Mr Gordon Vincent Beech

: Social worker

: SW20090

Interim Order: Imposed on 07 Mar 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 21/02/2017 End: 17:00 10/03/2017

: Hilton Edinburgh Carlton, 19 North Bridge, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 1SD

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker for Warrington Borough Council between the dates of 5 November 2013 and 09 May 2014:

1. You did not conduct and/or record Core Group meetings in relations to:

a. Service User 1

b. Service User 4

2. You did not complete adequate records of Core Group meetings of Children subject to Child Protection Plans and/or conduct sufficient Core Group meetings in relation to:

a. Service User 6

b. Service User 7

d. Service User 10

e. Service User 11

f. Service User 12

g. Service User 13

h. Service User 23

i. Service User 24

3. You did not carry out required visits to children subject to Child Protection plans and/or make a recording of visits in relation to:

a. Service User 2

b. Service User 3

c. Service User 4

d. Service User 5

e. Service User 6

f. Service User 7

g. Service User 9

h. Service User 10

i. Service User 21

j. Service User 23

4. You did not complete combined assessments within the Warrington Borough Council timescales in relation to:

a. Service User 5

b. Service User 6

c. Service User 10

d. Service User 11

5. You did not make recordings and/or make adequate recordings of Child in Need meetings in relation to:

a. Service User 1

b. Service User 14

c. Service User 15

d. Service User 16

e. Service User 17

f. Service User 21

6. You did not complete adequate parenting assessments and/or case conference reports in relation to:

a. Service User 9

b. Service User 12

c. Service User 13

d. Service User 20

7. You carried out visits where you did not see the child alone in relation to:

a. Service User 3

b. Service User 11

c. Service User 12

d. Service User 13

8. In relation to Service User 20 you:

a. did not complete and/or record any visits after 2 December 2013;

b. did not record that you visited the carer/service user following an allegation made against a carer on 25 April 2014

9. On an unknown date in June 2014 you crossed professional boundaries when;

a. You contacted Person A;

b. You told Person A that you had left Warrington Borough Council and,

"felt as low as a snakes' testicles", or words to that effect;

10. On 1 October 2014 you wrote to a District Judge of Warrington Law Courts regarding Family C when your professional involvement with that family had ceased.

11. The matters as described at paragraphs 9 and 10 constitute misconduct.

12. The matters as described at paragraphs 1 - 8 constitute a lack of competence and/or misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

1. The Panel convened on 21 February and was advised by Ms Berridge that the Registrant was aware of the hearing but was not present. He had been in contact with Ms Berridge by e-mail and had advised that he had difficulties with his domestic arrangements regarding the care of a family member.  He had not been able to re-arrange care to allow him to attend this morning. The Panel later heard further from Ms Berridge who advised that despite efforts, the Registrant had not been able to make any further arrangements to allow for him to attend on that day. In the circumstances the Panel determined that the hearing be formally opened and that it be adjourned until 9.30am, 22 February 2017.

2. Ms Berridge clarified the exhibits before the Panel and provided colour copies of exhibit 17 and an identification key. She explained that the chronology in the core bundle was not evidence and was provided only to assist the Panel.

3. Ms Berridge referred to the Directions issued by the Panel on 20 January 2017. She advised that as to Direction 1, Witness MC remains unidentified as no contact details were provided by the Registrant and so no further action had been taken by the HCPC. The Registrant advised the Panel MC had moved house, and the new address had been provided to the HCPC by e-mail to the HCPC, but beyond the 5 days required in the Direction.

4. On Direction 2, Ms Berridge advised that the email referred to had not been provided. The Registrant advised he did not wish to pursue Direction 2.

5. On Direction 3 Ms Berridge advised no witness statement had been received from DB. The Registrant advised the Panel he had to accept the position that no document had been provided. 

6. On Directions 4 and 5 Ms Berridge advised that Warrington Borough Council (“WBC”) had not yet responded and the matter was still being pursued. Enquiries had been made but no written response was received. The Registrant told the Panel that he had a copy of the assessment but it may be the property of Warrington Law Courts.

7. As to Direction 7, Ms Berridge advised that no further documents had been received from the Registrant although the Registrant said he had sent these documents by Royal Mail to the HCPC within the 14 days required in the Direction. The Registrant advised he had a further copy with him but he wished to redact the documents before producing them to the Panel.

8. The Allegation was read. The Registrant denied the particulars of the Allegation, except particulars 7(a)-(d), 8(b) and 10, which he admitted. Ms Berridge opened the case for the HCPC and set out the background and the evidence to be placed before the Panel.

Background:

9. The Registrant was employed as an agency Social Worker at WBC from 5 November 2013 to 16 May 2014.  His role involved working with children in need and children subject to child protection. In January 2014, the Registrant reported to his line manager and supervisor, Witness 3, that he was having some difficulty with his record keeping. Those difficulties became an issue that the Registrant would return to in subsequent supervision sessions. Throughout 2014, the Registrant‘s supervisor, attempted to help him to complete his outstanding records. On 4 April 2014, the Registrant met with Witness 3 for a planning meeting. The Registrant and Witness 3 agreed an informal action plan to help him complete any outstanding work.

10. The Registrant advised Witness 3 in supervision on 2 May 2014 that he was thinking of leaving WBC. The Registrant gave two weeks notice of his intention to leave on 16 May 2014. At the time, the Registrant had reported that he had some outstanding matters on his cases which needed to be completed before he left. An action plan was drawn up by Witness 3, outlining what work was outstanding and what he needed to complete by 16 May 2014. The Registrant left WBC on 9 May 2014 and did not return to work. WBC took steps to try and get the Registrant to complete the outstanding work after he had left and offered to pay him to undertake this work. He did, however, submit two pieces of outstanding work.

11. After he left, Witness 2, Principal Manager, undertook an audit of his cases to identify whether there were any outstanding issues on his cases. Witness  2 identified that a number of child protection and child in need visits had not been completed and/or recorded, and that on a few occasions, in her view the Registrant’s recording of core group meetings and child in need meetings were inadequate. Concerns were raised about the adequacy of parenting assessments and case conference reports and also regarding a lack of record being made by him following a complaint made to WBC by a neighbour that Service User (“SU”) 20’s foster carer had been verbally abusive to SU20. 

12. Following the Registrant’s departure from WBC, there were two further events which gave his former employers cause for concern. In July 2014, Witness 3 was advised that the Registrant had made contact with the father (Person A) of a service user he had been working with.

13. On 1 October 2014 whilst WBC was issuing care proceedings in relation to SU9, it was identified that the Registrant had written to the District Court Judge in Warrington Law Courts. 

14. Ms Berridge advised that the HCPC case was that in particular 2 the appropriate time scale is 4 to 6 weeks; in particular 3, 4 weeks; in particular 4, 40 days and in particular 5, 10 days after the child is identified as a Child in Need.

Witness 2

15. Several typographical and bundle cross-referencing errors were corrected.

16. Witness 2 set out the structure and role of the Social Work team she worked in at WBC. She was Witness 3’s line manager, who directly supervised the Registrant. Witness 2 said that she could not comment specifically on the induction the Registrant had received at WBC. She described her working relationship with the Registrant as good, they had “got on” as work colleagues.

17. Witness 2 explained the management tool that was prepared weekly to identify key performance indicators using a traffic light system. These pages referred to the required 4 weekly child protection visits.  She explained that the “Carefirst6” system is a social services database containing all the information on a child.

18. Witness 2 accepted that there were some performance issues across the team. She explained that the Registrant stood out as having more performance difficulties than the rest of the team and that when attempts were made to address them, they remained issues for longer.

19. After the Registrant had left WBC, Witness 2 undertook an audit of cases that were still allocated to the Registrant. She looked at each case individually to see what was outstanding, including the recording visits and meetings. 

20. Witness 2 explained the statutory requirements and WBC policy on visits and the good practice on seeing children alone. On the Standard of Work part of the report, Witness 2 explained that assessments required to be to a standard to allow for care planning. She explained that a parent assessment was a crucial document as it guided planning of care, consideration of risks and could inform child protection and be used in the court system.

21. Witness 2 said that the Registrant had strong views on the placement of Service User 9 within a ‘white family.’ The Registrant had reported that the foster parents had used inappropriate racist terminology.

22. As to SU20, Witness 2 said that other issues arose. The parents’ position had not been considered by the Registrant despite considerable difficulties being known. The mother had been abused as a child, but this had not been explored by the Registrant.

23. In a report by the Registrant on child protection for SU12, the Registrant reported the mother doing well with no evidence of that being the case and no home visits. Further, there was no consideration by the Registrant of evidence of a male being in the house who was not identified and not police checked. In a report on SU9 the Registrant had not taken proper steps to obtain important documents from an adult in the child’s household.

24.  Witness 2 explained that the Registrant had been significantly upset by a derogatory comment directed at him by a colleague. This instant occurred on 9 May 2014 and Witness 2 said that she thought the matter had been appropriately resolved. 

[Friday 24 February 2017 Chair replaced - Donald Brown]

25. The Registrant expressed concern to the Panel that the documents relating to SU20 were not complete and he had expected a separate document showing the updates made by his colleague VB. The Registrant also sought further pages which seemed to be missing from the HCPC bundle. Ms Berridge advised further enquiries were being made of WBC in those regards and in any event the individual assessments for the service users were in the bundle. The Registrant was content with the position. The evidence of Witness 2 continued.

26. Witness 2 said that the Registrant had received the appropriate level of support at WBC to allow him to deal with his caseload. Action plans were produced at the time. He was given “protected time” to allow for completion of outstanding work including removal from the duty rota. His line manager, Witness 3, also supported him on a daily basis. Witness 2 was referred to the email from the Registrant of 14 May 2014. She did not recall there was any work which the Registrant had that was awaiting authorisation. She knew that as she had completed a full audit of the Registrant’s caseload and she explained the audit report of the Registrant’s caseload, which she had prepared when he had left WBC. She said there were cases where the Registrant had not adequately recorded several of the assessments. She prepared the outstanding work table on 14 May 2014 and did not include other work already reallocated within the team.

27. A points system was allocated to the Registrant’s total workload which indicated that it was in the red zone, indicating a heavy workload. The Witness explained that this was similar to his colleagues and before he left WBC his caseload had been reduced to allow him to prioritise particular work.   

28. Witness 2 told the Panel that she had no direct contact with Person A. She said that she was not aware of advice to the Registrant specifically about contacting families after leaving the service, but the role was a professional relationship and she could not see any reason to make contact in this way as it crossed professional boundaries.

29. With regards to the letter to the District Judge, Witness 2 said that she had been angry given the role of the profession and the family. This had been a very problematic case, raising various complaints to WBC. The new Social Worker, who took over the case when the Registrant left WBC, had developed a good relationship with the family, in particular the mother. She felt that the Registrant’s letter could damage the relationship with the family and was unfair on the family. She considered that the concerns the Registrant had expressed could have been dealt with in other ways. Issues that concerned the Registrant had already been discussed with him and she had understood that those matters had been resolved.

Cross-examination of Witness  2

30. The Registrant questioned Witness 2 regarding the WBC referral to the HCPC by Ms P TJ. Witness 2 explained that she had signed the referral document but formally it came from that senior member of staff. The Registrant referred to the report on his caseload contained in the bundle and the Witness 2 confirmed she had prepared that.  

31.  Witness 2 confirmed she had read her statements since she provided them to the HCPC. The Registrant stated he considered her witness statements were full of inaccuracies and untruths. She said she likes matters to be accurate. The Registrant referred to the letter of 2 July 2014 and to the phrase “told to work from home.” He said Witness 3 had previously said something different. The Witness could not recall which assessments the Registrant had been sent home to complete. The Registrant said that Witness 3 had not said that he had threatened to resign and the Witness confirmed she recalled that he had and that he had retracted that later. She said he had also told a principal manager he was leaving but could not recall who that was. She recalled the Registrant had used the phrase “spat his dummy out” in discussions with her.

32. The Registrant took Witness 2 to a plan of the WBC office he had drawn. Witness 2 voiced some amendments, to which the Registrant accepted. Furthermore, she explained the quiet room was in a similar area on the other side of the building. She said there were two main entrances and a total of five lifts. The single quiet room was intended to allow all Social Workers in the building to book one of four desks. The Registrant put to Witness 2 that a substantial number of Social Workers could use the room, she agreed.  He put to Witness 2 that there was no booking system for the quiet room. She did not agree. She said the room was bookable and there were other areas of the office that could be used, and workers could also work from home.

33. As regards the duty system, Witness 2 explained that the rota system covered the whole team. The duty system was designed to cover any emergencies and new referrals, one duty worker and one back up for each team. Every worker was expected to do two days per month, and two days on back up. The Duty workers were shown on a list on the office wall Witness 2 did not recall a duty book. She explained the Duty workers could not use the quiet room as they had to be available in the main office to respond to all calls if required. WBC did not have a dedicated duty team or dedicated duty room.

34. Witness 2 explained that the reference to “duty team” was a reference to the intake team. The Registrant put to Witness 2 that her evidence was untrue. Witness 2 explained the terms duty team was often used for the intake team.

35. Witness 2 explained the structure of the service in WBC and her line manager was a Head of Service. Witness 2 was responsible for eight Social Workers and three Family Support workers. WBC had a supervision policy. Formal supervision needed to be pre-arranged, honest and open with the supervisee’s welfare, training and development all discussed. Witness 2 explained that supervision should be at least monthly but more frequently if there are newly qualified Social Workers, or there are issues with performance or case complexity. There should be a formal supervision agreement in place.

36. Witness 2 said that case discussions could be treated as informal supervision but she said she was not the Registrant’s supervisor. Such discussions would be recorded in the Carefirst system. If the discussion was about a personal or performance issue that would be written up for the worker and put on the file.

37.  Witness 2 was referred to the Workload management tool. Witness 2 said the workload management tool was completed monthly by her. The Registrant said he had never seen the document before the HCPC proceedings. Witness 2 said she could not recall if at WBC this document was kept in the Social Worker’s supervision file.  

Application by the Registrant regarding the transcript from previous hearings

38. The Registrant applied to allow the admission in to evidence of the transcript of the evidence of Witness 2 from the previous hearings to point out inconsistencies in her evidence. He sought to make an application to allow pages from the transcript to be admitted to evidence.

39. Ms Berridge reminded the Panel that Witness 2’s cross examination was not completed when the hearing adjourned in May 2016. A full transcript of that hearing had been provided to the Registrant last year. The Legal Assessor clarified matters with the Registrant and the Panel heard from him and Ms Berridge on the issue of putting prior inconsistent statements to a Witness. As to direction 4, the date on which SU20 returned home Ms Berridge told the Panel that enquiries had been made of WBC on Friday 24 February 2017 and a response was awaited.

40. The Registrant advised that when he reached the point when an issue of inconsistencies in evidence arises with Witness 2 or 3, he would then apply to have the relevant parts of the transcript admitted. Ms Berridge advised that an earlier Panel had refused to allow the whole transcript in to the evidence, being four days of evidence heard last year. The Legal Assessor sought clarification and the Registrant stated that he did not intend to seek to have the whole transcript produced.

41. The Panel considered matters and made clear to the parties that it cannot advise the Registrant on the detail of how he conducts his case.  It would consider those parts of the transcript the Registrant directs the Witness to and consider the live evidence it hears from the Witness. The Panel will not read the transcript. 

42. The Registrant made an application to adjourn the hearing early to allow him to prepare his questions to the Witness on this issue. The hearing adjourned at approximately 3.30pm. Before cross examination of Witness 2, Ms Berridge told the Panel that further enquiries had been made of the WBC on 24 February 2017 in relation to Direction 4. A response was awaited.

Witness  2

43. The Registrant challenged Witness 2 as to the issue of chronologies in her department. Witness 2 said that there were a number of discrepancies and the management group looked at chronologies amongst other things. She said she did identify an issue with chronologies in her department and referred to her witness statement at paragraph 12. The Registrant said that another person had identified the lack of chronologies in case files.  Witness 2 had asserted that she had identified the issues but another manager had produced the audit report.

44. In response to the questions, Witness 2 said that she had discussed the issues with Witness 3 after the Registrant had left WBC. Witness 2 confirmed that when she was called as a Witness by the HCPC she did not discuss the matter with others. She agreed that she examined the Registrant’s personal file. The Witness did not recall sick notes in the file as they would go to personnel.

45.  Witness 2 said she did not recall whether there were supervision notes in the Registrant’s file.  She said that his personal file was kept in a locked cabinet in the office. The Registrant questioned the Witness on caseload. She explained the team the Registrant worked in the children in need team and family support workers also worked on those cases which did not have statutory requirements. She had overall responsibility for about 240 cases and she used a case management tool and weekly management meetings to reallocate cases as needed. The case management tool was not a stand-alone tool and no standardised system existed. 

46. Witness 2 said she was not aware whether Witness 3 would have used the tool when managing the Registrant. Witness 2 explained that when she was supervising Witness 3, she was discussing her work and not those workers that Witness 3 supervised. She could not recall whether the tool was produced at each of the weekly management meetings over about eight weeks in March to May 2014. She explained that the tool was only one of the methods that would be considered by managers at the weekly management meetings.

47. Witness 2 said the Registrant’s caseload had been comparable to other workers, and that the one page from the tool included in the bundle was not representative of the full position and she expressed concerns as to the weight the Registrant was attaching to it. It was a snap shot.

48. As to stress levels, Witness 2 said Social Workers were different and their particular position would be discussed at weekly meetings. 91 to 100 points was seen as busy and would be recognised as requiring attention. The Witness explained that if a worker was “in the red” the caseload would be reviewed but the tool was only that and at the weekly meeting the full picture would be discussed.

49.  Witness 2 explained that the management tool was not linked to Carefirst and was not a definitive document. It was used to report to senior management and did not go on the file but a copy could be supplied.

50. Witness 2 was referred to the explanation given by Witness 3 regarding the page from the tool. Witness 2 explained that the tool is updated monthly and sent to the Head of Service. She could not explain Witness 3’s position. She said the page could not have been 27 June 2014 as the Registrant had left WBC by then and cases would not have been in the Registrant’s name at that date. She could not say what date this document might have been.

51. SU25 did not appear on this extract of the tool. Witness 2 could not say whether that meant the document predated the allocation of SU25. Witness 2 explained that administration could open a file for Social Workers on instructions from managers but that a worker could not open a record in another worker’s name. The Registrant referred to the Carefirst document. Witness 2 explained that this recorded the Registrant’s outstanding assessments as at 3 June 2014. Regarding the entry for SU20, Witness 2 said that the date shown was the date on which the document was opened. She said she did not think another worker could make that entry, but she was not familiar with the system at that point.  

52. Witness 2 said that the flag next to SU22 meant there was a risk and the little head on that line meant the child was on a child protection plan. SU9 showed a flag and a head. “CIC” was child in care or looked after child. She was not sure if the icons would be red. The document was used to show outstanding work after the Registrant had left and was double checked by looking at the case files, it was not 100% perfect. Information on a computer system was only as good as the input. This page was used as a base before the case file was considered. She recalled that, on checking, there was an increase in missing documents not a decrease.

53. With regards to the supervision of a Social Worker, Witness  2 said the document could be used to go through the outstanding tasks with the worker. As to SU20, Witness 2 referred to her Witness  statement. SU20 was a child in care but some records indicated that SU20 was also subject to child protection, both could apply.

54. The Registrant described the case printout as a “clipboard”. Witness 2 explained that it was like the front of the file, the opening screen. Managers could access the document, including Witness 3. She audited the Registrant’s cases and that was checked with Witness 3. This page was the starting point which led to detailed examination of all the cases.  She said she did not think it was possible for someone else to have put in an entry such as that regarding SU20.

55. Witness 2 explained that retrospective entries could be made, but should not have been common practice. On an allocated case another worker, who had cause to, could record on the allocated worker’s file. If a document by a worker was inaccurate, Witness 2 explained that a record could be amended or removed and a new one created, but the original record was kept on the system.

56. As to the Registrant’s bundle, Witness 2 explained the Registrant’s name appeared on a Child in Need record (SU9) but she had completed it on 19 March 2014 when the Registrant was the Social Worker. The Registrant said he was not the allocated worker for SU9 on that date.  Witness 2 said the allocated worker, not the person who completed the document. She said there ought to be a case note explaining that she had authorised the record but that was not in the bundle.

57. Regarding the 9 May 2014 incident, the Registrant referred to the fact that he had subsequently lodged a sick note with WBC. Witness 2 explained that there had been an altercation between the Registrant and a colleague and a derogatory word used was directed by that colleague at him. She said the Registrant reported to her that he was stressed and he was told he could make a formal complaint under the WBC Dignity at Work policy. He did not do so but Witness 2 understood the matter was appropriately resolved. Witness 2 said there were two versions of the word used and she had given only one version of the word in the HCPC referral due to an oversight. The Registrant referred to his statement to the HCPC which sets out the words allegedly used. He referred in his Witness statement to “banter”, his email to his agency, the letter of 2 July 2014 from Witness 2 to the HCPC and the referral by the Witness to the HCPC.

58. Witness 2 confirmed she stood by the terms of the letter of referral (2 July 2014) as the Registrant had left WBC without telling anyone and taken personal items from his desk and he had called Witness 3 the following Monday. No sick note had been received by WBC, although none was required. She explained the incident had been covered in the original referral and this letter of 2 July 2014 was a specific response to the HCPC about dates. The incident on 9 May 2014 was not the basis of the referral to the HCPC.

Registrant’s application to adjourn

59. The Registrant sought an early adjournment. The Panel heard from the parties and took advice from the Legal Assessor. It also determined to hear this part of the Hearing in private as it related to the Registrant’s health.

Application to Proceed in Absence

60. Ms Berridge made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She referred the Panel to the relevant rules. Good notice had been given to the Registrant given his attendance. She submitted that, given the expressed view of the Registrant in the telephone call with the Hearings Officer, that he had chosen to take no further part in these proceedings and, when asked, had said he did not care about the hearing continuing in his absence.

61. Ms Berridge set out the lengthy and protracted history of the case and the fact that the two live Witnesses had already given evidence last year at a hearing which was discontinued for procedural reasons. They had also made themselves available for the final hearing due to take place in October 2016 where Witness evidence was not heard. She submitted that in the circumstances the witnesses ought not be put to further inconvenience. Further, she advised that video link evidence had been also arranged for this week to receive evidence from Witness 3. 

62. Ms Berridge addressed the Panel on the issue of fairness to all parties, including Witnesses, as well as on the efficient and expeditious disposal of cases.  In the circumstances she advised that she would not oppose the Panel seeking to consider the full transcript of the previous aborted hearing if it found that helpful.  She submitted that the Registrant had been given the opportunity to obtain the required medical evidence and had chosen not to do so. She submitted that the point had been reached where it was appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

63. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor who referred it to the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant.  He reminded the Panel of the guidance in GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and the need to balance fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the Regulator and to consider the public interest.

Decision on Proceeding in absence

64. The Panel carefully considered matters. It accepted the legal advice and noted Ms Berridge’s submissions and the file note of the telephone call with the Registrant. The interests of the Registrant are very important but those of both HCPC and the public are also important. The Panel consider there is a clear need to progress this case at this time, particularly given its protracted history. The Registrant is clearly aware of the hearing and is at liberty to attendThe Panel noted that the Registrant, responding to the Hearings Officer raising the possibility of the hearing proceeding in his absence, said that he did not care.

65. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the Registrant has deliberately chosen not to engage further with these proceedings. The Panel has decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence and it will draw no undue inference from his absence. He will be informed of the decision to continue in his absence by email today and reminded that he may re-engage with the process if and when he chooses to do so.  The Panel will consider the relevant parts of the transcripts of the evidence of Witness 2 from the previous hearing.

Re-examination of Witness 2

66.  Witness 2 told the Panel that Ms P TJ at WBC chose to make the referral to the HCPC.  She agreed with the referral given the refusal of the Registrant to return to WBC to complete his work.

67. On the arrangements to allow the Registrant to complete his work, Witness 2 said the quiet room was well used and would not present a difficulty to him. That was only one means of working quietly as there was a lot of space at the office.  The Registrant also had his own desk, computer and telephone plus good administrative staff who would answers calls and type up notes and documents. The responsibility to make timely notes remained the Registrant’s. She said she was always accessible to the Registrant to ask about cases.

68. Witness 2 told the Panel that Witness 3 is a good practitioner, very focussed on the children in her care and also her colleagues. She was aware that Witness 3 was dealing with the Registrant’s supervision appropriately and their professional relationship was also appropriate. The Registrant had always praised Witness 3.  He had never raised with Witness 2 any concerns about his supervisions with Witness 3.

69. Witness 2 said that the 9 May 2014 incident, had been dealt with appropriately at the time. The incident arose from the handing over of one of the Registrant’s cases.  Witness 2 said WBC had been prepared to take matters forward, but it did not justify the events that followed.

70. Witness  2 said that in terms of support, the team which was female dominated, as is the case in Social Work, was a supportive environment. Witness 2 said the Registrant could always approach her, and many other practice managers who would always help each other.

Further email communication from the Registrant

71. The Panel heard that an email had been received from the Registrant’s email address.  The author advised that the Registrant had been admitted to hospital the previous day. The email did not identify the author and made no comment regarding the hearing proceeding in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel heard from Ms Berridge and took advice from the Legal Assessor. The Panel determined that it shall continue to hear matters in the absence of the Registrant and an email will be sent to the Registrant’s email address informing him of that decision.

Direction 4

72. The Panel heard from Ms Berridge that WBC had responded to Direction 4 of 19 January 2017 advising SU20 returned home on 1 September 2014. Regarding the parenting assessment report for SU20, Ms Berridge advised the Panel that the document in the Registrant’s bundle is the assessment updated on 23 June 2014 by VB. The HCPC bundle contains the earlier version of that assessment completed by the Registrant. She reminded the Panel that Witness 1’s supplementary witness  statement sets out her concerns about this particular assessment.

Panel Questions to Witness 2

73. The Panel heard from Witness 2 that the case management tool was used to go over the caseload with each Social Worker and Practice Manager. She said during her time at WBC the caseloads would sometimes peak over the 100 point mark, but she did not recall that the caseload was excessively high relative to other Local Authorities.

74. As to SU20, Witness 2 explained that regarding the parenting assessment completed by the Registrant, the omissions from the report were discussed with both the Registrant and Witness  3, his supervisor. He was given time limits in which to complete the work, but the abuse of the mother had come to light later.  Witness 3 monitored matters and would visit with the Registrant if required.  Witness 2 said that WBC had wanted the Registrant to stay until outstanding work was completed, in particular the assessments.

75. As to risk to Service Users, where assessments were not completed, Witness 2 said the child’s voice is not heard and the child might not be identified as being at risk, if there is a lack of home visits. One cannot establish whether that child is safe. Assessments are used for long term planning and so decisions based on an inadequate assessment are unsafe and do not allow for adequate planning.

76. Regarding one family the Registrant had reported as safe, Witness 2 said she could not find evidence of any visits by the Registrant to support that conclusion.  It became apparent that the mother was in a relationship with an abusive man and the children were thus exposed to risk for longer. SU20’s return home was delayed by the Registrant's failures.

77. On the letter to the District Judge, Witness 2 did not believe the Registrant was trying to whistle blow, but the letter was more a result of the injustice the Registrant perceived he had suffered at the hand of WBC.  He had held strong views on the case and found it to be very difficult to see anyone else’s views. She could not understand why he had wrote that letter. As a result of the letter, which was then sent to the family as part of the court proceedings, the social work relationship with that family was undermined.

78. Witness 2 explained she had received complaints from other agencies about the failure of the Registrant to complete tasks and from a Head Teacher about the Registrant’s failure to minute meetings and a dismissive attitude to the views of others. He tended to hold very strong views and was unwilling to consider those of others. She said that colleagues had expressed some concerns about the Registrant’s work and about his tendency to be parent-led and not child- focussed. She said his actions had been damaging to the reputation of the Social Work profession.

79. Witness 2 explained that any changes to case notes or assessments were tracked by the systems used at WBC to identify the author.  Any abandoned records were all recorded in the system. There was nothing she had found to indicate that any inappropriate changes or alterations had been made to any of the Registrant's cases by other members of staff. 

The Registrant’s E-mails & Adjournment

80. On Thursday 2 March 2017, the Panel heard that the Registrant had been in contact with the Hearings Officer the previous day. The emails and file note were placed in the Registrant’s bundle.

81. Ms Berridge submitted that the Panel continue to hear the case in the absence of the Registrant. He had not requested an adjournment. It was appropriate and expeditious to proceed in these circumstances. Witness 3 will give evidence by videolink. She submitted that the email from the Registrant of 17.31hrs on 1 March 2017 was ambiguous but that he had not clearly asked for an adjournment and it was not apparent what he was seeking.

Decision on Adjournment

82. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor who referred it to the HCPC Practice Note on Postponement and Adjournment and to the guidance in CPS v Picton (2006) EWHC 1108. The Panel carefully considered matters and all the current circumstances. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s email of 17.31hrs on 1 March 2017 was ambiguous and did not, in terms, ask for an adjournment.  However, the Panel was prepared, in the interests of fairness to the Registrant, to treat his email of 17.31hrs on 1 March 2017 as an application to adjourn these proceedings, albeit that was not the only possible reading of that communication.

83. The Panel has carefully considered the HCPC Practice Note. In line with the advice, it has adopted a strict approach. The Panel has considered all the communications with the Registrant and is mindful of the circumstances and the history of the case. It has balanced the interests of, and fairness to, the Registrant with the public interest in the expeditious disposal of cases. It also considered the interests of the HCPC as Regulator.  It is mindful that fairness to the Registrant is very important. However, it has determined that it has no satisfactory evidence before it to support a further adjournment and delay in these already protracted proceedings. The Panel determined in all the circumstances that it shall refuse to adjourn and it shall continue to hear the case in the absence of the Registrant.

Witness 3

84. The Witness told the Panel that she, as the Registrant’s line manager, supervised both formally and informally on a day to day basis. She was also responsible for the quality of the work of the Registrant, such as court reports and child protection reports, and anything recorded on the system. She said she had a good working relationship with the Registrant. At the time he worked at WBC he was in a team of around eight Social Workers, with a principal manager who latterly would have been Witness 2. The team was close and supportive.  The caseloads were busy, but were manageable.

85. Witness 3 said that supervision involved booking an appointment, on a monthly basis, for a period of two hours or more. She and the worker would discuss workforce, annual leave, sickness, staff changes and policy, performance and any wider issues identified. Cases were also discussed and reflected on. The Registrant engaged well and was thoughtful. He had significant experience and she trusted his judgement. He had previously been a Social Work manager.  Agency workers, such as the Registrant, were treated no differently, and had the same training and hours. The Registrant had a flexible working arrangement to accommodate his travel arrangements.  Formal supervision notes were kept, typed up from her handwritten notes and the child’s records went in to the Carefirst computer system. The Registrant would receive a copy of the supervision notes and he could seek changes. They ought to be signed by the worker and she could not explain why some were not signed. 

86. Witness 3 said that at the last supervision session the Registrant had taken objection to a note by her but she had compromised with him on what she recorded in those notes. She said on 15 November 2013 she had her first supervision session with the Registrant. It records the Registrant had settled in well with the team.

87.  On the computer system, Witness 3 explained that new workers need to be trained on Carefirst training before being allowed to access it. The Registrant could not initially record his notes on the “ICS” system. By the next supervision meeting she recalled that the Registrant was trained and able to use the system. She agreed it would have been around 4 December 2013. No further training was given unless the worker said they were struggling. She did not recall the Registrant ever saying he had a problem with the system or that he was struggling. She said that it took a bit of practice to know how to navigate but it was not a difficult system to use.

88. In the period when the Registrant could not use the system, Witness 3 said that he could pass his written notes to administration assistants to type them up.  She could not recall if she told him to do so.  She agreed with the Registrant’s witness statement in this regards.  The admin team would type up reports and notes and take calls, they were an excellent admin team.

89. Child protection visits had to be 4 weekly and recorded swiftly to allow core group meetings to receive updates. These were standard deadlines and the Registrant never raised issues with her about these deadlines. Regarding the supervision notes of 30 January 2014, Witness 3 explained she could not recall why this meeting was delayed. The Registrant had not expressed any particular worry or concern about his caseload. Witness 3 told the Panel that the Registrant later reported that he was under pressure and he was advised to block out time in his diary to catch up with his paperwork. This was frequently done in the quiet room or by working from home. After that there is nothing in the supervision notes about further measures to support the Registrant.

90. No supervision of the Registrant took place in March 2014 and Witness 3 could not recall why. She explained that any concerns that the Registrant had could have been raised informally with any practice manager. There was always someone available to discuss any concerns.

91. The planning meeting on 4 April 2014 was to cover outstanding work, and deadlines, and was not a formal supervision. The Registrant wanted to get on with the work and Witness 3 could not recall any anger or resistance from him.

92. The Registrant’s supervision on 2 May 2014 was the record that was changed when the Registrant objected to the note of his comments. He was a lot more stressed and was finding a particular case challenging regarding SU9 and SU11. He considered WBC had been oppressive to the family. He had been challenged on his objectivity and some issues with other professionals.

93. Witness 3 said that the Registrant on 2 May 2014 at the supervision meeting said he was leaving WBC for family reasons.  He did not say he was leaving due to stresses at work or problems with his caseload. Actions were agreed as set out in the supervision notes and it was not clear at that stage that he was definitely leaving. He signed the notes on 9 May 2014. 

94. Witness 3 was taken to the document of outstanding work to be completed by 16 May 2014, the date on which the Registrant said would be his final day at WBC. She had typed this up, setting out the time scales and some cases had been reallocated. She recalls Witness 2 asked her to do so. The red lists used at WBC were referred to. She said no other Social Worker at that time had the same level of missed deadlines as the Registrant. The caseload management tool was used by senior managers at that time, not by her as a practice manager.  She was able to access the tool on the system, but copies were not given to her or to the Registrant. He would be aware of his points and whether in the red, amber or green zone on that system.

95. The tool displays the last time it was used. The date displayed simply meant that someone has accessed the spreadsheet on that date, 27 June 2014. She said it was an accurate reflection of the cases the Registrant had at that time.

96. Witness 3 explained with regard to caseload, that the Registrant did not have an excessive caseload in comparison to other Social Workers at WBC at that time. It was a manageable caseload, particularly for someone with the Registrant’s level of experience.

97. Witness 3 explained her involvement with Person A and the Registrant’s contact with that person, a parent of a SU8, after he had left WBC. This could have had a very negative impact on the relationship of the family with social work at WBC.  Witness 3 had no reason to doubt the word of Person A and his report to her about the conversation he had with the Registrant. The note in the bundle was written by Witness 3 shortly after she learned of the events reported to her by Person A.

98. Witness 3 said authorising of reports was done daily as it was important it was done in a timely manner. It would not be the case that “red” would appear due to a delay in authorisation and the Registrant never raised that as an issue with her. She told the Panel that she was very clear that the Registrant was making visits to the children in his care but his visits were not being recorded. She knew he had made the visits, as details of the cases were discussed in supervision and at meetings with other professionals such as conferences. There was a failing on the part of the Registrant to record the visits on the system. The risk in not recording visits was that there is no evidence of the visits taking place, what the discussions were and what happened. As to risks arising from there being no Core Group minutes, there are no records of the discussions and that knowledge is essential to properly assess and care for that child. There are gaps in the life record for that child.

99. Witness 3 said that she could not explain why the Registrant fell behind. The Registrant had the same knowledge and experience as other workers with a similar or heavier caseloads.

100.  Witness 3 said there was a need to see a child alone, it was in the guidelines, as that enables the child to tell the Social Worker what was happening at home and within the family. Witness 3 stated in some circumstances it was appropriate not to see children alone and/or at home. If that cannot happen, the reason why should be recorded on the notes of the visit.

101. The Registrant had explained why he did not see SU3 alone. She recalled SU3’s speech was not good and he was shy. Witness 3 stated that she did not have issues with the Registrant undertaking visits in the way he had. In relation to Witness 2’s evidence, Witness 3 said she felt that Witness 2 had made appropriate comments but that at the time Witness  3 did not have any concerns.

102. In relation to SU11, Witness 3 said that the family would not allow Social Workers to see the child alone and there were no court orders in place. The agreed plan was to do direct work alone with the child either at school or the family centre. Witness 3 did not agree with Witness  2’s evidence on this point and said that she was supportive of the Registrant at that time and was not concerned with him working with the child outside the home.

103. In relation to SU13, Witness 3 acknowledged that the Registrant should have tried different ways to interact with a very young child but said that at the time she would have authorised his actions.  She also said that knowing the family she did not think that in any case his actions would have affected the decisions taken.

Panel questions to Witness 3

104. In response to Panel questions, Witness 3 could not say why he had such a significant period of difficulties. There was nothing about his initial contract for three months that was problematic and his contract was renewed after three months.  She recalled he was concerned at one point about his contract renewal and he was told his contract was being renewed that day. She could not say that impacted on the Registrant.

105. On parent assessments, Witness 3 said the Registrant was experienced and he had experience of court work. He ought not to have any problems doing parent assessments or section 7 welfare assessments. For SU8 she had no issues with the Registrant’s section 7 report. The court would often ask for a report on the child and for an overview of the case.

106. Witness 3 explained that section 7 reports were for private court proceedings, the father had sought access to the child. On combined assessments, the Witness said that from about the time the Registrant came to WBC they were introduced. They are the same a Core assessment but with a manager assessment and a case conference report included.  It was exactly the same as the core assessment had been, the same framework existed there were just new forms to complete to reduce paperwork.  She recalled that these were not significant changes but that training was offered at the time, anyone completing core assessments would be able to do the combined assessments and there was always colleague support if needed. She said there was some concern that the Registrant was not challenging parents and cross referencing the information, but that was dealt with by a principal manager the level above her. If the Registrant had followed the action plan there ought not to have been a major problem. 

107. At management meetings workers were discussed as were performance issues.  Witness 3 said that led to the action plan for the Registrant. She said she thought they were managing the Registrant’s issues at the time.  She did not have any major concerns about the Registrant, it was just that his records were not put on the system. Witness 3 said Witness 2 was concerned about a particular parenting assessment for SU9 and SU9A. Witness 3 was aware of other concerns about his objectivity.  She felt she could manage him with a support plan. There was no pressure to manage the Registrant in a particular way. Witness 3 thinks now she ought to have managed the Registrant more assertively, but at the time she had confidence that he had seen the children. She said she ought to have been micro-managing him perhaps.

108. Person A told Witness 3 that the Registrant had told him that the Registrant had been accused of not doing his cases properly and asked Person A to do a sort of reference for the Registrant. She thought the referral to the HCPC had already been made by this time, but Person A did not mention the HCPC at all.

109. Witness 3 agreed that section 7 reports, SU1 and SU7, had been reallocated but the initial collation of the report was the Registrant’s responsibility.

110. Ms Berridge referred to the witness statement for HR and that closed the case for the HCPC.

Closing Submissions for the HCPC 

111. Ms Berridge referred the Panel to the chronology document. She submitted there was 5 categories to consider:

1. Record keeping and visits

2. Quality of work

3. Not seeing children alone

4.Contact with Person A

5 Letter to Court.

112. On category 1; the evidence of Witnesses 2 and 3 was corroborative in respect of the failure to keep records. The Registrant referred to lack of access and training to the computer system and a hostile environment. The HCPC accepts there was a period of time 5 November to 4 December 2014 when the Registrant could not access the Carefirst system. This included one week of sickness absence. He was an experienced Social Worker and Witness 3 said it was an easy system to use and there was support available from her and other colleagues. At no stage was lack of training raised by the Registrant. Both Witness 2 and 3 said the Registrant’s caseload was no heavier than others. Witness 2 had experience of other Social Work environments and her views on caseload were clear. Both Witnesses said the work environment at WBC was supportive and steps were taken to accommodate the Registrant and allow him to catch up. This category covers particular 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and, in part, 8.

113. Category 2; this was spoken to by Witnesses 2 and 3 and covered in the audit report prepared by Witness 2. The Registrant was considered by Witness 2 to be too parent centred, later reflected in the letter to the District Judge. The parent assessments were all before the Panel and it was for it to form a view on whether particular 3 is proved

114. Category 3; Witness  2 and 3 spoke to this issue. Witness  2 had different views on the issue compared to Witness  3. There was a statutory obligation on the timing of the visits and also the Registrant’s admissions. This category relates to particular 7.

115. Categories 4; evidence from Witness 3 spoke to this clearly and Ms Berridge asked the Panel to accept her evidence which accorded with common sense and the Registrant’s grievance at his perceived treatment by WBC.

116. Category 5; Witness 2 spoke about the issues concerning the letter to the District Judge. The Registrant’s view was that he had no other recourse available but Witness 2 gave evidence of other appropriate steps that he could have taken. He chose not to do so and his letter was wholly inappropriate and there was no justification for that course of action.

Submissions on Misconduct and Impairment

117. Record keeping is a core part of the practice of a Social Workers. Professional boundaries are crucial in this field including when the relationship ends both for Service Users and practitioners. It is a fundamental tenet of the profession.  The actions of the Registrant placed Service Users at real risk of harm and also damaged the reputation of the profession.  Witness 3 spoke to that issue and the harm to the family concerned.

118. Ms Berridge referred to the Registrant’s evidence. She submitted that there is little evidence of insight. He has failed to take responsibility for his conduct and is currently impaired.

119. The Panel took the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised the Panel to take particular care in the absence of the Registrant to note the contents of his bundle including the references and testimonial. He further advised the Panel to give appropriate weight to those that are unsigned. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel as to the civil burden of proof on the facts and the need to consider each particular of the Allegation. He referred the Panel to the HCPC Practice Note on Impairment. He referred to Roylance v GMC (No 2) [2001] 1 AC 311 on misconduct.  He also referred to the helpful guidance in Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin) and reminded the Panel of the need to consider impairment and process of assessing the risk presented by the Registrant.  He reminded the Panel of the need to have regard to the public interest and to declare and uphold proper standards of the profession and the Regulator.

Decision on Facts:  

120. The Panel carefully considered all the evidence, the submissions from Ms Berridge and the Registrant’s bundle. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that on matters of fact, as distinct from issues of misconduct and impairment, the burden of proof rested on the HCPC and that the standard of proof was the civil one, namely on the balance of probabilities.

121. The Panel was satisfied that, so far as they were able to do so that Ms Berridge and the Legal Assessor fairly put the Registrant’s case to both live Witnesses and on the basis of the Registrant’s position as set out in his Witness  statements and documents bundle. The Registrant himself cross examined Witness 2 at some length from Friday 24 February until Tuesday 28 February 2017.

Assessment of Witnesses 2 and 3

122. The Panel found both Witness 2 and Witness 3 to be credible, reliable and genuine.  Both witnesses had a good recollection of events and the cases at WBC and said that when they were unable to recollect a particular event. The Panel is satisfied that in their evidence that neither showed any hostility toward the Registrant. Witness 3 in particular gave credit where due and was not reluctant to point out positive aspects favourable to the Registrant.  The Panel accepts their evidence.

123. The Panel consider that Witness 3, during the period of having overall managerial responsibility for the Registrant, provided him with consistent support and constructive criticism. 

Findings of Fact:

124. The Panel considered all the live evidence, the documentation in the HCPC and in the Registrant’s bundles, and the submissions on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel made the following findings of fact in respect of each particular of the allegation.

Particular 1 a. – Proved that the Registrant did not record Core Group Meetings (CGMs) in relation to SU1 

125. The Panel had regard to the witness statements and the evidence of Witness 2. The case of SU1 was allocated to the Registrant on 4 December 2013 and a child protection conference was held on 5 December 2013. In the social worker report prepared by the Registrant on 26 March 2014 for a child protection conference on the following day, the Registrant makes reference to discussions about residence between the family of SU1 and core group members. In addition, the supervision records for the Registrant indicated that he needed to complete records of core group meetings, not that he had to convene them. There is no evidence of any recording of CGMs. The Panel accordingly finds this particular proved to the extent that the Registrant did not record CGMS in respect of SU1.

Particular 1 b. -  Proved that the Registrant did not record CGMs in relation to SU4

126. The Panel noted from evidence that the Registrant was allocated the case of SU4 on 4 December 2013. There is evidence within the social worker report dated 26 January 2014 of ‘regular core group meetings…have convened regularly and within timescales.’ The Panel accordingly finds this particular proved to the extent that the Registrant did not record CGMs with respect to SU4. 

Particular 2 a. - Not proved in its entirety in relation to SU6 

127. In relation to the adequacy of records of SGMs, Witness 2 said that she had an issue only with the record of 21 March 2014. The Panel noted the content of the record but could not decide whether or not it was adequate on the basis of the limited concerns noted by Witness 2 in evidence. In relation to conducting sufficient CGMs, the evidence showed that several were held. The Panel therefore finds this element of the particular not proved. 

Particular 2 b. – Proved that the Registrant did not record adequate records of CGMs for SU7.

128. The Panel considered the relevant documentary evidence. Although records for CGMs were started, the content for three of them is very limited. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant did not complete adequate records of CGMs for SU7 and accordingly find this particular proved to that extent. In relation to sufficiency, the Panel did not find evidence that sufficient CGMs were not conducted.

Particular 2 d. – Proved that the Registrant did not complete adequate records of the CGM for SU10 on 23 April 2014.

129. The Panel had regard to the witness statement of Witness 2 and exhibit 15. The Panel noted that in her evidence the Witness  says at paragraph 64 of her witness statement that there was only one CGM on file, that of 5 March 2014 but then confirms the inadequacy of the CGM record of 23 April 2014 as it was incomplete, the Registrant having failed failing to complete the child protection plan update. The Panel therefore found that in relation to the CGM on 23 April 2014, the record was inadequate.

130. On the evidence before it, the Panel do not find proved a failure to conduct sufficient CGMs. In her witness statement, Witness 2 refers to two CGMs. There is no evidence of a failure to conduct CGMs in the Registrant’s supervision notes with Witness 3. The Panel find the particular proved, to the extent of a failure to complete adequate records of the CGM on 23 April 2014 for SU10.

Particular 2 e. – Proved that the Registrant did not complete adequate records of CGMs for SU11.

131. The Panel considered the evidence for SU11 and found that the CGM records were not complete as they did not contain an adequate summary of the Child Protection (CP) plan.
 
132. As with SU10, Witness 2 in her statement says that there was only one CGM on file for SU11, that of 5 March 2014. There is evidence of two CGMs and no evidence of concerns raised in supervision of a failure to conduct CGMs. The Panel do not find proved a failure to conduct sufficient CGMs for SU11. The Panel find this particular proved to the extent only that the Registrant failed to complete adequate records of CGMs for SU11.

Particular 2 f. & 2 g.  – Proved that the Registrant did not complete adequate records of CGMs for SU12 and SU13.

133. The Panel considered the records in the evidence in respect of SU12 and SU13.  The records for 21 January 2014 show that some details were missing and the CP plan has not been updated. For 2 April 2014, the CP plan has not been updated. Witness 2 stated that it was permissible to record the CGMs for both siblings in one record, but that a copy of that record should be put on each case file. The Registrant had not copied the notes for 21 January or 2 April 2014 to SU12’s file. The Panel finds no evidence that there were not sufficient CGMs.  The Panel finds that the particular is proved to the extent that the Registrant failed to complete adequate records of two CGMs for SU 12 and 13.

Particular 2 h. & 2 j. – Proved that the Registrant did not complete adequate records of CGMs for SU23 and SU24.

134. The Panel considered the records for SU23 and SU24 and Witness 2’s witness statement. The records for CGMs on 19 March and 30 April 2014 do not contain updated CP plans. The Registrant has not copied the records from SU23’s file to that of SU24. The Panel finds proved that the Registrant did not complete adequate records.

135. The Panel found a lack of evidence relating to insufficient CGMs for SU23 and SU24. The case was allocated to the Registrant on 15 January 2014. There is evidence in the bundle of a CGM on 12 February 2014 as well as the two already noted. The Panel do not find this element of the particular proved.

Particular  3 a. & 3 b.  -  Proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU2 and SU3.

136. The Panel considered the evidence in relation to SU2 and SU3, which shows there is no record of the required statutory visits for both Service Users.  The evidence of Witness 2 states that no visit had been carried out in March 2014.  However, the audit report by Witness 2 shows a recorded visit in April 2014. The Panel are unable to conclude from the evidence whether or not the statutory visits were made. Accordingly, the Panel do not find proved a failure to carry out required visits.  The Panel find proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU2 and SU3.  

Particular  3 c. -   Proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU4.

137. The Panel considered the chronology by Witness 3 and her witness statement. She said that the Registrant provided details of visits made at the child protection conference on 28 January 2014 which confirmed the visits had been done. The Supervision notes by Witness 3 of January 2014 reported that all CGM minutes and statutory visits needed to be written up, indicating the visits had been done.  Witness 3’s supervision notes make no mention of a failure to carry out visits.  The Panel do not find proved a failure to carry out required visits. The Panel find proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU4. 

Particular 3 d, g. & h – Proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU5, SU9 and SU10.  

138. The Panel considered the evidence for SU5, SU9 and SU10. Each Service User required 4 weekly child protection visits. The Registrant's bundle shows that two visits were made by the Registrant on 20 and 24 December. The HCPC chronology refers to a visit on 8 April 2014. That evidence is not contradicted in the Supervision notes. The Panel do not find proved a failure to carry out required visits. The Panel find proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU5, SU9 an SU10.  

Particular 3 e. - Proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits to SU6.

139. The Panel considered and accepted the evidence from the audit report by Witness 2 on SU6. There is nothing in the Registrant’s bundle in this regard.  SU6 is not raised as a concern in the Supervision notes by Witness 3. The Registrant created templates for three visits but these were not completed. He had adequately completed records for two other visits. The evidence as to visits is not clear and on balance the Panel find not proved that the Registrant did not carry out the required visits. On the basis of the evidence of Witness 2 and her comprehensive audit report of the Registrant’s case load, the Panel find proved that the Registrant did not make recordings of visits to SU6.

Particular 3 f. – Proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU7.

140. The Panel considered the evidence in respect of SU7. The unsigned statement in the Registrant’s bundle from a family member of SU7 corroborates to a degree that the Registrant made several visits to SU7. There are several detailed CP notes in which the registrant made significant contributions. Witness 3 did not raise any concerns about a lack of visits during formal supervision. Witness 2’s evidence is that she found records for only one visit on 13 March 2014. On balance the Panel find not proved that the Registrant did not carry out the visits.  The Panel find proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU7.

Particular 3 i. – Not Proved

141. The Panel considered the evidence in relation to SU21. Witness 2 said she could not find any records of visits to SU21. The Supervision notes from April 2014 indicate that the Registrant is to close the file on SU21 and there is no mention of SU21 in the February 2014 Supervision notes. On 2 May 2014 the Supervision notes say visits are to continue and that suggests visits are taking place. The Panel also note the evidence shows that on 30 January 2014 it was recorded that SU21 is a Child in Need and so is not subject to statutory visits.  The evidence in relation to visits and records is inconsistent. Accordingly, the Panel find this particular not proved.

Particular 3 j.  -  Proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU23.

142. In the audit report carried out by Witness 2, the entry for SU23 shows the deficit in expectation is in relation to recordings. It lists several visits that were undertaken. Supervision notes from 2 May 2014 state that records of visits were to be completed. SU23 and SU24 were discussed in detail during supervision meetings but there is no recorded action requiring the Registrant to undertake or complete visits. The Panel do not find proved a failure to carry out required visits. The Panel find proved that the Registrant did not make a recording of visits in relation to SU23.

Particular 4 a., c. & d.  – Not Proven

143. Witness 2 in her statement said that the Registrant was instructed to start a combined assessment on 5 February 2014. His Supervision notes of 27 February 2014 indicate that the Registrant was told to complete combined assessments which were opened on 5 February 2014 and at that point the assessments were not out of time.  The Panel note there was no supervision in March or April 2014. The Panel noted that within the records of CGMs and Child Protection Meetings in the HCPC bundle, the Registrant was referred to in some places as the lead social worker whereas in others, other social workers were referred to. In the Registrant’s bundle, a record of a CGM dated 23 April 2014 refers to a social worker, SS, remaining as the allocated worker. In the circumstances, the Panel finds that on balance this particular is not proved. 

Particular 4 b. – Not Proven

144. The combined assessment for SU6 should have been completed between 11 March and 20 April 2014. The Panel found no evidence in the Registrant’s bundle regarding SU6. It found over two pages of notes of discussions about SU6 in the Supervision notes in which no concerns are raised as to completion of combined assessments.  In the April 2014 planning and May 2014 supervision meetings there is no mention of completion of the assessment and SU6 is not mentioned. The Panel notes from the evidence that other than an absence of the combined assessment for SU6 there is no positive evidence.  The absence of evidence does not prove the particular and the Panel accordingly find this particular not proved.

Particular 5 a.  – Proved in relation to not making an adequate recording of Child in Need meetings in relation to SU1 

145. The Panel noted that the Registrant visited the family home on 28 March 2014, the day following a CP case conference decision for SU1 to be taken off the CP plan and to be supported as Child in Need for up to 3 months. In the record of the Child in Need visit there was very little detail. The Panel noted in the Registrant’s bundle there was redacted correspondence from a parent of SU1, which amounted to a testimonial commenting that they found the Registrant to be an understanding social worker. However, the Panel therefore found that evidence of recording of a visit was not an adequate recording.

Particular 5 b., c., d. & e.  – Proved in relation to not making a recording of Child in Need meetings in relation to SU14, SU15, SU16 and SU17

146. The Registrant does not comment on this particular. Witness 2 in her witness statements speaks to SU14, SU15, SU16 and SU17. She said in her evidence that the recording of meetings was not in the correct place as the records were placed in CIVICA, the document storage facility, and not in the case files on CareFirst. This is supported by the supervision notes dated 2 May 2014 which confirmed that records were outstanding in respect of each service user. The Panel finds these particulars proved. The Registrant did not make recordings of the Child in Need meetings for these service users within their case files.

Particular 5 f. -  Proved in relation to not making a recording of Child in Need meetings in relation to SU21

147. There is no evidence from the Registrant regarding SU21. There is also no mention in the Supervision notes in April and May 2014.  On 27 February 2014 the supervision notes state that the Registrant was to arrange a Child in Need visit in order to close SU21 to the department. There is no further reference to visits to SU21 in the April and May 2014 meeting notes. The Registrant does not provide any evidence.  On balance, the Panel finds that the visit was not recorded.

Particular 6 a. -  Proved that adequate Parenting Assessments were not completed in relation to SU9 

148. The Panel noted that the Registrant used a template. Witness 2 in her witness statement covers SU9. She identified gaps in the Parenting Assessment which the Registrant ought to have covered. The assessment was shared with other professionals who also identified gaps. The Panel carefully considered the evidence and accepted the evidence of Witness 2 as to the adequacy of the assessment. The Registrant has not provided sufficient analysis. The Panel find the report was inadequate. The Panel accordingly find that the Registrant did not complete an adequate parenting assessment for SU9. 

Particular 6 b. & c. -  Not  proved in relation to completing Case Conference report in relation to SU12 and SU13  

149. The Panel noted that the key issue in respect of SU12 and SU13 was as domestic violence not being reported. Witness 2’s witness statement and chronology are consistent and there are no comments in the Registrant’s bundle about the conference report. There was no evidence about Parenting Assessments for these service users.  The Panel thus focussed on the case conference reports part of the particular. 

150. There was a concern that the children were at risk as a domestic violent perpetrator had moved back into the family home. The Registrant did not report these events. The Panel considered the Supervision notes for 27 February 2014 and note there was a case conference on 20 March 2014. At the case conference there was a discussion about these service users and whether the known circumstances met the threshold for child protection. In the Registrant’s bundle the Panel noted that the Health Visitor had reported in 2 April 2014 that there was a “new boyfriend” but did not clarify that this was the male previously responsible for domestic violence. In the Registrant’s bundle in 1 May 2014 there is the first record of the mother’s pregnancy made by the Health Visitor, which is a date after the case conference discussed by Witness 2 in her statement. On balance, the Panel consider that the facts are insufficient to prove that the Registrant did not complete case conference reports.

Particular 6 d. – Not proved in relation to completing ad adequate Parenting Assessment for SU20

151. The Panel noted that the evidence of Witness 2 in her witness statement was that she informed the parent of SU20 that the Parenting Assessment was inadequate. The Registrant in his questioning of Witness 2 asserted that the Parenting Assessment of SU20, updated by a colleague after he left WBC, was virtually the same as the one completed by him. The Panel looked carefully at both assessments and noted that Witness 2’s criticisms of the Registrant’s assessment was the due to lack of mention of the sexual abuse of one of the parents. The Panel noted that this issue is not explored in the assessment revised by his colleague that was acceptable to Witness 2. The Panel therefore finds that the evidence is insufficient and finds this particular not proved.

Particular 7 a – d – Proved in its entirety

152. This particular is admitted in its entirety by the Registrant. The Panel found that the evidence of Witness  2, Witness  3 and Witness  HR supported this particular in respect of SU3 and SU11. Witness 3’s evidence supported the particular in respect of SU12 and SU13. 

Particular 8 a. – Proved, that the Registrant did not record any visits to SU20 after 2 December 2013.

153. The Panel considered the evidence. The evidence does indicate that the Registrant did not record any visit after 2 December 2013. The supervision notes for 27 February 2014 are very detailed in reference to SU20 and do not include any reference to outstanding visits. The case tracking records state on 2 April 2014 that “Gordon does not plan to write anything up.” Concerns were expressed about the Registrant’s lack of recording information and this concern was escalated to the Head of Service.  At his supervision on 2 May 2014 the Registrant was asked to complete all records in relation to CGM, planning, statutory visits and case observation. It is clear from the evidence that there are no records for visits in February or March 2014.

154. The Panel is satisfied that the evidence supports the particular as to recording and finds that the Registrant did not record any visits after 2 December 2013.

Particular 8 b. - Proved

155. The Registrant admits this particular. The Panel finds that Witness 2’s evidence is that the Registrant did not record any investigation in to the allegation made against the carer. The Panel noted the relevant evidence and finds the particular proved.

Particular  9 a. - Proved

156. The Panel considered the evidence of Witness 3. Her telephone note, Witness statement and oral evidence are all consistent and corroborate that the Registrant contacted Person A, the father of SU8. Witness 2 explained in her evidence the impact on the family and its relationship with social workers as a result of the Registrant’s contact with Person A. The Panel notes that the Registrant retained contact details and then contacted Person A after his professional relationship with SU8 had ended and he had left WBC.

157. The Panel accepted the evidence of the Registrant’s contact with Person A and its impact.  It finds that the contact was inappropriate, crossed professional boundaries. The Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 9 b. - Proved

158. The Panel accepts the words alleged in the particular were contemporaneously recorded by Witness 3 in her note of her conversation with Person A and it accepts that evidence. Irrespective of whether the Registrant used those precise words or not. Irrespective of the precise wording, he was in a discussion with Person A regarding his personal problems pertaining to his professional role during his employment at WBC. The Panel take the view that the Registrant unduly burdened Person A and in doing so crossed professional boundaries.  The Panel finds this particular proved. 

Particular 10 – Proved

159. The Registrant admits this particular. The Panel has considered the terms of the letter. The Panel finds the particular proved. 

Decision on Misconduct:  

160. The Panel next considered whether the facts found proved amount to misconduct. The Panel were mindful of the guidance on misconduct in Roylance v GMC.  The Panel considered matters carefully and looked at the particulars found proved, both individually and cumulatively, in the context of all the evidence.

161. The Panel, exercising its professional judgement, finds that the facts found proved amount to misconduct across several areas of the Registrant’s practice. The Registrant’s failings are repeated, despite being given the opportunity by management to address the issues identified.  The failings are not isolated but persisted, despite support, over time. This is particularly serious in respect of the Registrant’s failures to complete assessments and Child Protection plans given the potential negative, serious impact on service users.

162. The Panel finds that the Registrant was an experienced Social Worker who failed to reflect that experience in his approach to his professional duties. The Panel determined that the Registrant’s core social work duties were not done effectively and fell short of proper and adequate professional standards. The Panel finds that the Registrant's failings have the potential to damage the reputation of, and public confidence in, the Social Work profession.

163. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 3 as to particular 7 and determined that particular itself, regarding the failure of the Registrant to see service users alone, did not amount to misconduct falling far short of what would be proper and adequate professional performance.

164. The Panel determines that particulars 9 and 10, individually and collectively, fall far short of what would be proper professional performance in the circumstances and amount to serious misconduct.   

Decision on Impairment: 

165. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. It kept in mind the central importance of the protection of the public, the wider public interest and the guidance provided in the case of Grant.  It considered the HCPC Practice Note on Impairment.

166. The Panel do not know when the Registrant last practised and what steps he has taken to keep his knowledge up to date. The Registrant attended part of this hearing and represented himself.  To that extent the Panel was able to hear from the Registrant. The Panel finds from his approach and attitude to these proceedings that the Registrant is largely in denial of matters and of his failings.  Without hearing his live evidence or submissions, that Panel does not know what remedial steps he might have taken. The Panel has heard no expression of apology or remorse from the Registrant. The Panel is mindful that the evidence was that when given the opportunity to do so by WBC, the Registrant failed to take sufficient steps to remedy the issues regarding his case load and practice. 

167. The Registrant engaged in the proceedings and the nub of his evidence related to matters of context and culture at the WBC workplace. While he accepts some of the allegations he is largely in denial of the matters of practice contained in the Allegation.

168. The Panel has seen little if any evidence of insight by the Registrant. In his written submission the Registrant does not demonstrate any reflection on his actions, to the depth and quality the Panel had heard he demonstrated in his supervisions with Witness 3.

169. The Registrant has not demonstrated a willingness to remedy his failings and did not take the opportunity to do so when offered support from both Witness 2 and Witness 3 during their informal and formal supervisory meetings. In respect of the letter to a judge at Warrington Court, the Registrant does not appreciate the potential adverse consequences of his actions and the fallout impact on SU9. He has expressed no remorse and in his written submissions to the Panel as well as admitting that he sent a copy to the families solicitor, he commented that ‘‘I stand by sending the letter.’’ The Panel thereby takes the view that repetition is highly likely.

170. The Panel is mindful of the approach to assessment of risk of repetition as set out in Grant. The Panel has found misconduct in the past. In light of the lack of evidence of insight, remediation or remorse, the Panel considers that the Registrant presents a real risk of repetition of his past failings in the future. 

171. The Panel finds that the Registrant has acted in the past, and is liable in the future, to put service users at risk of harm; he has in the past and is in the future liable to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute; and has in the past breached and is liable in the future to breach fundamental tenets of the social work profession, namely, trust and confidence. 

172. With the personal and public interest components in mind the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Submissions on Sanction:
 
173. The Panel heard from Ms Berridge. She referred to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and reminded the Panel to consider the degree of public protection required and stressed the proportionality of any sanction to be imposed. Given the findings, all sanctions were available to the Panel and Ms Berridge submitted that the Panel should consider the sanctions in ascending order.

174. Ms Berridge submitted that the aggravating features are as follows: -

a. The poor record keeping was not isolated but was a course of conduct.

b. The behaviour of the Registrant toward Person A and Family C was a blatant disregard of professional boundaries.

c. There was a risk of harm in failing to keep proper records and his conduct undermined the wider reputation of the profession, bearing in mind the complaint from the Head Teacher. 

d. The Registrant abused his position of trust in his dealings with Person A and the District Court Judge. 

175. There was a total lack of insight by the Registrant. When challenged, the Registrant had responded by justifying his conduct, for example, in his meetings with Witness 2, and regarding his letter to the court. Ms Berridge reminded the Panel that the Registrant had said in his statement that he would do it all again.

176. As to mitigation, Ms Berridge submitted that the Registrant had placed references before the Panel. She said he would maintain that his failures in record keeping were due to his caseload and the WBC systems. She reminded the Panel the Registrant is an experienced Social Worker with no previous referrals to his regulator and he was a man of good character.  

177. On sanction, Ms Berridge submitted that a Caution Order was not appropriate and Conditions of Practice were not feasible or appropriate.  The Registrant was not working as a Social Worker. As to a Suspension Order, this may be suitable where there has been some insight but, she submitted, there was no insight by the Registrant and therefore a Suspension Order was not appropriate. Ms Berridge submitted that the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy states that a Striking Off Order may be appropriate where there is denial and a lack of insight, and these were present in this case. She submitted that Striking Off was also appropriate where a lesser sanction may lack a deterrent effect given the nature and gravity of the misconduct found proved in this case.

178. Ms Berridge made an application for an Interim Suspension Order to be made, if the Panel decided that the Registrant’s name should be suspended or struck from the Register. She submitted there was a need, in this case, to protect the public during the interim period until a substantive order took effect.

179. The Panel took the advice of the Legal Assessor. He referred the Panel to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. He reminded it to act proportionately and to consider the sanctions in ascending order and apply the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public and meet the wider public interest. It should consider any aggravating and mitigating factors and bear in mind the public interest and that the primary purpose of sanction was protection of the public. 

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors

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

181. The Panel identified and took account of the following mitigating factors:-

i. The Registrant’s previous good character.

ii. There were references in the Registrant’s bundle as to his good character, however several of these were unsigned and undated.

iii. He had made some admissions.

iv. He largely engaged with the HCPC.

v. He had engaged with his employer and identified shortcomings in his recording practice.

vi.  He participated in reflective discussion with his Supervisor.

vii. His Supervisor had confidence that he was capable of completing his work.

viii. The volume of the Registrant’s caseload was high, some cases were complex and involved a legal context.

ix. Carefirst was not available to the Registrant for several weeks whilst cases were allocated to him, creating a backlog.

x. The Registrant had a period of sickness whilst employed at WBC, which was a contributing factor in the backlog of record keeping.

182. The Panel identified and took account of the following aggravating factors: -

i. The Registrant sought to burden Person A, a parent of SU8, with his problems in relation to his social work role in WBC, undermining the trust of the family in WBC and Social Workers.

ii. The contact with Person A was solely for the benefit of the Registrant himself, rather than SU8.

iii. The information on which the Registrant based the letter to the District Court Judge was likely by then to be out of date in relation to SU9’s case and therefore there was a potential risk of harm.

iv. Both the letter to the Judge and the contact with Person A were deliberate and premeditated acts.

v. There is an evident lack of insight, remorse and remediation.

vi. The Registrant denied contacting Person A.

vii. The Registrant was an experienced Social Worker and was well aware of the standard policies and procedures in his role, yet he did not adhere to them.

viii. He did not use the appropriate channels to express his concerns regarding the court proceedings in respect of SU9.

ix. The fact that the Registrant showed no insight or remorse indicate a higher risk of repetition of the behaviour and failings which are likely to place Service Users at risk.

x. The Registrant showed a marked lack of insight into the seriousness and the consequences of his actions and, when challenged by Witness 2, he sought to justify his actions.

xi. The Registrant’s failings in recording were repeated and potentially placed Service User’s at risk, despite the support offered by WBC to help him to remedy the failings.

Decision on Sanction:
 
183. The Panel approached sanction, beginning with the least restrictive first, bearing in mind the need for proportionality. Taking no further action or imposing a Caution Order would not reflect the seriousness of the Allegation found proved and the finding of impairment, nor would they be adequate given the wider public interest in maintaining confidence in both the profession and the regulatory process. Neither decision would be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case.

184. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Allegation found proved is serious and represents a breach of fundamental standards of the profession. The Panel has found that the Registrant has shown no insight, remorse or remediation.  In these circumstances, the Panel does not consider that a Conditions of Practice Order would be adequate or proportionate.  No workable, realistic or appropriate conditions could be formulated. The Registrant is not working as a Social Worker and he has not indicated that he would be willing to comply with any conditions.

185. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. It has found a serious Allegation proved. The Registrant has shown no insight, remorse or remediation in respect of his behaviour. The Panel finds that there is no realistic prospect that his behaviour and failings would not reoccur.  The Registrant has at no stage accepted, or sought to resolve, any of his failings, nor did he use the support offered to him by WBC. There is no evidence from the Registrant that he accepts any responsibility for, or has any understanding of, the impact of his failings and his actions. The contact with Person A and the letter to the Judge were serious, deliberate acts involving significant breaches of professional boundaries. The Panel consider there is no evidence that the Registrant is able or willing to resolve or remedy his failings.

186. These are serious matters which undermine public confidence in the profession and the Regulator and the Registrant presents a risk to the public in the future.  Furthermore, it is the view of the Panel that a Suspension Order is unlikely to have a sufficient deterrent effect on the Registrant or on the profession, nor would it satisfy the public interest in all the circumstances of this case.

187. The contact with Person A and the letter to the Judge involved a serious abuse of trust.  The Registrant did not consider the potential adverse consequences of his actions on vulnerable children or on the reputation of his profession.  His continuing and persistent lack of any insight, and his denial of the majority of the Allegation, present a potential high level of risk to the public were he to resume Social Work responsibilities and duties. Further, the evidence is that the Registrant did not take the opportunity he had at WBC to reflect on and address his inadequate performance. 

188. It is the view of the Panel that a Striking Off Order is necessary to protect the public, to act as an effective deterrent and to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. In all the circumstances, the Panel determines that a Striking Off Order is the appropriate and proportionate sanction.

 

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to Strike the name of Mr Gordon Vincent Beech from the Register.

The order imposed today will apply from 4 April 2017 (the operative date).

The Registrant has the right to apply to the Court of Session in Scotland, against the Order, with reference to Article 31(12) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

Interim Order:

Having heard the submissions for the HCPC and taken the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel consider that it would be wholly inconsistent with its finding of misconduct and impairment not to suspend the Registrant on an interim basis in order to protect the public and the wider public interest.

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order for a period of 18 months under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, that 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.

European alert mechanism

In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States the your right to practise has been prohibited.

You may appeal to the Sheriff Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.

 

Notes

This Conduct and Competence Committee Panel Final Hearing took place at Hilton Edinburgh Carlton on Tuesday 21 to Friday 24 February, and Monday 27 February to Friday 03 March, Monday 06 to Tuesday 07 March 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Gordon Vincent Beech

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off