Mrs Carol Anne Indge

: Social worker

: SW51249

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:12:00 23/10/2017 End: 14:30 23/10/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as amended at Final Hearing):

Between 22 November 2012 and 24 September 2014, during the course of your employment as a Senior Practitioner Social Worker at Westminster City Council, you:

1. In respect of the Family A:

 

a) Did not produce court statements within 2 weeks from the decision on 17 March 2014 to proceed to court.

b) Did not produce care plans within 2 weeks from the decision on 17 March 2014 to proceed to court.

 

2. In respect of the Family B:

 

a) Between April 2014 and 17 June 2014, did not complete the final court statements and/or final care plans before the court imposed deadline elapsed.

 

3. On or around 13 June 2014 and/or 16 June 2014, did not inform your line manager that the final court statements and/or final care plans described in particular 2a would not be submitted within the expected timescales.

 

4. Did not conduct and/or record visits in respect of:

 

a) Child A between 21 November 2013 and 17 June 2014;

b) Child B between 11 April 2013 and 17 June 2014;

c) Children C between 2 January 2014 and 17 June 2014;

d) Child D(1) and Child D (4) between 9 April 2014 and 17 June 2014;

e) Child D(2) and Child D(3) between 14 April 2014 and 17 June 2014;

f) Children E between 23 December 2013 and 17 June 2014.

 

5. Did not inform your line manager that the visits described in paragraph 4 would not be conducted within the required timescales.

 

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

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Proceeding in absence

1. The Panel was satisfied that good service had been effected.  The Registrant did not attend nor was she represented. She had not attended the final hearing in February 2017. The Registrant had sent an email to the HCPC on 25 September 2017 in which she indicated that she was unable to attend the hearing.  She did not request an adjournment.

2. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Shenton applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. Ms Shenton submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.

3. Having considered the revised HCPTS Practice Note on proceeding in absence and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable notice of today’s hearing.  The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment in her email dated 25 September 2017 and had voluntarily absented herself.  There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned.  The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.

Background

4. The Registrant started employment with Westminster City Council on 25 February 2012 as a locum Social Worker and she took a permanent position on 1 May 2012.  Concerns were raised about her practice during a period of absence from work due to ill health in 2014. She resigned her position in August 2014.  An internal investigation commenced and the matter was eventually referred to the HCPC. 

The Final Hearing

5. It was alleged that the Registrant had failed to produce court statements and care plans in relation to two families during March to July 2014.  It was further alleged that she did not conduct or record visits in respect of eight children between April 2013 and June 2014 and failed to inform her manager that the visits would not be conducted within the required timescales.  The facts were found to be proved.  The full details of the findings are set out in detail in the written decision of the Panel at the final hearing.  

6. It was found that the facts amounted to misconduct and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was thereby impaired. She had caused unnecessary delay and anxiety in cases involving vulnerable children over a prolonged period and exposed young service users to risk.  In one case, the Court had refused to grant an order requested by the local authority because the Registrant had failed to provide sufficient evidence regarding contact between parents.  The Registrant had breached standards 1 to 10 the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics.

7. There was no evidence of remediation and only limited evidence of insight or remorse.  The Panel had no information as to the Registrant’s circumstances since her resignation in August 2014.  There remained a risk of repetition in the absence of such evidence.  The Panel also found that the wider public interest required a finding of impairment because she had failed vulnerable service users and failed to uphold proper standards of conduct and proficiency.   Her fitness to practise was therefore impaired on both private and public grounds.

8. In determining the appropriate sanction, it was decided that taking no action or imposing a Caution Order would not provide sufficient public protection.  A Conditions of Practice Order was neither workable nor verifiable in the absence of information about her circumstances. The Panel concluded that a Suspension Order of eight months was a proportionate sanction that would provide the necessary public protection in view of the seriousness of the Registrant’s failings.  The Panel considered a Striking Off Order but concluded that it would not be in the public interest to deprive the public of a Social Worker who had previously worked safely and effectively.

9. The Panel at the final hearing concluded that a future Review Panel would be assisted by the following

• The attendance of the Registrant

• Details of how the Registrant has kept her practice up to date

• Details of how the Registrant is able to recognise and manage personal and professional stress

• Testimonials relating to paid or unpaid work

• A piece of reflective writing addressing

i. How the Registrant could avoid repeating her misconduct if similar events were to occur in the future

ii. The effect of her misconduct on the vulnerable families she had dealt with and on her colleagues

iii. Any specific training the Registrant would need to undertake to return to practice.

This Review Hearing

10. This is the first review of the order. The Registrant sent an email to the HCPC on 25 September 2017 in which she said that she was unable to attend the hearing.  She added that she regretted that she had been unable to manage her workload.  She was a carer for her mother as well as working full time in another occupation and had not worked as a Social Worker since 2014.  She did not wish to renew her registration as a Social Worker and asked for this matter to come to a conclusion.

11. Ms Shenton for the HCPC reminded the Panel of the history of the case and of its powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the order or imposing another order.  Ms Shenton submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired in view of the history of the matter, in particular the fact that the Registrant had not worked as a Social Worker since 2014 and the absence of evidence of insight or remediation.  She further submitted that an extension of the current Suspension Order was the minimum proportionate sanction at this stage, but that the Panel could consider the sanction of Striking Off in these circumstances.  In response to a question from the Panel Chair, Ms Shenton indicated that the HCPC had not yet considered voluntary removal from the register, but that the HCPC would explore whether this was an appropriate case for a Voluntary Removal Agreement if the Suspension Order were extended at this review hearing.

Decision

12. A substantive review is a two stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness of practice is currently impaired and if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon her registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

13. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case. 

14. The Panel considered the Registrant’s email in which she said that she had not worked as Social Worker since 2014 and concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired for the following reasons. There was no evidence of any change in circumstances.  There was some limited evidence of insight in that she expressed regret for her failure to manage her workload but no evidence of reflection as suggested by the previous Panel, so there remained  a risk that she might repeat her misconduct.

15. In making this finding in relation to the personal component, namely her present circumstances and whether she posed a continuing risk, the Panel had in mind the relative lack of further information about the Registrant’s current circumstances, and the absence of evidence of remediation.  The Panel also considered that a finding of impairment was necessary in the wider public interest to protect service users and to maintain public confidence in the profession.

Sanction

16. The nature of the misconduct was too serious to make no order.  The case concerned multiple failures in relation to vulnerable service users, so there was a continuing risk to the public in the absence of further information.  An order was also necessary to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel considered whether to impose a Caution Order, but decided that it was inappropriate, because there was only limited evidence of insight and it would not provide sufficient public protection. 

17. A Conditions of Practice Order was neither appropriate nor workable in view of the Registrant’s clearly expressed wish not to work as a qualified Social Worker in the future.  Such an order is not appropriate where the Registrant does not intend to return to the profession. The Panel then moved to consider whether to extend the current Suspension Order or whether to impose a Striking Off Order in its place.

18. The Panel acknowledges that in any particular case, it is for the HCPC to determine whether or not voluntary removal from the Register is appropriate.  However, in this case, Ms Shenton conceded that no consideration has yet been given to the option of whether or not voluntary removal is appropriate.  The Panel also recognises that the Registrant is seeking closure in this case.  However, the Panel was of the view that it was appropriate to request the HCPC to consider the option of voluntary removal.

19. The Panel considered that the sanction of striking off was disproportionate at this stage.  The Panel hearing the original case only eight months ago had not considered that this was the appropriate sanction and the Panel was mindful that this is a sanction of last resort and of the stigma that may be attached to a Registrant who has been removed from the register in this way.  In the circumstances, an extension of the current Suspension Order for a period of six months would provide the necessary public protection and meet the wider public interest whilst the HCPC considers whether to propose a Voluntary Removal Agreement to the Registrant.


 

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Carol Anne Indge for a further period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect. 

Notes

The order imposed today will come into effect on the expiry of the existing Suspension Order on 22 November 2017. 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Carol Anne Indge

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
20/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended