Miss Shanza K Khan

: Social worker

: SW106208

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 27/11/2017 End: 17:00 29/11/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Whilst employed as a Social Worker by Oxfordshire County Council between 12 October 2015 and 16 August 2016:


1. On or around 7 March 2016, you advised a manager that you had been working in a different office, when this was not the case;


2. You recorded in your online calendar that you were working in a different office on 29 March 2016, when this was not the case;


3. You recorded in your online calendar that you were undertaking a supported shop with a service user on 16 June 2016, when this was not the case;

4. On or around 21 June 2016, you advised a manager that you had been working in a different office on 16 June 2016, when this was not the case;

5. You did not maintain adequate records, in that:

a) Between December 2015 and 11 April 2016, you did not consistently record visits in relation to Service User A in a timely manner;


b) Between January 2016 and 31 May 2016, you did not consistently record visits in relation to Service User B in a timely manner;


c) Between November 2015 and 25 May 2016, you did not complete and/or update the Pathway Plan for Service User D;


d) Between January 2016 and 3 June 2016, you did not consistently record visits in relation to Service User E in a timely manner;

6. Your actions described at particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 were dishonest;


7. Your actions described at particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 and 6 constitute misconduct;


8. Your actions described at particular 5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence;


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

Finding

Preliminary matters


1. The case for the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (the “HCPTS”) was presented by Mr Joseph Paterson of Kingsley Napley. The Registrant was present and unrepresented.

Application to amend the Allegation


2. The Panel considered Mr Paterson’s application to amend particular 1 of the allegation by deleting the words “you were at home” and substituting the words “when this was not the case”; to amend particular 2 of the allegation by deleting the words “On or around 29 March 2016, you advised a manager” and substituting the words “You recorded in your online calendar”, inserting the words “on 29 March 2016” after the word “office” and deleting the words “you were at home” and substituting the words “ this was not the case” ; to amend particular 3 of the allegation by deleting the words “On or around 16 June 2016”, by inserting the words “on 16 June 2016” after the word “user” and deleting the words “you were at home” and substituting the words “ this was not the case”; to amend particular 4 of the allegation by deleting the words “you had been at home” and substituting the words “ this was not the case”; to amend particular 5a) of the allegation by deleting the word “November” and inserting the word “December”, by inserting the word “consistently” after the word “not” and inserting the words “in a timely manner” at the end of the particular; to amend particular 5b) of the allegation by deleting “4” and inserting “31”, by inserting the word “consistently” after the word “not” and by adding the words “ in a timely manner” at the end of the particular; to amend particular 5c) of the allegation by inserting “24” before the word “May” and by inserting the words “and/or record” after the word “update”; to amend particular 5d) of the allegation by deleting “”4” and inserting “25” and to amend particular 5e) of the allegation by deleting “11 April” and substituting “3 June”, inserting the word “consistently” after the word “not” and adding the words “in a timely manner” at the end of the particular.    

 
3. Mr Paterson advised that the proposed amendments better reflected the evidence. Mr Paterson advised that the Registrant had been on notice since 6 April 2017 and that the amendments did not alter the nature of the allegation. The Registrant did not oppose the application.


4. The Panel considered the submissions of Mr Paterson and the Registrant together with the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was satisfied that amendments better reflected the documentary evidence within the bundle. The Panel was also satisfied that they did not cause any prejudice or injustice to the Registrant and therefore agreed to grant the application.


Application to proceed in Private


5. Mr Paterson applied for evidence in relation to the Registrant’s health and private life to be heard in private under rule 10(1)(a) of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules 2003. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and considered the HCPTS Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private. The Panel concluded that the right of the Registrant to protection of her private life and confidentiality of her health issues outweighed the general presumption of hearings being conducted in public.

6. The Registrant admitted the facts of particulars 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the allegation.


Background


7. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker at Oxford County Council at the relevant time. The allegations relate to the Registrant being absent from work without permission and providing false accounts of her whereabouts to management. Further allegations relate to the Registrant’s standard of recordkeeping. 

 
Decision on Facts

8. The Panel heard evidence from one witness on behalf of the HCPTS - HR, the Manager in Looked After Children Leaving Care Teams at Oxfordshire County Council. The Panel also heard evidence from the Registrant. In addition, the Panel considered all of the documentary evidence submitted by the HCPC and has had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practise is Impaired. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


9. The Panel found the witness HR to be a credible witness who did her best to assist the Panel. The Panel was of the view that she was vague in parts of her evidence and her memory was clearly affected by the passage of time. However she was willing to admit when she could not remember details.


10. The Panel found the Registrant to be credible and consistent in her evidence, The Panel was of the view that she was genuine, honest and was open about her failings.


Particular 1

11. The Registrant admitted the facts of this particular.  The Panel has heard evidence from HR in support of this particular. In addition, the Panel has had sight of the record of interview conducted with the Registrant on 13 July 2016 in which she initially claimed she had returned to the Knights Court Office to work and the email from the Property Business Management Team at Knights Court confirming the Registrant did not use her badge to access the building on the 7 March 2016. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s admission is supported by the evidence and finds the facts of particular 1 proved on the balance of probabilities.  


Particular 2


12. The Registrant has admitted the facts of this particular. The Panel has heard evidence from HR in support of this particular. In addition, the Panel has had sight of the record of the interview with the Registrant on 13 July 2016 in which she confirmed that she was not at work and that she was at home, trying to sort out a personal issue. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the Registrant’s admission is supported by the evidence and finds the facts of particular 2 proved on the balance of probabilities.  
Particular 3


13. The Registrant has admitted the facts of this particular. The Panel has heard evidence from HR in support of this particular. In addition, the Panel has had sight of the record of the interview with the Registrant on 13 July 2016 in which she admitted that she had not seen the Service User on 16 June 2016 and that she had entered the appointment in her diary that morning as she was running late and didn’t want to ring in and tell her employers. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s admission is supported by the evidence and finds the facts of particular 3 proved on the balance of probabilities.  
Particular 4


14. The Registrant admitted the facts of this particular. The Panel has heard evidence from HR in support of this particular. In addition, the Panel has had sight of the emails of 20 and 21 June 2016 between Lydia Gardner and HR in which the Registrant reported that she had been on a shopping trip with a Service User. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s admission is supported by the evidence and finds the facts of particular 5 proved on the balance of probabilities. 


Particular 5a) to e)


15. The Registrant has admitted the facts of these particulars. The Panel has heard evidence from HR in support of these particulars and has had sight of screenshots from the electronic records system, Frameworki. HR has also provided evidence to the Panel of the system and method she used to check the dates when entries were made on the system.

16. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s admissions are supported by the evidence and finds the facts of particulars 5a) to e) proved on the balance of probabilities. 

Particular 6


17. The Registrant has admitted that her actions in particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 were dishonest. In considering this issue, the Panel has applied the test set out in the case of Ivey v Gentings Casinos Ltd. In each of particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4, it is clear to the Panel that the Registrant was aware that she should have been at work and that she provided false accounts to her managers in order to conceal her absence from work.  The Panel has therefore concluded that reasonable and honest people would consider her behaviour to be dishonest. The Panel is therefore satisfied that her actions in each of these particulars amount to dishonesty.  

Decision on Grounds


18. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 1, 2 3, 4 and 6 amount to misconduct. The Panel is aware that this is a matter for its professional judgement. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered the submissions of Mr Paterson on behalf of the HCPTS and those of the Registrant. The Panel has also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practice is Impaired and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

19. The Panel has found that the Registrant has acted dishonestly on four occasions and has provided a false account of her whereabouts to her managers to conceal the fact that she was absent from work. The Panel considers that these were serious errors of judgement on the part of the Registrant. As a social worker, the Registrant must behave with integrity and honesty in order to maintain confidence in the profession and justify the trust of service users. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 fell far short of what would be proper in the circumstances and breached the following standard of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics:-


• Standard 9 – Must be honest and trustworthy.


• Standard 9.1 – You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.


20. Taking all of these matters into account, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 is serious and amounts to misconduct.


21. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 5a) to e) amounted to either a lack of competence and/or misconduct. The Panel is aware that the Registrant was a newly qualified social worker and that this was her first post in a local authority. Further as a result of staff sickness she did not commence her Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) until 4 months after she commenced employment. This should have commenced at the start of her employment. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s conduct in particular 5 breached the following standards of the HCPC’s Standards of Proficiency in force at the relevant time:-


• Standard 10.1 – You must be able to keep accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible records in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines.


• Standard 10.2 – You must recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines.


22. Taking all of these matters into account, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant was an inexperienced practitioner and as such her actions in particular 5 amounted to a lack of competence as opposed to misconduct.


Decision on Impairment 


23. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by that misconduct and lack of competence. In reaching its decision the Panel has considered both the personal component and the public component. In addition, the Panel has considered the submissions of Mr Paterson on behalf of the HCPTS and those of the Registrant. The Panel has also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding Fitness to Practice is Impaired and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


24. In terms of the personal component, the Panel is of the view that the Registrant has demonstrated considerable remorse and insight into her issues of dishonesty and fully accepts responsibility for her actions. In addition she has admitted the facts of the case at the earliest opportunity and has also explained to this Panel how she would deal with similar situations differently in the future. She has also explained that these matters occurred at a time of extreme stress in her personal life. She panicked and subsequently lied to her supervisor about her absences from work as she did not want to disclose all her personal issues which were having a major impact on her ability to work. She has advised that she has undertaken counselling to address her personal issues and their traumatic effects on her and that she now had a better support network in place. She demonstrated to the Panel an understanding of her professional responsibilities and had gained a deeper insight and awareness of the issues which led her to behaving dishonestly. She now recognised the importance of sharing personal matters with her supervisor that may impact upon her professional performance. Taking all of these matters into account, the Panel is of the view that her personal issues had a serious impact on her at the time and having now addressed and resolved these matters, the risk of repetition of dishonesty is low.


25.  In relation to record keeping, it is clear that the Registrant knows what she should do in the future. She told the Panel that she would be willing to undertake training. However she has not undertaken any training in this area or been employed as a social worker since these allegations and has not therefore had an opportunity to put this into practice in a social work setting and therefore demonstrate that she has fully remediated her failings in record keeping. The Panel is therefore of the view that there is a risk of repetition in respect of the record keeping failings.
26. The Panel has also considered the critically important public policy issues which include the collective need to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, the protection of service users and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of behaviour. The Panel has found that the Registrant has acted dishonestly on four separate occasions in the course of her employment and has failed to keep appropriate records in respect of five service users. The Panel considers that honesty is one of the fundamental tenets of the profession, particularly for Registrants who are in a position of trust and dealing with vulnerable service users. In addition, accurate record keeping is essential to ensure consistent and appropriate care for service users. The Panel has concluded that there is a serious risk of an adverse impact on public confidence in the profession of Social Workers and in the regulatory process, if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.
27. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by her misconduct and lack of competence and the allegation is well founded.
Decision on Sanction
28. The Panel has heard further submissions from Mr Paterson and the Registrant on the issue of sanction. The Panel is aware that the function of fitness to practise panels is not to be punitive, and that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing her services in the future. In reaching its decision, the Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest considerations, which include the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.  The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity and has had regard to the HCPTS’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. It considered the advice of the Legal Assessor.
29. The Panel has paid careful regard to the following mitigating factors: the Registrant has demonstrated considerable remorse and insight; she has admitted matters in full at the first opportunity; she has reflected on her actions; she had serious issues in her personal life at the time of the allegation which may have adversely influenced her judgement and she has since taken steps to resolve these issues; there have been no previous fitness to practise proceedings against the Registrant; the Registrant was a newly qualified social worker in her first post and had not worked in a local authority setting previously; she has expressed a desire to return to her chosen profession and a willingness to undergo training.
30. The Panel has also considered the aggravating factors as follows: the Registrant’s actions breached the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics; her actions involved four instances of dishonesty which breaches a fundamental tenet of the profession; the dishonesty was repeated in June 2016, despite having been warned  about the initial instances in March 2016; she has not produced any evidence of remediation in respect of her record keeping errors, leading the Panel to conclude that there is a risk of repetition. 
31. The Panel first considered whether to take no further action. It is of the view that this would not be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations or to provide public protection. The Panel has also concluded that this case would not be suitable for mediation.
32. The Panel next considered a Caution Order. In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, a caution may be appropriate where the lapse is isolated or of a minor nature, there is a low risk of recurrence and the Registrant has shown insight and taken remedial action. While the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has demonstrated insight and considerable remorse, there is no evidence of remediation in respect of the record keeping. In addition, the Panel has found that the Registrant’s misconduct was serious and that in the absence of any evidence of remediation in respect of the record keeping errors, there is a risk of repetition. In these circumstances, the Panel is of the view that a caution would not be an appropriate or proportionate sanction.
33. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. However given the nature of the Registrant’s conduct which includes repeated dishonesty, the Panel is of the view that no meaningful practice restrictions could be imposed to address the issue of repeated dishonesty.
34. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, a Suspension Order may be appropriate where the allegation is of a serious nature but is unlikely to be repeated. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s dishonesty is serious and is unlikely to be repeated and that her personal circumstances impacted on her behaviour. The Panel has also identified a risk of repetition in respect of the record keeping errors. However the Panel is of the view that the Registrant’s conduct is remediable, and the Registrant has taken considerable steps to address her dishonest behaviour.   In these circumstances, the Panel is of the view that a Suspension Order would be a proportionate sanction which would address the crucially important wider public interest considerations. The Panel is of the view that a period of six months would be sufficient to mark the seriousness of the conduct found proved. The Suspension Order would not allow the Registrant to remediate record-keeping in a social work context but it may provide an opportunity for her to satisfy a future reviewing panel that the risk of repetition is reduced by evidence of training.                  
35. The Panel considers that a Striking Off would be a disproportionate sanction, given that the Registrant is newly qualified and given the level of remorse and insight demonstrated and taking account of her personal circumstances at the time of the allegation.
36. This Order will be reviewed by another panel prior to its expiry. It may assist that panel if the Registrant were to produce a reflective piece setting out the impact of her dishonesty on service users, the social work profession and the public; evidence of any training in record keeping and up to date references from a current employer attesting to her honesty and standards of record keeping.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Shanza K Khan for a period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 26 December 2017.
The order will be reviewed before its expiry on 26 June 2018. 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Shanza K Khan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
27/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended