Mrs Kim Suzanne Hawkes
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Essex County Council, between 2013 and 2014:
1. In respect of Service User A:
a. You did not hold a safeguarding meeting and/or review Service User A’s support plan;
b. You allowed family members to remove property from Service User A's home without seeking his permission;
c. You discussed Service User A’s will with his family;
d. You shared information about Service User A with the Housing Department;
e. You advised Service User A’s family, without supporting evidence, that Service User A’s doctor considered that the service user lacked mental capacity;
f. You threatened Service User A with Police should he not agree to go to a care home;
g. You did not visit Service User A after his fifth day of admission;
h. You did not hold a safeguarding meeting to explore if Service User A could return home;
i. You requested a DOLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) request to prevent certain friend(s) visiting Service User A;
j. You did not try less restrictive options before moving Service User A to a care home;
k. You did not record in the mental capacity assessment sufficient detail of the basis of your decision;
l. You did not complete an assessment of need;
m. You did not complete and/or record a support plan for the care provider;
n. You did not complete a review of placement after four weeks.
2. In respect of Service User B:
a. In or around June 2013 you did not record the mental capacity assessment regarding accommodation;
b. You did not complete and/or carry out a mental capacity assessment regarding finances;
c. In or around June 2013 you did not carry out a capacity assessment regarding contact with Service User B's son;
d. In or around June 2013 you did not hold a strategy meeting;
e. In or around June 2013 you did not inform Service User B's son of a safeguarding alert;
f. In or around June 2013 you provided Service User B's son with a false reason for Service User B to move to a care home;
g. You did not review the DOLS placing restrictions on Service User B's son being able to visit Service User B;
h. You did not complete and/or record a support care plan for the care provider;
i. You did not complete a review of placement after four weeks;
j. You did not share assessment records with Service User B.
k. You did not complete documentation regarding Service User B’s contact with her son;
l. You did not allow Service User B access to her mobile phone;
m. You cut up Service User B’s bank card;
n. You did not complete records in a timely manner in that you visited Service User B on 4 February 2013 and the notes were completed 30 July 2013.
3. In respect of Service User C you:
a. Did not complete a mental capacity assessment;
b. Did not carry out a carer’s assessment in or around December 2013;
c. Ceased weekly visits in or around February 2014 although the safeguarding plan was still active;
d. In or around March 2014 you did not record the completed mental capacity assessment form;
e. Did not review safeguard alert following the Police's decision to take no further action;
f. Did not put plans in place to resettle Service User C into the care home;
g. Did not review decision to place Service User C in a care home;
h. Did not complete and/or carry out mental capacity assessments;
i. Did not complete and/or record support for care provider;
j. Did not complete a review of placement after four weeks;
k. Did not complete a carer assessment for Friend A;
l. Included in a safeguarding alert that Friend A had stolen Service User C's identity without a clear evidential basis.
4. In respect of Service User D you:
a. Did not complete and/or record a mental capacity assessment;
b. Did not ensure appropriate measures were put in place for Service User D to be supported in his own home.
5. Your actions described in paragraphs 1-4 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.
6. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.
Proof of Service
1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing by a letter sent to the Registrant’s registered address dated 17 March 2017. Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant
2. Ms Sheridan made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She referred the Panel to the chronology of the
Registrant’s engagement with the HCPC.
3. The Registrant completed and returned the pre-hearing information form on or around 2 March 2017. She wrote “no” in response to the question “Are you planning to attend the hearing?”. She stated that she did not have a representative and “I will be unable to attend, but with assistance from a third party, I intend to present information and evidence to the panel/preliminary hearing”. In an earlier section of the form she stated that she has not been able to “address any information that has been forwarded to me … but will begin to read through the pack with assistance and respond as soon as I can”.
4. The Panel was provided with written representations, documentary and medical evidence submitted by the Registrant on 20 June 2017. In an e-mail dated 20 June 2017 the Registrant refers to matters relating to her health and confirms that “she will not be attending the hearing”.
5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.
6. The Panel considered the circumstances of the Registrant’s absence and concluded that the Registrant is engaging with the HCPC, but she has decided not to participate in this hearing because of her concerns about the impact this may have on her health. The medical evidence submitted by the Registrant and the information she has provided indicates that the various health matters she refers to have been ongoing for some time. The Registrant has not asked for an adjournment of today’s hearing. There was nothing to indicate that she might attend the hearing at a later date if the Panel adjourned today’s hearing.
7. The Panel identified that there was a clear public interest in resolving this matter expeditiously. The Allegation relates to events in 2013 and 2014. There was an HCPC witness in attendance to give her evidence and three other witnesses due to give evidence on subsequent days. The Panel decided that the public interest outweighed the Registrant’s interest and that the hearing should proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Application to amend the Allegation
8. Ms Sheridan made an application to amend the Allegation in the terms set out in a letter to the Registrant dated 21 December 2016. Ms Sheridan submitted that the amendments are appropriate to reflect more accurately the evidence in the case and that they do not change the gravity of the Allegation.
9. The Panel was satisfied that there was no unfairness to the Registrant if the amendments were allowed. The Registrant has made no objections to the proposed amendments and the Panel agreed that they are appropriate. The Panel exercised its discretion to allow all the amendments as set out in the letter dated 21 December 2016.
10. The Panel, of its own motion, exercised its discretion to amend the Allegation to correct an error in particular 3(g). The date should be March 2014 rather than March 2015. Although the Registrant has not had notice of this amendment, the Panel was satisfied that there was no unfairness to her. It was clear from the context and the other particulars of the Allegation that the date in particular 3(g) was an error.
11. The Panel also exercised its discretion to amend particular 1(a) to substitute the date of 2 May 2013 for the date 7 May 2013. Although the Registrant is not aware of this proposed amendment, the Panel was satisfied that there was no prejudice to her. This particular concerns events prior to Service User A moving into residential care, the date of which is clear from the documents. The amendment does not change the substance of the particular; it only changes the date to correct a clear error.
12. Ms Sheridan made a further application to amend particular 1(i) to make it clear that the Registrant did not herself request a DOLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) to prevent certain friend(s) visiting Service User A, but that she encouraged or requested the Care Home to do so. Ms Sheridan submitted that this proposed amendment did not prejudice the Registrant because the HCPC position was clearly set out in the witness statement of SR.
13. The Panel agreed to the proposed amendment to particular 1(i). The Panel was satisfied that there was no prejudice to the Registrant. It was satisfied that the Registrant would not have been misled by the wording of particular 1(i) because the meaning of particular 1(i) was clear from the HCPC evidence and the words suggested by Ms Sheridan could easily be read into particular 1(i). The amendment was appropriate because it clarified the extent of particular 1(i).
Application for hearing to be held in private
14. Ms Sheridan drew to the Panel’s attention an e-mail from the Registrant dated 20 June 2017 in which she requests that the hearing be heard in private. The Panel interpreted this request as an application for the whole of the case to be heard in private.
15. Ms Sheridan submitted that there was no reason for the whole of the hearing to be heard in private, but that it may be appropriate for the Panel to hear part of the hearing in private if there is reference to the details of the Registrant’s health.
16. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Conducting Hearings in Private”.
17. The Panel did not agree to the Registrant’s application for the whole of the hearing to be heard in private. However, the Panel decided that it was appropriate that any part of the hearing which concerned details of the Registrant’s health should be heard in private to protect her private life.
18. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in the Adult Social Care Team at Essex County Council (“ECC”). She worked within the Older Adults Mental Health Team. The Registrant initially worked in the Castlepoint Team under the supervision of a Senior Practitioner, JA, and a manager, SP. The Registrant made allegations that JA was bullying her and raised a grievance. The Registrant requested to move to a different team and this was agreed. In November 2013 she moved to the Basildon Mental Health Team. In the Basildon Team she worked under the supervision of a Senior Practitioner, PK, and a manager, AP, until January 2015 when PK took over the management supervision of the Registrant.
19. During the course of her employment by ECC, the Registrant made complaints that she was subject to bullying, victimisation and harassment by JA, AP, PK and another colleague, MR.
20. A review of four Service Users within the Registrant’s caseload was commissioned by ECC and completed by SR, an independent social work consultant, in October 2014. A further review was undertaken by SB, the manager of the ECC Adult Safeguards team, in March 2015.
21. At the time of the Allegation, Service User A (SUA) was 91 years of age and lived alone supported by friends from his church. SUA’s physical health deteriorated and he developed memory problems, which led to his friends requesting an assessment of his needs. On 1 May 2013 the Registrant visited SUA to conduct an assessment, accompanied by Student Social Worker DE. As a result of information obtained at the assessment and SUA’s apparent care needs, the Registrant arranged for SUA to be placed in a care home the following day.
22. On 2 May 2013 the Registrant completed a SETSAF1, which is a referral form to alert ECC that there is a safeguarding concern about an individual. In the SETSAF1 the Registrant identified that SUA was at risk of harm because of information she was given by SUA’s friends which indicated that he may have been subject to financial exploitation by other individuals. There were also concerns that SUA had been self-neglecting with his personal care, concerns about his dietary intake, and non-compliance with medication.
23. Service User B (SUB) was an 88 year old woman who was placed into residential care by the Registrant on 21 June 2013. The Registrant had carried out three assessments of need relating to SUB between 2011 and 2013, the last of which led to the provision of day-care services twice a week. In June 2013 an anonymous individual raised concerns regarding SUB’s safety. These concerns related to the behaviour of an individual who regularly visited the house where SUB lived with her son. As a result of the concerns, SUB was placed into residential care on a temporary basis. The concerns raised by the anonymous individual and SUB herself were the subject of a police investigation.
24. At the time of the Allegation, Service User C (SUC) was 47 years old with complex mental and physical problems. The Registrant became her allocated social worker on 28 November 2013, by which time SUC was already subject to safeguarding action because she had previously experienced antisocial behaviour from a neighbour. SUC was receiving increasing amounts of care and support from Friend A; however, on 20 November 2013, Friend A confirmed to the Safeguarding Team that he was struggling to cope with SUC’s deteriorating health.
25. SUC and Friend A’s relationship began to break down in early February 2014. On 7 February 2014, the Registrant visited SUC, who claimed that she had a sexual relationship with Friend A and he had manipulated her. She also accused Friend A of having sexual relations with the neighbour responsible for the anti-social behaviour. On 10 February 2014, SUC then retracted this account, saying that she had been annoyed at Friend A, but then went on to say that she was afraid Friend A and her neighbour would throw her down the stairs. On 5 March 2014 SUC informed the Registrant that she had reported Friend A to the police for stealing money from her.
26. On 14 March 2014 the Registrant received information by telephone from Carewatch, the carer for SUC, that there was no electricity or food in SUC’s house. The Registrant obtained permission from a Senior Practitioner to place SUC in residential care on a temporary basis.
27. Service User D (SUD) had early onset dementia and lived with his partner and their two daughters. The Registrant was the allocated social worker for SUD at the time of a review of his care in April 2013. SUD received respite care, and other care was provided by his family. SUD’s partner, Carer A, raised a concern that the Registrant talked about residential care for SUD from the outset of her involvement in the case.
Decision on Facts
28. The Panel heard evidence from the HCPC witnesses SR, PK, SB and DE.
29. The Panel found that SR was an honest witness. However, the Panel identified limitations in her investigation. She had not met the Registrant and she did not interview any of the Service Users. There were some gaps in the level of detail of her investigation, which she conceded. She did not have complete access to all the information. The Panel therefore gave limited weight to some of her conclusions. Nevertheless, the Panel were able to give weight to parts of her evidence where the relevant documents were included in her investigation. The Panel was satisfied that she was an independent witness, with a wide experience of social work, and therefore gave weight to some of her opinion evidence.
30. The Panel found that PK was an honest witness. She had a difficult relationship with the Registrant. This difficulty was indicated by the fact that she often met with the Registrant alongside AP. In the Panel’s view, PK’s perception of events may have been influenced by this difficult relationship. PK had only two formal supervision sessions with the Registrant during the period she was responsible for the Registrant’s casework supervision.
31. The Panel found that SB was a reliable and credible witness. He interviewed the Registrant twice during his investigation. He had a long social work career at ECC with a particular expertise in safeguarding, and the Panel therefore gave weight to his opinion evidence.
32. The Panel found that DE was a credible and reliable witness. She had a good recall of the detail of events. She was consistent and fair.
33. The Panel carefully read and considered: the Registrant’s written submissions for the Panel with supporting documents; the Registrant’s submissions and documents provided to the HCPC Investigating Committee; and the Registrant’s interviews with SB and her statements made at the disciplinary hearing.
34. The HCPC evidence on many of the particulars of the Allegation depended on documentary evidence. The Panel gave weight to the documentary evidence where it was contemporaneous and took the form of case notes, e-mails, correspondence, or completed forms. In the case of SUC, the Panel noted that some of the relevant documents were missing. Where the document was missing the HCPC relied on a note made by SR of the content of the case record. The Panel considered SR’s notes, but gave that evidence limited weight because the Panel did not have the opportunity to see the contemporaneous documents.
Particular 1(a) – Proved
35. The Panel found particular 1(a) proved. The Registrant states that there was a safeguarding meeting on 7 May 2013, but this took place after SUA moved to residential care on 2 May 2013. There is no record of a meeting which could be described as a safeguarding meeting prior to the date SUA was moved to residential care.
Particular 1(b) – Proved
36. The Panel found particular 1(b) proved by the documentary evidence and the evidence of DE. The case notes confirm that a family member of SUA collected family trees and address books on 5 June 2013. A written receipt was prepared by DE. Similarly, the case notes confirm that on 13 June 2013 war medals belonging to SUA were passed to a member of SUA’s family. Again, a written receipt was prepared by DE. There is no evidence that SUA was asked for or gave his permission for this property to be given to his relatives.
37. In her written submissions the Registrant does not suggest that she obtained permission from SUA. She states, and the Panel finds, that she acted with the knowledge of her manager.
Particular 1(c) – Proved
38. The Panel found particular 1(c) proved by the documentary evidence. Although the Registrant did not know the content of SUA’s will, the case record for 9 May 2013 shows that she discussed matters relating to his will with a member of his family on 9 May 2013. The Registrant recorded that the relative would be contacting the solicitors involved with the will “as GP confirmed he lost capacity to make decisions in December/January 2013”. There is also a record of a conversation on 12 June 2013 in the case notes which includes a further discussion with a relative of SUA about SUA’s will. There is no evidence that SUA was asked for or gave permission for the Registrant to discuss his will.
Particular 1(d) – Not Proved
39. The Panel found particular 1(d) not proved. The Registrant found a letter in SUA’s property addressed to the friend relating to a housing application. The Registrant recorded that she sent an e-mail to PC Alison Wright giving this information and stating that she had spoken to the Housing Officer. Therefore, the Registrant did contact the Housing Department regarding Service User A’s friend’s housing application. However, the Panel did not find that the HCPC has proved that it was not appropriate for the Registrant to do so. In her witness statement, SR acknowledged that it could be argued that the Registrant was preventing a fraud against the housing authority, and in her oral evidence she stated that there might have been a public duty to disclose information.
40. The HCPC refers to an e-mail from the ECC Informatics Officer dated 27 January 2015 which suggests that this demonstrates that the Registrant acted in breach of the Data Protection Act and therefore inappropriately. The Panel did not agree. The question to the Informatics Officer was general and not tailored to the circumstances of this disclosure. The question did not include the possibility that there might be a duty to disclose information in the public interest.
Particular 1(e) – Not Proved
41. The Panel found particular 1(e) not proved. The HCPC has not discharged the burden of proof. The Registrant made a case note dated 9 May 2013 of a conversation with a relative of SUA. In this case note she records “Person M will be contacting the solicitors who amended SUA’s will in February 2013, as GP confirmed he lost capacity to make decisions in December/January 2013”. On the basis of this record, SR concluded that the Registrant discussed with SUA’s family “information concerning when Service User A lost mental capacity”. The Panel noted that this inference could reasonably be drawn from the note made by the Registrant. However, this is less specific than the wording of particular 1(e). For example, the Registrant might have reported the information from the GP as no more than an observation that SUA appeared to lack capacity in December or January 2013.
42. The Registrant did not record in her case note exactly what she had said to Person M. Although the Registrant appears to have disclosed some information to Person M, there is insufficient evidence of the details of what she disclosed or advised.
Particular 1(f) – Not Proved
43. The Panel found particular 1(f) not proved. The Registrant explained to SUA’s friends that SUA did not have capacity and that if he continued to be unable to move to the care home voluntarily there was a procedure to follow under the Mental Health Act. She explained that sometimes it may be necessary for people to be escorted to a place of safety by the police. DE’s oral evidence was consistent with her written statement and she does not describe what was said by the Registrant as a threat. The Panel preferred the evidence of DE, who was present when the conversation took place, to the hearsay evidence of a friend of SUA who was not present on the day, but reported what she had heard from others.
Particular 1(g) – Proved
44. The Panel found particular 1(g) proved. SUA was taken to the residential care home on 2 May 2013. The last recorded visit to SUA is on the fifth day of his stay. The Panel accepted the evidence of SR that, in accordance with ECC and NHS Community Care Act 1990 guidance, there should have been a review of his placement approximately four weeks after it commenced to assess whether the home was meeting his needs and to hear his views.
45. The Registrant suggests in her written submissions that she was removed from the role of allocated social worker and therefore not responsible for the review. However, the case notes show that her last case note entry is 18 July 2013 and the case was formally transferred to another social worker on 2 September 2013. There was therefore sufficient time, while the Registrant remained responsible for SUA, for the required visit.
Particular 1(h) – Proved
46. The Panel found particular 1(h) proved. The Panel considered the notes of a meeting dated 7 May 2013 which was attended by professionals and members of SUA’s family. The Registrant has described this meeting as a “safeguarding meeting”. The Panel carefully reviewed the minutes of the meeting and found that that it did not explore if SUA could return home. There was no recorded discussion of any plan or support that might be required for SUA to return home, or of SUA’s wishes.
Particular 1(i) – Not Proved
47. The Panel found particular 1(i) not proved. The DOLS to prevent certain friends visiting SUA was requested by the care home. There is no evidence that KH asked or suggested to the care home that such a request should be made. SR is clear in her evidence that she drew an inference that the request came from KH. The Panel did not make the same inference. The HCPC has not discharged the burden of proof.
Particular 1(j) – Proved
48. The Panel found particular 1(j) proved. In their evidence SR and SB gave evidence of less restrictive options that might have been tried before SUA was moved to a care home. The concerns about financial exploitation did not require SUA to be moved to a care home. Those concerns could be met in other ways by the immediate removal of credit card and cheque book and a long term plan for financial management, such as a referral to the Court of Protection. The concerns about self-neglect were significant and they required immediate action, but other options could have been tried for those concerns. Those options included an Occupational Therapy Assessment, the provision of home care, meals on wheels, and assistance from an incontinence expert.
49. DE told the Panel that on 1 May 2013 there was some discussion about alternatives to a care home. However, none of the alternatives were tried. The Registrant began to take action to remove SUA from his home on the day of the assessment on 1 May 2013, and the move took place the following day.
Particular 1(k) – Proved
50. The Panel found particular 1(k) proved. The Registrant completed two mental capacity assessments under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for SUA on 1 May 2013. The assessment involves exploring whether an individual can understand, retain and weigh information about an issue and communicate their decision. The assessments were in relation to accommodation and in relation to finances.
51. The assessments are completed in detail, but they focus on describing SUA’s difficulties rather than assessing SUA’s understanding of the relevant issues. There is not a sufficient analysis of his insight or understanding. In the accommodation assessment SUA’s views were recorded on his shopping, cooking and using his bicycle, but he was not asked where he wants to live or asked to weigh the option of living in a care home. In the financial capacity assessment the form includes a number of statements made by friends, but in relation to SUA, it only states that he could not say where his money had gone or who had access to his accounts. The assessment does not include details of what questions SUA was asked, or how he responded.
52. The Panel accepted the evidence of SR and SB, who both identified the same concerns with the assessments. They contained insufficient evidence of the Registrant’s interaction with SUA to support the conclusions she reached about SUA’s understanding of the issues.
Particulars 1(l) and 1(m) – Proved
53. The Panel found particulars 1(l) and 1(m) proved. An assessment of need is completed by a social worker to explore and identify possible needs in different areas of an individual’s life. The assessment should include input from the individual, their friends and family, and any professionals involved. Although the Registrant carried out an assessment of SUA on 1 May 2013, there is no written assessment. The information about SUA’s health problems, level of self-neglect, and care needs comes from the mental capacity assessments and the case notes.
54. A support plan arises from the assessment of need. It identifies the Service User’s eligible needs and how they will be met by the Council.
55. In her written submissions the Registrant states that this was a “difficult situation” and that a senior should have picked up any discrepancies. She did not suggest that a written assessment or a support plan were completed.
Particular 1(n) – Proved
56. The Panel found particular 1(n) proved. The Panel accepted the evidence of SR and PK that a timely review of the placement would have been at the end of June 2013. No review was carried out by the Registrant.
57. The Registrant stated that she had limited input in the case due to its complexity. She also states that the case was removed from her in July 2013. The case notes show that the Registrant continued to have input in the case during June 2013. She remained the allocated social worker until the case was transferred in September 2013. The Panel found that it was the Registrant’s responsibility to conduct a review at the end of June 2013.
Particular 2(a) – Proved
58. The Panel found particular 2(a) proved. Although there is evidence that the Registrant began to carry out or carried out a mental capacity assessment for SUB, a completed mental capacity assessment was not located during the investigations of SR, SB or during the ECC disciplinary process. During the disciplinary process the Registrant was given the opportunity to provide additional documentation if such documentation was stored elsewhere, but she was unable to produce a completed mental capacity assessment for SUB.
59. The ECC requirement for appropriate recording was that the document must be available for the use of other professionals. This meant that it must be stored on the paper file or on a common drive, and it was not acceptable for them to be stored only on the Registrant’s desktop computer. Although the Registrant was not able at the time to access the common drive, she was able to access the paper file and she could request a member of the administrative staff to download documents to the common drive.
60. The Registrant’s position is that the mental capacity assessment was completed on 19 June 2013 and sent to the Community Psychiatric Nurse and to the Senior Practitioner. There is a case record dated 19 June 2013 stating “e-mail and SETSAF paperwork completed and sent to CPN, police and SP”. However, the SETSAF paperwork is not a mental capacity assessment and the SETSAF dated 19 June 2013 states “MCA2 to be completed”. MCA2 refers to the mental capacity assessment. 61. Therefore, the Panel found no record of the mental capacity assessment regarding accommodation being appropriately recorded.
Particular 2(b) – Proved
62. The Panel found particular 2(b) proved. The Registrant’s position is that she is “unable to say whether this was completed or not”. No record of a completed mental capacity assessment regarding finances for SUB was found in the investigations or the disciplinary process. The position on appropriate recording is the same as for particular 2(a).
Particular 2(c) – Proved
63. The Panel found particular 2(c) proved. The Registrant’s position is that “due to the nature and the extreme hostility of Person I, I had no further contact with Person I”. Person I is SUB’s son. This particular relates to a mental capacity assessment regarding whether SUB could make a decision about contact with her son. If there was hostility from the son, it would not have prevented an assessment of SUB and there is no record suggesting that this was the reason for not carrying out a mental capacity assessment on contact.
Particular 2(d) – Proved
64. The Panel found particular 2(d) proved. A strategy meeting was due to be arranged. This is recorded in the SETSAF2 form dated 3 July 2013. In her written submissions the Registrant states that a strategy meeting was held on 31 July 2013. The evidence of SR was that no record of a strategy meeting on 31 July 2013 was found in her investigation. The Panel carefully reviewed the documentary evidence and noted a letter from SUB’s son dated 31 July 2013 stating: “I am not sure if you have been informed, but the meeting scheduled for this morning was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, yesterday 30 July 2013.”
Particular 2(e) – Proved
65. The Panel found particular 2(e) proved. There is a letter to Service User B’s son dated 21 June 2013 which informs him that his mother had agreed to go into respite care that day. However, it would not have been appropriate to give Service User B’s son details about the content of the safeguarding alert at that stage because the alert may have involved himself and was focussed on his friend.
Particular 2(f) – Proved
66. The Panel found particular 2(f) proved. A record was made on 4 July 2013 by a social worker appointed to make an assessment of SUB’s best interests that any contact between SUB and her son or her son’s friend should be under supervision. This restriction was not reviewed until the conclusion of the police investigation in January 2014.
67. The Registrant was removed from SUB’s case in August 2013, and thereafter it would not have been her responsibility to carry out reviews. The restriction was considered by the best interest assessor on 4 July 2013 and, at that point, was considered to be appropriate. The Panel did not consider that it was unreasonable for the restriction to remain in place for the several weeks following 4 July 2013 until the Registrant was removed from the case.
Particular 2(g) – Proved
68. The Panel found particular 2(g) proved. SR did not find a support plan during her investigation and the Registrant does not state that she completed a support plan.
69. In her written submissions the Registrant states that her managers were dealing with Service User B’s son’s concerns and DOL issues. This does not explain the absence of a support care plan for the care provider which would consider Service User B’s needs and how those needs were being met.
Particular 2(h) – Not Proved
70. The Panel found particular 2(h) not proved. A review of SUB’s needs was completed and recorded on 30 July 2013. SR accepts that the review was carried out within a reasonable period.
71. This was a review of a temporary placement whilst a safeguarding investigation was being carried out. The Registrant recorded that both her colleague who was present at the assessment, SB, and SUB were content for the placement to continue at that point. This review was adequate.
Particular 2(i) – Proved
72. The Panel found particular 2(i) proved in relation to the sharing of assessment records with Person I. The Panel accepted the hearsay evidence of Person I in interview that he did not receive the records until he made a request under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Particular 2(j) – Proved
73. The Panel found particular 2(j) proved. The Panel considered the SETSAF1 completed on 19 June 2013. This documents safeguarding issues about Person I (Service User B’s son) and Person K (a friend of Service User B’s son). However, it does not constitute an assessment or strategy about Person I’s contact with SUB. A SETSAF risk assessment was carried out on 1 July 2013 by the best interest’s assessor. This states that visits by Person I are supervised following a DOLS. SR was unable to locate the remaining SETSAF documentation including the SETSAF3 or the SETSAF4 or any review of the safeguarding plan relating to the contact with Person I.
Particular 3(a) – Not Proved
74. The Panel found particular 3(a) not proved. Particular 3(a) does not specify either the date of the failure or the decision for which a mental capacity was required. The HCPC case is that no mental capacity assessment was found by SR in her investigation. In her written representations the Registrant states that a mental capacity assessment was to “be typed up by AA (a social worker)”. Ms Sheridan submitted that this suggestion should be rejected because the Registrant made no previous reference to AA when she was interviewed as part of the disciplinary investigation. Ms Sheridan also submitted that, as the responsible social worker, the Registrant remained responsible for the completion and recording of the mental capacity assessment.
75. The Panel found support in the documents for the Registrant’s assertion. For example, a case note dated 5 March 2014 states “A request has been made to other colleagues to carry out an MCA2 on SUC for finances and change of accommodation”. The documentation also refers to the conclusions of the mental capacity assessment. For example, on 27 October 2014, a social worker completed a SETSAF1. In this SETSAF1 it is recorded “Following a Mental Capacity Assessment, SUC has been deemed to lack capacity…”. In the Panel’s judgment, this record indicated that at that time, professionals had access to a completed mental capacity assessment. The Panel therefore found that the HCPC has not proved that the Registrant did not complete or record a mental capacity assessment for SUC.
Particular 3(b) – Proved
76. The Panel found particular 3(b) proved. A carer’s assessment is carried out to identify any needs a carer may have and to provide support to enable them to continue in their caring role. The Registrant made visits to SUC on 28 November and 2 December 2013 which demonstrate that Friend A had concerns about SUC’s practical, financial and health difficulties which he was struggling to support her with.
77. A carer’s assessment was carried out by a previous social worker, but this was in September 2013 and it was incomplete. The Panel accepted the evidence of SR that a carer’s assessment should have been completed in December 2013 or soon afterwards because Friend A was under significantly increased stress.
78. In her written submissions the Registrant refers to her later involvement in the case in early March 2014, and not to her earlier involvement in November and December 2013, when it is alleged she should have carried out a carer’s assessment.
Particular 3(c) – Proved
79. The Panel found particular 3(c) proved. There was a safeguarding plan for SUC regarding the anti-social behaviour of her neighbour. The plan required weekly visits to monitor and support SUC. The case record shows that visits took place on 20 January 2014, 28 January 2014, 7 February 2014, 10 February 2014 and 5 March 2014. There is a gap between the visit on 10 February 2014 and the 5 March 2014 visit.
80. In her written submissions the Registrant states that she went on annual leave on 21 February 2014 and was on sick leave until 3 March 2014. The Panel had PK’s evidence of the Registrant’s sick leave dates taken from the computer system, which do not show sickness absence for the Registrant in March 2014. There was no information on the Registrant’s annual leave dates. SR accepted that she did not have access to the Registrant’s annual leave records as part of her investigation.
81. Although it is hearsay evidence, the Panel accepted the Registrant’s written submission in relation to annual leave from 21 February 2014. The Registrant does not state the end date for her annual leave and the end date is therefore unclear.
Particular 3(d) – Proved
82. The Panel found particular 3(d) proved. The Panel noted that there is no SETSAF1 dated 5 March 2014 completed by the Registrant in the exhibits bundle, or any follow up documentation. There is a written note made by SR for 5 March 2014 which states “SETSAF1 by [the Registrant]”. There is no evidence that this SETSAF1 was issued or processed, as it does not appear in the case notes for SUC provided to the Panel. There was a SETSAF1 completed by the police on 1 May 2014 and signed off as closed in a SETSAF4 dated 17 July 2014.
83. The Panel found no evidence that the Registrant reviewed the police safeguard alert.
84. In her written representations the Registrant states that she had not received the safeguarding alert from her colleague AA. She also states that she was absent due to sickness from 19 March 2014 and was removed from the case on her return. The Panel noted references in the documents to support the Registrant’s contention that she was not the allocated social worker from the middle of March 2014 onwards. In particular, in SR’s summary of the case notes she recorded under “Key People” “[the Registrant], allocated social worker from late November 2013 to 14 March 2014, PK, social work senior practitioner allocated from March 2014…”. In her witness statement, PK states that she is unable to confirm the date SUC was given to her and in oral evidence she stated that she took over the case after her return from training. The case notes suggest that SR’s summary is correct because no further work was undertaken by the Registrant from 14 March 2014, but PK and MC, a support worker, did work on the case in late March 2014.
85. Therefore, although the Panel found that the Registrant did not review the safeguarding alert, the Panel found that she was not the allocated social worker at any time after the police safeguarding alert was raised. Further, if the Registrant did raise a safeguarding alert on 5 March 2014, she was not the allocated social worker at a time when a review should have taken place.
Particular 3(e) – Proved
86. The Panel found particular 3(e) proved. On 14 March 2014 SUC was placed in a care home. There is no record in SUC’s case notes of a review of the placement four weeks after it commenced.
87. However, as with particular 3(d), the Registrant was not the allocated social worker at the time when a review should have taken place in mid-April 2014.
Particular 3(f) – Proved
88. The Panel found particular 3(f) proved. There was no support plan for SUC which meant that the care home was unaware of her care needs.
89. In her submissions, the Registrant does not state that she completed a support plan. She refers to a temporary placement for SUC and her sickness absence. A support plan for SUC could have been completed before the Registrant’s sickness absence.
Particular 3(g) – Not Proved
90. The Panel found particular 3(g) not proved. The HCPC relied on SR’s summary of a case note made on 5 March 2014 by NK of the housing department: “[the Registrant] believes that Friend A may have been using her identity to get credit”. This is repeated in SR’s summary of the Registrant’s assessment of need dated 5 March 2014. The Panel was unable to review the contemporaneous records because they were not included in the exhibits bundle.
91. The Panel had significant concerns about the quality of the evidence. The note made by NK is double hearsay and the Panel did not give weight to it. SR reported a written note made by NK of what the Registrant said to her. The Panel was not able to review the assessment of need documentation to consider the context of the Registrant’s statement. Further, the statement, as recorded by SR, is that Friend A “may have” been using SUC’s identity, not that she had stolen the identity.
Particular 3(h) – Not Proved
92. The Panel found particular 3(h) not proved. In considering this allegation the Panel had conflicting hearsay evidence from MC, a support worker involved in the case of SUC, and the Registrant. MC stated that the Registrant told her that SUC did not have capacity regarding her accommodation and therefore was not to take her mobile phone to the residential care home. The Registrant stated in her interview with SB that she rushed to pack items for SUC and overlooked the mobile charger and that it was not a deliberate attempt to deprive her of the charger.
93. PK’s evidence was that she was informed by MC that the Registrant did not allow SUC to take her mobile phone charger with her and that AP collected the phone charger later. The Panel noted that this is a different account to that given by MC that the Registrant did not allow SUC access to her phone.
94. The Panel found that there is an inconsistency between the hearsay evidence of MC and the hearsay evidence of PK and that the HCPC has not discharged the burden of proof.
Particular 3(i) – Proved
95. The Panel found particular 3(i) proved. In SR’s notes of the assessment record dated 5 March 2014 the Registrant referred to “cancelling SUC’s bank card”. Although the Panel has not seen this note, there are other documents which provide support. A note on 14 March 2014 by the Registrant confirms that a new bank card had been ordered and a note made by MC on 16 April 2014 confirms that SUC had received a new card.
96. The background circumstances were that SUC reported to the Registrant on 5 March 2014 that she had contacted the police to report her money being stolen by Friend A, and that Friend A had access to her bank cards and would obtain money and pay bills for her. In these circumstances the action of cancelling SUC’s bank card appears to have been taken to prevent alleged financial abuse by Friend A.
Particular 4(a) – Proved
97. The Panel found particular 4(a) proved. The Registrant completed a review of SUD’s care needs on 30 April 2013. In the review the Registrant commented that SUD lacked capacity regarding accommodation and finances.
98. SR was unable to locate a mental capacity assessment in her investigation. The Registrant states that she is unable to state whether a mental capacity assessment was carried out.
Particular 4(b) – Not Proved
99. The Panel found particular 4(b) not proved. The Panel found no evidence relevant to particular 4(b). SR’s criticism of the Registrant is that she inappropriately suggested residential care for SUD. The note on 21 May 2014 shows that the Registrant did refer to residential care. However, this is not the criticism of the Registrant made in particular 4(b).
100. In her evidence SR stated that extra day care was organised for SUD. It is not clear from the evidence when this occurred. Therefore, the Panel cannot make a finding on whether this was or was not in a timely manner.
101. In her investigation SR interviewed SUD’s carer. In this interview SUD’s carer states that the Registrant did arrange extra day care. Her complaint is about the Registrant’s insensitive and unhelpful attitude, not that the Registrant did not make arrangements for the care of SUD.
Preliminary Matters (11 October 2017)
Service of Notice
102. The Panel found that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing by a letter dated 20 July 2017.
Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant
103. Ms Sheridan made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She referred the Panel to an e-mail from the Registrant dated 10 October 2017 which states that that the Registrant will be unable to attend the hearing for health reasons.
104. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.
105. The Panel noted that the Registrant remains unable to attend the hearing due to reasons relating to her health and that this position is unlikely to change. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing. There was no change in the circumstances since the hearing on 3-7 July 2017. The Panel therefore decided to proceed with the hearing in the Registrant’s absence for the same reasons.
Registrant’s written submissions
106. The Panel received further submissions and documents from the Registrant:
• The Registrant’s final statement;
• A number of testimonials;
• A print-out of absence dates;
• An e-mail to the Registrant dated 18 September 2013 advising the Registrant that all her case load would be reallocated and that she would have a zero caseload;
• Letters to the Registrant confirming that for the performance years 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 she “fully met” the required performance standards.
107. Ms Sheridan submitted that the Panel should consider the print-out of absence dates provided by the Registrant with caution because there was nothing on the face of the document to confirm that it was the Registrant’s record. Further, she referred to the oral evidence of PK.
108. The Panel compared the absence print-out provided by the Registrant and the list of the Registrant’s absences in paragraph 11 of PK’s witness statement. There was correlation in the dates in the printed document. However, the Registrant added in handwriting two additional periods of sickness absence in 2014 connected with a fall at work on 11 February 2014. The Registrant previously referred to these additional periods of sickness in her written submissions during the fact-finding part of the hearing.
109. The Panel did not give weight to the additional document, which did not add any new facts.
Decision on Grounds
110. The Panel first considered whether the proven facts amounted to misconduct. There is no statutory definition of misconduct, but the Panel had regard to the guidance of Lord Clyde in Roylance v GMC (No2)  1 AC 311: “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 conduct must be serious in that it falls well below the required standards.
111. In reaching its conclusions that some of the particulars constituted misconduct, the Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (the Standards). The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions and failures breached Standard 1, which obliged her to act in the best interests of service users, and Standard 10, “you must keep accurate records”. The Panel also considered the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers, Standard 1, “be able to practise safely and effectively within their scope of practice”, Standard 2, “be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession”, and Standard 10, “be able to maintain records appropriately”.
112. The Panel reminded itself that breaches of the Standards do not automatically lead to a finding of misconduct. The breaches must be sufficiently serious to justify this label.
113. In considering whether the particulars constituted misconduct, the Panel took into account the background circumstances. The circumstances included the strained relationship between PK and the Registrant and the fact that PK held only two formal supervision sessions with the Registrant during the period she was responsible for the Registrant’s casework supervision. The Panel did not consider that these circumstances excused the Registrant’s failures, but the Panel did take them into account in assessing the seriousness of each failure.
114. The Panel found that particular 1(a) did not constitute misconduct. The decision to remove SUA to a place of safety was made in response to an urgent situation. The Panel took into account the evidence of DE. It was clear that there were no care options at that time for SUA because his friends were stating that they were not able to continue to care for him. There was also clear evidence of self-neglect. Other colleagues were aware of and involved in the decision-making, and a senior manager gave approval. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant retained responsibility even though a manager had approved the decision. Nevertheless, the manager’s approval was relevant as part of the context in which the Panel assessed the seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct. Although a safeguarding meeting did not take place prior to SUA moving to residential care, a meeting was held in the care home on 7 May 2013.
115. The Panel found that particular 1(b) did not constitute misconduct. The Registrant acted with the knowledge of her manager.
116. The Panel found that particular 1(c) did not constitute misconduct. The Registrant did not know the content of SUA’s will. Her discussion was therefore in limited terms. The Panel did not find that any breach of confidentiality in the limited discussions which did take place was sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.
117. The Panel found that particular 1(g) constituted misconduct. The Registrant was at work for a significant period of time after SUA was taken into care until her absence on long term sickness absence. SUA suffered from dementia and may have lacked capacity to understand what had happened. It was therefore very important to conduct visits to ascertain his wishes. SUA did not have an advocate, and there is no evidence that he was invited to the meeting on 7 May 2013 or consulted on that day.
118. The consequences of the Registrant’s failure in particular 1(g) was that there was insufficient monitoring of the welfare of SUA and there was a lack of consultation with him to ascertain his wishes. The Registrant was aware of the circumstances in which the Registrant had been removed from his home, and aware that SUA was not involved in the meeting on 7 May 2013. The Registrant’s failure to carry out a review had a direct and ongoing impact on SUA and was not in his interests. If a Service User remains in a care home for a lengthy period there is a risk that they become institutionalised and less able to return to their previous way of life. The Registrant’s failure was therefore well below the expected standards of a Social Worker.
119. The Panel found that particular 1(h) constituted misconduct. The meeting on 7 May 2013 confirmed the Registrant’s provisional placement, but there was no consideration given to the option of SUA returning home. The Registrant did not convene any meeting to consider this option during the period she was responsible for SUA. This was a serious omission and contrary to the best interests of SUA. There was no opportunity for professionals to consider and ascertain SUA’s wishes and whether they could be accommodated. The step of removing SUA from his home was a very significant decision with potentially long term and irreversible consequences. His wishes and any alternatives should have been identified and explored. The Registrant’s failure was therefore well below the standards of a Social Worker.
120. The Panel found that particular 1(j) did not constitute misconduct. This particular criticises the Registrant for failing to try less restrictive options before Service User A was moved to a care home. Particular 1(j) is therefore specific to the decision-making prior to and on 2 May 2013. It does not extend to the position after 2 May 2013. The decision to move SUA on 2 May 2013 was an emergency conditional placement and the manager approved the decision. Again, the Panel took into account the evidence of DE in relation to SUA’s self-neglect. Although there were other things that could have been done, the Registrant acted in what she considered to be SUA’s best interests on 2 May 2013. This decision followed a meeting on 1 May with another colleague and SUA’s friends. Although a different judgment could have been made on the day, in the Panel’s judgment the Registrant’s decision on 2 May 2013 was not well below the standards of a Social Worker.
121. The Panel found that particular 1(k) did not constitute misconduct. The Registrant’s failure to record sufficient detail of the basis of her decision in the mental capacity assessments for SUA was not best practice. However, this is one example and on its own the Panel did not find that it was sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct. The Registrant should have done more in documenting specific questions relating to SUA’s understanding and wishes, but she did partially complete the assessments. She wrote information which was relevant to the Registrant’s capacity and understanding.
122. The Panel found that particulars 1(l), 1(m) and 1(n) constituted misconduct. These particulars relate to the Registrant’s failures to carry out basic social work tasks while she remained responsible for SUA. The Panel acknowledges that the Registrant had an uncomfortable relationship with her supervisor and that there is a lack of evidence of any supervision sessions which may have prompted her to complete an assessment of need, complete and record a support plan for the care provider, and complete a review of the placement after four weeks. Nevertheless, these are basic tasks for a Social Worker and the Registrant was responsible as an autonomous practitioner for ensuring that the required work was carried out, whether or not she was given the appropriate prompts in supervision sessions.
123. The Registrant’s failures to carry an assessment of need, support plan for the care provider, and the review were each serious failures and not in the interests of SUA. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s failures are linked to particular 1(g), in that the Registrant’s failure to visit SUA after his fifth day of admission led to the failures in particulars 1(l), 1(m) and 1(n).
124. The Panel found that the Registrant’s failures in particulars 1(l), 1(m) and 1(n), considered both individually and cumulatively, fell well below the standards of a Social Worker and were sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.
125. The Panel found that particulars 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c) constituted misconduct. SUB was a vulnerable Service User and it was a basic and important requirement to carry out mental capacity assessments and to record them so that they were available for the use of other professionals. The potential consequences of failures to carry out mental capacity assessments can be serious. There can be difficulties for the Local Authority if they are unable to evidence that a person lacks capacity if they have been deprived of their liberty to make their own choices and in some situations the deprivation of liberty could amount to an infringement of the Service User’s human rights. The Registrant’s failures in particulars 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c), considered individually and cumulatively, fell well below the standards of a Social Worker.
126. Particular 4(a) is similarly a failure to complete a mental capacity assessment and for the same reasons the Panel found that particular 4(a) was sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.
127. The Panel found that particular 2(d) constituted misconduct. The Registrant’s failure to arrange the strategy meeting was not in the best interests of SUB. The opportunity to monitor SUB’s progress and plan her long term care was missed. There may have been an opportunity for SUB to return home. The Registrant’s failure was well below the standards of a Social Worker and was sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.
128. The Panel found that particular 2(e) did not constitute misconduct. The Registrant acted appropriately in withholding details of the safeguarding alert from SUB’s son.
129. The Panel found that particular 2(f) did not constitute misconduct. The Registrant was removed from SUB’s case in August 2013 and the Panel found that it was not unreasonable for the restriction to remain in place during the period the Registrant was the allocated Social Worker.
130. The Panel found that particular 2(g) constituted misconduct. It is a basic requirement for a Social Worker to complete a support plan for the care provider. There is no explanation for the Registrant’s omission to complete a support plan. The Panel found the failure was contrary to the interests of SUB and fell well below the standards of a Social Worker.
131. The Panel found that particular 2(i) did not constitute misconduct. The Panel considered that the context was relevant in the assessment of the seriousness of this particular. A safeguarding alert had been raised which was focussed on the friend of SUB’s son. The concern was sufficiently serious that there was a police investigation and control of the contact between SUB and her son or her son’s friend. Although it would generally be good practice to share assessments with a carer, there appears to have been a reason in this case for the Registrant to have considered that it was not appropriate in this case. In the circumstances, the Panel did not find that the Registrant’s failure fell well below the expected standards.
132. The Panel found that particular 2(j) did not constitute misconduct. Although the Registrant did not complete the SETSAF paperwork, which she should have done, the SETSAF alert was followed through and a risk assessment was carried out by the best interests risk assessor. The Registrant’s failure to complete the required paperwork was not good practice and was a breach of standards, but it was not sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.
133. The Panel found that particular 3(b) constituted misconduct. When the Registrant visited SUC on 28 November and 2 December 2013 she identified that Friend A was struggling to provide the required care to SUC. There was no explanation for the Registrant’s failures. It is a basic requirement of a Social Worker to identify the need for a carer’s assessment and to carry out the assessments when appropriate. The Registrant did not protect SUC’s interests because it was in her interests that Friend A was supported in the caring role. The Registrant’s failure was well below the expected standards of a Social Worker.
134. The Panel found that particular 3(c) did not constitute misconduct. The context is that the Registrant had been carrying out weekly visits to SUC. The Registrant did not carry out a visit to SUC between 10 February 2014 and 21 February 2014. During this time, a minimum of one visit to SUC should have been carried out. The Registrant went on annual leave from 21 February 2014 and the length of her leave is unclear. There is a finding of a failure only in respect of the period 10 February 2014 to 21 February 2014. This was poor practice and a breach of standards, but in the Panel’s judgment it was not so far below the standards to constitute misconduct.
135. The Panel found that particulars 3(d) and 3(e) did not constitute misconduct. In its earlier decision on the facts, the Panel accepted that the Registrant was on sick leave from 19 March 2014. The length of this sickness absence is uncertain. A different member of staff visited SUC on 16 April 2014 and 1 May 2014. On 12 May 2014, PK took over the case. The review of the safeguarding alert and the review of the decision to place SUC in a care home should both have been undertaken during the period before 12 May 2014. Given the context that the Registrant was away on sickness absence for part of the relevant period, and that a different member of the team was working on the case before its allocation to PK, the Panel found that the Registrant’s failures were not sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct. In reaching this judgment the Panel also took into account the absence of regular supervision for the Registrant. The Panel considered that there was a lack of clarity as to the extent of the Registrant’s responsibility and particularly as to the period when she was responsible for SUC.
136. The Panel found that particular 3(f) did not constitute misconduct. The relevant context is the Registrant made arrangements to place SUC in residential care on 14 March 2014. The Panel previously found that a support plan could have been completed before the Registrant’s sickness absence. This is a reference to the Registrant’s sickness absence from 19 March 2014, which is referred to in paragraph 84 of the decision. The Panel accepts, as it did at the fact-finding stage, that the Registrant was absent due to sickness in March 2014 even though this is not confirmed by the records provided by Human Resources.
137. Although the Panel found that a support plan could have been completed, the Registrant only had two working days in which she could have completed the plan before her sickness absence. The Panel found that the task did not have such a high degree of urgency that it should have been prioritised above all other tasks during those two working days. The Registrant’s failure was not sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.
138. The Panel found that particular 3(i) did not constitute misconduct. The Panel referred to the background circumstances, which were that the Registrant’s action appears to have been taken to prevent alleged financial abuse by Friend A. This was not an unreasonable action to take.
139. The Panel found that particular 4(a) constituted misconduct.
140. The Panel also considered whether any of the proven facts demonstrated that the Registrant lacked competence to practise safely and effectively as a Social Worker. In the Panel’s judgment, the Registrant’s errors and failures did not arise from a lack of knowledge or understanding about her role, or of the required standards of performance. The Registrant was an experienced Social Worker and a Practice Educator. Her work had been assessed to be of a satisfactory standard by her employer. Therefore, the Panel decided that none of the proved facts constituted a lack of competence.
Decision on Impairment
141. The Panel applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel took account of the guidance in General Medical Council v Meadow  EWCA 1390; Cohen v General Medical Council  EWHC 381 (Admin); and CHRE v NMC and Grant  EWHC 927 (Admin). The Panel considered the Registrant’s fitness to practise at today’s date.
142. The HCPTS Practice Note refers to two components which should be taken into account when determining whether fitness to practise is impaired. The “personal” component is concerned with the “current competence, behaviour etc of the individual registrant” and the “public” component with “the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession”.
143. The Registrant’s health issues continue to have a significant impact on the Registrant to the extent that she was unable to read the information in the HCPC bundle prior to the hearing in July 2017.
144. The Registrant set out in the pre-hearing information form that she does not believe she would be well enough to resume working as a social worker and that she has not worked since 18 June 2014. The information provided in her final statement for this hearing does not indicate that there has been any significant improvement in her health.
145. In her statement to the July hearing the Registrant made some admissions and stated “In hindsight now, I do believe I was impaired to continue to practice … On reflection, I now know I should have gone off on sick leave and stayed off”. These statements demonstrate some insight.
146. The Registrant also demonstrates remorse in her statement. In her statement for the July 2017 hearing, she unreservedly apologised for the impact of her failures on the service users and others involved in the cases.
147. The Registrant herself acknowledges that due to her ill health and absence, she has not undertaken any remediation. She has not attended any training. She has “read up on the Care Act, look at case law and spent a lot of time with reflecting practice”.
148. Although the Registrant’s attitude is constructive and reflective, the Panel identified that there remains a high risk of repetition of misconduct if the Registrant were permitted to return to unrestricted practise. The Registrant has not practised since 2014 when, on her own admission, her fitness to practise was impaired.
149. In view of the lack of remedial action and the high risk of repetition, in the Panel’s judgement the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reference to the personal component.
150. The Panel has identified a high risk of repetition of misconduct and therefore there is an ongoing risk to members of the public. It would be unacceptable for vulnerable service users to be exposed to the risks involved. The risk of harm includes the potential that service users might be inappropriately deprived of their liberty.
151. The Registrant’s failings were wide-ranging and serious, including failures to visit service users and to complete and/or record important documentation such as assessments of care needs and not fulfilling statutory requirements relating to mental capacity assessments.
152. The Registrant’s actions fell far below the standards expected of a Social Worker in relation to four service users. The Panel finds that there is a need to demonstrate the importance of adhering to the fundamental tenets of practice by declaring and upholding proper standards of professional behaviour.
153. The Panel is also of the view that the nature of the risks to service users and the extent to which the Registrant has fallen short of the required standards would have a detrimental effect on the public’s confidence in her and in the social work profession. A finding of current impairment is necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, by sending a clear message that this type of misconduct is wholly unacceptable.
154. Therefore, the Panel finds the Registrant’s fitness to practise also impaired by reference to the public component.
Decision on Sanction
155. In considering what, if any, sanction to impose, the Panel had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and the advice of the Legal Assessor.
156. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of imposing a sanction is not to punish the practitioner, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The Panel ensured that it acted proportionately, and in particular it sought to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant, and imposed the sanction which was the least restrictive in the circumstances commensurate with its duty of protection.
157. The Panel decided that the aggravating features include:
• the findings relate to four vulnerable service users who may not have had capacity to make decisions for themselves;
• the misconduct had the potential to cause harm to service users.
158. The Panel decided that the mitigating features include:
• the Registrant’s poor health;
• the limited supervision provided to the Registrant and the absence of any management plans to address the areas of concern;
• the Registrant’s admissions and expression of remorse;
• the absence of any previous fitness to practise history;
• the misconduct was limited to four service users, whereas the Registrant’s caseload was approximately 30.
159. The seriousness of this case meant that taking no action was not an option and a Caution Order, even for the maximum duration, would not provide adequate protection to the public or the required level of public reassurance.
160. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel first considered whether it had sufficient confidence that the Registrant will comply with conditions of practice. The reason the Registrant has not attended the hearing is that she is unable to do so for health reasons. She has engaged with the hearing and with the HCPC to the extent that she is able to do so. The Registrant has expressly stated in her written submissions that she is willing to comply with conditions. The Registrant has demonstrated insight and expressed her remorse. The Registrant has demonstrated that she has a responsible attitude. For example, in relation to her health, she recognises that she is not currently well enough to work. In the Panel’s view, it was clear from the Registrant’s submissions that she understands the nature of the proceedings, the Allegation against her, and the role of the Panel.
161. In these circumstances, the Panel had sufficient confidence that the Registrant will comply with conditions of practice.
162. The Panel next considered whether realistic and workable conditions could be formulated. The Panel was aware that the Registrant is currently not well enough to return to work as a Social Worker. Nevertheless, it was open to the Panel to formulate conditions which would operate only if the Registrant’s health recovered to a level that she was able to return to work as a Social Worker. The Panel decided that realistic and workable conditions can be formulated.
163. The most important consideration for the Panel was whether conditions of practice would address the risk of repetition the Panel has identified. A recovery in the Registrant’s health to the extent that she is well enough to return to work as a Social Worker will reduce the risk of repetition of misconduct. However, in the Panel’s judgment an improvement in the Registrant’s health will not, by itself, be sufficient. There is a requirement for restrictive conditions to ensure that the public is protected against the risk of repetition of misconduct.
164. The Panel decided that the necessary remediation and rehabilitation could safely take place while the Registrant worked as a Social Worker, provided the Registrant’s practice was subject to supervision, close scrutiny and monitoring.
165. In the Panel’s view, the requirement of supervision is both essential and of critical importance in the reduction of the risk of repetition to an acceptable level. A performance development plan is the vehicle for the Registrant to demonstrate remediation of her practice and for her progress to be monitored. In the Panel’s view, it was essential that the safety of the Registrant’s practice should be verified by the provision of three monthly reports by the supervisor to the HCPC. The supervisor could also inform the HCPC of concerns which arose at any time. The HCPC would therefore become aware of any concerns about the safety of the Registrant’s practice as a Social Worker and could take any action it considered appropriate, such as an application for a review of the Conditions of Practice Order. It was also essential that employers are fully aware of the conditions imposed by the Panel. In the Panel’s view, the safeguards set out in the conditions, taken together, provide a high degree of public protection.
166. The conditions of practice will enable the Registrant to return to practice as a Social Worker if she becomes well enough to do so. The Panel reminds the Registrant that she will also need to consider and comply with the HCPC guidance on return to practice because she has not practised as a Social Worker since 2014.
167. The Panel considered the more restrictive sanction of a Suspension Order, but decided that it was disproportionate, taking into account the mitigating circumstances, the insight the Registrant has demonstrated, the Registrant’s responsible attitude towards her failures, and her willingness to accept conditions of practice.
168. The Panel decided that the Conditions of Practice Order should be for the maximum length of three years. The Panel decided that this period was appropriate because of the Registrant’s current ill-health. The Registrant can consider returning to work under the conditions of practice when she is well enough to do so. If the Registrant successfully returns to work and is able to demonstrate compliance with the conditions for a sustained period of time, it will be open to her to apply for an early review of the Order.
169. The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate order is a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of three years.
The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, for a period of 3 years from the date that this Order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Mrs Kim Suzanne Hawkes, must comply with the following conditions of practice:
1. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace supervisor registered by the HCPC and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within four weeks of commencing work as a Social Worker.
2. You must work with your supervisor to formulate a Personal Development Plan designed to address the deficiencies in the following areas of your practice:
A. appropriate and timely visits and reviews of service users, including ascertaining and consideration of the wishes of service users with regard to their care;
B. appropriate and timely completion of records including mental capacity assessments, care plans, assessments of need, and reviews.
3. You must meet with your supervisor every month to review your progress under your Performance Development Plan.
4. You must provide the HCPC with a report from your supervisor:
A. within three months of the date you commence work as a Social Worker, and;
B. an updating report every three months.
5. You must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC in relation to your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan and the safety of your practice.
6. Within three months of the date you commence work as a Social Worker you must prepare a written reflective piece detailing the steps you have taken to ensure that you have complied with the applicable HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, having regard to the findings outlined by the Panel in its decision.
7. You must promptly inform the HCPC if you commence work as a Social Worker.
8. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.
9. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:
A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work
B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and
C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application)
10. You will be responsible for meeting any and all costs associated with complying with these conditions.
History of Hearings for Mrs Kim Suzanne Hawkes
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|11/10/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Conditions of Practice|
|03/07/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Adjourned part heard|