Mrs Carol Anne Indge

: Social worker

: SW51249

Interim Order: Imposed on 22 Feb 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 20/02/2017 End: 17:00 22/02/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

(as amended at Final Hearing):


Between 22 November 2012 and 24 September 2014, during the course of your employment as a Senior Practitioner Social Worker at Westminster City Council, you:


1. In respect of the Family A:

a) Did not produce court statements within 2 weeks from the decision on 17 March 2014 to proceed to court.
b) Did not produce care plans within 2 weeks from the decision on 17 March 2014 to proceed to court.

2. In respect of the Family B:

a) Between April 2014 and 17 June 2014, did not complete the final court statements and/or final care plans before the court imposed deadline elapsed.

3. On or around 13 June 2014 and/or 16 June 2014, did not inform your line manager that the final court statements and/or final care plans described in particular 2a would not be submitted within the expected timescales.

4. Did not conduct and/or record visits in respect of:

a) Child A between 21 November 2013 and 17 June 2014;
b) Child B between 11 April 2013 and 17 June 2014;
c) Children C between 2 January 2014 and 17 June 2014;
d) Child D(1) and Child D (4) between 9 April 2014 and 17 June 2014;
e) Child D(2) and Child D(3) between 14 April 2014 and 17 June 2014;
f) Children E between 23 December 2013 and 17 June 2014.

5. Did not inform your line manager that the visits described in paragraph 4 would not be conducted within the required timescales.

6. The matters described in paragraphs 1-5 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

Proof of Service

1. The Panel had sight of a letter dated 11 November 2016 sent to the Registrant at her registered address, giving notice of today’s hearing, and determined that service had been complied with in accordance with Rule 3 of the Health Professions Council Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Miss Sharpe applied to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.


3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who took the Panel to the Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant, to Rule 11 and to the guidance given in the cases of Tait –v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34, R –v- Jones (2003) 1 AC 1 and GMC –v- Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162.

4. The Panel was provided with a copy of a pro-forma signed by the Registrant on 6 January 2017 stating that she would not be attending the hearing.

5. The Panel was also provided with an email sent by the Registrant on 6 January 2017, in which she stated:
“I am writing to confirm that I have received the letters dated 03.01.17 and the bundle of evidence to be presented to the Conduct and Competence Committee.
I have sent the response pro-forma: service of papers in the post.
As previously advised, I will not be attending the hearing and have not called on any representative or witnesses to appear on my behalf”.

6. The Panel was also provided with a bundle of documentation entitled “Registrant’s Representations” dated 17 May 2016, and an email sent by the Registrant to the HCPC on 17 January 2017 in which the Registrant provided further representations.

7. The Panel concluded, on the basis of the papers before it, that the Registrant was aware of the hearing and had voluntarily absented herself. She had not made an application to adjourn and the Panel concluded that it was highly unlikely that she would attend if the matter were to be adjourned. The Panel bore in mind that any potential unfairness caused by proceeding in the absence of the Registrant could be mitigated by taking into account the Registrant’s representations set out in her document of 17 May 2016 and her email of 17 January 2017. The Panel concluded that it was in the public interest for the matter to be heard expeditiously.

8. In all the circumstances the Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

Application to amend the allegation

9. Miss Sharpe applied to amend the allegation. The Registrant had been notified of the majority of the proposed amendments.

10. The Panel decided to allow the amendments in their entirety because to do so was in the interests of justice. The amendments were technical in nature, did not alter the substance of the case and caused no injustice to the Registrant.

Witnesses

11. The Panel heard from one witness called on behalf of the HCPC:

- Witness 1 – Investigating Officer and the Registrant’s Line Manager

Background

12. The Registrant commenced employment with Westminster City Council (“the Council”) on 25 February 2012 as a locum social worker. On 1 May 2012 she became a permanent social worker and on 22 November 2012 she became a Senior Practitioner.


13. Concerns were raised in relation to the Registrant’s practice following a period of absence from work due to ill-health.


14.  The Registrant was signed off work by her GP for a period of three weeks commencing 16 June 2014. The Registrant informed Witness 1 of this by email on 17 June 2014 and by telephone on 18 June 2014. She resigned from her position in August 2014.


15. An internal investigation was undertaken by Witness 1 following an audit of the Registrant’s cases.


16. In the course of this investigation the Registrant was interviewed on 18 September 2014.


17. The Panel was provided with a bundle of documentation submitted by the Registrant entitled “Registrant’s Representations” dated 17 May 2016, and an email sent by the Registrant to the HCPC on 17 January 2017 in which she provided further representations. In the course of her representations she complained that her workload had been too high to manage, and also that she had been suffering from various stressors relating to her domestic life at the time.


18. The Panel heard live evidence from Witness 1 who stated that the Registrant had been given a caseload appropriate for a practitioner of her seniority. She said that with time this case load had been reduced to 6 families, mostly involving a low level of involvement and a total of 12 children. She accepted that one of the mothers had been difficult to deal with. She said that the Registrant had not approached her at any time to raise any concerns about her workload or domestic pressures although she was aware from other sources that domestic issues had placed demands on the Registrant’s time.
19. She said that a number of measures had been put in place to assist the Registrant to manage her workload, including the ability to work from home occasionally, the offer of a reduction of the time that she would be required to spend as duty social worker, the allocation of a social work assistant to enable her to delegate some of her lower level tasks, and the assistance of a Quality Assurer in relation to the compilation of Court Statements.


20. Witness 1 was able to provide the Panel with copies of some, but not all, of the case notes that she had analysed in the course of her case audit. She informed the Panel that all information regarding service users was retained within the Council’s computer system and the case notes. She said she was one hundred per cent sure that the information she had provided to the Panel regarding the content of those case notes was accurate. She stated that she had checked the contents of both the case notes and the computer system, and had cross referenced them with the Registrant’s electronic diary. She had not been able to cross-reference the Registrant’s hard copy diary as this had not been made available to her. She had asked the IT department to check that no information had been lost from the electronic system. She stated that she had double checked the case notes before finally completing her witness statement.

Decision on Facts

21. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In reaching its decision it took into account the evidence provided by Witness 1, the bundle of documentation supplied by the HCPC and the representations provided by the Registrant in her bundle entitled “Registrant’s representations” and in her email dated 17 January 2017.

22. The Panel found Witness 1 to be a credible, fair, balanced and reliable witness. She had acknowledged the Registrant’s strengths, saying that the Registrant was “a popular and valued member of the team and well respected”.

Particular 1: In respect of Family A:
 a) Did not produce court statements within 2 weeks from the decision on 17 March 2014 to proceed to court;
b) did not produce care plans within 2 weeks from the decision on 17 March to proceed to court

23.  The case of Family A was allocated to the Registrant on 3 October 2013.  The history in relation to the family and Social Services involvement was extensive.

24. On 17 March 2014, a legal planning meeting was held and the decision was taken to issue care proceedings. The Panel heard that the expectation was that the court statement and interim care plans would to be provided to the in-house legal team within two weeks of that decision.

25. The Panel heard that the Registrant did not meet this deadline.

26. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Council decided to give the Registrant a further two weeks, to allow for the particular demands imposed by Family A. A further deadline of 15 April 2014 was therefore granted. The Panel heard that the Registrant did not meet this deadline either, and another social worker had to complete the work in this case.

27. Witness 1 escalated the matter to Head of Service. A meeting was scheduled for 13 June 2014. This meeting was cancelled due to Witness 1 being unavailable. The meeting was rearranged for 24 June 2014 but did not go ahead as the Registrant was on sick leave.

28. In the course of the internal investigation, and in her written representations to the HCPC, the Registrant agreed that she had not completed the court statement or the care plan in this case.  She said that she had found these tasks difficult to complete due to the extensive family history and to the way the mother interacted with her.

29. The Panel concluded on the basis of the evidence of Witness 1, together with the Registrant’s acceptance of the factual allegation, that the Registrant had not produced court statements or care plans within 2 weeks of the decision on 17 March 2014 to proceed to court.

30. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 1 proved.   

Particular 2: In respect of Family B: a) Between April 2014 and 17 June 2014, did not complete the final court statements and/or final care plans before the court imposed deadline elapsed


31.  The case of Family B was allocated to the Registrant on 9 April 2014. An initial court statement had been prepared by a previous social worker.

32.  At a Case Management Conference in April, an agreed deadline of 17 June 2014 for filing the court statement and care plans had been set.

33. The Panel heard that the Registrant did not meet this deadline and that another worker had to complete the work in this case.

34. In the course of the internal investigation, and in her written representations to the HCPC, the Registrant agreed that she had not completed the court statement or the care plan.  She said that she had found it difficult to do so due to the extensive family history.

35. The Panel concluded on the basis of the evidence of Witness 1, together with the Registrant’s acceptance of the factual allegation, that the Registrant did not complete the final court statements or final care plans between April 2014 and 17 June 2014 before the court imposed deadline elapsed.

36. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 2 proved.

Particular 3: On or around 13 June 2014 and/or 16 June 2014, did not inform your line manager that the final court statements and/or final care plans described in Particular 2a) would not be submitted within the expected timescales


37. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant failed to inform her that the final court statements and/or final care plans relating to Family B had not been completed.

38. She said that the Council’s legal department emailed the Registrant to ask her what time the court statements and care plans would be sent to them, and Witness 1 had been copied into this email by the legal department, but the Registrant had not provided Witness 1 with the information herself.

39. In the course of the internal investigation the Registrant agreed that she had not informed Witness 1. She said that she had felt overwhelmed and had struggled to ask for help. In her written representations, she said that she could not remember who she had informed.

40. The Panel concluded on the basis of the evidence of Witness 1, together with the Registrant’s acceptance in her documentation, that the Registrant had not, at any stage, informed Witness 1 that the final court statements and/or final care plans described in Particular 2(a) would not be submitted within the expected timescales.

41.  Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 3 proved.

Particular 4: Did not conduct and/or record visits in respect of:
a) Child A between 21 November 2013 and 17 June 2014


42. Child A was allocated to the Registrant on 31 January 2013 and was subject to a child protection plan. In April 2013, Child A’s status changed to a ‘child in need’.

43. A supervision order in place for Child A required the Registrant to visit the child every 4 weeks until May 2014, when the Supervision Order ended, at which point the Registrant was required to visit Child A every six weeks.

44. Witness 1 told the Panel that the case of Child A was discussed in supervision on 13 March 2014, when the Registrant claimed that she had attempted to visit the child but that Child A’s mother had cancelled the visit. The Registrant was instructed to complete a visit by 28 March 2014 at the latest.

45. Witness 1 said that the last visit conducted by the Registrant recorded on Child A’s notes was dated 21 November 2013, and that there were no further visits recorded until the case was reallocated in June 2014.

46. In the course of the internal investigation interview the Registrant disputed that the visits had not been conducted, but accepted that she may have failed to record them. In her written representations, the Registrant said that the last visit recorded was on 19 March 2013. She claimed that if the visits were not recorded on the “episodes” section of the Council’s computer system they would have been recorded elsewhere in the electronic “case notes” section. She claimed that there was a Supervision Order review meeting on 15 January and home visits booked on 30 January 2014, 6 February 2014, and 21 March 2014 to the family’s address.

47. Witness 1 was asked whether she had found any record in the case notes of the meeting or visits referred to by the Registrant, and confirmed that she was one hundred per cent sure that the case notes had made no mention of them.

48. The Panel had not been provided with the relevant case records. However, it accepted the evidence of Witness 1. As indicated earlier in this determination the Panel concluded that Witness 1 was reliable and credible. There was no suggestion that Witness 1 had set out to mislead. The Panel concluded that the audit had been dealt with rigorously. The Panel had heard that Witness 1 had looked through the case notes, had asked IT to check that no entries had been lost, had checked the records against the Registrant’s electronic diary and had then re-checked the case notes before completing her witness statement.

49. On the basis of the evidence of Witness 1, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had not recorded the visits in respect of Child A.

50. In considering whether unrecorded visits had in fact been made, the Panel bore in mind that the Registrant was of good character. The Panel had no reason to suppose that the Registrant had deliberately sought to mislead the Panel by means of the representations that she had submitted. However, in considering the reliability of those representations the Panel concluded, that whilst it was possible that the Registrant had conducted the visits that she had specified, the Panel had not been provided with any documentary evidence to support the suggestion that they had been made, and in those circumstances the Panel was unable to conclude on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant’s recollection was accurate and that the visits had in fact been conducted.

51. In those circumstances the Panel concluded that the Registrant had not conducted or recorded visits in respect of Child A between 21 November 2013 and 17 June 2014.

52. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 4 (a) proved.


b) Child B between 11 April 2013 and 17 June 2014;


53. Child B’s case was allocated to the Registrant on 10 December 2012. Child B was subject to a child protection plan from 23 June 2012 until 7 April 2013, at which point Child B’s status also became a ‘child in need’, which required the Registrant to visit Child B every six weeks.

54. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the last record of any visit carried out by the Registrant was dated 11 April 2013. The next visit recorded was conducted by a duty social worker on 23 June 2014.

55. In the course of the internal investigation interview the Registrant disputed that the visits had not been conducted, but accepted that she may have failed to record them. In her written representations, the Registrant agreed that the last visit recorded was on 11 April 2013.  She claimed that if the visits were not recorded on the “episodes” section of the Council’s computer system they would have been recorded elsewhere in the electronic “case notes” section. She stated that there was an entry dated 2 August 2013 of a home visit. She stated that she had a meeting with the psychologist to plan support for the mother on 3 February 2014, 7 February 2014 and 21 February 2014, and that she had gone to Willesden County Court on 26 February. She said that Child B was seen on or around these dates.

56. Witness 1 was asked whether she had found any record in the case notes of the meeting or visits referred to by the Registrant, and said that the entry 2 August 2013 referred to a different case worker, and that if there had been meetings on the remaining dates these could not have related to statutory visits with Child B or she would have noted them.

57. The Panel applied the same reasoning set out in relation to Particular 4(a) above.

58. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 4 (b) proved.

c) Children C between 2 January 2014 and 17 June 2014;


59. Children C were two children from the same family. This case was allocated to the Registrant on 2 January 2014.

60.  Children C were both children in need but as care proceedings were ongoing, the Registrant was required to visit them every four weeks.

61. The Registrant attended a joint visit with the previous social worker on 20 December 2013.

62. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant attended a child in need meeting at Children C’s school on 27 February 2014. However, the record of that meeting did not indicate whether the Registrant saw the children during this meeting. The record indicated that it was agreed that the Registrant would carry out a home visit on 2 April 2014. However, there was no record of a visit on 2 April 2014, and there were no records of any other visits taking place.

63. In the course of the internal investigation interview the Registrant disputed that the visits had not been conducted, but accepted that she may have failed to record them. In her written representations, the Registrant accepted that the last record was on the system was dated 20 December 2013. She claimed that she had made later visits, and if these were not recorded on the “episodes” section of the Council’s computer system, they would have been recorded elsewhere in the electronic “case notes” section or in the Children in Need meeting minutes. She said that she had made visits on 19 February 2014 and 2 April 2014. She said that she made a referral to transfer the case but it was not accepted and was allocated instead to the child in need services.  She said that she held child in need meetings at school on 27 February 2014, 24 April 2014, and 11 June 2014, when both children were seen. She stated that she had last seen the children on 28 April 2014, and that the children had been visited on several occasions.

64. In response to the Registrant’s representations, Witness 1 said that if there had been a record on the system of a meeting on 28 April 2014 Witness 1 would have referred to it in her statement. In relation to the Registrant’s suggestion that she had carried out a home visit on 19 February 2014 Witness 1 took the Panel to the case note which recorded that a visit on that date had been arranged but was cancelled. There were no entries at all on the case notes for 2 April 2014. She confirmed that between 18 March 2014 and 17 April 2014 there were no further records in the case notes, and therefore if there had been a visit on 27 February 2014 and 2 April 2014 it was not recorded in the system. In relation to the meetings of 24 April 2014 and 11 June 2014 referred to by the Registrant, Witness 1 stated that if the records had reflected this she would have said so in her statement,

65. The Panel applied the same reasoning set out in relation to Particular 4(a) above.

66. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 4 (c) proved.

d) Child D(1) and Child D(4) between 9 April 2014 and 17 June 2014;
e) Child D(2) and Child D(3) between 14 April 2014 and 17 June 2014


67. The Panel was informed that Children D were the children of Family B. Care proceedings were issued in respect of all four children in February 2014. The Registrant was allocated the case on 9 April 2014.

68. Witness 1 said that the Registrant was required to visit the children at least every four weeks due to the existence of the care proceedings.

69.  Witness 1 informed the Panel that the previous social worker had visited Child D(1) and Child D(4) on 12 December 2013, but no visits had been recorded by the Registrant since.

70. Witness 1 said that the last visit to Child D(2) and D(3) was recorded by the Registrant on 14 April 2014.

71. In the course of the internal investigation interview the Registrant disputed that the visits had not been conducted, but accepted that she may have failed to record them. In her written representations, the Registrant said that the last recorded visit was 24 March 2014. She claimed that she had undertaken a home visit on 13 April 2014, 23 April 2014 and 28 April 2014, and that there had been a court hearing on 3 June 2014, following which she had gone on annual leave for several days and then went off sick. She claimed that if the visits were not recorded on the “episodes” section of the Council’s computer system, they would have been recorded elsewhere in the electronic “case notes” section. She claimed that she last saw the children on 3 June 2014.

72. In response to the Registrant’s representations, Witness 1 said that the there was no record of any of the visits referred to by the Registrant.

73. The Panel applied the same reasoning set out in relation to Particular 4(a) above.

74. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 4 (d) and 4(e) proved.

f) Children E between 23 December 2013 and 17 June 2014;


75. Children E were both children in need requiring visits at least every six weeks. The Registrant was allocated the case on 3 September 2013.

76. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant’s last recorded visit to Children E was on 23 December 2013.

77. The case was reallocated in June 2014.

78. In the course of the internal investigation interview the Registrant disputed that the visits had not been conducted, but accepted that she may have failed to record them. In her written representations, the Registrant said that the last recorded visit was 23 December 2013. She said that she had held child in need meetings at the school on 28 February 2014, 27 March 2014 and 3 May 2014 and home visits on 7 March 2014 and 19 March 2014, when the children were seen. She claimed that if the visits were not recorded on the “episodes” section of the Council’s computer system they would have been recorded elsewhere in the electronic “case notes” section.

79. In response to the Registrant’s representations, Witness 1 gave evidence that the relevant case notes made no reference to the meetings referred to by the Registrant.

80. The Panel applied the same reasoning set out in relation to Particular 4(a) above.

81. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 4 (f) proved.

Particular 5: did not inform your manager that the visits described in paragraph 4 would not be conducted within the required timescale


82. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant had not informed her that the visits in Particular 4 would not be conducted within the required timescales. The Panel had heard that in child protection cases visits needed to be made at least every 4 weeks, and in children in need cases visits needed to be made at least every 6 weeks.

83. The Panel had heard evidence from Witness 1 that she held formal supervision meetings every 3 - 4 weeks. There was also informal supervision on cases through direct discussion and email correspondence. Witness 1 also ran one to one sessions within her team where a slot could be booked so that members of staff could discuss matters that they felt unable to discuss during their formal supervision meetings. However, the Registrant did not book into any of these sessions whilst she was in the team. Witness 1 also said that she had an open door policy which meant that she could be approached regarding any concerns that the Registrant may have had.

84. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 5 proved.

Decision on Grounds

85. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who addressed the Panel on the meaning of lack of competence, misconduct and impairment. She referred to the cases of R-v- Roylance –v- General Medical Council No 2 [2001] 1 AC p311 and Grant ([Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v (1) Nursing and Midwifery council (2) Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 927]).

86. The Panel first considered whether the facts found proved amounted to a lack of competence. The Panel concluded on the basis of the material that had been presented to it that the Registrant had known what to do and had been capable of doing it. The Panel had heard that the Registrant was a well-respected and valued member of the team, to whom others turned for assistance and help. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions were not due to a lack of competence on her part.

87. The Panel went on to consider whether the facts found proved were so serious as to amount to misconduct.

88. The Panel concluded, on the basis of the evidence before it, that the Registrant had been under a duty to complete the actions particularised and found proved. It was the judgment of the Panel that in relation to a number of service users the Registrant had caused unnecessary delay in the context of cases involving vulnerable children. Her behaviour stretched over a period of approximately two years and could not be described as an isolated event.

89. In relation to Particular 1 the Panel heard that the Registrant’s failure to complete the court statement and care plans had resulted in a delay in the removal of a child from the family who had been displaying violent and aggressive behaviour in the presence of younger siblings. The delay in securing the proposed care plans not only left the young person at risk within his family environment, but resulted in the continuation of an ongoing risk to his siblings. The Panel found that this failing was serious and amounted to misconduct.

90. In relation to Particular 2 the Panel was informed that the Registrant’s failing meant that Family B remained within the court process for longer than should have been the case, and the Council was unable to offer sufficient support for the sibling who was to be removed from the home. It also left all the children vulnerable to on-going risk as the child who was to be removed was beyond parental control. The Panel was informed that the children were caused unnecessary anxiety as the Council was unable to give them a clear understanding of the situation as a decision from the court could not be made. The Panel found that this failing was serious and amounted to misconduct.

91. In relation to Particular 3 the Panel heard that as a consequence of the Registrant’s failure to inform Witness 1 that she had not completed the court statement and the care plans in relation to Family B, the Council was not able to inform the court of the situation. This resulted in the court considering whether to order the Council to pay a Wasted Costs Order, although in the event this did not occur due to the intervention of Witness 1. The Panel found that this failing was serious and amounted to misconduct.

92. In relation to Particular 4(a) the Panel heard that the consequence of the Registrant’s failure was that the Council was not able to adequately safeguard Child A. Child A was a case involving neglect.  If the Registrant had not been completing the visits she could not be sure what condition Child A was living in. In relation to Particular 4(b) the Panel heard that the Registrant’s failure had continued for over a year. In relation to Particular 4(c), the Panel heard that the father of Children C had caused significant injury to the mother in the presence of the children and the children’s parents were not supposed to have contact with one another. The Panel heard that as a result of the Registrant’s failing the court refused to grant the order requested by the Council because there was insufficient evidence provided by the Registrant regarding the contact between the mother and father. In relation to Particulars 4(d) and 4 (e), Children D were the children of Family B, and one of the children was beyond parental control and clearly required visits to be made. In relation to Particular 4(e) Child E(1) had behavioural problems and the child’s mother was not able to manage his behaviour. The Registrant had been expected to ensure that the child and his mother engaged with the parenting assessment. She was under a duty to ensure that what she reported was a true and accurate reflection of the children’s experience. The Panel found that the failings in relation to Particular 4 were serious and amounted to misconduct.

93. In relation to Particular 5, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s failure to inform Witness 1 that the visits described in Particular 4 would not be conducted within the required timescale were serious failings and amounted to misconduct.

94. In reaching its conclusions the Panel bore in mind the measures that had been put in place to assist the Registrant to manage her workload, including the ability to work from home on occasion, the offer of a reduction of the time that she would be required to spend as duty social worker, the allocation of a social work assistant to enable her to delegate some of her lower level tasks, and the assistance of a Quality Assurer in relation to the compilation of Court Statements.

95. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had breached the following HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics: 1 and 10.

96. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had also breached the following Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England: 2.3 and 10.

97. In all the circumstances the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions had fallen seriously below the standards expected of a social worker acting in the circumstances faced by the Registrant at the time.

Decision on Impairment

98. In considering whether the Registrant is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took note of the Practice Note on Fitness to Practise provided by the HCPC.

99. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s misconduct is capable of being remedied. However, it has been provided with no evidence of remediation.

100. In considering the issue of insight, the Registrant had accepted some of the factual allegations. However, she had denied others. She had not provided any evidence of reflection. She had expressed remorse in relation to the overall situation that she had found herself to be in at the time but had expressed no remorse about the impact of her actions on the vulnerable families that she had dealt with.

101. The Panel has been provided with no information regarding the Registrant’s work or domestic situation since her resignation in August 2014. In those circumstances there is no reason to suppose that her domestic situation had improved, or that she has managed to keep up to date with her professional knowledge and skills.

102. In those circumstances the Panel concludes that there is a risk that the Registrant could repeat her failings if allowed to continue to work as a Social Worker unrestricted. The Panel therefore finds the Registrant to be currently impaired on the basis of the private component.

103. The Panel also concludes that the wider public interest demands a finding of impairment. The Registrant has failed vulnerable service users on a number of occasions over a lengthy period of time. She failed to uphold proper standards of proficiency and the Panel concludes that public confidence in the profession and the regulatory body would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

104. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant is currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction

105. The Panel heard the submissions of the Presenting Officer.

106. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

107. The Panel kept in mind that the purpose of sanction is not to be punitive but is designed to protect the public interest which includes protecting members of the public, and maintaining proper standards within the profession, the reputation of the profession itself and public confidence in the regulatory functions of the HCPC.

108. The Panel took into account the current Indicative Sanctions Policy published by the HCPC.

109. In considering whether to make an order, and the nature and duration of any order to be made, the Panel applied the principle of proportionality, weighing the Registrant’s interests in the balance with the need to protect the public interest.

110. The Panel took into account both mitigating and aggravating circumstances.

111. The Panel concluded that the following were mitigating factors:

• The Registrant’s long unblemished career hitherto
• The positive evidence of the Registrant’s character and skills, provided by Witness 1 on behalf of her colleagues, namely that she was a valued and respected member of the team
• The Registrant’s acceptance of some of the allegations of fact
• The domestic pressures that the Registrant had been under at the time

112. The Panel concluded that the following were aggravating factors:

• The Registrant’s misconduct had put vulnerable service users at risk of harm over a considerable period of time
• The Registrant had not made constructive use of support or supervision opportunities
• The Registrant’s had shown little insight into the effect her shortcomings had on vulnerable families.

113. The Panel considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity.

114. The Panel concluded that in view of the continued risk to the public, to take no further action or to impose a caution order would not be sufficient to protect the public, maintain confidence in the profession and maintain confidence in the regulatory process. It could not be said that the Registrant’s failings had been isolated, limited or minor in nature; to the contrary the Panel had found that the failings had stretched over a considerable period of time. Furthermore there had been no evidence of remediation placed before the Panel, and the Registrant’s insight appeared to be limited.

115. The Panel then considered a Conditions of Practice Order, but concluded that this would be neither appropriate nor workable. The Registrant had indicated in the course of her representations that she did not intend to practise in the future. The Panel had no information regarding what she was currently doing. In those circumstances it was not possible to formulate workable conditions as the Panel had no evidence that the Registrant would be prepared to abide by any conditions that the Panel might seek to impose.

116. The Panel then considered a suspension order and concluded that this was both sufficient and proportionate in light of the seriousness of the Registrant’s failings and lack of remediation. The Panel had received no reassurance that the Registrant would not repeat her misconduct, and thereby might continue to place service users at risk of harm were she to be permitted to practise unrestricted.

117. The Panel concluded that a period of eight months suspension was appropriate and proportionate, and would give the Registrant time to address the shortcomings in her proficiency in order to demonstrate her remediation to a future Panel, if that was the course she chose to take.

118. The Panel concluded that a future Panel would be helped by:

- the Registrant’s attendance
- details of how the Registrant has kept her professional practice up to date
- details of how the Registrant is able to recognise and manage personal and professional stress
- testimonials relating to current paid or unpaid work
- a piece of reflective writing addressing:
(i) how the Registrant could avoid repeating her misconduct if similar events were to occur in the future,
(ii) the effect of her misconduct on the vulnerable families she had dealt with, and on her colleagues,
(iii) any specific training the Registrant would need to undertake to return to practise


119. The Panel gave consideration to a striking off order but concluded that it would not be in the public interest to deprive the public of a social worker who had previously worked safely as effectively as a social worker.

 

Order

ORDER:  The Registrar is ordered to suspend the registration of Mrs Carol Anne Indge for a period of eight months from the date this order comes into effect.

The Order imposed today will apply from 22 March 2017 (the Operative Date).

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 22 November 2017.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Carol Anne Indge

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
20/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended