Mrs Jayne Whittaker

: Social worker

: SW64990

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 21/12/2017 End: 17:00 21/12/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

Allegation (as amended at the final hearing):


Between April 2014 and July 2015, during your employment as a Social Worker for Lancashire County Council, you:
1. In relation to Child A you:
a) Did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion;
b) Accommodated the child under a Section 20 agreement instead of a permanence plan;
c) Did not undertake and/or record statutory visits after 13 March 2015;
d) Arranged for a social worker who had a child at the same placement as Child A to undertake your statutory visits;
e) After the Child Looked After review of 18 June 2015, you did not follow up the Independent Reviewing Officer’s recommendation for the Local Authority to consider issuing care proceedings;
f) Did not present a permanence plan at the second Child Looked After review;
g) Did not complete the Personal Education Plan in a timely manner.

2. In relation to Child B you:
a) Did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion.
b) Did not complete the Child and Family assessment in a timely manner;
c) Did not see and/or record seeing the child during a Child Protection Visit which took place on 29 May 2015;
d) Did not undertake and/or record any Child Protection visits after 29 May 2015;
e) Did not undertake any follow-up home visits to ensure safety measures were in place after the child attended Accident and Emergency on 10 June 2015;
f) Did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case after 15 June 2015.
 
3. In relation to Child C you:
a) Did not undertake and/or record a Section 47 assessment;
b) Did not complete and/or record the following actions on 5 June 2015, as directed by the Practice Manager:
i. Undertake a visit to the child
ii. Liaise with Police and Refuge

4. In relation to Child D you did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion.

5. In relation to Children E you:
a) Did not undertake a Section 47 assessment between 06 January 2015 and 31 March 2015;
b) Did not undertake and/or record statutory visits within required timescales.

6. In relation to Child F you did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion.

7. In relation to Children G you:
a) Did not undertake a statutory visit within the required timescale
b) Did not visit one of the two children on or around 1 June and/ or 3 July 2015.

8. In relation to Children H you:
a) Did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner;
b) Did not see and/or record seeing the children;
c) Did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case after 19 June 2015.

9. In relation to Child I you:
a) Did not undertake a home visit within statutory timescales;
b) Did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner.

10. In relation to Children J, between approximately 24 April 2014 and 27 August 2014, you:
a) Did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner
b) Did not see and/or record seeing the children
c) Did not complete a Section 37 report.
    
11. In relation to Child K you:
a) Did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner;
b) Did not see and/or record seeing the child as part of the Child and Family assessment;
c) Did not meet with the child’s father prior to completing assessment;
 
12. In relation to Child L, you did not raise concerns about the mother sniffing aerosols.

13. In relation to Child M you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.

14. In relation to Child N you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.

15. In relation to Child O you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.

16. In relation to Children P you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.

17. Informed your line manager that you:
 
a) Had seen the following children when you had not:
i. Child A;
ii. Children E;

b) Completed case actions when you had not in relation to the following cases:
i. Child A
ii. Children G

18. Your actions as described in paragraph 17 were dishonest.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters
Service of Notice
1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 16 May 2017. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Shameli on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Shameli submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She outlined the chronology of correspondence sent to the Registrant and pointed out that the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC, despite several recorded attempts to contact the Registrant by various alternative means. Ms Shameli submitted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC, and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. She reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He cautioned the Panel that the discretion was to be exercised with care and caution as set out in the case of R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law, that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice were maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.

8. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPC practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

9. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not engaged with the process at all;
• There is nothing to suggest that the Registrant would re-engage and/or attend at a later date;
• The HCPC’s witnesses have attended and are able to give evidence;
• There is a public interest that this matter is dealt with expeditiously.

10. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. It determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date, in the light of the non-engagement from the Registrant. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Amendment of Allegation
11. Ms Shameli, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation. She submitted that the amendments sought were consistent with the evidence before the Investigating Committee, and they served to clarify the Allegation by giving further and better Particulars. She told the Panel that a letter dated 22 February 2017 had been sent to the Registrant, notifying her of the amendments sought.

12. In relation to Particular 17, Ms Shameli informed the Panel that following the review of the evidence, the application was now to limit the Particular to Child A. She submitted that it was appropriate to do so and, notwithstanding the fact that the Registrant had not been notified of this amendment, to allow the amendment would not cause injustice as it did not make the Particular more serious than it is now and it did not change the HCPC’s case.

13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that it was open to the Panel to amend the Allegation, provided no injustice would be caused by the amendment. The Panel considered that the amendments sought did not change the substance of the Allegation. The amendments served to clarify the Allegation and would not cause injustice. The Panel therefore allowed the amendments to be made. The amended Allegation is as set out above.

Application for evidence to be received by way of telephone evidence
14. Ms Shameli applied for the evidence of Witness 4 to be received by telephone link. She informed the Panel that Witness 4 was now unable to attend the hearing to give evidence in person. This was because a family member had suddenly taken ill and had to be rushed to hospital. That family member had now been discharged but Witness 4 was required to care for that family member for the next few days. However, Witness 4 was available and willing to give evidence by way of telephone link.

15. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. Rule 10(b) sets out that the rules of evidence governing Civil Proceedings apply, and therefore the principles of Relevance and Fairness apply. The Panel bore in mind its over-arching objective of protection of the public and of the public interest.

16. The Panel had sight of Witness 4’s statement and considered that the evidence of Witness 4 was relevant to the proceedings.

17. The Panel also determined that it was fair, and would not cause any injustice, to receive Witness 4’s evidence by way of telephone evidence. The Panel would be able to question the witness and to test the evidence. The Panel recognised there are limits on how far it can go to test the evidence on behalf of an absent Registrant.

Proceeding in private
18. The Panel heard that matters relating to the Registrant’s health were to be discussed as part of this application. Ms Shameli submitted that it was appropriate that parts of the hearing be held in private where the Registrant’s health and private life were to be discussed. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Procedure Rules 2003 (“Procedural Rules”) whereby matters pertaining to the private life of the Registrant, the complainant, any person giving evidence or of any Patient or Client should be heard in private. The Panel agreed that the parts of the hearing where reference was to be made to the Registrant’s health and private life should be heard in private.

Background
19. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in the Central Team, Children and Parent Support Services at Lancashire County Council. She commenced employment with the Council as a qualified Social Worker in 2005. In July 2015, concerns were raised by the Independent Reviewing Officer about the Registrant’s actions on a case in relation to Child A. These concerns were reported to the Registrant’s line manager.

20. As a result a full audit was carried out on all the Registrant’s cases. This revealed several concerns with regard to visits to children not being completed, and the Registrant’s recording of the progress of her cases.

Decision on facts
21. The Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Ms Shameli on behalf of the HCPC.

22. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who reminded the Panel that the burden of proof rests with the HCPC, and that the Registrant need not disprove anything. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel that the standard of proof is the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities.

23. The Panel heard oral evidence from the following witnesses on behalf of the HCPC:
• Witness 1, the Team Manager who conducted the audit on the Registrant’s cases.
• Witness 2, the Independence Reviewing Officer (IRO) at Lancashire County Council.
• Witness 3, the Practice Manager in the Central Team within the Child and Parent Support Service at Lancashire County Council since 2005. For part of the relevant period, Witness 3 was the Registrant’s supervisor.
• Witness 4, the Change Implementation Manager at Lancashire County Council. She undertook the investigation into the Registrant’s conduct.

24. The Panel found Witness 1 to be a knowledgeable Social Worker. The audit she carried out on the Registrant’s work was thorough. The Panel tested her evidence and found it to be clear, reliable and credible. She did not embellish the results of her audit and she had a clear expectation of what was expected of Social Workers carrying out work similar to that of the Registrant’s and at the Registrant’s level.

25. The Panel found Witness 2’s evidence to be clear and reliable. She could only speak about Child A as that was the extent of her involvement in these matters. However, she was very familiar with Child A as she was the IRO in Child A’s case.

26. The Panel found Witness 3 to be an honest and credible witness. Witness 3 impressed the Panel in that her evidence was clear and fair. She provided a useful perspective, as she had worked at Lancashire County Council for many years and also had known the Registrant for a long time in a professional capacity. She told the Panel that until Lancashire County Council restructured the Children’s Services Departments and teams, the Registrant was an extremely competent and professional Social Worker whose work was of a high standard. Witness 3 told the Panel that the restructuring had an extremely adverse effect on the morale of all the staff. The effect was so adverse that many very experienced Social Workers left and Lancashire County Council had to employ locum Social Workers in order to manage. Others who remained, like the Registrant, were demoralised and unhappy. Witness 3 told the Panel that the Registrant’s personality changed from someone who had a sense of humour and was cheerful, whose work was good and who was focussed, keen and who paid attention to detail, to someone who was distracted, whose spirit was broken, and who was not as sharp as she was before.

27. Witness 3 told the Panel that she was also aware of some personal stresses in the Registrant’s life at that time which made things difficult for the Registrant.

28. The Panel found Witness 4’s evidence to be of limited assistance. As she was the person tasked with investigating these matters at Lancashire County Council and was not directly involved, she could not give any direct evidence relating to these matters themselves.

29. The Panel also received a bundle of evidence which included the investigation report and appendices produced by Witness 4.

30. The Panel considered each of the Particulars and made the following findings:

Particular 1(a) – found proved
In relation to Child A, you:
(a) Did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion;
31. Witness 3 was the Registrant’s supervisor at the time of these matters in relation to Child A.

32. Witness 3 told the Panel that prior to a s.47 assessment, a strategy discussion with other agencies was required in order to ensure that all other relevant agencies and professionals were made aware of the concerns in relation to the child. This would also provide a forum for discussion and the sharing of information. Witness 3 told the Panel that the Registrant had not progressed the matter to a strategy discussion even though it was clear that one was required during the time the Registrant had responsibility for the case of Child A.

33. The evidence of Witness 3 is corroborated by the absence of any note of a strategy discussion having been planned or organised in the notes of Child A.

34. The Panel finds Particular 1(a) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(b) – found proved
In relation to Child A, you:
(b) Accommodated the child under a Section 20 agreement instead of a permanence plan;
35. The evidence of the witnesses was that Child A was accommodated under s.20 of the Children Act 1989 from 27 February 2015. The Panel was told that this a voluntary situation where the parents of the child consent to the child being accommodated into a foster care whilst a Local Authority carries out further investigations. Both Witness 1 and Witness 3 told the Panel that this was a temporary measure and was unsuitable as a long term solution as the consent of Child A’s parents could be withdrawn at any time. Witness 2 told the Panel that by the second Child Looked After Review, a Social Worker should be in a position to present a permanence plan for that child. This was in line with the published guidance and regulations relating to The Children Act 1989.

36. Witness 2 told the Panel that the Registrant had not prepared a permanence plan by the time of the second Child Looked After Review of Child A on 18 June 2015. This was despite repeated verbal reminders by Witness 2 whenever she saw the Registrant in the office. Witness 2 told the Panel that the Registrant would always acknowledge those reminders.

37. The timeline of Child A’s case, created from the file notes, was presented in evidence. There is a note made on 1 April 2015 in relation to the first Child Looked After Review attended by the Registrant. The entry states that “Permanent care plan to be established for child by 9.6.15. Contact to be actioned on care plan by JW by 17.4.14”.

38. Witness 2 told the Panel that she was so concerned about the Registrant’s approach to this case that she raised the matter with the Registrant’s line manager. The Registrant was suspended shortly thereafter.

39. The Panel finds that by the second Child Looked After Review, a permanence care plan should have been presented, and the responsibility for completing that plan was the Registrant’s. No permanence plan was prepared by the Registrant. Furthermore, the evidence is that the Registrant was aware that she was responsible for establishing the care plan by 9 June 2015.

40. The Panel find Particular 1(b) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particulars 1(c) and 1(d) – found proved
In relation to Child A, you:
 (c) Did not undertake and/or record statutory visits after 13 March 2015;
(d) Arranged for a social worker who had a child at the same placement as Child A to undertake your statutory visits;
41. Particulars 1(c) and 1(d) are intrinsically intertwined. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit of this case revealed that the Registrant had not undertaken any statutory visits after her initial visit of 13 March 2015. Witness 3 told the Panel that when she confronted the Registrant following the complaint from Child A’s foster carers, the Registrant had admitted that she only visited Child A on 13 March 2015 and that she had asked another Social Worker to carry out the visits on her behalf. This is corroborated by the evidence of Witness 2 who told the Panel that the foster carers had complained that the Registrant had not made any statutory visits. Case notes corroborate that another Social Worker had carried out visits that were recorded as statutory visits. 

42. The Panel finds Particulars 1(c) and 1(d) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(e) – found proved
In relation to Child A, you:
 (e) After the Child Looked After review of 18 June 2015, you did not follow up the Independent Reviewing Officer’s recommendation for the Local Authority to consider issuing care proceedings;
43. Witness 2 told the Panel that she was the IRO who chaired the Child Looked After Review of 18 June 2015 and that the Registrant attended that review. She told the Panel that when she initially received the referral in Child A’s case, she was concerned that Child A had been accommodated under s.20 of the Children Act 1989. One of the recommendations made by her at the review of 18 June 2015 was that the Local Authority should consider issuing care proceedings.

44. Witness 1 told the Panel that this was recorded on the electronic case management system by the Registrant. Witness 1 produced the screenshot of the file note of the recommendations made on 18 June 2015. The entry included “1. The LA need to make immediate consideration to initiating legal proceedings to safeguard [Child A] long term future.” There is no evidence of the Registrant progressing this recommendation.

45. The Panel finds Particular 1(e) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(f) – found proved
In relation to Child A, you:
 (f) Did not present a permanence plan at the second Child Looked After review;
46. Witness 2’s evidence is clear on this matter. As the IRO in Child A’s case, she chaired the second Child Looked After Review. She told the Panel that the Registrant did not present a permanence plan at that meeting. She told the Panel that this was unacceptable as it is a requirement that Social Workers present permanence plans at the second review meeting.

47. Witness 2 accepted that many Social Workers are not aware of this requirement, but in the Registrant’s case, Witness 2 had made sure she reminded the Registrant of this requirement each time she saw her in the office. Witness 2 told the Panel that she had occasion to go to the Registrant’s office around two to three times a week on other matters. She told the Panel that as a result there was no excuse for the Registrant’s failure to present a permanence plan at that meeting.

48. The Panel finds Particular 1(f) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 1(g) – found proved
In relation to Child A, you:
 (g) Did not complete the Personal Education Plan in a timely manner.
49. Witness 3 told that Panel that the review of Child A’s case revealed that the Registrant had not initiated a Personal Education Plan. Witness 2 told the Panel that in addition to the complaints she had received from the foster carers of Child A, the Deputy Head at Child A’s school also stated that the Registrant had not visited the school or discussed Child A’s educational needs with the staff there.

50. Witness 3 told the Panel that when she spoke to the Registrant about the lack of a Personal Education Plan for Child A, the Registrant replied that she felt it was the responsibility of the school to initiate and complete the plan. Witness 3 told the Panel that this was incorrect and that there were policies and procedures in place that made it clear it was the Social Workers’ role to initiate discussions regarding a child’s educational needs and to work with the school to complete the child’s Personal Education Plan. The Panel accepted Witness 3’s evidence.

51. The Panel finds Particular 1(g) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 2(a) – found proved
In relation to Child B you:
(a) Did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion;
52. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit of the Registrant’s cases included the in-depth examination of each and every case that the Registrant was responsible for at the time. She told the Panel that Child B had been subject to a Child Protection Plan due to previous concerns regarding domestic violence.

53. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit revealed that the Registrant had been allocated Child B’s case on 26 March 2016 but the Registrant did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion. Witness 1 told the Panel that a strategy discussion was then started by Witness 3 who was the Registrant’s Practice Manager, on 18 May 2015. The strategy discussion was not completed and up until Witness 1’s audit, no strategy discussion had been held.

54. Witness 1 told the Panel that in Child B’s case, a strategy discussion needed to be held to decide whether an investigation was required under s.47 of the Children Act 1989. This was an investigation conducted where there are concerns that a child may have been placed at significant risk of harm or if an allegation comes to light in which the Council needs to investigate to ascertain if a child is at risk.

55. Witness 1 told the Panel that a s.47 investigation could not be carried out until a strategy discussion had taken place and in the case of Child B, where there have been previous concerns regarding domestic violence, a strategy discussion was clearly required and the Registrant should have progressed the matter to one.

56. The Panel finds Particular 2(a) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 2(b) – found not proved
In relation to Child B you:
(b) Did not complete the Child and Family Assessment in a timely manner:
57. This Particular is not proved. Witness 1’s evidence was clear in that the Child and Family assessment was due on 20 May 2015, which was calculated by the statutory 45 days after the initial referral. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant had completed the assessment by 18 May 2015. Therefore it was done in a timely manner.

58. The Panel finds Particular 2(b) not proved.

Particular 2(c) – found not proved
In relation to Child B you:
(c) Did not see and/or record seeing the child during a Child Protection Visit which took place on 29 May 2015;
59. Witness 2 told the Panel that Child B required a Child Protection visit every four weeks. Her audit of the case revealed that the Registrant had recorded a visit to Child B on 29 May 2015. On the basis that the Registrant did see Child B on 29 May 2015, the Panel is not satisfied that this Particular is proven. The Panel accepts Witness 2’s evidence that the child should have been seen alone for this visit to amount to a statutory visit. However, this is not the Allegation alleged.

60. The Panel finds Particular 2(c) not proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 2(d) – found proved
In relation to Child B you:
(d) Did not undertake and/or record any Child Protection visits after 29 May 2015;
61. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit revealed that there were no records that Child Protection visits had taken place after 29 May 2015. She told the Panel that Child B had remained subject to a child protection plan after 29 May 2015 and the Registrant remained the Social Worker until 14 July 2015. As such, the Registrant was under at duty to carry out child protection visits with Child B.

62. The Panel found no evidence of any child protection visits having taken place after 29 May 2015 either in the records of Child B or any other document before it.

63. On the balance of probabilities, the Panel finds Particular 2(d) proved on the basis that the Registrant did not undertake any child protection visits after 29 May 2015.

Particular 2(e) – found not proved
In relation to Child B you:
 (e) Did not undertake any follow-up home visits to ensure safety measures were in place after the child attended Accident and Emergency on 10 June 2015;
64. The evidence demonstrated that Child B had attended the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department on 10 June 2015. However, there was no evidence that the Registrant was aware of that fact.

65. When Witness 1 was asked how it was that the Registrant would have been aware that Child B had been at A&E, her answer revealed that assumptions had been made without any evidential basis that the hospital, on this occasion, would have automatically sent out an email about Child B when they attended A&E, and that that email (which would not have been specifically addressed to any Social Worker in particular) was picked up and drawn to the Registrant’s attention. That alone would not have sufficed to prove this Particular. Furthermore, there is a more fundamental flaw in that there is no evidence that an email had ever been sent by the A&E department. The evidence on this Particular is based on speculation.

66. The Panel finds Particular 2(e) not proved.

Particular 2(f) – found proved
In relation to Child B you:
 (f) Did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case after 15 June 2015.
67. Witness 1 told the Panel that the case notes of Child B show that the Registrant had seen Child B at a children’s centre on 15 June 2015 but thereafter there were no further recordings made by the Registrant. There was no evidence to indicate that the Registrant had made records on the case anywhere other than in the case notes, in the past or on any occasion after 15 June 2015.

68. The Panel find Particular 2(f) proved on the basis that the Registrant did not record any actions on the case notes after 15 June 2015.

Particulars 3(a) and 3(b) – found proved
In relation to Child C you:
(a) Did not undertake and/or record a Section 47 assessment;
(b) Did not complete and/or record the following actions on 5 June 2015, as directed by the Practice Manager:
(i) Undertake a visit to the child
(ii) Liaise with Police and Refuge
69. Witness 1 told the Panel that in relation to Child C, a referral had come into Children’s Social Care from a women’s refuge on 5 June 2015, and the Registrant had been allocated the case on the same day. She told the Panel that there had been an allegation that the sister of Child C had been raped by an individual who had contact with Child C. Therefore an investigation under s.47 of the Children Act 1989 was urgently required in order to assess the risk to Child C.

70. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant’s Practice Manager had included a case management note onto Child C’s file on 5 June 2015 informing the Registrant of the need to undertake a visit with Child C in order to complete a Child and Family Assessment and to liaise with the police and Refuge in Scotland.

71. Witness 1 told the Panel that instructions by the Registrant’s Practice Manager were part of the initial stage of moving the matter toward a s.47 investigation, and that the Registrant should have known what was required of her and of a s.47 investigation.

72. The records of Child C reveal that the Registrant did not carry out the tasks set by her Practice Manager, and a s.47 investigation had not commenced even up until 15 July 2015, which, in this case, was unacceptable delay.

73. The Panel finds Particular 3(a) and 3(b) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 4 – found proved
In relation to Child D you did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion.
74. This was a case where the referral had been made because Child D’s father had been arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure. Furthermore, the child’s father was on the Violent and Sexual Offenders Register and was the main carer for the child. The Registrant had been allocated the case on 26 June 2015

75. Witness 1 produced the screen shots of Child D’s file taken during her audit of the file. She told the Panel that the facts of the case were such that a strategy discussion was clearly required in order to discuss the case with the police and health services, and to decide whether to instigate a s.47 investigation.

76. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit revealed that the only record on the case was one showing that the Registrant accessed Child D’s file on 30 June 2015. There was no other recording on the case by the Registrant from the time she was allocated the case until she left her role at the Council. When the case was reviewed on 20 July 2015 by a Practice Manager, it was noted that a s.47 investigation was required, which indicated that a strategy discussion had not been arranged nor taken place.

77. The Panel finds Particular 4 proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 5(a) – found proved
In relation to Children E you:
(a) Did not undertake a Section 47 assessment between 6 January 2015 and 31 March 2015;
78. Children E’s case was allocated to the Registrant on 9 December 2014 until 19 April 2015. The concerns in this case related to domestic violence and the impact and risks to the children flowing from this.

79. Witness 1 told the Panel that due to the concerns outlined above, those concerns should have been addressed in January 2015. She told the Panel that her audit revealed that the Registrant did arrange a visit with the children on 6 January 2015 but could not gain entry to the property. A further visit was undertaken on 21 January 2015 but the mother of Children E refused the Registrant entry to the family home.

80. The Panel were shown screen shots of this case taken during Witness 1’s audit of the case file.

81. Witness 1 told the Panel that there were no further actions completed on the case until the Registrant had a supervision session with Witness 3 on 20 February 2015 when it was decided that the Registrant would see the children when the case was heard at the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). The Registrant was present at the above mentioned MARAC meeting, as was her Practice Manager, Witness 3. At that meeting, Witness 3 gave the Registrant instructions to visit the children as there was a high risk of domestic violence occurring in this case.

82. The Registrant completed a s.47 assessment in respect of these children in April 2015.

83. The Panel finds Particular 5(a) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 5(b) – found proved
In relation to Children E you:
 (b) Did not undertake and/or record statutory visits within required timescales;
84. Witness 1’s evidence was that the first child protection visit in relation to Children E took place on 26 June 2015. She told the Panel that the child protection visit should have been completed within five working days of the Initial Child Protection Conference that took place on 18 May 2015. Subsequent statutory visits were to take place at intervals no greater than four weeks. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant could not be criticised for not being able to gain access to the children on 6 January 2015 and 21 January 2015. However, the Child Protection Plan was only implemented in 18 May 2015 and there was no record of any subsequent difficulty in gaining access to the children. This is demonstrated by the documentary evidence before the Panel.

85. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant’s delayed action meant that she had not undertaken statutory visits within the required timescales.

86. The Panel finds Particular 5(b) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 6 – found not proved
In relation to Child F you did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion.
87. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit of the Registrant’s cases revealed that the situation of Child F at the time raised serious safeguarding concerns. She told the Panel that a strategy discussion should have taken place because of the safety risks to the child. She further stated that, had a strategy discussion taken place, it could have been followed by an investigation under s.47 of the Children Act 1989 if one was warranted.

88. However, the Panel determined that the fact that a s.47 investigation had not been instigated did not mean that a strategy discussion did not take place. It is equally plausible that a discussion did take place but the Registrant failed to record an action. It is for the Council to prove that the Registrant did not progress the matter to a strategy discussion.

89. The Panel finds, on the balance of probability, that Particular 6 is found not proved.

Particular 7 – found proved
In relation to Children G, you:
(a) did not undertake a statutory visit within the required timescale;
(b) did not visit one of the two children on or around 1 June and/or 3 July 2015.
90. In relation to Children G, the evidence from Witness 1’s audit, and the case notes, demonstrated that a statutory visit should have taken place by 1 May 2015 and the Registrant made the statutory visit with Children G on 18 May 2015.

91. Furthermore, Witness 1’s audit revealed that the Registrant only saw one of the two children who should have been seen.

92. The Panel finds Particular 7 proved in its entirety on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 8(a) – found not proved
In relation to Children H, you:
(a) did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner:
93. This Particular is found not proved. Witness 1’s evidence was clear that the Child and Family Assessment should have been completed by 3 July 2015, which was calculated by the statutory 45 days after the initial referral. Witness 1’s evidence is also that the assessment was completed on 19 June 2015 and was within the timescales. Therefore it was done in a timely manner.

94. Particular 8(a) is found not proved.

Particulars 8(b) and 8(c) – found proved
In relation to Children H, you:
 (b) did not see and/or record seeing the children;
(c) did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case after 17 June 2015
95. Witness 1 told the Panel that the case notes indicated the Registrant had contacted the mother of Children H on 19 June 2015. Witness 1 also saw that the Registrant had completed a Child and Family Assessment. Witness 1 said that she was concerned by the content of the said assessment as it did not contain the dates on which Children H were seen, and because there was no indication in the assessment that other professionals had been involved in the process.

96. Witness 1 told the Panel that when she audited the case, she could not find any evidence that the children had been seen as part of the assessment process, and that the information about the children contained within the assessment had been written in reported speech format rather than in the first person, which indicated that the Registrant had not been the one who observed the children first hand. Witness 1 told the Panel that this was consistent with the fact that she could not find any recording on the case to indicate that a visit by the Registrant went ahead at the time of the referral. She noted that the Registrant had planned to visit the children on 28 May 2015 but that there was no record of the visit having taken place, nor was there any evidence to suggest that the visit took place.

97. Witness 1 told the Panel that the last record on the system for Children H was in relation to the above mentioned contact with the mother of Children H by the Registrant on 19 June 2015.

98. The Panel finds Particular 8(b) proved on the balance of probabilities. The Panel also find Particular 8(c) proved on the balance of probabilities but only on the basis that the Registrant did not record any actions after 17 June 2015.

Particular 9(a) – found proved
In relation to Child I you:
(a) did not undertake a home visit within statutory timescales;
99. Witness 1 told the Panel that Child I’s case had been referred and allocated to the Registrant on 15 May 2015. Child I required a statutory home visit because of the circumstances the child was in, and the visit should have taken place within 7 days of the referral to comply with the statutory timescales. Witness 1’s audit showed that the Registrant had made a case note to remind herself to arrange a visit on 9 June 2015. This visit did not take place. The Registrant had also made a note that she had attempted a visit on 16 June 2015 but could not gain access to the property.

100. Witness 1 told the Panel that there were no further actions recorded on the case file for Child I after the note in relation to the visit on 16 June 2015 was made.

101. The Panel is therefore satisfied that a home visit did not take place within the time scale.

102. The Panel finds Particular 9(a) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 9(b) - found proved
In relation to Child I you:
 (b) did not complete a Child and Family Assessment in a timely manner.
103. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Child and Family Assessment in relation to Child I should have been completed by 29 June 2015 and that one had not been completed by that time or at all. This was supported by the fact that no Child and Family Assessment was on the file and by the fact that the Registrant did not liaise with other professionals who would have been involved in the completion of such an assessment.

104. The Panel finds Particular 9(b) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 10(a) - found proved
In relation to Children J between approximately 24 April 2014 and 27 August 2014, you:
(a) did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner;
105. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Child and Family assessment in relation to Children J was due on 12 June 2014. Her audit revealed that the said assessment was started on 7 April 2014. However, it was only completed on 27 August 2017.

106. The Panel finds Particular 10(a) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 10(b) – found proved
In relation to Children J between approximately 24 April 2014 and 27 August 2014, you:
(b) did not see and/or record seeing the children.
107. Witness 1’s audit demonstrated that the Registrant had made notes on the case files. The Registrant had made an unannounced visit on 30 April 2014 and had left a letter arranging a further appointment to take place on 2 May 2014. There was no record that the said further appointment took place. There was a further note dated 6 May 2014 that indicated that the mother of Children J had moved to one town whilst Children J remained in another.

108. There was no record of the Registrant having seen Children J during the specified period. In the light of the fact that there were case notes being recorded, and the fact that the assessment was completed on 27 August 2014, it was safe and proper to infer that the lack of any record that the Registrant had seen Children J during the specified period, meant that she had not done so.

109. The Panel finds Particular 10(b) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 10(c) – found proved
In relation to Children J between approximately 24 April 2014 and 27 August 2014, you:
(c) did not complete a section 37 report.
110. Witness 1’s audit revealed that there was no section 37 report on file and that in fact one had not been completed at all. Witness 1 told the Panel that her audit of this file did not reveal any reason why the Registrant would not have been able to complete the said report.

111. The Panel finds Particular 10(c) proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 11(a) – found not proved
In relation to Child K you:
(a) did not complete a Child and Family assessment in a timely manner;
112. This Particular is not proved. Witness 1’s evidence was clear that the Child and Family Assessment should have been completed by 30 June 2015, which was the statutory 45 days after the initial referral on 14 May 2015. Witness 1’s evidence is also that the assessment was completed on 30 June 2015 and was within the timescales. Therefore it was done in a timely manner.

113. Particular 11(a) is not proved.

Particulars 11(b) and 11(c) – found proved
In relation to Child K you:
(b) did not see and/or record seeing the child as part of the Child and Family assessment;
 (c) did not meet with the child’s father prior to completing assessment;
114. Witness 1’s audit revealed that there was no record on the file of Child K that the Registrant had seen the child as part of the Child and Family assessment, nor had she seen the child’s father prior to the completion of the said assessment. Witness 1’s audit also revealed that the Registrant had a supervision session with her Practice Manager, FG, on 15 June 2014. On that date, FG noted that the Registrant had yet to meet with the mother of Child K alone, and that the Registrant had not yet met with Child K’s father. FG also noted that there was no recording, at that time, of visits undertaken to the family. FG further recorded that there remained the need to visit the mother alone.

115. The Panel finds Particulars 11(b) and 11(c) proved on the balance of probabilities.
 
Particular 12 – found proved
In relation to Child L, you did not raise concerns about the mother sniffing aerosols.
116. Witness 3 told the Panel that Child L’s grandmother had raised with the Registrant the matter of Child L’s mother sniffing aerosols, and the Registrant did not raise any concerns. Witness 3 told the Panel that she became aware of this issue from another Social Worker who was involved with the aunt of Child L. Child L’s grandmother had mentioned the issue to that Social Worker who then fed the information back to Witness 3.

117. Witness 3 told the Panel that she then had a discussion with the Registrant about this issue and the Registrant was dismissive about the matter and did not appear to show any concern.

118. The Panel finds this matter proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 13 – found proved
In relation to Child M you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.
119. The audit carried out by Witness 1 revealed that there were no records made by the Registrant of any action on her part in relation to Child M. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant had been allocated the case on 31 May 2015. Witness 1 said that she would have expected the Registrant to access the file within days of the allocation to her and to have recorded visits made and of contact with other professionals. Witness 1 told the Panel that the electronic system showed that the Registrant accessed the file only once. Witness 1 stated that it was not clear whether the Registrant had completed any work on this case.

120. The Panel finds Particular 13 proved on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant did not record any actions on the case.

Particular 14 – found proved
In relation to Child N you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.
121. The audit carried out by Witness 1 revealed that the case had been allocated to another Social Worker, JS, from August 2013. It had then been allocated to the Registrant on 10 June 2015.

122. The audit also revealed a record made on 15 June 2015 by the Registrant’s supervisors, FG, that there was a full Care Order and that the it was a “CLA [Children Looked After] case allocated from Chorley but had not yet been transferred”. FG also recorded that the Registrant was to meet with the previous Social Worker and Child N upon her return from leave and that the “case not to transfer until 6th July.”

123. Witness 1 stated that there were no records made by the Registrant of any action on her part in relation to Child N. The screenshots of Child N’s case file showed that the only recording made by anyone on the file was that of FG on 15 June 2015.

124. The Panel finds Particular 14 proved on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant did not record any actions on the case.

Particular 15 – found proved
In relation to Child O you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.
125. Witness 1’s evidence was that her audit showed that the Registrant had accessed the case only once after it had been allocated to her on 6 July 2015. She stated that the Registrant did not complete any tasks prior to her suspension. She was unable to say when the Registrant accessed the case file from the exhibit she produced.

126. The Panel finds Particular 15 proved on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant did not record any actions on the case.

Particular 16 – found proved
In relation to Children P, you did not undertake and/or record any actions on the case.
127. Witness 1 told the Panel that the Registrant had “not documented any visits, core groups, telephone calls and/or meeting in respect of Children P that should have, or might have taken place”. Police involvement was required in this case.

128. The Panel finds Particular 16 proved on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant did not record any actions on the case.

Particular 17 – found proved
Informed your line manager that you had seen Child A when you had not.
129. Witness 3 told the Panel that during conversations she had with the Registrant, and during a supervision session on 13 April 2015, the Registrant had informed her that Child A was being seen by her and that he was happy in his placement and enjoyed contact with his mother. Witness 3 also told the panel that this information had been recorded on Child A’s electronic case files each month and that she was led to believe that the Registrant had completed the visits.

130. Witness 3 told the Panel that she had spoken to the Registrant following the complaint made by the foster carers that the Registrant had not in fact been visiting Child A. She said that the Registrant had told her that she had only seen Child A on 21 May 2015 when she collected the child for contact. She admitted that she had not completed any other visits and explained that she they had been completed by another Social Worker.

131. The Panel find Particular 17 proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 18 – found proved
Your actions as described in paragraph 17 were dishonest.
132. The Panel was aware that dishonesty allegations are particularly serious allegations, and that dishonesty is also a concept that stands on its own. It is not the same as carelessness, or a slipshod approach to practice, or not knowing what one should know, or any similar matters. The Panel reminded itself to look for clear and cogent evidence before it concludes that an allegation of dishonesty is made out.

133. The Panel’s attention was drawn to the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67 which overruled the use of the Ghosh test when determining dishonesty. The Panel noted the change in the test to be applied for dishonesty. The Panel took particular note of paragraph 74 of their Lordship’s judgment:

When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest."

134. The Panel has undertaken a detailed assessment of the evidence, when considering whether the allegation of dishonesty is or is not proved. The Panel considered that on the evidence presented, there were possible alternative reasons for the Registrant’s behaviour, but, in the absence of any explanation or evidence from the Registrant, the Panel reminded itself that it would be speculation to apply such reasons in this case.

135. The statutory duty of carrying out the visits lay with the Registrant. Its purpose was to ensure that there was continuity of contact with the Child, and through that familiarity, a Social Worker would be enabled to recognise non-verbal cues of risk. Where such continuity is not maintained for whatever reason, a reasonable member of the public would expect such an important point to be drawn to the attention of others so that the situation can be rectified in the interests of the child. As a matter of professional duty, other professionals would recognise the importance of complete openness and transparency by the Registrant to her line manager in this matter. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of this. The Registrant had admitted to Witness 3 that she had “messed up” and had “taken her eye off the ball”. The Registrant’s action in informing her line manager that she had seen Child A when she in fact had not done so, was to mislead her line manager.

136. A reasonable person would judge the Registrant’s conduct to be dishonest, taken in the light that:
(a) she was a very experienced and senior Social Worker;
(b) she positively affirmed that she had completed those statutory visits;
(c) there was a need in these circumstances to be open and transparent, especially during a supervision session where Child A was specifically discussed; and
(d) the welfare of the child was paramount.

137. The Panel finds Particular 18 proved on the balance of probabilities.

Decision on grounds
138. The Panel then went on to consider whether the factual Particulars found proved amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence.  The Panel heard submissions by Ms Shameli on behalf of the HCPC.

139. Ms Shameli submitted that the Registrant’s actions breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2012 editions): 1, 3, 7, 10 and 13.

140. Ms Shameli further submitted that the Registrant had also breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of proficiency for Social Workers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 15.

141. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He referred the Panel to the decisions in the following cases:
a) Roylance v GMC [2000] 1 AC 311
b) Andrew Francis Holton v General Medical Council [2006] EWHC 2960
c) Hindmarsh v NMC [2016] EWHC 2233 (Admin)
142. The Panel determined that the competence of the Registrant was not an issue in this case. The evidence demonstrated that the Registrant was a competent Social Worker with the necessary knowledge, skill and training for her role. Both Witness 1 and Witness 2 had no doubt that the Registrant possessed the experience and necessary competence for her role.

143. Witness 3’s evidence demonstrated that previously, the Registrant’s work was of a very high quality. Witness 3’s evidence was that, prior to the restructuring, the Registrant’s court reports were of good quality and were better than her own. Witness 3 also told the Panel that when the standard of the Registrant’s work deteriorated initially, the Registrant had been placed on a capability programme and when she was on that programme, she had met all the requirements. Witness 3 told the Panel that the standard of the Registrant’s work again deteriorated almost immediately after the Registrant was taken off the capability programme. This is further evidence that the Registrant’s competence was not in issue.

144. Therefore, the Panel determined that this was not a case involving lack of competence on the part of the Registrant. The Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s actions were so serious as to amount to the statutory ground of ‘misconduct’.

145. The Panel was aware that misconduct is “a word of general effect, involving some act or omission, which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances.”  It is also aware that misconduct is qualified by the word “serious”. It is not just any professional misconduct, which will qualify.

146. The Panel was also aware that not every instance of falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances, and not every breach of the HCPC standards, would be sufficiently serious such as to amount to misconduct in this context. Therefore, the Panel has had careful regard to the context and circumstances of the matters found proved. The Panel considered each of the factual Particulars in the light of the following circumstances demonstrated by the evidence:
(a) The Registrant was a Level 9 Social Worker with approximately ten years of experience dealing with child protection issues.
(b) There were no issues raised regarding the Registrant’s practice prior to the restructuring exercise at Lancashire County Council that pre-dated these allegations.
(c) Witness 1 told the Panel that there was no system in place to notify a Social Worker when a case had been allocated to them. The tasks outstanding for that new case will merely appear in that Social Workers list of outstanding tasks for all of his or her cases.
(d) Witness evidence was that the re-organisation at Lancashire County Council resulted in “chaos”. Witness 3’s testimony was that they were now re-structuring the service back to how it was before the re-organisation. The Panel was told that the original restructuring had a profound effect on the morale of all members of staff at the front end of Lancashire County Council’s social work teams. Experienced and competent staff resigned and those who remained were put under undue pressure and stress.
(e) The effect of the restructuring upon the Registrant was that she was firstly moved from a team where she was happy and worked well to a team that she did not want to go to and which was inconvenient for her geographically. She then moved to another team where she worked with vulnerable children in the area where she lived, and finally she was allocated to work with a manager whom she did not want to work with and who did not have experience nor understanding of child protection work.
(f) There was evidence that there were significant personal and health related issues on-going in the Registrant’s life at the time of these events. These issues were known to senior management at Lancashire County Council at the time, as is evident from the supervision records and from the testimony of the witnesses.

147. The Panel considered each of the factual Particulars found proved in turn, and determined that, even with the mitigating circumstances outlined in (d) and (e) of the paragraph above, each of the said factual Particulars amounted to serious misconduct. Despite their differences and variations in facts and detail, they all share the following common areas of significant issues:
(a) They all involved vulnerable children;
(b) The Registrant failed to carry out her statutory duties in relation to those children;
(c) Her actions, or lack thereof, taken as a whole and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary were not negligent but were intentional. In relation to Child A, Witness 2 told the Panel that she had reminded the Registrant on numerous occasions of the actions that needed to be taken before the second review meeting and the Registrant still did not carry out the required tasks. This led to delay in progressing Child A’s placement into one that was permanent and stable.
(d) The Registrant’s approach to each case was superficial and far below the standard expected of a Social Worker carrying out that role;

148. The above features of each of the Particulars found proved are sufficient for each of them to amount to serious misconduct in the circumstances. In addition, a significant number of the Particulars also included failures on the part of the Registrant to react to the safeguarding issues raised in each referral and to make the appropriate enquiries to address those issues. In the case of Child L, the child was in a situation where it there was a clear and real risk of harm.

149. The Panel considered that on the facts found proved, the Registrant had breached the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics:
Standard 1  You must act in the best interests of service users.
Standard 3  You must keep high standards of personal conduct.
Standard 7 You must communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners.
Standard 10 You must keep accurate records.
Standard 13  You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

150. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the facts found proved amounted to the statutory ground of misconduct.

Decision on impairment 
151. The Panel then went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Shameli, and it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

152. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the approach set out in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin), and reminded the Panel that there was a personal and public component when considering whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired.

153. For this purpose, the Panel adopted the approach formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her fifth report of the Shipman inquiry by asking itself the following questions:
Do our findings of fact in respect of the Registrant’s misconduct show that her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she:
a) has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the social work profession into disrepute; and/or
c) has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?; and/or
d) has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable in the future to act dishonestly?”

154. The Panel determined that the answers to all the above questions were in the affirmative in relation to past, and future possible conduct. In coming to its decision it took into account the following factors:
(a) The direct consequence of the Registrant not doing what was required of her was that children were put at unwarranted risk of harm. In the cases of Child B, Child C, Child E, Child F, Child H, Child K, and Child L, there was information of domestic abuse and in one case of sexual offences. In these cases, the Registrant’s misconduct had put the children at real risk of harm.
(b) The Registrant’s actions were so serious that they brought the social work profession into disrepute. There was evidence that complaints had been made by foster carers and police in relation to the Registrant’s lack of action in these matters.
(c) The dishonesty of lying to her manager about carrying out visits with Child A was repeated over a prolonged period of time. As a result, Child A was put at risk of harm as statutory visits meant to safeguard Child A’s health and welfare were not carried out.
(d) The Registrant has failed to engage with the process and has not attended today to tell the Panel what, if any, insight she has gained into her actions. (e) There is no evidence of any insight on the part of the Registrant. This is a matter of misconduct, and there can only be very limited remediation without insight. There has been no evidence of any action taken by the Registrant to remediate her misconduct. Therefore, there is a real risk of repetition of her misconduct on the part of the Registrant.

155. The Panel also determined that in the light of the above factors, the Registrant’s misconduct was such that the need to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment of fitness to practise were not made in these circumstances.

156. Therefore, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on both personal and public interest considerations.

Decision on sanction
157. The Panel heard the submission of Ms Shameli with regard to sanction.

158. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had regard to all the evidence presented, and to the Council’s Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP). The Panel reminded itself that a sanction is not to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. The Panel bore in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality when determining what the appropriate sanction in this case should be.

159. The Panel reminded itself of the following aggravating factors:
a) The Registrant’s misconduct involved 16 cases of vulnerable children;
b) The Registrant’s actions put vulnerable children at real risk of serious harm. Her failings were particularly serious in relation to Child D and Child L, where the risks were high.
c) The Registrant was dismissive of obvious and clear high risks to some of the children. This was even in the face of the risks being highlighted by another Social Worker, as in the cases of Child D and Child L.
d) The Registrant’s dishonesty was directly related to her role as a Social Worker. It was not a “one-off” incident of dishonesty – it was continuous over a prolonged period of time and put a child at real risk of significant harm.
e) The Registrant performed competently when she was subject to the performance-monitoring programme initiated by her employer but reverted to poor performances after she completed that programme. This indicates that her poor performance was intentional.
f) The Registrant was in a position of trust and her misconduct was a serious breach of that trust.

160. The Panel reminded itself of the following mitigating features in this case:
a) The Registrant is of good character.
b) The Registrant had performed her duties well until the restructuring at Lancashire County Council, that had a profound effect upon the morale and effectiveness of the ‘front-line’ staff, and services provided by the council.
c) There were significant health and personal issues in the Registrant’s life at the time of the restructuring and these incidents.

161. The Panel has not drawn any adverse inferences by the Registrant’s non-engagement in this process. However, by her non-engagement, the Registrant has chosen not to enlighten the Panel as to her insight, remorse and remediation, as well as the impact of the mitigating features that existed at the time.

162. In considering the matter of sanction, the Panel started with the least restrictive, moving upwards.

163. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, this would be wholly inappropriate.

164. The Panel then considered whether to make a Caution Order. The Panel determined that these matters are too serious for a Caution Order to be considered appropriate.

165. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. These are matters involving serious attitudinal issues. The Panel has drawn parallels with the performance-monitoring programme that the Registrant was placed on by her employer. The Panel heard that the Registrant’s performance improved while on this programme and deteriorated again when she was no longer subject to monitoring. This suggests to the Panel that the Registrant is capable of effective performance but chose not to maintain those standards.

166. Taking into account all of the above, the Panel concluded that conditions could not be formulated which would adequately address the risk posed by the Registrant, and in doing so protect service users and the public, during the period they are in force. In any case, these matters are too serious for a sanction of conditions.

167. The Panel went on to consider whether a period of suspension would be appropriate in this case. A period of suspension would be appropriate if the Registrant had demonstrated insight into her misconduct, such that there was not a significant risk of repetition, and also if there was no evidence of attitudinal problems. That is not the case here. The Registrant’s actions were serious, deliberate, and reckless. They also involved dishonesty and an abuse of trust.

168. The Registrant has disengaged from the process, and has not provided any evidence of insight or remorse, or that she is capable of gaining insight into her misconduct. The Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession and the Panel has determined that there is a significant risk of repetition of her misconduct.

169. In light of this, the Panel determined that even the maximum period of suspension would not serve to protect the public in the long term or to protect the wider public interest.

170. Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that the only appropriate and proportionate response to protect the public and the wider public interest in these circumstances is to make a Striking-Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Jayne Whittaker from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 18 January 2018 (the operative date).

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Jayne Whittaker

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
09/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard