Ms Lyn Gilpin

: Social worker

: SW72267

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 18/09/2017 End: 17:00 21/09/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Caution

Allegation

(as amended at the Substantive Hearing):


During the course of your employment as a Social Worker by The Independent Safeguarding and Standards Health and Social Services (Jersey), you:

1. Between 7 February 2014 and 20 June 2014, practised in Jersey as a Social Worker without being registered locally, in accordance with the rules and requirements of the Health Care (Registration) (Jersey) Law 1995

 

2. Did not ensure that all information was placed on service user files within the required time scales.

a. [Withdrawn]

b. [Withdrawn]

 

3. Made inappropriate comments in minutes of a Review Child Protection Conference which took place on 12 February 2014, regarding Service User A, in that you stated words to the effect of:

a. 'It has been difficult because firstly as professionals we have not done the best job and as professionals we have left gaping holes' or words to that effect';

b. 'I have to give an apology to H and J as to how this whole meeting has come about and how they came into the Child Protections process'.

 

4. In relation to Child A, who was on the Child Protection Register (CPR) you did not:

a. Inform your colleagues and/or line manager that information had been received on 12 May 2014 about the birth of the Child A;

b. Ensure that the CPR was updated to indicate that Child A was born on or around 9 May 2014.

 

5. Produced a LAC review report regarding a LAC review that took place on 4 June 2014, in respect of Service User B that included incorrect and / or inaccurate information, in that you:

a. Recorded that Service User B's foster carers were prepared to look after him for as long as he wished to remain in their care;

b. [Withdrawn]

c. Recorded that the current care plan was being amended due to concerns raised by Service User ‘B's foster carers;

d. Recommended the social worker should seek a foster carer who could offer therapeutic support during the placement, when you knew/should have known that this was not an available option in Jersey.

e. Recorded that Service user B's mother had not been informed of the referral to Casa Mia;

f. Stated that Service User B's foster carers had seen him vomit up blood.

 

6. Your actions in relation to Service User C were inappropriate, in that you:

a. Insisted that you visit Service User C after 6:00pm on 16 June 2014;

b. Took Service User C out for a drive in your car, against the wishes of the foster carers on 16 June 2014;

c. Spoke to Service User C alone in his bedroom for approximately 30 minutes;

d. Insisted that Service User C come into the meeting room on 18 June 2014 when he appeared reluctant to do so and/or without giving consideration to his age;

e. Asked Service User C's foster carers to read out personal details during the meeting on 20 June 2014 in the presence of Service User C's parents;

f. Insisted that Service User C attend Coding School over the summer holidays, despite concerns raised by his Foster Carers;

g. Advised Service User C that if he stayed half the time with his foster family and half the time with 'H', he would go home sooner, when this was not the case;

h. Asked Service User C to hug and / or kiss his mother during a meeting on 18 June 2014.

 

7. On 25 June 2014, you inappropriately forwarded confidential records in relation to service users D, E, F and G to your personal email address.

 

8. On 26 June 2014 refused and/or failed to chair a pre-scheduled ICPC in relation to Service User H and I.

 

9. Following 7 February 2014, claimed that you had worked approximately 52.5 hours in a week when you had not been allocated sufficient work to justify this claim.

 

10. Your actions at paragraph 9 above were misleading and/or dishonest.

 

11. The matters described in paragraphs 1- 9 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

12. The matters described in paragraph 10 constitute misconduct.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters

Application to Amend

1. At the outset of the hearing, Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application to amend the Allegation by withdrawing Particulars 2(a), 2(b) and 5(b). There was no objection from Mr Pourghazi on behalf of the Registrant.

2. The Panel noted that the Registrant was informed in a letter, dated 1 August 2016, that following further investigation, the HCPC had been unable to identify evidence to corroborate the alleged facts in Particulars 2(a), 2(b) and 5(b) and therefore intended to offer no evidence in respect of these particulars. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that there was no injustice to the Registrant, nor “under prosecution”, and concluded that the allegation should be amended as requested.

Background

3. The Registrant was employed as an Independent Reviewing Officer/Child Protection Adviser in the Independent Safeguarding and Standards department of Health and Social Services (‘the Service’) in Jersey.

4. The Registrant commenced her employment at the Service on 7 February 2014. A HCPC referral was made by the Service, which was received on 26 June 2014.

5. The referral highlighted a number of concerns raised by professionals at the Service, in relation to the Registrant’s conduct regarding Child Protection cases. In summary the allegations relate to:

• Inappropriate comments;
• Inappropriate conduct;
• Refusal to conduct the work required;
• Inaccurate and/or incorrect recording of information;
• Working without being professionally registered in Jersey.

Assessment of Witnesses

Witness 1- Foster Carer

6. Witness 1 and her husband were approved as foster carers by the Fostering and Adoption Team in Jersey in May 2013. Witness 1 and her husband were the allocated foster carers for Service User C.

7. The Panel took the view that Witness 1 was an honest and credible witness. Witness 1 described her recollection of events from the perspective of a foster parent and the Panel accepted that her evidence represented her genuinely held beliefs. However, it was Witness 1’s husband that spoke to the Registrant when the arrangements to attend the family home on 16 June 2014 were made and Witness 1 was not present during the significant conversations that Service User C had with the Registrant. Therefore, aspects of Witness 1’s evidence were hearsay. Accordingly the Panel proceeded with caution in assessing the weight to be attached to this aspect of Witness 1’s evidence.

Witness 2 - Senior Practitioner

8. Witness 2 was the supervising social worker for Witness 1 and her husband. Witness 2 attended the ‘Looked After Review’ (LAC Review) for Service User C on 18 June 2014. However, she first came into contact with the Registrant during the LAC Review in relation to Service User B, which took place on 4 June 2014.

9. The Panel formed the view that Witness 2 was knowledgeable and experienced. She provided the Panel with a consistent and credible account of her concerns with regard to the accuracy of the 4 June LAC Review notes and her management of the LAC Review meeting on 18 June. It was clear to the Panel that she regarded these events as significant. The Panel had no reason to doubt that Witness 2’s evidence represented her honest recollection of the events that took place.

Witness 3 – Social Worker in Child in Need Team

10. The Panel found Witness 3’s evidence to be both credible and reliable.  He helpfully explained the difficulties of chairing meetings and taking minutes at the same time, whilst ensuring that the notes are accurate. Witness 3 informed the Panel that in his experience amendments to the minutes were often required.  Witness 3’s evidence was clear and balanced throughout. He was supportive of the Registrant’s approach and stated that her role was to challenge. 

Witness 4 – Head of Professional and Care Regulation

11. Witness 4 never met the Registrant. Her role was to oversee the registration of health and social care professionals under the Health Care (Registration) (Jersey) Law 1995 on behalf of the Minister for Health and Social Services. Witness 4 explained that registration is an administrative task carried out by the Registration Team. She explained the importance of social workers registering locally in Jersey and confirmed that it is an offence for anyone to practice without being registered in Jersey. The Panel found her evidence to be credible and reliable.

Witness 5 – Service Manager for Independent Safeguarding & Standards Department

12. Witness 5 interviewed the Registrant over the telephone before offering her the Independent Reviewing Officer/Child Protection Adviser role. Witness 5 recounted the events to the best of her recollection. The Panel accepted that overall Witness 5 was a credible and reliable witness. However, it appeared to the Panel that Witness 5 was so dismayed by the Registrant’s failure to register in Jersey that it tainted her retrospective view of the Registrant. For example, no evidence was provided by the HCPC to support Witness 5’s assumptions about the Registrant’s intentions in completing her time sheets.

The Registrant

13. In assessing the credibility and reliability of the Registrant, the Panel took into account her previous good character and that she is a well-qualified and very experienced social worker. During her oral evidence, when the Registrant referred to her social work practice she presented as a child-focused, knowledgeable and competent professional. She informed the Panel that her role was to challenge other professionals.

14. The Registrant’s evidence was less clear and less persuasive when addressing the particulars of the Allegation. The Panel made allowances for the passage of time and the inherent stress associated with giving evidence, but concluded that the Registrant’s evidence was inconsistent and at times her responses were evasive. The Registrant appeared to have a detailed recollection of certain events but on numerous occasions she stated that she could not remember. The Registrant’s inability to recall certain details included information she had included within her witness statement. As a consequence the Panel was left with the impression that some of the content of the Registrant’s witness statement, which had only just been produced, may not fully reflect what actually happened at the time. 

15. The Panel noted a disconnect between how the Registrant appeared as a professional social worker, and the events as described by others.

Decision on Facts

Panel’s Approach

16. The Panel was aware that the burden of proving the facts was on the HCPC and that the individual particulars of the Allegation could only be found proved, if the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities. The Registrant did not have to prove or disprove anything.

17. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel noted that a number of the particulars do not expressly state the nature of the alleged wrongdoing. The Panel took into account the implicit alleged wrongdoing. Where the narrative was found proved the Panel also took into account whether the act or omission was for ‘good reason’. All key words in the allegation were given their ordinary natural meaning.

18. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account all of the documentary evidence including the Registrant’s witness statement and the copies of her diary. The Panel also took into account the oral evidence of the HCPC witnesses, the Registrant’s oral evidence and the submissions of both parties.
Decision

Particular 1 – Found Proved

‘Between 7 February 2014 and 20 June 2014, practised in Jersey as a Social Worker without being registered locally, in accordance with the rules and requirements of the Health Care (Registration) (Jersey) Law 1995.’

19. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s admissions and the evidence of Witness 4 with regard to the requirement that, in addition to HCPC registration, social workers are required to register locally in accordance with the Health Care (Registration) (Jersey) Law 1995. The Panel accepted that Witness 5 explained to the Registrant, the importance of registering locally. The Panel noted that it is an offence in Jersey to practice as a social worker without registering locally.

20. There was no dispute that the Registrant commenced employment at the Service on 7 February 2014 and did not register locally in Jersey until 20 June 2014.

21. There was no dispute between the parties that Witness 5 forwarded to the Registrant the local registration document and accompanying guidance notes on 20 January 2014. Although Witness 5’s email stated, ‘the details on where to send it are on the form’ and the form itself clearly states, ‘Please return the completed form along with the required documentation to [address] or by Fax [number], the Registrant emailed a copy of the registration form to Witness 5 on 27 January 2014. However, the Panel noted that the form also required the Registrant to provide a character reference from a professional who had known her for at least 12 months. Although the Registrant provided reference details they did not initially comply with the 12 month requirement. The Panel concluded that it was not apparent that this would have prevented her from being registered because the form states that applicants with a prescribed qualification registration with the HCPC will lead to automatic registration. The Registrant’s initial non-compliance with the reference requirement may indicate that she had not read the form closely enough and the Panel accepted that that may equally apply to the requirement to send the registration form directly to the Registration Department. The Panel also noted that Witness 5 met with the Registrant on her first day of work and specifically asked the Registrant if her local registration had been sorted out. The Registrant replied that it had.

22. The Panel accepted that the Registrant, having made a mistake in sending the registration form back to Witness 5, may have wrongly assumed, as she stated in her oral evidence, that Witness 5 would forward it to the relevant department. However, during a supervision session with Witness 5, on 21 March 2014, the Registrant raised the issue of another social worker who had been working in Jersey without being registered. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not raise her own registration as an issue at that time or at any other time. She submitted her form to the right department on 28 April 2014. The Registrant believed this was necessary to obtain permanent residency in Jersey. However, the Registrant, by her own admission, knew by 8 May 2014, that she had not been previously registered, having received an email from SH, Administration Officer in the Registrations Department.  Despite knowing that she was not registered and being reminded by SH that it is an offence to practise in Jersey without local registration, the Registrant did not inform Witness 5 of the situation.

23. The Panel concluded that ‘alarm bells’ should have been ringing much earlier than 8 May 2014, but by that date at the very latest the Registrant knew that she was not registered. Therefore, the Registrant knowingly worked as an unregistered social worker between 8 May 2014 and 20 June 2014.

Particular 2 – Found Not Proved

‘Did not ensure that all information was placed on service user files within the required time scales.’

24. Witness 5 stated in her witness statement and oral evidence that the Registrant failed to ensure that information was placed on service user files within the required timescales. However, she was unable to recall any specific examples. Witness 5 also stated that on occasion, the Registrant did not distribute the LAC Review notes within the required 28 day timescale. Again, she could not recall any specific examples. Witness 5 further stated that on some occasions the Registrant did not complete her work and file it appropriately. She stated that this failure was not significant and that it was not uncommon amongst social workers.

25. Witness 5 informed the Panel that just before the Registrant’s departure, the Registrant handed over some torn scraps of paper to one of the administrative assistants to type up the information. Apparently, this proved to be impossible because the notes contained insufficient detail. Further handwritten notes on scraps of paper were found in the Registrant’s drawers after she left.

26. The Panel noted, despite the Registrant admitting that her record keeping was sometimes not within the required timescales, that no independent evidence was produced by the HCPC to support this particular of the Allegation. The notes were not produced and copies of the service user records (which were solely paper based) were also not produced. The Panel concluded that the HCPC’s case lacked specific examples, sufficient detail and was uncorroborated by documentary evidence, in circumstances where such evidence ought to have been available.  

Particular 3 – Found Proved (in its entirety)

Made inappropriate comments in minutes of a Review Child Protection Conference which took place on 12 February 2014, regarding Service User A, in that you stated words to the effect of:

a. 'It has been difficult because firstly as professionals we have not done the best job and as professionals we have left gaping holes' or words to that effect';

b. 'I have to give an apology to H and J as to how this whole meeting has come about and how they came into the Child Protections process'.

27. The Panel took into account the partial admissions made by the Registrant during her oral evidence and the evidence of Witness 5. The Registrant did not dispute that she apologised at the outset of the Child Protection Conference Review on 12 February 2014 and made the ‘gaping holes’ comment. The Panel noted that LH, a Team Manager at the Service, sent an email to Witness 5, dated 27 February 2014, expressing concern about the terminology used by the Registrant.  LH stated in that email that the apology lacks context, is not backed up with any evidence and the Service could be called upon to explain it during any future court proceedings. She went on to state that statements such as the ‘gaping holes’ comment are ‘unprofessional, unclear and damaging.’

28. The Registrant informed the Panel that, with the benefit of hindsight, she should have opened the review meeting with an explanation rather than an apology and in respect of the ‘gaping holes’ comment could have used ‘a better turn of phrase’. However, the Registrant disputed that the comments were inappropriate.

29. The Panel was satisfied that the apology and the ‘gaping holes’ comment were both inappropriate. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s role was to act in the best interests of the service user and to challenge other professionals. However, the Panel concluded that the minutes should not be used as the mechanism to challenge professionals. Although the minutes are not public documents they are akin to public documents as they would be widely circulated amongst interested parties. The Registrant should have addressed any shortcomings she identified outside of the hearing. Therefore, the inappropriateness of the apology and the ‘gaping holes’ comment was the way in which the Registrant’s concerns were communicated and the how they could be interpreted.

Particular 4 – Found Proved (in its entirety)

In relation to Child A, who was on the Child Protection Register (CPR) you did not:

a. Inform your colleagues and/or line manager that information had been received on 12 May 2014 about the birth of the Child A;

b. Ensure that the CPR was updated to indicate that Child A was born on or around 9 May 2014.

30. The Panel took into account the admissions of the Registrant and the evidence of Witness 5. The Panel accepted Witness 5’s evidence that, when an unborn child is placed on the CPR, once information is received that the child has been born, the information must be conveyed promptly to colleagues and the administrative team so that the CPR can be updated. The Panel accepted that the CPR has to be accurate to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to safeguard the child; otherwise the child could be placed at further risk.

31. The Registrant received an email from Child A’s social worker, SC, on 12 May 2014 confirming that Child A had been born. She accepted that she received the email but disputed that it was her responsibility to pass the information on and ensure the CPR was updated. The Registrant suggested that it was the responsibility of SC.

32. The Panel was satisfied that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to update the CPR herself or pass the information on to colleagues and to the administrative staff to ensure that the CPR was updated. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 5 that the responsibility for ensuring the CPR was updated fell on the person who received the information, not one particular individual. As the email had been received by the Registrant it was her responsibility to ensure the CPR was updated. The Panel noted that the Registrant was working in a small team and by the time she had received the email from SC had been employed by the Service for three months. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant knew or should have known that it was her responsibility to inform her colleagues and ensure the CPR was updated.

Particular 5

‘Produced a LAC review report regarding a LAC review that took place on 4 June 2014, in respect of Service User B that included incorrect and/or inaccurate information, in that you:...’

33. Service User B was 15 years of age and was subject to a Child in Need (CIN) plan due to behavioural concerns, substance misuse and his relationship with his mother. The CIN plan also included Service User B receiving support from the Child and Adolescent and Mental Health Service (CAMHS). On 23 January 2014 an incident took place culminating in Service user being taken into care on 17 February 2014. Following a child being taken into care a LAC Review is held by an independent reviewing officer. The first LAC review took place on 6 March 2014 and the further review was held on 4 June 2014. The Registrant chaired both reviews.

34. The Panel took the view that the report that the Registrant produced, for the 4 June 2014 meeting, was a draft report. There was a divergence of opinion amongst the witnesses with regard to amendments. Witness 2 and Witness 5 informed the Panel that amendments were not that common, whilst Witness 3 took the opposite view. The Registrant had chaired the meeting and took the minutes. The Panel accepted that it was a difficult meeting. In these circumstances, the Panel also accepted that the Registrant was aware that the LAC Review report may not be accurate and circulated it in order to obtain feedback. Professionals have 14 days from receipt of the draft report to challenge any recommendations or request amendments.

35. Having determined the status of the LAC Review report the Panel went on to consider the individual particulars.

Particular 5(a) – Found Not Proved

a. Recorded that Service User ‘B's foster carers were prepared to look after him for as long as he wished to remain in their care;

36. The Registrant recorded in the LAC Review report under ‘outcome’ that ‘foster carer is willing to have [Service User B] for as long as he wishes to remain in her care’. However, elsewhere in the report the Registrant recorded, ‘She is also willing to have [Service User B] return to her family home if a detox placement can be found.’

37. The Panel noted that the situation was more nuanced than suggested by the Registrant’s outcome summary. However, the Panel concluded that a professional reading the report would be expected to read the notes in their entirety. Together with the status of the report as a draft the Panel was not satisfied that the notes could be properly described as incorrect or inaccurate.

Particular 5(c) – Found Not Proved

c. Recorded that the current care plan was being amended due to concerns raised by Service User B’s Foster Carers

38. The Registrant recorded under ‘Agreed Outcome’, that ‘The current Care plan was agreed to be fully amended due to the concerns raised by the Foster Carer…’ However, Witness 3 indicated in his email, dated 24 June 2014, that the care plan was amended, ‘primarily due to Dr stating that [Service User B] is addicted to spice and requires an off island in patient detox.’

39. The Panel concluded that the divergence of opinion reflected the difference in emphasis between the professionals at the review. Witness 3 appeared to want more emphasis placed on the medical evidence for the purpose of obtaining funding, whilst the Registrant was child focussed. Together with the status of the report as a draft the Panel was not satisfied that the report could be properly described as incorrect or inaccurate.

Particular 5(d) – Found Not Proved

Recommended the social worker should seek a foster carer who could offer therapeutic support during the placement, when you knew/should have known that this was not an available option in Jersey.

40. The Registrant recorded in the LAC Review report that, ‘SW to seek foster carer who could offer therapeutic support in placement.’ However, Witness 3 pointed out in his email that at the LAC Review it was confirmed that there was no other foster carer available and no therapeutic foster care placements in Jersey. Witness 3 informed the Panel in his witness statement and during his oral evidence that Witness 2, Service User B’s social worker, had made this clear during the meeting. Witness 3 also informed the Panel that the Registrant had not made it clear in her report whether the placement was to be sought in Jersey or in the UK.

41. The Panel concluded that the Registrant was simply making a recommendation based on what she thought would be in the best interests of Service User B. The Panel found that the Registrant was entitled to make recommendations, whether or not they could be fulfilled in Jersey. The Panel took the view that the recommendation could not be inaccurate or incorrect.

Particular 5(e) – Found Proved

Recorded that Service user B's mother had not been informed of the referral to Casa Mia;

42. Witness 3 in his email to the Registrant, dated 24 June 2014 stated that Service User B’s mother had been informed about the referral to Casa Mia prior to the LAC Review. The Panel accepted his evidence. The Registrant informed the Panel that she did not recall Witness 3 informing her of the referral to Casa Mia prior to the LAC Review and when she met Service User B’s mother, she made no mention of Casa Mia.

43. The Panel concluded that it was not reasonable for the Registrant to assume that because Casa Mia had not been mentioned by Witness 3 or by Service User B’s mother that the mother had not been informed. The Registrant did not ask the mother in circumstances where it was reasonable and appropriate for her to have done so. Although, the report was a draft the Panel was satisfied that the referral issue was a straightforward matter which could and should have been confirmed with the mother. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s recording of the state of Service User B’s knowledge in respect of Casa Mia was inaccurate and incorrect.

Particular 5(f) – Found Not Proved

Stated that Service User B's foster carers had seen him vomit up blood.

44. Witness 3 in his email to the Registrant, dated 24 June 2014 stated that the incident where Service User B had vomited took place in his presence. However, the Registrant informed the Panel that she recorded believed that she was informed that it was the foster carer who had witnessed the incident. The Registrant was not sure if she had been told this by the foster carer herself or the social worker.

45. The Panel recognised that the Registrant could have been mistaken but equally there could have been two vomiting incidents. The Panel concluded that it had been provided with insufficient information to determine whether there was one incident or more than one incident of vomiting blood. In these circumstances the Panel could not conclude that the Registrant’s record was either inaccurate or incorrect.

Particular 6(a) – Found Not Proved

Insisted that you visit Service User C after 6:00pm on 16 June 2014;

46. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that she wanted to discuss the forthcoming LAC Review with the foster carers and Service User C at home to see how he had settled in and to check that his home environment was appropriate. The Registrant informed the Panel that the LAC Review was scheduled to take place on Wednesday 18 June at Service User C’s school and in the preceding days she had meetings. Therefore, the opportunity to visit the foster carers and Service User at home was limited.

47. Witness 1 stated during her written and oral evidence that the Registrant ‘insisted’ that the meeting take place at 6pm on 16 June 2014. However, the arrangement was made over the telephone during a conversation that the Registrant had with Witness 1’s husband. Witness 1 was not present and therefore her evidence on this issue was hearsay. The Panel preferred the first-hand account of the Registrant. The Registrant informed the Panel that she was polite and apologetic during her telephone discussion with Witness 1’s husband and he did not indicate that the appointment time suggested was inconvenient. The Registrant said that, although she only had a limited “window” of time, if objections had been made, she would have tried to accommodate them. Therefore, the Registrant’s actions were not inappropriate.

Particular 6(b) – Found Not Proved

Took Service User C out for a drive in your car, against the wishes of the foster carers on 16 June 2014;

48. There was no dispute that the Registrant took Service User C out for a drive in her car on 16 June 2014. Witness 1 informed the Panel that she was concerned that the Registrant may not be back in time for Service User C’s bedtime. However, Witness 1 did not expressly state to the Registrant that she did not want her to take Service User C out for a drive. Witness 1 informed the Panel that she did not feel able to express her wishes because of the Registrant’s tone of voice and body language.

49. The Panel concluded that as Witness 1’s wishes were not articulated, the Registrant was unlikely to have known that Witness 1 was unhappy with the idea. If the Registrant was not aware of Witness 1’s wishes she could not have acted against them. Therefore, the Registrant’s actions were not inappropriate.

Particular 6(c) – Found Not Proved

Spoke to Service User C alone in his bedroom for approximately 30 minutes;

50. There was no dispute that the Registrant spoke to the Registrant in his bedroom. The Registrant informed the Panel that Service User C said he wanted to talk to her.  Witness 1 described the downstairs layout of her house as ‘open plan’ and accepted the need for them to go elsewhere for them to have a private conversation. The Registrant accepted that she could have spoken to Service User C in his room for up to 30 minutes.

51. The Panel noted that other social workers before and since the Registrant’s visit have had discussions with Service User C in his bedroom. The Panel concluded that speaking to Service User C in his bedroom for up to 30 minutes may have been acceptable as it depends on the context and content of the conversation. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that the bedroom door remained open and concluded that the Registrant’s actions could not be described as inappropriate.

Particular 6(d) – Found Not Proved

Insisted that Service User C come into the meeting room on 18 June 2014 when he appeared reluctant to do so and/or without giving consideration to his age;

52. There was no dispute that Service User C came into the meeting, which was being held at his school in the head teacher’s office on 18 June 2014. It was agreed that by this time the decision had already been taken to cancel the meeting due to the absence of certain paperwork. The Panel was informed by Witness 2 that it is not unusual for service users to participate in their LAC Reviews depending on their age and the circumstances. However, Witness 2, also stated that an appropriate plan has to be put in place by the chair so that the child, the professionals and other interested parties know what to expect.

53. Although there was a conflict of evidence as to who brought Service User C into the head teachers office, the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 2 that when Service User C came into the room the atmosphere was awkward and uncomfortable. Witness 2 informed the Panel that this was because the Registrant did not take charge of the situation. However, the Panel concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the Registrant had ‘insisted’ that Service User C come into the meeting room. The Registrant informed the Panel that Service User C told her that he wanted to attend the meeting.  Although, there was no indication that the Registrant had re-assessed Service User C’s wishes on the day of the meeting. The Panel was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence that she had ‘insisted’ that he attend the meeting.

Particular 6(e) – Found Proved

Asked Service User C's foster carers to read out personal details during the meeting on 20 June 2014 in the presence of Service User C's parents;

54. The Panel accepted Witness 1’s evidence that she read out her personal details during the meeting. Witness 1 stated that she was made to read out her address because that was Service User C’s current home. The Registrant denied that she had asked Witness 1 to read out her address or any other personal details. The Registrant stated that she was aware of where Service User C lived and in any event this information was already well-documented.

55. Although the Registrant denied asking Witness 1 to read out her personal details, the Panel was persuaded by Witness 1’s clear and unembellished account. The Panel noted that Witness 1 referred to this incident in her letter of complaint to Witness 5 dated 22 June 2014. Witness 1 stated in that letter, ‘I did not feel it appropriate that my address should be made available to the parent of a foster child and I would question whether this is normal process as it did not happen in previous LAC’s that I have attended and if it is, I would suggest that this be reconsidered.’

56. The Panel concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that the Registrant had asked Witness 1 to read out her address. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 5 that this was not common practice. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s request was inappropriate particularly as the parents of Service User C were present and at that time were only having supervised access with their son due to the sexual abuse concerns that had been raised. Disclosure of Service User C’s address had the potential, in these circumstances, to place him at risk of harm.

Particular 6(f) – Found Not Proved

‘Insisted that Service User C attend Coding School over the summer holidays, despite concerns raised by his Foster Carers;’

57. Witness 1 stated in her witness statement that the Registrant insisted that Service User C attend a Coding School during the summer holidays. Witness 1 informed the Panel that she explained to the Registrant that Service User C’s attendance at the Coding School would have a negative impact on their family life because they would not be able to ‘go out and simply have fun over the holidays’. Witness 1 also felt that Service User C already attended quite a few extracurricular activities and should have time to play and relax.

58. The Registrant denied that she insisted that Service User C attend Coding School. She informed the Panel that it was one of the suggestions made by Service User C’s teacher to keep him occupied during the summer holidays. The Registrant stated that when she agreed that further enquiries should be made she was unaware of any other summer activities agreed by professionals and recommended that Service User C attend the Coding School.

59. The Panel concluded that the Registrant simply made a recommendation. The Panel appreciated that Witness 1 may not have liked the idea because of the impact on her family and concluded that Witness 1 may have interpreted the suggestion as a command. However, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was well aware of the limits of her role and that she did not insist that Service User C attend the Coding School.

Particular 6(g) – Found Not Proved

Advised Service User C that if he stayed half the time with his foster family and half the time with 'H', he would go home sooner, when this was not the case;

60. Witness 1 stated during her oral evidence and in her witness statement that Service User C told her that the Registrant had told him, that if he stayed half the time with his foster family and half the time with 'H', he would go home sooner. It was known at the time that Service User C wanted to live with ‘H’. Witness 1 was not present when this conversation took place. The Registrant accepted that she had discussed ‘H’ with Service User C, but denied that she suggested that he could stay with ‘H’ half the time.

61. The Panel had no reason to doubt that Witness 1 accurately recounted what she had been told by Service User C. However, the Panel took the view that the hearsay evidence of a seven year old child should be treated with caution. The Registrant, in answering Service User C’s questions, may have inadvertently given him the impression that staying with ‘H’ half the time was an option. Alternatively, Service User C may have obtained the idea from someone or somewhere else. The Panel conclude that there was insufficient evidence that the Registrant advised Service User C that he could spend half his time with ‘H’ and half with his foster carers.

Particular 6(h) – Found Proved

Asked Service User C to hug and / or kiss his mother during a meeting on 18 June 2014.

62. The Panel took into account the evidence of Witness 1, Witness 2 and Witness 5. Witness 2 informed the Panel that the Registrant suggested that Service User C give his mother a hug. The Registrant stated that Service User C’s mother was getting upset and wanted to comfort her son. She also stated during her oral evidence that Service User C looked as if he wanted to go to his mother and she thought he was looking to her for permission.

63. The Panel accepted that the Registrant had well-meaning intentions and that she was focussed on the immediate interests of the child. However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had not properly considered the context and the wider implications. Service User C was in care because there was a concern that he was at risk of sexual abuse. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 5 that encouraging Service User C to hug his mother had the potential to undermine his trust in professionals. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had asked Service User to hug his mother and that this was inappropriate.

64. The Panel was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence that the Registrant had asked Service User C to kiss his mother.

Particular 7 – Found Proved

On 25 June 2014, you inappropriately forwarded confidential records in relation to service users D, E, F and G to your personal email address.

65. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s admission and the evidence of Witness 5. The Panel was informed that following the Registrant’s departure from the Service, Witness 5 gained access to the Registrant’s email account to process any enquiries or requests. Having gained access Witness 5 discovered that the Registrant had forwarded confidential Service User records to her personal email account on 25 June 2014. The Panel had sight of the records and was satisfied that the confidential records and emails relate to Service Users D, E, F and G. The confidential records also included reference to a number of other people.

66. During her oral evidence, the Registrant said that she ‘panicked’ in reaction to the termination of her contract. She had recently raised some concerns about another matter via the dispute resolution procedure. She informed the Panel that she thought that she was being victimised for being challenging and wanted to retain evidence of her good practice.

67. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions were in breach of the email and electronic policy in place at the Service. The Registrant was aware of the policy having confirmed in an email dated 7 February 2014 that she had read and accepted the terms and conditions for use of the computer system. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant knew that forwarding confidential information to her personal email was inappropriate. 

Particular 8 – Found Proved

On 26 June 2014 refused and/or failed to chair a pre-scheduled ICPC in relation to Service User H and I.

68. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s admissions and the evidence of Witness 5. On 26 June the Registrant was due to chair an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) in relation to Service Users H and I. The Multi-Agency Child Protection Procedures stipulate that an ICPC should be held within 15 days of the initial strategy meeting. The Panel was informed that the purpose of an ICPC is to assess the risks to the children in question to ascertain whether they should be made subject to a Child Protection Plan. Until an ICPC is held no assessment of the children will have taken place.

69. The Panel noted that on 26 June 2014, Witness 5 received an email from DS, an administrator in the department, which stated that ‘…Lyn has said she is not chairing this afternoon. Advice please.’  The Panel accepted that the first time that the Registrant stated that she would not be chairing the conference was at approximately 12.28pm. The Registrant subsequently telephoned Witness 5 and refused to chair the conference.

70. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant was in an awkward position because by this time her contract had been terminated and she was due to leave the Service at the end of the week. However, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant as a professional had a duty to put her own personal feelings to one side and chair the meeting, in the interests of the Service Users’ H and I. The Registrant raised two defences during her oral evidence, both of which the panel rejected. The first was that she was not in a fit state to chair the meeting and if she was not good enough to continue in her role she was not good enough to chair the meeting. The second was that she did not have time. The Panel accepted that earlier in the week, Witness 5 had informed the Registrant that she would try to re-arrange the two conferences scheduled to be chaired by the Registrant. However, Witness 5 was only able to obtain cover for the morning conference.

Particular 9 – Found Not Proved

Following 7 February 2014, claimed that you had worked approximately 52.5 hours in a week when you had not been allocated sufficient work to justify this claim.

71. The Registrant was contracted to work 37 hours per week commencing on 7 February 2014. During the week commencing 17 February the Registrant recorded 52.5 hours on her time sheet. Witness 5 informed the Panel that she found it hard to believe that the Registrant would need to work such long hours as she had not been allocated sufficient work to justify 50 hours of work a week.

72. The Panel noted that both the Registrant and Witness 5 confirmed that the Registrant was required to complete weekly flexi time sheets and in addition the Registrant had to fill in agency timesheets. There was no dispute that it was unlikely that the two timesheets would not record the same time as they served two different purposes. The agency time sheet confirmed that the Registrant had undertaken 37 hours work in order to be paid under the terms of her contract, whilst the flexi time sheet enabled Witness 5 to manage the time in lieu policy for hours over and above 37 hours a week.

73. Although Witness 5 informed the Panel that she anticipated that it would only take the Registrant four hours to read the induction material, the Panel accepted that it took the Registrant significantly longer. The Panel noted that the Registrant had a reduced caseload, however, she was working in a new environment and in a new jurisdiction.  Furthermore, Witness 5 expected the Registrant’s meetings to take approximately 1.5 hours but it was clear from the supervision noted from 21 March 2014 that the Registrant’s meetings were taking 3-4 hours. In addition the Panel noted that the Registrant had six new cases. Due to all of these factors the Panel concluded that the Registrant had sufficient work to justify the time that she entered on her flexi-time sheet.

Particular 10 – Found Not Proved

Your actions at paragraph 9 above were misleading and/or dishonest.

74. As the Panel concluded that the time the Registrant recorded on her flexi-time sheet was justified, her actions were neither misleading nor dishonest.

Panel Day – 30 March 2017

75. On 30 March 2017 the Panel finalised its determination of the facts and handed down the Panel’s written reasons. The substantive hearing will resume on 18 September 2017 and is listed for four days.

76. The Panel anticipate that on Day 1 of the re-convened hearing, the proceedings will commence with submissions from both parties on misconduct and/or lack of competence.

Decision on Grounds

Panel’s Approach

77. Having found particulars 1, 3(a), 3(b), 4(a), 4(b), 5(e), 6(e), 6(h), 7 and 8 proved, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s conduct amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence. The Panel considered each particular of the Allegation in turn. At this stage, in view of its finding that the remaining particulars were not found proved, they did not form part of the Panel’s consideration.

78. The Panel took into account the submissions made by both parties and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

79. In considering the issue of misconduct, the Panel bore in mind the explanation of that term provided by the Privy Council in the case of Roylance v GMC (No.2) [2000] 1 AC 311 where it was stated that:

“Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a … practitioner in the particular circumstances. The misconduct is qualified in two respects. First, it is qualified by the word ‘professional’ which links the misconduct to the profession of medicine. Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. It is not any professional misconduct which will qualify. The professional misconduct must be serious.”

80. In considering lack of competence the Panel bore in mind that it indicates a standard of work that is unacceptably low and is usually demonstrated by across a fair sample of the Registrant’s work.

Decision on Misconduct

81. Particular 1: The Registrant practised in the States of Jersey between 7 February 2014 and 20 June 2014 without being registered as a social worker.  Although the Panel accepted that the Registrant, having made a mistake in sending the registration from back to Witness 5, may have assumed that the form would be forwarded to the relevant department on her behalf, it was not a reasonable assumption for the Registrant to have made. Any social worker seeking to practise in the States of Jersey is required to register locally and it was the Registrant’s professional duty, to not only make herself aware of this legal requirement, but to ensure that she complied with it.  Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s failure to ensure compliance with the registration requirement was serious from the outset. It became particularly serious on 8 May 2014 when the Registrant knew beyond any doubt that she was not registered and yet she continued working as a social worker. She did not make her manager aware of the situation but regarded it as a ‘technical matter.’ The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct breached Standard 13 which states:

You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession”

82. The Panel was aware that breach of the standards alone does not necessarily constitute misconduct. However, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner, particularly as failing to register as a social worker locally constituted a criminal offence, which could have been punishable by a fine or imprisonment

83. Particular 3(a) and 3(b):In relation to the Child Protection Conference, that took place on 12 February 2014, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s inappropriate comments were unprofessional. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant should have chosen her words much more carefully and reserved her criticisms for a different time and place and therefore her actions ‘fell short of what would be proper in the circumstances.’ However, the Panel concluded that as an isolated incident of a poor choice of words, these comments did not amount to serious misconduct.

84. Particulars 4(a) and 4(b): The Registrant was informed on 12 May 2014 that Child A had been born. However, the Registrant did not inform her colleagues, nor did she ensure that the Child Protection Register was updated. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct breached the following standards :

1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.
7 – You must communicate properly and effectively with … other practitioners.

85. The Panel was satisfied that it was the Registrant’s professional duty to ensure that she knew what her responsibilities were, and had she done so, she would have known that she was required to update the Child Protection Register herself or pass the information on. The Panel noted that updating the register was important because it triggered other child protection processes. In these circumstances the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s omissions breached Standard 1 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics which states:

1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.

86. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s omissions fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner, as Child A was potentially in an environment where she was at risk of harm. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s inaction was so serious as to amount to misconduct.

87. Particular 5(e): In relation to the inaccurate recording that Service User B’s mother had not been informed of the referral to Casa Mia, the Panel noted that the report was in draft form. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant should have checked the accuracy as it was a straightforward matter that could have been easily verified.  However, the Panel concluded that as an isolated incident of poor communication, this error did not amount to serious misconduct.

88. Particular 6(e):During the meeting that took place on 20 June 2014 with Service User C’s foster carers Witness 1 was asked to read out her personal details. The Panel concluded that this was a breach of Witness 1’s confidentiality, which had the potential to place the foster carers and Service User C at risk, as the parents of Service User C were present. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s request breached the following standards of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics:

1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.

2 - You must respect the confidentiality of service users

89. The Panel was satisfied that these breaches fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner and were so serious as to amount to misconduct.

90. Particular 6(h): During the meeting that took place on 18 June 2014 at Service User C’s school, the Registrant asked Service User C to hug his mother.  The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 5 that the Registrant’s actions had the potential to undermine the trust Service User C would need to place in the professionals allocated to his case. The Panel also accepted the evidence of Witness 5 that there was a risk that Service User C was at risk of sexual harm and so encouraging him to hug his mother put him in a position where a word or signal could have been passed on to him without the professionals in the room being aware that such communication had taken place. The Panel was satisfied that in these circumstances the Registrant’s conduct breached Standard 1 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics which states:

1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.

91. The Panel was satisfied that this breach fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner and was so serious as to amount to misconduct.

92. Particular 7: In relation to the Registrant inappropriately forwarding confidential records to her email address the Panel was satisfied that her actions breached data protection and breached the confidentiality of a total of 18 people including Service Users D, E, F and G.  The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions amounted to a serious breach of the following standards of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics:

1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.

2 - You must respect the confidentiality of service users

93. As such, this amounts to misconduct.

94. Particular 8: The Registrant’s refusal on 26 June 2014 to chair a pre-scheduled ICPC in relation to Service User H and I was unprofessional. The Panel was also satisfied that it represented a significant breach of Standard 1 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics which states:

1 - You must act in the best interests of service users.

7 – You must communicate properly and effectively with … other practitioners.

95. The Registrant had a professional duty to inform her manager in good time if she was unwilling or unable to chair the conference so that a replacement chair could be found, if possible. The Registrant’s unwillingness or inability to put her own personal feelings to one side was conduct which fell so far below the standards expected of a registered professional that it amounts to misconduct.

Decision on Lack of Competence

96. Having determined that the particulars, other than Particulars 3(a), 3(b) and 5(e) amount to misconduct the Panel went on to consider whether these particulars amount to a lack of competence. The Panel noted that these facts relate to inappropriate oral comments and an inaccurate recording.  The Panel concluded that these ‘mistakes’ do not represent a fair sample upon which the Panel could make a judgment as to the Registrant’s overall competence. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s acts and omissions did not establish a lack of competence.
Summary

97. The Panel found that the Particulars 1, 4(a), 4(b), 6(e), 6(h), 7 and 8 individually amount to misconduct. The Panel found that Particulars 3(a), 3(b) and 5(e) do not amount to misconduct and do not amount to lack of competence.

Decision on Impairment

Registrant’s Evidence

98. The Registrant chose to give evidence by affirmation with regard to her current fitness to practise. The various references to the Registrant’s health were directed by the Panel to be removed from the public record and marked as ‘heard in private’.

99. The Registrant informed the Panel that she has reflected on the events that took place in Jersey and has ‘put her practice under a microscope’ so that she can offer the best of herself as a professional. She highlighted where she thought she had gone wrong, in respect of each incident which was found to amount to misconduct, and explained the training and/or remedial action she had taken to ensure that it would not happen again. The Registrant provided the Panel with examples of how she would do things differently.

100. The Registrant explained that she was ‘a broken woman’ following the events that took place in Jersey. She stated that she benefitted from external support  weekly for approximately 7 months and that she has received support in her current role as a Child Protection Chair at Croydon Council. She described the supportive environment at Croydon Council, where she has been working on a short term contract for approximately 19 months, and informed the Panel that she has been offered a permanent role as a Child Protection Chair, from October 2017, depending on the outcome of the hearing.

Submissions

101. Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the public component and that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. She also submitted that the Registrant was impaired on the basis of the personal component.

102. Mr Pourghazi, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired. He described the Registrant’s conduct as a series of one off incidents which have been fully remediated through the development of insight, training, changes to her practice and support from her current employer. He invited the Panel to accept that the incidents that took place in Jersey were due to exceptional circumstances and that the risk of repetition is low. He further submitted that the wider public interest has also been satisfied by the steps that the Registrant has taken to improve her practice. He also highlighted the remorse and insight he said had been demonstrated by the Registrant.

Panel’s Approach

103. In considering whether the Registrant’s misconduct amounts to current impairment of her fitness to practise the Panel took into account the submissions made by both parties, the HCPTS Practice Note: “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel also took into account (i) the further witness statement provided by the Registrant at the outset of the re-convened hearing, (ii) the statement from the Registrant’s line manager, DW, (iii) a letter dated 19 May 2017 from the Registrant’s external support and (iv) a detailed list of training, research and reading the Registrant has undertaken over a number years with particular emphasis on what had happened since 2014.

104. In determining current impairment the Panel had regard to the following aspects of the public interest:

• The personal component: the current behaviour of the individual Registrant; and

• The public component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulator.

Panel’s Decision

105. The Registrant’s misconduct raises a number of concerns relating to:

• practising in the States of Jersey without being registered locally which constitutes a criminal offence (Particular 1);

• failing to update or ensure that a Child Protection Register was updated following the birth of Child A (Particular 4(a) and 4(b));

• two breaches of confidentiality (asking Witness 1 to read out her personal details during the meeting on 20 June 2014 and emailing the confidential records of Service User D, E, F and G to herself) (Particulars 6(e) and 7);

• inappropriate conduct during the meeting that took place on 18 June 2017 (encouraging Service User C to hug his mother) (Particular 6(h);

• refusing to chair a pre-scheduled ICPC on 26 June (Particular 8).

106. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise in respect of each concern firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public perspective.

107. Overall, the Panel noted the Registrant’s genuine commitment to her work and the progress she has made in remedying the deficiencies that had been identified in her practice. The Panel was satisfied that, during her oral evidence, the Registrant demonstrated that she had reflected on the Panel’s findings and had sought training and support which would enhance her practice as a social worker. Furthermore, the Panel was impressed by the Registrant’s ability to provide an example of when she had to make a difficult decision in her current role as a Child Protection Chair, particularly as the Panel’s findings indicate that when the Registrant was under pressure in Jersey she made a series of errors of judgement. The Panel took the view that attending courses is a useful starting point but it is the learning and development that has been achieved that is of most significance. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant demonstrated that she had translated relevant information and guidance she had obtained into her practice. It was clear to the Panel that the Registrant had developed insight and it accepted Mr Pourghazi’s submission that the deeper the learning the more likely it is to have been a gradual process. The Panel took the view that the Registrant was chastened by the whole experience and that the risk of repetition of the behaviours that amounted to misconduct was low.

108. Particular1: The Registrant breached her employer’s trust and the public’s trust in her as a professional when she did not ensure that she had complied with the registration requirements in the States of Jersey.  During her oral and written evidence the Registrant expressed regret and apologised for appearing to trivialise the importance of her legal status as a social worker in Jersey. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s assertion, that should she be in a similar situation in future, she would ensure that she made herself aware of the relevant rules and regulations to ensure that she complied with them. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s failure to register as a social worker in Jersey was a one-off incident. The Registrant now fully appreciated that as a professional it was her personal responsibility to ensure that she complied with the registration requirements. The Panel was satisfied that the incident was unlikely to be repeated and in that in these circumstances the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired based on the personal component.

109. However, with regard to the public component the Panel concluded that the Registrant ought to have known that failing to register constituted a criminal offence and from 8 May 2014 she did know but continued to work as a social worker for a further six weeks without informing anyone. The Panel was satisfied that such conduct is unacceptable. The Panel took the view that the Registrant’s actions brought the profession into disrepute and breached a fundamental tenet of the profession by failing to act with integrity. The Panel concluded that public confidence in the profession and the regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.

110. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired in relation to her failure to register as a social worker in Jersey on the basis of the public component alone.

111. Particular 7: The Registrant breached her employer’s trust and the public’s trust in her as a professional when she forwarded confidential emails relating to Service User’s D, E, F and G to her personal email. During her oral and written evidence the Registrant expressed regret which the Panel accepted as genuine. The Registrant informed the Panel that since this data breach she has attended data protection and confidentiality training. However, the Panel took the view that the Registrant, as a senior practitioner, should have been aware of the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of service users at all times. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s error of judgement occurred under stressful circumstances as her contract had been terminated. She had wanted to use the information to challenge what she thought was poor practice and retain examples of her own practice. The Registrant was able to outline the alternative options available to her, should she be in a similar situation again. The Panel also noted that in her witness statement, DW, confirmed that the Registrant uses her work laptop at home and ‘there have been no concerns regarding the Registrant sending confidential information to her personal email account’. The Panel concluded that the data breach was a one-off incident and was unlikely to be repeated and in that in these circumstances the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired based on the personal component.

112. However, with regard to the public component the Panel concluded that the Registrant knew or ought to have known that forwarding confidential information to herself was a breach of trust. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions demonstrated that at that time she chose to put her own interests above the interests of the service users. It is critically important that colleagues, service users and the public can rely on social workers to comply with data protection and confidentiality rules at all times. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct, in failing to do so, is unacceptable.  The Panel took the view that the Registrant actions exposed service users to unwarranted risk, brought the profession into disrepute, breached a fundamental tenet of the profession by failing to act in the best interest of service users and demonstrated a lack of integrity. The Panel concluded that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.

113. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the basis of the public component alone, in relation to her forwarding of service users’ confidential information, to her personal email address. This information did not belong to her and she planned to use it after she had left the service.

114. Particulars 4(a) and (b): The Registrant’s failure to update the Child Protection Register, or to ensure that it was updated, exposed Child A to risk of harm. The Registrant acknowledged in her written statement and during her oral evidence that she had been at fault. She accepted that she should have ensured that the Child Protection Register was updated and that although she was unfamiliar with the working practices in Jersey it was her responsibility to find out what was required. The Panel accepted that the Registrant has made changes to her practice and that she now takes extra care. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s regret and remorse as genuine and was satisfied that the incident was a one-off event which was unlikely to be repeated.

115. Particular 6(e): The Panel also accepted that asking the foster carer of Service User C to disclose her personal details during a meeting was a one-off event which was unlikely to be repeated. The Registrant explained to the Panel that she now appreciates that an effective meeting requires preparation. She stated that she has changed her practice and now ensures, as far as possible, that she makes appropriate enquiries with carers, the child and professionals in advance of the meeting so as to avoid the risk of inappropriate disclosures being made.

116. Particular 6(h): With regards to the hug, the Panel noted that because of the way that the Registrant chose to conduct the proceedings, she was presented with a dilemma. The Registrant informed the Panel that she raised the issue during a Child Sexual Exploitation workshop that she attended on 16 February 2017 and that the delegates were divided as to whether it was appropriate to encourage the child to hug his mother during the meeting. However, the Registrant stated that she has reflected on the matter and the Panel’s findings and has changed her practice. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant is deeply remorseful and the Panel concluded that the incident was unlikely to be repeated.

117. Particular 8: The Registrant’s refusal to chair the ICPC was a dereliction of her duty. The Panel accepted that the Registrant’s expressions of remorse and regret were genuine and again was satisfied that such an incident was unlikely to be repeated.

118. The Panel took the view that the Registrant’s actions referred to above (paras 98-102) are capable of remediation and have been remediated. The Registrant has demonstrated insight and the Panel concluded that individually the concerns raised do not amount to impairment of her current fitness to practise based on the personal component.

119. The Panel went on to consider whether collectively the Registrant’s course of conduct indicated an attitudinal failing which could be repeated in a different guise. In considering this issue the Panel noted that the relevant events occurred during a six week period, in a stressful set of circumstances. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has learnt from her errors of judgement and was satisfied that there was no basis upon which it could conclude that the Registrant has attitudinal issues. As part of this the Panel also took into account the witness statement of the Registrant’s current line manager, DW, who has worked with the Registrant for 18 months, is aware of the allegations and has indicated that the Registrant is a reflective practitioner, who is open and willing to learn.

120. The Panel went on to consider the public component with regard to particulars 4(a), 4(b), 6(e), 6(h) and 8. The Panel noted that all professionals can make mistakes. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has done all that could reasonably be asked of her to learn from her mistakes and was satisfied that there was no public interest in finding her impaired based on the public component for these particulars.

121. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that with regard to updating the Child Protection Register, asking Witness 1 to disclose her personal details, encouraging Service User C to hug his mother and refusing to chair the ICPC, the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is not impaired on the basis of the personal component or the public component.

122. As noted above, the Panel has determined that Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the public component based on:

(i) her continuing to work as a social worker without being registered in the States of Jersey, knowing that and that to do so was a criminal offence;

(ii) the data protection breach.

123. Therefore the HCPC’s case is well-founded.

Decision on Sanction

Submissions

124. Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, referred the Panel to the Indicative Sanctions Policy. She reminded the Panel that its primary function is to protect the public and the wider public interest. Although she made no positive submission with regard to the sanction that should be imposed, she reminded the Panel that it had determined that the risk of repetition was low but not non-existent.

125. Mr Pourghazi, on behalf of the Registrant, referred the Panel to the case of Brennan v HPC [HPC] 2011 EWHC 41 (Admin) where Ouseley J, stated that where the purpose of a sanction is to address issues relating to reputation and standards of the profession, careful consideration must be given to proportionality, particularly where there is insight and the risk of repetition is low. He submitted that the appropriate sanction in this case is a Caution Order. He invited the Panel to conclude that a Caution Order would strike the right balance between the Registrant’s interests and upholding confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. He referred the Panel to the Indicative Sanctions Policy and submitted that the criteria for a Caution Order had been met as the Registrant’s conduct was isolated, a one-off incident, she has demonstrated insight, taken appropriate remedial action and the risk of repetition is low. 

Panel’s Approach

126. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The public interest includes maintaining public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of severity.

127. The Panel had regard to its findings in relation to impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise. The Panel also took into account the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and the submissions made by both parties.

Decision

128. In determining the appropriate sanction, if any, to impose the Panel first identified what it considered to be the mitigating and aggravating features of the case. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

• The Registrant made full admissions to the factual particulars (Particular 1 and Particular 7) and admitted that these facts amounted to misconduct;

• The Registrant is of previous good character;

• The Registrant has a previously unblemished career, with no other adverse regulatory findings since she qualified in 1993;

• The Registrant has been fully engaged with the regulatory process.

The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

• The Registrant continued to work as a social worker in the States of Jersey, for a significant period of time knowing, that by doing so, she was committing a criminal offence;

• The Registrant knowingly and deliberately committed a data breach;

• The Registrant withheld information regarding her registration status from her employers.

129. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct to take no action would be inappropriate. Furthermore, in the absence of exceptional circumstances the Panel concluded that taking no action would be insufficient to maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession and the regulatory process.

130. The Panel then considered a Caution Order.  The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the ISP which states:

A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action. A caution order should also be considered in cases where the nature of the allegation means that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed but where the registrant has shown insight, the conduct concerned is out of character, the risk of repetition is low and thus suspension from practice would be disproportionate. A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.”

131. The Panel took the view that continuing to work as a social worker, without being registered and committing data protection breaches, requires a public declaration that such behaviour is unacceptable. The Panel was satisfied that the finding of impairment, in itself, was not sufficient to act as a deterrent to other registrants and would not be sufficient to publicly re-affirm the standards expected of a registered practitioner.

132. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant is a dedicated social worker and is clearly passionate about her profession and protecting the needs of children. In view of the Panel’s findings that the Registrant has demonstrated insight and that the risk of repetition is low, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be appropriate. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s misconduct, although not minor, was limited to a six week period in 2014 and in the meantime she has taken the opportunity to reflect on her previous conduct and learn from the experience. The Panel noted that a Caution Order would impose no restriction on the Registrant’s practice and was satisfied that that was appropriate. The Panel had no reason to doubt that the Registrant is anything other than a safe and competent social worker. She has been working as a social worker with Croydon Council for approximately 19 months and the Panel noted that she has been offered a permanent contract pending the outcome of this hearing. The Panel was satisfied that it would be disproportionate and would not be in the public interest to deprive the public of the services of a competent social worker even for a short period. The Panel also took the view that a Conditions of Practice Order would be inappropriate as there are no discrete areas of practice which require the Registrant to be re-trained or supervised.

133. In these circumstances the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would adequately meet the wider public interest in terms of declaring and upholding proper standards and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulator.

134. The Panel, in concluding that a Caution Order is the appropriate and proportionate sanction, went on to determine the appropriate length of the order. The Panel noted that the maximum period is five years. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s misconduct was towards the top end of the spectrum with regards to seriousness. However, the Panel took into account the Registrant’s admissions at the outset of the hearing and concluded that the Caution Order should be imposed for a period of four years.

135. In reaching this decision the Panel considered the Registrant’s interests, but concluded that her interests were outweighed by the Panel’s duty to give priority to the significant public interest concerns raised by this case.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register of Ms Lyn Gilpin with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 4 years from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 18 October 2017 (the Operative Date). 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Lyn Gilpin

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution
06/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard