Ms Susan Davies

: Social worker

: SW71358

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 18/04/2017 End: 17:00 25/04/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Leicester City Council between 01 April 2014 and 04 June 2015:
1. Following three supervision sessions held on 06 August 2014, 07 August 2014 and 11 August 2014, it was found that in approximately 34 of your cases there were contacts and/or referrals outstanding, which included:
(a) approximately 23 which were not recorded on the internal system (Liquid Logic)

2. In the case of Child A, you received a referral from the police dated 07 April 2014 relating to domestic violence, and you:
(a) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not upload the email on EDRMS;
(b) did not record the initial contact until 02 September 2014.

3. In the case of Child B, you received a referral on 24 April 2014 from Child B’s aunt, and you:
(a) did not record any attempts to contact Child B’s school between 24 April 2014 and 30 May 2014;
(b) left a message, on 30 May 2014, for Child B’s school to call you back and did not follow this up;
(c) did not complete and/or record any history checks on Child B’s family;
(d) did not take any action to contact Child B’s mother until 14 August 2014;
(e) did not follow up your phone contact with the Child B’s mother from 14 August 2014 until 29 August 2014;
(f) did not record the initial contact until 2 September 2014.

4. In the case of Child C, you received a referral, on 16 May 2014, and you:
(a) provided inappropriate advice in that you informed the caller to call back when they were sure of Child C’s address;
(b) did not check with Leicester County Council to see if Child C was known to Social Services and/or did not undertake any additional enquiries in relation to this child.

5. In the case of Child D, on receiving a referral relating to an alleged assault on his mother by Child D on 16 July 2014, you:
(a) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call;
(b) did not contact Child D’s mother to confirm the details in a timely manner;
(c) did not record the initial contact until 7 September 2014.

6. In the case of Child E, you:
(a) incorrectly recorded on Liquid Logic the date of the IC to be 25 July 2014;
(b) did not complete the record of the Initial Contact on 25 June 2014 until on or around 26 July 2014;
(c) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call on 25 June 2014;
(d) did not record and/or obtain sufficient information following a referral on 4 August 2014;
(e) did not make contact with Child E and/or her mother between 4 August 2014 and the subsequent allocation of the case to another Social Worker, sometime between 11-13 August 2014.

7. In the case of Child F, did not complete the record on Liquid Logic of your home visit to Child F on 27 June 2014 until 29 August 2014.

8. In the case of Child G, on 25 June 2014 you received a telephone call from Child G and you:
(a) provided inappropriate advice in that you informed Child G that her carer would need to seek legal advice regarding their query;
(b) did not contact Bristol Council to ascertain if Child G was known to them;
(c) did not have knowledge of the Private Fostering Assessment and therefore did not consider whether this was suitable for Child G;
(d) did not discuss this matter with Child G’s carer;
(e) did not make any enquiries regarding the Child G’s mother;
(f) did not use an interpreter to follow up phone calls to Child G;
(g) did not complete the record of your initial contact with Child G onto Liquid Logic until 29 August 2014.

9. In the case of Child H, you received a referral on 27 June 2014 from the NSPCC regarding Child H, and you:
(a) did not obtain the full details of the referral over the telephone;
(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial telephone contact with the NSPCC on Liquid Logic, which included;
(i) Child H’s name;
(ii) the allegation that the father was selling drugs and giving them to the children;
(iii) the password to the follow up email that would be sent;
(c) did not conduct an assessment on the referral until August 2014;
(d) did not take any action in relation to the referral.

10. In the case of Child I, you received a referral from the NSPCC, on 14 July 2014, and you:
(a) did not take the full details of the referral over the telephone;
(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial contact from the NSPCC;
(c) did not take any action in relation to the referral.

11. In the case of Child J, a referral was received on 14 July 2014 in relation to domestic violence, and you:
(a) did not accurately record the initial contact on Liquid Logic;
(b) did not record the initial contact until 14 August 2014;
(c) did not record that you had attempted to call the child’s mother;
(d) did not take sufficient and/or timely action in relation to the referral;
(e) did not respond to Team Manager A’s email request to obtain the family history.

12. Your actions described in paragraph 11(a)-(e) placed Child J at risk of harm.

13. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 12 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters
Service of Notice
1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 8 February 2017. The notice contained the date, time and venue of the hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with the rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Committee rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Watts on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Watts submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She further submitted that the matter should proceed in the absence of the Registrant and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. Ms Watts drew the Panel’s attention to the letter from the Registrant’s representatives, Messrs Thompsons Solicitors, who indicated that the Registrant would not be attending the hearing, either in person or by telephone, and that no discourtesy was intended. They indicated that the Registrant is not able to cope with the process because of her personal circumstances, which they set out in the letter.  They stated that there is no application to adjourn these proceedings because the Registrant does not feel that she would be able to properly engage with the proceedings in the near future even if an adjournment were granted. The Registrant has also indicated that she has no intention of returning to her career as a Social Worker, notwithstanding it was a career to which she was devoted, and which she had thoroughly enjoyed. Ms Watts reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He cautioned the Panel that the discretion was to be exercised with care and caution as set out in the case of R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law, that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice was maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.

8. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing.
9. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPC practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

10. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing and implicit in her letter dated 13 April 2017 is an expectation that these proceedings proceed in her absence;
• The Registrant has engaged with the process, and has been candid about her personal circumstances;
• There is a public interest that this matter is dealt with expeditiously.

11. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. There is a distinction between a case where the Registrant is clearly aware of the hearing date, and one where there has been no response from the Registrant. It determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Amendment of Allegation
12. Ms Watts, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation.  She submitted that the amendments were consistent with the evidence before the Investigating Committee, and they served to correct grammatical errors and to clarify the Allegation by giving further and better Particulars. She informed the Panel that the Registrant and her representatives have been notified of the proposed amendments.

13. Neither the Registrant nor her representatives have indicated any objection to the proposed amendments in their correspondence.

14. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that it was open to the Panel to amend the Allegation, provided no injustice would be caused by the amendment. The Panel considered that the amendments sought were minor, served to clarify the Allegation and would not cause injustice. The Panel therefore allowed the amendments to be made. The amended Allegation is as set out above.

Background
15. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker for Leicester City Council (the “Council”). She worked in the Child in Need Team for about ten years before moving to the Duty and Advice Service (DAS) team on 1 April 2014, as a result of re-organisation within the Council. Following a supervision session with Witness 1 on 6 August 2014, concerns were raised regarding the Registrant’s practice.

16. In September 2014 Witness 2 was asked to investigate some concerns raised in relation to the Registrant, namely that there was a failure to maintain records, provide accurate advice on the phone or follow up actions, which had the potential for children to be left at risk of harm, a failure to seek advice from Team Managers, and to respond to Team Manager requests. Pending the outcome of the investigation, the Registrant was moved from the DAS in September 2014, to remove her from any work that may involve safeguarding on a daily basis.

17. The Council subsequently reported the matter to the HCPC.

Decision on facts
18. The Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Ms Watts on behalf of the HCPC. The Registrant did not dispute any of the factual Particulars in her correspondence with the HCPC. In fact, the Registrant stated, in her email to the Investigating Committee, that she was sorry her practice “fell below the required standard in the new, significantly different, role…”

19. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel that the burden of proof rests with the HCPC, and that the Registrant need not disprove anything. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel that the standard of proof is the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities.

20. The Panel heard oral evidence from the following witnesses on behalf of the HCPC:
• Witness 1, Team Manager on the Children’s Duty and Advice team at the Council, and the Registrant’s line manager from 31 July 2014.
• Witness 2, Service Manager at the Council who investigated these matters.

21. The Panel found Witness 1 to be open and credible. Her evidence was clear and supported by contemporaneous documentary evidence. She told the Panel that she was the Registrant’s line manager from 31 July 2014. She accepted that the Registrant’s team was under-staffed but this shortfall was usually covered by Social Workers from other teams. She said that some shifts were busier than others and that it was possible that there was some impact on the Registrant.

22. Witness 1 told the Panel that there were concerns about the Registrant’s ability to cope with her work and following a meeting with her, the Registrant was taken off the calls rota from 1 August 2014 so that she could complete her outstanding work.

23. Witness 1 told the Panel that she then undertook a three-day supervision session with the Registrant, on 6, 7 and 11 August 2014. She told the Panel that this supervision session revealed the issues that form the basis of the allegation.

24. The Panel also found Witness 2 to be an honest and credible witness. Witness 2 impressed the Panel in that her evidence was clear and it was consistent with other evidence in the case. As the person who investigated these matters, as well as having managed both the Child in Need Teams and the Duty and Advice Team in the past, she provided a very useful perspective on the comparative requirements of the Registrant’s previous role and her role in DAS, the areas of overlapping and transferrable skills, and the differences in working conditions and practice.  She told the Panel that the DAS teams had been re-structured such that, because of the sensitive and serious nature of the frontline role, the minimum seniority level of social workers for that role was Level 3. This was to ensure that only senior and experienced Social Workers carried out those roles.

25. The Panel also received a bundle of evidence which included:
• The supervision notes of the Registrant;
• The relevant records of the children A to J;
• Notes of investigation interviews with the Registrant and other members of staff;
• Emails from the Registrant and her statement made to Investigating Committee when they considered this case.

26. The Panel firstly considered each paragraph of the allegation in turn and made the following findings:

Particular 1 – found proved
1. Following three supervision sessions held on 06 August 2014, 07 August 2014 and 11 August 2014, it was found that in approximately 34 of your cases there were contacts and/or referrals outstanding, which included:
(a) approximately 23 which were not recorded on the internal system (Liquid Logic)

27. Witness 1 told the Panel that during the three-day supervision session, it was identified that there were 34 cases where there was information not recorded on the Council’s internal system, known as Liquid Logic. She told the Panel that all referrals to the Council should be recorded on the Liquid Logic system immediately and, if that were not possible, it should be recorded within 24 hours. This was important as Liquid Logic was the information system used by Social Workers to provide up to date information on a case which could be reviewed by colleagues. She told the Panel that if a Social Worker felt they could not do so, they should speak to their Team Manager who could re-arrange the Social Workers duties on an as required basis to enable them to meet those time-limits. She conceded that there were exceptions and that where the time-limits could not be adhered to, there should be a file note stating that this was so.

28. The Panel noted the supervision notes of the three-day supervision session. Witness 1 told the Panel that she had made those notes and that they had been made contemporaneously. The notes demonstrate that there were issues with the work carried out by the Registrant, including outstanding tasks, and information contained in her ‘blue book’ (notebook) that had not been transferred onto the Liquid Logic system.

29. The Panel finds this Particular proved in its entirety.

Particular 2 – found proved
2. In the case of Child A, you received a referral from the police dated 07 April 2014 relating to domestic violence, and you:
(a) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not upload the email on EDRMS;
(b) did not record the initial contact until 02 September 2014.

30. Witness 1 told the Panel that in relation to Child A, she looked at the Liquid Logic system and checked the information that was contained therein against the information contained in the Registrant’s ‘blue book’. She told the Panel that the Registrant told her that she had received an initial email contact from the police in this case on 7 April 2014. However the email had not been uploaded to the Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS). Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant should have uploaded the email to EDRMS immediately, as it was a requirement that all correspondence received in relation to children be uploaded onto EDRMS.

31. Furthermore the initial contact by email had not been recorded on Liquid Logic. Witness 1 instructed the Registrant to record it onto the Liquid Logic system by 5 September 2014. She told the Panel that the Registrant completed the record on 2 September 2014, backdating it to 6 April 2014.

32. Witness 2 told the Panel that the Liquid Logic system replaced a previous electronic system with similar features therefore the Registrant would have been familiar with creating electronic records of her work.

33. The Panel finds this Particular proved in its entirety.

Particular 3 found proved
3. In the case of Child B, you received a referral on 24 April 2014 from Child B’s aunt, and you:
(a) did not record any attempts to contact Child B’s school between 24 April 2014 and 30 May 2014;
(b) left a message, on 30 May 2014, for Child B’s school to call you back and did not follow this up;
(c) did not complete and/or record any history checks on Child B’s family;
(d) did not take any action to contact Child B’s mother until 14 August 2014;
(e) did not follow up your phone contact with the Child B’s mother from 14 August 2014 until 29 August 2014;
(f) did not record the initial contact until 2 September 2014.

34. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant received a referral in relation to Child B on 24 April 2014 from Child B’s maternal aunt by way of telephone contact. The Registrant told Witness 1 about the concerns raised and that she had spoken to a colleague that same day. That colleague had advised the Registrant to make contact with Child B’s school. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant again sought the advice of that colleague on 7 May 2014 and received the same advice again; that she should contact Child B’s school.

35. Witness 1 told the Panel that the records on the Liquid Logic system showed that the Registrant made contact with the child’s school on 30 May 2014, although it had been backdated to 30 April 2014. The Registrant admitted to Witness 1 in the supervision session that she had not followed up her call to the school as she had forgotten to do so. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant should have contacted Child B’s school within 24 hours of receiving the initial advice from her colleague.

36. Witness 1 told the Panel that during the supervision session on 11 August 2014, she advised the Registrant to contact Child B’s mother as soon as possible. She told the Panel that the Registrant attempted to contact the mother on 14 August 2014 but there was no response and the Registrant left a voicemail. The Registrant did not follow this up with another attempt. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant should have made another attempt within 24 hours.

37. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant did not complete the record of the initial contact of 24 April 2014 on Liquid Logic until 2 September 2014. She said that the record should have been completed within 24 hours of the initial contact. It also became apparent that the Registrant did not carry out any history checks on Child B’s family when she should have.

38. The Panel finds this Particular proved in its entirety.

Particular 4(a) – not proved, Particular 4(b) – found proved
4. In the case of Child C, you received a referral, on 16 May 2014, and you:
(a) provided inappropriate advice in that you informed the caller to call back when they were sure of Child C’s address;
(b) did not check with Leicester County Council to see if Child C was known to Social Services and/or did not undertake any additional enquiries in relation to this child.

39. Witness 1 told the Panel that when the Registrant received this referral, the caller was unsure of Child C’s address as a partial address was provided. The partial address indicated that it was outside the Council’s area and fell within the remit of Leicestershire County Council. Witness 1 did not say that the advice was inappropriate and there was no policy to dictate what should have been the advice in those circumstances. Witness 2 told the Panel that the Registrant stated that she had been told by the Team Manager that she could not do anything without the Child’s address.

40. Witness 1 told the Panel that nevertheless, because of the serious nature of the concerns relating to Child C, the Registrant should have made further enquires with Leicestershire County Council to see if Child C was known to their Social Services. Witness 2 told the Panel that the Registrant stated in interview that the reason she did not ring Leicestershire County Council herself was because she was finishing her shift. Witness 2 stated that the Registrant should nevertheless have tried to call Leicestershire County Council because the seriousness of the information which indicated that a child was potentially at risk of harm.

41. The Panel found Particular 4(a) not proved, but Particular 4(b) proved.

Particular 5 – found proved
5. In the case of Child D, on receiving a referral relating to an alleged assault on his mother by Child D on 16 July 2014, you:
(a) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call;
(b) did not contact Child D’s mother to confirm the details in a timely manner;
(c) did not record the initial contact until 7 September 2014.

42. Witness 1 told the Panel that the records and the notes of the Registrant contained within her ‘blue book’ showed that the referral was received on 16 July 2014. She also told the Panel that Child D’s mother should have been contacted within 24 hours to inform her of the referral and to confirm the details contain in the referral. Witness 1 told the Panel that the limited information obtained by the Registrant meant that the Registrant would not have been able to conduct a proper risk assessment, and in that sense the Registrant had not obtained sufficient information. Witness 1 said that a Level 3 Social Worker with the Registrant’s experience should know what other information was required and how to draw it out from the caller.

43. It came to light during the three-day supervision session in August that the Registrant had not tried to contact Child D’s mother, nor had the Registrant made a record of the referral on the Liquid Logic system. Witness 1 then instructed the Registrant to complete the record by 5 September 2014 but the Record Progression Audit showed that it was completed on 7 September 2014. Witness 1 reiterated that records of referrals must be made on the Liquid Logic system either immediately or within 24 hours of the referral.

44. The Panel find Particular 5 proved in its entirety.

Particular 6 – found proved
6. In the case of Child E, you:
(a) incorrectly recorded on Liquid Logic the date of the IC to be 25 July 2014;
(b) did not complete the record of the Initial Contact on 25 June 2014 until on or around 26 July 2014;
(c) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call on 25 June 2014;
(d) did not record and/or obtain sufficient information following a referral on 4 August 2014;
(e) did not make contact with Child E and/or her mother between 4 August 2014 and the subsequent allocation of the case to another Social Worker, sometime between 11-13 August 2014.

45. Witness 1 outlined the nature of the referral in relation to Child E. It is clear that the initial contact was received on 25 June 2014. However the Liquid Logic’s Record System Audit shows that a record of the initial contact was only made on the system on 25 July 2014. Furthermore the record wrongly indicated that the initial contact took place on 25 July 2015. Witness 1 told the Panel that this was noticed during the three-day supervision period and she had instructed the Registrant to correct the error. The Registrant failed to make the correction, and as a result the wrong details persisted after the three-day supervision period until it was checked again as part of the HCPC’s investigation into these matters.

46. Witness 1 also told the Panel that the Registrant should have obtained further information regarding the circumstances and concerns about the mental health of Child E in order for her to carry out a risk assessment. She told the Panel that a Level 3 Social Worker of the Registrant’s experience should have known how important that this was in the circumstances.

47. The Registrant received a subsequent referral on 4 August 2014 relating to Child E from the Child Abuse Investigation Unit. The information received by the Registrant was not recorded onto the Liquid Logic system. This was discovered at the first day of the three-day supervision session. It was also revealed that the Registrant had recommended that a Single Assessment be undertaken. However, Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant had not obtained sufficient information in order to progress the case to a Single Assessment. She told the Panel that there was conflicting information and the Registrant should have sought greater clarity and more information. She should also have contacted Child E and her mother in order to inform the mother that a referral had been made, that the case was to be progressed to a Single Assessment, and to obtain the views of Child E’s mother regarding the concerns raised.

48. Witness 1 told the Panel that she then instructed the Registrant to make contact with Child E and her mother to give them the information and to seek their views. She told the Panel that the Registrant failed to carry out her instructions and the case was re-allocated to another Social Worker between 11 to 13 August 2014, partly because of the emerging concerns about the Registrant’s practice.

49. The Panel finds Particular 6 proved in its entirety.

Particular 7 – found proved
7. In the case of Child F, did not complete the record on Liquid Logic of your home visit to Child F on 27 June 2014 until 29 August 2014.

50. Witness 1 gave details of this case to the Panel. She told the Panel that the Registrant had recorded that she discussed this case with the Team Manager and also that it had been agreed the Registrant would make a statutory visit to Child F’s paternal grandmother. The visit was carried out on 27 June 2014. However, it became clear during the three-day supervision session that the Registrant had failed to complete the record of the statutory visit on the Liquid Logic system. Furthermore, she had started the record on 7 August 2014 but had put in an incorrect date for the visit. Witness 1 instructed the Registrant to correct the error and complete the record, which she did on 29 August 2014 as shown by the Records Audit System.

51. Witness 1 reiterated to the Panel that the Registrant was required to record the information within 24 hours of the visit. She told the Panel that subsequent to the visit, another Social Worker had added further information relating to Child F to the system and the Registrant’s failure meant that the other Social Worker was unaware of the statutory visit carried out by the Registrant.

52. The Panel finds Particular 7 proved.

Particular 8(a) – 8(e) and 8(g) – found proved, Particular 8(f) – not proved
8. In the case of Child G, on 25 June 2014 you received a telephone call from Child G and you:
(a) provided inappropriate advice in that you informed Child G that her carer would need to seek legal advice regarding their query;
(b) did not contact Bristol Council to ascertain if Child G was known to them;
(c) did not have knowledge of the Private Fostering Assessment and therefore did not consider whether this was suitable for Child G;
(d) did not discuss this matter with Child G’s carer;
(e) did not make any enquiries regarding the Child G’s mother;
(f) did not use an interpreter to follow up phone calls to Child G;
(g) did not complete the record of your initial contact with Child G onto Liquid Logic until 29 August 2014.

53. Witness 1 told the Panel that this case, like all the others above, was discussed with the Registrant during the three-day supervision session. She stated that the Registrant did not dispute the facts. The striking feature about this case was that it was Child G herself who made contact with DAS.

54. Witness 1 stated that it was inappropriate for the Registrant to advise Child G that her carer would need to seek legal advice about Child G’s query. The Registrant did not have any detailed information regarding Child G’s background nor who was responsible for her. Bearing in mind that Child G had moved away from her mother and was seeking not be to returned to her, the advice given to Child G was inappropriate.

55. Witness 1 stated that in the circumstances, the Registrant should not have left it at that and should have made further enquiries with Bristol Council to ascertain if they were aware of Child G. Witness 1 told the Panel that in circumstances such as these, the child could be a ‘missing child’ and be at risk of sexual exploitation and hence it was important to make further enquires.

56. Witness 1 also stated that in these circumstances, a Private Fostering Assessment should have been considered as an option because of the potential safeguarding issues. However, when she raised this with the Registrant, the Registrant stated that she did not consider it because she did not know about such assessments. Witness 1 told the Panel that she found the Registrant’s explanation to be incredible and unbelievable because of the Registrant’s seniority and experience and also because such assessments were part of the Registrant’s role when she was in the Child in Need Team; a role she had for 10 years prior to joining DAS.

57. Witness 1 told the Panel that after giving Child G that inappropriate advice, no further attempts were made by the Registrant to contact either Child G’s carer or her mother. Furthermore, no record of the call on 25 June 2014 existed on the Liquid Logic system and the Registrant was instructed to make such a record. This was completed on 29 August 2014.

58. The Panel finds Particulars 8(a), 8(b), 8(c), 8(d), 8(e) and (g) proved.

59. There was no evidence in relation to Particular 8(f). The Panel finds this Particular not proved.

Particular 9(a)-9(b) and 9(d) – found proved, Particular 9(c) – not proved
9. In the case of Child H, you received a referral on 27 June 2014 from the NSPCC regarding Child H, and you:
(a) did not obtain the full details of the referral over the telephone;
(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial telephone contact with the NSPCC on Liquid Logic, which included;
(i) Child H’s name;
(ii) the allegation that the father was selling drugs and giving them to the children;
(iii) the password to the follow up email that would be sent;
(c) did not conduct an assessment on the referral until August 2014;
(d) did not take any action in relation to the referral.

60. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant informed her that the details she took over the phone on 27 June 2014 were Child H’s name, the allegation that father was a drug dealer and that he was giving drugs to the children and the password of the email that the NSPCC would be sending.

61. Witness 1 told the Panel that the clear policy was that referrals would not be received via email and therefore the Registrant should have obtained full details of the referral over the phone. Further, as of the three-day supervision session in August 2014, there was no record of the initial contact on the Liquid Logic system and no further work had been done on the case in the intervening period. Witness 1 stated that on 27 June 2014, the Registrant should have assessed what further action was required. The case was re-allocated to another Social Worker for action to be taken.

62. The Panel finds Particulars 9(a), 9(b)(i), 9(b)(ii), 9(b)(iii), and 9(d) proved.

63. The HCPC accepted that there was no evidence that the Registrant carried out an assessment on the referral in August 2014. Accordingly the Panel finds Particular 9(c) not proved. The Panel, of its own volition, considered amending Particular 9(c) to delete the words “until August 2014”, but determined that it was neither fair nor was it necessary, in the light of Particular 9(d).

Particular 10 – found proved
10. In the case of Child I, you received a referral from the NSPCC, on 14 July 2014, and you:
(a) did not take the full details of the referral over the telephone;
(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial contact from the NSPCC;
(c) did not take any action in relation to the referral.

64. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant repeated the failures in relation to this referral from the NSPCC as she did with referral of 27 June 2014. The Registrant told Witness 1 that the only information she took over the telephone was the password for the email that the NSPCC would be sending. The Registrant did not record the initial contact on the Liquid Logic system nor had the Registrant taken any action regarding the referral.

65. Witness 1 stated that, like the previous referral from the NSPCC, the Registrant should have obtained more information from the NSPCC over the telephone, should have recorded the initial contact on the system, should have reviewed the referral once the email had been received by her, and should have taken appropriate action. Witness 1 told the Panel that she had to request the email received from the NSPCC during the three-day supervision session so that the case could be passed to another Social Worker.

66. The Panel finds Particular 10 proved in its entirety.

Particular 11(a) – 11(d) – found proved, Particular 11(e) – not proved
11. In the case of Child J, a referral was received on 14 July 2014 in relation to domestic violence, and you:
(a) did not accurately record the initial contact on Liquid Logic;
(b) did not record the initial contact until 14 August 2014;
(c) did not record that you had attempted to call the child’s mother;
(d) did not take sufficient and/or timely action in relation to the referral;
(e) did not respond to Team Manager A’s email request to obtain the family history.

67. Witness 1 told the Panel that this case was also discussed with the Registrant during the three-day supervision session. Initial contact was received on 14 July 2014 by way of email from the police and concerned domestic violence when Child J had been hit. This involved a potentially serious safeguarding issue. The initial contact was not recorded on the Liquid Logic system until 14 August 2014. Witness 1 told the Panel that as of the date of the three-day supervision session, there was no information on the system and there was no further information and therefore the case could not be discussed. Further enquiries revealed that the Registrant’s Team Manager had sent her written instructions to call Child J’s mother to establish if the Child had been injured and to gather the history of the family. The Registrant had also been instructed to contact the police to establish what action was being taken against the man involved.

68. The Registrant had made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Child J’s mother but had not recorded the attempts on Liquid Logic. The Registrant had also checked the history of the family, and had received an update from the police who indicated that they were taking no further action against the man. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant should have obtained more information from the police as to the reason for the decision, and whether the man who perpetrated the violence would be returning to the home.

69. The Panel finds Particulars 11(a), 11(b), 11(c), and 11(d) proved.

70. It was clear that the Registrant did respond to the Team Manager’s instruction, and therefore the Panel finds Particular 11(e) not proved.

Particular 12 – found proved
12. Your actions described in paragraph 11(a)-(e) placed Child J at risk of harm.

71. The Panel found Particular 12 proved. By her failures, the Registrant left Child J in a situation where there was a risk of being injured in another domestic violence incident.

Decision on grounds
72. The Panel then went on to consider whether the factual Particulars found proved amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence.  The Panel heard submissions from Ms Watts on behalf of the HCPC.

73. The Panel also considered the Registrant’s previous submissions to the panel of the Investigating Committee on misconduct.

74. Ms Watts submitted that the Registrant actions breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and 10.

75. Ms Watts further submitted that the Registrant had also breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of proficiency for Social Workers: 1.3, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 10.1 and 15.1

76. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He referred the Panel to the decisions in the following cases:
a) Calhaem v GMC [2007] EWHC 2606 (Admin)
b) Roylance v GMC (2000) 1 AC 311
c) Andrew Francis Holton v General Medical Council [2006] EWHC 2960
d) Hindmarsh v NMC [2016] EWHC 2233 (Admin)

77. The Panel was aware that misconduct is “a word of general effect, involving some act or omission, which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances.” It is also aware that it was stressed that Misconduct is qualified by the word “serious”. It is not just any professional misconduct, which will qualify.

78. The Panel was also aware that not every instance of falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances, and not every breach of the HCPC standards would be sufficiently serious such as to amount to misconduct in this context. Therefore, the Panel has had careful regard to the context and circumstances of the matters found proved. The Panel considered each of the factual Particulars in the light of the following circumstances demonstrated by the evidence:
(a) The Registrant was a Level 3 Social Worker with approximately ten years of experience dealing with child protection issues.
(b) There were no issues raised regarding the Registrant’s practice prior to these matters.
(c) These matters occurred over a period of several months from April 2014 to August 2014.
(d) Apart from the difference in the pace, the frontline nature of the work, and the different procedures, there was little material difference to the Registrant’s previous role in the Child in Need Team and her new role on the DAS team in terms of knowledge and competence required for the roles.
(e) The Registrant had received the requisite training before starting her role within the DAS team and had undertaken professional supervision with her manager, for example in April and May 2014.

79. The Panel determined that in the light of the above factors, the competence of the Registrant was not an issue in this case. It was safe to assume that the Registrant was, at the very least, a competent Social Worker with the necessary knowledge, skill and training for her role within the DAS team. Both Witness 1 and Witness 2 had no doubt that the Registrant possessed the experience and necessary competence for her role. Witness 2 stated that her investigation into Registrant’s work revealed a “superficial” approach on the part of the Registrant, in that in her actions in these cases were not thoughtful nor considered actions. Witness 2 stated that the Registrant did not appear to appreciate how serious her actions had been, nor how they potentially impacted on service users and her colleagues.

80. The Panel considered each of the factual Particulars found proved in turn, and determined that, in the circumstances, each of them amounted to serious misconduct. Despite their differences and variations in facts and detail, they all share the following common areas of concern:
(a) They all involved vulnerable children;
(b) The Registrant failed to take sufficient care and consideration when taking down relevant and important information;
(c) The Registrant’s approach to each case was superficial and below the standard expected of a Social Worker carrying out that role;
(d) On each case she failed to make a timely record of her dealings on the Liquid Logic system. This was the only way in which other Social Workers would know that the Registrant had any input to a case. In some of those cases, there was no record of her activity, and she had to be instructed to put them on the system. Her record keeping on each of these particular cases was significantly below acceptable standards.

81. The above features of each of the Particulars found proved are sufficient for each of them to amount to serious misconduct in the circumstances. In addition, a significant number of the Particulars also included failures on the part of the Registrant to react to the safeguarding issues raised in each referral and to make the appropriate enquiries to address those issues. In the case of Child J, the child was in a situation where it there was a clear and real risk of harm.

82. The Panel considered that on the facts found proved the Registrant had breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics:
1.  You must act in the best interests of service users.
10. You must keep accurate records.

83. It also took into account previous submissions made by the Registrant.

84. Accordingly the Panel finds that the facts found proved amounted to the statutory ground of Misconduct.

Decision on impairment
85. The Panel then went on to consider, whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Watts, and it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

86. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the approach set out in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) and reminded the Panel that there was a personal and public component when considering whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired.

87. For this purpose, the Panel adopted the approach formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her fifth report of the Shipman inquiry by asking itself the following questions:
“Do our findings of fact in respect of the Registrant’s misconduct show that her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she:
a) has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute; and/or
c) has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the social work profession?”

88. The Panel determined that the answers to all the above questions were in the affirmative in relation to past, and future possible conduct. In coming to its decision it took into account the following factors:
(a) The Registrant’s actions were so serious that they had brought disrepute onto the social work profession.
(b) The Registrant’s failures were remediable, but there was no evidence that they had been remedied.
(c) The Registrant has engaged with the process prior to the hearing, and has demonstrated some evidence of insight. In her correspondence she accepted that her actions fell below the standard expected of her and that she was sorry. However, there the Registrant has not attended the hearing to give evidence and the Panel were unable to test the depth of her insight. These are matters of misconduct, and there can be only limited remediation without full insight.

89. The Panel also determined that the Registrant’s misconduct was such that the need to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.

90. Therefore, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on both personal and public interest considerations.

Decision on sanction
91. The Panel heard the submission of Ms Watts with regard to sanction.

92. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  He drew the Panel’s attention to the case of Clarke v GOC [2017] EWHC 521 (Admin) and advised that the Registrant’s stated intention of not wishing to continue in the profession was a relevant consideration when determining the appropriate and proportionate sanction.

93. The Panel had regard to all the evidence presented and to the Council’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel reminded itself that a sanction is not to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. The Panel bore in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality when determining what the appropriate sanction in this case should be.

94. The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be:
a) The Registrant has demonstrated limited insight, albeit she has demonstrated remorse.
b) Her misconduct could have resulted in a vulnerable person being at high risk of harm.

95. The Panel considered the following to be mitigating features in this case:
a) The Registrant is of good character.
b) These matters occurred in a five-month period in an otherwise unblemished career.
c) There were extenuating circumstances in the Registrant’s personal life at that time which may have contributed to her behaviour. Whilst they do not excuse her behaviour, they may partly explain why she behaved in the manner she did during that period.

96. In considering the matter of sanction, the Panel started with the least restrictive moving upwards.

97. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, this would be wholly inappropriate.

98. The Panel then considered whether to make a caution order. The Panel was mindful of its finding that the Registrant may repeat her misconduct. Furthermore, these are matters that involved safeguarding issues and are too serious for a caution order to be considered appropriate.

99. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel has found that the Registrant has demonstrated limited insight into her misconduct. This was not a case where the Registrant’s professional skills are in question. There are no identifiable areas of her practice, which might benefit from re-training. There is no evidence that these matters relate to deep-seated attitudinal concerns. Moreover, the Panel determined that a Conditions of Practice order would not satisfy the public interest in this case.

100. The Panel went on to consider whether a period of suspension would be appropriate in this case. A period of suspension may be appropriate if the Registrant had demonstrated insight into her misconduct such that there was not a significant risk of repetition, and also if there was no evidence of deep seated-personality or attitudinal problems.

101. The Registrant has demonstrated some insight into her misconduct and, whilst there remained a risk of repetition, the Panel determined that risk was not significant in the light of the fact that the Registrant’s current position is that she does not wish to continue in the profession. Furthermore, as the Panel has indicated above, whilst the misconduct was attitudinal in nature, there was no evidence that it was deep-seated. There was some evidence that the Registrant’s personal circumstances may have contributed to her change in attitude at that time.

102. In the circumstances, the Panel determined that a period of suspension was the appropriate and proportionate sanction that would protect the public and the public interest at this stage. It would allow the Registrant a period to reflect on whether or not she wished to remain in the profession, and if so, also afford her an opportunity to demonstrate full insight and remediation.

103. The Panel considered the sanction of striking the Registrant’s name from the Register and determined that to impose that sanction would be disproportionate at this stage.

104. The Panel recognises that there is a strong public interest in returning competent and experienced Registrants to the profession when it is appropriate to do so. If at the conclusion of the period of suspension the Registrant has changed her current position and wishes to continue practising in the profession, a future Panel reviewing this Order may be assisted by the following:
a) The attendance of the Registrant at the Hearing;
b) A reflective piece by the Registrant, concentrating on:
i) what led to her misconduct; and
ii) how her actions impacted, or could have impacted, on service users and her colleagues;
c) Information about any employment since these matters;
d) An indication as to her future plans;
e) Evidence of the Registrant keeping her practice and skills up to date for example by attending CPD courses (which may include online courses), or being employed in a voluntary capacity in allied and relevant roles;
f) Up to date references from persons who are aware of these proceedings.

105. However, if at the end of the period of suspension, the Registrant maintains that she no longer wishes to continue in the profession, and has continued to engage with the HCPC, consideration could be given to an alternative means of disposal other than the imposition of the ultimate sanction, in light of the case of Clarke v GOC [2017] EWHC 521 (Admin). If however, the Registrant does not engage with the process, then a reviewing Panel may have to consider a more severe sanction.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Susan Davies for a period of 9 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 19 May 2017. This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 19 February 2018.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Susan Davies

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
18/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended