registered Social Worker, who, at the time of the allegations was acting as Deputy District Manager in the West District of the Council. In that role her responsibilities included managing the managers of the Safeguarding Team, the Referral and Assessment Team and the Looked-After Team following an initial routine audit, she conducted a joint investigation with a representative of the Council’s Human Resources (HR) to investigate concerns in respect of the case of Children A, B and C and the Registrant’s management of the case.
28. The Panel also received documentary evidence, including extracts from the Children’s case notes, minutes of meetings and relevant emails sent to or by the Registrant. It also had a copy of the Management Statement of Case, dated 28 January 2015, prepared by Witness 1 and the Registrant’s Initial Statement of Case, dated 20 January 2015.
29. In her closing submissions, Ms Eales, explained that the HCPC, in light of the evidence which had emerged, remained neutral in respect of particulars 1, 2(c), 2(d) and 3(b). She effectively conceded that there was insufficient evidence to prove those particulars to the required standard.
30. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel understood that the burden of proving each individual fact rests on the HCPC and that the HCPC will only be able to prove a fact if it satisfies the required standard of proof, namely the civil standard, whereby it is more likely than not that the alleged incident occurred.
31. The Registrant did not attend the hearing, but the Panel did not draw any adverse inferences against him from his absence.
Did not adequately safeguard Children A, B and C, following a statutory visit on 30 June 2014 in that you delayed in arranging a strategy meeting concerning Children A, B and C
32. The Panel finds this particular not proved.
33. The statutory visit took place on 30 June 2014. It is recorded in the case notes that during this visit, the mother disclosed to the Registrant that she had caught Child A with her pants down leaning over Child C and when challenged about this, Child A had said it was because she had ‘watched dirty movies at Dad’s’. The Registrant had recorded that the risks were potentially increasing given Child A’s recent disclosure.
34. In an entry in the case notes, for 3 July 2014, the Registrant recorded that he had a discussion with GF (Looked-After Children Team Manager) in Witness 2’s absence, and it was agreed that Person E’s contact be stopped, but that more information was required from the NSPCC prior to further consideration of a strategy meeting. On the same day the Registrant visited the mother who confirmed meeting with the NSPCC worker and agreeing not to promote any contact with Person E at his home. Later that day the Registrant also telephoned Person E, who agreed to the suspension of contact whilst investigations took place.
35. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant had used his judgement to assess that the Children were not imminently at risk as Person E did not live at the Children’s home. Following the discussion with GF, the agreement was reached that further information should be obtained before convening a strategy meeting. Witness 1 agreed in evidence that there was no policy requirement that a strategy meeting be held after a statutory visit, and the Panel considered that the Registrant’s assessment had been reasonable in the circumstances. The Registrant had then been off work sick from 7 July 2014, returning on Monday 14 July 2014. The case note entries showed that the Registrant had conducted a joint home visit with the NSPCC worker on 23 July 2014 and from 21 July 2014, he contacted the relevant professionals to arrange a strategy meeting on a mutually convenient date, which was held on 30 July 2014.
36. In light of this, the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had delayed in arranging a strategy meeting.
Following receipt of an email from the NSPCC dated 11 July 2014 raising safeguarding concerns in respect of Person F’s contact with Family A you did not:
a) identify the risks of harm posed by Person F to Children A, B and C;
37. The Panel finds this particular proved.
38. The Panel had a copy of the email, dated Friday 11 July 2014, sent by JM (NSPCC worker) to the Registrant. JM reported in that email that during a session with Child A on the Wednesday, using puppets to represent family members, Child A had put the puppet representing Child C’s head down near the private areas of the puppet representing Person F, which she described as ‘sexy feelings’. She demonstrated the puppet representing herself ‘sexing’ the puppet representing her sister by rubbing herself against her. She said that she got this from YouTube, using Person F’s phone. She also demonstrated all of the puppets in bed together ‘sexing’, which involved the puppets simulating sex. Child A described Person F as always having his pants down. JM suggested in the email that she and the Registrant visit the mother and Person F as soon as possible, to discuss sexual boundaries in the home, and proposed dates of 16, 17 or 18 July 2014.
39. Witness 1 explained that the risk of harm which should have been identified by the Registrant from the contents of this email was that Person F was a potential perpetrator of sexual abuse against the Children. In the Panel’s view, the fact that Witness 2, the Registrant’s line manager and JM, the NSPCC worker also appeared to fail to identify the risk of harm this behaviour posed, as set out in the email, did not absolve the Registrant from his failure to recognise that risk.
40. The Panel had regard to the Registrant’s Investigatory Meeting on 15 December 2014 with Witness 1 and the HR representative, when he was shown a copy of the email and admitted he had not identified the risk. Witness 1 said she recorded his response to the email verbatim, which was: ‘As I have just read it – more in there than I had perceived it to be. I mustn’t have read it properly. Had I made what I should have made of it I probably would have had a different view’. At the end of the meeting, when asked if there was anything else he wished to add, the Registrant said that he would never intentionally place children at harm and had worked for over 20 years to keep them safe. However he accepted that he had made a serious error, and had he understood the 11 July 2014 email his approach would have been different. He described it as a complete misunderstanding of what evidence was there for him to see.
41. The Panel also had regard to the Registrant’s Initial Statement of Case, at paragraph 3.2, in which he stated: ‘I freely acknowledge that, having recently had opportunity to peruse the document whilst at investigatory interview, my previous view of its content and the potential dynamic risk indicators was flawed. […] Had I been cognisant of [Child A’s disclosures] whilst working with the family, my approaches in relation to risk assessment and management would certainly have been different’.
42. In light of the above, together with the fact that the Registrant continued to prepare safety plans for the Children which included Person F, as a protective factor, the Panel inferred that the Registrant had not identified the risks of harm posed by Person F to the Children.
b) notify your manager of these concerns in a timely manner;
43. The Panel finds this particular proved.
44. The Registrant forwarded the NSPCC’s email to Witness 2 on Thursday 17 July 2014, saying: ‘Just for your info at this juncture’. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant had been off work sick from 7July 2014, returning to work on Monday 14 July 2014, and so would not reasonably have been in a position to access the email until 14 July 2014. However, the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1, that the information in the email was so significant that he should have spoken to a manager face to face straightaway and the delay from 14 to 17 July was too long. Although the Panel accepts that the Registrant would have had a large number of emails to ‘trawl through’ on his return to work, it is also of the view that as an experienced social worker he should have been in a position to prioritise his emails. Given the contents of the email, the Panel was satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not notified his manager of the concerns in a timely manner.
2(c) inform other agencies of these concerns in a timely manner;
45. The Panel finds this particular not proved.
46. Witness 2 agreed that the relevant agencies involved in the safeguarding of the Children, and which would need to be aware of the concerns were the school, the NSPCC and the police.
47. In respect of the school, the Panel had regard to an entry in the case notes by Witness 2 for 10 July 2014, that a telephone call had been received from JH, the Head Mistress at the school, to the Council on 10 July 2014. The entry records that JH was calling to share information that she had received from JM, the NSPCC worker, following JM’s session the day before with Child A and the disclosures Child A had made in respect of Person F. JM had also recorded in her email to the Registrant of 11 July 2014, that she had spoken to the Head Mistress. In light of this, Panel was of the view that the school was already made aware of the concerns in respect of Person F by the time the Registrant would have received the email.
48. In respect of the NSPCC, given that JM was the NSPCC worker who had raised the concerns in her email of 11 July 2014, the Panel was of the view that the NSPCC was aware of the concerns.
49. In respect of the police, the Panel had regard to the case note entry by the Registrant for 24 July 2014 that he had contacted the police and that it was agreed that a strategy meeting was an appropriate way forward. It inferred from this that the Registrant must have communicated some information about the contents of the email to the police for that agreement to be reached. The Panel also had regard to the minutes of the strategy meeting of 30 July 2014, at which SP from the police is recorded as present. In the Panel’s view, the minutes, under summary of information shared by Agencies present, contained many of the relevant details raised in the 11 July 2014 email. The Panel inferred from this that there had been discussion of the concerns raised in the email, and that consequently the police were aware of the concerns.
50. In light of the above, the Panel could not be satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not informed other agencies in a timely manner.
2(d) arrange a strategy meeting in light of these concerns in a timely manner;
51. The Panel finds this particular not proved.
52. A strategy meeting was held on 30 July 2014. The evidence of Witness 2 was that it had been convened as a result of the additional concerns raised in respect of Person F, and both Persons E and F were discussed at the strategy meeting. The Panel had regard to an email dated 17 July 2014 from the Registrant to JM, the NSPCC worker, agreeing that a meeting needed to be arranged, envisaging attendance by the NSPCC, school and family support and saying he would ask his manager to chair it. The case note entries showed that the Registrant had conducted a joint home visit with the NSPCC worker on 23 July 2014 and from 21 July 2014, he was contacting the relevant professionals to arrange a strategy meeting on a mutually convenient date, and which was held on 30 July 2014.
53. In light of this, the Panel was not satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not arranged a strategy meeting in a timely manner.
2(e) discuss the concerns in the Core Group Meeting on 13 August 2014;
54. The Panel finds this particular proved.
55. The Panel had regard to the minutes of the Core Group Meeting for 13 August 2014, which recorded the Registrant, the mother, an NSPCC worker and other professionals (not the Head Teacher) as present. Although the minutes record that the sexually inappropriate behaviour of Child A was discussed in the meeting, the actions recorded in the minutes speak of Person F having an increased involvement in Family A. The Panel inferred from this, that it is more likely than not that the Registrant did not discuss the concerns about Person F in this Core Strategy Group, because if he had done so, the outcome would not have resulted in increased involvement for Person F with Family A.
2(f) discuss the concerns in the Core Group Meeting on 18 September 2014.
56. The Panel finds this particular proved
57. The Panel had regard to the minutes of the Core Group Meeting for 18 September 2014, which recorded the Registrant, the mother, Person F, two NSPCC workers, the Head Teacher and other professionals as present. Although the minutes recorded that the sexually inappropriate behaviour perpetrated by Child A upon her younger sibling was discussed in the meeting, the overview of current issues and concerns recorded in the minutes, say that ‘it was clear that the [safety] plan needs a much greater input from Person F’.
58. The actions recorded that Person F was to ‘visit daily daily at times agreed to support Mother in ensuring the home safety plan is effective and that he provides an appropriate package of support for Mother’. The Panel inferred from this, that it is more likely than not that the Registrant did not discuss the concerns regarding Person F in this Core Strategy Group, because if he had done so, the outcome would not have resulted in increased involvement for Person F with Family A.
3) following notification that Person F had been arrested for allegations of rape on or around 20 October 2014 you did not:
(a) notify a team manager in a timely manner;
59. The Panel finds this particular proved.
60. The case notes recorded that the Registrant was telephoned by the mother on 20 October 2014 who informed him that Person F had been arrested the day before for rape of a child some years earlier. The Panel accepted the evidence of both Witness 1 and Witness 2 that this was important information. Although there was no policy to the effect that this information needed to be conveyed to a manager that day, both Witnesses said that the Registrant’s experience was such that he should have realised this.
61. There was a direct conflict in the evidence about whether or not the Registrant had told his manager, Witness 2, on the same day (20 October 2014). Witness 2 said that he was confident that he had not been told this information on the day and forgotten it, as it was so significant that he would have raised it with his own manager. In support of this he pointed to the fact that he had a supervision session with Witness 1 on 21 October 2014, and the notes make no reference to Family A or of Person F having been arrested. He also pointed to the email the Registrant had sent him on 22 October 2014 informing him of the arrest. The wording of that email suggests to him that the email is the first time that the issue was raised with Witness 2.
62. Witness 1 said that when she had a meeting with the Registrant on 23 October 2014, he told her that he had told his manager on the 20 October 2014. The Registrant, in the investigatory interview with Witness 1 on 15 December 2014, said that he went to see the mother on 20 October 2014 and on his return to the office he ‘popped his head round’ Witness 2’s door and told him of the arrest.
63. The Panel had regard to the email of 22 October 2014, which the Registrant sent to Witness 2 regarding Person F’s arrest, which reads: ‘For info – I saw [Mother] on Monday after she phoned and advised me of [Person F’s] arrest and release on bail. She is aware that she must not allow [Person F] any contact with the children and that he must not be allowed any access to her home’. The email then deals with finding out the terms of the bail conditions.
64. The Panel was of the view that the wording of the email indicated that this was the first time that the Registrant was raising the matter with his manager. The Panel also had regard to Witness 2. It considered that he had been candid in his evidence and in particular in accepting responsibility for his own failure to appreciate the significance of the NSPCC email of 11 July 2014. The Panel was satisfied to the required standard that it could accept the evidence of Witness 2 on this point, and found that it was more likely than not that the Registrant had first notified Witness 2 of the arrest of Person F in his email of 22 October 2014, and this delay of two days was not in a timely manner.
3(b) conduct a joint visit to Family A in a timely manner
65. The Panel finds this particular not proved.
66. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant did conduct a visit himself to Family A on 20 October 2014, as soon as he had been informed of the arrest of Person F by the mother and during that visit had impressed upon her that she must not allow Person F contact with the children or to come to the home.
67. Witness 1 accepted that there was no policy requirement that this visit should have been conducted as a joint visit.
68. The Panel found that in the absence of an obligation to conduct the visit of 20 October 2014 as a joint visit, it could not be satisfied to the required standard that the Registrant had not conducted a joint visit in a timely manner.
Statutory Ground and Impairment
69. The Panel next considered whether the matters found proved as set out above, amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence, and if so, whether by reason thereof, the Registrant's fitness to practise is currently impaired.
70. The Panel considered the submissions made by Ms Eales on behalf of the HCPC. She submitted that HCPC was of the view that this case was effectively a misconduct case. She submitted that the Registrant's fitness to practise is currently impaired.
71. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that any findings of lack of competence and/or misconduct and impairment were matters for the independent judgement of the Panel.
72. The Panel was aware that consideration of impairment only arises in the event that the Panel judges that the facts found proved do amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence and that what has to be determined is current impairment, that is looking forward from today.
Decision on Grounds:
73. The Panel considered whether the facts found proved amounted to a lack of competence on the Registrant’s part and concluded that they did not.
74. The evidence before the Panel undoubtedly pointed to the conclusion that the Registrant was capable of carrying out the role of a children’s Social Worker. The Registrant had worked as a Social Worker since 1996 at the Council and had been regarded as an experienced social worker by Witness 2, and could be trusted with complex cases, and was the reason he had been allocated Family A.
75. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s failures were in respect of a single family and centred around his failure to appreciate the potential risk that Person F presented to Family A. The Panel did not consider this to be a fair sample of the Registrant’s practice.
76. In light of this, the Panel therefore concluded that the facts found proved did not amount to a lack of competence.
77. The Panel considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and concluded that they did. The Panel was mindful that Family A had been referred to the Safeguarding Team, as there were concerns about the Children’s sexualised behaviour and the possibility that they might have been the subject of sexual abuse as a result of the care they had received. They were also subject to Child Protection Plans. They were therefore vulnerable and potentially at risk of sexual harm.
78. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant regularly undertook visits to Family A, including joint visits with other agencies. However, in respect of the contents of the email from the NSPCC on 11 July 2014, the Registrant failed to identify the potentially serious risk of harm that Person F posed to the Children. Person F was a co-habitee at the home, regularly staying over night. That initial failure was compounded when the concerns of the email particularly in relation to Person F were not discussed in the Core Group Meetings of August and September 2014. This resulted in safety plans which advocated increased involvement by Person F with Family A. The Registrant’s failure to inform his manager in a timely manner of the arrest of Person F further compounded his initial failure to identify risk. Therefore the Children continued to be exposed to the potential risk of harm which Person F posed from 14 July 2014 to 20 October 2014.
79. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures had breached the following HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics:
• 1 – You must act in the best interests of service users.
• 7 – You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners.
80. In the Panel’s judgement the Registrant’s failures were each serious in themselves, and cumulatively they fell far below the standards of conduct and behaviour expected of a Social Worker, particularly a Social Worker in the context of a Child Safeguarding post. This is because the identification of risk of harm is a key aspect of that role. In the Panel’s judgement they were serious enough to cross the threshold from poor practice so as to amount to misconduct.
Decision on Impairment:
81. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Practice Note on Impairment and in particular the two elements of impairment, namely the ‘personal component’ and the ‘public component’.
82. The Panel first considered the ‘personal component’.
83. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures were capable of remediation. There were refresher courses and training in respect of safeguarding children which the Registrant could undertake. The Registrant could gain insight into his failures, through reflection. It was clear to the Panel that Witness 2 had considerably reflected on his own failure to appreciate the significance of the concerns raised in the NSPCC email of 11 July 2014, so as to ensure that he would not make the same mistakes in the future. This was an option open to the Registrant. However, as he had not engaged with the HCPC process since May 2015, the Panel had no evidence before it that the Registrant had, reflected on his failures, thought about what steps he would take to ensure that he did not repeat them, or thought about how such failures may impact upon the confidence of the public in the profession. In the absence of information from the Registrant as to his current position, there was no evidence that he has remedied his practice, in particular through training and reflection.
84. The Panel had regard to the Registrant’s Initial Statement of Case albeit that it had not been prepared for this hearing. In the Panel’s view it showed that, in January 2015, the Registrant had limited insight. He accepted that he had not appreciated the risk Person F posed to the Children, however he did not accept that that could be ‘construed that I have failed to protect these children’.
85. In all the circumstances, the Panel was of the view that there remained a risk of repetition of the failures by the Registrant, and therefore concluded that in respect of the personal component, his fitness to practise is currently impaired.
86. The Panel went to consider the ‘public component’.
87. In light of the Panel’s conclusion that these were serious failures on the part of the Registrant, in respect of vulnerable children, it is of the view that the public would expect the Regulator to take action in order to protect members of the public. It therefore concluded that public confidence in the reputation of the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case. Similarly, the Panel concluded that professional standards would be undermined if it did not make a finding of Impairment. Accordingly, in respect of the ‘public component’ the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.
Decision on Sanction:
88. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his misconduct, the Panel next went on to consider whether it was impaired to a degree which required action to be taken on his registration by way of the imposition of a sanction.
89. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and it exercised its independent judgement. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the wider public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.
90. The Panel first identified what it considered to be the principal mitigating and aggravating factors in this case.
91. Mitigating factors:
• The Registrant was a Social Worker of 20 years’ experience, with no previous formal disciplinary matters either at work or with his Regulator;
• The Registrant’s failures relate to a single family;
• The Registrant did not intentionally put the Children at risk of harm;
• The Registrant accepted in the Investigatory interview of 15 December 2014 and in his Initial Statement of Case in January 2015 that he had made a mistake by failing to appreciate the risk that Person F posed to the Children.
92. Aggravating factors:
• The Children were vulnerable, being subject to Child Protection Plans;
• The Registrant’s failures exposed the Children to the risk of significant harm for the period 14 July 2014 to 22 October 2014;
• The Registrant’s lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the potential risk that Person F posed to the Children;
• The Registrant’s limited insight.
93. The Panel considered the sanctions available, beginning with the least restrictive. The Panel did not consider that the options of taking no further action, or the sanction of a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. Neither option would provide the necessary levels of public protection, given the risk of repetition which the Panel has identified, nor would they reflect the seriousness of the case and the Registrant’s failures in respect of identifying the risk Person F posed to the Children.
94. The Panel moved on to consider the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Indicative Sanctions Policy suggests that this sanction may be appropriate where the issues are capable of correction and there is no persistent or general failure which would prevent the Registrant from doing so. In this case, the Panel has already indicated that it is of the view that remediation of the Registrant’s failures is possible.
95. However, although the Panel was of the view that the failures were capable of being remedied, it was not satisfied that they had, in fact, been remedied. As the last communication from the Registrant had been on 6 May 2015, the Panel did not have before it information about his current personal circumstances, and, as earlier found, no information of remediation or reflection. This meant that the Panel could not assess whether or not the Registrant would cooperate with or be able to comply with conditions. The Panel was of the view that paragraph 27 of the ISP was relevant in this regard. This paragraph states: ‘The imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part of the registrant to resolve matters and therefore conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases: where there are serious (…) overall failings; the registrant lacks insight…’. The Panel therefore concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order is unworkable at this time.
96. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and concluded that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction, both to protect the public and to meet the wider public interest. Given the nature of the Registrant’s failure to identify the risks which Person F posed to the Children, which had left them exposed to that potential risk of harm from Person F between 14 July 2014 and 22 October 2014, together with the risk of repetition which had been identified, the Panel was satisfied that such an Order would provide appropriate protection to service users. Such an Order is also required to maintain public confidence in the profession.
97. The Panel considers that the length of the Order should be for 6 months. This is with a view to the Registrant demonstrating to the next Panel that he has reflected on his failures and has developed insight into them.
98. Given that the Panel is of the view that the failings are remediable it is of the view that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate at this time.
99. This Panel does not seek to fetter the discretion of a future reviewing Panel, but it considers that such a Panel may be assisted by the attendance at any review by the Registrant, so that he may provide evidence of insight and remediation. Such evidence might include courses undertaken, testimonials and providing a genuine reflection on his failures, including the potential impact of them on the Children, how he would avoid a repetition in the future and how his failures may impact on public confidence in the profession.
100. Although the Panel had no information as to the Registrant’s current financial situation, it acknowledged that such an Order could have an impact upon him. However, the Panel determined that the interests of protecting the public and upholding confidence in the profession outweighs the interests of the Registrant.
No information currently available
Order: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Reginald Anthony Frankum for a period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect.
The order imposed today will apply from 15 March 2017 (the operative date). This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 12 September 2017.
The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest. This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.
History of Hearings for Reginald Anthony Frankum
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|01/02/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|15/08/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|13/02/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|
|30/08/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Interim Order Review||Interim Suspension|
|03/06/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Interim Order Review||Interim Suspension|
|14/03/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Interim Order Review||Interim Conditions of Practice|
|02/03/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Interim Order Review||Hearing has not yet been held|
|16/12/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Interim Order Review||Interim Conditions of Practice|
|01/10/2015||Investigating committee||Interim Order Review||Interim Conditions of Practice|
|16/04/2015||Investigating committee||Interim Order Application||Interim Conditions of Practice|