Miss Gemma Williamson

: Social worker

: SW23778

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 13/12/2017 End: 12:30 13/12/2017

: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker you:

 

1. Applied for a position at Sunderland Social Services, where you:

 

a) provided misleading information to an employment agency who prepared and submitted a curriculum vitae on your behalf which stated that you were on a career break between August and October 2013 when you in fact were working at South Tyneside Council from 30 August to 8 October 2013;

 

b) mislead Sunderland Social Services as to the nature of your contract termination with South Tyneside Council.

 

2. Your actions at paragraphs 1a and 1b were dishonest.

 

3. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct.

 

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

Finding

Background


1. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. On 1 and 2 December 2014 a panel of the HCPC Conduct and Competence Committee (CCC) heard evidence of fact upon the basis of which the panel found misconduct. By reason of this misconduct the panel found the fitness to practise of the Registrant was impaired. It then went on to consider which sanction, if any, should be imposed and determined that a two year Caution Order was the appropriate sanction.


2. The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) appealed the decision of the CCC and at a hearing in the High Court on 10 July 2015, Mr Justice Blake ordered that the appeal be allowed upon the basis that the imposition of a Caution Order was unduly lenient. He quashed the Order and remitted the case for a re-hearing before the CCC, such re-hearing limited to the issue of sanction. Following the judgment of Mr Justice Blake of 10 July 2015 a panel of the CCC sat on 23 December 2015 and reconsidered the sanction of a Caution Order previously imposed. Having considered all the circumstances and the available sanctions, the panel imposed upon the Registrant a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months, commencing 20 January 2016. 

 
3. The Suspension Order was reviewed on 15 December 2016 when the Registrant did not attend and was not represented. The reviewing panel did consider a statement submitted on 7 December 2016 by the Registrant as well as two undated references. On the basis of the personal component the Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, and a finding of current impairment remained necessary in order to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator, and to declare and uphold proper standards of professional behaviour.


4. The Panel was of the view that whilst the Registrant was currently engaging with the HCPC and had developed some insight she had not provided sufficient supportive information and evidence of insight to allow her Suspension Order to be removed. The Panel determined that in light of the Registrant’s engagement and her developing insight, a further period of 12 months’ suspension would be proportionate.

5. The Panel in its determination suggested that a future panel might be assisted in determining the case by the following:
• The Registrant’s attendance
• A full reflective statement from the Registrant regarding the impact of her actions and their  effect on the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession;
• Testimonials from recent employer(s);
• Character references, particularly from those aware of the current proceedings;
• Evidence of continuing professional development.

Decision


6. This Panel has taken into account all the documentation placed before it, which included the Registrant’s statement dated 7 December 2017, three additional personal references two of which were undated, nine training attendance certificates, the previous determinations by panels and the judgment of Mr Justice Blake. It has also considered the Registrant’s evidence given over the telephone and Ms Willman’s submissions. The Panel has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor; and it has reminded itself of the terms of the HCPTS’s Practice Note on ‘Finding Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’.


7. The Panel first considered the issue of current impairment. The Registrant told the Panel that she has now been working as a learning support assessor for some three years for the same employer. She said that she was very sorry for her misconduct and acknowledged her dishonesty as was proved against her. She said that it would never happen again, and she desperately wanted to return to social work.


8. The Panel took account of the principle set out in Abrahaem v GMC [2008] EWHC 183 (Admin) that there is, in practical terms, a persuasive burden at a review hearing for the Registrant to demonstrate that she has “fully acknowledged why past performance was deficient and through insight, application, education, supervision or other achievement sufficiently addressed the past impairments.”


9. The Panel concluded that, whilst the Registrant has engaged in this hearing by her telephone attendance and shown some insight into her dishonest conduct, the Registrant has not demonstrated that she is fit to return to unrestricted practice and her fitness to practise remains impaired. The Panel considered that her failure to provide a reference from her current employer, despite the previous two panels suggesting that she should provide it to the reviewing panel, demonstrates that the Registrant lacks full insight. The Panel was concerned that the Registrant had not informed her employer of this proceedings and that the reasons which she gave to the Panel for not telling her employer about these proceedings nor asking for a reference were inconsistent.


10. In addition, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had not demonstrated that she has kept her professional skills and knowledge up to date. There was no evidence of any CPD activity since January 2016 and the activities which she had undertaken were very general in nature and did not relate specifically to social work.


11. In these circumstances, a finding of current impairment also remains necessary in order to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator, and to declare and uphold proper standards of professional behaviour.


12. On the issue of the appropriate sanction on this review, the Panel noted the representations of the HCPC, accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took into account in its deliberations the guidance set out in the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel applied the principles of proportionality, and as advised, the Panel started its consideration at the lowest level of sanction.


13. The Panel determined that in light of the Registrant’s engagement and her developing insight, a further period of six months’ suspension would be proportionate and sufficient in this case. The Panel considers a future panel may be assisted in the next review of the case by the following:
• The Registrant’s attendance, by telephone if not in person
• A full reflective statement  from the Registrant regarding the impact of her actions and  their  effect on the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession.
• A testimonials from her present employer including as to honesty and integrity and skills and acknowledging that the employer had been made fully aware by the Registrant of the background to this case.
• Evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), by reference to guidance on the standards of CPD required by the HCPC which is available on its websites and includes guidance on preparing a learning log and CPD profile.

Order

ORDER: The Panel directs the Registrar to extend the current Suspension Order for a period of 6 months from its expiry in terms of Article 30(1)(a) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 15 June 2018.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Gemma Williamson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
15/12/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
23/12/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
01/12/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution