Ms Susan Davies

: Social worker

: SW71358

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 16/01/2018 End: 12:30 16/01/2018

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Leicester City Council between 01 April 2014 and 04 June 2015:

 

1. Following three supervision sessions held on 06 August 2014, 07 August 2014 and 11 August 2014, it was found that in approximately 34 of your cases there were contacts and/or referrals outstanding, which included:

 

(a) approximately 23 which were not recorded on the internal system (Liquid Logic)

 

2. In the case of Child A, you received a referral from the police dated 07 April 2014 relating to domestic violence, and you:

(a) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not upload the email on EDRMS;

(b) did not record the initial contact until 02 September 2014.

 

3. In the case of Child B, you received a referral on 24 April 2014 from Child B’s aunt, and you:

(a) did not record any attempts to contact Child B’s school between 24 April 2014 and 30 May 2014;

(b) left a message, on 30 May 2014, for Child B’s school to call you back and did not follow this up;

(c) did not complete and/or record any history checks on Child B’s family;

(d) did not take any action to contact Child B’s mother until 14 August 2014;

(e) did not follow up your phone contact with the Child B’s mother from 14 August 2014 until 29 August 2014;

(f) did not record the initial contact until 2 September 2014.

 

4. In the case of Child C, you received a referral, on 16 May 2014, and you:

(b) did not check with Leicester County Council to see if Child C was known to Social Services and/or did not undertake any additional enquiries in relation to this child.

 

5. In the case of Child D, on receiving a referral relating to an alleged assault on his mother by Child D on 16 July 2014, you:

(a) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call;

(b) did not contact Child D’s mother to confirm the details in a timely manner;

(c) did not record the initial contact until 7 September 2014.

 

6. In the case of Child E, you:

(a) incorrectly recorded on Liquid Logic the date of the IC to be 25 July 2014;

(b) did not complete the record of the Initial Contact on 25 June 2014 until on or around 26 July 2014;

(c) did not obtain sufficient information taken during the initial telephone call on 25 June 2014;

(d) did not record and/or obtain sufficient information following a referral on 4 August 2014;

(e) did not make contact with Child E and/or her mother between 4 August 2014 and the subsequent allocation of the case to another Social Worker, sometime between 11-13 August 2014.

 

7. In the case of Child F, did not complete the record on Liquid Logic of your home visit to Child F on 27 June 2014 until 29 August 2014.

 

8. In the case of Child G, on 25 June 2014 you received a telephone call from Child G and you:

(a) provided inappropriate advice in that you informed Child G that her carer would need to seek legal advice regarding their query;

(b) did not contact Bristol Council to ascertain if Child G was known to them;

(c) did not have knowledge of the Private Fostering Assessment and therefore did not consider whether this was suitable for Child G;

(d) did not discuss this matter with Child G’s carer;

(e) did not make any enquiries regarding the Child G’s mother;

(g) did not complete the record of your initial contact with Child G onto Liquid Logic until 29 August 2014.

 

9. In the case of Child H, you received a referral on 27 June 2014 from the NSPCC regarding Child H, and you:

(a) did not obtain the full details of the referral over the telephone;

(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial telephone contact with the NSPCC on Liquid Logic, which included;

(i) Child H’s name;

(ii) the allegation that the father was selling drugs and giving them to the children;

(iii) the password to the follow up email that would be sent;

 

(d) did not take any action in relation to the referral.

 

10. In the case of Child I, you received a referral from the NSPCC, on 14 July 2014, and you:

(a) did not take the full details of the referral over the telephone;

(b) did not maintain accurate records in that you did not record the initial contact from the NSPCC;

(c) did not take any action in relation to the referral.

 

11. In the case of Child J, a referral was received on 14 July 2014 in relation to domestic violence, and you:

(a) did not accurately record the initial contact on Liquid Logic;

(b) did not record the initial contact until 14 August 2014;

(c) did not record that you had attempted to call the child’s mother;

(d) did not take sufficient and/or timely action in relation to the referral;  

12. Your actions described in paragraph 11(a)-(e) placed Child J at risk of harm.

 

13. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 12 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

 

 

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters


1. Before the hearing, the Registrant communicated with the HCPC by email sending written representations and requested that she be allowed to both follow the proceedings and speak to the Panel by telephone link.


2. In her email the Registrant told the Panel of her extensive caring responsibilities for her son and explained that she would attend the hearing if it were not for those responsibilities.


3. Ms Scholz, on behalf of the HCPC, did not object to this approach.  The Panel had regard to its duty under Order 30 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 to “give the person concerned the opportunity to appear before it and to argue his case in accordance with rules” and its wide discretion to hear evidence which would not be admissible in such proceedings if it is satisfied that admission of that evidence is necessary in order to protect members of the public;” in accordance with Rule 10 of The Health And Care Professions Council (Health Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003. 


4. The Panel decided to allow the Registrant to attend and give evidence by telephone link.


5. Having read the Registrant’s email, the Panel became aware that a number of the matters she intended to tell the tribunal related to her health and that of her family.  In order to protect the Registrant’s privacy and family life, the Panel decided to hear the evidence relating to those matters in private.


Background


6. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker for Leicester City Council (the “Council”) until August 2014. She worked in the Child in Need Team for about ten years before moving to the Duty and Advice Service (DAS) team on 1 April 2014, as a result of re-organisation within the Council. Following a supervision session with Witness 1 on 6 August 2014, concerns were raised regarding the Registrant’s practice.


7. On 21 April 2017, a Fitness to Practise Panel (the 2017 Panel) found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct over a period between April and August 2014. The Registrant had failed to keep adequate records or complete referrals in 34 cases, of which 23 were not recorded on the internal record keeping system.  She also failed to deal promptly with referrals in respect of children at risk and gave erroneous telephone advice.  In one case she placed a child at “real risk of harm”.


8. In making its findings, the 2017 Panel noted the following features of the Registrant’s examples of misconduct:
a. They all involved vulnerable children;
b. The Registrant failed to take sufficient care and consideration when taking down relevant and important information;
c. The Registrant’s approach to each case was superficial and below the standard expected of a Social Worker carrying out that role;
d. On each case she failed to make a timely record of her dealings on the Liquid Logic system. This was the only way in which other Social Workers would know that the Registrant had any input to a case. In some of those cases, there was no record of her activity, and she had to be instructed to put them on the system. Her record keeping on each of these particular cases was significantly below acceptable standards.


9. In making its finding on misconduct, the 2017 Panel found that the Registrant had failed to act in the best interests of service users and failed to keep accurate records.


10. In making its finding on impairment, the 2017 Panel made the following findings:
a. The Registrant’s actions were so serious that they had “brought disrepute onto the social work profession”.
b. The Registrant’s failures were remediable, but there was no evidence that they had been remedied.
c. The Registrant has engaged with the process prior to the hearing, and has demonstrated some evidence of insight. In her correspondence she accepted that her actions fell below the standard expected of her and that she was sorry. However, the Registrant has not attended the hearing to give evidence and the Panel was unable to test the depth of her insight. These are matters of misconduct, and there can be only limited remediation without full insight.


11.  The Panel identified the following aggravating features in the Registrant’s case:

a. The Registrant has demonstrated limited insight, albeit she has demonstrated remorse.
b. Her misconduct could have resulted in a vulnerable child being at high risk of harm
12. It identified the following mitigating features:
a. The Registrant is of good character.
b. These matters occurred in a five-month period in an otherwise unblemished career.
c. There were extenuating circumstances in the Registrant’s personal life at that time which may have contributed to her behaviour. Whilst they do not excuse her behaviour, they may partly explain why she behaved in the manner she did during that period.


13.  The Panel suspended the Registrant from practice for a period of 9 months.  It concluded that suspension for that period would protect the public and the public interest at this stage. It would allow the Registrant a period to reflect on whether or not she wished to remain in the profession, and if so, also afforded her an opportunity to demonstrate full insight and remediation.

14. Finally the Panel indicated that a future Panel reviewing this Order may be assisted by the following:


a. The attendance of the Registrant at the Hearing;
b. A reflective piece by the Registrant, concentrating on:
i. what led to her misconduct; and
ii. how her actions impacted, or could have impacted, on service users and her colleagues;
c. Information about any employment since these matters;
d. An indication as to her future plans;
e. Evidence of the Registrant keeping her practice and skills up to date for example by attending CPD courses (which may include online courses), or being employed in a voluntary capacity in allied and relevant roles;
f. Up to date references from persons who are aware of these proceedings.

This Hearing


15. Ms Scholz, on behalf of the HCPC, reminded the Panel of the background to this case and submitted that the registrant’s fitness to practise was still impaired and the appropriate sanction was a further period of suspension.  There was, she submitted, only limited evidence of “keeping up to date” and that a further period of suspension was necessary to enable the Registrant to reflect and remediate.

16. The Registrant answered questions on affirmation and confirmed the truth of the contents of her email.  She explained that she had understood the gravity of her failings and its impact on both service users and colleagues.  She gave details of the personal circumstances which had impacted on her practice after many years of good practice.  She spoke of her determination to “do whatever is deemed necessary to ‘insure my practise’ returns to a good standard in the future”.


17. She said she now wanted to return to social work and could not imagine not being a social worker.

18. Nevertheless, her caring responsibilities had so taken over her life that she had only just started to look at education and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements and had not yet fully understood what was required of her by the 2017 Panel. She was more optimistic now that Adult Social Care had become available for her son but that was a new development, in the last 2 weeks.

The Panel’s Approach


19. The Panel had careful regard to the submissions and evidence it heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. Nevertheless, it exercised its own independent judgment


20. The Panel bore in mind that its task was to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if her fitness to practise is still impaired and if so, what, if any, sanction to impose upon her.


21.  Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. It focused first on whether the Registrant had addressed the concerns raised by the 2017 Panel.


22. The Panel was encouraged that the Registrant now wished to engage with the HCPC with a view to returning to work.  It was also encouraged that she had developed not only remorse but an understanding of the gravity of what she had done and that she would need to take steps to ensure that there was no repetition.


23. Nevertheless, the Registrant had only started to address what she needed to do.  Her insight was not yet complete, remediation had barely commenced and she had not started to look at the education and training she would need to do to be able to return to work, let alone unrestricted practice.


24. In those circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that there was a significant risk to the public if the Registrant was allowed to return to unrestricted practice without further reflection, remediation and education.


25. The Panel was also satisfied that it was in the wider public interest in upholding standards of conduct and confidence in the profession that the Registrant did not yet return to unrestricted practice.


26. Accordingly, the Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was still impaired.


27. The Panel then turned to the question of what, if any sanction, to impose.


28. The Panel considered each sanction in turn, starting with the least restrictive.  It bore in mind the principle of proportionality and balanced the need to protect the public against the right of the Registrant to practise her profession.


29. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, this would be inappropriate because it would not protect either the public or the wider public interest.


30. The Panel then considered whether to make a caution order. The Panel was satisfied that the risk of repetition was still too great and the safeguarding issues too serious for that to be sufficient to protect the public.


31. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel found that the Registrant has demonstrated increased insight into her misconduct.  However, her remediation is still at a stage where the risk to the public is too great to allow the Registrant to return to practice, even with conditions.  The Panel was particularly concerned that the Registrant had not yet started to engage in CPD or take any steps to rebuild her knowledge and skills so that she could return safely to practice.


32. The Panel then considered whether a further period of suspension would be appropriate to enable her to continue to develop insight into her past misconduct and begin remediation.


33. The Panel was encouraged by the insight that the Registrant had started to develop and accepted that it was her onerous responsibilities rather than unwillingness that had delayed her remediation.
34. In those circumstances, the Panel decided to impose a further period of suspension.


35. It considered carefully whether a striking off order was necessary to protect the public.  It had particular regard to the following provisions of the Indicative Sanctions Policy:
a. 47. Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as sexual abuse, dishonesty or persistent failure.
b. 48. Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.


36. Having regard to the difficulties the Registrant has overcome to make even the limited progress she had made, the Panel was satisfied that a striking off order was not necessary to protect the public, who were likely to be better served in the long term by the Registrant’s return to work.


37. The Panel decided that another period of 9 months was the appropriate length of the order.  It would give the Registrant sufficient time to advance her remediation, update her CPD, undertake any training and obtain the advice she would need to guide her back to practice.


38. The Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry. At the next review, the Panel is likely to be assisted by:
- A written statement reflecting on how her actions impacted, or could have impacted on the service users identified in this case and the steps she will take to ensure there is no repetition of the misconduct identified;
- An update on her employment situation since this review hearing including any work undertaken in a voluntary capacity;
- An indication as to her future plans;
- Written evidence of how the registrant has updated her knowledge and skills (which may include reading and reflecting on relevant articles and journals and undertaking relevant courses);
- Up to date character references and/or testimonials from persons who are aware of these proceedings;
- The Registrant’s attendance at the hearing.

Order

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

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Susan Davies

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
18/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended