Ms Marie Esther Nolan

: Social worker

: SW84927

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:12:30 02/10/2017 End: 17:00 02/10/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During your employment as a Social Worker for Hampshire County Council you:

 

1. Failed to undertake and/or adequately record the required number of Child Protection visits and/or statutory visits in relation to the following cases:

 

a) Family 1

b) Family 2

c) Family 3

d) Family 4

e) Family 5

f) Family 6

g) Family 7

h) Family 8

i) Family 9

j) Family 10

k) Family 11

l) Family 12

 

2. Failed to maintain adequate records in that you did not make any entries on the ICS/SWIFT system:

 

a) For around 3 months in relation to the following cases:

 

i. Family 7

ii. Family 8

iii. Family 11

 

b) For more than 6 months in relation to the following cases:

 

i. Family 4

ii. Family 9

 

3. Did not conduct risk assessments and/or core assessments as required in relation to the following cases:

 

a) Family 1 in relation to whether the children were safe in their parents care;

b) Family 4

c) Family 5 in relation to the child returning to their parents’ care;

d) Family 10 in relation to:

 

i. The care arrangements in place;

ii. The mother’s new partner.

 

4. Failed to act on potential risk in that, in relation to Family 10, you did not:

 

a) Refer concerns about the mother’s drug use to the drug agency

b) Follow up on an assault allegedly perpetrated by the mother on another adult at a school.

 

5. You did not carry out the required case actions for Family 11 between 8 May 2012 and 8 August 2012.

 

6. Did not complete documents for court hearings in the requested timescales in that:

 

a) In relation to Family 3 you did not complete:

i. The Section 7 report by 20 February or 21 March 2012;

ii. The Addendum report by 18 May 2012.

b) In relation to Family 7 you did not complete the Care Plans by 6 August 2012.

 

7. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

8. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is

impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. The Panel decided that the hearing would be held in private, whenever matters of the Registrant’s health or family life were referred to, in order to protect her private life as well as that of her family members. The Panel therefore decided to hold parts of the hearing in private.
 
Background

2. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker and the matters which appear in the Allegation set out above were brought to the HCPC’s attention by her former employer, Hampshire County Council.

3 At the final hearing, the facts found proved (Particulars 1-6) were found to constitute misconduct and the Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired. A 12 month Suspension Order was imposed.

Decision

4. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Marris on behalf of the HCPC and heard oral evidence from the Registrant via video link. The documents before the Panel constituted the decisions of previous Panels.
 
5. Ms Marris submitted that the Registrant’s remains fitness to practise remains impaired, and that Sanction is a matter for the Panel. In her oral evidence, the Registrant accepted that her fitness to practise is currently impaired. She accepted that she had not fully met any of the previous Panels’ suggestions for documentary evidence from her. However, she expressed an intention to meet these recommendations in the future, stating that it could take her a year to be able to complete the recommendations and submit the documents.

6. The Panel undertook a comprehensive review of the Suspension Order in light of all of the current circumstances before it. It took account of the decisions of the previous Panels although it was not bound by them. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took into account the HCPC’s Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”. With regard to impairment, the Panel was aware that the issue of impairment is a matter for its own professional judgment, and that there is no burden of proof on either party.

7. In her oral evidence the Registrant referred to her ongoing circumstances which she stated she was now managing. However, she stated that these issues had prevented her from meeting previous Panels’ suggestions for further information from her. She stated in evidence, that she had undertaken computer courses at a college, and was awaiting certificates to evidence this. She also gave examples of how she has developed her time management skills in her personal and family life in order to manage many demands on her time.

8. The Panel was of the view that in her oral evidence, the Registrant demonstrated some insight into her failings and some reflection upon what she should do to prevent such failings recurring, such as seeking support earlier during supervision at work, and working harder to manage her time effectively.

9. However, the Registrant has not yet produced any written documentation in line with the recommendations made by the previous Panel on 9 June 2017. Such recommendations constituted clear guidance to the Registrant which would help her demonstrate the steps which she has taken to remediate the failings in her practice. In the absence of such evidence being presented to the Panel today, the Panel was of the view that a real risk of repetition of the misconduct remains, and that therefore the Registrant is liable to put service users at risk of unwarranted harm in the future.

10. The Panel also considered the wider public interest, and decided that in light of the nature of the misconduct and its duration, and in light of the lack of evidence of steps taken to remediate it, a well-informed member of the public would lose confidence in the profession if a finding of impairment were not made.

11. The Panel concluded that the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances.

12. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise remains impaired.

13. The Panel then went on to consider sanction. It took into account the advice of the Legal Assessor and considered the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.

14. The Panel decided that a Caution Order would not be appropriate or proportionate as it would not place any restriction on the Registrant’s right to practise, which, in the Panel’s view, was necessary in light of the ongoing risk to the public.

15. The Panel then considered a Conditions of Practice Order and concluded that this would not be appropriate. In light of the fact that the Registrant has been out of practice since 2012, as well as the un-remediated widespread concerns which remain regarding her practice which go to the core of Social Work practice, the Panel decided that no workable or practicable conditions could be formulated to address such widespread concerns. In any event, the Panel was of the view that a Conditions of Practice Order would not address the wider public interest concerns in this case and would undermine public confidence.

16. The Panel then considered whether to extend the Suspension Order and concluded that this would be appropriate and proportionate in this case. The Panel was of the view that there are some unique circumstances in this case, as clearly articulated by the Registrant.  Her responsibilities to them have, in the Panel’s view, been a major reason for her failure to produce evidence of remedial steps taken by her.

17. The Registrant has also made some progress in terms of her insight, reflection and in terms of addressing weaknesses in her computer skills including her attendance on a City and Guilds IT course. The Registrant has expressed to the Panel a willingness to address her failings further over the coming 12 months. In all these circumstances, the Panel was of the view that it would be proportionate to extend the Suspension for further 12 months, in order to allow the Registrant to demonstrate the steps she has taken to remediate her failings, while simultaneously providing protection to the public.

18. The Panel did give careful thought to a Striking Off Order but concluded that this would be disproportionate and punitive at this stage, considering the insight and reflection shown, and the willingness of the Registrant to take remedial steps.

19. The Panel therefore decided to extend the Suspension Order for a further 12 months from the date which would otherwise have been the expiry of the Order.

20. The Panel reiterates, as did the previous Panel on 9 June 2017, that a future reviewing Panel will be assisted by the following from the Registrant to be submitted 28 days prior to the next review hearing:

i. Evidence of the further development of her insight through a written reflective statement focusing particularly on how she would avoid such a situation developing in the future. This should clearly demonstrate what learning has taken place and what steps she proposes to take to ensure that such shortcomings will not be repeated in the future.

ii. A written statement, including evidence of any training and Continuous Professional Development, including online training. Statement to include how she has managed to update herself on current social work policy and practice, or at least, that she has clear and credible written plan to be able to so in a timely manner, in keeping with the HCPC Return to Practice requirements.

iii. Evidence of an improvement in her ability to master computer technology insofar as it is necessary for professional competence, or at least, a clear and credible plan to achieve such an improvement. This may include documentary evidence of her enrolment and attendance at such a course and the certificate of attendance and achievement awarded at the end of the course.

iv.  A written reflective statement of how the Registrant plans to ensure that her time and workload management would enable safe and effective practice in the future

 

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Marie Esther Nolan for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the previous order.

Notes

This order will apply from 9 November 2017.

It will be reviewed again before its expiry on 9 November 2018.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Marie Esther Nolan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
09/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
08/06/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended