Ms Victoria Olga Page
Whilst registered as a Social Worker and during the course of your employment as a Family Court Advisor for Cafcass:
1. In or around April/May 2012, concerns were brought to your attention that a local authority worker had retrospectively created and / or amended initial core assessments in relation to Service Users A and C and you did not bring these concerns to the attention of Cafcass managers.
2. On or around 06 August 2012, you informed a Police Officer, DI H, of the concerns referred to in paragraph 1 above and requested that he did not record or share the information.
3. Between 06 September 2012 and 17 September 2012, you altered case records in relation to the care proceedings involving Service Users A and B.
4. On 19 September 2012, you asked a colleague to delete records in relation to Service User A.
5. Your actions in paragraphs 3 – 4 are dishonest.
6. The matters described in paragraphs 1 – 2 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
7. The matters described in paragraphs 3 – 5 constitute misconduct.
8. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.
At the substantive hearing, the Allegation set out above was found proved. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was found impaired by reason of her misconduct and she was made the subject of a 12-month Suspension Order, which was subsequently reviewed and extended by a further period of 12 months and then six months.
1. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant at her home address.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Registrant did not appear, nor was she represented. She sent a letter to the HCPC, dated 17 March 2017, in which she stated, “I wish to inform the panel that I have retired and will remain completely and unequivocally retired from social work and have absolutely no intention of practising it again.”
3. On behalf of the HCPC, Mr Claughton applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. Her letter proved that she was aware of today’s hearing. Mr Claughton therefore submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.
4. Having considered the revised HCPC Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba  EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable Notice and that she was aware of today’s hearing. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment of today’s hearing. There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned in view of the content of her letter. The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.
5. The Registrant was employed as a Family Court Advisor by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). Her role was to work with children and families who were subject to Family Court proceedings. She was appointed as a Guardian in respect of two children who were subject to care proceedings in 2012. Their sibling had died and the police were conducting a murder investigation into the death. However, serious concerns were raised as to the creation or amendment of core assessments by another party and her failure to bring those amendments to the attention of her managers, as well as her alteration and her requested deletion of other documents.
6. The Registrant did not appear and nor was she represented before the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC at a final hearing on 13-16 October 2014. She was found to have acted dishonestly in her alteration and requested deletion of records. The Panel found that her fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct and imposed a Suspension Order of 12 months.
7. The Suspension Order was extended at a review hearing for a further 12 months on 15 October 2015. On that occasion, the Registrant did not attend nor was she represented. The Panel was concerned at the absence of any evidence of insight or detailed reflection or any information about the Registrant’s current state of health. In the absence of such information, the Panel found that her fitness to practise remained impaired.
8. The matter was reviewed again on 14 October 2016. The Registrant did not attend nor was she represented, but the Panel was informed by way of a letter from the Registrant that she was working as a Team Leader in a residential care home for vulnerable children and young people, a position that did not require Social Worker registration. However, the Panel had insufficient information as to her insight, reflection, remediation or future plans. The Panel considered whether to strike the Registrant from the Register in view of the gravity of the original misconduct and her failure to take opportunities to demonstrate the necessary insight, but instead extended the Suspension Order by six months in order to encourage her to provide evidence of her insight, her health and her future plans. The Panel warned her that all options, including Striking Off, remained open to a future review panel.
9. This is now the third review. The Registrant has not attended any review hearings in this case and has now been out of professional social work practice for a period of over three years. Mr Claughton, for the HCPC, reminded the Panel of the history of the case and of their powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the Order or imposing another order. He submitted that this was a serious matter and there were continuing concerns about the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Social Worker, and further, the Registrant communicated her firm intention not to return to the profession, as in her letter of 17 March 2017.
10. In relation to sanction, Mr Claughton, for the HCPC, submitted that it was not in the public interest or the Registrant’s interest to prolong the proceedings. He urged the Panel to consider the sanction of Striking Off, in view of the gravity of the original findings and the absence of full engagement or evidence of remediation.
11. A substantive review is a two-stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon her registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material, including submissions, and had regard to the HCPC Practice Note on “Finding That Fitness to Practice is ‘Impaired’”, the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy” and the necessity for proportionality.
12. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the facts of the original case.
13. The Panel accepted the force of the submissions made on behalf of the HCPC that the Registrant had failed to fully engage with the regulatory process or to submit evidence of insight or remediation. The original allegation was a very serious matter of misconduct. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. In making this finding, the Panel had in mind the need to protect the public and to maintain public confidence in the profession.
14. The nature of the misconduct was too serious to make no order or to consider mediation. The Panel considered whether to impose a Caution Order, but decided that it was inappropriate, because this was not an isolated occurrence and there was no evidence of insight or remediation.
15. The Panel then considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate or workable, but concluded that the absence of any information about the Registrant’s current circumstances made such an order impossible to formulate. A Conditions of Practice Order requires commitment on the part of the Registrant, but there has been no such engagement in this case, because she wishes to retire from the profession.
16. The Panel then moved to consider whether the current Suspension Order should be extended, but concluded that there was greater force in the HCPC’s submission that prolonging these proceedings was unfair to both the Regulator and the Registrant. The original findings related to very serious matters of misconduct, including dishonesty. The Registrant had been warned that all options were open to today’s reviewing panel. The Registrant had made her position very clear in her letter of 17 March 2017, in which she said that she had no intention of returning to the profession. There was no indication that the Registrant was likely to offer evidence of insight or remediation.
17. The Panel therefore concluded that the sanction of Striking Off reflected the gravity of the original findings and that it was necessary and proportionate for the purpose of public protection at this stage.
That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Victoria Olga Page from the Register on the expiry of the existing order.
The order imposed today will apply from 13 May 2017.
History of Hearings for Ms Victoria Olga Page
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|07/04/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|14/10/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|15/10/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|13/10/2014||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|