Mr Vitor Manuel Amarel Costa

: Social worker

: SW92292

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 17/03/2017 End: 13:00 17/03/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as found proven at Final Hearing)

Whilst registered as a Social Worker you:

1. Undertook a voluntary placement organised by Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust from around June 2013 to July 2013 and demonstrated a lack of basic social work knowledge, including a lack of understanding of:

a) the relevant legislation and/or legal bases for social work;
b) the eligibility criteria;
c) the adult social care assessment process;
d) Not found proven

2. Demonstrated a lack of basic social work knowledge during an assessment and/or interview carried out on 2 September 2013, including a lack of understanding of:

a) the Mental Capacity Act;
b) the Mental Health Act;
c) the differences as a Social Worker between working with children and adults;
d) Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) eligibility;
e) financial assessment.

3. The matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 amount to lack of competence.

4. By reason of your lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Background

 

1.       Mr Costa (The Registrant) qualified as a Social Worker in Portugal in September 2007 and was registered with the HCPC in April 2013. In March 2013, he was placed on the Temporary Staff Register of Gloucestershire County Council (“GCC”). He attended a voluntary work placement with GCC’s Integrated Multi-Disciplinary Community Team (“the Team”) which undertakes assessments of the needs of vulnerable or marginalised adult Service Users. The Registrant’s line manager was Marlene Simms who was concerned about the Registrant’s lack of basic social work knowledge. The Registrant decided that he would not attend the last week of his placement. In August 2013 he was invited to attend an interview and assessment, to determine whether he should stay on the Temporary Staff Register. During the interview and the assessment the Registrant demonstrated a misunderstanding of relevant legislation, provided incorrect information in response to basic questions and showed a lack of understanding of fundamental social work concepts. The areas in which he was deemed to be lacking in knowledge included the Mental Capacity Act, the Mental Health Act, the differences between working with children and adults, Fair Access to Care Services, eligibility and financial assessment. As a result of this poor performance at interview the Registrant was removed from the Temporary Staff Register and referred to the HCPC.

2.       The final hearing panel concluded that the facts found proved demonstrated an unacceptably low standard of professional performance amounting to a lack of competence, due to a lack of the knowledge, which even an inexperienced and newly qualified social worker would possess.  The original panel took into account the admission by the Registrant that he was “not up to the required standard” and concluded that the matters found proved amounted to a lack of competence. However the Registrant’s failings were deemed capable of remedy although he did not possess full insight into the impact the shortcomings in his knowledge and understanding could have on Service Users. There was no evidence that any service user came to any harm.  The Registrant demonstrated a willingness and desire to remedy his failings.  He showed empathy and professional concern for others and wanted to be able to undertake an “adaptation course”.

3.       The original Panel imposed a Conditions of Practice Order as a sanction. However, at the first review of this order on 17 November 2015, the reviewing Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired because he had not addressed his lack of competency as a Social Worker, with efforts being made to address the conditions of practice only in the month prior to the first review. The first reviewing Panel substituted the Conditions of Practice Order with an order suspending the Registrant’s registration.

4.       The order was further reviewed on 17 November 2016. The reviewing Panel on that day determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remain impaired. That Panel heard that the Registrant had found work in the care sector and that he remained committed to the profession. However, the Panel’s view was that the Registrant still lacked a sufficient level of insight into his failings and how to address them.

5.       That reviewing Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction at that time was to extend the current order of suspension by an additional 4 months. The Panel considered 4 months to be the appropriate period for the Registrant to demonstrate that he has taken the necessary steps to remedy his failings. 

Decision:

Submissions

6.       Mr Pandya, on behalf of the HCPC, outlined the background of the case and the previous reviews to the Panel. He drew the Panel’s attention to the bundle of documents submitted by the Registrant today. He accepted that the documents demonstrated that the Registrant has completed several relevant courses, and that the Registrant has made significant attempts to remedy his lack of competence as a Social Worker. Mr Pandya submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, notwithstanding the work already done by the Registrant on the basis that he has not done sufficient to address the deficiencies in his practice, nor to demonstrate sufficient insight into the shortcomings in his practice.

7.       Mr Costa gave evidence on oath. He told the Panel of his current employment and that he was employed on a zero hours contract; in the past month he only worked approximately 8 and a half hours. He told that Panel that this made it difficult to have any regular and meaningful supervision contact with his manager. He told the Panel that he had tried to arrange monthly supervision with them and was successful initially but it was not possible currently. He told the Panel that he was currently looking for a full time paid employment, and that he would attempt to have regular supervision if successful.

8.       Mr Costa asked the Panel to either substitute the current order with a Conditions of Practice Order or to allow to it to lapse.

9.       Mr Costa also drew the Panel’s attention to the bundle of document he presented to the Panel today. The bundle consisted of various certificates of courses successfully completed by the him on the following subjects:

(a)       Level 2 Diploma in Working in Care Service;

(b)       Certificate in Assessing Needs; and

(c)       CPD Certificate of Attendance & Learning Tools.

10.    Mr Costa also drew the Panel’s attention to the following documents:

(a)       a reflective piece by him;

(b)       his Curriculum Vitae; and

(c)       a character reference on his behalf.

 

Legal Advice

11.    The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant’s fitness to practise to determine if he is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.

12.    The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:

‘Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired in the sense that he:

a)            is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or

b)            is liable in the future to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute; and/or

c)            is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?’

13.    The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel of its powers under Article 30 of the 2001 Order. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.

 

Panel’s considerations and decision

1.       The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it, the oral evidence of the Registrant and the submissions of both parties. In particular it noted the following:

a)            The Registrant’s continued engagement with this process;

b)            His commitment to remaining in the profession as demonstrated by his actions by undergoing training;

2.       The Panel determined that, notwithstanding the above, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired. He continues to be unable to demonstrate any meaningful insight into the impact of his lack of competence upon service users. He did not make any significant reference to such impact in his oral evidence, nor in his reflective piece.

3.       Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired by reason of his lack of competence the Panel went on to consider what action to take today. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document and considered its powers under Article 30(1).

4.       The Panel first considered taking no further action and allowing the Order to lapse upon expiry. The Panel determined that this was not appropriate as the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired today and taking no action would neither protect the public nor be in the public interest. 

5.       The Panel went on to consider whether to impose a Caution Order upon the expiry of the current order. For the same reason set out above, the Panel determined that the imposition of a Caution Order upon expiry of the current order is not the appropriate action to take today.

6.       The Panel next considered whether Conditions of Practice could be re-imposed whilst keeping the public safe. However, the Panel determined that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be sufficient to protect the public and/or the public interest in the light of the Registrant’s persistent lack of insight into the impact his lack of competence had on others.

7.       The Panel then considered whether a Suspension Order was the appropriate and proportionate response to the risk to the public and the public interest identified. It determined that in the light of all of the above considerations, the least restrictive sanction is that of a Suspension Order.

8.       The Panel took into consideration that the Registrant had instructed a representative who was not able to be present today. The Registrant did not inform the HCPC in good time of this and this order was due to expire on 16 April 2017. Coupled with the fact that the HCPC would not be able to list this matter within the next three months, the Registrant did not make an application to adjourn these matters and that he was content for this hearing to proceed without legal representation. Taking that in consideration, the Panel determined that the appropriate period of suspension would be for another four months. This would allow the Registrant the time to demonstrate insight to evidence that he can effectively put his theoretical knowledge into a social care practice and also for him to be represented on the next occasion.

9.       The Panel exercises its powers under Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 and imposes a four month Suspension Order upon the expiry of the current order.

10.    The Panel would remind the Registrant that the next reviewing Panel will have the option of imposing a striking off order if appropriate.

 

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Vito Manuel Costa for a further period of  four months upon the expiry of the existing order.

 

 

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Vitor Manuel Amarel Costa

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
17/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
17/11/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
17/11/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended