Mr Neil Rutland

: Social worker

: SW95436

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 16/11/2017 End: 12:00 16/11/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

(as amended at the final hearing on 14 November 2016):


Between  March  2014  and  November  2014,  during  the  course  of  your employment as a Social Worker by Hampshire County Council, you:

1.  In the case of the A Children:

a)  In September 2014, produced an Initial Child Protection Conference
(ICPC) Report, and you:

i.  Did  not  include   and/or   highlight   safeguarding   concerns   of neglect in relation to the children;

ii.  Did not remove the names and/or addresses of the siblings of the A children’s from the report;

iii. Did not act upon all potential risk factors within the A Children's household;

iv. Did not include concerns raised by other professionals about the children.

b) Following a referral made by two members of the public, did not recognise that there may be a concern for the A Children's safety;

2. In November 2014, in relation to Child B, completed a child  protection report and concluded that it was indicated that an  assault by a parent took place, despite the fact that medical  evidence did not confirm this.

3.  In August 2014, in relation to the B Children, you:

a)  Inappropriately recommended that the children’s case was closed, despite safeguarding concerns.

b)  Did not carry out welfare checks on the children during a section 17 assessment;

c)  On 30 October 2014, during a child protection monitoring visit, you:

i.  Did not make  the grandmother  aware  of the  concerns  raised about the children;

ii.  Did not approach the children in an age-appropriate and/or child- focused manner.

iii. Did not ask the children  about the concerns  which led to the visit.

4.  In relation to the C Children, you:

a)  On 3 November 2014, submitted a child protection report and you:

i.  Had not previously informed your manager that the father had disclosed on/or around 27 October 2014 that he had assaulted one of the children.

ii. [NOT PROVED]
 
5.  On 14 November 2014, you carried out a section 17 visit in relation to Child D and you:

a)  Did not take into account information recorded on the case file (ICS
system) in relation to Child D's father;

b)  Made  an  unsafe  contract  and/or  plan  with  Child  D's  mother  to enable Child D to remain at the parental home during the day;

c)  Did not assess the potential risk factors within Child D's home;

6.  In relation to Family E, in an assessment  submitted on or around 4
October 2014, did not seek to challenge the parent’s account in relation
to the physical assault of one of the children.

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

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters


Service

1. The Panel received information that notice of today’s hearing had been sent to the Registrant’s registered address by first class post on 16 October 2017. A copy was also emailed to the Registrant on the same date. The Panel was satisfied that notice had been served in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in Absence

2.  Ms Ebanks, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to proceed  in the Registrant’s absence. Ms Ebanks informed the Panel that the  HCPC has not heard from the Registrant at all in respect of this  hearing.

3. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence is one which must be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

4. The Panel took into account that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC in relation to this hearing and has therefore not requested an adjournment. The Panel is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to serve the notice of the hearing on the Registrant. The Panel took into account that there is likely to be a disadvantage to the Registrant if this hearing were to proceed in his absence. However, the Panel also considered the public interest in proceeding expeditiously with this mandatory review, and that the Suspension Order to be reviewed expires in just under a month’s time. In carrying out a balancing act between these factors, in the circumstances the Panel was of the view that the public interest in proceeding tipped the balance, and that it was in the interests of justice to proceed today.

Background

5. The Registrant is a Registered Social Worker and had previously been employed as such by Hampshire County Council.

6. At a substantive hearing on 14-16 November 2016, the Allegation as set out above was found proved by a Conduct and Competence Committee Panel. That Panel also found that the matters found proved constitute lack of competence and found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. As a result, the Panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.  The Panel considered that a future Panel may be assisted by:

• The Registrant’s attendance

• Evidence of any relevant training including the areas of safeguarding, assessing risk and report writing.

Decision on Impairment

7. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Ebanks, accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Finding that Fitness to Practise is “Impaired””.

8. The Panel was aware that its task today is to conduct a comprehensive review of the Suspension Order in the light of all of the current circumstances before it.


9. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. The Panel was aware that this is a matter for its own independent judgment.

10. The Panel took the decision on impairment of the substantive hearing Panel as the starting point. It noted the serious, wide-ranging and persistent failings identified by that Panel, for example those involving communication skills, including communicating with young children at risk, failings in communication with other professionals, and failings in risk assessments. Such failings were, despite extensive support provided by his employer in the form of an Assessment and Supported Year of Employment. The Panel also found that the Registrant’s insight was inadequate.


11. The Panel today noted that the Panel considered the questions formulated by Dame Janet Smith in the Fifth Shipman Report and was of the view that the Registrant:

i. had in the past, and was liable in the future, to put patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and

ii. had in the past, and was liable in the future, to bring the profession into disrepute.

12. In light of a complete absence of any communication from the Registrant, the Panel came to the conclusion that the risk of repetition of his failings, as identified by the previous Panel, remained. There is no evidence that he had taken steps to re-train or address his failings, or that his insight into his failings had improved. This was despite the training and support offered by his employer which he was undergoing at the relevant time. The Panel today therefore found that the Registrant’s impairment continues on the public protection grounds identified by the previous Panel.

13. The Panel today also considered whether current impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues on the basis of the wider public interest. The Panel today was of the firm view that a well-informed and reasonable member of the public would be concerned that the Registrant is not competent and does not have the requisite skills to undertake Social Work safely and effectively. The Panel therefore concluded that the need to maintain proper standards and to uphold public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances.

Decision on Sanction

14. The Panel then considered the matter of sanction and considered the submissions of Ms Ebanks, accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and took into account the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel was aware that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment and that the purpose of sanction is to uphold the public interest, which includes the protection of the public, and the maintenance of proper standards and public confidence in the profession.

15. The Panel was of the view that the options of taking no further action, mediation or a Caution Order would be not be appropriate or proportionate in that they would not provide sufficient protection to the public from the Registrant’s widespread lack of competence. In any event, his failings are too serious to make these options proportionate in the light of the continuing risk of repetition of his failings.

16. The Panel then considered a Conditions of Practice Order and concluded that this would not be appropriate. Firstly, the Registrant’s failings were widespread and demonstrated a lack of competence in fundamental and basic skills required of a Social Worker. This was despite the significant support provided by his employer at the time including an extension in the frequency of supervision of him, and allowing him to shadow others as well as to be monitored himself during his work.  He was unable to respond to such support and supervision and his lack of competence continued. Therefore, in the light of no engagement from the Registrant in respect of today’s hearing, and no evidence that he has addressed his lack of competence, the Panel today was not satisfied that Conditions could be realistically formulated which would provide the necessary level of protection to the public.

17. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and concluded that this was a necessary and proportionate sanction. The Panel was of the view that this was the only sanction available to it which would provide protection to the public as well as meet the wider public interest. The Panel was of the view that the length of the Suspension should be 12 months in order to allow the Registrant sufficient time to address his failings and to demonstrate sufficient insight.

18. The Panel was aware that due to this being a lack of competence case, a Striking Off Order is not available as a sanction at this time.

19. The Panel was of the view that a future reviewing Panel would be assisted by the following:

i. the Registrant’s attendance;
ii. an indication from the Registrant as to his intentions in relation to the Social Work profession;
iii. evidence of any relevant training undertaken, including the areas of safeguarding, communication, assessing risk and report writing;
iv. any references or testimonials from any recent employment, whether paid or unpaid.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Neil Rutland for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing order. 

 
The order imposed today will apply from 14 December 2017.
This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 14 December 2018.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Neil Rutland

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
14/11/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended