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Social worker who lied about undertaking visits to foster carers is struck off

Social worker falsified entries on case system for visits to foster carers she had not undertaken

Published on 4th November 2019

A social worker who failed to undertake statutory visits to foster carers but made case superivison notes on the electronic system claiming that she had made them has been struck off the social work register.

Miss Londiwe P Shabalala was alleged to have failed to undertake visits to Foster carer A in or around 12 May 2017; and/ or 19 July 2017. She did not undertake visits to Foster Carer B in accordance with Kent Council's policy on or around 24 July 2017 and/ or 28 July 2017. Miss Shabalala also failed to undertake visits to Foster Carer C on or about 28 July 2017.

However, around 1 September 2017, Miss Shabalala told her supervisor that she had visited Foster Carer B on 24 July 2017 and/ or 28 July 2017 when she had not done so.

Furthermore, she made case supervision records on Liberi about visits to foster carer A and foster carer B which had not occurred.

Miss Shabalala was a fostering social worker with Kent County Council from 4 July 2016 and, as such, was responsible for supervising and supporting foster carers who were caring for Looked After Children.

LF, Fostering Team Manager and Miss Shabalala's supervisor, carried out an audit of Miss Shabalala's cases dealt with between July 2017 and September 2017. She found that Miss Shabalala had failed to undertake statutory visits to Foster Carers A, B and C and had dishonestly told her supervisor that she had completed visits to Foster Carer B when to her knowledge she had not done so. She had dishonestly stated in case supervision records that she had visited Foster Carers A and B, when, to her knowledge, she had not done so.

The Health and Care Professions Council Tribunal Service Panel heard that Kent council's policy required statutory visits to be undertaken by Fostering Social Workers every four to six weeks. With this in mind, the performance database was regularly reviewed by managers to ensure that statutory tasks were completed on time.

Visits that were not recorded or completed on the computerised record system, “Liberi”, would show up on the system with a “red alert”. A red alert therefore meant that visits were overdue and not meeting statutory requirements. When the “Forms” section had been completed on Liberi, the visit would be taken off “red alert” and would no longer show as overdue. It was alleged that Miss Shabalala dishonestly entered information on the “Forms” section to represent that she had undertaken statutory visits, when she had not in fact done so, in order to prevent a “red alert”. This would have had the effect of rendering her supervisors unaware of her inactivity in respect of service users.

The Panel was provided with the notes of a ‘Complaints and Interview Meeting’ held by the investigating officer DT on 5 October 2017. According to this, Miss Shabalala then admitted that she had recorded visits on Liberi in order to remove them from the “to do” list, when in fact she had not carried out the visits but instead had gone home. She said she had been suffering from stress resulting from a difficult relationship with LF - her team manager and supervisor - together with an excess of work.

Miss Shabalala did not submit any material for the purpose of the hearing except for the email dated 21 June 2019, to which she attached a document in support of her denial of Particular 1(b) (visiting foster carer A on 19th July).

The email said: "I wont [sic] attend the hearing as I mentioned before that I have not permit to stay in this country. I’m leaving on the 19th of July”

However, she had submitted a Response to the Allegation for the purpose of the Investigating Committee Panel and this was made available for the Panel because it was believed that it would be fair to do so, as in it she had comprehensively denied the allegation.

The Panel noted that her rejection of the Allegation in her response to the ICP was inconsistent with her position contemporaneous with the employer’s investigation. The Panel therefore did not accept the suggestion made by Miss Shabalala that she had been subjected to discrimination and victimisation at Kent Council, or that her work had been disproportionately affected by reason of any additional workload that she claimed to have been carrying - which had all been denied by LF, her supervisor.

The Panel found all particulars proved - bar for 1b regarding the visit to foster carer A on 19 July as Miss Shabalala had been off with flu on that day and therefore the panel accepted, on the balance of probabilities, that Miss Shabalala hd been absent from work on 19 July 2017 due to illness, which was beyond her control, and in those circumstances concluded that the fact that she had not visited Foster Carer A on that day had not amounted to a failure on her part.

The Panel took into account the evidence of LF that by failing to undertake the statutory visits, Foster Carers A, B and C had not received the required statutory support, which in turn could have resulted in serious consequences for the wellbeing of both those carers and the children in their care.

The Panel also concluded that Miss Shabalala's dishonesty was clearly serious, as a Social Worker is expected to be honest. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the facts found proved amounted to misconduct.

Whilst Miss Shabalala had made admissions and expressed some remorse to her supervisor LF at the time of her supervision meeting on 1 September 2017, and to DT, the investigating officer, at the time of her Investigation Meeting on 5 October 2017, she had denied the Allegation in its entirety in her Response to Allegation submitted to the ICP of the HCPC, and had submitted no material expressing any remorse or insight to this substantive Panel.

"In the light of this lack of evidence of remorse, insight, or remediation, the Panel concluded that there was a likelihood that the Registrant would repeat her misconduct. The Panel concluded that a finding of impairment of fitness to practise was required on public protection grounds, and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the personal component," said the Panel.

In considering the public component, and whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances, the Panel concluded that Miss Shabalala's fitness to practise is currently impaired on this component too.

The Panel took into account the following mitigating factors:
• Her previous good character;
• Her health issue at the time.

The Panel took into account the following aggravating factors:
• The dishonesty related to more than one Foster Carer;
• Miss Shabalala had taken an active role in the dishonesty, by putting false information into the records relating to Foster Carers;
• By not adequately monitoring the placements and offering advice and support, this had the potential to cause harm, including possible placement breakdown and not identifying and managing possible safeguarding issues;
• Miss Shabalala had submitted no evidence of remediation, remorse, or insight.

The Panel concluded that Miss Shabalala's misconduct could not be categorised as a single act, because her dishonesty related to two separate case supervision records for different Foster Carers. Her actions had been active, not passive, in that she had inputted the false information herself. Furthermore she had done so deliberately, with the intention of avoiding detection by her supervisors. The Panel concluded that this was premeditated behaviour. This, combined with the lack of engagement, remediation, remorse, and insight, meant that a Suspension Order was inadequate to protect the public from the risk that Miss Shabalala now presented.

Furthermore, it was the judgement of the Panel that the public interest would not be satisfied by such an order in light of the seriousness of the dishonesty, which had involved falsifying service user records to avoid her own inactivity from being detected.

For those reasons, the Panel concluded that a Striking Off Order was the only appropriate and proportionate order in the circumstances of this case.

 

 

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