Mrs Jacqueline Ann Thornely

: Social worker

: SW68091

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 17/08/2017 End: 12:00 17/08/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Hartlepool Borough Council

1. In respect of Child A, you did not:

 

a) conduct checks with the Police in respect of:

i) the father’s conviction

ii) any criminal record in respect of the grandparents and/or

 

b) conduct an assessment of the paternal grandparents capacity to protect Child A

 

2. In relation to Child/Family A, in your initial/risk assessment you did not adequately analyse and/or demonstrate your analysis of:

 

a) the information received from the Emergency Duty Team

b) the information contained within referrals and/or information received from a Social Services department in Scotland

c) the information contained within referrals and/or information received from National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

d) the information received regarding the mother’s and/or father’s propensity to be dishonest

 

3. As a result of your actions in respect of paragraphs 1 and 2 your risk assessment was inadequate.

 

4. In respect of Child A, you did not record a telephone conversation with the Social Worker in Scotland dated 2 September 2013 in to the case notes until 16 October 2013.

 

5. In respect of Child B, you created a record in the case notes stating words to the effect that you had shown the assessment to Family B and that there were happy with it.

 

6. The record referred to above at paragraph 5 was incorrect as that meeting/visit had not taken place.

 

7. Your conduct in respect of paragraph 5 was:

 

a) Misleading

b) Dishonest

 

8. The matters described in paragraphs 1-7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice

1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 17 July 2017. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Brzezina on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Brzezina submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She further submitted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC, and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. She drew the Panel’s attention to the email dated 15 August 2017 received from the Registrant wherein the Registrant indicated that she would not be attending this hearing and that she was not interested in this matter. Ms Brzenzina reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. The Panel 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 had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing.

8. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPC practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

9. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing and implicit in her email dated 15 August 2017 is an expectation that today’s hearing proceeds in her absence;
• The Registrant appears to have dis-engaged with the process and has indicated that she has removed herself from the social work arena;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.

10. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. There is a distinction between a case where the Registrant is clearly aware of the hearing date, and one where there has been no response from the Registrant. The Panel determined that it was unlikely an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date. It did so in the light of the content of her email dated 15 August 2017 which said, “I have removed myself from this arena and really could not care what may happen in the review” from the Registrant. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background

11. The Registrant qualified as a Social Worker in 2005. After working for other organisations she commenced working for Hartlepool Borough Council (the local authority) on a permanent basis in October 2007. She first worked in the long-term children’s team. In 2011 she transferred to the local authority’s initial response team, and was still working in that team when the events being considered by the Panel occurred.

12. Particulars 1 to 4 inclusive, of the HCPC’s allegation concerned the Registrant’s dealings with the circumstances of Child A.

13. Child A’s father had a long history of substance abuse. He also had a number of criminal convictions, including a lengthy custodial sentence for a sexual offence. There had also been domestic abuse within the relationship between Child A’s father and mother. In the past, family circumstances had resulted in the removal of four children. When the mother was pregnant with Child A, the social services department in Scotland (SSDS) assessed the risks to have been reduced in the light of the end of the relationship between father and mother, and as a consequence Child A was not removed from the mother. Subsequently, concerns arose that the father and mother had renewed their relationship, and when the mother moved from Scotland to Hartlepool, the SSDS became concerned that risk in relation to Child A had increased. At a Court hearing in Scotland on 29 August 2013 it was decided that Child A should remain with the mother, but the SSDS stated that if the father became involved they would seek to remove Child A. The SSDS initially contacted the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) of the local authority on 19 August 2013, but the referral that resulted in the allocation of the case to the Registrant was made by the SSDS on 29 August 2013. It was allocated to the Registrant the following day, 30 August 2013. She made her first visit to the family on 2 September 2013 and the following day visited the father at Child A’s paternal grandparents’ address. On 3 September 2013 there was a referral from the NSPCC, and then on 5 September 2013 a further urgent concern was raised by the SSDS. As a result the Registrant made a further visit on 6 September 2013. The Registrant completed an initial assessment on 9 September 2013.

14. Particulars 5, 6, and 7 concerned a completely different matter. A referral was received in relation to Child B, a teenage boy, on 4 September 2013. The referral was made by the Police Vulnerability Unit and was founded upon an allegation that Child B had exposed himself. The case was referred to the Registrant, who visited the family at home on 12 September 2013. She completed an initial assessment the following day. She was required to share her assessment with the family. The HCPC’s case against the Registrant was that although no follow-up visit was made to the parents, on 2 October 2013, the Registrant entered on to the local authority’s electronic recording system, the following entry relating to 1 October 2013: “H/V [home visit] to share assessment with parents. They are quite satisfied.” The HCPC alleged that the entry had a misleading effect and that the Registrant had acted dishonestly in making it.

15. The HCPC found the allegation proved and made a Conditions of Practice order for 2 years. This required, amongst other things, that the Registrant provided a reflective piece within 6 months of the date of the order. The Registrant complied with that condition in December 2015 and the Panel has had sight of that essay.

Decision:

Submissions

16. Ms Brzezina, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that in the light of the lack of engagement on the part of the Registrant apart from the reflective piece, the Panel has no information as to the current circumstances of the Registrant. Ms Brzezina submitted that the reflective piece did not demonstrate full insight on the part of the Registrant. She also submitted that as the Registrant has indicated that she is no longer working as a Social Worker, she has not been able to demonstrate that she has remediated her misconduct. Ms Brzezina further submitted that as the Registrant has indicated that she has left the profession, there is little likelihood of the Registrant re-engaging with the process and demonstrating remediation of her misconduct.

Legal advice

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

18. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:
‘Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired by reason of her misconduct in the sense that she:
a) is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) is liable in the future to bring the Social Work profession into disrepute; and/or
c) is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession; and/or
d) is liable in the future to act dishonestly?

19. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired all the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. He also advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principle of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. 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.

Panel’s considerations and decision

20. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. 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 submission of Ms Brzezina. In particular it noted the following factors:
(a) This is a case of misconduct and there is no suggestion that the Registrant lacked the requisite competence to carry out the role of a Social Worker. Hence this is a case where the Registrant’s insight is of greater importance.
(b) The reflective piece submitted by the Registrant in December 2015 which showed limited acceptance of her responsibility for her shortcomings. It failed to reassure the Panel that she really understood the impact on others of these shortcomings.
(c) The lack of positive engagement of the Registrant with the process.

21. The Panel determined that is no evidence before it today that could satisfy it that the Registrant’s fitness to practice was no longer impaired. The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC since the submission of her reflective piece. Her lack of engagement in the process and her email of 15 August 2017 demonstrated that she is no longer committed to the profession. Furthermore, in her reflective piece does not demonstrate insight into her misconduct. She states that she regretted her actions but that the culture in Hartlepool Borough Council was of falsifying records as the workload was unmanageable.

22. In the light of all the above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

23. The Panel then went on to consider what the appropriate and proportionate sanction should be. It had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Guide issued by the HCPC and considered the available sanctions in order of severity, starting with the least restrictive. In the light of the lack of positive engagement and commitment to the profession on the part of the Registrant, the Panel determined that it was not appropriate to take no further action, nor was it appropriate to impose a caution.

24. The Panel considered extending the Conditions of Practice Order but determined that such a course of action was not appropriate in the light of the Registrant’s indication in her email of the 15 August 2017, that she has “the means to support myself without the insult of being a Social Worker”.

25. The Panel also determined that in the light of the above, an order suspending the Registrant’s registration for a period of time would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest.

26. Therefore the only appropriate and proportionate response at this stage is the removal of the Registrant’s name from the register.

27. The Panel first considered whether a short extension of the current order to facilitate a Voluntary Removal Agreement would be appropriate. However, the Panel determined that this would not be appropriate nor would it serve the public interest for the following reasons:
(a) The Registrant would have to engage with the process in order for the Voluntary Removal Process to be viable; and
(b) The Registrant would have to fully accept the previous Panel’s findings in relation to her misconduct and dishonesty which she has not.

28. The Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction now is to strike the Registrant’s name off the Register.

 

Order

ORDER: the Registrar is to strike the Registrant’s name off the register upon the expiry of the current Order.

The order imposed today will apply from 17 September 2017.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Jacqueline Ann Thornely

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
17/08/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice