Mr John F Skinner

: Social worker

: SW39837

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 01/06/2017 End: 17:00 01/06/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

While employed as Executive Head of Safeguarding and Wellbeing at Torbay District Council and while registered as a social worker, you:

1.     On 19th December 2013, told Colleague A that a payment should be made to Foster Carer A and/or approved payment to Foster Carer A, despite the fact that:

 

a.     Such payments were only permitted in exceptional circumstances under the Fostering Contract;

b.     You had a financial interest in the house;

c.     You were planning to sell the house;

d.     Colleague A was not aware of your financial interest in the house;

e.     Colleague A was not aware of your previous relationship with Foster Carer A.

 

2.     Your actions at 1 were dishonest;

 

3.     Your actions set out in paragraphs 1 – 2 above constitute misconduct;

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters

 

Application to amend the allegation

 

1.           At the commencement of the hearing Ms Sharpe applied to amend the particulars of the allegation.

2.           The Registrant did not object to the amendments.

3.           The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that the amendment could be permitted if it served to clarify the HCPC’s case and if the application was not opposed. The Panel allowed the application on that basis.

Disciplinary investigation

 

4.           The Panel is aware of the Torbay District Council (TDC) disciplinary investigation of the Registrant’s conduct. However the Panel has taken care not to be influenced by the outcome of it. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that findings made by another panel or another person are not admissible in these proceedings and must not influence this Panel’s decision.

Hearsay

 

5.           The Panel received and accepted advice from the Legal Assessor that hearsay evidence is admissible in these proceedings under Rule 10 (1)(b) and (c) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003. However the Panel has approached the hearsay evidence with caution, because it has not been tested by cross-examination. The Panel has carefully considered what weight to afford to the hearsay evidence put before it.

 

 

Application for part of the evidence of Witness 1 to be excluded

 

6.           The Panel agreed to redact the witness statement of Witness 1 to exclude irrelevant parts of the statement, after considering an application by the Registrant and the response of the HCPC.

 

Service of Notice (in relation to 1June 2017)

7.           The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at his address as it appeared in the register on 11 April 2017. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.

8.           The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the HC CCC Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

 

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant (in relation to 1 June 2017)

 

9.           The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Watts on behalf of the HCPC.

10.         Ms Watts submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She further submitted that the Registrant has indicated, in his email dated 26 May 2017, that he will not be attending the hearing when it resumes on 1 June 2017. She informed the Panel that the Registrant has also written a letter asking for matters referred to therein to be taken into consideration when the Panel considers the issue of sanction. Ms Watts submitted that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose and that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

11.         The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel is satisfied that as 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.

12.         The Panel was aware that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. The Panel reminded itself that the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 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”.

13.         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.

14.         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.

15.         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.

16.         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 his email dated 26 May 2017 is an expectation that proceedings today proceed in his absence;

·                      The Registrant has engaged with the process and has submitted further written representations;

·                      There is a public interest that this substantive hearing is dealt with expeditiously.

17.         The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself 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 an adjournment would serve no useful purpose in these circumstances. 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.

 

Background

 

18.         Mr John Skinner (“the Registrant”) was employed as Executive Head of Safeguarding and Wellbeing at TDC between 28 February 2011 and 4 June 2014. Mr Skinner is an HCPC registered social worker. In June 2013, the Registrant’s ex-partner, Foster Carer A, applied to the Council to become a foster carer. (The Registrant and Foster Carer A had previously acted as foster carers for a private agency). Foster Carer A was approved as a foster carer by the Council in September 2013 and shortly afterwards three children from the same sibling group were placed with her. At the time of Foster Carer A’s application to the Council, a small number of senior Council staff was aware that she had been in a close relationship with the Registrant. The “Form F” (a detailed assessment undertaken as part of the process of approving a foster carer), which detailed Foster Carer A’s personal and financial position, gave information in relation to the Registrant’s continuing arrangement to contribute £4,000 per month, towards the mortgage on their property and other outgoings. The Form stated that Foster Carer A’s home was suitable to accommodate up to four children. There was no agreement to fund any alterations to her home, which had been deemed suitable for the number of children who were to be placed, as confirmed by SG who completed the Form. Foster Carer A was entitled to £400 per child per week under the Foster Care Agreement. This new flat rate scheme had been introduced in October 2013 to all foster carers. 

19.         On 19 December 2013, the Registrant met with Colleague A, who was the Practice Manager. The Registrant passed to Colleague A a handwritten letter, from Foster Carer A, detailing building works on her property to better accommodate the children placed in her care. She also listed a number of other furnishings and miscellaneous items, such as beds and carpets. It is alleged that the Registrant asked Colleague A to arrange for these items to be funded and to process the payment. The Registrant allegedly said that he would authorise the payments as Executive Head. Colleague A replied to Foster Carer A by letter dated 3 January 2014, outlining that the Council would agree to some of the building adaptations and cost of furnishings, but not all of them. Colleague A did not receive a reply from Foster Carer A.

20.         On 28 January 2014, the Registrant allegedly met with Colleague A and said that the Council should fund a number of other items on Foster Carer A’s list.  The Registrant highlighted those items to be paid for. Colleague A met with the finance department to discuss the request and it was considered that the Registrant could authorise the payments in his role as Executive Head of Safeguarding and Wellbeing at TDC. The Registrant allegedly authorised the requested payments on 30 January 2014.

21.         Subsequently, Witness 1 (the Head of Service), returned from a period of leave and had cause to review Foster Carer A’s file.  Witness 1 was aware of the Registrant’s former relationship with Foster Carer A and his continuing financial interest in their home. It is alleged that the Registrant had authorised additional payments which would not ordinarily have been authorised under the Fostering Contract. Witness 1 reported this matter to the Director of Children’s Services RW, and an internal investigation was commenced. 

22.         The Registrant has admitted particulars 1b and 1c but denied particulars 1, 1a, 1d, 1e and 2. He has also denied misconduct and impairment.

 

 

Decision on facts:

 

23.         The Panel considered sequentially:

(1). whether the factual particulars are proved;

(2). if the proved facts amount to misconduct, and if so;

(3). is the Registrant’s fitness to practise currently impaired?

 

24.         The burden of proof is upon the HCPC on the civil ‘balance of probabilities,’ in relation to findings of fact. Whether any proved facts in this case amount to the statutory ground of misconduct and the issue of current impairment, are not matters which need to be ‘proved’. They are matters of judgement for the Panel.

25.         The following witnesses gave oral evidence on behalf of the HCPC: Colleague A (Formerly Practice Manager at TDC), Witness 2 (formerly Senior Human Resources Advisor at TDC) and Witness 1 (formerly Head of Service for Specialist Services at TDC) by telephone.  The Registrant gave evidence on his own behalf. 

26.         The Panel found Colleague A’s evidence to be credible and consistent with his previous statements and the documentary evidence. He was balanced and plausible in his explanation of his dealings with the Registrant in relation to the payments to Foster Carer A. The Panel considered his motivation and was satisfied he did not have an agenda to undermine the Registrant. The Panel is satisfied his account of dates and details of meetings is reliable.

27.         The Panel found Witness 2 to be highly credible and reliable. His evidence was very clear and limited to what he knew. His oral evidence was consistent with his statement and the documentary evidence. He dealt fully and credibly with the Registrant’s concerns as to why there was no social work involvement in the investigation. He had clarity around the nub of the issue and was independent with no agenda against the Registrant. The Panel is satisfied he gathered information from relevant people and his investigation covered the issues before this Panel.

28.         Witness 1’s statement indicates interpersonal conflict with the Registrant but her oral evidence was focused on the issues. She expressed strong views but these were clear and rational and consistent with the other HCPC evidence. The Panel has no cause to doubt her evidence and it was not challenged by the Registrant who chose not to cross-examine her. The Panel found her to be “on top of her game”, very clear, credible and reliable. She demonstrated that she knew how TDC operated and gave clear explanations of its processes.

29.         The Registrant is a person of previous good character with no other disciplinary concerns or employment or professional issues raised against him and he says he received an outstanding reference from TDC. His previous good character is relevant to credibility and the likelihood of him acting dishonestly. The Registrant’s previous good character has therefore been taken into account by the Panel at each stage, including the fact finding stage.

30.         The Panel found the Registrant’s oral evidence to lack clarity, and to be neither credible nor reliable. His oral evidence was contradictory both in chief and during cross-examination and Panel questions. His evidence was in conflict with the evidence of Colleague A in relation to the payments to Foster Carer A. The Panel considered his account was inconsistent and implausible.  He had a habit of not directly answering questions put to him and his evidence was often contradictory, unfocused and off the point. There was a lack of clarity around some of his evidence including contradictions within the same sentence. The Panel found his account is not credible.

31.         Foster Carer A has provided handwritten evidence on behalf of the Registrant dated 20 October 2014.  She did not give evidence at the hearing. Her evidence is therefore hearsay and is not endorsed with a statement of truth.  Her letter of 20 October 2014 was written for the disciplinary investigation and not for these proceedings. 

 

Particular 1:

 

32.         The Registrant has denied particular 1. Colleague A received a handwritten letter from Foster Carer A which, on the face of it, was not a request for funding. However, Colleague A subsequently made a payment to her.  He explained that he done so because of the context in which he was given the letter by the Registrant. Colleague A’s oral evidence was that he interpreted a conversation with the Registrant on 19 December 2013 as an instruction to make the payment. The Registrant has stated throughout that he thought the circumstances of the case, including the needs of the children, justified the payment. However, he stated that he had no involvement in, and gave no instructions for, the payment being made.  On his account the letter he gave to Colleague A was not a request for payment. However, for no apparent reason Colleague A then made a payment. The Panel finds the Registrant’s account is not plausible.

33.          The Panel finds it has not been proved that he formally approved a payment to Foster Carer A on 19 December 2013. However, he did so on 30 January 2014, when he wrote “agreed” on the letter from Foster Carer A and dated and signed it. The Panel does not accept the Registrant’s explanation as to why the word “agreed” was written on the letter; that it was done as part of a training exercise to provide Colleague A with a framework for future decision making.  The Panel concludes the Registrant told Colleague A on 19 December 2013 that a payment should be made and he formally authorised it on 30 January 2014. 

 

 

Particular 1a:

 

34.         The Registrant has denied particular 1a. The Panel heard evidence that there was a change in TDC foster carer payments at the relevant time but there is confusion as to when the new system came into place. A new contract dated 28 January 2014 was introduced but there is some evidence that it had been in operation before that date. However it is clear that the contract was supplemented by an Individual Placement Agreement (IPA) for each foster child. The Panel has not seen the IPA’s in this case. There was a system for additional payments and the Panel have seen evidence that some additional  payments were made. The system had not been in force for long enough for such payments to be regarded as exceptional and this was confirmed by the evidence of Colleague A.

35.         This particular is not proved.

 

 

Particular 1b:

 

36.         The Registrant has admitted particular 1b. This particular is confirmed by the Registrant’s evidence and the Form F prepared in relation to Foster Carer A. He was a joint owner of the property and made regular payments towards the maintenance and upkeep of the property.

37.         This particular is proved.

 

 

Particular 1c:

 

38.         The Registrant has admitted particular 1c and Witnesses 1 and 2 have confirmed that they saw that the property was for sale on a property website.

39.         This particular is proved.

 

 

Particular 1d:

 

40.         The Registrant has denied particular 1d. Colleague A stated in oral evidence that he did not know about the Registrant’s interest in the house. There was no reason why he should have known about it. Although this information was indirectly stated in the Form F; he had not read the Form.  Even if he had read it, the Registrant’s initials had been reversed to protect his confidentiality and his identity would therefore not have been evident. The Registrant states that he assumed and expected Colleague A had read the Form F. This may have been the case if Colleague A had been handling a request for additional payment in the normal way but that was not the case in this instance. The Registrant had no reason to assume that Colleague A was aware of his interest in the property. In any event any such assumption did not displace the obligation upon the Registrant to directly disclose his interest during his conversation with Colleague A on 19 December 2013. There was an onus upon the Registrant to disclose his interest at the time of his discussion with Colleague A. This was particularly important because the Registrant had not disclosed his interest through the TDC Register of Interests. The knowledge of other staff did not mean that Colleague A was aware of the Registrant’s interest in the property.

41.         This particular is proved.

 

Particular 1e:

 

42.         The Registrant has denied particular 1e.  Colleague A states that the Registrant told him that Foster Carer A was “a friend of his.”  Colleague A’s written statement, prepared for the disciplinary investigation, states that the Registrant said that she was “a friend of his from Somerset.”  This is the extent of the information which Colleague A says he had.  The Panel accepted his evidence on this point.  The Registrant states that Colleague A would have known about his relationship with Foster Carer A because of the office grapevine.  But in his interview during the investigation he gave contradictory information as to whether Colleague A knew of his relationship, and appears to conclude that it was not widely known and that Colleague A did not need to know.  Colleague A stated that if he had known about the relationship with Foster Carer A he would have acted differently in relation to the payment process, which the Panel accepted.  Furthermore, the fact Colleague A did not act differently corroborates the Panel’s view that he did not know the extent of the Registrant’s previous relationship with Foster Carer A. 

43.         This particular is proved.

 

Particular 2

 

44.         The Registrant denies particular 2.

45.         The Panel was advised to adopt a two part test of dishonesty, namely: whether on the balance of probabilities, according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest members of the Registrant’s profession, what was done by the Registrant was dishonest; and, if so, on the balance of probabilities, whether the Registrant must have known that what he was doing was dishonest by those standards. Dishonesty requires consciousness that one is transgressing ordinary standards of honest behaviour; therefore the Panel has specifically considered the Registrant’s state of mind.

46.         The Panel has undertaken a detailed assessment of the evidence, when considering whether the allegation of dishonesty is or is not proved. The Panel has considered possible motives for the alleged dishonesty and the Registrant’s explanations for his behaviour.

47.          With regard to the objective test of dishonesty, the Registrant’s conduct was in contravention of the letter and the spirit of the professional codes of conduct and TDC codes applicable to the Registrant.  As a matter of professional duty, other professionals would recognise the importance of complete openness and transparency in his dealings with Colleague A and would judge his conduct to be dishonest.

48.          With regard to the subjective test of dishonesty, the Panel does not find that the Registrant was motivated by financial gain and accepts that he did not make any financial gain as a result of his behaviour.  The Panel believes that the Registrant was motivated by a genuine desire to achieve the best outcomes for the children placed with Foster Carer A.  The Registrant gave evidence about the need for boundaries in his relationship with Foster Carer A and his dealings with the council in relation to her role as a foster carer.  Boundaries were put in place in relation to the previous process of approving Foster Carer A as a foster carer, in which he deliberately took no part.  This awareness of a need for boundaries demonstrates his recognition of a potential conflict of interest.  Furthermore the Registrant was a very long-standing and highly experienced Social Worker who must have known that his actions were dishonest.  He described Foster Carer as “a friend from Somerset” indicating he recognised the need for some disclosure as to his prior knowledge of her but his description of their relationship was limited and misleading. 

49.         The Panel has taken into account the Registrant’s good character and unblemished long service but on this occasion, the Panel concludes that he must have known that his actions were dishonest. 

50.         The Panel finds that the Registrant’s actions giving rise to particular 1 were dishonest by the standards of reasonable and honest members of the profession and that he would have known his conduct was dishonest by those standards.

51.         This particular is proved.

Grounds

 

52.         Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some serious act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a practitioner in the particular circumstances. The conduct complained of must be serious to amount to misconduct.

53.         Under the HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2012 edition), registrants are required to comply with the following standard:

 

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.

 

54.         Under standard 3.4 of the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers: “Registrant’s must be able to establish and maintain personal and professional boundaries.” 

55.         The Panel finds that the Registrant’s behaviour was in breach of the above standards and concludes that the allegation of misconduct, arising from the proved factual particulars is well founded, because the Registrant’s behaviour in respect of each particular is sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. Dishonesty breaches a fundamental tenet of the profession.

56.         This was a single incident but it spanned several weeks with several opportunities to recognise and address the issue.  The Registrant has had a long and unblemished career, was not motivated by personal gain and his major motivation was to do the right thing for the children being fostered. However, his conduct is serious enough to amount to misconduct due to the breach of professional boundaries and the fact his behaviour has the potential to bring the profession into disrepute.  As a senior professional, he should have been particularly alert to due and proper process and the importance of this in particular having regard to the publics’ perception of his behaviour.                                                                                                     

Impairment

 

57.         The Panel considered the HCPC Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired. In determining whether fitness to practise is impaired, Panels must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:

1.     The ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of    the individual registrant; and

 

2.     The ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

 

58.         The Panel has considered whether the misconduct is easily remediable and whether despite the element of dishonesty the misconduct is capable of being remedied.   The Panel finds that it is capable of being remedied but it concludes that it has not been remedied in this case.  The Registrant has stated he has reflected on his behaviour but the Panel finds that he has no recognition of his failings, or the impact of them on the reputation of the profession and confidence in the profession. The Registrant made repeated references to systemic failings at TDC and other individuals’ failings.  However, he showed no insight into his own misconduct. 

59.         The Panel finds that there is a risk of repetition because the Registrant has neither remedied nor recognised his failings. When answering questions from the Panel, the Registrant stated that if presented with a similar situation he would encourage others to act differently but not do anything differently himself.  He said “most of it I wouldn’t do differently. I would remind people more directly of their roles and responsibilities.” 

60.         The Panel finds no physical harm was caused by the Registrant but his misconduct is likely to damage the reputation of the profession, confidence in the profession and the reputation of TDC.  It will damage the public perception of the profession in the eyes of other foster carers.  There is no indication that corrective actions have been taken by the Registrant to remediate his misconduct. 

61.         Rule 9 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 states: Where the Committee has found that the health professional has failed to comply with the standards of conduct, performance and ethics established by the Council under article 21(1)(a) of the Order, the Committee may take that failure into account but such failure shall not be taken of itself to establish that the fitness to practise of the health professional is impaired.

62.         The Shipman Report identified the circumstances where impairment might arise as: (a) where a registrant presents a risk to service users (b) has brought the profession into disrepute (c) has breached one of the fundamental tenets of the profession or (d) has acted in a way that his integrity can no longer be relied upon.

63.         In respect of the public interest, the following additional guidance was provided in the case of Grant: In determining whether a practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, the relevant panel should generally consider…whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.

64.         It would be unusual for a finding of dishonesty not to give rise to a finding of impairment of a Registrant’s fitness to practise. The Registrant stated in his evidence that: “…most of it I would not do differently, I would remind people more directly of their roles and responsibilities”. He thereby focussed on the roles of other people and did not acknowledge any fault on his part. The Panel finds that insight and reflection are lacking on the part of the Registrant. The Panel finds that the public perception of the profession would be detrimentally impacted if a finding of impairment were not made in this case. 

65.         The Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired in both the personal and public components. 

Sanction

66.         The Panel heard the submission of Ms Watts with regard to sanction. It also took into account the submissions of the Registrant dated 26 May 2017.

67.         The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  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.

68.         The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be:

a)           The Registrant has neither recognised nor taken steps to remedy his failings. He has indicated that if faced with a similar situation he would mostly repeat his actions. The risk is that he would override proper procedure in future if he was emotionally invested in a case.

b)           The Registrant has not demonstrated nor developed any appreciable insight or remorse, even since the final hearing began, or in the intervening adjournment. His letter to the Panel dated 26 May continues to deny that his actions were dishonest, and does not address the issue of conflict of interest that he placed himself in.

c)           The Panel has found that the Registrant was aware of, and understood, boundary issues but did not follow them in this case.

d)           The Registrant’s misconduct was directly related to the processing of payments under the foster care system and resulted in a person with whom he had a close personal relationship gaining an advantage over other foster carers.

e)           The Registrant has sought to pass responsibility onto, and to make criticisms of, other colleagues.

69.         The Panel considered the following to be mitigating features in this case:

a)             The Registrant is of previous good character.

b)             This is a single incident in a long and unblemished career, including at a senior level.

c)             No service user was put at risk of harm.

d)             The Registrant was not motivated by personal gain or advantage, but rather he was motivated to act in the best interest of the three children involved and genuinely cared about their welfare.

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

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

72.         The Panel then considered whether to make a caution order. The Panel was mindful of its finding that the Registrant, in similar circumstances, was likely to repeat his misconduct, and that he lacks insight. Furthermore, these matters are too serious for a caution order to be considered appropriate.

73.         The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel has found that the Registrant has not demonstrated insight into his misconduct. This is not a case where the Registrant’s social work skills are in question. There are no identifiable areas of his practice that might benefit from re-training. These are matters involving attitudinal issues, which cannot be addressed by the imposition of conditions of practice. Therefore conditions of practice are not suitable in this case.

74.         The Panel went on to consider whether a period of suspension would be appropriate in this case. Given the Registrant’s lack of insight and remorse, the Panel debated whether a Suspension Order would be a sufficient sanction. In the interest of proportionality, and having regard to the Registrant’s previous long and successful career, the Panel determined that a suspension order was appropriate in this case. A period of suspension would serve to protect the public and the wider public interest. Public protection and the public interest would not be compromised by a period of suspension as the Registrant would not be allowed to practise during that period.

75.         The Panel is not satisfied that the only appropriate and proportionate response to protect the public and the wider public interest in these circumstances was to make a Striking-Off Order.

76.         The Panel determined that in the circumstances the period of suspension should be six months. Having carefully considered a longer period, the Panel concluded that a six-month period would better allow the Registrant to concentrate his thoughts, reflect on his actions, and demonstrate insight. The Panel makes it clear that this is a case in which a striking off order could have been justified, and that the Panel is taking a proportionate approach to allow the Registrant one final opportunity to demonstrate insight into his misconduct. In doing so, the Panel has taken into account the Registrant’s 40-year unblemished career and the fact that he was motivated by the children’s welfare.

77.         It is the Registrant’s responsibility to give the Panel that will review this order, confidence that he has gained insight into his misconduct and that he will, in future, recognise situations involving professional boundaries and/or conflicts of interest. The Registrant should be in no doubt that if he fails to do so, the reviewing Panel has the option to impose an order striking his name off the HCPC register.

78.         The Panel reviewing this order would be assisted by evidence, orally and possibly thorough a reflective statement that the Registrant has gained insight. The Registrant will need to demonstrate his recognition of his wrong doings and their impact upon the reputation of the profession, confidence in the profession, and potentially on service users. The reviewing Panel will also need to be given assurance that the Registrant will in future recognise potential conflicts of interests and act appropriately.

Order

Order:         The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Mr John F Skinner from the Social Worker part of the Register for a period of 6 months.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from the expiry of the 28 day appeal period.

 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr John F Skinner

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed
01/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
13/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard
25/07/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Hearing has not yet been held