Antony Kenneth Lawson House

: Social worker

: SW26978

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 30/10/2017 End: 17:00 06/11/2017

: Etc.venues, Prospero House, 241 Borough High Street, London SE1 1GA

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as amended at the Final Hearing)

 

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker in the Youth Offenders Team at Nottinghamshire County Council, you:


1. Did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion, in that:


a) In relation to Service User 29, you were asked at a Risk Strategy Meeting on 24 June 2015 to amend the Core Assessment and Risk documents but did not present the completed amendments until 2 July 2015;


b) In relation to Service User 16, a Pre Sentence Report you were asked by the court to complete by 5 August 2015 was not made ready for signing off until 14 August 2015.


c) In relation to Service User 31, you completed your referral for reparation on 12 June 2015, outside the 10 day timescale set by the Initial Referral Panel on 18 May 2015;


d) In relation to Service User 30, a Pre Sentence Report was requested by the Court on 20 July 2015 for a hearing date 6 August 2015 but your competed report was not submitted until an adjourned hearing date of 26 August 2015;


2. Did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all, in that:


a) In relation to Service User 28, you did not provide risk review information for a Risk Strategy Meeting to be held on 8 June 2015;


b) In relation to Service User 33, your assessment was presented to your manager on 22 July 2015 for the Assessment Panel on 28 July 2015 but you had not interviewed Service User 33 and you had not obtained relevant information from the Police.


c) in relation to Service User 32, you did not record safety and well-being information for Service User 32, an adolescent, his adult girlfriend or her two – children for eight weeks from the referral date.


3. You did not meet with your service users at appropriate intervals and/or did not record those meetings, in that:


a) In relation to Service User 31, the risk indication was for "intensive" contact (minimum x2 contacts per week) but you did not meet Service User 31 in three weeks;


b) In relation to Service User 27, you did not conduct and/or record any meetings or assessments after 22 May 2015 but kept the case file open and inactive;


c) In relation to Service User 32, you did not record any meetings or contacts in an eight week period from the referral order date.


4. You did not act in response to non-compliance situations, in that:


a) in a case discussion meeting on 3 August  2015 you were instructed to take "Breach Action"  against service user 29 in court if he failed to engage but you did not do so;


b) When Service User 30 re-offended and/or breached a Statutory Order, you were instructed to take "Breach Action" proceedings in Court on 28 July 2015 but you did not do so until the following week;


c) In relation to Service User 28, you did not reschedule the Risk Strategy Meeting review for eight weeks.


5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.


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

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Proof of service

1. The Panel had sight of a letter dated 25 August 2017, sent to the Registrant at his registered address, giving notice of today’s hearing, together with a further letter dated 18 September 2017 notifying the Registrant of the hearing venue, and determined that service had been properly complied with in accordance with the requirements of the Health Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).

Proceeding in Absence

2. The Panel was informed that the Registrant had engaged in telephone discussion with the HCPC in April and June 2017 regarding his likely attendance, the possibility of getting legal representation and whether he would be calling any witnesses. He was sent the witness statements on 7 June 2017 and the full hearing bundle on 11 September 2017. Since June there had been no further engagement from the Registrant. The HCPC sent two emails, dated 9 and 18 October 2017, asking him whether he intended to attend the hearing. He was also sent a Pro-Forma form asking for information regarding the hearing. The Registrant had not responded to any of these communications.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who took the Panel to the Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant, to Rule 11 and to the guidance given in the cases of R –v- Jones [2003] 1 AC 1, Tait v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34 and GMC –v- Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162.

4. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had been properly served with the notice of hearing. Despite his early engagement, he had not attended today and had not provided any reason why he was unable to attend. He had not requested an adjournment nor had he suggested that he would be more likely to attend on a future date if the hearing were to be adjourned. In those circumstances the Panel concluded that the Registrant had absented himself voluntarily from the proceedings today and that it was unlikely that he would attend if the matter were adjourned to a future date. The allegation was now some two years old and was based on detailed points of evidence which relied upon the recollection of the HCPC witnesses who were due to be called, one of whom had travelled some distance. The Panel bore in mind that it was in the public interest to hear cases expeditiously. In those circumstances, the Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

Amendment of allegation

5. Mr Foxsmith applied to amend the allegation. The Registrant had been notified in writing of this proposal some six months previously. He had queried the need for amendments but expressed the opinion that they tended to narrow the focus of the allegations. He said he needed time to consider them but had not made any further submissions, nor had he objected to the proposed amendments.

6. The Panel concluded that the amendments added clarity to the way in which the HCPC sought to put its case, by providing the correct dates, details of who was being referred to and what instructions were being issued. The amendments more accurately reflected the evidence in the case and did not materially alter the substance of it or cause prejudice to the Registrant. The Panel allowed the amendments on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so and did not cause unfairness to the Registrant.

Witnesses

7. The Panel heard from two witnesses called on behalf of the HCPC:

• Witness 1 – At the time of the allegations, Youth Offending Team Locality Manager employed by the Nottinghamshire County Council (“the Council”) and the Registrant’s line manager

• Witness 2 – At the time of the allegations, Youth Justice Operations Manager at the Nottingham Youth Justice Service employed by the Council

Background

8. The Registrant was employed by the Council on 24 October 2009. Prior to 2013 he was a Senior Case Manager based in the Parenting and Crime Prevention Team in Targeted Support. This role involved voluntary interventions with young people who were at risk of offending but who had not offended. In 2013, following structural change, the Registrant was moved into one of the Youth Offending Teams as a Band B Youth Justice Service Senior Case Manager dealing with young people between the ages of 10 and 18 who had either been dealt with by the criminal courts or were at risk of offending. The majority of this work involved statutory interventions.

9. It was alleged that as soon as the Registrant moved into the Youth Offending Team concerns arose which were highlighted by his line manager, Witness 1, who then managed a capability process.

10. The Registrant submitted his notice of resignation on 11 September 2015 prior to the third performance review meeting on 17 September 2015.

11. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant had not been given an unreasonable caseload either in terms of the number of cases or their complexity. She said that he had been provided with the appropriate training and considerable support from herself and through peer mentoring.

12. The Registrant did not submit any documentation for the consideration of the Panel, although the Panel was provided with the Registrant’s written Response to the Management Statement of Case produced in the course of the Council’s Performance Management Procedure in 2015, which the Panel took into account.

Decision on Facts:

13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

14. The Panel concluded that Witness 1 was an impressive witness.  She was credible, balanced, and fair, giving the Registrant credit where she felt she could, and making it clear when she was unsure of an answer in the course of Panel questioning. She referred to documentary evidence to support her oral evidence.

15. The Panel concluded that Witness 2 was credible and balanced and provided useful evidence relating to matters that were not case specific, such as the standard of work of staff in general and caseloads. However, the Panel concluded that the evidence that she provided in relation to the specific cases particularised in the allegation did not add to the evidence given by Witness 1 because, as she explained, she had been asked to provide a statement at a time when it was believed that Witness 1 would not be able to participate in the case, and her evidence regarding specific cases relied entirely upon the content of Witness 1’s report.

SERVICE USER 29

Particular 1 (a) Did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion, in that: In relation to Service User 29 you were asked at a Risk Strategy Meeting on 24 June 2015 to amend the Core Assessment and Risk documents but did not present the completed amendments until 2 July 2015.

16. Witness 1 informed the Panel that Service User 29 was discussed at a Risk Strategy Meeting on 24 June 2015, when the Registrant was present. The Panel was provided with a copy of the minutes of the meeting. The conclusion of the meeting was that Service User 29’s level of risk of causing harm and his risk of vulnerability had each decreased from a High to a Medium level.  

17. Witness 1 said that if, at a Risk Strategy Meeting, there is a change to the assessed risk levels and risk plans in relation to a Service User, the Case Manager is required to amend the relevant documents in order to reflect the change. She said that in this instance the Registrant was specifically asked to amend the core assessment and risk documents, the Risk of Serious Harm assessment (ROSH) and Intervention Plan (I-plan), following the meeting on 24 June 2015.

18. On 29 June 2015 Witness 1 received an email from the Registrant saying that he had made the amendments to the risk documents.  Witness 1 said that not all of the agreed amendments had been completed and that she could not therefore sign off the documents. She informed the Registrant of this.  The Registrant made further amendments, which he submitted by means of an email on 1 July 2015. These amendments were still inconsistent with the decision of the meeting and further amendments were therefore needed. The documentation was not fully completed and signed off until 2 July 2015.

19. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the timeframe for completing amendments is set out in the Youth Justice Service Policy which states that they should be completed within a week. However Witness 1 gave evidence that good practice was to complete the amendments within 3 days. She was unable to provide the Panel with any documentation in support of this expected timescale, but stated in oral evidence that she had made the Registrant aware of the requirement.  She said that she would have expected the task to be completed much sooner than within a week, particularly in this instance because Service User 29 was a Looked After Child (LAC), and all the professionals involved in the case needed to be aware of the up to date position. 

20. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1, in conjunction with the minutes of the meeting of 24 June 2015 and copies of the relevant email correspondence between the Registrant and Witness 1, and concluded that the Registrant had been asked at a Risk Strategy Meeting on 24 June 2015 to amend the Core Assessment and Risk documents but the amendments were not completed until 2 July 2015. The Registrant failed to make the necessary amendments in time, and his earlier versions were contradictory. The Panel acknowledged that the deadline was moved to 6 July 2015 because the Registrant was on three days training from 1 July 2015 and that he did submit the amended documents on the 1 July 2015, but because of their late submission on that day they were not signed off until 2 July 2015. This was a delay of one week from the meeting on 24 June 2015. In the context of this case, on the basis of the evidence provided by Witness 1, the Panel concluded that Registrant had not completed the documents in a timely fashion.

21. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

Particular 4 (a) Did not act in response to non-compliance situations in that: in a case discussion meeting on 3 August 2015 you were instructed to take “Breach Action” proceedings against Service User 29 in Court if he failed to engage but you did not do so

22. Witness 1 informed the Panel that at a supervision meeting on 3 August 2015 the Registrant informed her in the course of a case discussion that Service User 29 was failing to attend appointments.  She produced a note of this discussion. She said that she discussed with the Registrant at some length whether to refer the Service User to Court, having breached his order, or whether to give him the opportunity to attend a Compliance Meeting to give him a last opportunity to engage.  She said that the agreement was reached that if the Service User refused to engage with that meeting, the Registrant would immediately initiate breach action.

23.  A Compliance Panel was organised for 10 August 2015 and the Registrant invited Service User 29 to attend. The Service User and carer attended the meeting, but the meeting concluded without a re-engagement plan being agreed because the Service User refused to engage and left mid-meeting.

24. Witness 1 said that the outcome, based on the discussion on 3 August 2015, was for the Registrant to initiate breach action, and that he should have phoned the Court and asked for a Court date for the breach to be heard, which he did not do.

25.  Witness 1 stated that when she met the Registrant to discuss her concerns on 19 August 2015, the Registrant said he had been unable to take breach action because he had two Crown Court reports to complete, and that he had explained this to the team Advanced Practitioner. Witness 1 said that if that was the case she would have expected the Registrant to talk to her about it, and that even if the Registrant had spoken to the team Advanced Practitioner she would have expected him to take a pro-active stance.

26. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1, in conjunction with the notes of the discussion on 3 August 2015. The decision was to allow the Service User the opportunity to attend a Compliance Meeting and to breach him if he did not engage. The Service User did not engage and left the meeting. Witness 1’s evidence was that the Registrant should have instigated the breach action immediately because of this. The Registrant was clearly aware of this because he spoke to the team Advanced Practitioner explaining that he did not have capacity to take breach action immediately and his submissions to the internal investigation were that he had expected the team Advanced Practitioner to discuss this with Witness 1 and advise him what to do. Witness 1’s evidence was that he should have known that breach action was required immediately and advised her if unable to do so; he should not have left matters in abeyance or with the team Advanced Practitioner.

27. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had not acted in response to a non-compliance situation, in that in a case discussion meeting on 3 August 2015 he had been instructed to take “Breach Action” proceedings against Service User 29 in Court if he failed to engage but he did not do so.

28. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

SERVICE USER 16

Particular 1(b) Did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion, in that: In relation to Service User 16, a Pre Sentence Report you were asked by the court to complete by 5 August 2015 was not made ready for signing off until 14 August 2015.

29. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant was asked to write a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) in respect of Service User 16 who was due to be sentenced in the Crown Court on 18 August 2015.

30. At a hearing on 17 July 2015, the Court had adjourned for a PSR to be written with a target for the report to be completed by 5 August 2015. This was a serious case with the possibility of 3 years custody. Witness 1 accepted that the 5 August 2015 deadline was tight but said that nevertheless it should have been possible, particularly as the Registrant had been familiar with the case of Service User 16 since 2013.

31. As the Registrant was unable to meet the 5 August 2015 deadline Witness 1 agreed an extended target date of 13 August 2015 and met with the Registrant on two occasions to help with the process of writing the report.  The Registrant agreed to submit the PSR by 13 August 2015 to allow adequate time for quality assurance and to make any necessary amendments. Witness 1 said that a PSR should be sent to the Crown Court 3 days prior to a sentencing hearing. However, the Registrant did not submit the first draft until 14 August 2015. There were then extensive amendments that needed to be made, meaning that the PSR was not completed until 17 August 2015.  Due to this the PSR was not sent to the Crown Court until noon on 17 August 2015, less than 24 hours before sentence.

32. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1, in conjunction with the notes of the documentation provided to it.  Witness 1’s evidence was that as the Registrant was unable to meet the deadline of 5 August 2015 she had extended it to 13 August 2015. However, her evidence was that the Registrant was in a position to, and should have, completed it by 5 August 2015, and the Panel accepted that evidence.  In fact he did not submit it until noon on Friday 14 August 2015.

33. The Panel concluded that the Registrant did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in a timely fashion, in relation to Service User 16, in that a Pre Sentence Report that he was asked by the court to complete by 5 August 2015 was not made ready for signing off until 14 August 2015 and was not satisfactorily completed and signed off until Monday 17 August 2015.

34. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

SERVICE USER 31

Particular 1(c) Did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion in that: in relation to Service User 31, you completed your referral for reparation on 12 June 2015, outside the 10 day timescale set by the Initial Referral Panel on 18 May 2015;

35. Witness 1 informed the Panel that this case was allocated to the Registrant after Service User 31 received a Statutory Order on 21 April 2015. She said that the initial referral panel, held on 18 May 2015, agreed that Service User 31 should undergo 20 hours of reparation. The Service Agreement required the case manager to make a referral for reparation within 10 working days of the panel meeting, and so this should have been done no later than 1 June 2015. 

36. Witness 1 explained that as Service User 31 was keen to be involved in a particular project, it was important to build on his motivation and to arrange for the reparation to commence as soon as possible.  However, the Registrant did not make the referral for reparation until 12 June 2015 by which time this project was no longer available. Witness 1 said that he accepted at the time that this was an oversight on his part.

37. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1, in conjunction with the copy of the referral document provided to it, and concluded that the Registrant did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion in relation to Service User 31, in that he completed his referral for reparation on 12 June 2015, which was outside the 10-day timescale set by the initial referral panel on 18 May 2015.

38. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

Particular 3 (a) Did not meet with your service users at appropriate intervals and/or did not record those meetings, in that: in relation to Service User 31, the risk indication was for "intensive" contact (minimum x2 contacts per week) but you did not meet Service User 31 in three weeks

39. Witness 1 informed the Panel that Service User 31 was initially assessed as being at High likelihood of re-offending, which required supervision on an intensive level, meaning a minimum of twice weekly contact.

40. Witness 1 said that there was no documentary record of intensive contact with the Service User for a period of over 3 weeks prior to the supervision meeting of 3 August 2015.

41. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1, in conjunction with the documentation provided to it. It noticed from the documentation that between 18 May 2015 and 17 July 2015 only two meetings were recorded, and furthermore these were in separate weeks and at least one of them was stated to have been retrospectively added.  The Panel accepts the evidence of Witness 1 that no visits were recorded on the system by the supervision date of 3 August 2015. The Panel concluded that in relation to Service User 31 the Registrant did not meet with the Service User for the requisite minimum of 2 contacts per week. Two meetings may have been held during the 2 week period but the Registrant did not record those meetings until instructed to do so at the supervision.

42. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

SERVICE USER 30

Particular 4 (b) You did not act in response to non-compliance situations, in that: when Service User 30 re-offended and/or breached a Statutory Order, you were instructed to take "Breach Action" proceedings in Court on 28 July 2015 but you did not do so until the following week

43. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant was familiar with the case of Service User 30 who was a Looked After Child and had become homeless during the period that the report was required. 

44. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Crown Court requested a PSR in relation to Service User 30 on 20 July 2015, with a target completion date of 4 August 2015; his Sentencing Hearing was to take place on 6 August 2015.

45. Witness 1 said that the Registrant then maintained some telephone contact with Service User 30 and arranged a couple of appointments, which the Service User failed to keep.

46. Witness 1 said that the Registrant missed an opportunity to meet with the Service User at the Police Station because the Registrant got the date wrong.  He missed a further opportunity when Service User 30 was presented at Youth Court on 29 July 2015, but this was because the Registrant was then on planned leave. 

47. Witness 1 asserted that the Registrant should then have returned the matter to Court because the Service User was on a Statutory Order and had failed to attend three statutory appointments which therefore required breach action. He was also awaiting sentence for a serious assault whilst he was on bail for another matter. Witness 1 said that she sent the Registrant an email on 28 July 2015 asking the Registrant to commence breach proceedings but the Registrant did not do so until the following week.

48. In his submission to the employer’s performance review meeting in September 2015 the Registrant said he had been on leave for two days following Witness 1’s instruction, but even taking this into account, the Panel found that he did not commence breach proceedings until the following week.

49. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 4 (b), in conjunction with the documentation provided to it and concluded that the Registrant did not act in response to non-compliance situations, in that when Service User 30 re-offended and/or breached a Statutory Order, he was instructed to take breach action proceedings in Court on 28 July 2015 but did not do so until the following week.

50. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

Particular 1 (d) Did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion, in that: in relation to Service User 30, a Pre Sentence Report was requested by the Court on 20 July 2015 for a hearing date 6 August 2015 but your completed report was not submitted until an adjourned hearing date of 26 August 2015

51. Witness 1 informed the Panel that sentencing was due to take place on 6 August 2015 but the Registrant had to submit a Nil PSR without interviewing the Service User, because Service User 30 failed to keep his appointments and the Registrant was unable to make contact. On 6 August 2015 the Court agreed to a further adjournment to 26 August 2015 for the report to be completed. Witness 1 asked the Registrant to submit his completed assessment by noon on 21 August 2015, but the Registrant did not do so until 15:47 on that day. As a result of this Witness 1 had to complete the quality assurance over the weekend and the amended PSR was not submitted to the Crown Court until 24 August 2015.

52. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 that the Registrant was aware of the likelihood that a PSR would be required as the case was discussed in supervision on 14 July 2015 and again on 24 July 2015. The Registrant had missed an opportunity to interview the Service User at the police station and should have returned him to court through breach action in order to make contact with him. His failure to do so led to a three week delay in sentencing.

53. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 1 (d), in conjunction with the documentation provided to it and concluded that the Registrant did not complete Risk Assessments, Court Documents and/or Review Reports in timely fashion, in that in relation to Service User 30, a PSR was requested by the Court on 20 July 2015 for a hearing date of 6 August 2015 but his competed report was not submitted until 24 August 2015 for an adjourned hearing date of 26 August 2015.

54. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

SERVICE USER 32

Particular 2 (c) Did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all, in that: in relation to Service User 32, you did not record safety and well-being information for Service User 32, an adolescent, his adult girlfriend or her two children for eight weeks from the referral date.

Particular 3 (c) Did not meet with your service users at appropriate intervals and/or did not record those meetings, in that: In relation to Service User 32, you did not record any meetings or contacts in an eight week period from the referral order date.

55. Witness 1 produced the case notes for Service User 32, a 17-year old with moderate learning difficulties who had been asked to leave the family home.  Witness 1 informed the Panel that the case was allocated to the Registrant after the Service User had been sentenced for burglary on 9 June 2015, and that it was expected that the assessments and risk documents completed for sentencing would be updated, and an Intervention Plan agreed, by 30 June 2015. 

56. Witness 1 said that when she met with the Registrant for supervision on 3 August 2015, there was no record of any contact with the Service User on the system.

57. Witness 1 informed the Panel that in the course of the supervision session on 3 August 2015, the Registrant made her aware that Service User 32 and his girlfriend were living together and that there was a disparity in age, in that the girlfriend was 25 years old, and had two children of her own, who were subject to Child Protection Plans. Witness 1 said that on the basis of this significant information she would have expected the Registrant to have reviewed the core assessment, with particular reference to any safeguarding concerns. She would also have expected a review of Service User 32’s vulnerability given the age difference with his girlfriend and the associated responsibility of step-parenting. The review should have considered his accommodation, relationship and emotional well-being. Although Service User 32 had been the Registrant’s responsibility for eight weeks nothing had been recorded on the system which was unacceptable. 

58. Witness 1 informed the Panel that on the date of sentence Service User 32 was assessed with a Medium likelihood of re-offending and with Medium vulnerability, and so there should have been weekly statutory contact, as a minimum, either with the case manager or another designated professional.  Witness 1 said that there was no record of any such visits having taken place.

59. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 2 (c), in conjunction with the documentation provided to it and concluded that the Registrant did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all, in that: in relation to Service User 32, he did not record safety and well-being information for Service User 32, an adolescent, his adult girlfriend or her two children for eight weeks from the referral date. The case records from 9 June 2015 – 3 August 2015 were all “retrospective” and were made after Witness 1 instructed the Registrant to update the system.

60. Accordingly, the Panel found Sub-Particular 2 (c) proved.

Particular 3 (c)

61. The Panel also accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 3 (c), in conjunction with the case records provided to it and concluded that the Registrant did not meet with his service users at appropriate intervals and/or did not record those meetings, in that in relation to Service User 32, he did not record any meetings or contacts in an eight week period from the referral order date until after 3 August 2015.

62. Accordingly, the Panel found Sub-Particular 3(c) proved.

SERVICE USER 28

Particular 2 (a): Did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all, in that: in relation to Service User 28, you did not provide risk review information for a Risk Strategy Meeting to be held on 8 June 2015

63. This Service User was subject to a nine month referral order from 27 January 2015 for a serious assault. Risk Strategy Meetings were required every six weeks and the ROSH assessment required review each time.

64. Witness 1 informed the Panel that a Risk Strategy Meeting was arranged for 8 June 2015 in relation to Service User 28, but the Registrant failed to recognise the need to review the ROSH assessment for the meeting, as evidenced by an email sent by him for use at the meeting stating that the Service User had not been reviewed as no further incidents of harm related behaviour had been recorded. Witness 1 gave evidence that the Registrant had not prepared review documents for that meeting. No update had been done since the April review meeting despite a reminder to the Registrant in April of the need for regular reviews.

65. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 2 (a), in conjunction with the documentation provided to it and concluded that the Registrant did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all in relation to Service User 28, in that he did not provide risk review information for a Risk Strategy Meeting to be held on 8 June 2015.

66. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

Particular 4 (c) Did not act in response to non-compliance situations, in that: In relation to Service User 28, you did not reschedule the Risk Strategy Meeting review for eight weeks.

67. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant was off sick on 8 June 2015, the date when the meeting had been scheduled. Witness 1 cancelled the meeting. The Registrant suggested in his submission to the employer’s performance review hearing that Witness 1 could have rearranged the meeting. However, Witness 1 said she could not have rearranged the date herself as she was unsure when the Registrant would return. The Registrant returned to work on 11 June 2015. Witness 1 expected the Registrant to re-arrange the risk strategy meeting after his return as it was his responsibility. However, he did not do so.

68. Witness 1 said that when she met the Registrant for supervision on 3 August 2015 they went through the relevant documentation and discovered that the Registrant had not reviewed the risk for Service User 28, he had not re-booked the risk strategy meeting, and he had not updated the core assessments or risk documents despite the fact that Service User 28 had been admitted to hospital.  Witness 1 said that in the course of supervision the Registrant agreed that he would re-book a risk strategy meeting by 17 August 2015 and update the relevant documents.  Witness 1 said that the meeting took place on 17 August 2015, but the Registrant did not complete the updates required until 20 August 2015.

69. The Panel also accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 4 (c), and concluded that the Registrant had not acted in response to non-compliance situations in relation to Service User 28, in that he did not reschedule the Risk Strategy Meeting review for eight weeks.

70. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

SERVICE USER 33

Particular 2 (b): Did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all, in that: In relation to Service User 33, your assessment was presented to your manager on 22 July 2015 for the Assessment Panel on 28 July 2015 but you had not interviewed Service User 33 and you had not obtained relevant information from the Police.

71. Witness 1 informed the Panel that on 9 July 2015 the Police referred Service User 33 with a Youth Conditional Caution for drug possession, for an assessment by the Youth Justice Service. A panel date was arranged for 28 July 2015. The case was allocated to the Registrant with an accompanying email saying that the report had to be completed by 23 July 2015 for quality assurance.

72. Witness 1 said that in all such cases there is an expectation that the case manager will have a discussion with the Police Administration Worker within the Youth Justice Service to ascertain any concerns that the Service may not be aware of including any previous conditions or cautions. 

73. Witness 1 said that the Registrant approached her on 22 July 2015, saying that he had completed the assessment, but that he had not obtained the Service User’s input due to difficulties in making contact because the Service User worked long, irregular shifts. The Registrant asked Witness 1 whether he could make a recommendation without the offence analysis or any input from the Service User, having only interviewed his mother.  It was Witness 1’s evidence that he should not have been considering a recommendation when there had been no participation from the Service User.

74. Witness 1 informed the Panel that the Registrant informed her that Service User 33 had been involved in a low level drug possession offence.  Witness 1 therefore enquired whether he had asked whether the police had explored the possibility of sending him to a Saturday Workshop, which was available for first time low level drug offenders. The Registrant was unsure.  When this position was checked with the Police Administration Worker, it became apparent that Service User 33 had received a previous caution for a drug offence and therefore was not eligible for the Saturday Workshop.  Witness 1 said she was very concerned that the Registrant had not found out this information already as part of his information gathering for the assessment, which would have been standard procedure in all cases. Witness 1 gave evidence that the Registrant should have considered other options to make contact with the Service User including asking the Intensive Support Service to contact him during the evening, or the Registrant working during the evening and taking time off in lieu.

75. Because of the Service User’s limited availability, Witness 1 asked for the panel to be re-arranged to 11 August 2015, thereby giving the Registrant longer to engage with the Service User. The Registrant was asked to submit the assessment for quality assurance by noon on 10 August 2015, but he did not submit it until 16:30 on 10 August 2015. The Registrant had not attempted to contact the Service User between 23 July 2015 and the 3 August 2015 supervision, which was leaving it very late before the 10 August deadline. The assessment was not completed until the following morning, on 11 August 2015, just before the panel meeting commenced.

76. The Panel  accepted the oral evidence of Witness 1 in relation to Particular 2 (b), in conjunction with the relevant documentation, and concluded that the Registrant did not complete Risk Assessments and reports appropriately and/or did not complete Risk Assessments and reports at all, in relation to Service User 33, in that he presented his assessment to his manager on 22 July 2015 for the Assessment Panel on 28 July 2015 when he had not interviewed Service User 33 and had not obtained relevant information from the Police.

77. Accordingly, the Panel found this Sub-Particular proved.

SERVICE USER 27

Particular 3(b): You did not meet with your service users at appropriate intervals and/or did not record those meetings, in that: In relation to Service User 27, you did not conduct and/or record any meetings or assessments after 22 May 2015 but kept the case file open and inactive;

78. Service User 27 was a 15 year old boy who was referred to the team for a Crime Prevention intervention. The referral was made on 3 February 2015 by a Police and Community Support Officer due to concerns about anti-social behaviour, which included verbal abuse and threats, obstruction and fighting. When the initial assessment was completed, the Registrant identified a Medium likelihood of offending, a Medium risk of harm to others and a Medium level of vulnerability. 

79. The Risk Strategy Meeting was arranged within 10 weeks to reflect the assessed levels of risk and vulnerability and was held 25 May 2015.  The meeting agreed that vulnerability remained at a Medium level and that the Registrant would close the case by June 2015.

80. On 16 June 2015, Witness 1 received a call from the Service User’s school in relation to a further concern that had arisen in relation to Service User 27. Witness 1 therefore checked on the system and saw that there had been no contact recorded with the Service User since 22 May 2015, and the case had not been closed despite a contact on 25 May 2015 confirming agreement to close the case.

81.  Witness 1 said that she would have expected to see either that the Registrant had completed a closure review with the Service User and taken steps to close the case, or continued contact with an explanation as to why the case had not been closed. Witness 1 said that when she reviewed the case, it transpired that an exit plan was agreed on 19 May 2015, there had only been six face-to-face contacts with the Service User between March and May 2015, but the case was not closed formally until 15 September 2015.

82. The Panel found Particular 3(b) not proved. The Panel noted that the documentation that had been provided for the Panel in relation to this Particular related to Service User 28 and not Service User 27. Also, the supervision note of 3 August 2015 said that the last contact with the Service User had been on 4 June 2015, less than two weeks before the phone call from the school. The Panel was not satisfied that no contact had been recorded since 22 May 2015. In the absence of any case notes for this Service User the Panel was not in a position to test the evidence provided by Witness 1 or to satisfy itself that the matter was proved to the requisite standard.

83.  Accordingly the Panel found this sub particular not proved.

Decision on Grounds

84. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the recording of Risk Assessments, Court Documents and Review Reports, and the completion of those documents within the relevant time scales, was a minimum requirement of the Registrant’s job, and the findings of the Panel demonstrated that the Registrant  had failed to achieve that bare minimum. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the facts revealed a pattern of conduct which fell far below the standards required of a Social Worker in the circumstances and that there had been a systemic failure to comply with deadlines and record keeping.

85. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor regarding the meaning of lack of competence, misconduct and impairment.

86. The Panel was satisfied that it had been provided with a fair sample of the Registrant’s work taken over a reasonable period of time. The material presented to the Panel had involved multiple cases over a period of several months. 

87. The Panel found that the facts demonstrated a pattern of performance which fell well below the standard required of the Registrant at the time. The Panel agreed with the submission of Mr Foxsmith that the evidence revealed a systemic failure to comply with deadlines and record keeping. This was despite the fact that the Registrant’s caseload had been no more onerous than other Social Workers of his grade, either in terms of the number of cases, or of their complexity. Further the Registrant had been provided with appropriate support in the form of supervision, training and mentoring. The Panel noted that in his submissions to his employer the Registrant had thanked Witness 1 for the support and guidance that she had given him.

88. It was the judgement of the Panel that the Registrant had been unable to perform to the required standard on a consistent basis, and that his proficiency in professional practice had fallen well below the minimum acceptable level of a Band B Senior Case Manager working in the Youth Offenders Team at that time.

89. It was the judgement of the Panel that the facts found proved amounted to a lack of competence on the part of the Registrant.

90. In those circumstances the Panel did not make a finding of misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

91. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred to the case of Grant (Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v (1) Nursing and Midwifery Council (2) Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 92).

92. The Panel concluded that whilst the Registrant’s lack of competence was, in theory, capable of remediation, the Registrant had provided the Panel with no evidence of remediation, or current insight, nor had he expressed remorse for his actions, despite their adverse consequences for Service Users. He had not demonstrated that he had taken responsibility for his actions or shown awareness of the impact of his failings. Whilst the Registrant had admitted in his submission to the performance review hearing that his record keeping had been, at times, lacking, he did not seem to understand the importance of this, which was of concern to the Panel, particularly in the context of safeguarding. Whilst there was evidence of some limited insight prior to the Registrant’s resignation, in that the Registrant had accepted that aspects of his case management had not met the required standards, he had nevertheless qualified that by asking for it to be noted that there was only one document that he had submitted late. There was no evidence that the Registrant had learnt from his mistakes. Since his resignation in September 2015 he had provided no evidence of insight, nor had he provided any material relating to current employment which would suggest that he was currently fit to practise.

93.  It was the judgment of the Panel that there was insufficient evidence with which to reassure the Panel that there would be no repetition of the Registrant’s behaviour in the future if the Registrant were to be permitted to return to practice unrestricted. It was the judgement of the Panel that he would present a risk to service users.

94. Further, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had brought his profession into disrepute through the delivery of services that did not meet the standard that the public had the right to expect. The Panel concluded that there was reputational damage from the Registrant’s failure to keep court deadlines and to keep adequate records. The Panel bore in mind that when the Registrant had been working within the criminal justice system he had worked alongside other agencies, and thereby showed both his profession, and his part of the criminal justice system, in a poor light. The Panel concluded that it was likely that the confidence that the public held in the Social Work profession would be diminished by the Registrant’s actions. 

95. In those circumstances the Panel found the Registrant’s current fitness to practise to be impaired on the grounds of public protection and also on the grounds of the wider public interest, in that the maintenance of confidence in the profession and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct and professionalism demanded a finding of impairment in this case, given the seriousness of the allegation.

96. Accordingly, the Panel found the Registrant’s current fitness to practice to be impaired.

Decision on Sanction

97. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and referred to the Indicative Sanctions Policy in arriving at its decision.

98. The Panel bore in mind that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive, but is to protect the public and the public interest. It understood the need to act proportionately, balancing the interests of the Registrant with those of the public.

99. The Registrant had not provided the Panel with any information to suggest that he had been practising over the past two years. Nor had he provided the Panel with any evidence of remediation, insight or remorse.

100. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

• the Registrant’s previously unblemished career

• the difficult personal circumstances experienced by the Registrant during part of the period covered by the Allegation

• evidence that the Registrant had, on occasion, demonstrated good practice and had used innovative approaches when communicating with Service Users, particularly in Crime Prevention cases; he was well liked by colleagues and was supportive of junior colleagues

• evidence that the Registrant had been capable of meeting deadlines, together with positive feedback from Service Users, at times when his caseload had been non – statutory and/or very much lower than average.

101. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

• the serious and persistent failings, which had serious consequences for Service Users

• the Registrant had provided no evidence of remorse, insight or remediation  in the two years since the date of his resignation

• despite his early engagement with the HCPC regarding the organisation of the hearing, the Registrant’s subsequent lack of engagement, and the consequent lack of information regarding his current practice, if any.

102. The Panel considered what, if any, sanction was appropriate in the circumstances, beginning with the least restrictive.

103. The Panel concluded that to take no further action would fail to reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s lack of competence and would not protect Service Users in light of the risk of repetition.

104. The Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be neither appropriate nor proportionate for the same reasons. The Registrant’s behaviour could not be described as isolated or minor and there was a risk that he would repeat his poor performance.

105. The Panel considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that this would not, in the judgement of the Panel, be sufficient to protect the public or maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant was capable of practising safely and effectively. Furthermore, despite his earlier engagement with the HCPC, there was no evidence before the Panel of any commitment from the Registrant to resolve the issues that had been found proved.  The Registrant had not provided any information about his current situation, and his lack of engagement meant that the Panel could not be assured he would make the required effort to comply with any conditions that the Panel might seek to impose. In the absence of any information about the Registrant’s current employment the Panel could not identify any conditions which would be appropriate and workable. Efforts had already been made by his employer over an extended period to assist him in reaching the required standards, and these efforts had been unsuccessful. Therefore, the Panel could not be confident that the Registrant would respond in any different way to any conditions imposed.

106. The Panel concluded that a period of suspension was required both for the protection of the public, in light of the risk of repetition, and for the wider public interest, to maintain confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism.  The Public and members of the profession would be rightly concerned if the Registrant was allowed to continue in practice without evidence that he had insight into his failings and was willing and able to address them. The Panel concluded that a period of suspension would mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s lack of competence and would provide him with the opportunity to prepare the ground for addressing his lack of competence, should he later be permitted to return to practice. It would give him the opportunity to develop and demonstrate insight into the consequences of his poor performance, to provide evidence of reflection, and to undertake remediation in respect of his recording and time management problems and his failure to adhere to deadlines.

107. The Panel determined that a Suspension Order for a period of six months was the minimum period necessary to enable the Registrant to demonstrate sufficient insight and understanding of what needed to be rectified in his practise. The Panel concluded that any lengthier period would be punitive.

108. The Panel concluded that a future reviewing panel would be assisted by:

• the Registrant’s attendance at the hearing

• a reflective piece of writing compiled by the Registrant, detailing his reflection, insight and understanding of the consequences of, and importance of, accurate and timely recording and adhering to statutory deadlines.

• Evidence of any further training the Registrant may have undertaken to address the deficiencies identified.

 

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Antony K.L House for a period of six months from the date this order comes into effect.

This Order will be reviewed before it expiry.

Notes

Interim Order:

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.  This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; or (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Reasons for the making of an interim Suspension Order:

(1)  Following the announcement of the sanction and the Registrant’s right of appeal, the Presenting Officer applied for an interim Suspension Order.

(2) The Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate to consider the HCPC’s application for an interim order in the absence of the Registrant because he had been informed by the notice of hearing sent to him that such an application might be made, and he had not responded with regard to that warning.

(3)The Panel is satisfied that the risk of repetition is significant, and the harm that could result were there to be a repetition could potentially be serious.  Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that it is appropriate to direct that the Registrant’s registration should be suspended on an interim basis.  The order is required for protection of the public, and the Panel is also satisfied that the risks are sufficiently grave that a fair-minded member of the public would be shocked or troubled by the absence of such a restriction.  The Panel has concluded that the appropriate length of this interim suspension order should be 18 months, as the interim order would continue to be required pending the resolution of an appeal in the event of the Registrant giving notice of an appeal with the 28-day period.
 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Antony Kenneth Lawson House

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended