Ms Julie Ann Edmond

: Social worker

: SW76179

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 22/09/2017 End: 12:30 22/09/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

The following allegations were considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 24 and 25 June 2015:

Between 11 December 2012 and 15 November 2013, whilst employed as a Social Worker at Hertfordshire County Council, you:

1. Were late for scheduled appointments with Foster Carers including with:

a) Foster Carers I and J on:

i. 12 December 2012;

ii. 24 April 2013;

iii. 05 June 2013

b) Foster Carer C on:

i. 01 May 2013;

ii. 08 May 2013;

c) Foster Carers D and E on:

i. 09 September 2013

2. Failed to complete statutory carer/reviews within agreed timeframes, including:

a) Case B;

b) Case S;

c) Case A;

d) Case N.

3. Destroyed written case notes on Case CN relating to Foster Carer Assessment for Applicant H.

4. Did not complete an accurate statutory carer/review for Case S, in that you:

a) Duplicated most of the information from a previous Social Worker’s statutory/carer review; and/or

b) Did not record many of your own observations.

5. The matters described in paragraphs 1 – 4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

The Panel at the Substantive Hearing found all the above paragraphs, save for paragraph 4b proved and that its findings amounted to lack of competence. A suspension order was imposed for a period of twelve months on 25 June 2015.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service

1. The Panel is satisfied on the basis of the documentation which it has seen and information which it has been provided with, that the Registrant has been served with notice of today’s review hearing in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence) Committee (Procedure) Rules 2003.   The Panel has seen a letter dated 22 August 2017 which was sent by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address.  This letter was also sent on the same date to the Registrant’s email address.  Although the proof of service document indicated that the letter had been sent on today’s date, the Panel was satisfied that this was a typing error and that the letter had been sent to the Registrant on 22 August 2017.  The Panel was able to confirm this by reference to the relevant computer record.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant:

2. The Panel heard an application by Ms Bentley for today’s hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She submitted that the Registrant has voluntarily waived her right to be present and has not sought an adjournment.   Ms Bentley reminded the Panel that the Registrant did not attend either the substantive hearing, or the two previous review hearings of her case, and so an adjournment was unlikely to secure her attendance at a future date. 

3. The Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.   In reaching this decision, the Panel has noted that it should proceed with utmost care and caution.  It has taken account of the matters set out in the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant, and has received and accepted legal advice. 

4. The Panel is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to notify the Registrant of today’s hearing.  It was plain from the information before it that the Registrant has voluntarily waived her right to be present.  Despite her obligation to engage with her Regulator, the Registrant has had no contact with the HCPC for some considerable time now and did not attend either the substantive hearing, or the previous review hearings.  The Panel noted that the Registrant has not sought an adjournment.   The Panel is satisfied that there is no point in an adjournment as there is no likelihood that the Registrant would attend a future hearing and therefore, nothing would be gained.  The Panel also took the view that there is a clear public interest in mandatory reviews being heard expeditiously and at the allotted time, particularly where there are, as here, serious concerns involving the Registrant’s lack of competence.

Background:

5. The Registrant started her employment with Hertfordshire County Council in December 2000.   At the time of the events that gave rise to the Allegation in this case, the Registrant was working part-time as a Supervising Social Worker in the Specialist and Safeguarding Service, South Fostering Team.  In this role, it was the Registrant’s responsibility to ensure that foster carers received the support and supervision they need to care properly for the children placed with them.

6. As a result of concerns about her performance, on 12 February 2012 the Registrant was put under a formal capability procedure.   During this procedure, there was no sustained improvement in her performance.   A Performance Capability Hearing took place on 18 September 2013 which resulted in the Registrant’s dismissal from her employment, and an appeal by her against that decision held in November 2013, was unsuccessful.    The concerns were referred to the HCPC.

The Substantive Hearing Panel Findings:

7. The Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing and was not represented.   That panel found that the Registrant was persistently late for appointments which she had scheduled with Foster Carers, as set out in Particular 1 of the Allegation.   She was often late by over an hour.   The panel also found the Registrant was late in producing the statutory/carer reviews, as set out in Particular 2 of the Allegation.   Her statutory reviews were often late, some by over 6 months.
 
8. In respect of Particular 3 of the Allegation, that panel found that the Registrant made visits to a prospective foster carer at her home during the Autumn of 2012. In early 2013, the applicant withdrew their application to become a foster carer.  In subsequent supervision meetings held between the Registrant and the team manager on 21 January 2013 and 05 February 2013, there was discussion about notes made by the Registrant during the home visits to the prospective foster carer.   The panel found that the notes made by the Registrant during the home visits were later destroyed.

9. In respect of Particular 4a of the Allegation, the panel found that there were substantial passages copied by the Registrant into the report she prepared which came from a previous Social Worker’s review report.   The Panel also found that the report as presented by the Registrant contained inaccuracies, some of which came from passages from the earlier report which the Registrant had copied.   The Panel found that by duplicating errors made by the previous Social Worker, the Registrant had perpetuated these.

10. The Panel found that the matters proved amounted to a lack of competence and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired.   The Panel found itself unable to formulate any guidance to the Registrant as to the sort of information that might be of assistance to a reviewing panel.

Review Hearing Panel – 16 June 2016

11. When this matter was first reviewed on 16 June 2016, that Panel set out a number of paragraphs from the Substantive Hearing Panel’s determination which it considered to be significant to its review of the suspension order. These were :

  25.  The Panel was given no information about Ms Edmond’s current employment status. There is no evidence to suggest that she has worked as a Social Worker since September 2013, when she was  dismissed by  Hertfordshire County Council.

 26.  The Panel noted that Ms Edmond had not achieved any demonstrable improvement in her performance  despite the various supportive measures taken by her employer. She lacks insight into the weaknesses in her practice and appears unwilling or unable to accept personal responsibility for her failings.
 
27.  The Panel concluded that Ms Edmond’s lack of competence has not been remediated and, furthermore,              there is little evidence to suggest that she is capable of remediation.  Consequently, there is a very high risk of Ms Edmond repeating the errors in her practice.

 39.  The Panel has no evidence as to Ms Edmond’s current activities, and there is no evidence that she would be either willing or able to comply with conditions of practice.  Furthermore, in view of the continuing and general failings despite the close supervision that took place during the period    relevant to the Panel’s inquiry, the Panel is of the view that it would not be possible to formulate conditions that would adequately manage the risk presented by Ms Edmond.   For these reasons a  Conditions of Practice Order is not appropriate.
 

40.  The result of these findings is that a Suspension Order is required. The Panel finds that no other  sanction would provide a sufficient degree of protection against the extensive and fundamental failings identified. Furthermore, no other sanction would serve to uphold proper standards or maintain  a sufficient degree of public confidence. In the judgement of the Panel it is necessary that the Supervision Order should be for a period of 12 months.
     
12.  The reviewing Panel of June 2016 found that as the Registrant had not engaged with the regulatory  process since the substantive hearing, nothing had changed since that hearing.    In imposing a  Suspension Order for a further 12 months, the Panel stated that the failings identified by the substantive hearing panel were capable of being remedied.   It set out some guidance for the Registrant as to how she might demonstrate this by providing for a future reviewing panel: 
          
a)  A written reflective piece fully addressing the failings identified at the substantive hearing.   In  particular she may wish to consider paragraph 18 of the previous Panel’s determination identifying the standards of proficiency that were breached, how they came to be breached and how the Registrant  intends to meet those standards in future

b)  An account of any training and/or retraining course undertaken as well as continuing professional              development

c)  Provide examples of how such training or retraining has been put into practice in contexts analogous  to those of social work.

Review Hearing Panel - 22 June 2017

13. This reviewing panel heard evidence that in the period since the previous review hearing, the only new information was that the Registrant continued to not engage with this regulatory process.   The Registrant had not been in contact with the HCPC since the substantive hearing, and had not provided to either of the reviewing panels any information about what she has been doing since the substantive hearing in June 2015.   In those circumstances, that panel concluded that nothing had changed since then, and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. The Registrant had provided no evidence to suggest that she had insight into her lack of competence, or that she had taken any steps to remedy this. There was no evidence of any reflection on her lack of competence despite the opportunities afforded to her by the two previous panels.  The panel found that the risk of repetition remained high.

Decision:
 
14. In reaching its decision, this Panel has taken account of the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”.  It has considered the submissions of Ms Bentley for the HCPC.  It has received and accepted legal advice.

15. The Panel has reviewed all the documents placed before it.  Since the last review hearing, the Registrant has not been in contact with the HCPC and so the Panel is satisfied that she has chosen not to participate in this regulatory process. 

16. The Panel noted that the purpose of a review hearing was to assess current fitness to practise.  On the basis that the Registrant has provided no information as to what she has been doing since June 2015, the Panel is satisfied that the only conclusion it can reach is that nothing had changed since then and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. 

17. The Panel is satisfied that despite the previous panel making it clear that the Registrant was being given yet another chance to demonstrate insight into her lack of competence, to show that she has reflected on her lack of competence, and has taken steps to remedy this, she has not done so.   As previous panels have found, in the absence of any information that the lack of competence has been remedied, the Panel must conclude that there is a high risk of repetition.

18. As the previous reviewing panel in June 2017 noted, there is no evidence that the Registrant has practised in Social Work since September 2013, or any information to suggest that she has taken any steps to keep her skills and knowledge up to date.

19.The Panel was wholly satisfied that public confidence in the Social Work profession would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case, where the Registrant has not engaged with her Regulator, and has failed to provide any information which would indicate that lessons had been learned and appropriate steps taken to remedy her lack of competence.

20. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

21. The Panel then considered what the appropriate and proportionate order was in this case.   It was referred to and took account of the HCPTS’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.    The Panel was of the view that the aggravating features identified by the substantive hearing panel remain unchanged and agreed with the further aggravating factor identified by the previous reviewing panel.  The aggravating factors were :

• the persistent and long-standing nature of the failings.
• the lack of response to substantial support and management intervention;
• the potential risk of harm to vulnerable children and foster carers;
• the degree of inconvenience to foster carers;
• the failure of the Registrant to engage with her Regulator.

22. The Panel considered its powers under Article 30 (1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 and the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.  It had in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public.  

23. It agreed with the previous panels’ findings that to take no action in this case would not be appropriate or proportionate, given the lack of competence concerned.   To take no action would not manage the risks identified in this case and the Panel is satisfied that, to ensure the public was properly protected it must impose a sanction.   

24. The Panel also agreed with the previous panels’ findings that a caution order is not appropriate in this case.  Such an order is not appropriate where, as here, there is no evidence of insight, no evidence of steps taken to remedy the lack of competence and nothing to demonstrate that there is a low risk of recurrence. The Panel agreed that the matters that led to the finding of lack of competence could not be described as either relatively minor or at the lower end of the scale.

25. The Panel also took the view that a conditions of practice order is not appropriate in this case.  It agreed with the previous panel that the lack of competence in this case was capable of being remedied. It concluded that, given the total lack of information about the current employment status of the Registrant or her readiness to comply with such an order, as evidenced by her total lack of engagement and failure to respond to the recommendations of the previous panel, there were no conditions which it could devise which would be appropriate, workable and measurable.

26. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order.   The Registrant has been subject to a Suspension Order now for over two years and it has not resulted in any attempt by her to show that she is able to reflect on her lack of competence or take steps to remedy it.   The Registrant has now had four opportunities to engage with the process: at the substantive hearing, the first and second review hearings, and at today’s hearing, and she has failed to take these opportunities.  The Panel considered that there is no evidence of any insight, remorse or reflection.   The Registrant could have shown this by engaging and submitting a piece of reflective work.   She has not done so

27. In these circumstances, the Panel can see no useful purpose in imposing a further period of suspension where there is no evidence that in the future, anything will change.  

28. The Panel has therefore concluded that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case is to order that the Registrant’s name is struck off the Register.   In reaching this decision, the Panel took note of paragraph 48 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy which states:
“Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial.   A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate”.

29. The Panel decided that even though the matters that led to the finding of lack of competence in this case could have been remedied by the Registrant, her lack of insight and unwillingness to resolve these, leave it with no choice but to strike her off the Register.  This sanction is also required to maintain public confidence in the Social Work profession and in its regulatory process which would be undermined if, having given the Registrant every opportunity to engage with the process and demonstrate her fitness to practise, it continued to offer further opportunities which, in the Panel’s judgment, are likely to be ignored. 

30. The Registrant, should she wish to work again as a Social Worker, can apply to the HCPC for consideration for re-entry on to the Register after a period of 5 years from the date that this order takes effect.

31. The Panel therefore concluded that the proportionate and appropriate sanction in this case is a striking off order.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Julie Ann Edmond from the Register on the date that this order comes into effect. 
 

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 23 October 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Julie Ann Edmond

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
22/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
16/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
24/06/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended