Mrs Sharon Iona Dixon-Oroka

: Social worker

: SW46014

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 31/05/2017 End: 17:00 31/05/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Voluntary Removal agreed

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Locum Social Worker with Bath and North East Somerset Council, between June 2014 and December 2014, you:

1. In the case of Family A, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 6 August 2014;
ii) convened and/or recorded only one core group meeting on 20 June 2014.

2. In the case of Family B, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 12 August 2014;
ii) convened and/or recorded only one core group meeting;
iii) opened three core group records but did not complete them.

3. In the case of Family C, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 1 July 2014;
ii) did not convene and/or record any core group meetings.

4. In the case of Family D, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September;
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 6 August 2014
ii) did not complete a record of a child protection visit on 22 August 2014;
iii) did not convene and/or record any core group meetings.

5. In the case of the children of Family E, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 7 November 2014:
i) did not convene any Core Groups;
ii) made no contact with the father of child E;
iii) made no reference to the half-brother of the children of Family E living in the house in your assessment;
iv) did not meet with the half-brother of the children of Family E;
v) made and/or recorded only 2 child protection visits;
vi) saw the children on only 3 occasions.

6. Did not provide sufficient level of detail and analysis in reports to Child Protection Conferences to ensure informed decisions and judgments could be made.

7. Did not conduct timely write up of case files.

8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice and Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence

1. The HCPC produced evidence that Notice of today’s hearing had been sent by the appropriate postal service and posted in sufficient time in advance of the hearing to the Registrant’s address as shown on the HCPC Register.  The Notice had also been sent by email.

2. The Legal Assessor emphasised the fact that at this stage the HCPC had to provide evidence of postage and it did not have to show receipt. The Panel accepted that the HCPC had discharged its responsibilities in bringing this matter to the Registrant’s attention.

3. The Panel noted from an email from the Registrant dated 9 March 2017, that the Registrant was aware of today’s hearing, that she had not sought an adjournment, she would not be attending and confirmed that she wished the hearing to go forward in her absence. There is no indication that she has changed her mind since sending that email. The Panel appreciated that in a hearing of this nature, the Registrant’s interest in the matter proceeding in her absence coincided with the public interest in this hearing going forward without delay or further cost.

4. The Panel received the HCPC’s representations that this matter should be heard today and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice on the issues to be considered before reaching that decision.

5. Given the Registrant’s statements in her email, the Registrant’s interest in this matter proceeding, and the public interest in there being no unnecessary delay, the Panel decided that it would proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background

6. The Registrant is a Social Worker registered with the HCPC.  During her engagement as a Locum Agency Social Worker between June and December 2014, with Bath and North-East Somerset Council, concerns were identified about her practice. Those concerns were such that the Registrant’s services were dispensed with and the matter referred to the HCPC by way of letter dated 3 February 2015.

7. The Panel had before it a bundle of documentation including a handwritten letter dated 15 October 2015 from the Registrant, in which she acknowledges the shortcomings in her practice and accepted the substance of the matters raised by her former employer. She also apologised for her behaviour and accepted that she had let the families involved down.

8. The Registrant’s representations went before a Panel of the Investigating Committee (ICP) held on 25 November 2015. At that meeting the ICP concluded that there was a case for the Registrant to answer in respect of the following Allegation:

During the course of your employment as a Locum Social Worker with Bath and North-East Somerset Council, between June 2014 and December 2014, you:
1. In the case of Family A, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September 2014:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 6 August 2014;
ii) convened and/or recorded only one core group meeting on 20 June 2014.
2. In the case of Family B, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September 2014:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 12 August 2014;
ii) convened and/or recorded only one core group meeting;
iii) opened three core group records but did not complete them.
3. In the case of Family C, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September 2014:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 1 July 2014;
ii) did not convene and/or record any core group meetings.
4. In the case of Family D, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 23 September 2014:
i) made and/or recorded only one child protection visit on 6 August 2014
ii) did not complete a record of a child protection visit on 22 August 2014;
iii) did not convene and/or record any core group meetings.
5. In the case of the children of Family E, you:
a) between 12 June 2014 and 7 November 2014:
i) did not convene any Core Groups;
ii) made no contact with the father of child E;
iii) made no reference to the half-brother of the children of Family E living in the house in your assessment;
iv) did not meet with the half-brother of the children of Family E;
v) made and/or recorded only 2 child protection visits;
vi) saw the children on only 3 occasions.
6. Did not provide sufficient level of detail and analysis in reports to Child Protection Conferences to ensure informed decisions and judgments could be made.
7. Did not conduct timely write up of case files.
8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
9. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.
9. Further contact between the HCPC and the Registrant identified the Registrant’s wish to be removed from the Register in view of her role in the various matters which had led to the Allegation.

Application and Decision

10. The process of disposing of a case by way of consent is an extra-statutory means of concluding a matter.  However, in accordance with the HCPC Practise Note on the issue, before agreeing to such a course, the Panel had to be certain that by adopting this process it is providing the appropriate level of public protection and that it would not be detrimental to the wider public interest. 

11. Article 11(3) of the 2001 Order and Rule 12(3) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Registration and Fees) Rules 2003 prevents a registrant from seeking to resign from the Register whilst that registrant is the subject of an allegation.

12. The Guidance issued by the HCPC states:
In cases where the HCPC is satisfied that it would be adequately protecting the public if the Registrant was permitted to resign from the Register it may enter into a Voluntary Removal Agreement allowing the Registrant to do so, but on similar terms to those which would apply if the Registrant had been struck off.

13. If the Panel is not satisfied that the above criteria have been met it appreciates that it has the ability to reject the proposal, and allow the matter to proceed to a full Final Hearing. The Panel was not aware of whether the Registrant had taken independent legal advice. The Panel appreciated that the Registrant may find a full hearing stressful and might be contrary to her interests. A hearing would also arguably involve additional energies and expense which is contrary to the public interest in regulatory matters being dealt with with effectively and efficiently.

14. The Panel heard from the HCPC that in its view this measure will ensure service user protection.  The wider public interest in this matter has been addressed and satisfied by the process of investigation. Further, the fact that a striking-off order may not have been the level of sanction imposed at a Final Hearing, particularly if lack of competence had been established, is not to be a primary consideration in a case where the Registrant has made a conscious and informed decision to seek removal.

15. The Panel had the ICP decision, the referral from Bath and North East Somerset Council and the Registrant’s detailed responses to each of the particulars in the Allegation. The Panel concluded that the information before it supported the view that the matters identified in the Allegation were well-founded and there had been full acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

16. The Panel noted the points made by the Registrant in her email dated 26 November 2016, in which she confirmed her decision to seek removal and the remorse she feels from her failure to act appropriately. She confirmed that she had not worked as a Social Worker since the events. In the Panel’s view, she has demonstrated full insight into her failings.

17. The Panel is satisfied that the Voluntary Removal Agreement will provide continued service user protection in that the Registrant will not be able to practise.  The Panel considered that the wider public interest has been appropriately dealt with and would not be affected by this matter not being publicly scrutinised at a Final Hearing. In this regard, the Panel noted that the HCPC has reserved the right in the Agreement documentation to publicise the terms of the agreement.

18. Further, there will be a saving of public funds through adoption of the process of voluntary removal and this coincides with the Registrant’s position that her best interest is served by her removal. 

19. The Panel notes the terms of the Voluntary Removal Agreement that is before it and the fact that it has been signed by both parties in advance of today’s hearing. The Panel has concluded that in all the circumstances the approval of the proposed Voluntary Removal Agreement is the proportionate and appropriate course of action in this matter.

20. Accordingly, the Chair of the Panel has, on behalf of the Panel, signed the Notice of Discontinuance, which is required as a consequence of the consent to the Voluntary Removal Agreement, and dated today.

Order

The Panel directs that the proceedings be discontinued on the basis that the Registrar will remove the name of Mrs Sharon Iona Dixon-Oroka from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

If the Registrant seeks to return to the HCPC Register at any time the application would be treated as if the registrant had been struck off as a result of that allegation.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Sharon Iona Dixon-Oroka

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
31/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed