Miss Barbara Ann McEvoy
The following allegation was considered and found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 7 January 2016.
Between 15 January 2010 and 4 January 2012, during the course of your
employment as a Social Worker by Walsall Council, you:
1. On 15 October 2010, completed a management decision record (MDR) in relation to a referral in respect of Service User A, and you:
(a) Did not take into account the context of previous referrals;
(b) Did not ensure the history of the case has been fully considered by the allocated Social Worker;
(c) Did not ensure checks were conducted with:
(i) The police;
(ii) The relevant agencies and/or local authorities;
(iii) Service User A’s school and/or General Practitioner.
(d) Did not ensure and/or recommend that an initial assessment should be carried out.
2. Between 1 December 2011 and 2 December 2011, completed a MDR in relation to a referral in respect of Service User A, and you:
(a) Did not review the referral within the context of previous decisions made in relation to Service User A and/or her family;
(b) Did not ensure that checks were conducted:
(i) To establish the identity of Person B;
(ii) With the police;
(iii) With the relevant local authorities
(c) Did not ensure that a joint visit was undertaken;
(d) Did not ensure that a strategic discussion took place and/or that enquiries were undertaken under the provision of section 47 of The Children Act 1989.
3. On 4 January 2012, completed a MDR in relation to a referral in respect of Service User A, and you:
(a) Did not review historical records and/or information about the case;
(b) Did not consider pursuing action under section 47 of The Children Act 1989.
4. The matters described in paragraphs 1-3 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
5. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. This Panel was aware that written notice of these proceedings was posted by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address on 05 June 2017. The Panel was shown documents which established the fact of the service and the identity of the Registrant’s registered address. In these circumstances the Panel accepted that proper service of the notice had been effected.
Proceeding in Absence of the Registrant
2. Mr Claughton, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
3. The Panel has seen an email from the Registrant dated 03 July 2017 in which she stated that she will not be attending this hearing and further that she did “not wish to engage with the regulatory process”. She further stated that she had “reached state retirement age in March 2017 and I am now officially retired on a state pension. As it is the best part of 2 years since I have worked as a social worker, I am sure that you can conclude that I do not present any risk to the public”. She also made a number of comments as to the original panel’s determination.
4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
5. The Panel was aware of the need to consider the application to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with great caution. However after giving that application very careful thought, the Panel has determined to allow it. Its reasons are as follows;
• Notice of this hearing has been properly served on the Registrant.
• The Registrant has not applied for an adjournment and in the email referred to above, has stated that she will not be attending this hearing.
• The Registrant did not attend and was not represented at either of the two previous hearings.
• There is no reason to suppose that if an adjournment was granted the Registrant would attend.
• This is a mandatory review and the existing order will expire on 04 August 2017.
6. In all the circumstances the Registrant can be regarded as having waived her right to attend.
7. On 7 January 2016, a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of misconduct and imposed a nine-month Suspension Order. The findings related to three referrals in respect of Service User A between 15 October 2010 and 4 January 2012. In relation to the first referral, the Final Hearing panel found that the Registrant completed a Management Decision Record in relation to a referral for Service User A and did not take into account the context of previous referrals; did not ensure that the history of the case had been fully considered; did not ensure appropriate checks were conducted and did not ensure and/or recommend that an initial assessment should be carried out. The Final Hearing panel also found that, on a second occasion, the Registrant completed a Management Decision Record regarding a referral for Service User A and did not review the referral in the context of previous decisions made in relation to the Service User and/or her family; did not ensure appropriate checks were conducted; did not ensure that a joint visit was undertaken and did not ensure that a strategy discussion took place and/or that enquiries were undertaken under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. In addition, the Final Hearing panel found that, on a third occasion, the Registrant completed a Management Decision Record in relation to a referral in respect of Service User A and did not review historical records and/or information about the case and did not consider pursuing action under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.
8. On 04 October 2016 a panel (the reviewing panel) reviewed the original decision. The reviewing panel determined that the Registrant was still impaired. The reason for that decision was that the reviewing panel had not seen any evidence that the Registrant had addressed any of the deficiencies identified by the original panel and accordingly determined that the Registrant was still impaired.
9. The reviewing panel then addressed the question of sanction. For the reasons outlined by the reviewing panel in its determination, it decided that taking no action, imposing a caution order and imposing a conditions of practice order were all inappropriate. The reviewing panel determined that an extension of 9 months to the then existing suspension order “would achieve the necessary degree of public protection and that it would also give the registrant a further opportunity to demonstrate to a reviewing panel that she had addressed the matters which had brought her before the HCPC”. Referring to the option of a striking off order, the reviewing panel stated that “it would be disproportionate at this stage, given that her misconduct is remediable and that the previous panel had found that there had been belated and limited acknowledgement of her actions which showed emerging insight”.
10. The reviewing panel also referred to the fact that the extended order would be reviewed by another panel before its expiry. The reviewing panel indicated that the panel that conducted the review would be greatly assisted if the Registrant were to engage with the process and attend the hearing. It was also indicated that a reflective piece would be helpful together with evidence of the steps that the Registrant had taken to keep her practice up to date and her intentions for the future with regard to practising as a social worker.
11. Mr Claughton on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that the Registrant remains impaired. He referred to the email from the Registrant dated 03 July 2017 and stated that the Registrant had not produced a reflective piece as suggested by the reviewing panel and had further failed to produce any evidence of remediation or insight. He referred to the fact that the Registrant has stated that she has now retired. He submitted that in all the circumstances a further extension of the suspension order was inappropriate and could serve no purpose and that the only appropriate sanction would be a striking off order.
12. The Panel has noted and taken into account all the comments made by the Registrant in her email dated 03 July 2017.
13. This Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
14. This Panel is aware that it has all the powers that are set out in Article 30 (1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (The Order) and which are summarised in the letter dated 05 June 2017 addressed to the Registrant and giving notice of this hearing.
15. The task of this Panel is not to go behind the decision of the original panel; this Panel is aware that the process under Article 30 (1) of the Order is one of review and not one of appeal. Also that its function is to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practice is still impaired and if so whether the Suspension Order under review remains the appropriate and proportionate means of public protection or should be varied or replaced by some other order.
16. This Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is still impaired. In coming to this conclusion the Panel noted that the facts are largely the same as those that existed in January and October 2016. The Registrant has not adopted any of the suggestions made by the reviewing panel in October 2016 as to what would be helpful to this Panel when conducting this review. She has not produced any evidence that would establish remediation or full insight or evidence that she has addressed any of the deficiencies pervious established. Moreover given the fact that it seems that she has now retired it is hard to see how the previously established deficiencies could be addressed. In all the circumstances this Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired. The Panel further concluded that public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process would be undermined if a finding of current impairment was not made.
17. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is still impaired, this Panel proceeded to consider what order is appropriate, proportionate and sufficient to protect the public and safeguard the public interest. This Panel took into account the principles of proportionality balancing the interests of the Registrant with the public interest.
18. This Panel has had regard to the contents of the Indicative Sanctions Policy and is aware that sanctions should be considered in ascending order of severity. This Panel is aware that the purpose of sanctions is not punitive, but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest. The latter objective includes maintaining standards within the profession, together with public confidence in the profession and in its regulatory processes.
19. This Panel has concluded that to take no action, thus allowing the present order to lapse, or to impose a caution order would be inappropriate having regard to the nature and gravity of the matters found proved. Such outcomes would not sufficiently protect the public or the public interest.
20. This Panel concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate. The Registrant has stated that she has retired and is on a state pension. In these circumstances the Panel concluded that appropriate conditions could not be formulated.
21. This Panel concluded that a further extension of the Suspension Order was inappropriate. The Panel kept in mind that the Registrant had been suspended for 18 months. However the Panel noted that notwithstanding the fact that the Registrant had had ample opportunity to do so, she has produced no evidence of remediation or full insight. She has not responded to the positive suggestions made by the reviewing panel in October 2016. The Registrant has not produced any evidence that she has addressed the deficiencies previously established. The Panel also took into account the fact that the Registrant has stated that she has retired. However this does not preclude the Registrant from returning to social work practice. In all the circumstances the Panel determined that a further suspension order would serve no purpose and was inappropriate. Accordingly the Panel has concluded that a striking off order is the only appropriate sanction that would protect the public and address the wider public interest.