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Social worker struck off following suspension for attending work under influence of alcohol

Social worker failed to engage in HCPC process following suspension for attending work while under influence of alcohol

Published on 31st May 2018

A social worker has been struck off the HCPC for misconduct including attending work while under the influence of alcohol.

Serena Newnes was initially suspended for a period of six months for attending work under the influence of alcohol and failing to inform the Health and Care Professions Council about a caution she received for battery.

However, on reviewing the suspension, the HCPC Panel struck Mrs Newnes from the register after she failed to engage with the regulator.

Mrs Newnes was employed as a Grade 1 Social Worker by Gloucestershire County Council from June 2003 and in September 2012, she became a Team Manager in the Stroud office. Mrs Newnes remained in this role until an internal investigation began around February 2015 concerning her sickness absences. Mrs Newnes stepped down from the Team Manager position on the grounds of capability and returned to the Gloucester Team as a Grade 1 Social Worker.

In May 2015, however, Mrs Newnes was noted to be agitated and behaving differently and there was a smell of alcohol on her breath. Consequently, concerns were raised with Mrs Newnes’ Line Manager and an investigation followed.

During the course of the investigation, it emerged that some members of staff had raised concerns about Mrs Newnes’ inappropriate and erratic behaviour, both within their presence and in front of service users. In particular, they complained that she had smelt of alcohol on several occasions. It also became apparent that she had received a Police Caution on 11 May 2015 for an offence of Battery, committed on 10 May 2015. She had failed to inform the HCPC about this matter.

The HCPC Panel at the hearing in November 2017 commented that Mrs Newnes had not engaged with the HCPC process. In its view, the lack of evidence of insight and remediation on behalf of Mrs Newnes demonstrated that there was a risk of repetition of the misconduct, and it found her to be currently impaired. That panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of six months.

The Panel suggested that when the suspension was reviewed, the reviewing panel would be assisted by:

• Mrs Newnes attending in person and, if possible, being represented;

• Any medical information that may help the Panel to understand the cause of her behaviour at the time;

• Details of the circumstances relating to the caution for battery;

• Medical information on her current state of health;

• Testimonials from employers and/or colleagues relating to any work since the date of the allegation.

 

However, at the review, the reviewing panel noted that there has been no material change in circumstances since the Substantive Hearing, except that Mrs Newnes has continued with the process of disengagement and has failed to provide this Panel with any documentation at all which could be said to be useable in her support.

The reviewing panel concluded that, in all the circumstances, the only proportionate sanction to impose upon is a Striking Off Order. There has been no word from Mrs Newnes to her Regulatory body for a period of some sixteen months in all, and the consequence is that this Panel is left in no doubt that she has disengaged from the process. The opportunity provided by the last panel, in imposing a short period of suspension, for Mrs Newnes to engage with the HCPC and address her failings, has been lost.

Panel Chair Deborah Baldwin said: “This Panel has no doubt that the fitness to practise of Mrs Newnes remains impaired. There is no sign of any form of insight, no evidence of remediation, and nothing to suggest that the risk of repetition of her misconduct is anything other than high.”

 The Panel ordered for the name of Serena Odette Newnes to be struck off the HCPC Register.

 Mrs Newnes was neither present nor represented at the hearing.

 

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