Mrs Yvonne Caron Jean Mieville

: Social worker

: SW59940

Interim Order: Imposed on 19 Apr 2016

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 12/06/2017 End: 17:00 16/06/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During the course of your employment and whilst registered as a Social

Worker with Dorset County Council, you:

1. In relation Child A, who was subject to a Child Protection Plan and a Child in Need Plan:

a) between June and August 2014, did not undertake and/or record any work undertaken with Child A and or Child A's parent;

b) between 15 October 2014 and 21 January 2015, undertook and/or recorded only e visit to see Child A;

c) in or around August 2014 inappropriately recommended a step down from a Child Protection Plan to a Child in Need Plan;

d) in or around October 2014, did not report to your Manager and/or address:

1. the risk-taking behaviour of Child A;

ii. that Child A's mother was not available and/or co-operating with professionals,

e) on or around 17 November 2014, during supervision, did not raise the level of concern about Child A that had been raised by other agencies, with your Manager;

f) between June 2014 and 21 January 2015, did not see the mother of Child A.

2. In relation to Child B, who was subject to a Child Protection Plan:

a) between August 2014 and January 2015, did not undertake statutory visits to Child B's family.

3. In relation to Child C, who was subject to a Child Protection Plan:

a) did not assess concerns and/or risks regarding the partner of Child C;

b) did not continually risk assess Child C in respect of Child Sex Exploitation concerns;

c) did not assess risk to the unborn child of Child C due to Child C's relationship with her partner;

d) advised the family of Child C that there were no concerns and/or that the file could be closed.

4. In relation to Child D, who was subject to a Child in Need Plan:

a) did not assess and/or visit Child D within statutory timescales;

b) did not obtain risk assessment on Child D's mothers partner from another local authority.

5. In relation to Child E, who was on a Child Protection Plan, you:

a) between 26 November 2013 and 4 July 2014, did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken any visits to Child E's home.

6. In relation to Children F and G, who were subject to a Child Protection Plan and a Child in Need Plan:

a) between 9 December 2014 and 21 January 2015:

i) undertook only 1 visit to the home of Children F and G;

ii) did not complete an assessment.

7. In relation to Children H and I, who were subject to a Child Protection Plan and a Child in Need Plan:

a) between 25 April 2014 and 24 October 2014, did not carry out and/or record visits to see Child I within the statutory timescales;

b) between 25 April 2014 and 24 October 2014, only saw Child H on one occasion;

c) did not advise your Manager and/or speak to Child H's mother about a sex offender being asked to babysit Child H;

d) did not risk assess and/or address the concerns regarding an incident of domestic violence involving the partner of Child H's mother which had been raised with you on 22 September 2014;

e) in around November 2014 inappropriately closed the case.

8. In relation to Child J, who was subject to a Child Protection plan:

a) Did not assess and/or inform your Manager of the risks and impact of Child J's mother's smoking on the health of Child J.

9. In relation to Children K, who were subject to a Child Protection Plan and Child in Need Plan:

a) did not visit the children within the statutory timescales;

b) did not risk assess and/or address Child Sexual Exploitation concerns raised by mother of Children K;

c) recorded that the Children K's parents had not co-operated with services to support them when in fact you had not seen the parents for 5 months.

10. In relation to Children L:

a) did not undertake and/or record an assessment on the viability of Child L's mother to re-parent Child L;

11. In relation to Child M, who was subject to a Child in Need Plan:

a) did not complete a Child in Need plan;

b) between 7 November 2014 and 21 January 2015, did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken visits to see Child M.

12. In relation to Children N, who were on a Child in Need plan:

a) between on or around 18 November 2014 and 21 January 2015, did not undertake visits to see Children N.

b) Did not see two ofthe children on the visit undertaken on 18 November 2014.

13. In relation to Children 0, who were subject to a Child Protection Plan:

a) between 9 May and 18 July 2013, undertook, on 10 July 2013, and/or recorded that you had undertaken only one home visit where you saw the children;

b) saw only one of the children in school.

14. In relation to Child P, who was subject to a Child in Need Plan:

a) Did not visit Child P and/or his main carers within the statutory timescales;

b) Did not complete a Child in Need Plan;

c) Did not engage with other professionals regarding Child P's needs.

15. The matters set out at paragraphs 1 to 14 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service

1. Having seen copies of the Notice of Hearing dated 02 March 2017, the Registrant’s Certificate of Registration, and the proof of posting, and receiving the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that the Notice of Hearing had been served in accordance with the applicable rules.


Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Ms Chaker applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant under rule 11 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules). She informed the Panel that following the service of the Notice of Hearing the Registrant had attended the offices of the HCPC last week and spoken to the case manager. She had submitted a witness statement. In that statement she had said, “I apologise for not being able to attend the Panel in person….but work commitments prevent me from attending. I have tried to answer the allegations using the key supplied, and the information contained in the bundle.”

3. This is the last communication from the Registrant. Ms Chaker submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself, and the hearing should proceed in her absence. There was no application for an adjournment. Overall, she submitted the public interest to proceed should prevail against the Registrant’s own interests in being present at this hearing.

4. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and took into account all the factors set out in the HCPC’s Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. After considering all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived attendance or representation at the hearing and therefore, the public interest requirement of proceeding expeditiously with professional disciplinary hearings justified proceeding with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant.

Application to amend the Allegation

5. Ms Chaker then applied to amend the allegation. The proposed amendments had been notified to the Registrant by a letter dated 10 January 2017. Although she had been in communication with the HCPC since then she had made no objection to the proposed amendments which were done in order to ensure clarity in the allegation. The amendments did not increase the gravity of the allegations made against her. In the application it was proposed that where no evidence would be offered for a number of particulars, those particulars should be excluded from the amended allegation. In her recent witness statement the Registrant had made a number of admissions to specific particulars and although there was some small confusion at one point, it appeared that she was making those admissions to the amended allegation. The Panel considered the advice of the Legal Assessor which was that an amendment could be made provided the Panel was satisfied that no injustice was caused.

6. The Panel accepted the application and allowed the amendments. In making this decision the Panel noted that the proposed amendments made no substantial difference to the case alleged against the Registrant or the admissions made by her.

7. The Panel noted that in the evidence to be given it was clear that at times evidence would relate to specific medical conditions of the Registrant. The Panel ordered that such evidence would be given in private with the remainder of the hearing being held in public.


Background:

8. The Registrant was employed as social worker by Dorset County Council. In April 2014 AW became the Registrant’s line manager, taking over from MM.  There was a transfer meeting between the three of them in which the issue of the Registrant’s difficulty “in saying no to cases” was discussed; it was said that she was volunteering for a large number of cases when she already had a full caseload.

9. AW explains that she was at all times aware that the Registrant had some health concerns.  These relate to an incident in 2006 in which both the Registrant and AW were held hostage by a service user.  As a result the Registrant experienced stress and trauma related symptoms.
 
10. AW suggested that the Registrant undertake a Stress Management Process on two occasions; once shortly before she became her manager, and once in January 2015.  An assessment was carried out and Occupational Health concluded that their involvement was not required. Nevertheless, her caseload was actively managed such that it was less demanding than those of her colleagues in the team.

11. The Registrant discussed her cases and any concerns she had about her caseload with AW during monthly supervision meetings. AW said that they also spoke regularly between supervision sessions. When the Registrant raised concerns about workload, AW prevented her from taking on new cases and recommended that she work at home to catch up.

12. In September 2014, RC completed an audit of the Registrant’s cases concerning Children H and I.  He attended a supervision meeting on 16 September 2014 with AW and the Registrant, and expressed his concerns arising out of the audit.  These were twofold –

a) First, the Registrant had not recorded having responded to information provided to her that a registered sex offender was babysitting the children;

b) Second, that the Registrant had not visited the children when she learned Child H’s father was having unsupervised contact with them when he was not allowed to do so as a result of a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

13. The Registrant explained that she had been feeling overwhelmed and that she was struggling to manage cases beyond the initial assessment stage.  AW said that she was not to take any more cases and that she must take time to work from home.  AW said that whilst she was shocked and concerned by the problems identified in relation to Children H and I, it was not until some months later, in January 2015, that she realised the full extent of the issues in the Registrant’s practice and record-keeping.

14. The case of Children F and G was allocated to the Registrant in December 2014.  Child G, a baby, was taken to hospital by her mother. The hospital raised concerns as Child G had an injury to her face. A Child Protection Plan was put in place straight away.  As part of the plan the Registrant was required to visit the children at least weekly.  However, the Registrant only visited the children once, on 16 December 2014.  On 24 December 2014, Child G sustained another injury leading to the case being allocated to another social worker and the children being removed from their parents.

15. As a result of what had happened with Children F and G, AW decided to review all of the registrant’s cases, the records for which were held electronically on a database called ‘Raise’.  She discussed her findings with the registrant and with RC.  In March 2015 the registrant went on planned annual leave. Whilst she was away the decision was taken to escalate the concerns to a formal disciplinary investigation.

16. JM was appointed on 23 April 2015 to investigate the concerns raised. In due course the matter was referred to the HCPC.


Decision on Facts

17. The Panel bore in mind the burden and standard of proof and considered each particular of the allegation separately.

18. The Panel first considered the witnesses who had given evidence. The HCPC called two witnesses as part of the case for the HCPC, they are:

•JM. She was the Family Support Manager at Dorset County Council, and the Internal Investigating Officer.
• RC. He was a Team and Family Support Manager at Dorset County Council who was the line manager of AW.  He had previously (2006-2010) been the Registrant’s line manager.  He conducted an audit of one of the Registrant’s cases in September 2014. 

19. Both witnesses gave clear objective and balanced evidence. Their analyses were perceptive and they both gave a convincing analysis of what was wrong with the Registrant’s practice. They were able to speak of her practice over a long period and show consistency therein. The Panel found both witnesses to be impressive.

20. The HCPC also relied upon the witness statement of AW. She was a Practice Manager in Dorset County Council Assessment Team and the Registrant’s line manager at the relevant time. This witness did not give live evidence at this hearing and the Panel relied upon her witness statement as hearsay. Nevertheless the Panel considered that it was able to attach significant weight to her statement. Much of her statement was corroborated by the documentary exhibits and the oral evidence given by the 2 witnesses for the HCPC.

21. The Panel also had the benefit of a large amount of documentary evidence and in considering these exhibits, the Panel kept in mind the advice given by the Legal Assessor. The Panel was conscious that these exhibits were not agreed by the Registrant, and by their nature they amounted to hearsay evidence. They contained opinions and throughout it was for the Panel to determine the amount of weight that it should allow to such evidence.

22. The Panel carefully considered the statement given by the Registrant to the HCPC last week and its accompanying statement from Dr Tracy Thorns, Clinical Psychologist, and confirmation of the Registrant’s enrolment into a Distance Learning Qualification in Health and Social Care. It accorded them the appropriate weight in considering the allegations made against the Registrant by the HCPC. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s statement where it was corroborated by other material.  Where however it was in conflict with other evidence the Panel did not accept it. When there was a dispute of evidence the Panel considered the documentary evidence. This was the position in particular 1(b) for example. The Registrant asserted that Child A was away in Australia for much of the period and yet the documentary evidence showed that Child A had only been away to Australia for 2 weeks. The Panel therefore did not accept the assertions put forward by the Registrant in her statement.

23. Furthermore, in her statement, the Registrant makes a number of assertions to the effect that her manager, AW, was aware of or had agreed to matters for which the Registrant is criticised.  Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Panel does not accept the accuracy of these assertions as it prefers the explanation of AW, corroborated by RC and JM that any such agreement by AW was given on the basis of misleading information provided by the Registrant.  In an interview with JM as part of her investigation the Registrant admitted allowing AW to draw incorrect inferences from what she was told. 

24. The Panel considered the report of Dr Tracy Thorns put forward by the Registrant. It was dated September 2015 and there was no recent update. Much of the material in the report was not consistent with the recent witness statement from the Registrant.

25. In the light of its assessments of the reliability of the evidence it had received the Panel then considered the individual particulars of the allegation.  Because of the large amount of material the Panel has, where possible, identified in detail, the evidence it has relied upon to come to its decisions.


The Particulars

Particular 1: “In relation to Child A…”

Particular 1(a): “between approximately 3 June and 17 August 2014, did not undertake and/or record weekly visits”.

26. The Panel found this particular proved. 

27. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the Registrant conducted two home visits on 11 August 2014 and 14 August 2014.  During that period, Child A remained on a Child Protection Plan (“CPP”) which required weekly visits.

28. In her written statement the Registrant said, “I accept I did not make enough visits.”

Particular 1(b): “between 15 October 2014 and 21 January 2015, undertook and/or recorded only one visit to see Child A”

29. The Panel found this particular proved.

30. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: on 18 August 2014, it was decided that Child A’s case could be stepped down from a CPP to a Child In Need (“CIN”) plan. This required less frequent visits of every six weeks. Only one visit took place, on 15 October 2014.

31. In her written statement the Registrant said: “Child A was away in Australia for much of this period.”

32. Other documentation shows that Child A only went to Australia for 2 weeks.

Particular 1(c): “in or around August 2014 inappropriately recommended a step down from a Child Protection Plan to a Child in Need Plan”;

33. The Panel found this particular proved.

34. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: AW explains that the decision taken on 18 August 2014 to step down Child A’s case was based on a recommendation by the Registrant that was not supported by any work with the family or completion of tasks set down in the CPP.

35. In her written statement the Registrant said, “This was agreed by my manager.”

36. In this particular the Panel prefers the evidence given in the statement of AW. That evidence was corroborated as to the Registrant’s working practices by the evidence of RC and JM.
 
Particular 1(d): “Did not report to your Manager and/or address:
i) between approximately 14 October and approximately 15 December 2014, the risk-taking behaviour of Child A;
ii) until approximately October 2014, that Child A's mother was not available and/or co-operating with professionals”.

The Panel found these particulars proved. 

37. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: AW describing a number of concerning developments in Child A’s behaviour, including bringing drugs to school, going to flats with adult men, stealing money, and dealing drugs.  These concerns were raised by a number of professionals at a Child in Need Review Meeting on 14 October 2014.  The Registrant did not mention these developments to AW and was pursuing proposals to close the case during supervision in November 2014. At a further Review Meeting in December 2014, professionals complained that the risk-taking behaviours had not been appropriately responded to and so they would not let the Registrant close Child A’s case. It was only after this that the Registrant decided to inform AW of developments in Child A’s behaviour.

38. In her written statement the Registrant said, “I did report this to my manager, but have no written evidence. - She was not co-operating, and my manager was indeed informed. Again “I have no evidence.” In this particular the Panel prefers the evidence given in the statement of AW. That evidence was corroborated as to the Registrant’s working practices by the evidence of RC and JM.
 
Particular 1(e): “Between 1 July 2014 and 21 January 2015, saw the mother of Child A once”.

39. The Panel found this particular proved.

40. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: AW confirms from case records that the Registrant met with Child A’s mother only twice, once in June 2014 and once in December 2014.

41. In her written statement the Registrant said, “This is true, the mother regularly cancelled or did not attend meetings.”
 
Particular 2(a): “In relation to Child B, who was subject to a Child Protection Plan…between approximately 14 August 2014 and January 2015, did not complete and/or record statutory home visits to Child B”
Particular 2(b): “recorded that Child B’s parents had not cooperated with services to support them when in fact you had not seen the parents for 5 months”

The Panel found this particular proved. 

42. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: Since Child B was subject to a CPP the Registrant was required to visit him at home weekly. The Registrant was regularly visiting Child B at school, however between 14 August 2014 and 21 January 2015 she did not visit him at home.  At a review conference in January 2015, Child B’s parents reported that they had never met the Registrant and had no idea of what was required of them. Notwithstanding that she had never met or spoken to Child B’s parents, when AW raised possible evidence of neglect, the Registrant reported that the parents “were not doing what they said they were going to do”. This is recorded in AW’s supervision note of 24 October 2014.

43. In her written statement the Registrant said, “I accept that I did not complete and/ or record visits to Child B’s family.”

Particular 3: “In relation to Child C, who was subject to a Child Protection Plan between approximately 25 April 2014 and 25 March 2015:
(a) Did not assess concerns and/or child sex exploitation risks regarding the partner of Child C adequately or at all;
(b) Between approximately June and August 2014, inappropriately prepared the case for closure.

44. The Panel found these particulars proved. 

45. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: Between June and August 2014, the Registrant was preparing Child C’s case for closure. AW said this was inappropriate, as during that period Child C had walked out of school following a row with a teacher, had made an allegation of rape, and had been reported missing. 

46. Child C was a teenage girl who was known to be having unprotected sex with adult males.  After a period of time living out of County with her father, Child C returned to Dorset and moved in with a 27 year old man and was pregnant by another boy her own age.  AW explains that she was contacted by the Duty Team and informed that Child C was living in the area again. During supervision in November 2014 AW instructed the Registrant to reassess Child C, to include a Child Sexual Exploitation risk assessment (CSE). The assessment submitted by the Registrant made no mention of CSE.

47.In her written statement the Registrant said, “I accept this allegation.”
Particular 4: “In relation to Child D, who was subject to a Child in Need Plan:

a) Did not assess and/or visit Child D within statutory timescales;
b) Did not carry out a risk assessment on Child D's mother’s partner.

48. The Panel found these particulars proved. 

49. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the Registrant only visited Child D once, on 05 November 2014. She was required to complete an initial assessment in December 2014, but did not do so until March 2015. The assessment did not include any analysis of the risk posed by the mother’s partner; she had learned that he had a history of violence so should have, but did not, obtain details of any criminal convictions and the views of any probation officers involved.

50. In her written statement the Registrant said, “a) Accepted – managers were aware of this. b) Accepted.”

Particular 5: “In relation to Child E, who was on a Child Protection Plan, between 26 November 2013 and 24 April 2014, did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken any visits to Child E's home.”

51. The Panel found this particular proved.

52. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: AW explains that Child E was subject to a CPP from 26 November 2013 under the category of neglect.  The Registrant was required to visit Child E every fortnight.  However, between the above dates no home visits were made or recorded.  AW explains that it was important to visit Child E in her home environment in order properly to assess evidence of neglect.

53. In her written statement the Registrant said, “No copies of case notes were in my bundle. My memory is of undertaking a lot of work with Child E at school, and visiting mother (and mother’s partner) at home. However it does not appear I have any evidence of this.”
 
Particular 6: “In relation to Children F and G, who were subject to a Child Protection Plan and a Child in Need Plan, between 9 December 2014 and 21 January 2015:”
a) Undertook only one visit to the home of Children F and G;
b) Did not complete an initial assessment.
 The Panel found these particulars proved. 

54. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: The case of Children F and G was allocated to the Registrant in December 2014.  Child G, a baby, was taken to hospital by her mother.  The hospital raised concerns as Child G had an injury to her face.  Following referral, the Registrant made only one home visit in relation to the concerns raised. AW explains that this was insufficient in light of the fact that a serious safeguarding referral had been made by the hospital; this demanded frequent visits. Further, the Registrant failed to complete an initial assessment within 35 days of the referral.

55. In her written statement the Registrant said, “ a) Again my memory is at least two/three visits but no evidence. b) An Initial assessment was completed but very late – managers were aware as the case recording of 27 February confirms.”
 
Particular 7: “In relation to Children H and I, who were subject to a Child in Need Plan:

a) Between 25 April 2014 and 24 October 2014, did not carry out and/or record visits to see Child I within the statutory timescales;

b) Between 25 April 2014 and 24 October 2014, only saw Child H on one occasion

56. The Panel found these particulars proved. 
57. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the Registrant was required to visit Children H and I every 6 weeks in accordance with the CIN Policy and the CIN Plans in place. The audit conducted by RC revealed that only one visit to Child H had been made/recorded between the above dates. No visits to Child I were recorded.

58. In her written statement the Registrant said, “a) and b) I saw both these children often at their local Children’s centre’ also their mother….I have not recorded this so no evidence.”
c)  Did not advise your Manager and/or speak to Child H's mother about a sex offender being asked to babysit Child H and Child I when this was reported to you on 27 August 2014;

59. The Panel found this particular proved.

60. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: Child H’s father was well known to the Council as a sex offender.  On 27 August 2014 the police raised concerns that he was staying over and babysitting the children. This was forwarded to the Registrant the following day.  She did not raise this with AW nor did she visit the children.

61. In her written statement the Registrant said, “I rang the mother and remember clearly the conversation…….No case note, so no evidence.”

d)   Did not risk assess and/or address the concerns regarding an incident of domestic violence involving the partner of Child H's mother which had been raised with you on 16 September 2014;

62. The Panel found this particular proved.
63. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the Registrant failed to respond appropriately to a further safeguarding concern in relation to Children H and I.  The case records show that an incident of domestic violence between Child H’s mother and her partner took place on 16 September 2014.  There is no evidence of the Registrant having responded at all to this information coming to light.

64. In her written statement the Registrant said, “My manager was fully aware of case closure, and it was discussed in supervision.”

e)  In around November 2014 inappropriately closed the case.

65. The Panel found this particular proved.

66. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: AW explains that the Registrant’s recommendation that the case be closed was inappropriate as the police and a health visitor had reported concerns in relation to domestic violence in September and November 2014.

67. In her written statement the Registrant said, “My manager was fully aware of case closure, and it was discussed in supervision.”
 
Particular 8: “In relation to Child J, who was subject to a Child in Need and/or a Child Protection plan you did not assess and/or inform your Manager of the risks and impact of Child J's mother's smoking on the health of Child J.”

68. The Panel found this particular proved. 

69. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the Registrant was allocated Child J’s case at a time he was subject to a CIN Plan. AW explains that there were serious concerns that Child J was neglected by his mother. One example of her neglect of Child J was that she, and others, smoked around him; Child J suffered from a constant cough and regular chest infections as a result. The Registrant was aware of this problem as family support workers repeatedly raised their concerns.  She should have, but failed to, raise these concerns with her manager in supervision despite numerous opportunities to do so. In supervision on 28 January 2014, she suggested that the case be closed despite receiving information from the health visitor on 14 January 2014 that the concerns remained serious. 

70. The following year, an emergency protection order removed Child J’s sibling, Child Q, from the property.  It was discovered that Child J had developed asthma.  AW explains that she was shocked to discover the extent to which the Registrant had failed to take responsibility for Child J.

71. In her written statement the Registrant said, “I cannot fully accept this. My manager at the time was fully aware of this mothers smoking habit and its possible impact.”

Particular 9: “In relation to Family K, who were subject to a Child in Need Plan between approximately 5 December 2014 and 21 January 2015:
 
a) Did not visit all the children in the family within the statutory timescales;
b) Did not risk assess and/or address Child Sexual Exploitation concerns raised by mother of Family K on 5 December 2014, in a timely manner.”

72. The Panel found these particulars proved. 

73. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the Council became involved in Family K in December 2014 when the mother contacted the duty team and reported that Child K was sleeping in a bedroom with her father and she could hear sex noises.  The case was allocated to the Registrant on 05 December 2014 and the Children placed on a CIN Plan.  As such, there was a requirement to see the children a minimum of every six weeks.  However, by 21 January 2015, the Registrant had not seen them since 05 December 2014. AW explains that the concerns raised by the mother of Family K required a CSE assessment.  When asked why she had not already addressed the mother’s concerns by 21 January 2015, the Registrant dismissed the concerns on the basis that she was known to have exaggerated in the past.  Nevertheless, AW instructed her to undertake the assessment.  The Registrant submitted her assessment on 26 March 2015; it still did not address the mother’s concerns.

74. In her written statement the Registrant said, “ a) and b) accepted.”

Particular 10: “Did not undertake and/or record a risk assessment on Child L's mother.”

75. The Panel found this particular proved. 

76. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: following a meeting on 06 November 2014, Child L was subject to a CPP under the category of emotional abuse.  His mother had mental health problems and was a sex worker.  She had become aggressive towards social workers and Child L’s father during the meeting.  One of the tasks allocated to the Registrant at the meeting was to assess Child L’s mother’s ability to parent.   There was no set timescale for completing this assessment as Child L moved to live with his father, but AW comments that her failure to do it at all was unacceptable.  Due to her mental health problems, Child L’s mother was unable to challenge a decision in the family court that Child L’s father should have custody of him.

77. In her written statement the Registrant said, “I did not carry out a risk assessment but the mother ruled herself out of the process.”
 
Particular 11: In relation to Child M, who was subject to a Child in Need Plan:
a)   Did not complete a Child in Need plan in sufficient detail or at all;
b)   Between 7 November 2014 and 21 January 2015, did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken visits to see Child M.

78.The Panel found these particulars proved.
 
79. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: during supervision on 21 January 2015, AW identified that the CIN plan for Child M was not complete.  This should have been completed within 35 days of the original referral on 03 September 2014. She also identified that the Registrant had not recorded any visits to Child M since 07 November 2014.  The Registrant was required to visit Child M every 6 weeks.

80. In her written statement the Registrant said, “… it is not clear who this is and I do not recall the family from the case notes in the bundle. Thus, I have no choice but to accept the allegations.”
 
Particular 12: “In relation to Family N, who were on a Child in Need plan:

a) Between on or around 18 November 2014 and 12 January 2015, did   not undertake visits to see all children in Family N.
b) Did not see four of the children on the visit undertaken on 18 November 2014.”

81.The Panel found these particulars proved.

82.In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the six children in Family N were on CIN Plans. The Registrant was required to visit them every 6 weeks.  However, between 18 November 2014 and 12 January 2015, she recorded no visits to the family.  Further, only 2 of the children had been seen on the last occasion she had visited the family.

83. In her written statement the Registrant said, “Again key not clear, but from the case notes I accept that not enough visits were made.”

Particular 13: “In relation to Family O, who were subject to a Child Protection Plan, between 9 May and 18 July 2013, undertook, and/or recorded that you had undertaken only one home visit where you saw the children on 16 May 2013”

84. The Panel found this particular proved.
 
85. In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: the children in Family O were made subject to a CPP on 09 May 2013 and the Registrant was allocated to their case.  Visits must be made to subjects of CPPs at a minimum of monthly.  A supervision record from May 2013 suggests that it was in fact agreed that the Registrant would visit fortnightly. However, by the time it reached a child protection conference on 18 July 2013, the only recorded home visit was on 16 May 2013. AW explains that it was important to visit the family at home since the Council’s concern was that the children were neglected.  A visit made to 2 of the 4 children at school on 13 June 2013 was not sufficient. 

86. In her written statement the Registrant said, “The children were seen regularly at school. I accept that I did not make enough visits to the home.”

Particular 14: “In relation to Child P, who was subject to a Child in Need Plan:
 
a) Did not visit Child P and/or his main carers within the statutory timescales;
b) Did not complete a Child in Need Plan;
c) Did not contact the adult protection team regarding Child P's needs.”

87.The Panel found these particulars proved. 

88.In making this decision it relied upon the evidence produced by the HCPC, specifically: Child P was diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD, and anxiety disorder. He lived with his grandparents who had contacted the team for help on 13 November 2014 following an ‘anger burst’ which had resulted in Child P holding her [grandmother] by the throat. Child P was subject to CIN Plan. AW explains that the Registrant failed to comply with statutory timescales for visits which were required at a minimum of every 6 weeks.  At supervision on 21 January 2015, she discovered that the Registrant had not visited Child P or his grandparents since the referral on 13 November 2014.

89. Further, the Registrant failed to complete a CIN Plan as required and did not follow AW’s instruction to contact the adult protection team. She explains that this left both Child P and his grandparents at risk.

90. In her written statement the Registrant said, “Child P – key not clear, but allegations accepted.”


Decision on Grounds

91. Having found all of the facts proved, the Panel went on to consider whether they amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence. It bore in mind the submissions made by Ms Chaker and the advice of the Legal Assessor. It also bore in mind the legal authorities to which it had been referred. The Panel first considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct. The Panel bore in mind that misconduct does need to be serious or behaviour that is dishonourable or disgraceful such that fellow practitioners would have regarded it as deplorable.

92. The Registrant is a highly experienced Social Worker. In her submissions and statements she demonstrated that she had a clear understanding of her duties and responsibilities. She failed to take proper care of the Service Users put into her care. She failed to keep her management or colleagues properly informed of the way in which she was so failing. She failed to keep adequate records thereby ensuring that others who may have to follow on her care had little or no information about the needs and requirements of the Service Users. The Registrant clearly understood what needed to be done but failed to do it. The Panel does accept that she may have had personal or medical problems which may have explained some of her failures. Those reasons could not however have excused them. The way in which she was practising was not safe for Service Users. When strategies were put in place by managers to ensure that the Registrant practised safely she circumvented those strategies by continuing to volunteer to accept further cases at the expense of those she was already looking after. All of this was done in the context of a Registrant whose workload in comparison with others was comparatively light.

93. In light of the experience of the Registrant and the fact that she had clear knowledge of her behaviour, the Panel does not consider that these identified failures amounted to a lack of competence. The Panel therefore concentrated on whether the failures amounted to misconduct.

94. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s behaviour breached the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012)
 
Standard 1: “You must act in the best interests of service users”
Standard 7: You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners.
Standard 10: “You must keep accurate records.”

95. All of the matters found proved showed a blatant disregard to the needs of Service Users and the Registrant’s duties as a registered Social Worker. Her failures were prolonged, repetitive and serious.  They put a large number of Service Users at risk of harm. The Panel considers that they clearly amounted to misconduct.
 
Decision on Impairment 

96.Having found that the matters found proved amounted to misconduct, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. It bore in mind the submissions made by Ms Chaker, the advice of the Legal Assessor and the practice note of ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired’.

97. The Panel considered the two component parts relating to impairment, the ‘personal’ component and the ‘public’ component. It first considered the ‘personal’ component, whether the conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and whether it was likely to be repeated.

98.The misconduct identified in this hearing took place over a long period of time. It was conduct that went to the heart of the Registrant’s professional responsibilities. She had a duty to look after those Service Users put in her care. She failed in that duty. No evidence has been put before the Panel that any part of the Registrant’s misconduct has been remedied or that it is unlikely to be repeated. The Registrant has shown some insight in her statement but the Panel does not consider that the insight shown is complete and therefore considers that there is a risk of repetition.  The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the ‘personal’ component of impairment.

99. The Panel is aware that it must also look to the ‘public’ component of impairment. It notes the passage in the practice note of ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired’ it is important for Panels to recognise that the need to address the “critically important public policy issues” identified in Cohen - to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession - means that they cannot adopt a simplistic view and conclude that fitness to practise is not impaired simply on the basis that, since the allegation arose, the registrant has corrected matters or “learned his or her lesson”.

100. Because of the serious nature of the misconduct found the Panel does conclude that this public element also applies in this case. The matters found proved involved vulnerable or potentially vulnerable Service Users. The Registrant had a responsibility for their care and welfare. She neglected that duty. The public, knowing the facts and findings in this case would be caused great concern and their confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired was not made.

101.The Panel therefore also finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the ‘public’ component.


Decision on Sanction

105. In coming to its decision on sanction the Panel has taken into account all the evidence in the case and has had regard to the submissions made by Ms Chaker on behalf of the HCPC and the written representations received from the Registrant. The Panel has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and has had careful regard to the HCPTS
Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP).

106. The Panel first identified what it considered to be the aggravating and mitigating features of the case and identified the following:

Aggravating

•A considerable number of vulnerable Service Users were put at significant risk of harm over a period of nearly two years.
• The efficacy of the Registrant's supervision sessions, which should have provided a safeguard against this unsafe practice, was undermined by the Registrant's behaviour in creating a false impression that all was well.
• Strategies adopted to help the Registrant cope with circumstances when she felt under pressure were subverted by the Registrant who, for her own reasons, ignored instructions not to take on extra work.
• Although the Registrant made a significant number of admissions in the case, her denials and excuses, which were not accepted by the Panel, demonstrated a significant current deficit in her insight.

Mitigating

• The Registrant has accepted that she was at fault in relation to most of the factual allegations.
• She has made an unreserved apology to her Service Users and her former colleagues.
• She has expressed regret and remorse for her behaviour.
• The Registrant had previously been able to function as a competent and respected social worker without any regulatory history. 
• It is apparent that the Registrant's health had some impact on her behaviour although the Panel has noted that efforts by her supervisors to mitigate that impact have at times been thwarted by the Registrant herself.

105. Bearing all these matters in mind the Panel then considered what, if any, sanction would be appropriate, noting that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish for past misconduct but to apply the least restrictive sanction that will be sufficient both to protect service users and the public, and to address the wider public interest in declaring and upholding proper standards and maintaining public confidence in the Social Work profession and the HCPC as its regulator.

106. The Panel first considered whether it should impose any sanction but determined that to take no action would be inappropriate as it would manifestly fail both to protect against the risk of repetition and to meet the wider public interest.

107. The Panel also rejected the option of a Caution Order for the same reasons. The misconduct in this case was not isolated, limited or relatively minor, and because of the limited nature of the Registrant's insight there is a significant risk of recurrence.

108. The Panel next considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be an appropriate sanction but noted that the Registrant's current position is that she has no intention of returning to social work and thus, even if the issues of concern in this case could be addressed by conditions, there are none which can be formulated at this stage. Furthermore, it is the Panel's view that the Registrant's misconduct is so serious that a Conditions of Practice Order would be insufficient to meet the wider public interest in terms of upholding proper standards and maintaining public confidence in the profession.

109. The Panel then considered whether a suspension order would be sufficient to meet the circumstances of this case and noted that the ISP provides that, "If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option. However, where there are no psychological or other difficulties preventing the registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings then suspension may be appropriate.”

110. The Panel has noted that the Registrant has shown some insight into her behaviour and considers that, although that insight is far from complete, she may have the potential to develop it further. In the view of the Panel, therefore, there is currently a possibility that the Registrant will be able to resolve her failings if she decides to do so. Whether or not she will do so is unclear at this stage because, although she has stated that she has "absolutely no intention or desire to return to social work ", she has also said that she "would like to be able to retain my registration if possible." Therefore, as the Panel does not consider that the Registrant's misconduct is so serious that she should not be given a chance to remedy her failings if she is willing and able to do so, it has taken the view that she should be given that chance. A suspension order would give the Registrant that opportunity without any risk to the public because it would be reviewed before its expiry and would only be lifted if the reviewing panel was satisfied that could be done without a risk to service users or the public.

111. Before determining that a suspension order was indeed the appropriate and proportionate sanction the Panel considered whether a striking off order would be more appropriate. The ISP provides that "Striking Off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant's inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate." However, the Panel does not consider that there is no other way to protect the public and, although the question remains open as to whether the Registrant will be willing or able to resolve her failings, the Panel believes she should be given the chance to do so. The Panel has already noted that the misconduct is not so serious that the wider public interest requires a striking off order and it therefore considers that, at this stage, a striking off order would be disproportionate as a suspension order will be sufficient both to protect the public and to meet the wider public interest.

112. Accordingly the decision of the Panel is that the necessary and proportionate sanction is a suspension order for a period of one year. This is the maximum period for which such an order can be imposed and, in the view of the Panel, is necessary to give the Registrant a realistic opportunity to address and remedy her failings should she choose to do so.

113. This suspension will be reviewed before it expires and, if the Registrant wishes to return to practice, she will need to persuade the reviewing panel that she is safe to do so. For that purpose it is the view of this Panel that a reviewing Panel would be likely to be assisted by clear evidence from the Registrant, supported by other independent and objective evidence, that she has developed full insight and convincingly addressed all the issues, health and otherwise, that may have contributed to her past failings. She should be in no doubt that, if she has not shown herself both willing and able to address her failings, then at a review the sanction of a striking off order will still be available.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Yvonne Caron Jean Mieville for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

The order imposed today will apply from 13 July 2017 (the operative date)

Notes

An Interim Suspension Order was imposed for a period of 18 months to cover the appeal period. 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Yvonne Caron Jean Mieville

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
12/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended