Mr Reginald Anthony Frankum

: Social worker

: SW25628

Interim Order: Imposed on 16 Apr 2015

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:12:30 15/08/2017 End: 17:00 15/08/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 13-15 February 2017 (as amended at the Final Hearing):

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Bolton Council, you:

1. Not Proved.

2. Following receipt of an email from the NSPCC dated 11 July 2014 raising safeguarding concerns in respect of Person F’s contact with Family A you did not:

a) identify the risks of harm posed by Person F to Children A, B and C;

b) notify your managers of these concerns in a timely manner;

c) Not Proved;

d) Not Proved;

e) discuss the concerns in the Core Group Meeting on 13 August 2014;

f) discuss the concerns in the Core Group Meeting on 18 September 2014.

3. Following notification that Person F had been arrested for allegations of rape on or around 20 October 2014 you did not:

a) notify a team manager in a timely manner;

b) Not Proved.

4. The matters set out in paragraph 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.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. Notice of today’s hearing was sent to the Registrant at his address as it appears on the HCPC Register on 14 July 2017 by first class post, and contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing. The Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”) require that a Notice of Hearing must contain the above information and be sent to the Registrant at their registered address not less than 28 days before the date of the hearing. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and is satisfied that Notice of today’s hearing has been properly served in accordance with the Rules. The Registrant has not notified the HCPC about any changes to his registered address.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. Ms Akinfenwa submitted that the Panel has the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant if good service has been effected. He has made no response to the Notice of today’s hearing and has not engaged with the HCPC since May 2015, two years before the Final Hearing. This is a mandatory review and the order is due to expire on 15 September 2017. Ms Akinfenwa told the Panel that an e-mail was sent to the Registrant yesterday but no response has been received.

3. Ms Akinfenwa submitted that the Registrant has not sought an adjournment and that the Panel can be satisfied that the Registrant’s absence today is voluntary and he has waived his right to attend or be represented. The Registrant has not engaged since May 2015. An adjournment would serve no useful purpose and there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously. It was in the public interest and in the Registrant’s interest to proceed today and, if an order is made, he can seek an early review.

4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel has the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He reminded the Panel that it should exercise that discretion with care. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and to the recent case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162. This case makes clear that the first question the Panel should ask is whether all reasonable efforts have been made to serve the Registrant with Notice. Thereafter, if the Panel is satisfied that proper Notice has been given, the discretion whether or not to proceed must be exercised having regard to all the circumstances of which the Panel is aware, with fairness to the Registrant being a prime consideration, but fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public also taken into account.

5. The Panel agreed to proceed in the Registrant’s absence as it is satisfied that it is both in the public interest and in the Registrant’s interest to do so. In reaching this decision, the Panel has noted there has been no request for an adjournment and the Panel finds that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself and no useful purpose would be served by adjourning the hearing. It balanced fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the public interest and took account of the fact that this is a mandatory review. The Panel weighed its responsibilities for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to be present at the hearing. In these circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that it is appropriate to proceed in his absence.

Background

6. The Registrant is an HCPC registered Social Worker. He started working at Bolton Council (the Council) in 1994 and worked there as a Social Worker from 1996. He was working in the Safeguarding Team and was responsible for children in need, as a Grade 8 Social Worker from 1996. On 14 March 2014, the Registrant’s Line Manager allocated Children A, B and C (the Children) of Family A to the Registrant. The case was allocated to the Registrant because it was a complex case involving a number of siblings who were subject to Child Protection Plans and he was an experienced Social Worker.

7. On Monday 30 June 2014, the Registrant carried out a statutory visit to see the Children, such visits being required on a regular basis when children are subject to a Child Protection Plan so that the Social Worker can check the children’s welfare, assess their home conditions, or carry out specific work. On Thursday 3 July 2014, the Registrant discussed the case and his visit to the Children with the Looked-After Children Team Manager. It was agreed during this discussion that contact between the Children and the child’s father would be stopped and they would speak to the NSPCC to get more information before considering a strategy meeting. On Wednesday 30 July 2014, a strategy meeting was held and on Friday 11 July 2014, an email was sent to the Registrant from a worker at the NSPCC, following a session which she had held with Child A which raised concerns about the sexual boundaries in the Children’s home, and specifically in respect of Child A’s stepfather. In that email, it was suggested that she and the Registrant conduct a home visit the following week. A strategy meeting with the police and the NSPCC was arranged by the Registrant.

8. On 13 August 2014 and 18 September 2014, Core Group Meetings were held in respect of the Children, and attendees at both of these meetings included the Registrant and the Children’s mother. On 20 October 2014, the Registrant received a telephone call from the Children’s mother informing him that the stepfather had been arrested the day before for an allegation of historical rape of a child some years earlier. The Registrant visited the Children’s mother that day and told her that the stepfather must not be allowed to have contact with her or the Children, to which the mother agreed. On Friday 24 October 2014, Children A, B and C were removed from the care of their mother.

9. It is alleged that the Registrant did not adequately safeguard the Children in respect of suspected sexual abuse. The alleged failures in respect of safeguarding the children included: delay in arranging a strategy meeting concerning Children A, B and C following a statutory visit to them on 30 June 2014; not identifying the risk of harm posed by the stepfather to the Children following receipt of an email from the NSPCC dated 11 July 2014 raising concerns; not notifying his manager of the concerns raised in the NSPCC email in respect of the stepfather in a timely manner; not arranging a strategy meeting in light of those concerns in a timely manner; not discussing the concerns raised in the NSPCC emails in Core Group Meetings held in August 2014 September 2014; not informing a team manager that the stepfather had been arrested for rape in a timely manner; and not conducting a joint visit to Family A in a timely manner. On 7 November 2014 the Registrant was suspended from duty by Bolton Council, who instigated a disciplinary process.

10. The Final Hearing took place on 13-15 February 2017. Particulars 2(a), 2(b), 2(e), 2(f) and 3(a) were found proved. That panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months, and this is the first review of that Suspension Order.

The Submissions for the HCPC

11. Ms Akinfenwa referred the Panel to the decision of the panel at the Final Hearing, who had found the Registrant impaired by reason of his misconduct. It had imposed a 6-month Suspension Order. Ms Akinfenwa advised that the current Suspension Order expires on 15 September 2017. She referred to the powers available to the Panel on review and referred it to the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”.

12. Ms Akinfenwa said the allegations found proved were serious failings in respect of vulnerable children. The failures were found to be capable of remediation but there was no evidence from the Registrant at the Final Hearing regarding insight or remediation. No information has been provided by the Registrant to this hearing and the risk of repetition remained. There was no evidence of insight or any remediation.

13. Ms Akinfenwa submitted that given the lack of engagement by the Registrant, Conditions of Practice could not be formulated. The panel at the Final Hearing had suggested information that may assist a Reviewing Panel, but there has been no engagement by the Registrant and none of the information suggested had been provided. Given the lack of engagement by the Registrant, Ms Akinfenwa submitted that it may be that the failings are no longer remediable and that a Striking Off Order may be appropriate. It may also be appropriate to continue the Suspension Order if the Panel is satisfied it provides the necessary level of protection of the public.

14. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if he is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role is not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations, nor is it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment on the basis of the evidence before it.

15. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, it had the powers on review under Article 30 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the HCPC’s “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.

Decision on Impairment

16. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it and the submissions of Ms Akinfenwa. It determined that there is nothing upon which the Panel can judge the level of insight the Registrant has, if any, into his failings. The Panel cannot assess any steps he has taken to remedy his practice as he has provided no information to this Panel. Accordingly, the Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

Decision on Sanction

17. The Panel then went on to consider what action, if any, it should take in light of its finding of current impairment. In doing so, it had careful regard to the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. The Panel is concerned that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC to any extent.

18. The Panel first considered whether it would be appropriate to take no further action or to make a Caution Order. The Panel is of the view, given the seriousness of the allegation found proved and the lack of any evidence of insight and remediation by the Registrant, that neither order would be appropriate. Such orders would not be sufficient to address the misconduct found proved, nor would it satisfy the public interest.

19. The Panel considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be an appropriate sanction but determined that in the absence of any information about the Registrant’s current circumstances, a realistic or workable Conditions of Practice Order could not be formulated.

20. The Panel then considered a Suspension Order. It has carefully considered whether extending the current Suspension Order would be proportionate and appropriate. The Panel is concerned that the Registrant has not engaged with these proceedings and has not provided any information to the Panel, despite the suggestions made by the previous Panel at the final hearing.

21. On balance, the Panel considers that, at this stage, an extension of the existing Suspension Order for a further 6 months is proportionate and appropriate. That order will adequately protect the public and the public interest. It will provide an opportunity for the Registrant to engage and to demonstrate insight, remorse and remediation in respect of his misconduct.

22. The Panel consider the following may assist a future reviewing Panel:

• A reflective piece demonstrating insight, reflecting on his failures and the impact on service users and on public confidence in the profession;

• Evidence of any relevant courses and CPD undertaken;

• Relevant testimonials and references of any paid or unpaid work.

23. The Panel carefully considered Striking Off the Registrant at this point. The Panel is concerned to note the continuing lack of engagement by the Registrant and the lack of any insight or remorse. However, at this stage the Panel find that it would not be proportionate to make a Striking Off Order.

24. The Panel decided to impose a Suspension Order for a further period of 6 months.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Reginald Anthony Frankum for a further period of 6 months on the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 15 September 2017.

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 15 March 2018.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Reginald Anthony Frankum

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
01/02/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
15/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
13/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
30/08/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
03/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
14/03/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Conditions of Practice
02/03/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Hearing has not yet been held
16/12/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Conditions of Practice
01/10/2015 Investigating committee Interim Order Review Interim Conditions of Practice
16/04/2015 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Interim Conditions of Practice