Ms Rebecca S Davies

: Social worker

: SW103575

Interim Order: Imposed on 08 Jun 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 05/06/2017 End: 17:00 09/06/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

Between 24 February 2015 and 7 August 2015, during the course of your employment as a Social Worker with North Yorkshire County Council:

1. On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 1 and you:

a) Did not complete the child's adoption support plan in a timely manner or at all;
b) Did not reply to correspondence about this child in a timely manner;
c) Did not complete the Pre- Meeting Report for the child's statutory Looked After Child review on 31 July 2015;
d) Did not correctly update the child's father’s address on the case management system in a timely manner

2. On 11 March 2015; you were allocated the case of Child 2 and you;

a) Did not complete the Child’s Under Placement with Parent Regulations (PWP) assessment in a timely manner or at all;
b) Did not visit and/or record that you had visited the child, at a minimum of every six weeks between 7 May 2015 and 5 September 2015.

3. In the case of Child 3 you did not record in adequate detail all your visits to this child.

4. In the case of Child 4 you did not ensure that the child received birthday presents provided by the birth mother in a timely manner.

5. On 7 May you were allocated the case of Child 5 and you:

a) Did not attend the meeting between the Pre-Adoptive parents and the child;
b) Did not plan and/or conduct visits to the child during the adoption introductions in a timely manner.
c) Did not follow a management instruction to visit the child on 8 July 2015.

6. On 16 May 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 6 and you;

a) Did not:

i) complete the Change of Circumstances report upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;
ii) undertake and/or record Looked After Child visits between 31 March 2015 and 11 August 2015;
iii) update the care plan for Child 6 in a timely manner;
iv) complete the Looked After Child review report for Child 6 in a timely manner;
v) undertake and/or record adoption visits to Child 6;
vi) send a notification letter to Child 6’s birth family upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;
vii) update Child 6’s birth mother’s address;
viii) communicate with Child 6’s birth mother for a period of approximately two months despite her request for communication;
ix) complete the adoption care plan upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;
x) complete the placement plan upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner.

b) Gave permission for the pre-adoptive parents to change the name of the child without management authorisation.

7. On 1 June 2015, you were allocated the cases of Children 7, 8 & 9 and you did not record any statutory visits on their files.

8. On 1 June 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 10 and you left a council correspondence slip, without an envelope, on the doorstep of the family home.

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

10. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practice is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service and Proceeding in the Registrant’s absence
1. The Registrant has neither attended this hearing, nor been represented at it.

2. The Panel was satisfied that there had been good service of the Notice of this hearing, which was first sent to the Registrant on 23 February 2017, at her registered address, in accordance with the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003.

3. The Panel also considered separately whether to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred to the principles in R v Jones [2003] 1AC 1 and GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162. The Panel reminded itself that its discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence should be exercised with the utmost care and caution and with due regard to her right to be present and to have a fair hearing. The overriding concern was to ensure that the hearing, if conducted in the absence of the Registrant, would be as fair as circumstances permitted and lead to a just outcome.

4. The Panel considered carefully the Registrant’s letter dated 21 May 2017 and her e-mail dated 1 June 2017. The Panel noted the allegation in this case related to matters which are now over two years old. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment of this hearing. The Panel was satisfied that an adjournment would be unlikely to lead to her attendance in the future.  In the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived her right to attend the hearing. The Panel therefore determined that it would be in the interests of justice and in the public interest for the matter to be heard expeditiously and to continue with this hearing, notwithstanding the absence of the Registrant. The Panel considered carefully the Council’s over-arching objective namely ‘to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public; to promote and maintain public confidence in the professions regulated under this Order; and to promote and maintain proper professional standards for members of those professions.’ The Panel has applied those principles in the decision to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

5. The Panel determined therefore, that it would be able to come to a fair and just outcome in the Registrant’s absence. For the avoidance of any doubt, the Panel has drawn no adverse inference from the non-attendance of the Registrant and has taken note of the correspondence sent by the Registrant in relation to these matters.

Application to amend

6. Ms Turner on behalf of the HCPC applied to amend the allegations to read as follows:-

Between 24 February 2015 and 7 August 2015, during the course of your employment as a Social Worker with North Yorkshire County Council:

1. On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 1 and you:

a) Did not complete the child's adoption support plan in a timely manner or at all;
b) Did not reply to correspondence about this child in a timely manner;
c) Did not complete the Pre- Meeting Report for the child's statutory Looked After Child review on 31 July 2015;
d) Did not correctly update the child's father’s address on the case management system in a timely manner

2. On 11 March 2015; you were allocated the case of Child 2 and you;

a) Did not complete the Child’s Under Placement with Parent Regulations (PWP) assessment in a timely manner or at all;
b) Did not visit and/or record that you had visited the child, at a minimum of every six weeks between 7 May 2015 and 5 September 2015.

3. In the case of Child 3 you did not record in adequate detail all your visits to this child.

4. In the case of Child 4 you did not ensure that the child received birthday presents provided by the birth mother in a timely manner.

5. On 7 May you were allocated the case of Child 5 and you:

a) Did not attend the meeting between the Pre-Adoptive parents and the child;
b) Did not plan and/or conduct visits to the child during the adoption introductions in a timely manner.
c) Did not follow a management instruction to visit the child on 8 July 2015.

6. On 16 May 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 6 and you;

a) Did not:

i) complete the Change of Circumstances report upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;
ii) undertake and/or record Looked After Child visits between 31 March 2015 and 11 August 2015;
iii) update the care plan for Child 6 in a timely manner;
iv) complete the Looked After Child review report for Child 6 in a timely manner;
v) undertake and/or record adoption visits to Child 6;
vi) send a notification letter to Child 6’s birth family upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;
vii) update Child 6’s birth mother’s address;
viii) communicate with Child 6’s birth mother for a period of approximately two months despite her request for communication;
ix) complete the adoption care plan upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;
x) complete the placement plan upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner.

b) Gave permission for the pre-adoptive parents to change the name of the child without management authorisation.

7. On 1 June 2015, you were allocated the cases of Children 7, 8 & 9 and you did not record any statutory visits on their files.

8. On 1 June 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 10 and you left a council correspondence slip, without an envelope, on the doorstep of the family home.

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

10. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practice is impaired.

7. The Panel concluded that there would be no injustice, unfairness or prejudice to the Registrant, if the amendments were made. The Registrant was first notified of the amendments on 23 February 2017. The Panel decided the amendments would come as no surprise to her. In addition, the Panel determined that the changes did not materially alter the nature of the charges.

Background

8. The Registrant qualified as a social worker in 2012 but did not commence employment with North Yorkshire County Council (‘the Council’) until 23 February 2015. The Registrant was line managed by CD who in turn was managed by Witness 1, latterly Team Manager of the Looked After Children Team. Although the Registrant was a qualified social worker, she was completing her ‘Assessed and Supported Year in Employment’ (ASYE), which meant she would have a reduced a caseload which would be increased slowly. She would also shadow more experienced social workers before further cases were allocated. In addition, she would have reflective as well as managerial supervision and undertake additional training. Her employment was subject to a probationary period of six months.

9. A number of concerns with regard to the Registrant’s performance were identified during and after her employment; including her ability to progress cases, her ability to follow directions from management and manage a reduced caseload. When the Registrant did not pass her probationary ending in August 2015, she left the employment of the Council and the matter was referred to the HCPC, in December 2015.

The Legal Approach

10. One allegation is made against the Registrant, namely that her fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct and/or lack of competence.

11. In order to decide if an allegation is well founded it is necessary for the Panel to approach the issue in the following manner:

a. First, to decide what facts falling within the parameters of the allegation have been proved.
b. Secondly, to decide if the proved facts demonstrate misconduct and/or lack of competence.
c. Finally, if misconduct and/or lack of competence is demonstrated, then to decide if that misconduct and/or lack of competence is currently impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practise.

12. An allegation will only be well founded if current impairment of fitness to practise is established.

13. The Panel carefully scrutinised all the written and oral evidence adduced on behalf of the HCPC and the Registrant’s written representations dated 20 April 2015 and her latest submissions in the form of an email dated 21 May 2017.

14. In particular, the Panel heard oral evidence from one witness on behalf of the HCPC;

• Witness 1 was the Assistant Team Manager from March 2012 to April 2015 and thereafter the Team Manager. She had direct line responsibility for CD, the Registrant’s line manager. The Registrant’s day-to-day contact was with CD, but as Team manager, Witness 1 was available and present in the office and recalled ongoing contact with the Registrant. She managed a team of 11 full time social workers. She gave her evidence in relation to matters that had taken place over two years ago. Nevertheless, the Panel found her to be a reliable and truthful witness, who gave her evidence in a frank and balanced way. She reflected positively on some aspects of the Registrant’s professional skills and abilities. She acknowledged that she could not give evidence on every question put to her. Some of Witness 1’s evidence relied on what she had been told by others and amounted to hearsay evidence.

• As far as the Registrant’s written submissions are concerned, the Panel also accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that the contents of those documents amounted to hearsay evidence and that the weight to be attached to them was a matter for the Panel, as the contents of the documents could not be tested by cross-examination or be subject to questions from the Panel.  

15. Before the Panel sets out its findings of fact, the Panel wishes to state for the avoidance of doubt that it had regard to the following two matters:-
(1) The burden of proof is on the HCPC to prove the particulars of the allegation set out in the allegation to the requisite civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities. There is no burden on the Registrant to disprove those matters.
        (2) The Panel has considered each matter separately.

16. The Panel therefore considered whether the alleged facts had   been proven to the requisite standard and if so, whether they amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence. Thereafter, the Panel went on to consider the question of current impairment namely whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct and/or lack of competence.

Decision on Facts

Between 23 February 2015 and 7 August 2015, during the course of your employment as a Social Worker with North Yorkshire County Council:

1: On March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 1 and you;
a) Did not complete the child’s adoption support plan in a timely manner or at all.

17. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

18. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had been reminded about this task on a number of occasions. She had been sent a partially completed template on 29 June 2015 by EN (a senior social worker). That document was not completed despite the fact that she was told again to do so by CD.

b) Did not reply to correspondence about this child in a timely manner;

19. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

20. The Panel concluded there was insufficient evidence to support this allegation. Although there was some evidence of a failure to respond to two telephone calls, there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation the Registrant did not reply to correspondence.

c) Did not complete the Pre-Meeting Report for the child’s statutory Looked After Child review on 31 July 2015

21. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

22. The Panel concluded from CD’s email to the Registrant on 31 July 2015 that the Report had not been completed. The Registrant admitted in her written representations that she had not completed the Report.
 
d)  Did not correctly update the child’s father’s address on the case management system in a timely manner.

23. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

24. The documentary evidence showed that although the Registrant had made a case note relating to the father’s new address, she did not update the case management system. The Registrant acknowledged in her written submissions she did not make the alteration successfully.

2: On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 2 and you;
a)Did not complete the child’s Under Placement with Parent Regulations (PWP) assessment in a timely manner or at all;

25. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

26. The Panel concluded that the Registrant was aware that the assessment needed to be done, as she noted in case notes dated 25 March 2015. The Panel further relied on the Registrant’s entry in the case notes dated 8 May 2015 where she documented that the assessment had to be done. The Registrant accepted that although she had done some work on the assessment, she had not sent the assessment to a senior manager.

b) Did not visit and/or record that you had visited the child, at a minimum of every six weeks between 7 May 2015 and 5 September 2015.

27. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard in relation to recording the visits.

28. The Panel confined its analysis of this particular for the period ending 7 August 2015 because the Registrant was no longer employed by the Council after that date. The Panel accepted Witness 1’s evidence that the visits did take place but that they were not recorded. The case notes do not include any records of such visits. The Registrant admitted in her written submissions that she had not recorded those visits.

3. On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 3 and you did not record in adequate detail all your visits to this child.
29. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

30. The Panel considered the documentary evidence and concluded that the Registrant recorded three visits for the 30 March 2015, 4 June 2015 and 14 July 2015 with an appropriate level of detail. However, the Panel concluded from the case notes that whilst there was a brief record of the statutory visit on 8 May 2015, it was a single comment which did not provide adequate detail of the content of the visit.

4. On 23 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 4 and you did not ensure that the child received birthday presents provided by the birth mother in a timely manner.
31. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

32. The Panel concluded that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Registrant knew that the package she had been given by the mother was a birthday present. Witness 1’s only evidence that this was a birthday present was hearsay evidence, having been informed of the issue by a student social worker. On the balance of probabilities, the Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant was aware this was in fact a birthday present.  

  5. On 7 May you were allocated the case of Child 5 and you:
a) Did not attend the meeting between the Pre-Adoptive parents and the child;

33. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

34. The Panel accepted Witness 1’s evidence that a social worker should attend such a meeting. The Registrant admitted in her written submissions that the social worker should attend such a meeting and that she did not attend this meeting.

b) Did not plan and/or conduct visits to the child during the adoption introductions in a timely manner.

35. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

36. The Panel concluded there was insufficient evidence to support Witness 1’s contention that a visit should have taken place at least twice in a period of ten days. Witness 1 conceded there was no written Policy that there should be two such visits in a period of ten days.

c) Did not follow a management instruction to visit the child on the 8 July 2015

37. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

38. The Panel concluded that the case note indicated that there was no such management instruction.

39. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

40. The Panel concluded that the case note indicated that there was no such management instruction.

6. On 16 May 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 6 and you;
a) Did not:

i) Complete the Change of Circumstances report upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner

41. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

42. Witness 1 told the Panel that the change of circumstances report should be completed on the day the child moved which the records indicate was on 16 July 2015 and not 15 July 2015 as Witness 1 asserted. On 16 July 2015, the Registrant was off sick and had handed over her commitments regarding this case to a more senior member of staff.

ii) Undertake and/or record Looked After Child visits between 31 March 2015 and 11 August 2015;

43. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard in relation to records.

44. Both Witness 1 and the Registrant referred to the Registrant’s diary as demonstrating that the visits took place. However, the case records support Witness 1’s evidence that another social worker was required to complete the records after the Registrant had left the Council’s employment. The Panel also noted the Registrant’s admission in her written submissions, namely that although she undertook the visits, she did not record them.

iii)  Update the care plan for Child 6 in a timely manner;

45. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

46.  The Panel found there was no evidence about the frequency with which care plans should be updated. Further, the Panel found there was no evidence to demonstrate when a child’s care plan was required to be updated before 5 August 2015, the date when it was updated by another social worker.

iv)  Complete the Looked After Child review report for Child 6 in a timely manner;

47. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

48.  The Panel found there was no evidence to show the date on which the review actually took place. As the Panel had not been presented with evidence to demonstrate when the review was required, it could not conclude that the report had not been done in a timely manner.
 
v) Undertake and/or record adoption visits to Child 6;

49. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard in relation to recording.

50.  Although the Panel concluded from the documentary evidence created by EN, the Registrant made the adoption visits, the Panel was satisfied the Registrant did not record such visits. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s admission that she did not record the visits she made, although it is not clear from the evidence how many visits she did or should have made.

vi)  Send a notification letter to Child 6’s birth family upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;

51. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

52.  Witness 1 told the Panel that the child was placed with adoptive parents on 16 July 2015, the day that the Registrant was absent due to illness. The Panel noted that the Registrant had contacted the Council on that date to explain that she could not complete the care plan and to request support to undertake the work she would not be able to do. Witness 1 said that this was normal practice in the team.

vii) Update Child 6’s birth mother’s address;

53. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

54.  The Panel found no evidence to demonstrate when the change of address was provided and whether the Registrant had seen it prior to her leaving the Council.

viii) Communicate with Child 6’s birth mother for a period of approximately two months despite her request for communication;

55. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.
 
56. The Panel found evidence which demonstrated a lack of response by the Registrant from 16 July 2015 (the day on which she was absent and shortly after she was on a week’s annual leave) and when she left the Council. The Panel therefore concluded that this did not constitute a period of approximately two months without communication.
 
ix)  Complete the adoption care plan upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;

57. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

58.  Witness 1 told the Panel that the child was placed with adoptive parents on 16 July 2015, the day on which the Registrant was absent. Witness 1 also told the Panel that the care plan had to be completed on that day. The Panel accepted that the Registrant had contacted her employers to explain she was ill, could not complete the care plan and to request support to undertake the work she would not be able to do. Witness 1 told the Panel that was the usual practice of the department.
 
x) Complete the placement plan upon Child 6’s adoption in a timely manner;

59. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

60.  Witness 1 told the Panel that the child was placed with adoptive parents on 16 July 2015, the day on which the Registrant was absent. Witness 1 also told the Panel that the care plan had to be completed on that day. The Panel accepted that the Registrant had contacted her employers to explain she was ill, could not complete the care plan and to request support to undertake the work she would not be able to do. Witness 1 told the Panel that was the usual practice of the department.
 
b) Gave permission for the pre-adoptive parents to change the name of the child, without management authorisation.

61. The Panel found this particular not proved to the requisite standard.

62.  The Panel could not rely on the evidence of Witness 1 as she was only able to relay hearsay evidence in relation to this particular. The Panel noted that the case records completed by the Registrant demonstrated that she understood that it was not in the child’s best interests to give permission to change the child’s name and concluded on the balance of probabilities that she would not have done so.

7. On 1 June 2015, you were allocated the cases of Children 7, 8 & 9 and you did not record any statutory visits on their files.
63. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

64.  The Panel accepted Witness 1’s evidence which relied on the case records for those children which did not include any records of visits. The Panel noted that the Registrant accepted that she had not recorded any visits.

8. On 1 June 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 10 and you left a council correspondence slip, without an envelope, on the doorstep of the family home.
65. The Panel found this particular proved to the requisite standard.

66.  The Panel accepted Witness 1’s evidence that she had seen the letter box through which the compliments slip could have been posted. The Registrant accepted that she had left the compliments slip on the door step.

Decision on Grounds

Approach to Misconduct and/or Lack of Competence

67. The Panel further considered whether the allegation is well founded. The Panel adopted the following approach, namely:

• whether the proven facts amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.

• the issues of misconduct and/or lack of competence are a matter entirely for the Panel to consider, exercising its professional judgement. At this second stage in the proceedings, the issue of proof does not arise.

68. The Panel applied the following general legal principles as far as misconduct and/or lack of competence are concerned:-

(a) ‘Misconduct is a word of general effect involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standards 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’. Roylance v. GMC [2001] AC 311;

(b)  the conduct which falls short must be ‘serious’ or ‘grave’. Doughty v GDC (1987) 3AER 32;

(c)  as to seriousness, Collins J, in Nandi v General Medical Council [2004] EWHC (Admin), described it as ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’;

(d) Vos LJ observed in Schodlok v General Medical Council [2015] EWCA Civ 769, at Paragraph 63 that, ‘In the normal case, I do not think that a few allegations of misconduct that are held individually not to be serious can or should be regarded collectively as serious misconduct’; the Panel found those observations relevant in the circumstances of this case.

(e)  the Panel may take a failure to meet the HCPC’s standards into account, but such failure will not be taken of itself to amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence; [Rule 9 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003].

f)  Lack of competence connotes a standard of professional Performance which is unacceptably low and which (save in exceptional circumstances) has been demonstrated by reference to a fair sample of the [doctor's] work.

 Calhaem v GMC [2007] EWHC 2606
(g)  the standard to be expected of a practitioner is ‘the appropriate standard was that applicable to the post to which he/she was appointed and the work he/she was carrying out.’ Holton v GMC [2006] EWHC 3187 (Admin)

Panel Decision on Grounds

No Misconduct in relation to 1a, 1c, 1d, 2(b), 3, 5a, 6a(v), 7, 8
Misconduct 2a and 6a(ii),
Lack of competence in relation to 1a, 1c, 1d, 2b, 3, 6a(v) and 7.
No lack of competence 5(a) and 8. 

Misconduct

69. The Panel has been careful to examine whether the facts found to be proved, result in the Registrant failing to meet the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (July 2008 as amended 1 August 2012). The Panel considered the following paragraphs to be relevant to Registrant’s case:-

1. You must act in the best interests of service users.
10. You must keep accurate records.
70. In addition, the Panel considered the following paragraphs from the HCPC’s Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England (August 2012) to be relevant to the Registrant’s case:-

1. be able to practise safely and effectively within their scope of practice.
10. be able to maintain records appropriately.
71. The Panel found that the evidence disclosed that all of the above paragraphs of the Standards were not met.

72. In dealing with the issue of misconduct, the Panel has adopted the approach set out by Vos LJ in Schodlok  v General Medical Council [2015] EWCA Civ   (see paragraph 34(d) above). The Panel considered each of the particulars of the allegation found proved separately and set out their decision whether or not misconduct has been found.

2: On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 2 and you;
a) Did not complete the child’s Under Placement with Parent Regulations (PWP) assessment in a timely manner or at all;

73. The Panel found that the Registrant knew this work was important and any delay would have an adverse impact on the child. As a result of the omission the child was unable to stay with her mother for periods of longer than twenty four hours or more. The Panel concluded therefore that the Registrant’s omission amounted to misconduct, which was serious and would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners.

6. On 16 May 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 6 and you;
a) Did not:
ii) Undertake and/or record Looked After Child visits between 31 March 2015 and 11 August 2015;

74. The Panel found that the Registrant knew she should have recorded the visits according to the relevant Council Policy. She did not record any visits over a significant period of time and there was a clear breach of Standard 10 of the Standards of proficiency. The Panel concluded therefore that the Registrant’s omission amounted to misconduct, which was serious and would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners.

1: On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 1 and you;
a) Did not complete the child’s adoption support plan in a timely manner or at all.
75. The Panel concluded that the failure to complete the plan could have caused a delay in the making of the Adoption Order. However, the Registrant told her line manager that she had not completed the plan and it was completed by another social worker thereafter.  The Panel concluded that while the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected, this individual incident was not evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’, taking into account the fact the Registrant was an ASYE social worker.

iii) Did not complete the Pre-Meeting Report for the child’s statutory Looked After Child review on 31 July 2015
76. The Panel concluded that the failure to complete the Pre-Meeting Report was likely to have affected the quality of the child’s review and did cause inconvenience to another professional. The Panel concluded the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected. However, the Panel did not judge this incident to be evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’.

d) Did not correctly update the child’s father’s address on the case management system in a timely manner until approximately two months after being informed.
77. The Panel concluded that the failure to correctly update the child’s father’s address could have prevented effective communication with him.  The Panel concluded that although the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected, it did not judge this individual incident to be evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’.

2 On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 2 and you;
b) Did not visit and/or record that you had visited the child, at a minimum of every six weeks between 7 May 2015 and 5 September 2015.
78. As a result of the Registrant’s failure to record the visits, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected.  However, the Panel did not judge this failure to record to be evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’.

3 On 11 March 2015, you were allocated the case of Child 3 and you did not record in adequate detail all your visits to this child.
79. The Registrant did not adequately record the visit of 8 May 2015 and the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected. Nevertheless, the Registrant did record adequately the visits she made on 30 March, 4 June and 14 July 2015. In all the circumstances, the Panel did not judge this individual failure to record adequately in relation to this child to be evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’.

5. On 7 May you were allocated the case of Child 5 and you:
a) Did not attend the meeting between the Pre-Adoptive parents and the child;
80. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected. However, while the Panel notes that this was a very important meeting, it accepts that the Registrant appears to have been balancing competing demands on that date.  The Panel concluded that this individual failure to attend a meeting was not evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’.

6. On 16 May 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 6 and you;
a) Did not:
v) Undertake and/or record adoption visits to Child 6;

81. As a result of the Registrant not recording the adoption visits, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected and would have led to incomplete records. Nevertheless, the Registrant did undertake the visits. In all the circumstances, the Panel did not judge this to be evidence of serious misconduct or ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’.

7. On 1 June 2015, you were allocated the cases of Children 7, 8 & 9 and you did not record any statutory visits on their files.

82. The Registrant did not make any visits to these children, however she had arranged for another social worker, who was taking over responsibility for them, to visit in her place. In those circumstances it was not her responsibility to make any records and could not be regarded as falling below the standard expected.

8. On 1 June 2015 you were allocated the case of Child 10 and you left a council correspondence slip, without an envelope, on the doorstep of the family home.

83. As a result of the Registrant leaving a Council correspondence slip on the doorstep, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s practice fell below the standard expected. It was not a private letter, as was suggested by the mother, and the Panel had no sight of the actual slip to establish whether personal information had been included.  Therefore whilst others might have seen that the family were in contact with the Council, the Panel could not verify that there had been any significant adverse impact on the family or that it was a failing that amounted to misconduct.

Lack of Competence

84. As far as lack of competence is concerned, having reviewed the facts found proved, the Panel judged it did have a fair sample of the Registrant’s work during her employment with the Council. The Panel heard that the Registrant had an allocation of a maximum of 14 cases/children and had been provided with information about 9 of them.  The Panel has found failings in respect of 7 of these cases/children during her period of employment.  In the particulars 1a), 1c), 2b), 3, 6a(v) and 7, the Panel found the Registrant’s standard of record keeping was unacceptably low. The Panel concluded that this amounted to a pattern of failing to keep adequate appropriate records, which constitutes a lack of competence. 

85. As far as particulars 5a) and 8 are concerned, the Panel concluded that these omissions did not constitute a pattern of failings which amounted to a lack of competence.

86. The Panel concluded therefore that its factual findings constitute misconduct and lack of competence, as set out above.

Decision on Impairment

87. The Panel went on to consider the question of current impairment, namely whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, by reason of her misconduct and/or lack of competence. For the avoidance of doubt, the Panel had regard to the following matters:

1. In relation to impairment, the Panel reminded itself that the test of impairment is expressed in the present tense, that fitness to practise ‘is impaired’.
2.  Whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, by reason of her misconduct and/or lack of competence is a matter entirely for the Panel to consider, exercising its professional judgement. At this stage in the proceedings, the issue of proof does not arise.
3.  The HCPC Practice Note ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired’ (March 2017).
4.  Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin), where Silber J at paragraph 65 stated “it must be highly relevant in determining if…fitness to practise is impaired that…first the conduct which led to the charge is easily remediable, second that it has been remedied and third that it is highly unlikely to be repeated”
5. CHRE v Grant [2011], where Cox J referred at paragraph 76 to Dame Janet Smith’s Fifth Shipman Report, at paragraph 25.67.
Cox J stated that Dame Janet Smith ‘identified the following as an appropriate test for panels considering impairment of a doctor's fitness to practice…
“Do our findings of fact in respect of the doctor's…misconduct…show that …his fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that he:
a. has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put a patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b. has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or
c. has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession’’. 
6. Kimmance   [2016] EWHC 1808 (Admin), where Kerr J at paragraph 66 stated:-

“There was indeed no evidence of insight and remediation in this case. I do not much like those jargon words. They do not do much to illuminate the reality, which is that a doctor or other professional who has done wrong has to look at his or her conduct with a self-critical eye, acknowledge fault, say sorry and convince a panel that there is real reason to believe he or she has learned a lesson from the experience…..”
7. Rule 9 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 as amended, which provides ‘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 will not be taken of itself to establish that the fitness to practise of the health professional is impaired’.

  8.  The advice of the Legal Assessor.

88. In particular, the Panel considered the personal component, namely, the current behaviour of the Registrant and the public component, namely, the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

The Personal Component

89. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s omissions were capable of remedy but there was no evidence before the Panel of any such remediation. Although the Registrant had acknowledged some of her mistakes, the Panel concluded that she had demonstrated only limited evidence that she understood the impact of her inactions on service users or colleagues.  The Panel could not be satisfied that the Registrant would not repeat her failings.  The Panel has received no evidence of the attempts she says she has made to update her knowledge or of any other attempts she has made to address her misconduct or lack of competence.

The Public Component

90. As far as the public component is concerned, the Panel found there had been a breach of the fundamental tenets of the profession. The Panel had particular regard to the observations by Cox J in paragraphs 71 and 74 in Grant (above), namely:

‘71… However it is essential, when deciding whether fitness to practise is impaired, not to lose sight of the fundamental considerations……. namely the need to protect the public and the need to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour so as to maintain public confidence in the profession.
74.… In determining whether a practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, the relevant panel should generally consider not only whether the practitioner continues to present a risk to members of the public in his or her current role, but also whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances’.

91. The Panel found that the Registrant’s omissions in respect of the particulars of the allegation found proved, would have impacted on service users and on public confidence in the Social Work profession; the public would expect a Social worker to record her work and in timely manner. Moreover, a finding of current impairment is also required, in order to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

92. It follows that the allegation is well founded and the Panel must proceed to consider the issue of sanction.

Decision on Sanction

93. The Panel considered the submissions on sanction made by Ms Turner. The Panel also heard the advice of the legal assessor on matters which it should take into account in reaching its decision on sanction, and accepted that advice.

94. Further, the Panel considered all the sanctions available to it and took into account the guidance contained in Indicative Sanctions Policy (March 2017) (ISP).

95. The primary function of any sanction is to protect service users from any risks posed by health and social work professionals. The Panel was conscious that in reaching its decision, appropriate weight must be given to wider public interest considerations, including the deterrent effect for other social work professionals, the reputation of the social work profession and the maintenance of public confidence in the regulatory process.

96. The Panel considered the aggravating and mitigating features in this case. The aggravating features are that there were multiple incidents of poor record keeping and a failure to complete an assessment. In addition, the Registrant has demonstrated only limited insight and has provided only limited information about any remediation.

97. The mitigating features of the case include the fact that the Registrant was subject to ASYE and there was evidence of some good practice in her work.  It appeared to the Panel that her employer did not fully explore her comments about feeling ‘overwhelmed,’ as well as some other signs that she was not coping. The Panel found those comments were clearly recorded in the records of supervision.

98. Following the approach set out in Giele v. General Medical Council, [2005] EWCH 2143 Admin, the Panel considered the sanctions in ascending order. The sanctions included taking no action, mediation, a caution order, a conditions of practice order, a suspension order and striking off (misconduct). In reaching its decision, the Panel has applied the principle of proportionality and has balanced the interests of the public with those of the Registrant and her right to work. In doing so, it has addressed the matters set out in paragraph 9 of ISP namely:-

(i) is an appropriate exercise of the Panel's powers.
(ii) is a suitable means of attaining the degree of public protection identified by the Panel.
(iii) takes account of wider public interest, such as maintaining public confidence in the profession.
(iv) is the least restrictive means of attaining that degree of public protection.
(v) Is proportionate in the strict sense and strikes a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of the Registrant.

99. The Panel concluded that to take no action would not adequately protect the public because of the lack of competence demonstrated in this case and the seriousness of the misconduct. The Panel also considered that mediation would serve no purpose in this case. The Panel then considered a caution order. The ISP states that a caution order may be appropriate for an isolated lapse of a minor nature or where there was a low risk of repetition and the Registrant had shown insight and had taken remedial action. The Panel found that none of these elements were present in the Registrant’s case. As noted, there is no evidence of remediation and there is only limited insight. Accordingly the Panel has concluded that a caution order would not adequately protect the public.

100. The Panel next considered conditions of practice. The ISP states that conditions of practice will be most appropriate where a failure or deficiency is capable of being remedied and where the Panel is satisfied that allowing the registrant to remain in practice, albeit subject to conditions, poses no risk of harm or future harm. The ISP goes on to state that the efficacy of conditions depends to a large extent on the registrant being trusted to comply with them and that panels need to be confident that the Registrant will adhere to those conditions. Furthermore, it is stated that the imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part of the Registrant to resolve matters and therefore that conditions may not be appropriate where failings cannot be overcome such as matters involving lack of insight or denial. The ISP makes it clear at paragraph 30, that the Panel’s decision will be regarded as confirmation that, beyond the conditions imposed, the Registrant is capable of practising safely and effectively. Although the Registrant did not appear at the hearing, the Panel noted that in her recent correspondence she has expressed a keenness to improve and said that she would have worked very hard to do so had she been given the opportunity to do so while still employed. 

101. The Panel has concluded that an appropriate framework of conditions could be imposed to protect service users and the public interest. The Panel is also satisfied that the misconduct or lack of competence which it has identified is capable of remediation.  Accordingly, the Panel concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order is the appropriate and proportionate order to make in this case. The order is for a period of two years to reflect the Registrant’s present circumstances. The Panel noted that if the conditions are complied with in a shorter period, the Registrant is able to apply for an early review.

102. For the sake of completeness, the Panel records that it did give careful consideration as to whether to impose a Suspension Order. The Indicative Sanctions Policy states that a Suspension Order may be appropriate where lesser sanctions are insufficient or inappropriate to protect the public but where there is a realistic prospect that repetition will not occur. The Guidance emphasises that suspension is punitive in effect and that this must be borne in mind. It goes on to say that if the evidence suggests that a Registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy her failings, then striking off may be the more appropriate option unless there is a realistic prospect that the Registrant can resolve her difficulties whilst suspended.  The Registrant is currently not working as a Social Worker and the Panel considered that a Suspension Order would have no useful effect. In addition, the Panel concluded that a Suspension Order would be disproportionate as the failings are not so serious to warrant such an order. The Panel found evidence of good practice in other areas of the Registrant’s work. For those reasons, the Panel has determined not to impose a suspension order.

103. This Conditions of Practice Order will be reviewed before it expires. The Panel which conducts that review will be assisted by evidence from the Registrant of steps which she has taken to develop greater insight into, and to remediate, the failings which have been identified by this Panel. Those matters are addressed in the Conditions of Practice which the Panel has decided to impose.

Order

The Registrar be directed to annotate the Register to show that for two years from the date on which this Order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Ms Rebeca S Davies, must comply with the following conditions of practice:-

1.  Prior to you’re the expiry of the order you must provide the HCPC with a written reflective account which demonstrates:

a) how you will or do ensure that that your record keeping complies with Standard 10 of the standards of proficiency for Social Workers in England;

b) how you will or do ensure that you raise with an appropriate person e.g. a supervisor any concerns you have about your ability to complete tasks in a timely way and to the required standard;

c) how you do or will ensure that you prioritise tasks between and within cases.

2. You must inform the HCPC if you take up a post requiring registration as a social worker.

3. If employed as a social worker you must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a supervisor registered as a social worker and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 28 days of the commencement of the employment.

4. You must attend supervision sessions as required by your supervisor and follow the advice given.

5. You must request a report(s) from your supervisor(s) providing information about your overall ability to manage your workload and specifically the extent to which you a) complete assessments and reports in a timely way, and b) keep case records up to date. The report(s) should specify the basis on which the opinion of the supervisor has been formed.

6. You must inform the HCPC if you are subject to any capability and disciplinary proceedings.

7. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions

A. Any agency employing you to supply a Social Work service

B. Any organisation where you are operating or employed as a Social Worker
C. Any prospective new employer at the time of application.

Notes

An Interim Conditions of Practice Order as set out above was imposed to cover the appeal period.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Rebecca S Davies

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice