Mrs Joyce Evelyn McConlough
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Liverpool City Council:
1. On or around 13 February 2014, in relation to an assessment in accordance with section 47 of the Children Act 1989, you:
a. did not meet with Child A;
b. recorded on Liverpool City Council case management system that you had spoken with Child A to obtain her views when you had not.
2. Your actions as set out in paragraph 1.b. were dishonest.
3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-2 constitute misconduct.
4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant at her registered address.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Registrant did not appear nor was she represented. She had not attended the final hearing in 2016 and there has been no contact with the HCPC since 2015.
3. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Middleton applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. Ms Middleton therefore submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.
4. Having considered the revised HCPC Practice Note on proceeding in absence and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba  EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable notice of today’s hearing. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment. There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned. The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.
5. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker with Liverpool City Council. She was allocated the case of Child A in 2014 following a referral stating that the child’s mother’s former partner had inappropriately touched the child on a number of occasions. The Registrant recorded a visit to the child’s home on 13 February 2014 and her assessment that no further action was necessary. The case was later taken over by another Social Worker in September 2014. Child A and her mother disclosed that Child A had never met the Registrant.
6. The Registrant did not appear and nor was she represented before the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC at a final hearing on 11-12 August 2016. She was found to have acted dishonestly in recording a meeting with Child A and in recording that she had spoken with Child A to ascertain her views when she had done neither.
7. The Panel at the final hearing found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct. The Panel considered the personal component in relation to the Registrant’s own practice as a Social Worker and any evidence of insight, remorse or remediation and the public component in relation to protection of service users and the need to declare and uphold proper professional standards. The Registrant was found to pose a risk of harm to those in her care. There was no evidence of insight or remediation and a consequent risk of repetition.
8. The Panel at the final hearing imposed a Suspension Order of 12 months. The case was too serious for any lesser order. The Panel at the final hearing considered that the misconduct was remediable and that a period of suspension would give the Registrant an opportunity to re-engage with the process and demonstrate insight. The Registrant was advised that the following may assist her case on review:-
• The attendance of the Registrant;
• An indication as to her future plans in relation to her career;
• A reflective piece by the Registrant. This should concentrating on what led to her misconduct, how her actions impacted, or could have impacted on service users. It should also reflect upon what changes are needed and the steps she has put in place to remediate her misconduct.
• Information about any employment paid or unpaid since this incident;
• Evidence of the Registrant keeping her practice up to date, including a log of her continuing professional development (CPD). This may involve undertaking relevant training.
• Up to date references from an employer(s), paid or unpaid, who are aware of these proceedings.
9. This is the first review hearing. The HCPC has had no communication with the Registrant. Ms Middleton for the HCPC reminded the Panel of the history of the case and of the Panels powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the order or imposing another order. She submitted that this was a serious matter and there were continuing concerns about the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Social Worker, in the absence of any information as to her circumstances. Accordingly, it was submitted that her fitness to practise remains impaired.
10. In relation to sanction, Ms Middleton for the HCPC submitted that a further Suspension Order of 6-12 months was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in order to protect the public and to give the Registrant one further opportunity to demonstrate engagement and remediation.
11. A substantive review is a two stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness of practise is currently impaired and if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon her registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPC Practice Notes on Impairment and Indicative Sanctions Policy and the necessity for proportionality. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
12. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the facts of the original case.
13. The Panel accepted the submissions made on behalf of the HCPC that the Registrant had failed to engage with the regulatory process or to submit any evidence of insight or remediation. The original allegation was a very serious matter of misconduct that placed a service user at risk. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. In making this finding, the Panel had in mind the absence of any information about the Registrant’s current circumstances and the need to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession.
14. The nature of the misconduct was too serious to make no order or to consider mediation. The Panel considered whether to impose a Caution Order, but decided that it was inappropriate, because there was no evidence of insight or remediation and it would not provide sufficient public protection.
15. The Panel then considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate or workable, but concluded that the absence of any information about the Registrant’s current circumstances made such an order impossible to formulate. A Conditions of Practice Order requires commitment on the part of the Registrant, but there has been no such engagement in this case.
16. The Panel considered the HCPC’s submission that the current Suspension Order should be extended by 6-12 months. The original findings related to a serious matter of misconduct, including dishonesty. There was no indication of insight or remediation. The Panel therefore decided that a further Suspension Order was necessary and proportionate for the purpose of public protection at this stage. A shorter duration of 6 months may also have the effect of concentrating the Registrant’s mind on the need to engage with her regulator and demonstrate remediation if she is to return to her profession.
17. The Panel considered the sanction of striking-off, in view of the gravity of the original findings and the absence of engagement, but considered that the Registrant should have at least one more opportunity. This Panel adopts the suggestion of the previous Panel as to the action that the Registrant could take in order to show engagement and insight at the next review hearing, as set out at paragraph 8 above.