Mrs Indrani Kesar

: Social worker

: SW51782

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 16/10/2017 End: 17:00 20/10/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

Allegation (As amended at Final Hearing):

Whilst employed as a Senior Practitioner within the Looked After Children Team at Luton Borough Council you:

 

1.      On or around 15 July 2015, did not adequately safeguard the three children of Family A, in that you:

 

a.      received a telephone call from Child A who disclosed to you that her uncle had sexually abused her when she was 10-years-old, or words to that effect and you:


i. advised Child A to call the police and to look on the internet for appropriate numbers to call;

ii. suggested that asked Child As sister could  to support her;

iii. did not record your conversation with Child A on the Care First System;

iv. did not escalate the incident with your Team Manager.

b. did not follow up with Child A whether she had approached the police despite asking her to do so.

2. In relation to information that the uncle spent periods of time, including overnight stays, in Family A’s home with Chid A and her siblings, on 16 July 2014, you:

a.      stated that you spoke to the uncle about staying away from the house until the investigation was concluded;

b.      recorded in a post investigatory interview record that you spoke to the Mother about not allowing the uncle to stay in the house until the investigation was concluded;

c.      did not see confirmation from the Mother that the uncle had agreed to stay away from the property;

d.      did to record the matters set out in Paragraphs 2(a) - (c) in the Care First system,

 

2. Did not record discussions that you had on or around 16 July 2014 with Child As uncle and/or Child As mother on the Care First System.

 

3. Following a strategy meeting with Cambridgeshire Police, on 16 July 2014 you:

a. spoke to the uncle in Family A’s home to obtain his personal details and you:

     i. did not challenge the mother of Child A and/or the uncle about his continued presence in the home;

     ii. did not confirm that the uncle would be leaving the home of Family A.

3. Between around 15 July 2014 and the evening of 17 July 2014, did not seek confirmation from Child As mother and/or Child As uncle that Child A’s uncle would had agreed to stay away from the property.

4. On or around 16 July 2014, told Child As uncle that Child A had reported an allegation about him.

5. 3. Did not organise the strategy discussion meeting with  in Luton Police, as advised by Cambridge  the Police in relation to Child As siblings.

6. 4. On 16 July 2014 prepared a Social Work Report for a Child Protection
Conference review in which you:

a) did not provide sufficient the information about the disclosure made by Child A; current situation

b) did not provide an analysis of the risk in relation to Child As disclosures;

c) stated that the uncle appeared to have joined the family home

and would be living in Family As home until 19 July 2014, without setting out any steps that would be taken to safeguard Child As siblings.

7. Did not provide sufficient information to a duty social worker who attended the child protection conference on 17 July 2014 in your place.

8. 5. As a result of your actions at Paragraphs 6 and 7:

a.      the child protection conference on 17 July 2014 did not have:

 

i. the necessary information to ensure that the children of Family A were being safeguarded;

ii. clarity about how the children of Family A would be safeguarded in the future.

b. the Child Protection Conference chair and duty social worker were unable to formulate an effective Child Protection Plan.

9. 6. As a result of your actions as set out in Paragraphs 1 - 8 5, the children of Family A were placed at risk of harm.

10. 7. The matters set out in Paragraphs 1- 10 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Application for the Hearing to be Held in Private

1.     The Panel determined that it would hear those parts of the case in which reference was made to the health and private life of the Registrant, in private, under Rule 10 (1)(a) of the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (‘the Rules’).  In making this decision the Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note, ‘Conducting Hearings in Private’, dated March 2017, and acknowledged that there is a presumption that hearings will be held in public. The decision is to protect the private life of the Registrant which the Panel considers outweighs the public interest in this instance.

 

 

Application to Amend the Allegations as detailed above

2.     The Panel next heard an application by Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, to amend the Allegations as particularised above. The Registrant had been notified of the application in advance of the hearing and did not object to the amendments. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It was satisfied that the amendments were necessary and desirable as it provided clarity, did not substantively change the nature of the Allegation and were not prejudicial to the Registrant.

3.     The HCPC made a further application, during the Registrant’s cross-examination, inviting the Panel to allow an amendment to address a deficiency in respect of the drafting of particular 6. The Panel noted the submissions of the parties and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It determined that  particular 6 would be amended as follows:

 

                          6. Failed to ensure that the Child Protection Conference Review, held on 17 July 2014, was provided with:

 

                          (a) sufficient information about the disclosure made by Child A;

                          (b) an analysis of the risk in relation to Child As disclosures;

                          (c) information regarding steps that would be taken to safeguard Child As siblings, given that the uncle appeared to have joined the family home and would be living in Family As home until 19 July 2014. 

 

4.     The Panel was satisfied that the amendment was necessary and desirable in all of the circumstances.  It was not prejudicial to the Registrant as the gravamen or substance of the particular was contained in sub-particulars (a), (b) and (c) which remained unchanged. Central to the particular, was the assertion that the relevant information was not provided to the Child Protection Conference Review [CPCR], accordingly, the date and method by which the relevant information may or may not have been furnished was not material.  This amendment allowed the parties and the Panel to focus upon the real issues in the case and better reflected the basis upon which the HCPC brought the case against the Registrant.  This included an element of culpability which was now connoted by the use of the word ‘failed’.

 

5.     A further typographical amendment to particular 10 was also granted.  That particular would now read as follows:

 

              10. 7. The matters set out in Paragraphs 1- 9 6 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

 

Application to Exclude Hearsay Evidence

 

6.     Mr Grey made an application to exclude hearsay evidence produced by the HCPC consisting of notes of interviews obtained within the Council’s internal investigation with GS and EH, who were not to be called to give evidence. He submitted that, if the factors identified in Section 4 of the Civil Evidence Act 1995 (the Act) were properly applied to this evidence, then no weight could be safely attached to it and therefore it was appropriate that the Panel excluded the interview records entirely. He asserted that both GS and EH had a motive to make self-serving statements within the internal inquiry in order to exculpate themselves from blame. Furthermore, there was no good and cogent reason why these witnesses could not be called to give evidence. In all of these circumstances, he submitted that it would be unfair to admit the evidence, given that the Registrant would be deprived of the opportunity to test their evidence.

 

7.     The HCPC submitted that the hearsay evidence was admissible in the proceedings, pursuant to Rule 10 (1)(b) and (c) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003.  The Panel’s task was to determine what weight to attach to the evidence, bearing in mind the factors set out in Section 4 of the Act, at the conclusion of the case. Furthermore, the HCPC did not consider it to be proportionate to call these witnesses to give oral evidence, given the evidence available from other sources which went directly to the relevant issues.

 

8.     The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  It noted the guidance in the cases of Ogbonna -v- NMC [2013] EWHC 1595 and Bonhoeffer -v- GMC [2011] EWHC 1585. In particular, the Panel noted that it was entitled to admit hearsay evidence as a matter of principle subject to the requirements of relevance and fairness. It exercised caution in considering its discretion to admit the evidence. The Panel was mindful of the fact that the evidence of GS and EH was relevant as it went directly to matters concerning the CPCR on 17 July 2014, and associated events, which formed the basis of the Allegation.  However, the Panel also noted that the hearsay evidence in question was not the sole or critical evidence.  Rather, it could be tested via relevant questioning of the witnesses FE and ST who could give direct evidence of the matters contained within the documents in question. Many of the exhibits also went directly to the heart of matters contained therein.  Any prejudice to the Registrant could be addressed within the Panel’s assessment of the documents, in light of any corroboration by the other witnesses/exhibits.

 

9.     In all of these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the interests of justice fall in favour of admitting this evidence. It was satisfied that any potential prejudice could be addressed when the Panel assessed the weight to be given, if any, to the evidence, after applying the provisions of Section 4 of the Act and an appropriate level of caution. Accordingly, the Panel refused the application to exclude the evidence.  It was satisfied that the public interest in allowing the evidence to be admitted outweighed any prejudicial effect on the Registrant in the circumstances. The Panel also noted a further protection in dealing with this evidence, in that it would have the benefit of ongoing legal advice in respect of the evaluation of hearsay evidence which was applicable to the documents in question.

 

Background:

10.   The Registrant had been employed by Luton Borough Council (‘the Council’) since 4 November 2003 as a Social Worker.  At the relevant time, she was a Senior Practitioner in the North Team of the Child Protection and Assessment Service within the Council’s Children and Learning Department. As a Senior Practitioner, the Registrant was responsible for a number of families relating to child protection issues and Looked After Children cases.

11.   The case of Family A was allocated to the Registrant in May 2014. Child A was one of 5 children of the family, her siblings were aged 17, 15, 7 and 5 respectively.  Child A was 16 years of age and pregnant with her own child.  Child A’s siblings lived in Luton with their mother and Child A lived in Cambridgeshire with her older sister. Concerns about Child A related to emotional and sexual abuse.  At the relevant time, all of the children of Family A were subject to Child Protection Plans.

12.   On 15 July 2014, the Registrant, who was working from home,  received a telephone call from Child A, who disclosed to her that her uncle had sexually abused her when she was 10 years old.

13.   On 17 July 2014 a CPCR took place in relation to Family A. FE was the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and conference chair at this CPCR.  She was responsible for reviewing the childrens' care plans, ensuring they were accurate/met the needs of the children and took any legal requirements into account. Following the CPCR, FE made a complaint which formed the basis of the Allegation.

14.   The Registrant was suspended from her duties on 22 July 2014.  In August 2014, the Council commenced an internal investigation into the matter. In 2015, the Council entered into a settlement agreement with the Registrant, prior to an internal disciplinary hearing taking place.

15.   The matter was reported to the HCPC on 6 November 2015.

 

Decision on Facts

16.   The Panel carefully considered all of the evidence in the case. It noted the submissions of Ms Sheridan, on behalf for the HCPC, and Mr Grey, on behalf of the Registrant. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. On behalf of the HCPC, the Panel heard oral evidence from Witnesses PR, ST and FE.  The Registrant gave evidence on her own behalf.

 

17.   The Panel received two bundles of documentation from the HCPC, comprising the witness statements of those who gave evidence and 188 pages of exhibits. The Registrant, submitted two bundles of documentation comprising 11 pages and 95 pages respectively, which included her witness statement, certificates evidencing her qualifications and training, references/testimonials, a reflective piece of work and a letter from her General Practitioner.

18.   The Panel disregarded any reference to incidents which do not form part of the Allegation and reminded itself that the burden of proving the facts is on the HCPC alone and that the standard of proof is the ordinary civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities.

19.   The Panel noted the case of Enemuwe v Nursing and Midwifery Council [2015] EWHC 2081 and disregarded the findings of the internal investigation and disciplinary processes conducted by the Council. Furthermore, the Panel ensured that it was not influenced in its deliberations by its knowledge of the internal processes.

 

Findings in Relation to the Factual Particulars of the Allegation

 

Credibility of the Witnesses and Assessment of the Evidence

20.   The Panel first made an assessment of the credibility of the witnesses and the reliability of all of the evidence presented to it.

HCPC Witnesses: PR, ST, and FE

21.   PR undertook the Council’s internal investigation; ST was the Registrant’s line manager at the relevant time; FE was the IRO who chaired the CPCR on 17 July 2014 and who raised the initial concerns. The Panel considered that these witnesses gave credible, clear and factual evidence. There were occasions when they were willing to admit when they could not recall a specific matter and ST, in particular, gave evidence which was, in part, favourable to the Registrant.  To a large extent, the witnesses relied upon written records when giving their evidence given the passage of time since the events in question. There was no indication that these witnesses had any motive other than to give factual and honest evidence.

The Registrant

22.   The Registrant was understandably emotional at times when giving her evidence and found it difficult to recollect certain issues due to the passage of time. The Panel was also mindful of the fact that the Registrant had been disadvantaged during the investigation of this matter, as her access to the Council’s records had been delayed for a period of time, and the events which form the basis of the Allegation took place more than three years ago.

23.   Nevertheless, where the Registrant did assert that she had undertaken certain actions, the Panel noted this was unsupported by the records exhibited and also, in many respects, her own reflective piece of work. This undermined her credibility, as did the late amendment to her statement in May 2017.  This amendment made reference, for the first time, to a visit to the mother and uncle of Family A on the afternoon of 16 July 2014. There was no prior mention of this matter in the following documents: notes of a fact-finding meeting dated 22 July 2014; the record of the Registrant’s internal interview dated 23 October 2014; the Registrant’s own background document dated 24 October 2014; the Registrant’s reflective piece dated 15 January 2016; the Care First System records. Accordingly, the Panel treated the Registrant’s evidence with a degree of caution and sought corroborative evidence of her assertions where appropriate.

Hearsay Evidence

24.   In general, the Panel exercised caution in considering the hearsay evidence.  It attached weight to it, only to the extent that it was appropriate, where this evidence was corroborated or consistent with other evidence received.

25.   In particular, regarding the notes of the internal interviews with GS and EH, the Panel recognised that this evidence could not be tested by way of direct cross examination and, as such, the Registrant could have been at a disadvantage. Accordingly, the Panel exercised caution in its reliance upon the matters asserted within these documents and it attached weight to their contents only to the extent that they were corroborated by other  evidence in the case.

 

Findings in Relation to the Factual Particulars of the Allegation

 

Whilst employed as a Senior Practitioner within the Looked After Children Team at Luton Borough Council you:

 

26.   It was not in dispute that the Registrant was employed as a Senior Social Work Practitioner within the Council’s Looked After Children Team during the relevant period.  This was corroborated by the documents exhibited.

 

1. On or around 15 July 2015, did not adequately safeguard the three children of Family A in that you:                                                     STEM PROVED

 

27.   In finding all of the relevant sub particulars proved (see below), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant did not take all of the appropriate steps which would have adequately safeguarded the children of Family A. In particular, the Registrant accepted that she should have accompanied and supported Child A in reporting her disclosure to the police, or arranged for someone else to have done that. The Panel also noted her failure to escalate the matter to her Team Manager in a timely manner and the absence of a record of Child A’s disclosure on the Care First System. It was the combination of these steps which would have amounted to adequate safeguarding in the circumstances.  In the absence of these steps, the children of Family A were not adequately safeguarded. Accordingly, the stem of particular 1 was found proved.

 

 

a.       received a telephone call from Child A who disclosed to you that her uncle had sexually abused her when she was 10-years-old, or words to that effect and you:                                                                    PROVED

 

28.   The Registrant admitted that she received a call from Child A on 15 July 2015, during which, Child A disclosed that her uncle had sexually abused her when she was aged 10 and living with her family in Luton.  This matter was unchallenged and was corroborated by the documents exhibited. 


i.     advised Child A to call the police;                                                          PROVED

 

29.   The notes of a fact finding meeting between ST and the Registrant on 22 July 2014 stated that, in respect of Client A: ‘[the Registrant] advised her as she was working from home that she should call the police to report the incident.’ The Panel noted Mr Grey’s submissions that this wording was ambiguous. However, it concluded that the use of the second word ‘she’ was a reference to Child A and was not a reference to the Registrant, otherwise there would have been no relevance in including the fact that the Registrant was working from home on that occasion.  That reference was, in the Panel’s view, included in the notes to explain why the Registrant could not inform the police herself.  The more likely inference from these notes is that the Registrant was indicating to Child A that she (Child A) should report the allegation to the police herself as the Registrant was unable to do it.  The other evidence in the case supports this conclusion as follows:

 

   Within the record of the Registrant’s internal disciplinary interview on 23 October 2014, it was noted that the Registrant ‘suggested that Child A could report this to Cambridge Police; that her sister could help her…..[the Registrant] told her about the car; that she [the Registrant] couldn’t come out’;

   An e-mail from the Registrant dated 24 October 2014 detailing the background of the case asserts ‘Child A encouraged to speak to local police and to report this. Told Child A sister) (sic) to support Child A to report this to the police.

   The Registrant submitted in her oral evidence that Child A was very independent, had insisted upon reporting the matter herself and that she (the Registrant) was trying to respect this independence in her dealings with her.

   The Registrant also gave evidence that she was waiting for Child A to call her back on 15 July 2014 to confirm that Child A had reported the matter to the police, and that she (the Registrant) made several calls to Child A and her sister in an attempt to establish whether Child A had reported the matter.

 

Accordingly, particular 1(a)(i) was found proved.

 

ii. suggested that Child As sister could support her;                  PROVED

 

30.   The Registrant admitted this particular. The admission was corroborated by the documents exhibited, as detailed above. Accordingly, particular 1 (a)(ii) was found proved.

 

iii. did not record your conversation with Child A on the Care First System;                                                                                   PROVED

 

31.   The Registrant admitted this particular.  The Panel noted from the documents exhibited, that there was no record of the relevant conversation.  Accordingly, particular 1 (a)(iii) was found proved.

 

iv. did not escalate the incident with your Team Manager.         PROVED

 

32.   The Registrant’s evidence was that, on 15 July 2014, after receiving the disclosure from Child A, she attempted to contact ST her Team Manager and EH, the Deputy Team Manager to escalate the incident, both of whom were unavailable.  Thereafter, she did not make a further attempt to escalate the incident until 16 July 2014.  The Registrant admitted that she should have taken additional steps to speak to a manager on another team.  Furthermore, she accepted that it was an oversight in not sending an e-mail to her Team Manager to escalate the incident on 15 July 2014.  Accordingly, particular 1(a)( iv) was found proved.

b. did not follow up with Child A whether she had approached the police despite asking her to do so.                                      PROVED

 

33.   The Registrant asserted that she made several phone calls to Child A on 15 July 2014 in an attempt to establish whether Child A had reported her allegation against the uncle to the police. The Registrant did not manage to get through to Child A. The Registrant accepted that she should have made further attempts to follow this matter up until she had successfully made contact with Child A.  Whilst the Panel accepted that attempts were made to follow up with Child A, as a matter of fact, the issue was not actually followed up.  Accordingly, particular 1(b) was found proved.

 

2. Did not record discussions that you had on or around 16 July 2014 with

Child As uncle and/or Child As mother on the Care First system.   

PROVED

 

34. The Registrant admitted this particular.  The documents exhibited corroborated the admission.  Accordingly, particular 2 was found proved.

3. Between around 15 July 2014 and the evening of 17 July 2014, did not seek confirmation from Child As mother and/or Child As uncle that Child As uncle would stay away from the property.           NOT PROVED

35. The Registrant gave evidence that she visited Child A’s mother and uncle between 3.30pm and 4.00 pm on 16 July 2017 in which she secured confirmation from them that the uncle would stay away from the property in Luton within which three of the children resided. The first record of this visit was made in May 2017 when it was the subject of a late amendment to the Registrant’s witness statement in these proceedings.  As there had been no previous mention of this visit, despite the opportunity to do so on various occasions, the HCPC disputed that it took place.

36. Nevertheless, the Panel noted that there was other evidence to suggest that the Registrant had sought confirmation, that the uncle would stay away from the property, on three separate occasions during the relevant period as follows:

     The Registrant had spoken to the mother of Child A at the children’s school on the morning of 16 July 2014 when she was delivering the CPCR report to her.  During this interaction there was a conversation in which the Registrant had told the mother that the uncle should not be staying at the house and the mother had agreed to this;

   Later on 16 April 2014, the Registrant called the mother in order to obtain the uncle’s date of birth to facilitate a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.  The mother was with the uncle at the time of the call and handed the  phone to the uncle.  The Registrant then had a conversation in which she asked the uncle not to reside at the property and he had agreed that he had friends with whom he could stay;

   On the evening of 17 July 2014, after the CPCR, the Registrant attended the property in Luton with EH, the Deputy Team Manager, with a written contract containing an agreement that the uncle would stay away from the property.  The uncle and the mother signed this contract.

37. In all of these circumstances, the Panel considered there was sufficient evidence to suggest that the Registrant did seek confirmation from Child A’s mother and Child A’s uncle, during the relevant period, that the uncle would stay away from the property. Accordingly, particular 3 was found not proved.

4. On or around 16 July 2014, told Child As uncle that Child A had  reported an allegation about him.                                                PROVED

38. The Registrant’s evidence was that, when she requested that the uncle provide her with his date of birth on 16 July 2014, he already knew that there had been an allegation made against him by Child A.  He had been informed of this by the mother of Family A. The Registrant also had a discussion with him at this time about him leaving the property. The Panel considered that the nature of the conversations she had with the uncle would have necessitated her mentioning the allegation to him,  whether or not he had prior knowledge of the it.  Accordingly, particular 4 was found proved.

5. Did not organise the strategy discussion with  Luton Police, as advised by Cambridge  Police in relation to Child As siblings.                                                                                                           NOT PROVED

39. The evidence of the Registrant was that a strategy discussion took place with Cambridgeshire police by telephone on 16 July 2014 and that they were liaising directly with Luton Police.  The Registrant accepted that she did not organise a strategy discussion with Luton Police in relation to Child A’s siblings, but she denied that she was advised to do so by Cambridge Police.  The Panel referred to an e-mail dated 16 July 2014, sent after the Registrant’s telephone discussion with them, within which Cambridgeshire Police requested a strategy discussion.  However, there was no specific advice given to the Registrant, contained within that email or elsewhere, to organise a strategy discussion with Luton Police. Accordingly, particular 5 was found not proved.

6. Failed to ensure that the Child Protection Conference Review, held on 17 July 2014, was provided with:

 

a)     sufficient information about the disclosure made by Child A; 

 

                                                                                                    NOT PROVED

 

40.   The Registrant submitted that, on 16 July 2014 during a meeting with GS which lasted for 45 minutes,  she provided GS with full details of Child A’s disclosure and all related actions undertaken.  This meeting was undertaken in preparation for the CPCR on 17 July 2014, during which she provided GS with the e-mail from Cambridgeshire Police dated 16 July 2014 (referred to at particular 5), which contained the details of the disclosure. FE confirmed, in her evidence, that GS provided her with the email at the CPCR on 17 July 2014.  The Panel noted that this e-mail contained a significant degree of detail relating to Child A’s disclosure.  The Panel noted that no evidence was provided by the HCPC particularising the extent to which the information supplied was insufficient.  Accordingly, the Panel found that the HCPC has not discharged the evidential burden in relation to this particular.  Therefore, particular 6(a) was found not proved.

 

(b) an analysis of the risk in relation to Child As disclosures;  PROVED

 

41.   During their meeting on 16 July 2014, the Registrant’s evidence was that she explained to GS the steps she had taken in response to Child A’s disclosure.  However, this was not communicated directly to FE in her capacity as IRO/Chair of the CPCR verbally or otherwise.  The Panel also noted that FE considered that there was a lack of assessment and analysis in relation to parental capacity, or what was happening at home in relation to Child A’s younger siblings. The documents exhibited supported this assertion. The Panel was satisfied that any steps/actions communication to GS for onwards transmission to the CPCR did not amount to an analysis of risk.  Accordingly, particular 6(b) was found proved.

 

 

(c) information regarding steps that would be taken to safeguard Child As siblings, given that the uncle appeared to have joined the family

      home and would be living in Family As home until 19 July 2014.        PROVED

 

42. On the Registrant’s own evidence, she accepted that she did not explain to GS, in preparation for the CPCR, that she had asked the uncle to leave the family home and that he had agreed to do so. Neither did she communicate this information directly to the CPCR in any other way.  Accordingly, particular 6(c) was found proved.

 

7. Did not provide sufficient information to a duty social worker who attended the child protection conference on 17 July 2014 in your place.                                                                              PROVED

43. Given the Panel’s findings in relation to particulars 6(b) and 6(c) above, it follows that the Registrant did not provide sufficient information to GS, the duty social worker who attended the CPCR in her place on 17 July 2014. The Panel can envisage no reason, if GS was in possession of this information, as to why she would not communicate it to the CPCR. Accordingly, particular 7 was found proved. 

8. As a result of your actions at Paragraphs 6 and 7:

a.      the child protection conference on 17 July 2014 did not have:

 

i.       the necessary information to ensure that the children of Family A were being safeguarded;

 

ii.      clarity about how the children of Family A would be safeguarded in the future.                                                                                         

        PROVED IN FULL

 

44. Given the Panel’s findings in relation to particulars 6(b), 6(c) and 7 above, it follows that the CPCR did not have the necessary information to ensure the children were being safeguarded. There was no analysis of the risks associated with Child A’s disclosure, neither did the CPCR have knowledge as to whether the uncle was still at the family home at that time and what strategy had been put into place to ensure the children would be safeguarded in the future.    Accordingly, particulars 8 (a) (i) and (ii) were found proved.  

 

a.     the Child Protection Conference chair and duty social worker were unable to formulate an effective Child Protection Plan.   

NOT PROVED

45.   FE confirmed in her evidence that, despite the incomplete nature of the information provided by the Registrant, in conjunction with GS, she was nevertheless able to formulate an effective Child Protection Plan.  Accordingly, particular 8 (b) was found not proved.

9. As a result of your actions as set out in Paragraphs 1 - 8, the children of Family A were placed at risk of harm.                                       

PROVED

46.   The Panel, in its findings in relation to particular 1, has identified that the children of Family A were not adequately safeguarded by the Registrant. That, together with the other facts proved, meant that the children were placed at risk of harm as a result of her actions. Vulnerable children were exposed to a potential risk of sexual abuse in their home for approximately two days before adequate safeguarding measures were put into place. Notably, when the Registrant and EH attended the family home on 17 July 2014, the uncle was still present there, 2 days after the disclosure had been made by Child A.  Accordingly, particular 9 was found proved.

 

Decision on Grounds:

Misconduct           PROVED

47.   The Panel next determined whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It bore in mind that there is no standard of proof to be applied at this stage; consideration as to whether the threshold for misconduct has been reached is a matter in its own judgment. In considering the ground, the Panel first considered the individual particulars found proved and then the behaviour in the round.

48.   The Panel had specific regard to the helpful guidance provided in Roylance -v- GMC (No 2) [2000] 1 AC 311, Meadows v GMC [2007] QB 462 and Spencer v GOsC [2012] EWHC 3417. It noted that misconduct involves an act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances and that in order to amount to misconduct, the act or omission needs to be serious and one which would attract a degree of strong public disapproval.

49.   The Panel next considered whether the proven facts amounted to breaches of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics 2012 (“the HCPC Standards”). It bore in mind that breaches of any of these Standards did not, in themselves, necessarily constitute misconduct. 

50.   The Panel determined that the following HCPC Standards had been breached:

1. You must act in the best interest of service users.

7. You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners. 

10. You must keep accurate records.

51.   The Panel considered that these standards had been breached, as, upon receipt of Child A’s disclosure, the Registrant failed to take all appropriate steps which would have combined to provide adequate safeguards for a number of vulnerable service users who potentially faced a serious risk in their own home. The Registrant failed to effectively communicate the relevant risks and actions to her colleagues with involvement in, and oversight of, the case.  She also failed to maintain accurate and contemporaneous records.  In so doing, her conduct potentially inhibited the ability of others to make fully informed decisions about the family in her absence.

52.   The Panel determined that the facts found proved, amounted to serious failings in respect of fundamental responsibilities of a Social Worker.  The standards of the Registrant’s practice fell far short of what would be expected in terms of the communication and recording of information, both of which are critical to the safeguarding of service users.  By departing from the standards expected of her, the Registrant exposed the children of Family A to a serious risk of sexual abuse in their home. The Registrant’s conduct amounted to a breach of a fundamental tenet of her profession, in that the public is entitled to expect that reports of sexual abuse made by vulnerable service users will be acted upon immediately and effectively, in the best interests of the service user.

53.   In all of these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions, both individually and collectively would attract a degree of strong public disapproval.  Accordingly, it determined that the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct.

 

Lack of Competence                                                                                                                              NOT PROVED

54.   Having determined that the proven facts amounted to misconduct, the Panel noted that the alternate statutory ground of lack of competence was also pleaded.  In view of its findings on misconduct, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant knew how to perform her professional duties competently, but failed to do so on the occasions referred to. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions were more appropriately identified as misconduct rather than lack of competence. In reaching this conclusion the Panel noted the comments of ST, who confirmed that the Registrant was capable of producing good quality work.  The Panel also noted that, the events in question related to one family over a period of 3 days in a career spanning more than 22 years. This matter could not be said, therefore, to constitute a fair sample of the Registrant’s work. Accordingly, lack of competence was not proved.

 

Decision on Impairment

PROVED      

55.   The Panel next determined whether, by reason of her misconduct, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”, dated March 2017. It bore in mind that not every finding of misconduct will automatically result in a conclusion that fitness to practise is impaired and noted that impairment is ‘forward looking’.  The Panel had specific regard to the guidance in the case of Meadows v GMC [2007]1 All ER 1, Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 and  Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581.

56.   The starting point for the Panel was that the misconduct identified was serious. By demonstrating a pattern of failings in respect of fundamental areas of her practice, which fell far short of that which would be expected of a registered Social Worker, the Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of her profession by failing to act in the best interests of service users. Furthermore, by failing to react appropriately when a serious allegation was made by a vulnerable service user, the Registrant’s conduct posed a risk of harm to service users and has brought the reputation of her profession into disrepute.

57.   The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on a personal basis. It noted that the failings identified are, in principle, remediable. The Registrant has sought help to address health issues which could have impacted upon her  lapse of professional judgement at the time. Furthermore, whilst the Registrant has not practised as a Social Worker since the Allegation, she has nevertheless undertaken work in a social care role which draws on her social work skills.  In September 2014 she became a volunteer for the Milton Keynes Youth Offending Team. Within this capacity, she acts as an appropriate adult to support young people at the police station.  Since April 2016, she has also undertaken agency work as a carer for vulnerable adults.

58.   The Panel also noted that the Registrant has undertaken ongoing training, much of which relates to safeguarding. However the Registrant accepted that she would need additional training before she would feel confident about returning to unrestricted practice.  Whilst the Panel was encouraged by the steps taken thus far, it considers that the Registrant’s remediation is ongoing and not yet complete, in that the Registrant has not demonstrated that she has addressed her shortcomings regarding record keeping and communication.

59.   The Panel also considered the Registrants reflective piece and associated oral evidence, and noted that she has reflected upon the relevant events and demonstrated a degree of insight, in that she accepts her failings and recognises how things should have been done differently.  She is committed to working with children and their families/carers in the future, but does not intend return to statutory child protection work. Rather, she would wish to focus on supporting children/carers by completing assessment work. However, the Panel noted that, at a fundamental level, the Registrant continues to apportion some blame to others for what happened and has not demonstrated that she recognises that her conduct exposed the children to a risk of harm.

60.   In the circumstances, given that the Registrant’s remediation is ongoing and her insight not yet fully developed, there remains a risk of repetition of the failings identified. Accordingly, the Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired on a personal level, in relation to public protection. 

61.   The Panel then went on to consider whether the wider public interest dictated that a finding of impairment was required in this case. The Panel is satisfied that the public interest is engaged. The public is entitled to expect that serious allegations made by vulnerable service users will be acted upon immediately and effectively, in the best interests of the service user. The Registrant’s misconduct was such that it presented a risk to service users and to the reputation of the department within which she worked and her profession as a whole. The wider public interest in upholding proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would therefore be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.

62.   Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrants fitness to practise is also currently impaired in the wider public interest.

 

Decision on Sanction

Sanction

 

63.   The Panel considered the submissions made by Ms Sheridan and Mr Grey. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

 

64.   The Panel is aware that the purpose of any sanction is not to be punitive, though it may have a punitive effect. The Panel has borne in mind that its primary function at this stage is to protect the public, while reaching a proportionate sanction, taking into account the wider public interest and the interests of the Registrant. The Panel has taken into account the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy [“the ISP”] and applied it to the Registrant’s case on its own facts and circumstances.

 

65.   The starting point for the Panel was that the misconduct was serious. It constituted a number of breaches of the HCPC Standards and where failings were associated with fundamental areas of the Registrant’s practice.

 

66.   The Panel identified the following aggravating factor in this case:

   The misconduct created a serious potential risk to service users.

67.   To balance against those issues, the Panel identified the following mitigating factors;

   The Registrant has fully engaged in the regulatory process;

   There have been no previous adverse regulatory findings;

   The events in question related to one family, over a limited period of 3 days, in a career spanning 22 years;

   The Registrant has demonstrated some insight.  She recognised that her work fell below the standard expected of her and that she would do things differently now;

   No actual harm was caused to service users;

   Of her own volition, the Registrant has taken remedial action by undertaking a number of training courses;

   There were a number of positive testimonials.

68.   Nevertheless, the Panel has found that the Registrant damaged the reputation of the profession and the failings identified constituted a breach of a fundamental tenet of her profession. In light of all of these matters, the Panel has considered what sanction, if any, should be applied, in ascending order of seriousness.

No Further Action

69.   The wider public interest would not be upheld if the Panel were to take no further action in a case of this nature and seriousness which would inevitably attract a degree of strong public disapproval. 

Mediation

70.   The Panel considered that mediation has no applicability to the nature of the misconduct found proved.

Caution

71.   A Caution Order would be insufficient to mark the seriousness of the Panel’s findings. It would offer no restriction on the Registrant’s practice and would therefore be insufficient to protect the public and uphold the wider public interest.

 

Conditions of Practice

72.   The Panel was mindful of the fact that this was an isolated lapse, over a limited period of time, no harm was caused to service users and the failings identified relate to specific and discrete areas of the Registrant’s practice. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that it would be possible to formulate workable and practicable conditions that would adequately address the issues identified and also reflect the wider public interest. The Panel has identified that the Registrant’s failings are capable of being remedied and it is satisfied that allowing the Registrant to remain in practice, albeit subject to conditions, will address the risks identified. Beyond the conditions imposed, the Registrant is capable of practising safely and effectively.  Furthermore, given the proactive way in which the Registrant has engaged in the case, the Panel is confident that she will comply with any conditions imposed.

73.   The Panel is mindful of the potential impact this order may have upon the Registrant.  However, it is satisfied that a Conditions of Practice Order for 2 years is an appropriate and proportionate sanction in these circumstances.  This is sufficient time for the Registrant to address the issues identified. The conditions are designed to cover a period when the Registrant anticipates that she will be undertaking work as a Social Worker.  Any shorter period would not address the public protection issues raised.

74.   The Panel is satisfied that the need to protect the public, and maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, outweighs the impact upon the Registrant of working subject to conditions of practice for a period of two years. 

Suspension and Striking Off Order

75.   In the judgement of the Panel, a Suspension or Striking Off Order would be disproportionate and unduly punitive in the circumstances described. Furthermore, it would deprive the public of a practitioner who is capable of practising without restriction in due course, after a period wherein she is subject to Conditions of Practice, which would be contrary to the wider public interest.

76.   Accordingly the Panel determined that a Conditions of Practice Order, was the necessary and proportionate order at this time.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, for a period of two years from the date that this Order comes into effect, you, Indrani Kesar, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1. Within 6 months of this Order coming into effect,  you must satisfactorily complete courses in the following areas and forward a copy of your results to the HCPC:

 

a.      Record Keeping

b.      Communication with Service Users and Colleagues

 

 

2. Within 28 Days of obtaining work which requires your registration with the HCPC, 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. You must attend upon that supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations. You must promptly inform the HCPC of any change of supervisor.

3. You must inform the HCPC within 28 days if you cease to be employed by your current employer or take up any other or further employment.

4. You must inform the HCPC within 28 days of any disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your employer.

5. 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).

6. 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.      Record Keeping

b.      Communications with Service Users and Colleagues

 

 

7. Within three months of obtaining work as a Social Worker you must forward a copy of your Personal Development Plan to the HCPC.

 

8. You must meet with your supervisor on a monthly basis to consider your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.

 

9. You must allow your supervisor to provide information to the HCPC about your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan.

 

It would assist the Reviewing Panel for the Registrant to provide any evidence that may assist the Panel in assessing the extent to which she is fit to return to unrestricted practice.        

 

Notes

An Interim Conditions of Practice Order was imposed for 18 months to cover the appeal period.  The Interim Order will be on the same conditions  set out in the Substantive Order. 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Indrani Kesar

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice