Ms Carol Ann Gould

: Social worker

: SW73045

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:12:30 14/12/2017 End: 17:00 14/12/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

While registered as a Social Worker, between 18 November 2010 and 19 March 2013:

 

1. You were employed by Benecare between 4 January 2011 and 12 November 2012 and you:

a. Did not communicate effectively with colleagues and/or foster parents and/or third parties in that:

i) You did not respond in a timely manner or at all to emails and other communications such as telephone calls and text messages;

ii) You did not attend a scheduled meeting with Foster Carer B on or around 28 September 2012;

iii) Not proved

 

b. Not proved

 

c. Did not consistently create or maintain records in relation to the foster carers you supervised.

 

2. You were employed by Kaleidoscope between 19 February 2013 and 19 March 2013 and you:

a. Did not carry out a risk assessment in relation to placing child 1 prior to placing him with Foster Carer D;

 

b. You lost the annual review paperwork for Foster Carer E;

 

c. You lost the initial screening visit (ISV) paperwork in respect of two foster carers;

 

d. You did not create records of your supervision with foster carers.

 

3. The matters described in paragraphs 1-2 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proof of Service

1. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted on 14 November 2017 by first class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC Register.  The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).

Proceeding in Absence

2. Having determined that service of the Notice of Hearing had been properly effected, the Panel went on to consider whether to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and followed that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPC Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

3. The Panel determined that it was fair, reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence for the following reasons:

a) The Panel noted that, the Registrant, in an email, dated 10 December 2017, stated, ‘I have no intention of ever working as a Social Worker again and therefore will not be attending the…Hearing and ask that you permanently remove me from the HCPC Register.’ In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that it was reasonable to conclude that the Registrant had deliberately chosen not to attend the hearing. Therefore the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s absence demonstrated a voluntary waiver of her right to be present.

b) There had been no application to adjourn and the Registrant had clearly indicated that she wanted to be removed from the Register. The Panel concluded that it was highly unlikely that the Registrant would attend a future hearing and therefore re-listing this review hearing would serve no useful purpose.

c) As this is a mandatory review hearing there is a strong public interest in ensuring that it is considered expeditiously. It is also in the Registrant’s interest that this review is considered as soon as possible.

Background

4. The Registrant qualified as a social worker in 2013.

5. The Registrant was employed, between 4 January 2011 and 12 November 2012, by Benecare Fostering Ltd (‘Benecare’) as a Supervising Social Worker in the area of foster care, and took on a management role in May 2011. She resigned from this post in mid-November 2012. It was alleged that during her employment with Benecare the Registrant had failed to respond to a number of emails, telephone calls and text messages sent by colleagues and/or foster parents and/or third parties, and had failed to create or maintain records in relation to the foster carers she was supervising on a consistent basis.

6. In February 2013 the Registrant obtained a post with Kaleidoscope Therapeutic Child Care (‘Kaleidoscope’) as a locum supervisor. This post lasted for no more than a month due to dissatisfaction with the Registrant’s performance. It was alleged that during her employment with Kaleidoscope the Registrant had failed to carry out a risk assessment in relation to a child before placing him with a foster carer. In addition, she lost important paperwork and had failed to make formal records of supervision sessions with foster carers.

7. The substantive hearing panel, having made factual findings, concluded that the Registrant’s behaviour amounted to lack of competence. The substantive panel indicated that the Registrant needed to demonstrate to a future review panel that she had remedied her shortcomings. It noted that although the Registrant had demonstrated remorse she had demonstrated very little insight and concluded that there was a “strong possibility of recurrence”.

8. The Registrant attended the first review. The first review panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired as she had not reflected on the previous panel’s findings and had not addressed its recommendations. That panel decided to suspend the Registrant from practise for a further 9 months. The first panel review stated that, “any future panel may be assisted by evidence from the Registrant to confirm any training and CPD undertaken together with a reflective piece of writing to demonstrate that the Registrant is fully aware of the gravity of the shortcomings that were found proved”.

9. The Registrant did not attend the second review and did not provide any information other than to confirm in an email, dated 1 June 2017, that she no longer wanted to practise as a social worker. The second review panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired and decided to extend the existing order by six months to give the Registrant a further opportunity to remediate her failings. The second review panel reminded the Registrant that at the next review all sanction options would be available including a Striking Off Order. The second review panel was informed that the HCPC was considering offering the Registrant the possibility of pursuing voluntary removal from the Register and the panel concluded that the period of six months would be sufficient to enable this to take place.

HCPC Submissions

10. Ms Carson, on behalf of the HCPC, outlined the history of this case. She provided the Panel with a copy of a letter that was sent to the Registrant, dated 2 August 2017, with regard to voluntary removal from the Register. Ms Carson informed the Panel that there had been no response to that letter from the Registrant. She confirmed that the only correspondence from the Registrant since her email in June 2017 was her email, dated 22 November 2017, in which she stated that she would not be attending the hearing and wanted to be permanently removed from the Register. 

11. Ms Carson submitted that the Registrant had failed to take advantage of the two opportunities that have been given to her to demonstrate that she is no longer impaired. She invited the Panel to conclude that a further review cycle would not be in the public interest or in the Registrant’s interests and that the only appropriate sanction is to impose a Striking Off Order.

Panel’s Approach

12. In undertaking this review, the Panel took into account the documentary evidence and the submissions made on behalf of the HCPC.

13. The Panel accepted and applied the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as to the proper approach it should adopt. In particular that:

• The purpose of the review is to consider the issue of impairment based on the previous panel’s findings of fact, the extent to which the Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process, the scope and level of her insight and the risk of repetition.

• In terms of whether her previous misconduct has been sufficiently and appropriately remedied relevant factors include whether the Registrant:

(i) fully appreciates the gravity of the previous panel’s finding of impairment;

(ii) has maintained her skills and knowledge;

(iii) is likely to place service users at risk if she were to return to unrestricted practice.

• The Panel should have regard to the HCPTS Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired and must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:

(i) the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and

(ii) the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

• It is only if the Panel determine that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, that the Panel should go on to consider sanction by applying the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP), and the principles of proportionality which require the Registrant’s interests to be balanced against the interests of the public.

Decision  

14. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not provide any of the information the substantive hearing panel indicated would be of assistance; nor did she provide any information to assist the first and second review panels.

15. Whilst the Panel accepted that the matters found proved were remediable, no evidence of remediation had been provided. The Registrant had not provided any evidence of any further training or CPD undertaken, any reflective piece, any evidence of insight, nor had she engaged with the regulatory process by attending this review hearing. In the absence of any positive evidence of insight and remediation, the Panel concluded that there had been no material change in circumstances, since the last review, with regards to the risk to service users. Therefore, the Panel was led to the inevitable conclusion that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of her lack of competence.   

16. The Panel also concluded that public confidence in the profession and the declaring of proper standards of conduct and performance demanded a finding of impairment given the Registrant’s lack of competence and her unwillingness or inability to demonstrate that she had developed the appropriate level of skills and knowledge required to enable her to return to practice.

17. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Registrant is currently impaired on the basis of both the personal and public component.

18. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired the Panel went on to consider what sanction, if any, to impose.

19. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s lack of competence, which had not been remedied, to take no action on her registration would be inappropriate. Furthermore it would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

20. 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. The Registrant’s inability to meet the standards required of a competent social worker was not minor in nature. Furthermore, the Registrant had not demonstrated that any of the skills and knowledge, relevant to safe and competent practice had been addressed, nor had she demonstrated any insight. As a consequence there was an ongoing risk of repetition. In any event, the deficiencies in the Registrant’s practice had the potential to have wide-ranging adverse consequences and therefore some restriction on her practice was required. Therefore the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to meet the public interest.

21. The Panel took the view that the Registrant is either unwilling or unable to provide the information and evidence that was suggested by the substantive hearing panel and the previous review panels. In these circumstances, this Panel had no confidence that she would comply with a Conditions of Practice Order, even if suitable conditions could be formulated. The Panel was aware that the suggestions made by the previous panel are only indicative and do not have any binding authority, unlike conditions which require compliance. However, both involve willingness on the part of the Registrant and a determined effort. In the absence of any evidence that the Registrant is willing and able to remedy her lack of competence the Panel concluded that there were no conditions it could devise which would be appropriate, workable and measurable.

22. The Panel next considered a further extension of the current Suspension Order. The Panel noted that a Suspension Order would prevent the Registrant from practising during the extended suspension period, which would therefore protect the public and the wider public interest. However, the Panel noted that the Registrant was forewarned by the second review panel that a Striking Off Order would be an option at this review. For a second time the Registrant had failed to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to her and the Panel concluded that no useful purpose would be served by providing her with a further opportunity.

23. The Panel took into account paragraph 41 of the ISP which states, ‘If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option.’ The Panel concluded that this paragraph applied to the Registrant. Although the Panel noted that the Registrant’s lack of competence related to two periods within an otherwise unblemished career, it was satisfied that she had exhausted both opportunities to demonstrate that she is fit to return to practise. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s repeated failure to demonstrate a willingness or ability to remedy her shortcomings indicated that she had no intention of doing so in the future. In reaching this conclusion the Panel took into account the clear indication from the Registrant’s limited communication with the HCPC that she no longer wanted to practise as a social worker and had specifically requested that her name be removed from the Register.

24. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s repeated failure to address the serious concerns that have been identified was fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. The Panel acknowledged that a Striking Off Order was a sanction of last resort. However, the Panel was satisfied that removal from the Register was the only means to protect service users and the wider public interest.

25. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the appropriate and proportionate sanction would be a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Carol Ann Gould from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Carol Ann Gould

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
14/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
22/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
22/09/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
22/09/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended