Ms Marie Esther Nolan

: Social worker

: SW84927

Interim Order: Imposed on 16 Jan 2014

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 09/06/2017 End: 12:30 09/06/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During your employment as a Social Worker for Hampshire County Council you:

1. Failed to undertake and/or adequately record the required number of Child

Protection visits and/or statutory visits in relation to the following cases:

a) Family 1

b) Family 2

c) Family 3

d) Family 4

e) Family 5

f) Family 6

g) Family 7

h) Family 8

i) Family 9

j) Family 10

k) Family 11

l) Family 12

2. Failed to maintain adequate records in that you did not make any entries on the

ICS/SWIFT system:

 

a) For around 3 months in relation to the following cases:

i. Family 7

ii. Family 8

iii. Family 11

b) For more than 6 months in relation to the following cases:

i. Family 4

ii. Family 9

 

3. Did not conduct risk assessments and/or core assessments as required in relation

to the following cases:

a) Family 1 in relation to whether the children were safe in their parents care;

b) Family 4

c) Family 5 in relation to the child returning to their parents’ care;

d) Family 10 in relation to:

i. The care arrangements in place;

ii. The mother’s new partner.

4. Failed to act on potential risk in that, in relation to Family 10, you did not:

a) Refer concerns about the mother’s drug use to the drug agency

b) Follow up on an assault allegedly perpetrated by the mother on another adult at

a school.

5. You did not carry out the required case actions for Family 11 between 8

May 2012 and 8 August 2012.

6. Did not complete documents for court hearings in the requested timescales in that:

a) In relation to Family 3 you did not complete:

i. The Section 7 report by 20 February or 21 March 2012;

ii. The Addendum report by 18 May 2012.

b) In relation to Family 7 you did not complete the Care Plans by

6 August 2012.

7. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of

competence.

8. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is

impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

1. The Registrant had stated in her recent emails to the HCPC that she did not want an adjournment and preferred to give her evidence and answer questions via a telephone conference. The Panel heard the reasons why the Registrant was not present at the hearing today and accepted that having the Registrant’s her presence on the telephone was an adequate substitute in the circumstances.

Background

2. The Registrant is by profession a Social Worker and the matters which appear in the Allegation set out above had been brought to the HCPC’s attention by Hampshire Council, her former employer.

3. At the Final Hearing held on 8-11 June 2015, particulars 1-5 inclusive were found proven and the facts found proved constituted misconduct and supported a finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. A period of suspension for twelve months was imposed.

4. That panel identified evidence which the Registrant may wish to produce to a reviewing panel at the review in twelve months’ time.

5. There was a review of this substantive Suspension Order on 9 June 2016 which the Registrant participated in by telephone. At that review, the panel accepted the Registrant’s case that her personal family circumstances over the preceding twelve months had prevented her from focussing on the previous panel’s recommendations.

6. That previous panel had noted that the Registrant had not wished to start any programme of remediation at a time when she had so many other issues to address. The panel accepted that this was recognition by the Registrant that she could not do everything at once, a concern that had been identified previously.

7. The reviewing panel had identified four forms of information that might assist a future reviewing panel.

(a) Evidence of the further development of her insight through a reflective statement focusing particularly on how she would avoid such a situation developing in the future. This should clearly demonstrate what learning has taken place and what steps she proposes to take to ensure that such shortcomings will not be repeated in the future.

(b) Evidence that she has managed to update herself on current social work policy and practice or, at least, that she has a clear and credible plan to be able to do so in a timely manner, in keeping with the HCPC Return to Practice requirements.

(c) Evidence of an improvement in her ability to master computer technology insofar as it is necessary for professional competence, or at least, a clear and credible plan to achieve such an improvement.

(d) Evidence of a realistic prospect that her time and workload management would be better in the future.

Evidence and Submissions

8. The Registrant did not provide any written evidence to this Panel. The Registrant referred in her oral evidence to health and personal issues which had inhibited her timely progress with her remediation.

9. The Registrant had not provided the Panel with a piece of reflective writing and although she has orally referred to literature relating to a course of computer awareness she was undertaking, she had not provided copies of the course programme to the HCPC.

10. The Registrant stated that notwithstanding whether she returned to practice as a Social Worker, she was determined to address the failings which had been identified in her practice, and to make herself proficient in using computers and computerised systems, as this was required for any current workplace position.

11. The HCPC highlighted the main factors of the case and appreciated that it was a matter for the Panel to determine the issue of whether the Registrant was fit to return to unrestricted practice and if not, what was the appropriate and proportionate restriction in the current situation.

Decision

12. In undertaking its task today, the Panel is conducting a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant’s current abilities with a view to establishing whether she is now fit to return to unrestricted practice.  The Panel is not undertaking the task of rehearing the matters that had been brought against the Registrant nor going behind the previous findings. 

13. This Panel has taken into account all documentation placed before it and has heard and given appropriate weight to the oral representations made by the Registrant.  It has heard the parties’ submissions; taken and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor; and it has reminded itself of the terms of the Council’s Practice Notes relating to Fitness to Practice and Indicative Sanctions Policy.

14. The Panel has no evidence that the Registrant has undertaken and successfully completed steps to remediate her failings. The Panel noted that she has not been in practice since 2012 and so her skills are not current. In the absence of such evidence the Panel has concluded that her fitness to practice remains impaired and some form of restriction is required for service user protection and in the wider public interest.

15. The Panel considered that after such an absence from practice and given the number of areas of concern raised at the substantive hearing it was neither appropriate nor proportionate to allow the Registrant to return to practice with a Caution Order. For the same reasons, a Conditions of Practice Order was not appropriate nor proportionate and further was impractical in these circumstances.

16. The Panel gave careful consideration as to whether a further period of suspension remained appropriate, as opposed to taking the action of imposing a Striking Off Order. In this regard, the Panel took into account the personal reasons which, in the Registrant’s submissions, had inhibited her from providing evidence of remediation. Whilst the Panel accepted that there were external forces which were distracting from giving her return to practice the highest priority, it did not accept that the Registrant had done as much as she could. There was not, for instance, anything to have prohibited the Registrant from providing, even in long hand, a reflective piece of writing or sending a copy of her medical conditions or computer course. 
17. The Panel noted the Registrant’s view that she wants to address her failings whether she return to social work or not and that she had not made a positive decision to return to practice but wished to keep her options open. In the Panel’s view the time has now come for the Registrant to address her indecision. The public interest is not served in having further future reviews without any evidence of remediation of the Registrant’s previous misconduct. Whilst this Panel has concluded that on the representations put before it today, it will make a further order for suspension, a future panel will expect to see evidence of her progress towards remediation.

18. The Suspension Order will therefore be extended for a period of four months. This is, in the Panel’s view, sufficient time for the Registrant to be able to produce evidence of some progress with core matters, such as the successful completion of the computer course she is currently undertaking, registration on a further course of study, progress with her return to practice reading and a reflective piece of writing. The Registrant must provide any documentary evidence 21 days in advance of the next review hearing.

19. In making recommendations about the evidence that the Registrant should provide for the next review hearing in four months, the Panel has taken the opportunity of expanding these so that these recommendations make it absolutely clear what is required and why it is imperative that information is supplied for the next hearing. The Panel has put in bold text the changes which it has made to the previous Panel’s recommendations.

20. The Registrant has engaged in the HCPC throughout and noted that on three occasions the Registrant has been unable to attend in person, but has made herself available by telephone. Because of the Registrant’s caring responsibilities and her stated health issues, the Panel considers that it is essential that the next review is at a location close to where the Registrant lives. This will ensure that she is able to attend in person.

21. A future reviewing Panel would be assisted by;

(a) Evidence of the further development of her insight through a written reflective statement focusing particularly on how she would avoid such a situation developing in the future. This should clearly demonstrate what learning has taken place and what steps she proposes to take to ensure that such shortcomings will not be repeated in the future.

(b) Written evidence that she has managed to update herself on current social work policy and practice or, at least, that she has a clear and credible written plan to be able to do so in a timely manner, in keeping with the HCPC Return to Practice requirements.

(c) Evidence of an improvement in her ability to master computer technology insofar as it is necessary for professional competence, or at least, a clear and credible plan to achieve such an improvement. This may include documentary evidence of her enrolment and attendance at such a course and the certificate of attendance and achievement awarded at the end of the course

(d) Written evidence of how the Registrant plans to ensure that her time and workload management would enable safe and effective practice in the future.

(e) Documentary evidence to attest to the (i) health conditions and (ii) the domestic situation the Registrant has described, and which she says do not affect her ability to work or return to her profession.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Marie Esther Nolan for a further period of 4 months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 9 July 2017.

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 9 November 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Marie Esther Nolan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
08/06/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended