Ms Deborah Jacqueline Jackson

: Social worker

: SW75127

: Review Hearing

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

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

The following allegation was found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 26 March 2015:


During the course of your employment as a social worker with CAFCASS, you
1) In relation to child DO and EO;
a) did not record case updates;
b) required three extensions from the court to prepare the ordered initial analysis and recommendations;
c) did not attend court on time on 26 September 2012.
2) Did not, as at the file audit on 31 January 2011, in relation to case:
a) 356017;
i. [FOUND NOT PROVED];
ii. Maintain an adequate case plan;
iii. [FOUND NOT PROVED].
b) 377486;
i. Update the case plan;
ii. Analyse the local authority proposals;
iii. Complete the case plane closure form.
c) 396440
i. Record case plan;
ii. Record contact log and notes of any meetings/interviews
iii. Ensure all reports were on file
d) 376033
i. Update case plan;
ii. Record a contact log;
iii. Ensure all reports were on file.
e) 331334
i. Adequately update the case plan;
ii. Address the local authority care plan;
iii. Record all interventions in contact log.
f) 338210
i. Complete case plan;
ii. Keep up to date contact log;
iii. Ensure all reports were on file;
3) The matters described in 1-2 constitute lack of competence.
4) By reason of your lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:
Service
1. The Panel was informed that an original Notice of Hearing was sent to the Registrant’s address, as it appears on the HCPC Register, on 18 July 2017. The Panel was satisfied that good service had been effected in accordance with Rules 3 and 5 of the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (‘the Rules’) and it was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken by the HCPC to inform the Registrant of today’s proceedings.
Application to Proceed in Absence
2. Ms Corbett, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules.  She referred the Panel to the fact that the Registrant contacted the HCPC on 15 August 2017 by telephone. She subsequently contacted the HCPC in writing on 17 August 2017 explaining that she could not attend the hearing due to a health condition. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment.
3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, that the decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant is a decision to be taken with the utmost care and caution.  The Panel had regard to the relevant Practice Note including the criteria set out in R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5 and the guidance in General Medical Council v Adeogba / Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162. In particular the Panel noted that it must consider whether to proceed by reference to all the circumstances of which it is aware, with fairness to the practitioner being of prime importance, but fairness to the regulator and the public interest also being taken into account.
4. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not sought an adjournment. It was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made to serve the Registrant with the notice of hearing and concluded that she had voluntarily absented herself from the proceedings. The Panel noted that there is a statutory requirement to review this order before 24 September 2017 and that the Registrant had made representations in her communication of 17 August 2017 from which the Panel could infer that she was content for the hearing to go ahead in her absence. There was nothing to indicate that the Registrant was likely to attend a subsequent hearing if the matter was adjourned. The Panel therefore determined that there would be no useful purpose in adjourning the matter and concluded that, in all the circumstances, it was in the public interest for this matter to proceed expeditiously today.
Background:
5. At the relevant time, the Registrant was employed by the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS.) There was in place an Electronic Case File System (ECF.) Following an audit of the Registrant’s caseload it was found that there were significant inadequacies in her record keeping using this system. Furthermore, there were failures by the Registrant to submit, in a timely fashion, an Initial Analysis and Recommendations document to the court. Moreover, in regard to that particular case she had failed to attend the court on time.
6. As a result of these failings, following an internal capability procedure, the Registrant was dismissed with effect from 14 December 2012.
7. On 26 March 2015 the original Panel determined that the matters found proved amounted to a lack of competence and it found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired.
8. In regard to sanction, that Panel imposed a Conditions of Practice Order to enable the Registrant to address the deficiencies that were identified in her practice, thereby protecting Service Users and maintaining public confidence in the profession.
9. That Panel did consider whether to impose a Suspension Order, but concluded that this would be disproportionate to the nature of the deficiencies that were identified. Furthermore, it would not enable the Registrant to resume practice and to bring her record keeping to the standard required of a competent practitioner.
10. A Conditions of Practice Order for 12 months was imposed on 26 March 2016 in the following terms:
1) For the consideration of a future review panel:
a. You must provide a personal reflective statement on the importance of accurate and up-to-date record keeping in social work practice;
b. You must pursue a structured approach to maintaining your professional knowledge and skills through self-directed study and through attendance at IT skills training and other development events relevant to your continued practice;
c. On taking up a new post, you must seek training on the case recording system used by the organisation concerned – such training to be provided either as part of induction or separately;
d. You must provide documentary evidence of compliance with 1a. to 1c. above.
2) You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a senior social work practitioner, registered with the HCPC, from whom you can seek guidance and support on managing your caseload and case files. You should seek quarterly reports from your supervisor on the appropriateness and timeliness of your record keeping that you will then make available to a future review panel.
3) You must promptly inform the HCPC when you take up further employment as a social worker, providing details of your employer and your role.
4) You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:
a. Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work;
b. Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application);
c. Any prospective employer (at the time of application).
11. At a review hearing on 18 April 2016 the Reviewing Panel found that the Registrant, in an email to the HCPC, had demonstrated some insight, albeit there was no evidence that she had addressed the issues in her practice. That Panel concluded that her fitness to practise remained impaired. With regard to sanction, it determined that the existing Conditions of Practice should remain for a further period of 12 months. It considered that the Order would provide a framework, structure and time to enable the Registrant to fully remediate the shortcomings in her practice and demonstrate that her practice is no longer impaired by reason of her lack of competence.
12. At a review hearing on 24 March 2017 the Reviewing Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired by reason of her lack of competence.  There had been no engagement with the HCPC since the e-mail received on 18 April 2016 and the Registrant had not responded to the suggestions made at the previous review with regard to matters which the reviewing Panel would find to be of assistance. There was therefore nothing to indicate that she had remedied her failings. In the absence of any evidence of remediation, the Panel identified a risk of repetition and a consequent risk to Service Users.  In respect of sanction, the Panel considered that it could not be satisfied that she had a continuing commitment to practice. It therefore determined that the only appropriate and sufficient sanction was a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months. This would afford the Registrant a further opportunity to take appropriate steps to remedy her lack of competence.
13. The reviewing Panel suggested that at any further review the Panel would be assisted by;
a) The Registrant’s attendance at the hearing.
b) A personal reflective statement indicating how she has modified her practice, on record keeping, and how that has made a difference to her record keeping.
c) Evidence of maintaining her professional knowledge and skills.
d) Evidence of any training she had undertaken in relation to record keeping.
e) Up to date testimonials from any organisation where she has undertaken voluntary work paid or unpaid.
Decision:
14. This is a review of the substantive Suspension Order imposed on 24 March 2017, which replaced a Conditions of Practice Order imposed on 26 March 2015 and which was reviewed on 18 April 2016 and 24 March 2017. This order is due to expire on 24 September 2017.
15. The Panel heard representations on behalf of the HCPC and considered the written representations of the Registrant dated 17 August 2017. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  It also considered a bundle of documentation from the HCPC comprising 47 pages.
16. At this stage, the Panel was not undertaking a rehearing of the matters which were brought against the Registrant, nor going behind previous findings. The Panel reminded itself that the decision as to what is the appropriate and proportionate disposal at this review hearing is a matter for its judgment alone. The Panel recognised that, at a review, it has to consider whether the concerns raised, in the finding of impairment through lack of competence, have been sufficiently addressed to its satisfaction.  In practical terms this means that there is a burden on the practitioner, at a review, to persuade the Panel that she has acknowledged past failings, and has sufficiently addressed past impairment. The Panel also noted the requirements which might assist the review hearing which were indicated to the Registrant on 24 March 2017.
Impairment:
17. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, had regard to the HCPC Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”, dated July 2013 and noted the guidance in the case of Meadows v GMC [2007] 1 All ER 1, and Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927.
18. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not been employed since December 2012.  She expressed a wish to return to social work and acknowledged that she will need to address the issues identified at the final hearing and the previous review hearings.  She also recognised the need to update her knowledge and skills in terms of her practice within the area of child protection.  Within her written representations, the Registrant also submitted that she understood that record keeping is essential to her professional role and that she intends to undertake specific e-learning in this respect before seeking paid or voluntary work. She stated that, in August 2016, she had applied for a ‘Come Back to Social Work’ training course, but had been unsuccessful as the course was oversubscribed. She also said she had read many documents on record keeping since 2012 and will continue to do so.  She encouraged the Panel not to impose a further Suspension Order in order to assist her return to social work.
19. However, the Panel noted that the Registrant had not responded to the suggestions made at the previous review with regard to matters which this Panel would find to be of assistance, as set out above in paragraph 13. Her representations provided an overview of her wishes and activities rather than furnishing the Panel with specific detail of any practical steps taken to address the shortcomings in her professional practice. For example, there was no evidence that she had reapplied for the ‘Come Back to Social Work’ training course, nor was there any evidence that the Registrant had enrolled for the e-learning programmes she said wished to undertake.  There was no reflective statement and no detail regarding the reading she said she had undertaken since 2012. The telephone communication of 15 August 2017 was the first engagement by the Registrant with her Regulator since April 2016.
20. In the absence of any evidence of remediation and insight into her failings, the Panel identified a risk of repetition and an associated risk of harm to Service Users. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of her lack of competence both on a personal level and also in the wider public interests of maintaining standards in the profession and confidence in the regulatory process.
Sanction:
21. The Panel is aware that the purpose of any sanction is not to be punitive, though it may have a punitive effect. The Panel has borne in mind that its primary function at this stage is to protect the public, while reaching a proportionate sanction, taking into account the wider public interest and those of the Registrant. In so doing, the Panel has taken account of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, applying it to the Registrant’s case on its own facts and circumstances.
22. In determining the appropriate and proportionate sanction, the Panel had regard to the serious and repetitive nature of the Registrant’s lack of competence and bore in mind the lack of engagement with the HCPC for almost 16 months before she made contact just prior to this hearing.
23. The Panel first considered taking no action and allowing the order to expire on 24 September 2017. However, it concluded that this would be inappropriate and would not be sufficient to protect service users, given the risk of repetition identified.  The Panel considered that this was not an appropriate case for mediation and that a Caution Order would be insufficient.
24. The Panel was unable to formulate any workable or practicable conditions of practice, given the fact that the Registrant had failed to comply with the conditions of practice or taken advantage of a number of opportunities over the last two years during the regulatory process to address her lack of competence.
25. The Panel carefully considered whether to confirm or extend the current Suspension Order and was mindful that the purpose of such an order includes a Registrant being able to demonstrate that his/her fitness to practise is no longer impaired at the time the order is reviewed. The Panel noted that the Registrant has been given several opportunities to demonstrate that she has addressed the issues identified at the final hearing on 26 March 2015 and has, thus far, not done so. Due to the lack of response in this respect and, therefore, the Registrant’s apparent failure to address those issues, the Panel determined that there is no useful purpose served by the imposition of a further term of suspension.
26. The Panel noted that the Registrant has now been continuously suspended or subject to a Conditions of Practice Order for a period in excess of two years and accordingly considered that a Striking Off Order is now appropriate.  There has been a persistent failure to address the issues which gave rise to the substantive orders. There is an absence of evidence of any remediation on the part of the Registrant and the Panel has been unable to assess what levels of insight (if any) the Registrant has into her failings.  In all of these circumstances, the Registrant presents a continuing risk to the public if she is allowed to practise in the future. The Registrant has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to resolve matters which suggests that any other sanction is now inappropriate. There is no information available that the Panel may look to, which may make it possible to construct a route back into practice for the Registrant. In these circumstances this order is now an appropriate and proportionate sanction which protects the public from the risks identified and also maintains public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process by maintaining standards in the profession.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Deborah Jacqueline Jackson off the register with immediate effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal:
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.


European alert mechanism:
In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been prohibited.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so.  Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.

 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Deborah Jacqueline Jackson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
24/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
18/04/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
18/03/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
23/03/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice