Mr Kwabena Boateng
1. On 17 September 2014, approximately 4 allegations of domestic violence against Mrs A and/or Child A and/or Child B, in which you were the perpetrator, were found to be proved at a fact-finding hearing in The Family Court at Leicester. proven
2. You did not inform your employer, Northamptonshire County Council, of the matter described in paragraph 1. proven
3. You did not inform the HCPC of the matter described in paragraph 1. proven
4. The matters described in paragraphs 1-3 constitute misconduct.
5. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise as a social worker is impaired.
1. The Registrant was employed as a social worker in the Social Care Looked After Children Service at Northamptonshire County Council (the Council), having joined the Council on 5 October 2009.
2. In this role the Registrant was responsible for promoting and safeguarding the welfare of ‘Looked After Children’ and young people. This involved making daily safeguarding decisions and working within the relevant legislation to protect children and young people from further harm.
3. Concerns were raised at the Council about the Registrant’s failure to disclose findings of fact made against him, in family court proceedings, to which he was a party. The matter was referred to the HCPC and formed the basis of the allegation before the Final Hearing panel.
4. The Final Hearing panel, having found the facts proved in their entirety, stated in its decision on impairment that:
The Panel concluded that the domestic violence findings made against the Registrant by the Family Court are serious and relevant to the Registrant’s practice as a social worker. By not disclosing them to his employer, the Registrant denied them an opportunity to conduct a well-informed risk assessment to identify, what, if any, risk existed to service users and what, if any, measures were required. This, the Panel finds, at the time represented an unwarranted risk of harm to the public.
5. The Final Hearing panel also stated:
The Panel considers that the Registrant is showing developing, but not yet mature, signs of insight as far as his misconduct is concerned. He accepted in oral evidence that he would report immediately to his employer and to the HCPC any future matters that could be relevant to his practice. This satisfied the Panel that he had achieved some remediation and that the risk of repetition was low and that there is no significant current risk to the public.
6. In relation to the public component the Final Hearing panel stated that:
The Panel finds that the Registrant’s acts and omissions in respect of the particulars of the allegation found proved would have impacted on public confidence in the Social Work profession; the public would expect a Social Worker to disclose findings of domestic violence against him or her. Moreover, a finding of current impairment is also required in order to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.
7. At the sanctions stage the Final Hearing panel concluded that a Caution Order for the maximum period of five years should be imposed to reflect that the Registrant’s misconduct was towards the upper end of the spectrum.
Application for Early Review
8. The Registrant made an application for an early review of the five year Caution Order, imposed in August 2016, on the basis of a material change in his circumstances. The Registrant invited the Panel to review the Order on the following grounds:
(i) he has developed further insight since the Caution Order was imposed.
(ii) the Order is having a disproportionate effect upon him, in that since it was imposed he has been unable to secure employment as a social worker.
9. Mr Newman, on behalf of the HCPC, supported the Registrant’s application and informed the Panel that the documentation from Warwickshire County Council, submitted by the HCPC as a supplementary bundle for this review, was also relevant to the material change in circumstances.
10. The Panel determined that the current Order should be reviewed. The Panel was satisfied that in fairness to the Registrant the threshold for re-consideration of the Order should be low. The Panel concluded that there was sufficient information before it to indicate that there was a material change in circumstances since the Final Hearing panel imposed the Order, which justified a review in the interests of justice.
11. The Registrant chose to give evidence. Although the Registrant appeared keen to assist the Panel many of his responses to straightforward questions were rambling and repetitive. His responses also lacked structure and coherence. The Panel recognized that giving evidence is a stressful event and took this factor into account. However, the Panel concluded that the manner in which the Registrant gave evidence reflected his inability to demonstrate that he had taken the opportunity to develop meaningful insight into the factual findings made during the Family Court proceedings and the findings of the Final Hearing panel.
12. Mr Antwi-Boasiako, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that although the Registrant maintains that he did not perpetrate domestic abuse against his ex-wife and children, he has developed insight. He further submitted that the Registrant views himself as the victim of a ‘bad marriage’. Mr Antwi-Boasiako outlined the financial hardship the Registrant had suffered as a consequence of being unable to secure employment as a social worker. He submitted that in effect the Caution Order was tantamount to a Striking Off Order. He further submitted that the Caution Order serves no useful purpose as it is not in the public interest to deprive the public of the skills and knowledge of a competent social worker. Mr Antwi-Boasiako’s primary submission was that the Caution Order should be revoked. Alternatively, he invited the Panel to reduce the Caution Order to 12 months.
13. Mr Benedict Newman, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that the Registrant remains impaired on the basis of both the personal and public component. He further submitted that at the very least the five year Caution Order should be maintained. Mr Newman adopted a neutral stance as to whether a sanction other than a Caution Order should be imposed. However, he submitted that any reduction of the five year period would not give effect to the Final Hearing panel’s determination.
14. In undertaking this review, the Panel took into account the documentary evidence, including the Registrant’s written statement and new information which was not available to the Final Hearing panel. The Panel also took into account the submissions from both parties.
15. The Panel accepted and applied the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as to the proper approach it should adopt. In particular that:
· The purpose of the review is to consider the issue of impairment based on the previous panel’s findings of fact, the extent to which the Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process, the scope and level of his insight, whether his previous misconduct has been sufficiently and appropriately remedied and the risk of repetition.
· In determining current impairment the Panel had regard to the ‘personal component’ of the public interest: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and the ‘public component’, the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.
· In terms of remediation, relevant factors include whether the Registrant:
(i) fully appreciates the gravity of the previous panel’s finding of impairment;
(ii) is likely to place service users at risk if he were to return to unrestricted practice.
· The Panel cannot go behind the findings of the Family Court or the findings of the Final Hearing panel.
· The Panel should have regard to the HCPC Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practice is impaired.
· It is only if the Panel determine that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, that the Panel should go on to consider sanction by applying the guidance as set out in the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy, and the principles of proportionality which require the Registrant’s interests to be balanced against the interests of the public.
· The options available to the Panel are (i) revoke the Caution Order and make no further order; (ii) confirm the current Caution Order; (iii) reduce the period of the Caution Order to no less than 12 months from the date the order was imposed; (iv) replace the Caution Order with an order that could have been made at the time the Caution Order was made.
16. The Panel considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public interest perspective.
17. The Panel noted that the Registrant stated that he had made up to 20 applications for employment as a social worker since the Final Hearing and had notified all the prospective employers that he was subject to a Caution Order. In particular, he stated that he informed the Human Resources (HR) department of Warwickshire County Council of his Caution Order by telephone prior to his interview and repeated this when Ms LH telephoned to make him a conditional offer of employment. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had notified Warwickshire County Council of his Caution Order, but the notes of the risk assessment interview, which had been convened in light of that disclosure, indicated that it was not until after the conditional offer had been made. Furthermore, during his evidence, the Registrant indicated that the HR department appeared confused about the difference between a criminal caution and a Caution Order imposed in regulatory proceedings. The Registrant also accepted during his evidence that he had not mentioned the Caution Order during his interview, but assumed that the interview panel had been informed by the HR department.
18. The Panel took the view that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to make it clear to any prospective employer that he was subject to a Caution Order at the earliest opportunity and in the clearest of terms. The Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant had done so.
19. The Panel noted that the Registrant does not accept the findings of the Family Court. He had complained to the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office and indicated, during his evidence, that he would be taking the matter further. Given the Registrant’s stance the Panel recognised that the Registrant was in a difficult position. Although the Registrant asserted several times, during his evidence, that he had ‘deep insight’, the Panel concluded that his insight was very limited. The Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant had demonstrated a mature and developed insight into the impact the adverse findings have had on his professional work as a social worker. He also appeared to misunderstand the important difference between challenging a judicial decision by way of appeal and challenging a judge’s competency or integrity. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s role as a social worker necessarily includes conducting risk assessments following allegations of domestic abuse and professional involvement in Family Court proceedings. The Panel recognised that the breakdown of the Registrant’s marriage and the Family Court proceedings that followed was likely to have been a distressing experience. However, the Registrant accepted during his oral evidence that his use of language when describing the proceedings in his written statement prepared for the purpose of this review and in an email, dated 17 January 2017, to Ms LH was unprofessional.
20. The Panel concluded that for these reasons the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired based on the personal component.
21. In considering the public component the Panel took into account the fact that the Final Hearing panel concluded that a Caution Order for the maximum period of a year was the appropriate and proportionate measure to mark the Registrant’s misconduct. The Panel noted that less than a year has elapsed since that order was imposed and in the meantime the Registrant has made little, if any, progress in demonstrating insight. The Panel concluded that the need to declare and uphold the high standards expected of registered members of the social work profession and maintaining trust and confidence in the profession required a finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
22. Therefore, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise remains impaired on the basis of both the personal component and the wider public interest.
23. The Panel first considered revoking the current Caution Order and making no further order. The Panel concluded that making no order would be wholly inappropriate, given the findings and sanction imposed by the Final Hearing panel. In particular, it would fail to give effect to the need to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.
24. The Panel next considered reducing the period of the Caution Order. The Panel concluded that public confidence in the regulatory process would be undermined if priority was given to the Registrant’s interests over and above the wider public interest. The Panel concluded that the Final Hearing panel determined that a Caution Order for the maximum period should be imposed and to reduce that period would be inappropriate.
25. The Panel went on to consider whether the five year period of the Caution Order should be maintained and took into account the new information which was not available to the Final Hearing panel. The Panel took the view that, in the seven months that had elapsed since the Caution Order was imposed, the Registrant had made very little or no progress in developing meaningful insight into the impact of the factual findings on his practice as a social worker. The Registrant appeared to have narrowly interpreted the Final Hearing panel’s findings and had limited insight into the findings of the Family Court. The Panel concluded that over and above any difficulties the Registrant may have in securing employment as a social worker, his attitude and lack of insight was an additional hindrance. The Panel determined that the Caution Order should not be maintained.
26. The Panel went on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel concluded that the findings of the Final Hearing panel were not amenable to conditions, as the basis for the underlying misconduct is an attitudinal failing. The Panel was unable to formulate conditions which would be workable, measurable or proportionate.
27. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. A Suspension Order would send a signal to the Registrant, re-affirming the standards expected of a registered social worker. In the Panel’s view, the nature and seriousness of the Family Court and Final Hearing panel’s findings have the potential to undermine public trust and confidence. The Panel was satisfied that a Suspension Order would be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession. A Suspension Order would also provide the Registrant with the opportunity to develop the insight which is likely to assist him in finding employment as a social worker. The Registrant’s responses during his oral evidence revealed that although he assured the Panel that he had ‘deep insight’, his words frequently lacked depth and substance. However, the Panel determined that the Registrant should be given an opportunity to consider carefully the decision of the Final Hearing panel and this Panel and develop meaningful insight. The Registrant will have to understand and accept these findings if he is to begin the process of developing insight. In reaching this conclusion the Panel balanced the wider public interest against the Registrant’s interests, which include his personal, financial and professional interests.
28. The Panel decided that a 6 month Suspension Order should be imposed. The Panel determined that 6 months was the appropriate length, as it would provide the Registrant with sufficient time to reflect on the issues that are relevant to his professional practice, the consequences of the Final Hearings findings, as well as the impact on potential employers and public confidence.
29. The Suspension Order will be reviewed shortly before expiry. Although, this Panel cannot bind a future panel, a future reviewing panel may be assisted by the following:
a) The Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing;
b) A reflective statement from the Registrant which might usefully include:
· The importance of insight and reflective practice in social work;
· The significance of factual findings in Family Court proceedings;
· The role of the Family Court in protecting children;
· Any learning he has acquired from his own experience of the Family Court and how he would use this to inform his own practice in the future.
ORDER: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Kwabena Boateng for a period of 6 months with immediate effect.