Ms Claudette-Marie Jones

: Social worker

: SW09210

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 02/01/2018 End: 12:30 02/01/2018

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

The following allegation as found proved by a Panel of the Conduct Committee at the General Social Care Council (GSCC) on 5 September 2011.

In the course of undertaking work of SWIIS Foster Care Ltd (SWIIS) as A’s Form F Assessor, it is alleged that between November 2009 and March 2010, you:

1.             From December 2009 onwards, met A on more than one occasion in a public house (“the Pub”), where you

a)             Carried out A’s Form F assessment;

b)             Consumed alcohol;

2.             (This particular was not found proved by GSCC)

3.             Accepted money from A in the sum of around £70;

4.             In around November or December 2009, asked A to ask B to obtain theatre tickets for you

5.             On an unknown date, interviewed B in the Pub as a referee for A’s Form F assessment

6.             On or around 11 March 2010, asked A to ask B to assist you with preparing documentation for your court case;

7.             Your actions in respect of 1-6 above were;

a)             Inappropriate;

b)             In breach of professional boundaries

The GSCC Panel at the substantive found all of the particulars above proved bar particular 2. The Panel found that the proved particulars amounted to misconduct and imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months as a Sanction.

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 30 November 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 Committee 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 Wynn on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Wynn submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She further submitted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC since the last review of this order, and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. Ms Jones’ last contact with the HCPC was in July 2016 when she attended the last substantive review of this order. Ms Wynn informed the Panel that she had telephoned the number for the Registrant earlier this morning and that there had been no response and a voicemail message was left asking the Registrant to make contact. The HCPC had also written to the Registrant in February and November 2017 reminding her of the Conditions of Practice and that they would be reviewed.  Ms Wynn reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously and that this was a mandatory review prior to the expiry of the order on 5 February 2018. 

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. It was also satisfied that the Registrant should be aware of the hearing as the correspondence had been sent by recorded delivery to her registered address which remained the same as before when she had received correspondence from the HCPC and by email to the email address she had previously used. 

9. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPTS 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.

10. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;
• The Registrant has not engaged with the process since the last review of this Order;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.

11.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 of 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.

Background

12.On 22 October 2009, the Registrant was employed as a Social Worker with SWIIS Foster Care Ltd. It was her role to assess the suitability of prospective foster carers as part of the statutory approval process. One such prospective foster carer was A. It was alleged and found proved that she met A, on more than one occasion, in a public house, and consumed alcohol whilst carrying out A’s Form F assessment. She also accepted approximately £70 in total from A on two separate occassions, and asked A to ask B to obtain theatre tickets for her own benefit. She interviewed B in a public house as a referee for A’s Form F, and in March 2010 she asked A to ask B to assist her with preparing documentation for her court case. These actions were found to be inappropriate and in breach of professional boundaries.

13.The substantive panel found that the matters proved were repeated and persistent misconduct that spanned many months and that the misconduct could not be described as an isolated incident. The Committee identified the following aggravating features in the case: “borrowing money from a service user, drinking whilst on duty, soliciting concert tickets from a service user’s referee, exploiting a service user, conducting confidential meetings in a public house, sharing personal information, taking advantage of B, A’s referee; inappropriateness in asking B for assistance in her private life; a lack of identifiable remorse, no real insight shown, abusing her power as a social worker, blurring of professional boundaries and poor judgment.”

14.The substantive panel found by way of mitigation that the Registrant had a previous good work history, had admitted the allegation, had repaid the money lent and had been undergoing personal difficulties at the time.

15.The substantive panel suspended the Registrant for a period of one year. That order was extended on two occasions for a total of a further two years until the Registrant appeared before the Conduct and Competence Committee, on 5 August 2014, when the panel concluded that her deficiencies were capable of being remedied, that she had now demonstrated a greater understanding of professional boundaries, of how she breached them and of how she would behave differently in the future, and that she would pose no risk of harm in the future if allowed to return to practise subject to the following conditions of practise:
“The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that for a period of 2 years, from the date that this order comes into effect (05 August 2014), you, Miss Claudette-Marie Jones, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1.Within 12 months of the operative date you must successfully complete a re-entry to Social Work programme or equivalent course and forward a copy of your results and completion certificate to the HCPC.

2.Upon gaining employment as a social worker you must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a HCPC registered social worker and supply the name and address of this person to the HCPC within 1 month of taking up any employment as a social worker. You must attend upon your supervising social worker as required and follow their advice and recommendations.

3.You are to provide reports written by your supervising social worker, signed and dated by the supervisor, to the HCPC;
(a)The first report is to be sent to the HCPC 6 months after you commence employment as a social worker
(b)The second report is to be sent to the HCPC 12 months after you commence employment as a social worker
(c)The above reports are to set out your progress with particular reference to your understanding of/and maintenance of professional boundaries.

4.You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:
(a)Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional social work.
(b)Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application) in respect of any work as a social worker; and
(c)Any prospective employer at the time of your application for employment as a social worker.”

16.The reviewing panel on 05 August 2014 decided that the order should be for a period of two years, to enable the Registrant to complete a return to practice course and obtain employment as a social worker before the review of the order. The panel observed that it would be likely that any reviewing panel would require evidence of a successful return to practice and completion of the return to work programme having been achieved.

17.At the review on 7 July 2016, the Registrant attended the hearing and gave evidence. She explained that since the last review hearing she had continued to develop her practice by reading articles relating to social work and practice in Community Care Daily, and had regular and frequent discussions with colleagues who continued to work within the field of Social Care. She had gained a place on a Return to Practice course at Medway University which she had attended between November 2014 and February 2015, which focussed on social work with both adults and children. As part of the course she had been assigned to the Looked After Children's Team and The Children in Need Team, where she worked alongside social workers and other practitioners and had the opportunity to shadow social workers. She gave details of the voluntary work that she had been undertaking as a Reading Champion, and also details of the Mentoring Course she was undertaking at the time.

18.That panel concluded that..“it was not in the wider public interest for her to be allowed to return to practise unrestricted in light of the seriousness of the allegation and the current lack of insight and lack of remediation demonstrated by the Registrant.” The panel extended the Conditions of Practice Order for a further period of 18 months.


Decision

Submissions

19.Ms Wynn, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that in the light of the lack of engagement on the part of the Registrant and the fact that the period of conditions has already been extended once thereby allowing the Registrant three and a half years to gain employment as a Social Worker and demonstrate that her fitness to practise was no longer impaired, a further extension would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest and therefore the HCPC recommended that the Registrant’s name be struck off the register.
Legal advice

20.The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if she is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment. Whilst this Panel was not bound by the previous review decisions in this case, it was entitled to take into account those previous determinations.

21.The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired all the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. He also advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principle of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.
Panel’s considerations and decision

22.The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it, and the submissions of Ms Wynn. In particular it noted the following factors:

(a)This is a case of misconduct and there is no suggestion that the Registrant lacked the requisite competence to carry out the role of a Social Worker. Hence this is a case where the Registrant’s insight is of greater importance.
(b)The Registrant has been out of practice for approximately six and a half years
(c)The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC over the last 18 months and during that period she has not submitted any evidence of insight or remediation on her part.

23.The Panel took into consideration the determination of the previous panel which had had the opportunity of asking the Registrant questions. They determined that the Registrant had not demonstrated full insight into her failings. The Panel noted that the Registrant had, in her submission in 2014, stated that she had been wrong and that her misconduct would never happen again.  This Panel also noted her other submissions, which were outlined in the previous determination. In that light, this Panel agreed with the determination of the previous panel and concluded that the Registrant had not demonstrated a meaningful understanding of the underlying reasons why what she did was wrong. She had failed to demonstrate an understanding of the power balance between a Social Worker and a client and the impact of her behaviour.  It appeared to the Panel that she lacked clarity in her mind as to what the true issues were.  In the absence of full insight and with no evidence of remediation, the Panel found that a risk of repetition remains. 

24.In the light of all the above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

25.The Panel then went on to consider what the appropriate and proportionate sanction should be. It had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Guide issued by the HCPC and considered the available sanctions in order of severity, starting with the least restrictive. In the light of the lack of engagement and commitment to the profession on the part of the Registrant, the Panel determined that it was not appropriate to take no further action or to issue a Caution Order.

26.The Panel considered whether it appropriate to extend the current conditions of practice. However, in the light of the fact that the Registrant has been under a Conditions of Practice Order for almost three and a half years, the Panel determined that extending the current order would serve no useful purpose as the Registrant has not taken advantage of the opportunity afforded to her by the Order, and neither has she provided any good reason for her failure to do so.

27.The Panel then went on to consider whether to suspend the Registrant’s practice. In the light of all the above, the Panel also considered that a further period of suspension was also not appropriate. It took into account that the Registrant had also been suspended for three years from 5 September 2011 until 5 September 2014. In total the Registrant has been subject to a substantive sanction consisting of suspensions and conditions of practice for almost six and a half years, and she had not demonstrated full insight into her misconduct. The Panel determined that this was unlikely to change in future. A further period of suspension would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest.

28.Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction now is to strike the Registrant’s name off the Register.

 

Order

ORDER:  That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Miss Claudette-Marie Jones from the Register on the date this order comes into effect

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 5 February 2018.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Claudette-Marie Jones

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
07/07/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
05/08/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
08/08/2013 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended