Mrs Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe

: Social worker

: SW40987

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:13:00 03/01/2018 End: 17:00 03/01/2018

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 9-11 January 2017:

During the course of your practice as a Social Worker with Shropshire Council, between October and December 2014:

1. In relation to Service User Family A you:

a. did not record that you had visited the family;

b. did not see and/or record that you saw all four children alone;

c. did not undertake and/or record that you undertook agency checks with health and education professionals;

d. did not undertake and/or record that you undertook a police check;

e. did not complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files.

2. In relation to Service User B:

a. You did not:

i. visit and/or record that you visited the mother;

ii. see and/or record that you saw the child;

iii. access and/or record that you accessed information from health and education professionals;

iv. complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files;

b. You did not arrange a joint visit with the police following information received on 14 November 2014 regarding the mother's relationship with Person A.

3. In relation to Service User C, you did not:

a. liaise with probation and undertake a joint visit to the mother and/or record that you liaised with probation and undertook a joint visit to the mother;

b. ensure that a police check was undertaken on Person B and/or record that you ensured a police check was undertaken on Person B;

c. liaise with and/or record that you liaised with health and educational professionals;

d. complete and/or record that you completed a social work assessment.

4. In relation to Service User D you did not:

a. visit the family home and/or record that you visited the family home;

b. see and/or record that you saw Service User D and/or Child D2 alone;

c. ensure a police check was undertaken and/or record that you ensured a police check was undertaken;

d. liaise with and/or record that you liaised with health and educational professionals;

e. complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files.

5. In relation to Service User E you did not:

a. record the joint visit conducted with police on 20 October 2014;

b. provide sufficient detail in your recording of the visit on 27 November 2014.

6. In relation to Service User Family F, you did not:

a. undertake and/or record that you undertook an assessment and/or adequate assessment of the children's living and sleeping arrangements;

b. [not proved];

c. complete and/or record that you completed an up to date chronology based on archived files.

d. liaise with and/or record that you liaised with other involved agencies including school, the General Practitioner and police;

e. [not proved].

7. In relation to Service User G:

a. your social work assessment dated 28 November 2014 was inadequate in that you did not record the views of all relevant professionals, including the General Practitioner;

b. [not proved];

c. You did not complete and/or record the following as instructed:

i. a closure summary;

ii. a chronology.

8. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-7 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been given proper Notice of this hearing, sent by first class post to her address on the Register by letter dated 29 November 2017 and also by email.

Proceeding in absence

2. The HCPC applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence because there has been no engagement by the Registrant and no request for an adjournment. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence should be considered subject to the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant.”

3. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had decided not to attend the hearing and voluntarily waived her right to attend. She has not sought an adjournment and it is in the public interest for the hearing to proceed today. Adjourning today would serve no purpose, as there is nothing to indicate that the Registrant would attend at a future date. The Panel has therefore decided to proceed and notes there is a statutory duty to conduct HCPTS hearings expeditiously.

Background

4. The Registrant was employed as an agency social worker on a temporary contract for three months, from 6 October 2014, in the Safeguarding Department in Children’s Social Work at Shropshire Council. She was responsible for working with children in need, children subject to child protection plans and children in care.

5. The Registrant was allocated seven cases but either did not complete the specified actions in respect of a case or did not record whether or not she had undertaken particular actions, or, if she had undertaken any actions, did not record what their outcomes were. Those assessments which she did complete were not adequate. While the Registrant was on sick leave, concerns came to light in respect of the Registrant’s case load and the lack of recording and/or action.

6. The Registrant did not attend the final hearing. The original panel noted that the Registrant did not admit the facts, but also that she did not challenge the HCPC’s evidence. The Registrant indicated that there were health issues affecting her performance, but did not provide supporting medical evidence.

7. That Panel found that the Registrant was capable of carrying out the role of a children’s social worker. She had undertaken her first social work post in 1984 and had held several senior practitioner posts over the subsequent years, concentrating particularly in child social work. The Panel considered the facts found proved amounted to misconduct. The relevant Service Users were vulnerable and potentially put at risk due to:

• A failure to undertake visits;

• A failure to record visits which had taken place;

• A failure to check, communicate and liaise with other agencies;

• A failure to complete assessments; and

• A failure to complete up to date chronologies.

8. No actual harm was identified to any of the service users; however, the failures of the Registrant had the potential to put them at risk of significant harm. In relation to Service User B and Service User F, there were identified risks of domestic violence and alcohol misuse, such that they were left exposed to potentially imminent risks of physical, emotional and psychological harm. Ultimately, in relation to Service Users B, C, E and F, real grounds of concern emerged in respect of them, such that in the cases of Service Users B, C and F, strategy meetings and Section 47 assessments were required. The Registrant’s failures breached the HCPC “Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics” 1, 7 and 10.

9. That panel concluded that the Registrant’s failures were basic, repeated, impacted on multiple service users and families, occurred over a period of eight weeks, were serious and therefore amounted to misconduct. That panel was of the view that the Registrant’s failures were capable of remediation but that there remained a high risk of repetition.

10. In respect of the personal and public components, her fitness to practise was currently impaired by reason of misconduct.

11. That panel concluded that a conditions of practice order was unworkable because it had no information about the Registrant’s current circumstances and it could not assess whether she would or could comply. That panel considered a Suspension Order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction, both to protect the public and to meet the wider public interest. That panel considered 12 months would be an appropriate period to allow the Registrant the opportunity to reflect and remediate. It concluded that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate. That panel identified that the following may be of assistance to a future reviewing panel:

• Evidence of remediation, including a commitment to keeping her skills and CPD up to date;

• Reflection on her failures;

• How she would avoid a repetition;

• How her failures would impact on the reputation of the profession;

• Any evidence regarding her health condition.

Decision

12. In reaching its decision today, the Panel took into account the submissions and documents supplied by the HCPC. The HCPC submitted that in light of no current information regarding the Registrant’s insight or remediation, there remains a risk of repetition and her current fitness to practise is impaired.

13. Article 30(1) of the 2001 Order provides that before the expiry of the Suspension Order currently in force, this matter shall be reviewed. The Panel today may, with effect from the date on which the Order expires, extend, or further extend, the period for which the Order has effect, or make an order which could have made at the time the Order being reviewed was made. This Panel cannot go behind the findings of the previous panel. The Panel has accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice, to exercise the principle of proportionality, and had regard to the HCPC’s “Indicative Sanctions Policy”.

14. The purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish registrants, but to protect the public. There is a public interest in upholding the reputation of the profession and maintaining public confidence in the HCPC Regulatory process. In deciding what, if any, sanction to impose under Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the Panel has had regard to the principle of proportionality and the need to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant, in accordance with the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. The Panel today has no new information from the Registrant about her insight, any remediation, or her current circumstances. The Panel finds the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired.

16. Having heard submissions from the HCPC, that a striking off order was the appropriate sanction, the Panel considered the mitigating and aggravating factors before deciding what, if any, sanction to impose.

17. The mitigating factors are the Registrant’s previous good work record, with no previous history of failings. The events occurred over a relatively short period of time in an otherwise lengthy career.

18. The aggravating factors are as follows:

• Her failings related to basic social work tasks and requirements;

• Her misconduct was repeated, and arose in respect of a number of service users;

• Service users were exposed to potential risk of significant harm;

• She failed to tell her line manager that her cases were not being progressed;

• Her failings impacted adversely on the reputation of the social work team;

• The Panel did not consider that the issues were of a minor or isolated nature, and identified a real risk of repetition;

• The Registrant has failed to engage with this review and not provided this panel with any of the evidence suggested by the previous panel.

19. The Panel has decided that it was necessary to maintain a sanction due to the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct and the extent of her current impairment.

20. The Panel found a Caution Order would not adequately protect the public or the public interest, due to the Registrant’s lack of remediation and the risk of repetition.

21. The “Indicative Sanctions Policy” states in relation to Conditions of Practice that the imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part of the Registrant to resolve matters, and therefore Conditions of Practice are not appropriate due to the Registrant’s lack of engagement and no information regarding her current circumstances or her willingness to comply with Conditions of Practice. Therefore, the Panel concluded that appropriate conditions of practice could not be formulated in this case.

22. A Suspension Order would protect the public. However, the panel determined that there would no benefit in continuing the Suspension Order given the Registrant’s continued non-engagement. Under the circumstances, the Panel cannot be satisfied that the Registrant is able or willing to remedy her shortcomings.

23. The Panel concluded that a Striking Off Order is now the only appropriate sanction in this case to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the regulatory process, to uphold the HCPC Standards of Conduct and the reputation of the profession. The Registrant placed vulnerable service users at risk of harm and undermined public trust and confidence in the profession. By not engaging with the Regulator and providing any evidence of insight or remediation, as suggested by the last Panel, the Registrant has effectively demonstrated her unwillingness or inability to remediate.

24. Therefore, the Panel has imposed a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe from the Register from the expiry of the existing order.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Nokuthula Agnes Mlam Bokwe

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
09/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended