Mr Kevin Charles Hardy

: Social worker

: SW31816

Interim Order: Imposed on 11 Apr 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 10/04/2017 End: 17:00 12/04/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker Hampshire County Council (HCC) between February 2013 and May 2015, you:

1. Recorded in your Outlook diary that you were attending a visit on the following dates when you did not complete the visit and/or record the visit for:

a. 26 August 2014 for Service User A;

b. 28 August 2014 for Service User B;

c. 1 September 2014 for Service User C;

d. 4 September 2014 for Service User D;

e. 23 September 2014 for:

i. Service User E;

ii. Service User F.

f. 31 October 2014 for Service User G;

g. 4 November 2014 for:

i. Service User A;

ii. Service User G.

h. 7 November 2014 for Service User D;

i 1 December 2014 for Service User D;

j 2 December 2014 for Service User A;

k 11 December 2014 for Service User D;

l 18 December 2014 for Service User D;

m. 12 January 2015 for:

i. Service User H;

ii. Service User D;

n. 15 January 2015 for:

i. Service User D;

ii. Service User I;

iii. Service User J;

o. 26 January 2015 for Service User K;

p. 28 January 2015 for:

i. Service User M;

ii. Service User N;

q.  15 April 2015 for Service User O;

r.  24 April 2015 for Service User Q;

s. 1 May 2015 for Service User R;

t. 6 May 2015 for Service User Q;

u. 8 May 2015 for Service User Q;

v. 11 May 2015 for:

i. Service User S;

w. 15 May 2015 for Service User U.

2. Inaccurately recorded that you visited Service User T on 11 May 2015.

3. In respect of Service User R, on 15 May 2015 inaccurately recorded that a home visit had been arranged for 18 May 2015.

4. Your actions set out in paragraphs 1-3 were dishonest.

5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-4 constitute misconduct.

6. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proceeding in the Registrant’s absence

1. At the outset of the hearing Miss Turner applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She asked the Panel to note that notice of the hearing had been sent to the Registrant’s registered address on 8 December 2016. She referred the Panel to the response from the Registrant dated 13 December 2016 stating ‘I can confirm that I will not be attending the hearing planned for 10 April 2017, and understand that the hearing will proceed in my absence.’

2. The Panel are satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been given in accordance with the rules and that it would be fair and just to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself from the hearing. There is a public interest in the expeditious disposal of cases, the Registrant has not applied for the matter to be adjourned and indeed it is in the Registrant’s own interest that the matter be concluded.

Amendment to the allegation

3. Miss Turner then applied to amend the allegation in the form set out in the letter to the Registrant dated 31 October 2016. She submitted that a number of the amendments were by way of deletion and were clearly in the Registrant’s own interests. The other amendments concerned a subsequent re-numbering of paragraphs. She submitted that there was no prejudice caused to the Registrant by such amendments.

4. The Panel acceded to the application to amend. The Panel was satisfied that there was no prejudice caused to the Registrant by such amendments and in fact there was a positive advantage to him if they were to be deleted. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not objected to any of the proposed amendments.

Background
5. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in Hampshire County Council in the Adult Services East team from 30 June 2008 until he resigned on 21st May 2015.

6. On 11th May 2015, there was a phone call from the police to make an urgent joint visit with them to see a client. The allocated care manager was on leave, so Witness 1 requested the Registrant attend as he was available in the morning. The witness then received an email to inform her that the Registrant had telephoned at 13.26, confirming the visit was complete and he was going to have lunch. At 16.00, the witness sent a text to the Registrant asking if he would be returning to the office to get an update on the joint visit. He responded to say he was going for a late lunch.

7. The Registrant then telephoned the witness to explain he in fact couldn’t take his lunch break following the joint visit due to his appointments that afternoon, which he confirmed he had carried out.

8. Following the phone call, Witness 1 checked the Registrant’s diary. She noted he had an appointment at 13.30 and another from 15.30 until 17.00. She then checked the client files and noted that there was no reference to scheduled visits that day.

9. Witness 1 subsequently contacted one of the Service Users (Service User T) who knew nothing about a visit on 11th May.

10. On 13th May 2015, the witness looked at the Registrant’s diary again and noted that the times of the first appointment had been changed to 13.30 to 15.00 and that the second appointment deleted in its entirety. This was when she reported her concerns to DB, her line manager.

11. Witness 1 and her line manager, DB, met with the Registrant on 18th May 2015 to discuss the concerns. The Registrant stated in interview that he did complete both visits and questioned whether Service User T may have been confused when she informed Witness 1 no visit took place. He could not explain why the second appointment had been removed from his diary.

12. On 19th May 2015, Witness 1 received an email from the Registrant asking if he could resign, stating he was sorry and he had let people down. He officially resigned on 21st May 2015.

13. Following the Registrant’s resignation, Witness 2 (TC) was commissioned to formally investigate the concerns in May 2015. She was informed by DB that there were discrepancies between the Registrant’s Outlook diary and the corresponding service user records, which raised concerns as to his actual whereabouts at the time of the purported appointments scheduled in his diary.

14. The Panel noted that Miss Turner submitted that this case is pleaded in the alternative should the Panel not make a finding of dishonesty. Therefore the Panel could find that the Registrant was inputting these visits in his diary and simply not recording them.

Decision on Facts

15. The Panel noted that the burden of proving the case rests on the HCPC throughout. It had regard to the documentary material before it. It had regard to the oral evidence of Witness 2. The Panel noted the contents of Witness 1’s written statement. It heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

16. The HCPC submits that between 26th August 2014 and 15th May 2015, the Registrant was regularly inputting Service User visits in his Outlook diary but was not actually carrying out these visits. This is evidenced by the fact that there are no records or reference of these visits within the Service User case notes as per the Council’s policy at the time. This is also supported by Service User T and R who were both spoken to by Witness 1 and confirmed no such visits took place.

17. The Panel considered each particular of the allegation separately. The Panel noted that the HCPC’s case is predicated on the basis that Outlook diary entries showing home visits and/or ward visits were dishonestly made because these visits never took place because of the absence of corresponding entries in the service user records.

18. Having considered the documentary material before it as well as the oral evidence the Panel is satisfied that the following particulars which date from late January 2015 1(p)(i) and 1(p)(ii), 1(q), 1(r), 1(s), 1(t), 1(u), 1(v)(i), 1(w), 2, 3 and 4 (insofar as they relate to these particulars) are proved. They fall into the category where there is clear and unequivocal evidence that the Outlook calendar entries referred to visits that never took place. The lack of visits is corroborated by the evidence of Witness 1 who contacted Service User T, Service User R and a family member of Service User Q who confirmed that the Registrant had not attended on the dates in question. In addition, the Panel noted in the Service User records that some visits had been rescheduled or there is an entry in the Service User record that clearly demonstrates no intention to visit on that day. The Panel also noted the Registrant’s own representations dated 13 December 2016 in which he confirmed that his actions from January 2015 ‘were unprofessional’. The Panel also noted his admissions dated 21 December 2015 regarding the afternoon of 15 May 2015. The Panel is satisfied that by entering visits in his Outlook calendar and not carrying out these visits, his actions could properly be described as dishonest in his professional role.

19. In respect of 1(m)(ii) and 1(o), the Panel is satisfied that no visits took place. However, the HCPC have not established to the requisite standard that the Registrant’s actions were dishonest. This is because the Panel is satisfied that in respect of these two Service Users there were preceding entries in the Service User case notes to suggest that the Registrant intended to carry out home visits on the dates in question. The Panel is satisfied that the HCPC has not established a dishonest intent to the relevant standard because these preceding entries arguably demonstrate some intent to visit the Service Users.

20. In respect of 1(a), 1(b), 1(c), 1(d), 1(e)(i) and 1(e)(ii), 1(f), 1(g)(i), 1(g)(ii), 1(h), 1(i), 1(j), 1(k), 1(l), 1(m), 1(n)(i), 1(n)(ii), 1(n)(iii) and 4 (insofar as it relates to these particulars) are proved. This is because the Panel is satisfied that the lack of corresponding entry in the Service User case notes is more likely than not to demonstrate dishonest conduct on the part of the Registrant. The Panel notes that the Registrant denies the allegations regarding the period before January 2015 but he has not provided the Panel with any credible explanation as to why the Service User case notes do not contain corresponding entries for visits as set out in his Outlook calendar. In some instances, the Registrant has made entries in the Service User notes on the day in question or the following day and makes no reference to a forthcoming or recently completed visit. In addition, on other occasions, he has indicated he is undertaking work in relation to the Service User at the time in question which Witness 2 told the Panel would not involve a home visit.

21. The Panel is satisfied that it is more likely than not that the Registrant made the Outlook calendar entries in his diary and did not in fact carry home and/or ward visits for these Service Users as indicated. The Panel is satisfied that there is no evidence to suggest that he did in fact carry out these visits and in the circumstances it is more likely than not that the Registrant’s actions could be described as dishonest in the context of his professional practice. The Registrant’s Outlook calendar showed that he was apparently on home/ward visits when in fact this was not the case. Moreover, the Panel is supported in its reasoning by the fact that after January 2015 there was clear and unequivocal examples of dishonest conduct on the part of the Registrant which points to an ongoing pattern of behaviour. 

Decision on Grounds

22. Miss Turner submitted that the facts found proved clearly amount to misconduct. She referred to the following paragraphs of Social Workers in England:
• Standard 8 – be able to communicate effectively
and the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics:
• Standard 3 – You must keep high standards of personal conduct
• Standard 10 – You must keep accurate records
• Standard 13 – You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in your profession.

23. Miss Turner highlighted that the Registrant had previously received a written warning in September 2013 for similar matters to that found by the Panel.

24. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

25. The Panel is satisfied that the facts found proved would be regarded as well below the standards expected by fellow professionals. The Panel was satisfied that on very many occasions over a period of nine months the Registrant entered home and/or ward visits in his Outlook calendar and did not in fact carry out these visits. In effect, he was elsewhere without explanation. His Outlook calendar misled fellow practitioners and his managers to believe that he was attending to the needs of vulnerable Service Users when this was not the case. The Panel is in no doubt whatsoever that such conduct can properly be described as misconduct in the context of professional practice as a Social Worker. It represents an abuse of trust and is in clear breach of standard 10 and 13 above.

Decision on Impairment

26. The Panel then went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel noted that any consideration of impairment looks forward in time. Its function is to protect members of the public, vulnerable Service Users and the reputation of the profession from those who are not fit to practice. It can, of course, take into account past misconduct.

27. The Panel noted that the Registrant has shown limited insight in his written representations to the HCPC in which he said ‘was unprofessional and well below the standards of a qualified social worker’. The Registrant has made partial admissions to some of the particulars. He also mentioned professional and personal stresses which the Panel have considered.

28. The Panel was concerned to note that the Registrant had a previous written warning in 2013 for similar matters and he would therefore have been afforded an opportunity to remediate, which he did not do. There is no credible evidence of insight into the impact of his dishonesty on Service Users, colleagues and the reputation of the profession. The Panel determined therefore the risk of repetition of his misconduct is high.

29. In addition, the Panel is satisfied that due to the serious nature of the misconduct found proved public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. In all the circumstances, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

Decision on Sanction

30. Miss Turner, on behalf of the HCPC, reminded the Panel of the wider public interest in the imposition of a sanction. She submitted that any sanction must be proportionate and that it was important to note that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant.

31. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised the Panel that the full range of sanctions is available to the Panel as this was a case involving misconduct. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind its duty to protect members of the public and also the public interest which includes maintaining and declaring proper standards of conduct and behaviour, maintaining the reputation of the profession, and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

32. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that any sanction it imposes must be the least restrictive sanction that is sufficient to protect the public and the public interest. It should take into consideration the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case. He reminded the Panel that the purpose of a sanction is not punitive, although it may have that effect. The purpose of a sanction is to protect members of the public and the wider public interest, weighing the Registrant’s interest against the public interest. 

Panel’s consideration and determination

33. The Panel had close regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document in reaching its decision on sanction. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish. Rather, a sanction should only be imposed to the extent that it is required to protect the public, to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, and to declare and maintain proper standards among fellow professionals. To ensure this approach the Panel reminded itself to first consider whether its findings require the imposition of any sanction at all. If they do, then the available sanctions must be considered in ascending order of seriousness. The Panel confirms that it has followed this approach in the present case.

34. The Panel took into account the following as mitigating features of this case:

a. The Registrant’s personal and professional difficulties;

b. Partial admissions

35. The Panel considered the following as aggravating features of this case:

a. Dishonesty relating to multiple Service Users on multiple occasions;

b. Lack of full insight;

c. Risk of repetition;

d. A previous written warning for similar conduct.

36. In considering the matter of sanction, the Panel started with the least restrictive.

37. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the nature and seriousness of the misconduct found, this would be wholly inappropriate and would not protect the public or the wider public interest.

38. The Panel then considered whether to make a Caution Order. The Panel determined that the nature and circumstances of the misconduct is such that a Caution Order is not appropriate for the same reason as set out above.

39. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. However, this is not a case that is suitable for the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The matters found proved are so serious that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate or proportionate. There were no Conditions of Practice that would be practicable and verifiable which could deal with the misconduct found and the ongoing nature of the risk identified.

40. The Panel then considered whether a period of suspension would be a sufficient and proportionate response in order to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, and to declare and maintain proper standards among fellow professionals. The Panel has found that there is a high risk of repetition and is concerned that the acts of dishonesty amounted to a deliberate abuse of trust. A Suspension Order would not adequately mark the gravity of the matters found.  

41. The Panel weighed all the above considerations, and also reminded itself of the mitigating features in this case, as set out above. The Panel determined that the matter before it was so serious that a Suspension Order, even for the maximum duration, would not be sufficient to maintain and declare proper standards of conduct and behaviour, nor to maintain the reputation of the profession, nor to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

42. The Panel therefore went on to consider striking the Registrant’s name off the HCPC Register. The Panel took into account the impact that such an order would have on the Registrant in terms of his finances and his reputation. However, it concluded that this was such a gross departure from the fundamental tenets of the profession and standards of behaviour expected from a Social Worker that only a Striking Off order would be sufficient to maintain and declare proper standards of conduct and behaviour, to maintain the reputation of the profession, and to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

43. In the light of the above, the Panel is satisfied that the appropriate and proportionate response to protect the public and otherwise in the public interest in these circumstances is to make a Striking-Off Order.  

 

 

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Kevin Charles Hardy from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

The order imposed today will apply from 9 May 2017 (the operative date). 

Right of Appeal

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the decision of the Panel and the order it has made against you.

Under Article 29(10) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  The Panel’s order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Interim Order:

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same 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.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Kevin Charles Hardy

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
10/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off