Mr Ian Godfrey Wass

: Social worker

: SW42525

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 08/12/2017 End: 17:00 08/12/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed as a Consultant Social Work Manager by Buckinghamshire County Council:

 

 

1)     In relation to Case 1, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     Between April 2014 and on or around 22 October 2014, you did not undertake and/or record supervision on the file;

b)    You recorded inconsistent information on the case, in that you recommended initiating the Public Law Outline process but subsequently stated that the case should revert back to a Child Protection Plan;

c)     You did not ensure that a strategy discussion was held following disclosure of domestic violence in October 2014;

d)    You did not adequately record your rationale for decisions made on the case;

e)     You did not adequately record concerns regarding Child Sexual Exploitation on the case.

 

2)     2. In relation to Case 2, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     Between April 2014 and December 2014, you did not ensure that a strategy discussion took place;

b)    Between April 2014 and December 2014, you did not adequately follow the safeguarding process;

c)     You did not ensure that a strategy discussion was held following the child’s overdose at school in October 2014;

d)    You did not discuss with the allocated Social Worker how to manage the incident at particular 2(c);

e)     You did not adequately record concerns regarding Child Sexual Exploitation on the case.

 

3)     In relation to Case 3, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     Between September 2014 and March 2015, you did not ensure that the allocated Social Worker undertook regular visits and/or recorded visits on the file;

b)    Between August 2014 and an unknown date in 2015, you did not promptly progress the Public Law Outline advice.

 

4)     In relation to Case 4, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     Between December 2014 and on or around 21 January 2014, you did not allocate the case to a Social Worker;

b)    In March 2014, you did not undertake supervision.

 

5)     In relation to Case 5, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     You did not ensure that timescales were identified for a statutory visit to be undertaken;

b)    You did not ensure that timescales were identified for a Child and Family assessment to be undertaken;

 

6)     In relation to Case 6, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     In January 2014 and March 2014, you did not undertake adequate supervision;

b)    You did not include reference to other agencies within a domestic violence assessment;

c)     Between 2 December 2013 and 31 December 2013, you did not complete weekly risk assessments;

 

7)     In relation to Case 7, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     You recorded inconsistent information on the case on or around 29 January 2014, in that you stated that there is no risk of Child Sexual Exploitation but subsequently stated that there is possible Child Sexual Exploitation;

b)    You did not adequately record your rationale for the decision that the case did not meet the Child Protection threshold;

c)     Between November 2013 and May 2014, you did not ensure that a Child and Family assessment was undertaken;

d)    You did not record concerns and/or record an analysis of risk regarding Child Sexual Exploitation within management oversight on the case;

 

8)     In relation to Case 8, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     Between June 2013 and February 2014, you did not record, management decision making;

b)    Between June 2013 and February 2014, you did not record an analysis of the risk in this case;

c)     Between October 2013 and February 2014, you did not promptly progress the case to the Public Law Outline process;

 

9)     In relation to Case 9, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

a)     You did not ensure that the child’s comments were sought during the assessment stage;

b)    Between October 2013 and July 2014, you did not ensure that an assessment was undertaken;

 

10)  Your actions described at particulars 1 to 9 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence;

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Application to amend the allegation:

1.       At the start of the hearing, Ms Shameli for the HCPC applied to amend the allegation to discontinue particulars 1(d) and 2(b), because the content duplicated other particulars, and particular 4(b), because the evidence did not support the charge. Ms Shameli also applied to make other amendments in order to clarify the particulars. There was no opposition to the application from the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and allowed the application on the basis that most of the proposed amendments were essentially technical in their nature, proper notice had been given and there was no prejudice to the Registrant’s position if the amendments were permitted.   

Response to the Allegation

2.       The Respondent admitted Particulars 1b, 2d in relation to recording only, 5a, 6c, 7a, 7b and 7d, 8b and 8c. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that the Registrant’s admissions could be taken into account as strong evidence in support of the HCPC’s case, but that they were not necessarily conclusive proof of the facts alleged.

Background

3.       Ms Shameli for the HCPC gave the Panel an overview of the allegation in opening the case. The Registrant qualified as a Social Worker in 1988. He started employment as a Social Worker at Buckinghamshire County Council (the Council) in 2004.  In April 2013, the Registrant became the Consultant Social Work Manager (CSWM) for the Unit 5 Children in Need Team. He was responsible for safeguarding children in need of care services under Section 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989.  He managed a team of Social Workers, including the witnesses, MJ and MB, in this role until early 2015. 

4.       In April 2015, LR, then a locum Practice Improvement Manager at the Council, was asked to investigate concerns that had been raised about the Registrant in relation to alleged failures to perform his management oversight duties.  LR had not met the Registrant until the investigation.  She interviewed staff and investigated the cases of nine children and their siblings (cases 1-9). The main areas of concern were a lack of overall management oversight, poor case recording, lack of analysis of risk, failure to take timely action and a lack of support and direction to social workers, including timely or adequate supervision. These issues are reflected in the particulars of allegation.

5.       LR submitted a report to the Service Director and the matter was referred to the HCPC. As part of the investigation, LR interviewed SH, the then Head of Service. SH was responsible for supervision of the Registrant as well as overall strategic oversight of the service. LR’s notes of interview with SH were produced, although SH was not called as a witness by the HCPC.  LR accepted that SH had displayed poor management oversight in this case and said that SH could be criticised for failure to supervise the Registrant as she did not provide supervision to him as outlined by the Council’s policy.

6.       The HCPC relied on the written and oral evidence of LR. She described the Registrant’s responsibilities. He was responsible for effective professional supervision of Social Workers. He was also responsible for instigating the Public Law Outline (PLO) process by contacting the legal department where there are serious concerns about a child. The Council should seek legal advice during a Legal Planning Meeting (LPM) to determine whether the PLO threshold is met. If yes, then the family is given the chance to seek legal advice and the Council informs the family that care proceedings will commence if changes are not made.

7.       LR explained other relevant terms in her statement.  A Child Protection Plan is required when a child is likely to suffer or is suffering from significant harm. A Strategy Discussion is undertaken to determine whether immediate action is required under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.  The Strategy Discussion is chaired by the Unit Manager and attended by the police and a health professional. As soon as the threshold for Strategy Discussion is identified, arrangements should be made within hours of the concern coming to light in order to protect the child and to preserve evidence.

8.       There are clear expectations about case recording in the HCPC Standards and the Buckingham Supervision Policy 2011.  Social Workers are expected to record information they have obtained about children at risk in order to provide evidence about how decisions are reached.

9.       A child should be visited at least every 10 days in a Child Protection case and at least every four weeks in a Children in Need case.   If the child is in a particularly risky situation, the visits should be more frequent.  The purpose of statutory visits is to monitor the child’s safety.  The risks and circumstances should be set out in the Child Protection Plan or the Children and Family Assessment (C&F Assessment).   Social Workers must complete the latter within 45 days when a child is referred to the local authority under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.  It must be updated every six months.

10.    LR met with the Registrant to discuss the concerns highlighted during her investigation on 13 May 2015 and 4 June 2015. LR had a further meeting with him on 23 June 2015. A disciplinary hearing was held on 16 September 2015.  The matter was referred to the HCPC.

11.    LR agreed that supervision notes and other records were made electronically during the time of these allegations.  The expectation was that all supervision notes in relation to cases would be recorded or uploaded on the ICS (integrated child system) database. 

12.    LR accepted that the Registrant had expressed concerns about his workload and staff shortages to his line manager. LR accepted this showed he had management oversight of a substantial caseload but not that he demonstrated consistent management oversight of the cases under investigation. The August 2014 Ofsted report into Buckinghamshire Social Services showed that there was a significant increase in the number of children in need of social care, whether child protection or looked after children, between March 2013 and March 2014. LR acknowledged the increase in numbers, but she did not accept that individual caseloads within the Registrant’s unit were unusually high.

13.    LR was asked about the concept of consistent management oversight, which she defined as including close supervision of staff and proper record keeping. Oversight was important because Social Workers made decisions about a child’s life, and it was essential to record how and why decisions were made. An experienced manager should understand the need to evidence this oversight in the records.

14.    MJ qualified as a Social Worker in 2005. The Registrant became her manager in October 2009 and she worked with him daily until early 2015. They had a good working relationship. She worked on cases 1-4.  She felt that the workload was too heavy and agreed that the Registrant had done what he could to ease the burden on the team.  In relation to record keeping and losing records, MJ said she had done work that should be on the ICS database that could not be found.

15.    MB gave evidence via a video link. She qualified as a Social Worker in 2004. She started work for the Council in 2009 and worked with the Registrant daily from 2013, when he became her line manager and supervisor, until about March 2015. She had a good working relationship with him. She confirmed that all formal supervisions had to be recorded and that the manager should take notes, which would be agreed and finalised with the supervisee by email. The manager or unit co-ordinator then put the individual case element of the supervision record on the ICS (integrated child system) database within the record of the child. The ICS database included legal case files on the child and email correspondence between the legal department and social workers. MB was not responsible for uploading her supervision record. She was not asked to produce her supervision records for the purpose of the investigation. 

16.    MB confirmed the boundaries and extent of the local authority area in Buckinghamshire and that transport took a lot of time.  She agreed that everyone had a heavy workload and that there was little that the Registrant could do to ease the load. The office space was open plan, noisy and crowded with limited desk space. Team meetings took place weekly. MB confirmed that the Munro Report on social work had made recommendations of organisation into units, regular supervisions and weekly meetings, but this proved difficult to implement with a heavy workload in 2013.   

17.    The Registrant adopted a written statement dated 13 October 2017 in which he responded to the particulars of the allegation. He has not been subject to previous disciplinary proceedings. He described the period of 2013-2015 as a hectic and disruptive period in social care for children because of the hurried implementation of the Munro report reorganisation. The caseload increased substantially. At one time, he was responsible for managing about 120 cases whereas 65 cases was the optimum caseload. A document dated January 2015 referred to 90 cases allocated to his unit. The Ofsted figures for Buckinghamshire, dated August 2014, reflected this increase. The Registrant felt that LR did not appreciate the burden of the caseload upon him when she made her findings.  There was no time or space for social workers to reduce the caseload by closing cases, which involved significant administration. The Registrant accepted with hindsight that he was not firm or directive enough in imposing clear deadlines on staff.

18.    The Registrant was supervised by SH, the Head of Service. The Registrant said that SH did not examine his management of the caseload in any detail nor did she discuss this properly during supervisions. He said that his health and personal issues were not treated with the seriousness that they merited in 2013-14.  He did not believe that he received sufficient support from SH when he told her.  Following advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel directed that any reference to the details of the Registrant’s personal and health issues be heard in private session.  It is not necessary to go into further detail in this document.

19.    The Registrant gave evidence about the lack of training courses that he was offered, for example in relation to PLO, whilst at work and submitted a list of the mandatory training courses he has completed since his suspension from work. He has not been able to find employment as a Social Worker because of the allegations in this case.  He hopes to return to the profession but not as a manager.  The Panel also read a statement from a former colleague, JP, who commended the Registrant’s management ability and his supervision of colleagues.

Decision on Facts

20.    A combined summary of the oral and written evidence in relation to each particular of the allegation in relation to cases 1-9 is set out below, together with the Panel’s findings on the facts.

21.    The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that they should apply the civil standard of proof and that the burden of proving the case was on the HCPC. The Panel noted that the Registrant had admitted some particulars of the allegation, but kept in mind that his admissions were not conclusive. It was for the Panel to make their findings of fact on the evidence as a whole.

22.    The Panel was able to assess LR and the reliability of her evidence over the course of two days. The Panel found LR to be knowledgeable, objective and credible. She demonstrated good knowledge of the policies and practices that should be applied.  Her testimony was consistent with the documentary evidence. The Panel found MB and MJ to be honest and credible witnesses who both took responsibility for their own practice as Social Workers.  The Panel therefore concluded that they could rely on their evidence. 

23.    The Registrant had understandable difficulties in recalling the facts of some cases dating back to 2013. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant attempted to give his honest recollection.  There were some occasions when he was confused or when he sought to attribute responsibility to others.  The Panel also accepted the written evidence of JP, as to the Registrant’s good character and professional ability under and alongside him as a colleague.

24.    In relation to the Registrant’s case that supervision records on the database have gone missing, the Panel heard evidence from MJ that there were some technical difficulties at the time. She said that records would disappear from the system.  However, the Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the absence of a record meant that there was no record made or uploaded onto the database.  In making that finding, the Panel accepted the evidence of LR that she had audited the records carefully and that the Registrant had access to the database for the purpose of gathering evidence to support his case.

25.    As stated above, the Respondent admitted Particulars 1b, 2d in relation to recording, 5a, 6c, 7a, 7b and 7d, 8b and 8c. 

Case 1

In relation to Case 1, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

1a: Between 4 April 2014 and 22 October 2014, you did not undertake and/or record supervision on the file

26.    MJ was allocated this case on 7 August 2012 until 16 December 2014 when MB took over. Supervision was recorded on 4 April 2014. LR found there was no record of any subsequent supervision by the Registrant on ICS until 22 October 2014, so she inferred that no supervision on this case had taken place. The Registrant should have given MJ monthly supervision. LR said that failure to hold monthly supervision was particularly serious in this case because the child was at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). 

27.    It was put to LR that the Registrant had expressed concern about supervision notes going missing over a period of 11 years. LR did not accept that there were missing supervision records on that scale.  LR said she asked for supervision notes relevant to the cases that she was investigating. She did not check emails between the Registrant and his supervisees in relation to supervision records, but that information was available to him and he could have provided it for the internal investigation in 2015 if necessary. When it was put to LR that the supervisions in particular 1(a) were done by the Registrant, LR said she found no records.

28.    MJ said in her statement that she would have had formal supervision with the Registrant during this period because they were expected to have monthly supervisions in all cases. She did not know why the Registrant failed to record supervisions in this period.  She said that there was a period in the summer of 2014 when the children went to live with their father in Manchester, so cases 1 and 2 should have been ‘closed’ during that time. 

29.    The Registrant accepted that his role was to undertake and record supervisions and that failure to undertake supervision could adversely affect the quality of service. He said he was shocked to be accused of failing to undertake supervision over such a long period of time and maintained that he held supervision sessions. He accepted he was permitted access to documents for the purpose of the investigation on at least two occasions. He said he did not seek supervision notes because they were confidential and he was not asked for them. He said that the supervision notes would be on the system somewhere.   

30.    The Panel accepted the evidence of MJ that supervision took place monthly in relation to case 1, even if there was no separate recording. The Panel also noted that there was no alleged failure to supervise in relation to case 2, the older sibling of case 1. The Panel therefore inferred that supervision was satisfactory in relation to case 2 and that supervision was also likely to have taken place during the same supervision session in relation to case 1, as they were siblings. The Panel therefore found that particular 1a was not proved in relation to not undertaking the supervision. However, the Panel are satisfied from the evidence that there is no record of this supervision recorded on the child’s record on ICS and that there should be a record in order to demonstrate consistent management oversight. The Panel therefore found that 1a is proved in respect of not recording.

1b: On or around 22 October 2014 you recorded inconsistent information on the case in that you recommended initiating the Public Law Outline process but subsequently stated that the case should revert back to Children in Need.

 

31.    The case note report shows a ‘manager decision’ by the Registrant that case 1 was ‘still on CP issues’, but it then states that ‘Plan B’ would be to ‘place on a CIN or return to legal’.  LR described this as inconsistent because the fact the child was on CP shows he was likely to suffer, or was suffering, from significant harm. The Registrant has also recorded that the family are at high risk.  It was therefore illogical to record a Plan B on the same day to revert to CIN.  It would have left the Social Worker, MJ, unclear as to what she was doing on this case and exposed the child to risk of harm.  This particular was admitted.

32.    The Panel found 1(b) proved on the documentary evidence, including the case records produced by LR, and on the admission of the Registrant.

1c: You did not ensure and/or record that a strategy discussion was held following disclosure of domestic violence on or around 24 October 2014

33.    The child’s case note dated 24 October 2014 reports show a record that ‘...was unkind to Mummy and hurt her…he punched her’. Five days later on 29 October 2014, there is a note recorded by the Registrant that the Unit would not progress to a Section 47 enquiry. LR said that a Strategy Discussion should have been held with the police and health within three days in order to decide whether or not the concerns met the threshold for a Section 47 investigation to decide if the child is suffering or likely to suffer harm.  LR found no record of any Strategy Discussion and described this as a failure to follow the Council’s safeguarding procedures in relation to a concern that might have been current. In cross-examination, LR accepted that a Strategy Discussion would not have been necessary if the child’s words related to a historic allegation that had already been considered. 

34.    The Registrant accepted there was no Strategy Discussion. He believed this allegation related to a historic incident because there had been a number of past domestic violence incidents in relation to this family.  He formed this view after speaking to the police, MB and one other staff member and sending social workers to speak to the child. He did not therefore think that a Strategy Discussion and/or Section 47 investigation was necessary and maintained that he managed the situation correctly. With hindsight, he accepted that a Strategy Discussion should have taken place.

35.    The Panel found that the Registrant did what was necessary for child protection by sending a Social Worker to speak to the child on the evening of the referral and following this up by instructing Social Workers to interview the children in more detail, during which they ascertained the matters were of a historical nature.  The Panel are satisfied that the decision he made on 29 October 2014 was sound. However, in line with the policy in place at the time he should have initiated a Strategy Discussion to ensure information was drawn from partner organisations prior to any decision being made.   The Panel then considered whether the omission constituted lack of consistent management oversight and concluded that due to his active involvement and that of his social workers over that period that it did not.  The Panel therefore found particular 1c not proved.

1e: You did not adequately record concerns and/or hold a strategy discussion regarding Child Sexual Exploitation on the case.

36.    The Registrant stated to LR during her investigatory interview with him that case 2 (case 1’s sibling) was part of a group about whom the police CSE unit were concerned.  There was no evidence of CSE at this stage. LR’s view was that this concern should have been recorded in the case notes for both case 1 and case 2.  In failing to do so, LR found the Registrant had left both children at possible risk of sexual exploitation. The Registrant admitted to LR during her investigation that he had failed to note this concern.

37.    In relation to case 1 and case 2, MB was asked if there were discussions at team meetings about a group of children vulnerable to CSE. MB recalled that there was ongoing discussion with the police on this issue. MJ said that the group was vulnerable to CSE, but she did not believe that the younger sibling in case 1 was exposed to this possible risk. MJ agreed there were discussions with the police about this group.

38.    The Registrant said that there was a group of young people meeting in the park in Buckingham. The Registrant discussed concerns about drug use with police. There was a suspicion of CSE in relation to the child in case 2 rather than in the case of the younger sibling in case 1 but there was no evidence. The Registrant reported this concern to SH, who asked another colleague, MN, to deal with this, because there were other concerns about a different CSE case in the south of the county. The issue was also discussed at team meetings. He accepted that he should have recorded the concern on the child’s file. He did not accept that a Strategy Discussion was necessary because there was no evidence and the police were monitoring the position.  It had been agreed that youth workers would involve themselves with the group.

39.    The Panel accepted the Registrant’s view that the CSE concern related to the child in case 2 rather than case 1.  The child in case 1 was the younger sibling and not part of the group that was at risk of CSE.   The Panel therefore found particular 1e not proved.

Case 2

In relation to case 2, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

2a: Following concerns that the child was at risk of imminent misadventure on or around 4 November 2014, you did not ensure that a risk discussion took place

40.    On 4 November 2014, MJ emailed SH, copying in the Registrant, to inform her that the child in case 2 (sibling of child in case 1) was ‘at imminent risk of misadventure’, by which she meant he was at risk of a drug overdose. LR found no record of the Registrant having had any risk discussion with MJ following this email. There was no subsequent reference to this concern in the supervision records of 18 November 2014 or 16 December 2014. It was put to LR that these concerns were conveyed to SH rather than the Registrant. LR responded that SH’s role was organisational oversight, as opposed to operational management, and that the Registrant, as MJ’s manager, should have discussed the issues with her.

41.    MJ recalled that the child in case 2 was part of large group of young people taking drugs and that she was worried about her ability to deal with this case due to other caseload demands on her time. She sent the email because she was worried about her workload.  MJ said that all staff, including the Registrant, were under heavy workload pressure at this time. MJ could not recall any specific risk discussion with the Registrant following her email, which had been sent largely at his suggestion.

42.    The Registrant accepted the child was at risk. He said that he knew MJ was sending the email, in order to record concerns, and that he would have spoken to MJ about it. He accepted there was no note of a discussion, but he discussed the risk with other colleagues, including SH, who was in contact with the Head Teacher.

43.    The Panel found particular 2a proved. The Panel accepted that there were ongoing discussions between the Registrant and MJ about this case at this time and that he knew she was sending the email. However, the Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant had a risk discussion with MJ about the specific issues raised in the email and as such his management oversight was not consistent.

44.    Particular 2b was deleted for reasons of duplicity.

2c: You did not ensure that a strategy discussion was held following the child’s overdose at school on or around 14 October 2014

45.    On 14 October 2014, the Council received a report that the child in case 2 had taken an overdose of mephedrone at school, passed out in the classroom and been taken to hospital. LR said that a Strategy Discussion should have been held immediately in these circumstances in order to ensure the child’s future safety and consider any mental health issues. There was no record of any Strategy Discussion.  Had there been an unrecorded strategy discussion, LR said that a Section 47 enquiry would have followed and there was no record of that either. LR said that the child in case 2 was aged 14 and that he nearly died as a result of the overdose, in which case she considered that a Section 47 enquiry was necessary. LR said that she would expect to see a record if it was decided that no Strategy Discussion was necessary.

46.    MJ did not recall whether a Strategy Discussion was held or not, but said that she would have discussed this incident with the Registrant and that a multi-agency safeguarding group was meeting regularly to monitor the group of young people involved in drug taking.  This was not the same as a Strategy Discussion, which would consider the case of a particular child and the risks to that child.

47.    The Registrant cannot recall whether a formal Strategy Discussion was held, but maintained there were discussions with the police and SH about the young person concerned.  The notes confirm that MJ went to the hospital on the same day. He disagreed that it was his responsibility alone to arrange a Strategy Discussion. 

48.    The Panel found that there should have been a Strategy Discussion in the circumstances of a teenage child taking an overdose and being hospitalised. This was a serious escalation of case 2’s drug use. The Registrant was the responsible manager and he should have ensured that a Strategy Discussion took place and by not doing so, he failed to demonstrate consistent management oversight. The Panel found particular 2c proved. 

2d: You did not discuss and/or record that you had discussed with the allocated Social Worker how to manage the incident at particular 2c.

 

49.    LR found no record of the Registrant discussing this incident with the child’s allocated Social Worker, MJ, and no indication of advice or direction from the Registrant in the supervision record of 22 October 2014.  Whilst MJ is certain the Registrant ‘would have’ discussed this issue with her, because it was a significant incident, LR found no record of any such discussion. MJ said that not all discussions were recorded because they were all overloaded with work.  She also recalled there were issues with occasional loss of records entered onto ICS in relation to cases 1 and 2, but could not be more specific than that.

50.    LR was asked about what MJ had said, to which LR replied that the social workers she interviewed were all very loyal to the Registrant and protective of him. LR remained of the view that discussions should have been recorded even where social workers were subject to significant work pressures.

51.    Although the Panel found, on the admission of the Registrant, that he failed to record the discussion, it accepted that he discussed the matter with the Social Worker concerned.  The Panel did not find that this omission amounted to a lack of consistent management, so particular 2d is not proved.

2e: You did not adequately record concerns regarding Child Sexual Exploitation on the case.

52.    See paragraph 36 above in relation to particular 1e for the factual background. It was put to LR that the team was aware that the child was at risk of CSE (child sexual exploitation) and that this was discussed at team meetings. LR said the Registrant had confirmed to her that the CSE risk was not recorded on case 2’s file.  LR was asked if emails containing concerns were adequate, LR disagreed because there should have been a record on the child’s file.

53.    The Registrant accepted that he did not record the concerns in relation to CSE risk for the child in case 2, which he admitted to LR on 13 May 2015: “I hold my hands up, I didn’t do it”. He maintained that he exercised proper management oversight by informing SH as outlined in relation to particular 1e above. 

54.    The Panel found that an important child protection concern about CSE should have been noted on the child in case 2’s file for the benefit of other Social Workers who might consider the case notes at a future stage.  This was an important safeguarding precaution and to not do so constituted a lack of consistent management oversight. The Panel therefore found particular 2e proved.

Case 3

 

In relation to Case 3, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

3a: Between September 2014 and March 2015, you did not ensure that the allocated Social Worker undertook regular visits and/or recorded visits on the site

55.    Case 3 refers to two siblings aged 11 and 13, one of whom was at boarding school during the week but living at home at the weekend.  LR found evidence of only two visits in November 2014 between September 2014 and March 2015.  The mother was a single parent with terminal cancer, so there was nobody to care for the children when the mother went to bed early. She relied on the local authority for support.  It was the Registrant’s duty to ensure that the Social Worker carried out regular visits within the required timescales. LR said the Registrant should have ensured that the visits were carried out in a timely way and recorded on ICS.

56.    MJ confirmed that she was regularly visiting the children within this timeframe and that she would have visited them every month, although she no longer has access to her records, having left her position with the Council.

57.    The Registrant accepted that the visits were not recorded by the Social Worker, but he maintained he was monitoring this case closely and spoke to MJ frequently. She visited the family regularly, which MJ confirms, and he also visited the family on one occasion to resolve a difficult situation.

58.    The Panel was satisfied that MJ made regular family visits, but that she failed to record them during the relevant period. The Panel found that the Registrant should have been aware of this omission and that he should have ensured that MJ recorded the visits. The Panel accepted that there was some management oversight by the Registrant, but that there was a lack of consistent management oversight because he failed to ensure the children’s records were accurate. The Panel therefore found particular 3a proved in relation to recording.

3b: You did not promptly progress the Public Law Outline advice that was sent to you on or around 19 August 2014

59.    The advice from the Legal Planning Meeting (LPM) held on 28 July 2014 was to follow the Public Law Outline (PLO) process. The PLO process would have identified others who could support the children.  LR said that it was important to put arrangements in place whilst the mother was capable and before she died. The legal department advice was sent to the Registrant and MJ by email on 18 August 2014, in response to which he recorded a note that he was to discuss with the Head of Service how to proceed. The Registrant was chased about this by email on 21 August, 9 and 26 September 2014. The legal department acknowledged a response on 1 October 2014 but advised that they had not received a copy of the Joint Adults Assessment, considering what services could be put in place for the terminally ill mother as well, which the Registrant was responsible for completing.

60.    In LR’s view, failure to progress the PLO advice promptly resulted in significant risk to the two children in case 3.  Future carers had to be set up for the two children who were effectively unsupervised.  It was put to LR that the Registrant constantly chased MJ about completion, to which LR responded that he had not recorded this.  MJ was unable to recall why the PLO process was so long delayed, but she believed that this was her responsibility.

61.    It was put to LR that MJ was at fault for failing to progress the PLO process. LR said that the Registrant, as her manager, was responsible for ensuring that the process was progressed, irrespective of whether MJ had taken responsibility for this failure. The LPM would be arranged and requested by the manager, then the legal team would give their legal advice.  If their advice was to commence PLO, then the Manager should express his view and seek permission from the Head of Service to commence PLO. 

62.    The Registrant said that he received the LPM outcome and sent it to SH. He instructed the Social Worker, MJ, to progress the Joint Adults Assessment and said it was her responsibility.  He reminded her to progress this on numerous occasions. He accepted it was his responsibility as the Manager to ensure that this was done by the Social Worker in a timely fashion.

63.    The Panel noted that the Registrant accepted that he was responsible for ensuring that PLO was progressed in a timely manner and that the legal department chased him personally about this and he did not respond to their emails. The Panel accepted that he then chased the Social Worker to progress the PLO.  However, the Registrant failed to exercise consistent management oversight in this case by not setting explicit time limits and by not responding directly to the legal department. The Panel therefore found particular 3b proved.

Case 4

 

In relation to Case 4, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

                    4a: (discontinued for lack of evidence)

4b: In March 2014 you did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken formal supervision. 

64.    Case 4 was referred to the Council on 15 November 2013.  The case concerned children who were living in filthy and unhygienic conditions at home. LR found no record that the Registrant undertook supervision with MB in March 2014. Supervisions were required monthly.  LR noted that MB raised regular concerns about this case, but there was insufficient direction from the Registrant, which would have placed the child at risk. LR said that there was a need for immediate close supervision, because the children were at risk of significant harm in their home environment. It was put to LR that supervision could continue on an informal basis or that an unrecorded formal supervision took place. LR responded that she found no evidence of either and that the Registrant had access to the system on three occasions so that he could gather evidence in support of his case.

65.    MB recalls that there was a high level of input on case 4 and that she met frequently with the Registrant to discuss the case in or around March 2014 because this was her first experience of working with children who were being taken into care. She agreed that discussions took place informally, even if not recorded as part of formal supervision, and that she felt well supported by the Registrant.  She believed that they had had formal supervision in March 2014, but she had no specific recollection.

66.    The Registrant accepted that there was no record of supervision in March 2014, but said he would have had monthly supervision unless MB was on leave.  He was asked why he did not search for this record when given the opportunity and replied that he was not searching for supervision notes at that time.

67.    The Panel accepted MB’s evidence that the Registrant regularly undertook formal and informal supervision with MB. The absence of any record for the single formal supervision session in March 2014 did not amount to a lack of consistent management oversight.  The Panel therefore found particular 4b not proved. 

Case 5

 

In relation to Case 5, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

5a: On or around 3 December 2013, you did not ensure that timescales were identified for an initial statutory visit to be undertaken

 

68.    Case 5 concerned a new referral in relation to a physically disabled child at risk of abuse. The case was allocated to the Registrant’s team on 3 December 2013. LR found the record of the Unit discussion meeting on 10 December 2013 showed no clear actions and did not identify when the initial statutory visit should be undertaken. The statutory visit should have taken place within five working days. The Registrant should have made this decision then because an initial visit was necessary to establish what level of risk the child faces.

69.    The Panel found 5a proved on the documentary evidence, including the case records, produced by LR and on the admission of the Registrant.

5b: You did not ensure that timescales were identified for a Child and Family (C&F) Assessment to be undertaken.

70.    LR found that the Registrant also failed to ensure that a timescale was fixed for completing a C&F Assessment, which is required for every case within 45 days of the referral under the Working Together Guidelines 2013. LR said it was the manager’s role to review the history and determine the child’s needs, including when the C&F assessment should be completed within the statutory maximum period of 45 days.

71.    The Registrant said that completion of the C&F Assessment was the responsibility of the Social Worker. However, he accepted that it was the joint responsibility of both the Social Worker and the Manager to ensure that work was done within the required timescales.  He also accepted he was responsible for setting the timescales on a case by case basis.

 

72.    The Panel found that it was reasonable for the Registrant to expect the Social Worker to know the maximum timescales, and the Panel accepted his evidence that he had discussions with the Social Worker about this matter. However, the Registrant should have made it clear what timescales were required, and he should have recorded this, so that it could be properly monitored. This omission represented a lack of consistent management oversight on his part.  The Panel therefore found particular 5b proved.

 

Case 6

 

In relation to Case 6, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

 

6a: In January 2014 and March 2014, you did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken formal supervision

73.    This referral was made following concerns about domestic violence. LR reviewed the case note reports for case 6 and found that there was no record of supervision of MB in January or March 2014 when such supervision was required on a monthly basis. LR said that monthly supervision was required so that social workers were clear about the actions they were taking and risk was monitored. The consequences of this kind of omission might be drift and delay for the child and lack of direction for the Social Worker.  LR disagreed that informal supervision was an adequate substitute.

74.    MB explained that she was on holiday and then subsequently had surgery in January 2014, which accounted for the absence of formal supervision in that month. In relation to March 2014, MB was preoccupied with case 4, which took precedence over other commitments for that time, which might explain why she had no formal supervision on case 6 with the Registrant in that month.

75.    The Registrant said that there was no supervision in January 2014 because MB was on leave.  In relation to March 2014, he said he had regular informal discussions with MB even if there was no record.

76.    The Panel accepted MB’s evidence that she was on sick leave in January 2014 when the supervision was due, so there can be no criticism of the Registrant for the absence of supervision in January 2014. The Panel noted there was a formal supervision session in February 2014.  The Panel found there was no supervision in March 2014 but there were good reasons for that omission because the Social Worker was preoccupied with case 4. In any event, the lack of supervision for only one month did not constitute a lack of consistent management oversight. The Panel therefore found particular 6a not proved.

6b: You did not include reference to other agencies and/or include analysis of the risk of domestic violence within the Child and Family Assessment

77.    LR said that the C&F Assessment that was signed off by the Registrant made no reference to other agencies such as the police, who should have been contacted to clarify concerns about the domestic violence, including whether it had been reported to the police.  In addition, LR found there was no analysis as to the actual risk of domestic violence in the assessment, so there was no assessment of the true level of risk that could have informed the next steps for that child.  It was put to LR there was a record of a ‘professionals meeting’ on 5 November 2013 which may have involved other professions, possibly including the police.

78.    The Registrant referred to a copy of the Child and Family Assessment dated 1 December 2013 and maintained that it showed there was analysis of the risk. He referred to a record of a ‘professionals meeting’ on 5 November 2013, which he said was likely to have been a meeting between professional agencies, including the police. He said the assessment of risk of domestic violence would be in the minutes of that meeting and held on a separate database.

79.    On careful reading of the C&F assessment, the Panel found that it did refer to other agencies, including the police and pastoral teachers or workers at the children’s schools.  Reference was also made to AVOC, which appears to be a housing organisation, and Women’s Aid. The Panel found that the Social Worker’s entry on the form contained an analysis of the risk of domestic violence at this early stage of the case, recommending further investigation into emotional abuse that the children were encountering. The Panel therefore found particular 6b not proved.

 

6c: Between 2 December 2013 and 31 December 2013, you did not complete weekly reviews as requested by the Head of Service

 

80.    On 2 December 2013, the Head of Service, SH advised the Registrant to conduct weekly reviews for this case until it could be allocated to a social worker. LR’s examination of the case note report revealed no further management oversight until 31 December 2013. In failing to carry out weekly reviews, LR found that the Registrant had failed to follow managerial instruction and failed to monitor any risks to the child.

81.    The Panel found particular 6c proved on the documentary records produced by LR and on the admission of the Registrant.

Case 7

 

In relation to Case 7, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

7a: You recorded inconsistent information on the case on or around 29 January 2014, in that you stated that there is no risk of Child Sexual Exploitation but subsequently stated that there is possible Child Sexual Exploitation

 

82.    Case 7 concerned a 16 year old child. The case note reports record a management decision at point 3 on 29 January 2014 (349): ‘no evidence if child sexual exploitation’. However, point 5 on the same page states: ‘vulnerable – child possible sexual exploitation’. LR regarded this recording as inconsistent. The note that ‘C&F needs to be completed to identify needs’, indicated that the Registrant had concluded there was no evidence of sexual exploitation without having completed the C&F assessment, so he could not have properly assessed the risk at that stage.

83.    The Panel found particular 7a proved on the documentary evidence, including the case records, produced by LR, and the admission of the Registrant.

7b: On or around 29 January 2014 you did not adequately record your rationale for the decision that the case did not meet the Child Protection threshold

 

84.    On 29 January 2014, a management decision was recorded that the Child Protection threshold was not met, followed by ‘Plan B progress to CP’. There was no narrative or rationale recorded to make sense of this decision making process.  If the child was at risk of CSE, there was a requirement to consider Child Protection procedures.

85.    The Panel found particular 7b proved on the documentary evidence produced by LR and on the admission of the Registrant.

7c: Between November 2013 and May 2014, you did not ensure that a Child and Family assessment was undertaken

86.    The case was referred to the Council on 26 November 2013, so a Child and Family (C&F) Assessment was required within a maximum of 45 days, but the form shows it was not finally completed until May 2014 when it was decided that the case had to proceed to a Child Protection Conference. This indicated that there were serious concerns about the child’s welfare.  LR said that the absence of a C&F assessment during this period meant that the child’s needs were not properly identified for some considerable time. It was suggested to LR that the C&F Assessment was in progress by early 2014, but LR pointed to the record on 29 January 2014 that indicated the C&F ‘needs to be completed to identify needs’. LR agreed there was a record of C&F completion on 7 April 2014.

87.    The Registrant’s case is that the records show that the C&F Assessment was completed by 25 February 2014 and that it was underway in December 2013. He maintained that the document that showed completion on 15 May 2014 was a separate follow on assessment.

88.    The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence, following a review of the documentary exhibits, that the C&F Assessment had been completed at an earlier stage in 2014 and was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the C&F Assessment was not completed until May 2014. It accepted that the C&F produced was a follow on assessment started on 3 April 2014. The Panel therefore found particular 7c not proved.

7d: You did not record concerns and/or record an analysis of risk regarding the Section 47 enquiries within management oversight on the case

 

89.    The Registrant recorded no analysis of risk or discussion of Section 47 enquiries in his management decisions in the child’s case note reports. There is a note about a Section 47 enquiry in the C&F Assessment dated 3 April 2014, but it was unclear to LR how the Registrant determined that the Section 47 threshold, namely that the child was suffering or was likely to suffer significant harm, was met. LR said that the Registrant was unable to effectively safeguard children if he failed to record and analyse risks.

90.    The Panel found particular 7d proved on the documentary records produced by LR and on the admission of the Registrant.

Case 8

 

In relation to Case 8, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

8a: Between July 2013 and December 2014, you did not undertake and/or record that you had undertaken monthly supervisions on the file

91.    Case 8 concerned children on a Child Protection plan under the heading of ‘neglect’. There were issues concerning past domestic violence and the dirty state of the family home.  LR examined the case note reports and found that supervisions were carried out only on 11 July, 17 October and 31 December 2013 during a time when this case was in pre-care proceedings, which was the last opportunity for a family to make representations and changes before a child is taken into care.  The supervisions should have been undertaken every month. LR maintained that all supervisions had to be recorded on the child’s file.

92.    The Registrant’s case is that he carried out all supervisions with the Social Worker, MB, on this case and the notes were sent to DN for filing, even if they are not available now.

93.    The Panel found that supervision was undertaken and recorded in October 2014.  In relation to other monthly supervisions, the Panel was satisfied on the evidence of MB that the Registrant undertook monthly supervisions with her, but that they were not recorded. The Panel therefore found particular 8a proved on the basis that monthly supervisions were not recorded, which is an important part of ensuring consistent management oversight.

8b: Between July 2013 and February 2014 you did not record an analysis of the risk in this case.

 

94.    LR found there was an eight months period between July 2013 and February 2014 when no management analysis of risk was recorded in the decision making records entered by the Registrant.  It was agreed on 11 July 2013 that an LPM (Legal Planning Meeting) would take place to consider the PLO (Public Law Outline) process, but the LPM was delayed for eight months until 11 February 2014. The failure to analyse risk demonstrated to LR that the Registrant did not understand the concerns or disregarded the child’s safety.

95.    The Panel found particular 8b proved on the documentary evidence produced by LR and on the admission of the Registrant.

8c: Between July 2013 and February 2014, you did not promptly progress the case through the Public Law Outline process

 

96.    The slow movement of the case also indicated to LR that the Registrant had failed to promptly progress the PLO process.  He noted in December 2013 that the case should have been in the PLO process two months before then, but he did not identify who was to arrange the LPM or when it should take place and there is no record of the reason for the delay.  It was the Registrant’s responsibility to progress the PLO in a timely way.  Failure to do so might leave a child at risk of harm for a prolonged period.

97.    The Panel found particular 8c proved on the documentary evidence produced by LR and on the admission of the Registrant.

Case 9

 

In relation to Case 9, you did not maintain consistent management oversight of the case in that:

 

9a: You did not ensure that the child’s comments were sought before completing the Children and Family Assessment in July 2014

 

98.    Case 9 concerned a teenage girl with a history of self-harm and taking an overdose.  A Child and Family Assessment was completed in July 2014 in relation to the child in case 9, but it related to the child’s older sibling. The child was not referred to in the assessment and her opinions were not sought during the assessment stage. LR said it was not possible to make an assessment of the child’s needs without speaking to the child and she would have expected the Registrant to do so. It was the Registrant’s responsibility to ensure that her views were obtained before signing off on the assessment. 

99.    The Panel found 9a not proved.  LR’s investigation report states that the Registrant was the manager of this case between October 2013 and May 2014.  The C&F Assessment was completed in July 2014 and therefore the Panel does not consider the Registrant can be held responsible for omissions in that document. The Panel therefore finds 9a not proved.

9b: Between October 2013 and July 2014 you did not ensure that a Child and Family Assessment was undertaken

 

100.       This case was referred to the Council in October 2013 but no Child and Family Assessment was completed until July 2014, which is a delay of nine months, whereas the usual timescale for such an assessment is 45 days. It was put to LR that the Registrant was not the responsible manager in relation to case 9, because the structure was reorganised in April 2014 and the Registrant was not the relevant team manager by July 2014, which LR accepted might be correct. It was also put that the social worker on the case was RA.  LR did not accept the documents proved this, but she could not discount the possibility that the case was reallocated if RA was off sick for a long period. 

 

101.       The Registrant accepted that the child’s comments should be obtained but his case on particulars 9(a) and 9(b) is that he was not RA’s supervisor at the relevant time.  The Registrant relied on the content of RA’s interview in which she said that she transferred to another supervisor in April 2013.

 

102.       Whilst it is possible that the Registrant was the line manager of this case between October 2013 and May 2014, without clearer documentary evidence, in particular the child’s case notes, the Panel cannot be satisfied that a C&F Assessment was required.  The Panel therefore finds 9b not proved.

 

Decision on Grounds

 

103.       The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and was assisted by the submissions of both parties. The Panel therefore had in mind the definition of misconduct in Roylance v GMC [2011] 1 AC 311: Misconduct is “some act or omission which falls short of what is proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances.” The Panel was advised that misconduct must be serious misconduct of a kind that would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners, that mere negligence was insufficient, and that isolated incidents were less likely to amount to misconduct. The Panel also considered the context in which the Registrant said he was working, namely that he was under pressure of time and resources with a heavy caseload to manage and insufficient staff.

 

104.       The Panel also considered the definition of lack of competence or professional deficiency as set out in Holton v GMC [2006] EWHC 2960 that the standard to be applied was that applicable to the post to which the Registrant has been appointed and the work he or she was carrying out, and that competence should be measured in the context of a reasonable sample of his work.

 

105.       The Panel then applied these principles in considering whether the findings of fact were such as to amount to either misconduct or a lack of competence in relation to each of the particulars on which the facts were found to be proved.  

 

106.       In considering 1a, the Panel found misconduct because this related to a prolonged period of failing to record supervisions, which amounted to a serious failing on the part of the Registrant.

 

107.       In relation to 1b, the inconsistencies in the case notes were not sufficiently serious so as to amount to misconduct or lack of competence.  The inconsistencies were the result of Registrant’s notes being overly brief and not sufficiently explanatory.

 

108.       In relation to 2a, the Registrant was well aware of the concerns and had discussed them with MJ.  Although best practice would have been to have a risk discussion following the email, the lack of such a discussion was not so serious as to amount to misconduct or lack of competence.

 

109.       In relation to 2c, the Panel found that this was a clear case of misconduct. The Registrant’s failure to ensure a strategy discussion in the serious circumstances of this particular case fell far below the level of his responsibilities as a Social Work Manager.

 

110.       In relation to 2e, the failure to record the risk of child sexual exploitation in the same case was an omission of such self-evident seriousness as to amount to misconduct.

 

111.       In relation to 3a, the Panel found misconduct because this related to a prolonged period over which the Registrant failed to ensure that a record was kept of statutory visits in the complex case of a family in which the mother was terminally ill and the children’s future care at stake.  In such cases it is essential that the local authority should have a comprehensive record.

 

112.       In relation to 3b, the Panel found that the Registrant’s failures to respond to the legal department’s emails in relation to the PLO process and to ensure that the PLO advice was completed in a timely manner placed the family at considerable risk of harm. This was therefore serious enough to amount to misconduct.

 

113.       In relation to 5a, the Panel did not find this failing so serious as to amount to misconduct because there was some management oversight, in that the child was visited three times between 10 December 2013 and 17 February 2014.

 

114.       In relation to 5b, the Panel found misconduct because it was essential that the timescales were recorded in the notes so that the situation and the risks could be properly monitored.

 

115.       In relation to 6c, the Panel found misconduct because the Registrant left the case unallocated for a month and failed to complete essential weekly reviews that were requested by the Head of Service.  It was a serious falling short because he failed to monitor the risk to the child and failed to follow the management instruction.

 

116.       In relation to 7a, as with 1b, the inconsistencies in the case notes were not sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct or lack of competence.  The inconsistencies were the result of his notes being overly brief and not sufficiently explanatory.

 

117.       In relation to 7b, as with 7a, this failing related to the Registrant’s failure to make adequate notes but this was not so serious as to amount to misconduct or lack of competence.

 

118.       In relation to 7d, the Panel found misconduct because the Registrant failed to record the significant change from Child in Need to Child Protection on the child’s record.

 

119.       In relation to 8a, as with 1a, the Panel found misconduct because this related to a prolonged period of failing to record supervisions, which amounted to a serious failing on the part of the Registrant.

 

120.       In relation to 8b, there was a prolonged delay of eight months in noting the analysis of risk, which might have placed the child at risk of harm, so this was serious enough to amount to misconduct.

 

121.       In relation to 8c, this failing related to a vulnerable child and the Registrant failed to progress the case over significant period, leaving the child at risk of harm. This was therefore serious enough to amount to misconduct.

 

122.       By reason of the findings on the facts and on misconduct as set out above, the Panel found the Registrant to have breached the following standards of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics that were applicable at the relevant time:

 

·        Standard 7: “You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners

·        Standard 8: “You must effectively supervise tasks you have asked other people to carry out”

·        Standard 10: “You must keep accurate records”.

 

123.       The Panel’s overall findings of misconduct reflect a lack of adequate recording in relation to supervisions and reasons for his management instructions, a deficiency in progressing statutory procedures and a lack of follow up action to identify risk in his supervision of colleagues.

 

Decision on impairment

124.       The Panel considered the submissions of the parties and the HCPTS Practice Note on impairment and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel reminded itself of the critically important public policy issues in Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581: “the need to protect the individual and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect…and that the public interest includes, amongst other things, the protection of service users and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.”

 

125.       The Panel considered that the Registrant’s misconduct was remediable, but noted that he has not been working in social work since 2015, so he has not yet had the chance to demonstrate how he can remedy his failings. In relation to the personal component, the Registrant accepted that he had made mistakes and that he would act differently now. He also accepted that his omissions placed service users at risk. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant accepted his shortcomings in many respects and showed considerable insight in recognising that he was not firm enough in his instructions to colleagues. However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s level of insight into his deficiencies was not yet sufficient and that there remained a risk of recurrence until he has the opportunity to demonstrate that he has remedied his shortcomings as a manager. The Panel therefore found that his fitness to practise is currently impaired.

 

126.       The Panel’s finding of impairment is made on the basis of the need to protect the public and in the wider public interest in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. A reasonable member of the public would expect a finding of current impairment on the facts of this case.

 

127.       In making its findings on misconduct and impairment, the Panel acknowledged that there was evidence that the Registrant was well regarded in his dealings with others, that he had personal health issues, that he was under the pressure of a heavy caseload and that he had not previously been the subject of any referral to the HCPC during the course of his career. These will be relevant and significant mitigating factors when it comes to the issue of sanction at the adjourned hearing.

 

Decision on Sanction

 

Introduction

128.  The hearing was adjourned part-heard on 19 October 2017 and re-convened on 8 December 2017. At the outset of the reconvened hearing the Panel handed down its determination on facts, grounds and impairment. The Panel went on to hear submissions with regards to sanction.

 

Panel’s Approach

 

129.  The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The public interest includes maintaining public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of severity.

 

130.  The Panel took into account the updated schedule of courses that the Registrant had completed since the hearing was adjourned part heard and the accompanying Certificates of Attendance. These courses related to ‘Keep them Safe – Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation’, ‘Social Care, social work law – England and Wales’ and ‘Introduction to Radicalisation’. The Panel also noted the list of courses that the Registrant intends to undertake in the future with regards to leadership and management.

 

131.  The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and took into account the submissions made by both parties.

 

Decision

 

132.  In determining what sanction, if any, to impose on the Registrant the Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

·        he demonstrated real insight in to where he went wrong;

·        he reflected well on his practice and the important management balance between supporting and directing staff members;

·        the context in which he was working including: a heavy caseload; poor working conditions; inadequate management support of him in his role as a manager; significant personal health issues;

·        confirmation from colleagues that he was accessible and supportive;

·        there have been no previous disciplinary matters and no previous referrals to the HCPC;

·        he demonstrated a real willingness to remedy the shortcomings in his practice through training and development.

 

133.  The Panel concluded that the only aggravating feature was that through the Registrant’s management decisions children and young people were put at potential risk of harm.

134.  The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel noted that if it were to take no action the Registrant would be permitted to practise unrestricted. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct and in the absence of exceptional circumstances, to take no action on his registration would be  inappropriate and insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

 

135.  The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order. The Panel noted that Cautions appear on the register but do not restrict a registrant’s ability to practise and took into account paragraph 28 of the ISP which states:

‘A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action…A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.’

136.  The Registrant failed to meet the standards required of a competent social work manager in relation to recording supervisions and reasons for his management instructions, progressing statutory procedures and a lack of follow up action to identify risk in the supervision of colleagues. The Panel was satisfied that these deficiencies could not be properly described as minor in nature, limited or isolated. The Panel noted that the Registrant now has good insight. However, he has not been able to demonstrate that the skills and knowledge, relevant to safe and competent management practice, have been adequately addressed and as a consequence there is an ongoing risk of repetition. The Panel noted that a Caution Order would impose no restriction on the Registrant’s practice as a manager and therefore concluded that it would not provide protection from the risk of repetition. Therefore the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to meet the public interest.

137.  The Panel went on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel bore in mind that any conditions imposed would need to be appropriate, proportionate, workable and measurable.

138.  The Panel took the view that the Registrant’s misconduct is capable of being remedied and there was no evidence before the Panel that there are any underlying issues which would prevent the Registrant from addressing his behaviour. The Panel was encouraged by the Registrant’s willingness to source and attend appropriate courses related to protecting children and his intention to develop his management and leadership skills by attending various courses in the future. In these circumstances the Panel took the view that the Registrant is committed to remedying the deficiencies in his practice and is likely to comply with conditions aimed at addressing his failings. The Panel was also satisfied that service users would not be put at risk of harm as a consequence of conditional registration. The Panel concluded that the Registrant should be given the opportunity to further reflect on its findings, develop the skills and knowledge required to ensure that there is no risk of repetition in the future and translate his learning into good practice within a social work setting. 

139.  Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that a Conditions of Practice Order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose on the basis that workable conditions could be formulated which would allow the Registrant to return to practise whilst protecting service users from the risk of harm.

140.  Prior to confirming its decision to impose a Conditions of Practice Order the Panel considered whether a Suspension Order should be imposed. However, the Panel concluded that a Suspension Order would be punitive, disproportionate and would deprive the public of the services of an otherwise competent social worker. The Panel also took the view that a Suspension Order would unnecessarily limit the Registrant’s scope to improve the deficiencies in his practice within a social work setting.

141.  Therefore the Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate order to impose is a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel determined that the Order should be imposed for a period of 12 months. The Panel was satisfied that this period would be sufficient for the Registrant to demonstrate compliance and development of his management skills and knowledge.

142.  Shortly before expiry of the Order, the Conditions of Practice will be reviewed by a review panel.


 

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, for a period of 12 months from the date that this Order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Mr Ian Godfrey Wass must comply with the following conditions of practice:

(1)     If employed as a Social Worker in a management role you must:

(a)     place yourself and remain under the supervision of a more senior management colleague (the supervisor) who is registered with the HCPC, or other appropriate statutory regulator and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 28 days of commencement of any such employment .

(b)     You must attend upon that supervisor at least monthly and follow their advice and recommendations.

(c)     You must work with your supervisor to ensure that a report from the supervisor with regards to your progress and development as a manager is provided to the HCPC at least 14 days before the review hearing.

(d)     You must attend and complete a management course.

(2)     You must produce a written reflective piece detailing what you have learnt from these proceedings based on the Panel’s findings and how you have implemented the learning into your practice or, if you are not employed as a social worker, how you intend to implement the learning into your practice.

(3)     You must provide a copy of your reflective piece to the HCPC at least 14 days before the review hearing.

(4)     You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

(a)     any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work as a Social Worker;

(b)      any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and

(c)     any prospective employer (at the time of your application for a Social Work post).

 

132.       Although not conditions, the reviewing panel may be assisted by the following:

·        References and testimonials from your current employer (paid or unpaid work) including information with regards to any supervision and/or management of others. 

·        Your presence at the hearing.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from the operative date.   An Interim Conditions of Practice Order for a period of 18 months was imposed to cover the appeal period. 

 

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 5 January 2019.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Ian Godfrey Wass

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
08/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice
16/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard