Mrs Susan Majeed

: Social worker

: SW53740

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 15/05/2017 End: 17:00 18/05/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

(as amended at the final hearing):

While registered as a Social Worker and working at State of Jersey Children’s Services:

1. You claimed payment for shifts on one or more of the following dates which you did not work;
a) 3 August 2015;
b) 10 August 2015;
c) 11 August 2015;
d) 12 August 2015;
e) 13 August 2015;
f) 14 August 2015;

2. You claimed payment for a full shift on 7 August 2015 when you did not work a full shift on this date.

3. You falsified Person A’s signature on a timesheet dated 6 August 2015.

4. You falsified Person B’s signature on an undated timesheet.

5. Your actions described in particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 were dishonest.

6. Your actions described in particulars 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 constitute misconduct.

7. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service of Notice of Hearing

1. The Panel was informed by the Hearings Officer that notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address by letter dated 23 January 2017.

2. The Panel was satisfied that the service of the letter of 23 January 2017 had satisfied compliance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).

Proceeding in absence

3. Ms Sharpe for the HCPC applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Ms Sharpe submitted that it was in the public interest to proceed and that she had two witnesses present today. It was also in the interests of justice for the case to be dealt with expeditiously.

4. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence should only be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

5. The Panel noted the history of this case and the lack of any request for an adjournment by the Registrant. It noted that the Registrant had stated in an email dated 12 May 2015: “All things considered I will not be attending the Hearing”. Having given careful consideration to the Registrant’s interests, and the factors cited above, including public protection, the expeditious disposal of the case, the attendance of the two witnesses today and the possible deterioration in their recollection of events, the Panel decided that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from today’s hearing, and it was in the interests of justice to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant.

Decision on application to amend Particulars

6. Ms Sharpe applied to amend the stem of particulars 1 of the allegation by adding the word “one or more” after the words “shifts on”.

7. Ms Sharpe submitted that this amendment was necessary to clarify the case against the Registrant. The proposed amendment by adding the word “one or more” after the words “shifts on” had been notified in advance to the Registrant on 11 October 2016.

8. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that an amendment to the allegation could be made, provided no injustice was caused. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been made aware of the proposed amendment and had made no objections.

9. The Panel considered that the proposed amendment was not material and did not alter the nature of the case against the Registrant but merely clarified the allegation.

10. Accordingly the Panel was satisfied that the amendment would not cause any prejudice to the Registrant and determined it should be allowed.

Special Measures

11. On or around 11 May 2017, an Application was made by the HCPC to have witness, LD, provide evidence by video link rather than attend in person, on account of her health condition. The Registrant initially objected to this application as there was a mistake as to which witness was the subject of the application. Once the identity of the correct witness was known, the Registrant consented to the request for the attendance of LD by video link. Prior to today’s hearing, the Chair considered the written submissions received and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. The application was granted by the Chair.

Background

12. At the material time, the Registrant worked as an Interim Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) at the States of Jersey Health and Social Services within the Independent Safeguarding Unit of Children’s Services.

13. The Registrant’s placement there from 15th June 2015 to 7th August 2015, was arranged by a recruitment agency, Semester Recruitment Limited (SRL). They were also responsible for making weekly payments to her in respect of the hours worked, and subsequently invoicing the service in which she worked.

14. The Registrant’s role involved chairing child protection and multi-agency meetings and conducting reviews of children who were in the care of the Local Authority.

15. Concerns were raised shortly after the Registrant left employment on 7 August 2015, in relation to her timesheet, which showed she has worked full shifts on 3 and 7 August 2015, when other evidence showed she had not. A further timesheet (undated) was sent to the SRL claiming pay for 10 to 14 August 2015 when the Registrant had left Jersey on 7 August 2015. In order to make these two claims for payment, each timesheet was signed with manager’s signatures, and it is alleged that these signatures were falsified.

16. The Registrant denies any wrongdoing.

Decision on Facts

17. The Panel is mindful that the burden of proving the allegations rests throughout upon the HCPC and the standard of proof is the civil standard based upon the balance of probabilities.  There is no burden on the Registrant to prove anything and the Panel has drawn no adverse inference from the Registrant not attending this hearing. The Panel has given the words and phrases contained within the allegation their ordinary English meaning.

18. The Panel had the benefit of hearing two Live Witnesses:

• LHJ – (LHJ) Interim Head of Quality at States of Jersey Health and Social Services at the relevant time;

• NJ – (NJ) Director of Semester Recruitment Limited. 

19. The Panel also heard one witness by video link:

• LD – (LD) Manager Independent Safeguarding and Standards at Social Services, Jersey at the relevant time.

20. The Panel found all of the witnesses to be open, honest and credible in their evidence.

21. The Panel found LHJ to be demonstrably independent and she restricted her evidence to what she knew. LHJ’s evidence indicated that she had been concerned at what she identified and had been conscientious in acting on her concerns about the timesheet.

22. The Panel found her account to be fair and balanced.

23. The Panel found NJ to be open, honest and knowledgeable about the system in place in respect of the submission of timesheets and what was required to be put on the timesheets. She had previously experienced a good working relationship with the Registrant over a long period of time.

24. She provided the Panel with the information she could to the best of her ability.

25. The Panel received LD’s evidence by video link. The Panel found her evidence to be of assistance and in particular in relation to her knowledge of the Flexible Working Hours (FWH) policy and her recruitment and induction of agency staff to Jersey.

26. The Panel also had the benefit of seeing contemporaneous and near-contemporaneous documentary material exhibited by these witnesses in the HCPC bundle. Although the Registrant was not in attendance, the Panel noted that there was documentary evidence in the bundle giving her comments in relation to some of the events. In particular, there were emails sent by the Registrant during the past few days giving some comments about the events. In her absence, the Panel sought to ask questions of the HCPC witnesses that they thought the Registrant may have wished to put. 

Particular 1a

Found Proved

27. The Panel heard evidence from LD about the Flexible Working Policy that she had created, and which had formed part of the Registrant’s induction session. LHJ agreed that staff who had worked excess hours could take the time back at an agreed time. Both managers agreed that the social workers were required to keep meticulous records of excess hours worked, although there was no consensus that these extra hours should be agreed with a manager prior to them being worked. LHJ and LD’s evidence was that a Social Worker would need to agree with their manager when they planned to take back the extra hours worked, in the form of paid leave, to ensure sufficient staffing in the team. The Registrant had not made LHJ aware of any extra hours worked, or her plan to take these hours back, in advance of 3 August 2015 when she said she took time out of work to attend a funeral.

28. There was no evidence before the Panel of a detailed record of extra hours worked by the Registrant. Her managers, LHJ and LD, agreed that it was highly unlikely in her IRO post, which involved chairing meetings during working hours, that any extra hours would be necessarily accrued. The Registrant had made no request to her manager, LHJ, to be absent from work on 3 August 2015, although she had asked a colleague to pass on that information to LHJ.

29. The Registrant indicated in an email to LHJ dated10 August 2015 that she had taken 7.5 hours of TOIL to attend the funeral on 3 August 2015.

30. The panel accepted the timesheet submitted for 3 August as evidence of the Registrant’s claim for payment for that date.
 
31. The Panel found that the Registrant had claimed for payment when she had not worked on 3 August 2015.

Particulars 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 1f

Found Proved 

32. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence of LHJ on behalf of the HCPC. LHJ was the Line Manager for the Registrant from 29 July 2015 to 7 August 2015. LHJ gave evidence that the dates in particulars 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e and 1f were dates after the end of the Registrant’s work as an IRO at the States of Jersey Health and Social Services within the Independent Safeguarding Unit of Children’s Services.

33. The evidence of LHJ was that the Registrant completed all of her work by, and left Jersey on, 7 August 2015, which was accepted by the Registrant in her email to LHJ dated 7 August 2015.

34. The Panel heard that LHJ has received no documentation that supported the Registrant’s claim to have worked excess hours for which she could take TOIL, neither had she agreed that the Registrant could work excess hours.

35. The Panel had regard to the timesheet submitted by the Registrant to SRL in respect of these dates. It also accepted the evidence of NJ that the recruitment company paid the Registrant in respect of her working on the dates of 10 August 2015, 11 August 2015, 12 August 2015, 13 August 2015 and 14 August 2015.

36. The Panel accepted LHJ’s evidence, that the Registrant did not attend for any work on these dates.

37. Having considered the evidence the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant claimed payment in respect of Particulars 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 1f on dates she did not work.

Particular 2

Found Proved

38. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence of LHJ on behalf of the HCPC. LHJ was the Line Manager for the Registrant from 29 July 2015 to 7 August 2015. LHJ gave evidence that she had invited the Registrant to a meeting to take place on 7 August 2015. The Registrant did not attend this meeting but sent an email to LHJ on 7th August 2015 at 0814am in which she stated that she had attended work from 0700am and was now taking papers to the Le Bas office and talking to a parent after which she would be ‘done’. The Le Bas Office was a 5 minute walk away. The Registrant’s email narrated that the Registrant was then leaving the island by plane.

39. The Panel also took account of the timesheet submitted in evidence in respect of this date and the claim for 7 hours in respect of this date.

40. Having considered the evidence, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant did claim payment for a full shift when she had not worked a full shift on 7 August 2015.

Particular 3

Found Proved

41. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence of LHJ on behalf of the HCPC. LHJ was the Line Manager for the Registrant from 29 July 2015 to 7 August 2015. The Panel took into account all the evidence and in particular the evidence provided by LHJ that the signature which appeared on the submitted timesheet dated 6 August 2015 was not hers. She demonstrated her own signature in the course of her oral evidence by providing an example of her signature to demonstrate that it was not the same signature as on the form submitted to Semester Recruitment Limited.

42. The Panel had regard to the signature on the timesheet dated 6 August 2015, LHJ’s signature provided in the hearing, and the unredacted signature on her HCPC Witness Statement. The Panel accepted LHJ’s evidence that the signature on the timesheet dated 6 August 2015 was not her signature and was false. The Panel found on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant had falsified the signature on the timesheet dated 6 August 2015.

Particular 4

Found Proved

43. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence of LD on behalf of the HCPC. LD was the Line Manager for the Registrant from 15 June 2015 to 2 July 2015. The Panel considered the undated timesheet submitted in evidence.

44. Applying the Ghosh test, the Panel decided first whether according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people, what was done was dishonest. The Panel was satisfied that this test was met in that the ordinary reasonable and honest person would find that what was done was dishonest. The Panel then considered whether the Registrant herself must have realised that what she was doing was by those standards, dishonest. 

45. The Panel took into account all the evidence and in particular the information provided by LD that the signature which appeared on the undated submitted timesheet to SRL, in respect of 10 to 14 August 2015, was not hers. On this basis, LD stated the signature on the undated timesheet was not her signature and was false.

46. The Panel also took into account NJ’s evidence that SRL had received the undated timesheet from the Registrant.  As a result the Registrant was then paid in respect of the thirty seven hours claimed on the undated timesheet which appeared to be signed by LD.

47. NJ contacted the Registrant to have this payment returned to Semester Recruitment Limited once she was aware that Jersey Social Services had refused to make payment to Semester Recruitment Limited in respect of this timesheet.

48. NJ stated the Registrant responded to NJ by text and email and advised she would make further contact in respect of this payment but then failed to do so.

49. The Panel also heard and accepted LHJ’s evidence that LD had been on leave from the office since July 2015 and was not to be contacted therefore it was highly unlikely that LD could have signed this document.

50. Having considered the evidence, the Panel found Particular 4 proved.

Particular 5

Found Proved

51. The Panel considered the facts found proved in Particulars 1, 2, 3, and 4. Applying the Ghosh test as above, the Panel was satisfied that this test was met in that the ordinary reasonable and honest person would find that what was done was   dishonest. The Panel then considered whether the Registrant herself must have realised that what she was doing was by those standards dishonest. 

52. Taking account of all the evidence, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant must have realised that what she was doing in particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 was both individually and collectively, by those standards dishonest. She was an experienced Social Worker who would be expected to understand the requirement to be honest, and not to make claims for payment not due, and not to falsify documentation.

Decision on Grounds

53. The Panel heard submissions on behalf of the HCPC from Ms Sharpe. She also noted there was no criticism of the Registrant’s practise.  The Panel has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

54. The Panel reminded itself that misconduct is a matter for its judgment. The Panel considered all the facts and circumstances giving rise to the facts found proved. No adverse inference was drawn from the absence of the Registrant from the hearing and account was taken of the information available that the Registrant had submitted in her written evidence that she was being treated differently from colleagues who she maintained had been paid TOIL.

55. The Registrant had provided two references dated prior to these events that indicated good performance, and LD also spoke highly of her work, her ability and her supportiveness as a colleague. On the other hand, the Registrant’s actions, which led to the allegation before the HCPC, were deliberate and the incidents of misconduct occurred in the course of the Registrant’s agency employment and in relation to personal financial gain.

56. The Panel considered the Registrant’s conduct in relation to Particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4, and 5.The Registrant submitted timesheets for the payment of hours of work she had not completed and falsified signatures of two line managers for financial gain. She did not deny that she had submitted the timesheets to SRL. The Registrant said, “I do believe Jersey Childrens Services still owe me and the agency these funds” and “the hours I claimed I had earned and it was therefore toil I was claiming. LHJ had only been there a week or so and she sanctioned everyone else’s timesheets. Yet accuses me of falsifying documents.”

57. The Panel found these were deliberate acts by the Registrant and dishonest. The Panel decided that this behaviour was sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct.

58. The Panel considered the behaviour in each of the particulars 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to be deplorable conduct by the standards of Social Workers. The Registrant claimed payment which she was not entitled to.

59. The Panel identified a breach of: the following provisions of the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2012 version):

• 1. You must act in the best interests of service users;

• 3. You must keep high standards of personal conduct.

• 13. You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.
60. The Panel identified a breach of the following provision of the Standards    of Proficiency: Social workers in England (2012):

• 1.3 be able to undertake assessments of risk, need and capacity and respond appropriately;

• 3.1 understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.

61. The Panel was satisfied the proven facts do amount to the statutory ground of misconduct.

Decision on Impairment 

62. The Panel decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

63. The Panel has heard submissions from Ms Sharpe, on behalf of the HCPC. She submitted that there was little evidence the Registrant has now developed insight into the seriousness of her actions. Ms Sharpe submitted that a finding of impairment was necessary to maintain confidence in the profession, to protect the public and it was also in the wider public interest.

64. The Registrant has not accepted any wrongdoing. NJ stated that she offered the Registrant the opportunity simply to repay the money that the Registrant had claimed and been paid. The Registrant said she would be in contact with NJ about this but she did not make contact. The money falsely claimed by the Registrant was not paid back to the SRL.

65. In reaching its decision on current impairment, the Panel has considered both the personal component and the public component and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has also had regard to the HCPC Practice Note: “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. The Panel reminded itself that a finding of impairment was a matter for its judgment and that it must consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

66. The Panel has also considered the critically important public policy issues which include the collective need to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, the protection of the public and the declaring and the upholding of proper standards of behaviour in the profession.

67. The Panel noted the Registrant’s assertion that she had been treated differently from her colleagues. The Panel did not have specific detail about this other than the Registrant’s written comment, that LJ had not treated her claims for TOIL in the same manner as those of other colleagues.

68. The Registrant’s misconduct gave rise to a risk to the public, in that, if the false claims had not been identified, it would have caused money to be lost from the public purse. It did result in NJ’s recruitment agency losing over two thousand pounds in the payment of earnings which was falsely claimed, which it was unable to recover. The Panel recognises that the Registrant’s actions did not give rise to any actual harm to service users. 

69. The Registrant’s dishonesty brought the social work profession into disrepute and undermines public confidence in the profession.

70. Dishonesty is difficult to remediate and requires adequate insight. This Registrant has shown no insight to date .She has not engaged with her regulator in any meaningful way and has not provided any reason for falsifying the documentation or  for claiming payment for hours not worked. The Panel recognises that with a lack of insight and remorse, there is still a risk of repetition and the Panel is concerned that the likelihood of repetition is high.   

71. Having considered the seriousness of the incident, the risk of repetition to the public and the reputation of the profession, the need to declare and uphold public standards and the wider public interest, the Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction

72. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Sharpe, who submitted that a sanction was necessary for public protection and was in the public interest. She reminded the Panel of the mitigating and aggravating factors which the Panel had already identified in its finding on impairment. These factors were also relevant to sanction.

73. The Panel considered both the mitigating and the aggravating circumstances surrounding this case at the time of the misconduct.

74. The Panel considered the mitigating factors to be:

• The Registrant has no record of previous findings against her with the regulator;

• There was no harm identified to any service user.

75. The Panel considered the aggravating factors;

• The Registrant’s actions were deliberate and were perpetrated to obtain financial gain for herself;

• The Registrant abused NJ’s trust in her as a candidate who had sought employment over many years using SRL;

• The Registrant’s deliberate falsification of her managers’ signatures potentially implicated them in her misconduct;

• The Registrant’s misconduct did result in a financial loss to NJ’s recruitment company SRL. SRL was deprived of over two thousand pounds in the payment of the Registrant’s falsely claimed earnings. It was unable to recover this payment .

• The Registrant has made no repayment of the money she falsely claimed despite being given the opportunity to do so by NJ.

76. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took account of the Indicative Sanctions Policy. It was conscious of the need to apply the principle of proportionality in balancing the Registrant’s rights against the need to protect the public and the wider public interest.

77. The Panel is aware that the purpose of sanction is not to be punitive and that it must consider the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing her services in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

78. The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order starting with the least restrictive sanction. The Panel has found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired due to her misconduct, which included dishonesty, and that she has failed to demonstrate insight or to remediate her fundamental failings.  Taking no action or imposing a caution would therefore be inadequate, given the seriousness of the misconduct and the real risk of repetition. 

79. There are no workable conditions of practice that might be imposed, as there are no conditions which would sufficiently address the Registrant’s dishonesty, the need to protect the public and the wider public interest; conditions could not be drafted that guarantee honesty in someone who is dishonest.  The Panel has in any case received no information from the Registrant as to her current employment, nor whether she is currently practising as a Social Worker.

80. The Panel considered whether suspension might be the least restrictive means of adequately protecting the public from any repetition of the Registrant’s dishonest actions and her other misconduct found in this case.  It noted that the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy states that “Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that…....the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited.”  The Panel therefore considered, in the context of sanction, how likely it was that the Registrant would repeat her misconduct in the future.

81. In assessing the Registrant’s risk of repetition of her previous misconduct, the Panel noted that the Registrant had not apologised for the falsified signatures or the claims in respect of hours not worked.  There was not even the most basic level of remorse. The Panel noted the recent email from the Registrant dated 12 May 2017 in which she stated “As I stated earlier I know the truth and on that basis the documents are irrelevant”. The Panel noted that it had received limited information from the Registrant about the allegation against her, but this demonstrated her lack of insight and lack of development in her level of insight. 

82. The Panel considered the following factors:

• The Registrant has provided the Panel with no evidence of meaningful insight into the risks and potential impact on others of her dishonest conduct in falsifying signatures and claiming payment in respect of hours not  worked;

• Regarding the dishonesty in claiming payment not due and falsifying signatures, the Registrant has provided no evidence to the Panel that she now recognises her actions to be dishonest.  Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that she has also provided no evidence of any insight into this misconduct or its impact;

• The Registrant has provided no evidence of having understood the significance of any of her misconduct.  She has also provided no evidence to the Panel of remorse or remediation.  This gives the Panel no assurance that the Registrant will not repeat her previous behaviour.

83. Given these factors, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s misconduct, including her dishonesty, is at risk of being repeated in the future. The Panel finds that suspension would be insufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession, given the seriousness of the misconduct, including dishonesty and breach of trust in the course of the Registrant’s employment. She has demonstrated a lack of insight, and there remains a risk of repetition.

84. The Panel notes that it has no information as to any steps the Registrant has taken, since this misconduct occurred, to remediate her conduct, in particular her dishonesty. The Registrant has not provided any update as to any training or development in her insight. Although suspension would protect the public for its duration, that duration is necessarily limited. The Panel also noted the case of Parkinson v Nursing and Midwifery Council [2010] EWHC 1898 (Admin) (09 July 2010): where it was said that: “A nurse who has acted dishonestly, who does not appear before the Panel either personally or by solicitors or counsel to demonstrate remorse, a realisation that the conduct criticised was dishonest, and an undertaking that there will be no repetition, effectively forfeits the small chance of persuading the Panel to adopt a lenient or merciful outcome and to suspend for a period rather than to direct erasure.”

85. Therefore suspension is not an appropriate sanction and would not be sufficient to protect the public or the wider public interest including the need to maintain public confidence in the social work profession.

86. Moving on to the highest level of sanction, the Panel notes from the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy  that, “Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems, or denial.”  In the absence of any information from the Registrant that might inform the Panel as to the Registrant’s current level of insight, remorse and remediation, the Panel must inevitably conclude that she lacks insight and that there is a real risk of repetition.  This risk of repetition, the associated need to protect the public and the wider public interest including maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, and deterring other Registrants from similar misconduct, by upholding proper standards, is appropriately and proportionally met by striking the Registrant’s name from the HCPC’s Register of Social Workers.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Susan Majeed from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 14 June 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Susan Majeed

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
15/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off