Miss Amanda McCallum
The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee (CCC) at the substantive hearing on 26 – 27 May 2015.
During the course of your employment, between March 2010 and October 2013 as a Social Worker with Derby City Council, you:
1) On 30 January 2013, falsely informed your line manager that Service User A had stated that she would kill herself, her children and burn the house down or words to that effect.
2) Did not correct or retract your false statement until 4 February 2013 (after an Emergency Protection Order had been granted), despite having a number of opportunities to do so.
3) Did not maintain professional boundaries in that you:
a) shared personal information with Service User A;
b) smoked with Service User A in her garden;
4) Your actions described in paragraphs 1 and/or 2 were dishonest.
5) The matters described in paragraphs 1 – 4 constitute misconduct.
6) By reason of that misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
At the substantive hearing, the Panel found all of the particulars of the allegation (above) proved. It found that particulars 1, 2 and 4 amounted to misconduct. The Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired and imposed a sanction of Suspension for a period of 12 months.
1. The Panel is satisfied on the basis of the documentation provided, that the Registrant has been served with notice of today’s review hearing in accordance with the Rules. The Panel has seen a letter dated 24 April 2017 which was sent by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address.
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant:
2. The Panel heard an application by Ms Bass for today’s hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She submitted that the Registrant has voluntarily waived her right to be present, has not sought to send anyone to represent her interests and has not sought an adjournment. Ms Bass reminded the Panel that the Registrant did not attend either the substantive hearing, or the first review hearing of her case.
3. The Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. In reaching this decision, the Panel bore in mind that, in exercising its discretion, it should proceed with utmost care and caution. It took into account the matters set out in the HCPTS’s Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant, and also received and accepted legal advice.
4. The Panel is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to notify the Registrant of today’s hearing. It was plain from the information before it that the Registrant has voluntarily waived her right to be present. She has had no contact with the HCPC since the last review hearing. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not sought an adjournment and is satisfied that an adjournment would not necessarily result in her future attendance. The Panel also took the view that there is a clear public interest in mandatory reviews being heard expeditiously and at the allotted time.
5. Between 2010 and 2013, the Registrant was employed as a Social Worker by Derby City Council (DCC), working in the Children and Young People Department. This department is responsible for children and families subject to Child in Need and Child Protection Support. In October 2012, the Registrant was the allocated Social Worker for Service User A’s family.
6. On 30 January 2013, after the Registrant had visited Service User A’s home as a result of reports that the children of the family had not attended school. She reported to her colleagues and Line Manager that Service User A had threatened to kill herself, her children, and to burn the house down. The Registrant repeated this to her Line Manager in private and in a telephone call to one of DCC’s Legal Officers which was made in the presence of her Line Manager.
7. In light of the alleged statement by Service User A, DCC applied for, and was granted, an ex parte Emergency Protection Order on the same day, which resulted in Service User A’s children being taken into care. As the hearing was ex parte, Service User A was not present and not in a position to challenge the evidence of the Registrant presented by DCC.
8. Despite having a number of opportunities to do so, the Registrant did not correct or retract her statements until 4 February 2013. This was two days before an Interim Care Order hearing was due to take place on 6 February 2013. Shortly before that hearing Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) reported that Service User A had stated that the Registrant had smoked cigarettes with her in Service User A’s garden and had also divulged personal information to Service User A. At the substantive hearing, colleagues of the Registrant gave evidence that the Registrant had admitted both these matters to them.
9. The matter was referred by DCC to the HCPC on 21 November 2013. The Registrant also referred herself to the HCPC shortly afterwards.
10. On 27 May 2015, a panel of the CCC found the Allegation well founded and imposed a suspension order for a period of 12 months. That order was reviewed on 24 May 2016 and the reviewing panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. The Registrant did not attend and did not provide any evidence of remediation, or of her circumstances and career plans. The Panel extended the suspension order for 12 months. When extending the suspension order, that panel reiterated that this Panel might be assisted by:
• written and/or oral evidence of the Registrant’s reflection and insight into what occurred and her failings, including reflections on how the Registrant would guard against any risk of repetition.
• evidence of steps she has taken, previously or since this hearing, to keep her professional skills up to date.
11. The Registrant did not attend, nor was she represented, at either the substantive hearing or the first review hearing. She has not provided this Panel with any of the documentation set out in paragraph 10 above.
12. In reaching its decision, the Panel has taken account of the HCPTS’s Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. It has considered the submissions of Ms Bass for the Council. It has received and accepted legal advice.
13. The Panel noted that the purpose of a review hearing was to assess current fitness to practise. The Panel also noted that, in the period since the substantive hearing in this case, the Registrant has had minimal contact with the HCPC. The last recorded contact was in December 2015. She did not provide the first reviewing panel, or this Panel, with any up to date information as to what she has been doing since the hearing in May 2015. Therefore, this Panel is unable to reach any conclusion other than that nothing has changed since then, and that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired.
14. The Panel concluded that there is no evidence that the Registrant has any insight into her misconduct. The misconduct in this case was serious and had led to children being removed from their home. Whilst the Panel recognises that it is difficult to demonstrate remediation in cases of dishonest conduct, there is no evidence at all that the Registrant has taken any steps to remedy her failings. She has not taken the opportunities provided to her by the two previous Panels to demonstrate that she has reflected on her misconduct. In the absence of any information that the misconduct has been remedied, the Panel has concluded that there is a real risk of repetition.
15. The Panel also noted that there is no evidence that the Registrant has practiced in Social Work since October 2013. It has no information about whether she has taken any steps to keep her skills and knowledge up to date. The Panel is of the view that if the Registrant wished to resume work as a Social Worker, she could have engaged with this regulatory process. She has chosen not to do so.
16. The Panel also considered that public confidence in the Social Work profession would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case where the Registrant has not engaged with her Regulator, and has failed to provide any information which would indicate that lessons had been learned and appropriate steps taken to remedy the misconduct.
17. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
18. The Panel then considered what the appropriate and proportionate order was in this case. It was referred to and took account of the HCPTS’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.
19. The Panel considered its powers under Article 30 (1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 and the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness. It had in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. It agreed with the previous Panels’ findings that to take no action in this case would not be appropriate or proportionate, given the misconduct concerned. To take no action would not manage the risks identified in this case and the Panel is satisfied that, in order to ensure the public was properly protected, it has to impose a sanction.
20. The Panel next considered a caution order and concluded that this is not appropriate in this case. There is no evidence of insight, no evidence of steps taken to remedy the misconduct and nothing to demonstrate that there is a low risk of recurrence. The matters that led to the finding of misconduct could not be described as either relatively minor or at the lower end of the scale.
21. The Panel also took the view that a conditions of practice order is not appropriate in this case. It considered that, given the total lack of information about the current employment status of the Registrant or her readiness to comply with such an order, there were no conditions which it could devise which would be appropriate, workable and measurable.
22. The Panel next considered extending the current suspension order for a further period of time. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not engaged with the proceedings and has had a further 12 months since the original suspension order was imposed to reflect on her misconduct, and take steps to remedy it. The Panel considered that there is no evidence of any insight or remorse. The Registrant could have shown this by engaging and submitting a piece of reflective work. She has not done so.
23. The Panel is of the view that any further period of suspension would serve no useful purpose. The Registrant has now had three opportunities to engage with the process: at the substantive hearing, the first review hearing and at today’s hearing, and she has failed to take these opportunities.
24. The Panel is aware that a striking off order is a sanction of last resort and is generally reserved for the most serious cases, including those such as this case, where there is a lack of insight and where the Registrant is unwilling to resolve matters.
25. The Panel has decided that a striking off order is required in this case where the Registrant, who could potentially remedy her misconduct, appears to have chosen not do so, or to engage with the regulatory process. This sanction is required to maintain public confidence in the Social Work profession and in its regulatory process. The Registrant, should she wish to work again as a Social Worker, can apply to the HCPC for consideration for re-entry on to the register after a period of 5 years from the date that this order takes effect.
26. The Panel therefore concluded that the proportionate and appropriate sanction in this case is a striking off order.
That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Miss Amanda McCallum from the Register on the date that this order comes into effect.
The order imposed today will apply from 25 June 2017.