Miss Jacquelin Irene Luxton
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker for Somerset County Council between 1 January 2014 and 21 October 2014 you:
1. In relation to Person A and Person B, you:
a) Did not complete an up to date record on Liquidlogic Children's Social Care System (LCS).
b) Did not complete an up to date record on the Bridgewater T- Drive.
c) Before placing Child A with Person A and Person B, you:
i) Did not have an accurate view of Child 1's needs;
ii) Did not adequately explore the conflicts In views between professionals Involved In the
care of Child 1.
iii) Did not explore with Person A and Person B the potential implications of the
psychologist's opinion of Child 1.
d) Did not seek support from your supervisor during your work with Person A and Person B.
2. In relation to Person C and Person D, you:
a) Did not adequately assess Person C and Person D's history contained within the Prospective Adopters Report prior to placing Child 2 and Child 3.
b) Did not adequately explore the risks posed with placing Child 2 and Child 3 with Person C and Person D.
c) Did not act upon information provided to you regarding Child 3's behaviour towards Child 2.
3. In relation to Person E and Person F, you:
a) Did not act upon observations that you made in relation to Child 4's behaviour.
In that you:
i) Did not seek professional advice regarding Child 4 potentially suffering from dyslexia,
ADD and/or undiagnosed attachment disorder.
ii) Did not discuss concerns regarding the lack of up to date information regarding Child 4 with your supervisor.
b) Did not challenge the Local Authority placing Child 4 regarding lack of information they provided.
4. Did not follow management instruction in that, you:
a) Proceeded to attempt to find an adoption placement for Child F without management approval on 17 September 2014.
b) Undertook case work when instructed not to do so on 16 October 2014.
c) In or around October 2014, you acted outside adoption agency practice and protocol in that you shared confidential information with a non-approved adopter.
5. Did not keep accurate records on Liquidlogic Children's Social Care System(LCS) in relation to:
a) Family T;
b) Family U;
c) Family V, and;
d) Family W.
6. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
7. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to Practise is Impaired.
Service of Notice
1. The notice of the hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the Register. The notice dated 21 August 2017, contained the date, time and venue of the hearing.
2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel is satisfied that notice of the hearing has been served in accordance with the rules.
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Chaker on behalf of the HCPC.
4. Ms Chaker submitted that the HCPC had taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. Ms Chaker referred the Panel to the Registrant’s written submissions dated 8 January 2016, 2 June 2016, and 14 October 2017, in which she stated that she did not intend to attend the hearing. Ms Chaker reminded the Panel that in light of the Registrant’s position there was no realistic prospect of her attending on a future date, that she had set out her position in her written statement and that it was in the public interest for this matter to be dealt with expeditiously.
5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that the Panel had a discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
6. In reaching a decision on whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel have balanced any possible prejudice to the Registrant against the protection of the public and the public interest. In GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis  EWCA Civ 162, the Court was clear that the “fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations …is of very real importance”. It was also clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.
7. The Panel also took into consideration the HCPC Practice Note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Registrant was aware of the hearing and had made it clear that she did not wish to attend. She provided written submissions responding to the allegations. She is no longer a member of her Union and would not be entitled to representation. The Registrant had not made an application to adjourn. In light of all of these factors, the Panel determined that the Registrant was highly unlikely to attend at a later date. Having weighed the public interest in the expeditious disposal of this case and the Registrant’s own wish for the case to be determined, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
8. Ms Chaker who appeared for the HCPC invited the Panel to hear matters relating to the Registrant’s health in private. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
9. The starting point in approaching a hearing is the principle of ‘open justice’ which means that proceedings should be held in public. The Panel are aware of the need to maintain confidence in the court system and in the importance of public scrutiny. Rule 10(1) of the HCPC Rules provides that:
“At any hearing ... the proceedings shall be held in public unless the Committee is satisfied that, in the interests of justice or for the protection of the private life of the health professional, the complainant, any person giving evidence or any patient or client , the public should be excluded from all or part of the hearing..”
10. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides for the right to private and family life. The Panel accepts that the matters relating to the Registrant’s health raised sensitive issues. The Panel determined that it would be in the interests of justice to hear part of the case in private. The Panel determined that during the hearing the condition would simply be referred to as ‘the health condition’ whilst in public session. However, if it became necessary to refer to the condition in more detail the hearing would go into private session and the matter will not form part of the public record.
11. The Registrant is a social worker, who at the relevant time, was employed by Somerset County Council (SCC) as an Adoption Social Worker in the Permanence Team. In this role she was responsible for working with prospective adopters and completing assessments.
12. On 03.10.13 an Internal Investigation was commissioned by the Group Manager of Fostering and Adoption arising from a concern that the Registrant had breached confidentiality in disclosing the first name and profession of a prospective adopter to a couple who had recently adopted a child within the same sibling group. BH, Strategic Manager for Child Placements and Resources, conducted this investigation.
13. In June 2014, WWT took over as the Registrant’s line manager. During the course of supervision, it became clear that three placements had broken down extremely quickly. As a result of this, concerns were raised about the quality of the Registrant’s assessments. In relation to particulars 1 (i) and (ii), it is alleged that the Registrant failed to explore adequately the conflicts in views between the professionals (the placing Social Worker on the one hand and a psychologist on the other). The HCPC’s case is that the Registrant did not explore whether Persons A and B could meet Child 1’s needs or the implications of the psychologist’s opinions that Child 1 had attachment issues.
14. Particulars 2 (i) and (ii) related to an allegation that the Registrant failed to attach sufficient weight to the information revealed by prospective adopters (Person C and Person D) about difficult issues in their own childhood which might impact on their ability to support two siblings within their family (Child 2 and Child 3).
15. Particular 3 was an allegation that the Registrant failed to seek professional advice regarding Child 4. Person E and Person F were at the later stages of agreeing to a placement for Child 4 with them. The Registrant noted during an observation of them with Child 4, that Child 4 was far more disturbed than the placing team had indicated and that he might have dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder, and/or an undiagnosed attachment disorder.
16. Particular 4 (a) relates to the fact that the Registrant did not follow a management instruction given at supervision not to do any further case work on her adoption caseload. Particular 4(b) dates back to June 2013 when the Registrant shared confidential information with an approved adopter about a prospective adopter.
17. Particular 5 relates to poor record keeping. The Council’s case is that the Registrant failed to keep accurate and/or updated records on Liquid Logic Children’s Social Care System (LCS), Protocol and/or the Bridgewater T-drive in relation to a number of families.
18. The Council alleges that the matters described amount to misconduct and or lack of competence.
19. The Panel heard evidence from CC and WWT who attended in person and from BH via the telephone.
20. In general, the Panel found the evidence from the three witnesses was credible and consistent.
21. The Panel heard evidence from Witness 1, CC, who conducted the independent investigation into the Registrant’s work which led to these proceedings, from WWT, the Registrant’s line manager from June 2014 and from BH who was appointed by Somerset County Council to investigate Particular 4(b). In reaching a decision on the facts the Panel have considered all of the oral evidence, the documentary evidence and the written submissions submitted by the Registrant.
22. The evidence of all of the witnesses called on behalf of the HCPC was that SCC was in a state of transition and reorganisation at the time of the events which form the majority of the Particulars of the allegation. There had been a restructuring of the adoption department between January and May 2014. CC told the Panel that the Registrant’s previous line manager, AD, had a markedly different approach to management from WWT. There was no handover between AD and WWT and no information relating to the Registrant was given to WWT by Human Resources. Also progress regarding the requirements set by the Disciplinary Committee on 30 January 2014 had not been monitored.
23. The evidence of BH, who is currently the Strategic Manager for Child Placements and Resources, was that SCC’s procedure for investigating failings at work is to look at the reasons for the difficulties and agree an informal action plan. There may also be a referral to Occupational Health before considering a more formal plan of action. This should happen before instigating a formal investigation or disciplinary process. In her verbal evidence, BH stated that this procedure was not followed in the case of the Registrant due to the fact that this wasn’t the first time these failings had been noted and reported.
24. Lastly, during the period of the allegation, the department was in the process of updating its IT systems and recording mechanisms. There were three possible places that social workers were able to record their work. They were Liquid Logic Children’s Services (LCS), the Bridgewater T-Drive and paper records. There was no evidence before the Panel of exactly when the new system was put in place, but the Panel understood that the new system was rolled out over a period of time.
Decision on Facts
Particulars 1 (i) and (ii): proved
25. The Panel relied on CC’s evidence that the Registrant told him that she was aware that there was a difference in opinion between the placing social worker and a psychologist. The Panel noted that the psychologist’s report was not in the bundle and therefore could not ascertain the importance of the contents. The Registrant accepted in her interview with CC, that she had not explored this information. During the investigation she explained that she had felt pressured by other professionals to proceed with the placement during meetings. Instead of exploring the psychologists opinion, she stated she had relied upon the opinion of the foster carers who didn’t advise there were any issues with Child 1 and the fact that Persons A and B “were experienced parents”.
Particulars 2(i) and (ii) not proved
26. The Panel do not find these Particulars proved. The evidence relied on by the HCPC was the Prospective Adopter’s Report (PAR) prepared by the Registrant for Persons C and D. The position of the HCPC is that the Registrant failed to assess adequately Persons C and Person D’s history in deciding on their suitability as potential adopters for Child 2 and Child 3. Having read the PAR, the Panel are satisfied that the Registrant took a full history from Persons C and D and that the impact of their backgrounds was adequately assessed and presented.
27. The PAR sets out that the prospective adopters wanted a sibling group between 0 and 7 and that they had expressed the view that an older sibling near the top end of their age range with some language would be preferable. The PAR also noted that the adopters recognised the importance of contact with the birth family and were questioned about whether they would accept a child if one or both of the birth parents had a mental illness such as schizophrenia. The PAR was detailed and explored behavioural complications which might exist as a result of early experiences.
28. In relation to Particular 2 (ii) the PAR which formed the basis for the allegation against the Registrant simply stated that Person C and D were suitable to be considered as adopters of a sibling group between 0-7. The Registrant was not required to consider the impact of the adoption placement in Person C and D of Child 2 or Child 3. In addition, the Panel heard evidence from CC and WWT that the PAR would have been quality assured by the line manager and submitted to the Adoption Panel and the Agency Decision Maker. These mechanisms are in place to ensure that all aspects of potential adopter’s abilities are covered.
Particular 3: not proved
29. In the Proposed Adoption Support Plan, dated 10 June 2014, provided by Gloucestershire County Council there was no information that could have alerted the Registrant to the fact that Child 4 had behavioural difficulties. It was only after the match had been made, that the Registrant noted that Child 4 was exhibiting behaviour that she believed possibly indicated ADD or dyslexia or an attachment disorder. The note she made was her own observation and not a formal diagnosis.
Particular 4(a) proved
30. In the notes of the supervision of 1 October 2014, the Registrant accepted that she was told not to do any further casework. On 16 October 2014, an email audit trail shows that she asked an administrator to email prospective adopter’s details to another Local Authority for matching. During the investigation, the Registrant told CC that she did not want the families she was working with to be disadvantaged by her personal problems at work and that she interpreted the instruction given to her as only prohibiting direct contact with families.
Particular 4(b) proved
31. The Registrant has always accepted that she gave Child E’s adopters information that SCC were considering placing a half sibling (Child F) with a prospective adopter in the same town. The Registrant accepted when interviewed by BH that she had given the adopter of Child E, the first name of the prospective adopter of Child F, her profession and that she was single. The information given was sufficient to enable them to identify the prospective adopter through their network of friends and by conducting an internet search. The Registrant did not have management permission to do this, the disclosure was premature and, although “inadvertent”, it caused distress to Child E’s adopters in what was an already delicate and difficult situation, as evidenced by the email from them to SCC dated 20 August 2013.
Particular 5 proved
32. At the relevant time, SCC was transferring recording of casework from the Protocol and Bridgewater T-Drive systems to the LCS recording system. The Bridgewater T-Drive could only be accessed by the adoption team. In relation to particulars 5 (a), (b), (c) and (d) which related to Families T, U, V and W, whilst there were records on Bridgewater T-Drive, the records were mainly a series of emails. There were no case notes, records of telephone conversations or home visits or summaries on LCS. In relation to particulars 5(e), (f) and (g) which related to Persons A and B; Persons C and D and Persons E and F there were no entries on LCS for Persons A, B, E, and F after 07 April 2014. There was nothing at all in respect of Persons C and D, except the PAR despite the fact that this case was allocated to the Registrant in December 2013. The Panel accepted that there was an extensive trail of email correspondence which contained substantive information in relation to Persons A and B and Persons E and F on the T-Drive. The records were email discussions which had been cut and pasted into the system. There was no clear or cohesive record of the work undertaken or of meetings and attendance notes. The Registrant explained that it was her practice to make handwritten notes during meetings. She also asserted that it was common practice at SCC to destroy those records once the PAR had been completed.
Decision on Grounds
33. The Panel found that although the facts in particulars 1 (i) and (ii) were proved the failings of the Registrant were not so serious as to amount to a statutory ground. Whilst the Registrant’s failure to explore the contents of a psychological assessment was not good practice, the HCPC have not adduced any evidence as to the contents of that assessment. CC who conducted the investigation did not have sight of the psychological assessment, and did not have any evidence as to the recommendations contained within it or whether the report was current or historic. The Registrant should have made further enquiries and it would have been best practice to, at least, call a professionals’ meeting, so that a fuller assessment could be made as to Child 1’s needs. However, the Panel was mindful that the Registrant was only one of a number of professionals involved in the matching process. The Panel found that, at its highest, this omission was an error of professional judgment, but it did not constitute misconduct.
34. In relation to Particular 4 (a) the Panel found that the Registrant’s failure to follow management instructions fell short of misconduct. The Registrant was given this instruction in a supervision session. The supervision notes were unsigned. Whilst on the face of it, this breach amounted to a flagrant breach of management instructions, in the context of the Registrant’s case, the Panel accepted the written submissions of the Registrant and her account when interviewed by CC, that she had not fully understood this instruction. She did not make any direct contact with a service user and the Panel accepted that she intended to ensure that the service user was not prejudiced by her own difficulties at work. The Panel noted that there was no evidence that the Registrant’s caseload had been re-allocated and found that there was the potential for a misunderstanding in the context of what constituted ‘case work’.
35. The Panel found that Particular 4(b) and Particular 5 were so serious as to amount to misconduct.
36. In relation to Particular 4(b), the Registrant’s actions were in direct breach of the Registrant’s statutory duty and SCC’s confidentiality policy. It compromised her employer, and, more significantly, vulnerable children, adopters and a prospective adopter were put at risk.
37. In relation to Particular 5, the absence of up-to-date accurate records placed vulnerable service users at risk. The potential ramifications were serious. It is important that records can be accessed easily and that social workers follow established procedures, protocols and guidelines so that a professional who is not familiar with a case can access information quickly in the event of an emergency. The Registrant’s records were in such chaos that it proved impossible for WWT or CC, who were not familiar with her cases, to obtain an accurate picture of what had happened. In addition, this is a sensitive area as adoptees often seek information many years after the events in question. They need to know how decisions on their placements were made and the facts used to inform those decisions. Proper records are crucial to this. The Registrant was an experienced social worker and knew that she was seriously ‘adrift’ with her recording. She was in breach of SCC’s requirement to keep accurate and up-to-date records and of national standards expected of social workers.
38. The matters in which the Panel found misconduct represent breaches of the following HCPC Standards of conduct performance and ethics and HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers;
HCPC Standards of conduct performance and ethics (2012)
• Standard 2 – You must respect the confidentiality of service users;
• Standard 10 – You must keep accurate records.
HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers (2012)
• Standard 1.2 – recognise the need to manage their own workload and resources and be able to practise accordingly;
• Standard 7 – be able to maintain confidentiality;
• Standard 10 – be able to maintain records appropriately.
Decision on Impairment
39. Whether or not a Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired is a question for the Panel alone. The Panel paid due regard to the submissions of Ms Chaker and reminded itself of the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
40. The Panel had regard to the guidance given by Dame Janet Smith in the 5th Shipman Report and to the proper approach to the issue of impairment: in particular whether the findings of fact in respect of misconduct established that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she:
• has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at risk of unwarranted harm; and/or
• in the past and/or is liable in the future to bring the profession into disrepute, and/or
• has in the past breached and/or is he liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of profession; and/or
• in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future.
41. The Registrant has worked as a social worker for 20 years. She is a woman of good character. She engaged in the disciplinary procedures initiated in 2013 by her employer and was co-operative. The Panel have taken into account her reasons for not engaging in the regulatory process. The Panel accept that the fact that she is not working as a social worker and that as she is no longer a member of her union she couldn’t access union support, the process has been stressful for her. However, the decision not to fully engage has meant that the Panel are hampered by limited information.
42. The Registrant was open and honest when interviewed by her employer in relation to breach of confidentiality. She showed insight and agreed to the measures that were put in place to reinforce the importance of confidentiality. The extent to which she was afforded ongoing support is unclear. Her manager at the time, AD, felt that the risk of repetition was low.
43. The Registrant showed less insight into the significance of her poor record keeping. Although she was open about the fact that she was “seriously adrift”, there is limited evidence from her representations or from the interviews held by SCC that she understood the extent of her failings or the importance of record keeping. There is no evidence that she has understood the importance of retaining contemporaneous notes. There were no notes of professionals’ meetings, home visits, telephone conversations or any other relevant discussions that took place in relation to her cases. Whilst there is no evidence about the established practice in the department at the time, as an experienced social worker, the Registrant should have understood the need to document fully and retain records of her work outside the PARs that she prepared. In her written representations, the Registrant conflates a lack of training and the effects of stress with her poor record keeping. The Panel finds this to be evidence that the Registrant has only has limited insight into the significance of her failings and does not, in her submission, address the effect on service users. The Registrant had a responsibility to draw her IT difficulties to the attention of management and, as an autonomous professional, should have asked for training.
44. In considering current impairment the Panel note that the Registrant has not worked as a social worker since August 2015. There was no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant has completed any courses to address difficulties with IT or work management and therefore no evidence of remediation. She has repeatedly stated that she does not wish to return to social work. She would also need to ensure she had updated her IT skills to a standard that would allow her to accurately record all of her work.
45. The Panel went on to consider the public interest in the wider sense regarding the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The need for confidentiality and the keeping of proper records are fundamental to the work of a social worker and are necessary to safeguard service users. They are fundamental tenets of the profession and are essential to the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.
46. Adopted children have the right to expect that there will be accurate records relating to the sequence of events leading to their adoption and the key decisions made about their future. Equally, potential adopters should expect social workers to maintain absolute confidentiality and be assured that information is not disclosed to others without their knowledge and consent.
47. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant is currently impaired in relation to both the personal and public component.
Decision on Sanction
49. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct, the Panel next went on to consider whether it was impaired to a degree which required action to be taken on her registration by way of the imposition of a sanction.
50. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and it exercised independent judgement. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the wider public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.
51. The Panel first identified what it considered to be the principal mitigating and aggravating factors in this case.
• The Registrant had no previous regulatory issues with the HCPC, over an extended career as a social worker. With the exception of these matters there were no known internal findings against her.
• The Registrant co-operated with the internal investigation by SCC and accepted that she had breached confidentiality and that she had not been keeping up to date records.
• There was a change in management and structuring at SCC and the Registrant was not well supported following the breach of confidentiality in August 2013.
• There was a lack of communication between the Registrant’s previous line manager (AD) and WWT about the Registrant.
• WWT was not given any information about the Registrant’s previous health issues.
• The Registrant was an experienced social worker.
• She was working in the field of adoption where confidentiality and good record keeping are essential.
• In her written statement the Registrant does not appear to take full responsibility for her actions and does not show insight into, or that she has reflected upon, the impact of these actions on service users or the local authority.
52. The Panel considered the sanctions available, beginning with the least restrictive. The Panel did not consider that the options of taking no further action, mediation or the sanction of a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. None of these options would address the risk of repetition which the Panel have identified, nor would they reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct and the potential impact on colleagues and members of the public, and how her failures had the potential to undermine the public’s confidence in the profession. The Panel also considered paragraph 28 of the ISP and considered it was relevant, in particular that a Caution Order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the episode is not isolated. The shortcomings in the Registrant’s record keeping were over a period of time and spanned across her caseload.
53. The Panel moved on to consider the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The ISP suggests that this sanction may be appropriate where the issues are capable of remediation and there is no persistent or general failure which would prevent the Registrant from doing so.
54. Although the Panel was of the view that the conduct was capable of being remedied, and that a Conditions of Practice Order may have been the appropriate sanction if the Registrant had continued to work in social work, such an order was not workable because the Registrant is not currently engaged in social work and has indicated that she has no intention of resuming her career as a social worker. In addition, there was no evidence that the Registrant had begun any work to remediate her shortcomings in respect of her record keeping.
55. The Registrant has repeatedly stated in her written submissions that she does not intend to return to social work. The Panel was of the view that paragraph 33 of the ISP was relevant and applicable in this case given the Registrant’s lack of engagement thus far: ‘Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so’. A Conditions of Practice Order will rarely be suitable where a Registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process. In short, the imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part of the Registrant to resolve matters and therefore conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases where there are ‘serious and persistent overall failings’. The Panel therefore concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order is inappropriate in this case.
56. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and concluded that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction, both to protect the public and to meet the wider public interest. Given the nature of the Registrant’s conduct, together with the lack of remediation and insight, the Panel were satisfied that such an Order would provide appropriate protection to service users. Such an Order is also required to maintain public confidence in the profession, as well as declare professional standards, as it marks the seriousness of the departure from proper standards, displayed by the Registrant.
57. The Panel considers that the length of the Order should be for 6 months in all the circumstances of this case.
No notes available
History of Hearings for Miss Jacquelin Irene Luxton
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|30/10/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|