Mr Martin Joseph Sands

: Social worker

: SW35315

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 28/04/2017 End: 12:00 28/04/2017

: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation

(as amended at the Final Hearing)

While employed as a Social Worker with Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, you:

1. Did not visit the following Children In Need between the following dates:

a) Service User B between 17 July 2012 and around 15 May 2013;

b) Service User A between 5 October 2012 and around 15 May 2013;

c) Service User C between 7 September 2012 and or around 15 May 2013;

d) Service User D between 8 September 2012 and around 15 May 2013.

2. Did not carry out risk assessments in relation to Service User B between 25 June 2012 and around 15 May 2013

3. Between February 2012 and May 2013 did not respond to child protection and/or child welfare concerns in that, you did not carry out home visits in respect of:

a) Family B on 3 occasions;

b) Not proved.

c) Family A on 2 occasions; and

d) Family D on 3 occasions;

4. Not proved.

5. Not proved.

6. Did not make a referral for Service User D, who told you she was self-harming.

7. Deliberately recorded false information on the HCPC's electronic system in that you:

a. input a CIN plan onto the system when in fact a CIN meeting had not taken place:

i. on or around 13 May 2013 in respect to Family C;

ii. on or around 14 May 2013 in respect to Family A.

b. Not proved

8. Not proved.

9. Not proved.

10. The matters described in paragraphs 7 and 9 constitute misconduct.

11. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 6 and 8 constitute misconduct and/or a lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied on the documentary evidence provided that the Registrant had been given proper notice of this review hearing in accordance with the Rules. Notice of this hearing was sent by first class post to his address on the Register by letter dated 27 March 2017. A copy was also sent to him by email. The notice contained the relevant required particulars.

Proceeding in Absence

2. The Panel heard the application from Mr Thompson to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant was one that must be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

4. Having considered the circumstances the Panel determined to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The reasons are as follows:

• Service of the appropriate notice of this hearing has been properly effected, and the Panel is satisfied that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve notice on the Registrant.

• The Registrant has sent an email to the HCPC, 26 April 2017, stating that his position remains unchanged from the previous hearing and welcoming the matter being brought to a close. Although he does not say in terms that he will not be attending, the Panel inferred from the email that he was not intending to attend. He had not requested an adjournment, nor would the Panel suppose that an adjournment would result in his future attendance, in light of his email.

• There is a public interest in proceeding. The Order is due to expire on 27 May 2017 and the present review is mandatory.

• In all the circumstances the Panel was of the view that the Registrant has chosen not to attend, thereby waiving his right to attend.


Background

5. The Registrant started his contract of employment with Sefton Borough Council (the Borough Council) in 2002, and at that time he was engaged as a Family Support Worker. In 2011 he qualified as a Social Worker and at this time he worked within Locality 3 with Children’s Social Care at the Borough Council.

6. On 20 March 2013, the Registrant was given a First Written Warning from his employer, the Borough Council, in relation to matters of failing to make statutory visits within required timescales and falsifying records relating to those visits to a Service User. The First Written Warning was to remain on his file for 12 months.

7. In May 2013, further matters came to light which were investigated by the employer, for matters of failing to make statutory visits to service users, failing to progress cases and falsifying Service Users’ records. A disciplinary hearing held on the 22 November 2013 and the Registrant was dismissed.

8. The May 2013 matters were referred to the HCPC by the Registrant’s former employer, the Borough Council. A Final Hearing was held from 27 – 29 April 2015. At the Final Hearing, the Registrant did not attend, but submitted representations on his own behalf. He had also indicated in the Standard Directions Form that he admitted the factual matters.

9. At the Final Hearing, the Panel found a number of the factual matters proved, including:

• not visiting four Children in Need for 7 to 10 months;

• not carrying out risk assessments in relation to a Service User between June 2012 and May 2013;

• not responding to child welfare concerns by carrying out home visits for 3 families between February 2012 and May 2013;

• not making a referral for a Service User, who told him she was self-harming; and

• deliberately recording false information on the Borough Council’s electronic system in respect of two families by inputting a CIN plan onto the system when in fact the CIN meetings had not taken place.

10. At the Final Hearing the panel found that the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. It observed:

• ‘There is no evidence that the Registrant has worked in social care since these matters came to light in 2013. In the evidence he placed before the Investigating Committee, he stated that he was working outside of his profession and in his email of 27 April 2015 he stated that he wished his name to be removed from the HCPC Register, an indication that he does not require his professional registration’; and

• The Panel accepted that the Registrant has expressed significant remorse and apology from the outset in respect of the impact of his actions and omissions on service users. The Panel has read the representations made by the Registrant to the HCPC at the investigatory stage of the proceedings, which included information relating to how he was addressing his health conditions. The Panel accepts that the Registrant has subsequently gained insight into the impact that his health conditions and personal circumstances had on him and his practice during the relevant period. However, there is no evidence before this Panel of steps taken by the Registrant since April 2014 to ensure that there would not be a repetition of his failings in the future. This being the case, the Panel found that there is current impairment…’

11. The original panel at the Final Hearing imposed a 12 Suspension Order for 12 months saying:

• ‘The Panel considered that a period of suspension would provide the Registrant with the opportunity to further reflect on past events and for him to fully address the health concerns that he has brought to the Panel’s attention in his representations made in April 2014.’

12. That Order was reviewed on 22 April 2016. The Registrant had sent an email to the HCPC on 18 April 2016, declining the invitation to attend the hearing and explained that he maintained the view that he should not pursue a career in Social Work. That reviewing panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. It said:

• ‘The Panel noted the Registrant’s expressions of regret and remorse however, despite the observations made by the previous review panel he did not submit any evidence to demonstrate that he is fit to return to practice either with or without restrictions. As a consequence the Panel could not be satisfied that there had been any material change with regard to the Registrant’s development of full insight, his personal circumstances and the risk of repetition. Therefore the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired.’

13. The reviewing Panel extended the Suspension Order for a further period of 12 months finding ‘that in the interest of fairness the current Order should be extended for a period of 12 months to provide the Registrant with a further opportunity to firstly, consider whether he wishes to work as a Social Worker and secondly, an opportunity to demonstrate that he is fit to return to practice with or without restriction.’

Decision

14. This is the second mandatory review of the Order. This Panel is reviewing the Suspension Order pursuant to Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

15. The Panel considered the submissions of Mr Thompson on behalf of the HCPC, who submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and that all sanctions were available to the Panel today, including Strike Off.

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

17. The Panel was of the view that there had been no change of circumstances and so the Registrant has not demonstrated that he has remediated his practice. Therefore the risk of repetition, were he to work in the role of Social Worker again, remained. The current situation is that the Registrant has now been out of clinical practice for a considerable period of time, and there has been no remediation of his practice. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired.

18. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired, the Panel went on to consider what would be the appropriate, proportionate and sufficient sanction, or other outcome in this case, in order to protect the public and also to meet the wider public interest.

19. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that it must apply the principle of proportionality, and that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the wider public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.

20. Given that the Panel had already concluded that the Registrant had not remediated his practice, which meant that there remained a risk of repetition, the Panel was of the view that neither the option of taking no action and allowing the Order to lapse, or a Caution Order would protect the public.

21. In light of the Registrant’s communications that he did not intend to practice as a Social Worker in the future, the Panel was of the view that a Conditions of Practice Order was not appropriate.

22. The Panel next went on to consider whether to extend the Suspension Order. The Panel was of the view that at each stage of the proceedings, the Registrant had engaged with the HCPC and kept them updated of his intentions not to practise as a Social Worker. In respect of the Final Hearing, he had effectively admitted the facts against him, expressed remorse and explained that he wished for his name to be removed from the Register. At the first review hearing, he sent an email saying that he had formed the view that he should not pursue a career in Social Work. Before today’s (28 April 2017) Review Hearing, he sent an email reiterating his remorse for the impact of his past actions, and re-confirming his intention not to ever return to Social Work, and that he would welcome the matter being brought to a close.

23. The Panel explored with Mr Thompson whether, given the nature of the Registrant’s communications, voluntary removal, had been explored with the Registrant. Mr Thompson said that it had not been.

24. Having regard to the principle of proportionality, and the fact that the Registrant had admitted the facts, expressed remorse and repeatedly confirmed that he did not wish to continue to practise as a Social Worker, the Panel had no reason to believe that the Registrant was not genuine in this intention. In these circumstances, although the Registrant had not specifically asked the HCPC to consider whether it was possible to resolve his case by way of voluntary removal from the Register, the Panel was of the view that voluntary removal may well be appropriate in his case.

25. The Panel acknowledges that in any particular case, it is for the HCPC to determine whether or not voluntary removal from the Register is appropriate. However, in this case, Mr Thompson conceded that no consideration has been given to the option of whether or not voluntary removal is appropriate. The Panel also recognises that the Registrant is seeking closure in this case. However, the Panel was of the view that it was appropriate to request the HCPC to consider the option of voluntary removal.

26. A Striking Off Order, in the Panel’s view was disproportionate. The Registrant’s misconduct was not fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the Register. His repeated wish not to continue to practise as a Social Worker did not elevate the situation to a Striking Off Order. If the HCPC did determine that voluntary removal was appropriate, it would achieve the Registrant’s wish to bring closure to his case, without the stigma of having been struck off, damaging his reputation.

27. The Panel therefore determined to extend the Suspension Order for a period of 6 months. Such an order would allow the HCPC to consider whether voluntary removal was appropriate, and if so, would allow the Registrant to explore with the HCPC disposal of his case by this route. At the same time it would protect the public and meet the wider public interest.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to extend the duration of the Suspension Order for a further 6 months from the expiry of the existing Order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 27 May 2017.


This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 27 November 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Martin Joseph Sands

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed
28/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
22/04/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
27/04/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended