Colleague X & Timothy Paul Deans

: Social worker

: SWXXXXX & SW27918

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 31/03/2017 End: 17:00 07/04/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Caution

Allegation

Colleague X

 

[redacted]

 

Mr Timothy Deans

 

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker for Stockton-on Tees Borough Council:

 

1. You had team management responsibility for Child A who sustained injuries on or around 31 October 2012 and on or around 13 November 2012 you agreed that Child A’s stepfather could return to the family home without ensuring an adequate assessment of risk had been completed by the allocated Social Worker in that:

 

(a) you did not critically evaluate the addendum medical report received on 13 November 2012;

 

(b) you did not critically evaluate the information from Lancashire Social Services in relation to Child A’s mother;

 

(c) you did not ensure that the Social Worker consulted with Key Agencies that were party to the strategy meeting of 7 November 2012 and/or await an initial child protection conference (ICPC) planned for 6 December 2012 prior to agreeing that the step-father could return home.

 

2. In the matter of Child B, you did not exercise appropriate judgement in that your response to the first referral on or around 30 September 2011(the First Referral) was to take no further action.

 

3. Prior to deciding not to pursue the first referral:

 

(a) You did not contact the referrer, the Consultant Rheumatologist, to explore the context of the concerns about Child B’s health.

 

(b) You did not undertake and/or instruct an Initial Assessment.

 

4. You did not inform the Consultant Rheumatologist of the outcome of the First Referral of Child B.

 

5. In relation to the second referral of Child B on 30 August 2012, which you considered on 3 September 2012, you did not ensure that:

 

(a) A thorough Initial Assessment was carried out;

 

(b) The medical appointment was kept

 

(c) Contact was made with the referrer, who was the consultant Rheumatologist.

 

6. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-5 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

 

Finding

Preliminary matters

 

Application to amend the allegation against Mr Deans

 

1.             The HCPC made an application to amend Particular 1(a) to substitute the word “clinically” for the word “critically”. The Panel considered whether there was any unfairness or prejudice to Mr Deans by reason of the proposed amendment, which is to correct a typographical error. There was no prejudice to Mr Deans from this application and he did not object to it. The Panel granted the amendment application in order to clarify the HCPC’s case.

 

Disciplinary investigation

 

2.             The Panel was aware of a disciplinary investigation of Mr Deans’ conduct. However, the Panel took care not to be influenced by it. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that findings made by another panel or another person are not admissible in these proceedings and must not influence this Panel’s decision.

 

Hearsay

 

3.             The Panel received and accepted advice from the Legal Assessor that hearsay evidence is admissible in these proceedings under Rule 10(1)(b) and (c) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003. However, the Panel approached the hearsay evidence with caution, because it has not been tested by cross-examination. The Panel carefully considered what weight to afford to the hearsay evidence before it.

 

Background

 

4.             Colleague X is a qualified social worker who was employed by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (the Council). Colleague X worked in the Referral and Assessment Team for the Children and Young Persons’ Service between 21 May 2012 and 28 March 2013. Mr Timothy Deans was employed as a Team Manager in the same team between 4 October 2010 and February 2013. Colleague X was directly supervised by Mr Deans.

 

5.             Mr Deans is a person with a previous good character and no other disciplinary concerns or employment or professional issues. He began working for the Council in June 2000 in a children’s home and, following qualification as a social worker in 2003, he worked as a children’s social worker. Between 2006 and 2010, he had a non-operational post in Policy and Procedures. He was seconded to the position of Team Manager of the Referral and Assessment Team on 4 October 2010. The Council had advertised this post on two previous occasions without success. Mr Deans stated he had not previously worked in a team management role when he took up this post. At the time, the team comprised himself, one Deputy Team Manager, and 11 social workers. Mr Deans said there was a 65% increase in referrals from 2011 to 2012. Due to the high volume of referrals, a second Deputy Team Manager was appointed in late 2012 and the number of social workers was increased to 16. However, Mr Deans stated that the size of individual social worker caseloads at the time of the incident relating to Child A was, at 29-30, too high; and in his view should have been 18-20. On taking up post, Mr Deans introduced a daily handover meeting with the duty social workers, which either he or his Deputy Team Manager chaired, to review the work of the previous day and any new referrals received from the First Contact Team, which was the first point of contact for all referrals to the social services department. Mr Deans said it became increasingly difficult to manage his team and there were personality clashes with his new Service Manager, who had been appointed in the summer of 2012. Mr Deans went on sick leave in January 2013 and, on his return to work, transferred to the Emergency Duty Team and ceased to be a Team Manager.

 

Child A

 

6.             On 16 April 2013, the Council received a letter of complaint from the solicitor acting for the Children’s Guardian for Family A, for whom Mr Deans had previously held team management responsibility. This letter alleged that the Council had (through the actions of the social worker involved) placed the children, who were by then subject to care proceedings, at further risk of harm by allowing their step father, Step Father A, to move back to the family home after one of the children, Child A, who was 18/19 months old at the time, had suffered a non-accidental injury on 31 October 2012.

 

7.             The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life, in the best interests of children. Local authorities have a duty under section 47 of the Act to make enquiries when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives in their area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, to enable them to decide whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

 

8.             This incident had originally been reported to the Council on 1 November 2012 by Child A’s nursery, when the bruising sustained by Child A was noticed. A joint section 47 enquiry was immediately instigated, leading, that day, to Child A being taken to hospital to be examined by a Consultant Paediatrician, Dr NV. Colleague X accompanied Child A and her mother, Mother A, to the hospital. Colleague X remained there with the family throughout the day. Step Father A also attended the hospital, along with Child A’s siblings. Following examination of Child A, Dr NV appeared to accept the explanation for the injury provided by Step Father A, that he had held Child A too hard in the bath. Dr NV reported brutal force would have had to be used to cause such an injury and agreed to provide a written report. Step Father A was asked to leave the family home whilst investigations continued.

 

9.             A written agreement was set up with the family whereby all contact between Step Father A and the children in the family was to be supervised by Mother A. Contact could take place in the house for up to four hours at a time, but Step Father A was to leave the family home by 10pm. This took effect immediately.

 

10.          An addendum report was received from Dr NV on 13 November 2012, which indicated that there were two possible explanations for the injury, one being in line with Step Father A’s version of events. However, Dr NV stated “…the force applied would have been significant to cause this extensive bruising than that caused by normal handling at the time of washing the hair”. Colleague X and Mr Deans met to discuss the case and made a decision that the written agreement should be varied to allow Step Father A to stay in the family home overnight but maintaining the requirement that any contact between him and the children should be under supervision and that he should not get involved in the direct care of the children. The Panel heard that this decision was taken in the light both of the addendum medical report and representations made by Mother A that Step Father A’s exclusion from the family home overnight was causing difficulties to the family and hampering Step Father A’s recovery from a recent operation, as he did not have a bed in his temporary accommodation.

 

11.          In addition to the information received from Dr NV, Colleague X had obtained information from Lancashire Social Services (LSS) on 2 November 2012. It was the HCPC’s case that this information identified concerns about Mother A’s ability to protect her children and her willingness to engage with Children’s Services. It is alleged that Colleague X and Mr Deans did not critically evaluate this information. Neither, it is alleged, did they consult any key agencies who were party to a strategy meeting before taking the decision to allow Step Father A to stay overnight at the family home. They took this decision in isolation and, despite the concerns raised, no home visits were undertaken in respect of Child A and his siblings between 15 November 2012 and 18 December 2012. Following the letter of complaint from the solicitor, the Council undertook an investigation. Colleague X had already left her post with the Council. Mr Deans was suspended from social work practice by the Council during the investigation and placed on alternative duties, in a non-operational role within the Emergency Duty Team. He was subsequently dismissed.

 

Child B

 

12.          Mr Deans was also the Team Manager in relation to Child B, an 11 year old boy who was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), which required him to see a specialist doctor on a regular basis. One of the practitioners whom he saw was a Consultant Rheumatologist, Dr FC. Dr FC made two referrals to Children’s Services, one on 30 September 2011 and one on 31 August 2012. Dr FC raised concerns about Child B attending clinic unwashed and smelling. She was concerned about the risk of infection as he was receiving immunosuppressive treatment for his JIA. This was the basis of Dr FC’s first referral. Her second referral was made as Child B had failed to attend three follow-up appointments at her clinic. Both referrals were sent to Mr Deans for assessment by the First Contact Team.

 

13.          Upon receiving the first referral, Mr Deans made a decision to take no further action on the basis that the concerns expressed in the referral about Child B’s personal hygiene were not substantiated by his school. However, Child B had only attended that school for a short time and Mr Deans closed the first referral on the day he received it. He made no further investigations and did not contact Dr FC. It is the HCPC’s case that the appropriate course of action would have been for Mr Deans to order an Initial Assessment of Child B before making a judgment about whether there was a continuing need for social work engagement, but he did not do so.

 

14.          In response to the second referral, Mr Deans then directed that an Initial Assessment should be carried out. The case was dealt with by Colleague A, who had case supervision with Mr Deans. It is alleged that an Initial Assessment was not completed in a thorough and timely manner, due to Colleague A (who was newly qualified) being unable to cope with the demands of her caseload. Mr Deans did not check with Colleague A whether or not Child B’s mother had taken him to the medical appointments. Dr FC was not contacted for further information following her referral. Given that Colleague A was inexperienced, the HCPC’s case was that Mr Deans should have ensured that Dr FC was contacted and that he failed to provide adequate oversight of the case as the responsible Team Manager. Child B’s medical condition was potentially disabling if left untreated or unmonitored, and he was eventually found to have suffered loss of vision in one eye as a result of complications linked to JIA. Care Proceedings were initiated and Child B and his sibling were removed from the care of their mother and her partner.

 

15.          A Serious Case Review (SCR) was subsequently held, from which a number of recommendations for improvement in Multi-Agency working were made. The SCR noted that both of the referrals from Dr FC had been missed opportunities to take an overview of all the relevant information concerning Child B.

 

 

Decision on Facts

 

16.          The Panel considered sequentially in relation to each registrant:

 

(1) whether the factual particulars are proved;

(2) if the proved facts amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence, and if so;

(3) is the Registrant’s fitness to practise currently impaired?

 

17.          The burden of proof is upon the HCPC on the civil standard of ‘balance of probabilities’ in relation to findings of fact. Whether any proved facts in this case amount to the statutory ground of misconduct and the issue of current impairment are not matters which need to be ‘proved’. They are matters of judgement for the Panel.

 

18.          The following witnesses gave oral evidence on behalf of the HCPC:

 

               KS, Service Manager, employed by the Council, who was the Investigating Officer in respect of the complaint regarding Child A;

 

               CM, Independent Social Worker, who undertook the SCR in respect of Child B;

 

               SM, Assistant Director, Safeguarding and Looked after Children, at the Council.

 

The Panel found these witnesses to be credible, albeit their recall of some of the details relating to the matters in question was understandably affected by the passage of time. Their testimony was also influenced by information that had become known to them subsequently. This information would not have been available to the Registrants at the time.

 

19.          The Panel also heard evidence from Colleague X and from her current manager by telephone. The Panel found Colleague X to be an impressive witness.

 

20.          Mr Deans also gave evidence. He too was a credible witness and able to contextualise the incidents within the structure and pressures of the Referral and Assessment Team at the time.

 

Colleague X

 

21.          [redacted]

 

Particular 1(a) – Not Proved

 

22.          [redacted]

 

Particular 1(b) – Not Proved

 

23.          [redacted]

 

Particular 1(c) – Proved

 

24.          [redacted]

 

Particular 2 – Proved

 

25.          [redacted]

 

Mr Deans

 

26.          Mr Deans stated that his decision to allow Step Father A to sleep overnight at the family home was reasonable. He had no desire to place the children at significant risk of harm and believed he did not do so, taking into account the terms of the written agreement and the social worker’s assessment of the family. No concerns were raised until a complaint letter was received some five months later, which Mr Deans stated contained inaccuracies.

 

Particular 1(a) – Not Proved

 

27.          Mr Deans denied Particular 1(a). The Panel accepted that Colleague X had consulted with Mr Deans and, in view of the detailed entries made by her, he would have been in possession of all the necessary information relating to the addendum medical report. Therefore, the Panel did not find that Mr Deans failed to critically evaluate the addendum report and this Particular is not proved.

 

Particular 1(b) – Not Proved

 

28.          Mr Deans denied Particular 1(b). The Panel accepted that Colleague X correctly evaluated the information from LSS and shared this evaluation with Mr Deans. Therefore, for the reasons previously set out, the Panel found this Particular not proved.

 

Particular 1(c) – Proved

 

29.          Mr Deans admitted Particular 1(c). It was clear from the oral and written evidence that no such consultation took place and the Panel therefore found this Particular proved. However, Mr Deans said he was not required to consult with key agencies or await the outcome of the Child Protection Conference before Step Father A was allowed to stay overnight at the family home.

 

Child B

 

30.          It was admitted by Mr Deans that his response to the first referral in respect of Child B was to take no further action. The Referral and Information Record stated that Child B had JIA and got repeated infections due to the medication suppressing his immune system. There had been no improvement to his poor hygiene despite Dr FC discussing this with Child B’s mother, and there was a risk of infection. In his evidence, SM stated that the referral was made by a senior health practitioner and it was an appropriate referral to Children’s Services which should have resulted in an Initial Assessment being undertaken. The Panel heard that the referral from Dr FC had not been made in accordance with local Multi-Agency procedures, in that it did not include a Common Assessment Framework assessment. She had also not obtained the parents’ consent to make the referral. Mr Deans said he was entitled to make the decision to take no further action after discussing the case with the duty social work team. Mr Deans accepted that, in retrospect, he should have gone back to, or asked someone else to go back to, the referrer to discuss the case. Mr Deans stated that the threshold criteria for intervention was open to interpretation. His decision to take no further action was not taken in isolation. He said the case would have been discussed in at least three handover meetings involving other duty social workers and enquiries were made with the school before the matter was closed. He said he was made a scapegoat for the Council’s failings in respect of Child B.

 

31.          The Panel found Mr Deans listened to the opinion of the social workers when considering the referral which stated that Dr FC’s main concerns were poor hygiene; but Child B’s school had not observed any hygiene issues. His decision to close and log the case was justified and was not made until enquiries had been made with the school.

 

Particular 2 – Not Proved

 

32.          Mr Deans denied Particular 2. The Panel was not satisfied he failed to exercise appropriate judgement in response to the first referral by taking no further action. The referral clearly indicated that Dr FC’s main concern was Child B’s personal hygiene. This had been checked with Child B’s school and no concerns had been reported. This Particular was therefore not proved.

 

Particular 3(a) – Proved

 

33.          Mr Deans admitted Particular 3(a). He accepted he did not contact Dr FC to explore her concerns. His position was that, having closed and logged the case, the responsibility for reporting back to the referrer rested with the First Contact Team. As the First Contact Team was co-located with the Referral and Assessment Team, Mr Deans regularly spoke with the First Contact Team Manager in person and believed he would have done so on this occasion. However, there was no record of any such discussion and therefore, this Particular was proved.

 

Particular 3(b) – Proved

 

34.          Mr Deans admitted Particular 3(b) and the Panel noted that no Initial Assessment was undertaken on this occasion. The Panel therefore found this Particular proved. Mr Deans’ position was that, as he had closed and logged the case, an Initial Assessment would not then have been required.

 

Particular 4 – Proved

 

35.          Mr Deans admitted Particular 4. He relied on the First Contact Officer to contact the referrer but did not contact Dr FC himself. For the reasons set out in Particular 3(a), this Particular was found proved.

 

Particular 5

 

36.          This Particular related to Child B and the second referral. The referral information record shows the reasons for the referral were that Child B had JIA, which could “lead to chronic disability if not adequately treated”. He failed to attend three medical appointments and there was concern he was not being treated. Despite a letter to the parents he failed to attend a further medical appointment, giving rise to “Ongoing concerns regarding possible medical neglect”. On 3 September 2012, Mr Deans oversaw the handover from the duty social worker and identified that Child B should be allocated for an Initial Assessment. The case was allocated to Colleague A on 17 September 2012 and Mr Deans had a supervision session with Colleague A on 24 October 2012. A deadline of 9 November 2012 was set for the social worker to check whether the next medical appointment had been kept and to complete the Initial Assessment. The referral was eventually closed on 22 April 2013. Mr Deans was absent from work due to sickness from 22 January 2013 but he was responsible for the case until that date. The deadline he set of 9 November 2012 to check whether the medical appointment had been kept, and to complete the Initial Assessment, was over two months before he went off sick. Initial Assessments should be completed within ten working days. He had overall responsibility as Team Manager to ensure that necessary actions on cases were carried out, particularly in this case because Colleague A was newly qualified and struggling with an unrealistic caseload. The Panel found Mr Deans, as Team Manager, failed to ensure the necessary actions were carried out to properly deal with the second referral in respect of this Child B.

 

Particular 5(a) – Proved

 

37.          Mr Deans denied Particular 5(a). The Panel found that Mr Deans, especially with an inexperienced social worker operating in what Mr Deans acknowledged to be an overworked Team, should have carried out regular case supervision meetings with that social worker. Had he done so, this would potentially have identified much earlier that the Initial Assessment had not been completed. The Panel had sight of the case supervision record of 24 October 2012, which identified that the Initial Assessment should be completed by 9 November 2012. There were no further records of case supervision sessions available to the Panel and Mr Deans could not recall whether any had taken place before he went on sick leave in January 2013. This Particular was therefore found proved.

 

Particular 5(b) – Proved

 

38.          Mr Deans denied Particular 5(b). He said it was the responsibility of the social worker to ensure that the medical appointment was kept and it was not reasonable to expect that he should undertake that level of supervision of the social workers. However, for the same reasons as those set out above, the Panel found Mr Deans should have checked and ensured the medical appointment was kept. This Particular was therefore proved.

Particular 5(c) – Proved

 

39.          Mr Deans denied Particular 5(c). He said it was the responsibility of the social worker to ensure that Dr FC was contacted and it was not reasonable to expect that he should undertake that level of supervision of the social workers. The Panel found Mr Deans should have checked and ensured the referrer was contacted as part of the Initial Assessment, which the Panel found did not take place whilst Mr Deans was at work. This Particular was therefore proved.

 

Decision on Grounds

 

40.          In considering the statutory grounds, the Panel took the advice of the Legal Assessor that “misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some serious act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances.” The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a practitioner in the particular circumstances. The conduct complained of must be serious to amount to misconduct.

 

41.          A lack of competence connotes a standard of professional performance which is unacceptably low and which (save in exceptional circumstances) has been demonstrated by reference to a fair sample of work.

 

42.          In respect of Mr Deans, the allegation includes the period September 2011 to November 2012 and therefore the General Social Care Council (GSCC) standards are relevant in respect of the first referral in relation to Child B. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Eales submitted that the GSCC standards 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 6.1, 6.6 and 6.7 applied in relation to the first referral to Child B. The HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers 1, 2, 4, 9, 11, 12, 14 applied to all the other Particulars. She submitted that the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012) standards 1, 6, and 7 were applicable in the case of Colleague X, and that standards 1, 6, 7 and 8 were applicable to Mr Deans.

 

Colleague X

 

43.          [redacted]

 

44.          The Panel concluded that Colleague X’s behaviour in respect of the proven Particulars was not sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct.

 

45.          As this was a single incident, it could not be considered as a fair sample of Colleague X’s work and was not indicative of a lack of competence.

 

46.          Therefore, the Panel will not go on to consider impairment in relation to Colleague X.

 

Mr Deans

 

47.          The HCPC submitted that Mr Deans’ actions amounted to misconduct, due to falling seriously short of what would be proper in the circumstances. Of relevance was that Mr Deans had not worked in management before. In respect of Child B and the second referral, SM stated that Mr Deans failed to have adequate oversight of the case whilst he was the responsible Team Manager. Mr Deans stated that he is not guilty of misconduct and always acted in good faith to ensure the best outcomes for the children referred to the Social Services department of the Council. The Panel found that Mr Deans failed to comply with the above standards in respect of Particulars 5(a), 5(b) and 5(c). In respect of Particular 5(a), it was clear that the Initial Assessment was not completed within a reasonable time, and in respect of Particular 5(b) there was no evidence that subsequent medical appointments were kept by Child B, as directed by Mr Deans. In respect of Particular 5(c), the Panel considered that it was Mr Deans’ responsibility as Team Manager to ensure contact was made with Dr FC, both to assist in the Initial Assessment and to ensure that the child’s medical appointments were being kept, but this was not done.

 

48.          The Panel found that Mr Deans did know what to do and how to do it in respect of these proved facts. Notwithstanding Mr Deans’ contention that he was not adequately supported as a newly appointed manager, the Panel’s view was that he did not lack the competence to provide the necessary level of oversight. The Panel found that he failed to carry out his duties in relation to the second referral for Child B, which related to a vulnerable service user being at risk of serious harm. Mr Deans fell far short of what was to be expected of a registered social worker and Team Manager. Therefore his failings, giving rise to the proved factual Particulars 5(a), 5(b) and 5(c), stemmed from misconduct rather than a lack of competence. Accordingly the allegation of misconduct against Mr Deans, arising from those factual Particulars, is well founded.

 

49.          The Panel was not satisfied that the proved factual Particulars 1(c), 3(a) and 3(b) constitute misconduct or lack of competence.

 

Decision on Impairment

 

50.          The Panel considered the HCPC Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practice is ‘Impaired’” and received the advice of the Legal Assessor.

 

51.          In determining whether fitness to practise is impaired, panels must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:

 

1. The ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and

 

2. The ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

 

52.          Rule 9 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 states, “Where the Committee has found that the health professional has failed to comply with the standards of conduct, performance and ethics established by the Council under article 21(1)(a) of the Order, the Committee may take that failure into account but such failure shall not be taken of itself to establish that the fitness to practise of the health professional is impaired.”

 

53.          The Fifth Shipman Report identified the circumstances where impairment might arise as, “(a) where a registrant presents a risk to service users (b) has brought the profession into disrepute (c) has breached one of the fundamental tenets of the profession or (d) has acted in a way that his integrity can no longer be relied upon.”

 

54.          In respect of the public interest, the following additional guidance was provided in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin):

 

“In determining whether a practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, the relevant panel should generally consider…whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.”

 

Mr Deans

 

55.          The HCPC submitted that Mr Deans’ fitness to practise is impaired under both the ‘personal component’ and the ‘public component’ as set out in the HCPC Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”. Mr Deans denied impairment of his fitness to practise. Mr Deans is a person with a previous good character with no other disciplinary concerns or employment or professional issues.

 

56.          Mr Deans was dismissed by the Council. His dismissal was upheld on appeal. He had difficulty finding permanent employment following the referral to HCPC. He was employed through an agency in Nottingham for four months and then in Coventry, in child protection teams. He then worked in Cumbria for 18 months before obtaining employment in North Tyneside in the Looked After Children Team, primarily working with older children. He stated that he may be offered a permanent position with his current employer once these HCPC proceedings are resolved and would prefer not to return to a child safeguarding environment. However, there was no direct information before the Panel from his current employer. Mr Deans said he is no longer working in a management role and does not intend to return to one in the future.

 

57.          With regard to the personal component, the Panel considered whether Mr Deans has shown true insight into his acts and omissions in respect of Particulars 5(a), 5(b) and 5(c). He stated with hindsight he might have done things differently but, whilst the SCR was critical of the failures of other agencies, Mr Deans has not recognised his own shortcomings in the management of the second referral for Child B, and there is insufficient evidence of remediation. The Panel has not received any testimonial evidence in respect of Mr Deans. He sought to blame a lack of supervision, a lack of experience and the fact that others were involved, including a junior social worker, to avoid accepting his own responsibility. He has demonstrated insufficient insight to allay the Panel’s fears of a risk of repetition, should he be faced with similar circumstances. Where there is a risk of repetition the Panel cannot be satisfied that the public are protected by a finding of no current impairment.

 

58.          With regard to the public component, the Panel considered that the public would find it concerning if impairment was not found in a case where a young child suffered actual harm (damage to his sight) because of Mr Deans’ inaction in this case.

 

59.          On the basis of the personal component, that is, the lack of remediation and the risk of repetition, and the public component, the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession and the Regulator, the Panel finds that Mr Deans’ fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Decision on Sanction

 

60.          The purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish registrants, but to protect the public. In coming to its decision on sanction, the Panel has given careful consideration to all the circumstances of this case and all the evidence which contributed to its findings on the facts, the statutory ground and current impairment.

 

61.          It has considered the submissions made on behalf of both parties and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In accordance with that advice the Panel has had due regard to the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. The Panel has noted that any sanction must be proportionate, that it is not intended to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect, and that it should be no more than is necessary to meet the legitimate purposes of providing adequate protection to the public and otherwise meeting the wider public interest in protecting the reputation of the profession, maintaining confidence in the regulatory system, and declaring and upholding proper professional standards.

 

62.          The Panel first identified the aggravating and mitigating factors that it should take into account. The aggravating factors are:

 

               The actual harm caused to Child B as a consequence (in part) of the failure of Mr Deans to take appropriate supervisory action;

 

63.          The mitigating features are:

 

               At the time Mr Deans was an untested Team Manager, in a position where there had been previous unsuccessful attempts to appoint to the role;

 

               The Team were experiencing very high caseloads;

 

               Mr Deans was receiving limited support as a new manager;

 

               Mr Deans was experiencing clashes with senior management at the Council;

 

               This was an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished career;

 

               The incident occurred 4 ½ years ago;

 

64.          The Panel nevertheless considers the matter to be sufficiently serious as to require a sanction, given that Mr Deans was in a position of responsibility and a vulnerable child suffered actual harm due, in part, to Mr Deans’ failure to adequately discharge that responsibility.

 

65.          Taking no further action or ordering mediation are not appropriate sanctions in this case.

 

66.          The Panel considers that a Caution Order is the appropriate sanction in this case. It does so noting the guidance in the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” that a Caution Order is an appropriate sanction in cases where the lapse is isolated, limited, or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, a registrant has shown insight, and taken appropriate remedial action.

 

67.          In this case, Mr Deans was in a managerial role and was not directly responsible for the day-to-day handling of Child B’s case. Whilst Mr Deans’ lack of thorough oversight contributed to the failings identified in the SCR, he was by no means solely responsible for the harm ultimately suffered by Child B. No other incidences of inadequate supervision on Mr Deans’ part have been identified, and to that extent, this can be regarded as an isolated and limited event. Nevertheless, Mr Deans acknowledged in his submissions to the Panel that he had struggled in the management role at the Council and has since determined that he will not seek any management positions in the future. The Panel was persuaded that Mr Deans has reflected on his difficulties in undertaking a management position and is clearly resolved to remain in front line social work in the future, for which he acknowledged he has a particular aptitude. As such, the Panel considers that the risk of repetition is not high. The Panel further notes that Mr Deans has continued to work as a front line social worker in unrestricted practice for over three years without any further concerns being raised with the HCPC.

 

68.          In all the circumstances, the Panel considers that a Caution Order for a period of 1 year is sufficient in this case. The Panel acknowledges that the benchmark for a Caution Order is 3 years, but given the time which has elapsed (four and a half years), during which Mr Deans has been subject to these Fitness to Practise proceedings, the Panel considered that a 3-year Caution Order would be disproportionate.

 

69.          The Panel considered the next level of sanction, namely a Conditions of Practice Order, but determined that this would not be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, as Mr Deans is no longer working in a supervisory role, has no intention of returning to such a role and, in any event, it would be difficult to formulate workable and meaningful conditions which would address a one-off failure to adequately supervise.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mr Timothy Deans with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 1 year from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 3 May 2017 (the operative date).

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Colleague X & Timothy Paul Deans

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
31/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution