A social worker has failed to overturn a Conditions Order initially given by the HCPC but subsequently continued by Social Work England.

In Arkorful v Social Work England [2024] EWHC 73 (Admin) (08 February 2024) the appellant social worker, “after protracted proceedings before the HCPC’s Conduct and Competence Panel”, a Conditions of Practice Order (CPO) was made after the Panel finding that she had committed misconduct and that her fitness to practise as a social worker was impaired. The effect of the CPO was to attach conditions to the Appellant’s registration, including that she place herself under the supervision of a supervisor, and work with the supervisor to formulate a personal development plan to remediate specified deficiencies in her practice.

In brief, there were four sets of allegations before the original HCPC panel. One set of allegations related to Family A. It was alleged the Appellant had failed properly to record visits to the family and had mishandled the ‘child in need’ process.

The second set of allegations related to Family B. They included, that the Appellant had lent money to a child’s mother; that the Appellant took several hours on one occasion to pick a child up from school upon being informed that the child’s mother had not done so; and was at fault in other ways.

The third set of allegations related to alleged failures to undertake statutory visits, or record child protection visits, on the Council’s Carefirst system in respect of a number of children over a period of months in 2016.

The fourth set of allegations related to alleged failures to undertake child in need visits, or record these visits on the Carefirst system, in respect of a number of children over a period of months in 2016. 

In 2022, there were then two reviews of the CPO (one in February and one in November). In both reviews, on the basis of the then current position, the decision-makers (the February Review Panel and the November Review Panel, respectively) decided that the Appellant’s practice should continue to be subject to conditions, with some changes to the conditions.

The Appellant appealed both review decisions. In both appeals, the Appellant essentially argued the following grounds:

a. Ground 1: the findings of the Original Panel in June 2019 were wrong; and

b. Ground 2: the relevant Review Panel was wrong to find that it would be proportionate to restrict the Appellant’s practice for a further period, in particular in view of the impact of the CPO had had and was having on her employment prospects.

In response, SWE contended that:

a. The Second Appeal is out of time and therefore should be struck out.

b. Further or alternatively, Ground 1 should be struck out or dismissed in each appeal. This ground amounts to an impermissible collateral attack on the original decision from 2019. It is not the function of a review, nor is it the purpose of this Court’s process for appealing a review, to re-open the findings of fact in the original decision.

c. Ground 2 should be dismissed on the merits in each appeal. In circumstances where it had been found that the Appellant’s misconduct placed vulnerable service users at risk of harm, and there was no material change in her fitness to practise, it was lawfully open to both review panels to decide that a further period of restrictions on the Appellant’s practice was appropriate. Those panels properly had the protection of the public and public confidence in the profession at the forefront of their minds. I should defer to their expert professional judgment.

UK Fitness to Practise News

Mr Justice Julian Knowles struck out the second appeal (SWE Conditions Order) because it is out of time.  The justice also commented that, as a consequence:

“For the reasons given in relation to the Second Appeal, which raised essentially the same grounds of appeal as on this appeal, I reject the Third Appeal. It was not the Panel’s function to re-open the findings of fact from 2019. And there is no basis for concluding that the Panel’s expert assessment of what was necessary to protect the public – and which I have to have deference for – was disproportionate or otherwise wrong.”

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