Mr John F Skinner

: Social worker

: SW39837

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 05/12/2017 End: 17:00 05/12/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Voluntary Removal agreed

Allegation

While employed as Executive Head of Safeguarding and Wellbeing at Torbay District Council and while registered as a social worker, you:

 

1. On 19th December 2013, told Colleague A that a payment should be made to Foster Carer A and/or approved payment to Foster Carer A, despite the fact that:

 

a. Such payments were only permitted in exceptional circumstances under the Fostering Contract;

b. You had a financial interest in the house;

c. You were planning to sell the house;

d. Colleague A was not aware of your financial interest in the house;

e. Colleague A was not aware of your previous relationship with Foster Carer A.

 

2. Your actions at 1 were dishonest;

 

3. Your actions set out in paragraphs 1 – 2 above constitute misconduct;

 

4. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Decision:


1.    The Panel has today been convened to decide on an application made jointly by the HCPC and the Registrant, Mr John Skinner, that the latter should be permitted to remove his name from the HCPC register.


2.    The Registrant has neither attended this hearing nor been represented at it.  The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has been given proper notice that the application would be considered.  As the nature of the application is such that it would not be expected that a registrant would attend, as all the relevant information is contained in the hearing bundle.  The Panel noted that in a telephone conversation with the Presenting Officer yesterday, the Registrant confirmed that it was not his intention to attend the hearing.  In all these circumstances, the Panel decided that it was appropriate to proceed to consider the application in his absence.


3.    The Panel has approached this application on the basis that, notwithstanding the position of both the HCPC and the Registrant that the removal sought should be permitted, it is still necessary for the Panel to exercise its independent judgment as to whether it should be.  To make this judgment there are three matters as to which the Panel needs to be satisfied, namely:


• That the Registrant has expressed a desire for his name to be removed from the HCPC register.

• That the Registrant has admitted the findings made against him, this admission being necessary so any future application by him for re-registration can be decided in the light of that admission.


• Finally, but very importantly, that there are no public interest considerations which should lead the Panel to refuse the removal of the Registrant’s name from the HCPC register by means of this expedited procedure.


4.    Before turning to explain the Panel’s decisions on these points, it is necessary to describe briefly the background to the HCPC’s proceedings against the Registrant and the findings made against him at a final hearing.


5.    The Registrant was employed as Executive Head of Safeguarding and Wellbeing at Torbay District Council (“the local authority”), holding that post from February 2011 until June 2014.  In June 2013, Foster Carer A, who was the Registrant’s former partner, applied to the local authority to become a foster carer.  Foster Carer A and the Registrant had previously fostered children through an agency.  Foster Carer A was approved as a foster carer in September 2013 and subsequently three children, who were siblings, were placed with her.  On 19 December 2013, the Registrant met with Colleague A, who was the Practice Manager.  The Registrant passed to Colleague A a handwritten letter from Foster Carer A which detailed building works on her property which were intended to provide better accommodation for the children placed in her care.  The letter also listed a number of other matters, furnishings and miscellaneous items such as beds and carpets.  On 28 January 2014, the Registrant met with Colleague A and said that the local authority should fund a number of items on Foster Carer A’s list.  On 30 January 2014 the Registrant approved payment to Foster Carer A by writing “approved” on the letter.  The matter came to light when the Head of Service, who was aware of the Registrant’s former relationship with Foster Carer A, returned from leave and reviewed Foster Carer A’s file.  The Head of Service reported the matter to the local authority’s Director of Children’s Services and an internal investigation was launched.  In due course the matter was referred to the HCPC.


6.    As amended at the final hearing that commenced on 13 March 2017, the allegation made by the HCPC against the Registrant was in the following terms:


Whilst employed as Executive Head of Safeguarding and Wellbeing at Torbay District Council and while registered as a social worker, you:
1.  On 19th December 2013, told Colleague A that a payment should be made to Foster Carer A and/or approved payment to Foster Carer A despite the fact that:
a. Such payments were only permitted in exceptional circumstances under the Fostering Contract;
b. You had a financial interest in the house;
c. You were planning to sell the house;
d. Colleague A was not aware of your financial interest in the house;
e. Colleague A was not aware of your previous relationship with Foster Carer A.
2.    Your actions at 1 were dishonest;
3.    Your actions set out in paragraphs 1 – 2 above constitute misconduct;
4.    By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 
7.    The final hearing panel found all of the facts, with the exception of particular 1(a) to be proved.  They further found that the facts constituted misconduct impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practise.  The final hearing panel stated that the Registrant had had a long and successful career and that this was not a case in which his social work skills were called into question.  However, the Panel decided that he lacked insight into his misconduct, and, that being the case, there was a risk of repetition.  The Panel determined that, although the case was one in which a striking-off order could have been justified, a suspension order for a period of six months was the appropriate sanction, the relatively short length of that suspension being appropriate for the Registrant to concentrate his thoughts, reflect on his actions and demonstrate insight.  The Registrant is still subject to the suspension order as the present Panel considers the application for voluntary removal.


8.    Turning to three matters that the Panel earlier described as being those it was necessary to consider, the Panel is satisfied that:


• The terms of the Voluntary Removal Agreement dated 7 September 2017 and executed by the Registrant demonstrate a clear request for his name to be removed from the register.  The terms of that Agreement accord with the wish expressed by the Registrant in an email to HCPC as early as 12 June 2017 that consideration should be given by the HCPC to agreeing to this procedure.


• The Agreement would permit the HCPC’s Education and Training Committee to consider the decision of the final hearing panel in the event of an application for re-registration being made by the Registrant.


• So far as the crucial issue of the public interest is concerned, the Panel is satisfied that there are no reasons why effect should not be given to the Voluntary Removal Agreement.  In the view of the Panel any public interest was satisfied by the final hearing. In circumstances in which the Registrant has stated that he does not wish to return to practise as a Social Worker, the public interest would not be served by compelling him to remain registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker.  The public interest is properly protected by the admission of the findings made against him that would enable those findings to be considered in the event of the Registrant changing his mind about his future career intentions.


9.    The consequence of these findings is that the Panel agrees to the voluntary removal application and the Panel Chair will sign the Consent Order permitting effect to be given to the Voluntary Removal Agreement.

Order

The Panel agrees to the voluntary removal application

Notes

If the Registrant seeks to return to the HCPC Register at any time the application would be treated as if the registrant had been struck off as a result of that allegation.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr John F Skinner

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed
01/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
13/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard
25/07/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Hearing has not yet been held