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Name:

Clare Stephenson

Registration number:
W/5010328
Date:
10/11/2020 - 12/11/2020
Time:
09.30
Domiciliary Care Worker
Immediate order pending removal order on 10/12/2020
This hearing will be taking place by Zoom. Please contact us at hearings@socialcare.wales if you would like to observe
Previously British Red Cross
Fitness to Practise Panel

Charges

That you, whilst registered as a Domiciliary Care Manager and employed by British Red Cross:

1. On or about 4 June 2018, you instructed Colleague A to withhold information from the police and/or to give information that was inaccurate or misleading, in that you said to Colleague A, or words to the effect, that Colleague A should:

(a) not inform the police that Colleague A had visited Individual D’s address on 1 June 2018 but had been unable to gain access;

(b) inform the police that the last time Colleague A had seen Individual D alive was on 30 May 2018.

2. Your conduct in 1(a) and/or 1(b) above:

(a) was dishonest;

(b) displayed a lack of integrity.

Decision on facts

We have found Charges 1 and 2 proved.

We have carefully considered the evidence, including all of the documents contained in the bundle and the oral evidence of the witnesses in attendance. We have also considered the submissions of the Social Care Wales Presenter and Ms Stephenson.

We have accepted the legal advice provided.

Ms Stephenson is registered with Social Care Wales as a Domiciliary Care Manager and was employed by the British Red Cross as from November 2017 until June 2018.

She was a Team Leader/Registered Manager for the Home from Hospital Service and was responsible for scheduling client calls, ensuring regulatory compliance and the line management of support workers including agency staff. The Home from Hospital Service provides support to individuals who have been discharged from hospital to help them recover.

Ms Stephenson resigned from her employment on 29 June 2018 following separate allegations which had been raised against her by members of staff but which do not form part of the Charges we are considering as part of these proceedings. After her resignation a matter came to light in relation to Individual D who had been found deceased at his home by a Community Support Worker, on Monday 4 June 2018.

We heard oral evidence from Witness A that Individual D was a chronic alcoholic and terminally ill. She told us she visited Individual D on Wednesday 30 May 2018 and reported that he was very unwell. She called his GP as she thought he might need to be admitted to hospital.

On Friday 1 June 2018 Witness A visited Individual D again. She informed us that she knocked on the door but there was no answer and the door was barricaded. She was unable to access the property, so she left. It is Witness A’s case that because she could not gain access, she contacted the office to seek advice. It is her evidence that she left a voicemail message on the office phone and a text message to the duty mobile phone. She did not receive a response to any of her messages.

We understand that on 4 June 2018 Witness A returned to the house of Individual D around midday and found Individual D deceased having suffered a head injury. Witness A telephoned the office and was advised to contact the emergency services which resulted in an ambulance and the police attending the property. It is Witness A’s evidence that she subsequently spoke to Ms Stephenson on the telephone and told Ms Stephenson that she felt bad because she had visited Individual D on 1 June but could not get access to the property. She states that Ms Stephenson told her not to tell the police that she tried to get access to the house on the Friday. Witness A also states that after the ambulance left and she was waiting for the police to arrive she called Ms Stephenson again and was told to tell the police that the last time she saw Individual D alive was 30 May 2018. Witness A confirmed that when speaking with the police she did not tell them about her visit to Individual D’s house on 1 June 2018.

We heard evidence from Witness B, an Independent Living Operations Manager, that she was contacted by Ms Stephenson on 4 June notifying her of the death of Individual D. She gave evidence that she hadn’t been informed by Ms Stephenson that Witness A had attempted to visit Individual D on 1 June 2018 or that she had not been able to gain access to his home. She said that if she had been notified this was the case this would have instigated an investigation and a referral to Care Inspectorate Wales.

We also heard from Witness C, who was a Support Worker from the Hospital Team, who informed us that she had met with Witness A around June 2018. During the meeting Witness A disclosed the details of the incident involving Individual D and her conversation with Ms Stephenson on 4 June. Witness C subsequently reported this conversation to another member of staff who relayed that to Witness D, an Independent Living Service Manager at the time.

Witness D gave evidence that she was on annual leave on 4 June 2018 but recalls receiving a text message from Ms Stephenson informing her that Individual D had been found deceased by Witness A. She confirms that Ms Stephenson did not notify her of any problems with the handling or reporting of the incident to the police.

When Witness D was made aware of Witness A’ conversation with Witness C she met with Witness A on 27 July 2018 to discuss the matter. It is Witness D’s evidence that during this meeting Witness A confirmed that Ms Stephenson had instructed her to provide false information to the police. She also said that Witness A showed her a text message from Witness A to the duty mobile phone from 1 June notifying the office that there was no answer from Individual D’s house. Witness D subsequently checked the voicemail and incoming texts of the duty mobile phone and answerphone for the office land line but could not find any evidence of the messages sent by Witness A.

Witness D contacted Ms Stephenson after her resignation to invite her to an investigation meeting to discuss the allegations in relation to the incident with Individual D. We have been provided with minutes of the investigation meeting on 23 August 2018 during which Ms Stephenson denied telling Witness A to provide false information to the Police. We have also been given a copy of the investigation report compiled by Witness D and dated 5 September 2018.

Ms Stephenson disputes the facts of the Charges. In her oral evidence she questions why Witness A did not phone her personal phone on 1 June 2018 and states that she was not aware that Witness A had tried to call the office that day. It is Ms Stephenson’s evidence that she did not and could not have told Witness A to falsify her statement to the police as she did not become aware of Witness A’ visit to Individual D on 1 June 2018 until after the police had left Individual D’s home. Ms Stephenson confirmed in evidence that she did not question Witness A regarding why she didn’t contact the office on 1 June when she couldn’t access the home of Individual D and did not ask her what had been reported to the police. She also acknowledged that she did not notify her employer of Witness A’s visit to Individual D on 1 June.

We have considered each of the two Charges against Ms Stephenson and have recorded our findings in turn.

Charges

That you, whilst registered as a Domiciliary Care Manager and employed by British Red Cross:

1. On or about 4 June 2018, you instructed Colleague A to withhold information from the police and/or to give information that was inaccurate or misleading, in that you said to Colleague A, or words to the effect, that Colleague A should:

(a) not inform the police that Colleague A had visited Individual D’s address on 1 June 2018 but had been unable to gain access;

(b) inform the police that the last time Colleague A had seen Individual D alive was on 30 May 2018.

We have carefully weighed up the evidence in this case. We are faced with a clear conflict of evidence and therefore in making a determination we have considered the credibility of the witnesses and the evidence they have given.

We did consider that Witness A gave an inconsistent and incomplete account. However, we find that her evidence is preferable to that of the evidence which has been provided by Ms Stephenson for the following reasons:

  • We considered the notes of the British Red Cross investigation meeting with Ms Stephenson which took place on 23 August 2018. We feel the note of this meeting which was taken in close proximity to the incident taking place is not consistent with the oral evidence provided by Ms Stephenson during these proceedings.
  • We question the evidence which has been provided by Ms Stephenson in relation to the sequence of events of the calls between her and Witness A on 4 June. We find that Ms Stephenson has provided a number of different accounts of when she was informed that Witness A had visited Individual D. We are not persuaded that Witness A told Ms Stephenson about her visit to Individual D on 1 June after the police had left the property. The evidence contained in the bundle does not support the suggestion made by Ms Stephenson in evidence that she only became aware of this fact during a call later in the evening on 4 June 2018. In the investigation meeting on 23 August 2018 when asked what time on the Monday she had become aware that Witness A had visited the client on the Friday she responded ‘after she said that he had passed away.’ This appears to be inconsistent with what is recorded at p38 of the bundle of documents. We are not convinced by Ms Stephenson’s account that Witness A did not inform her that she had tried to call the office land line or duty phone when she disclosed that she had visited Individual D on 1 June 2018. We are satisfied that Witness A did attempt to contact the office on 1 June and are persuaded by both the evidence of Witness A and Witness D in this regard. We find it implausible that Witness A wouldn’t tell Ms Stephenson that she had tried to call the office on 1 June 2018 when she couldn’t access the property. We also note that during Ms Stephenson’s investigation meeting on 23 August 2018 Ms Stephenson raised the question with Witness D whether there would be a record on the works phone. This is inconsistent with the suggestion that Ms Stephenson was not aware that Witness A had tried to call the office and left a message.
  • We are also persuaded by the fact that Witness A admitted her own wrongdoing to both her employer and the police. This must have been very difficult for her and we have heard from Witness A that she was very stressed and worried about what had happened which resulted in her becoming unwell. Witness A’ behaviour in this regard is in contrast to Ms Stephenson’s failure to report the fact of Witness A’ visit to Individual D on 1 June 2018 to her employer.
  • We also find that the evidence of Witness D was credible and persuasive and helped to tip the balance in favour of Witness A when considering whose evidence to believe.

In summary we find that on a balance of probabilities the facts of Charge 1(a) and (b) are proved.

2. Your conduct in 1(a) and/or 1(b) above:

(a) was dishonest;

(b) displayed a lack of integrity.

In relation to Charge 2 we considered the legal test for dishonesty and the legal advice in relation to integrity. Having found that Ms Stephenson told Witness A to withhold information from the police and give information to the police that was inaccurate or misleading we have decided that her conduct in Charge 1(a) and 1(b) was both dishonest and displayed a lack of integrity. We applied the standards of ordinary decent people and found that an honest member of the public would consider that Ms Stephenson’s instruction to Witness A on 4 June 2018 to provide false information to the police was dishonest and a failure to display moral values.

We find both Charges proved.

Decision on impairment

We find that Ms Stephenson’s Fitness to Practise is currently impaired.

First, we considered whether one or more grounds of impairment were present. Two grounds are potentially relevant in this case, namely Serious Misconduct and/or Deficient Performance although Social Care Wales consider that Serious Misconduct is the most appropriate in light of our findings of fact.

We have taken into account Ms Stephenson’s representations and the fact she has worked in social care for 20 years. However, our findings in relation to Ms Stephenson’s dishonesty and lack of integrity are serious.

Ms Stephenson has failed to establish and maintain trust and confidence of individuals by being open and honest. We find that her behaviour has called into question her suitability to work in the social care profession.

Having carefully considered the submissions of the Social Care Wales Presenter and the Code of Professional Practice for Social Care, we find that Ms Stephenson’s conduct clearly fell short of the standards set out within the Code and in particular the elements of the Code as outlined by the Social Care Wales Presenter.

In our view Ms Stephenson’s actions clearly amount to Serious Misconduct and this was so serious to amount to an impairment of her Fitness to Practise.

We then went on to consider whether Ms Stephenson’s Fitness to Practise is currently impaired.

We find that Ms Stephenson has failed to accept ownership of her conduct and hasn’t demonstrated insight into her actions. We consider that due to the nature of Ms Stephenson’s conduct she could pose a risk to individuals using services in the future. Further we have not been made aware of any remedial steps taken by Ms Stephenson during the period between the time referred to in the Charges and the time of this hearing and in any event we note that dishonesty is not easily remediable.

In light of our finding that Ms Stephenson’s conduct displayed a lack of integrity we do not consider that her integrity can be relied upon and we find that by being dishonest she has breached a fundamental tenet of the social care profession.

We also consider that public confidence in the social care profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.

We have therefore concluded that Ms Stephenson’s Fitness to Practise is currently impaired.

Decision on disposal

We impose a Removal Order.

We have accepted the legal advice provided and have had regard to the Social Care Wales Indicative Sanctions Guidance. We also took into consideration the submissions made by Ms Stephenson and those on behalf of Social Care Wales.

In considering which if any disposal is appropriate, we noted the following mitigating factors:

  • Ms Stephenson has co-operated with the investigation by Social Care Wales.
  • She has not been the subject of previous disciplinary findings.
  • She has over 20 years’ experience working within the social care sector.
  • She provided an apology when giving her submissions.

We also considered whether there were any aggravating factors and noted the following:

  • Ms Stephenson has been dishonest and has displayed a lack of integrity.
  • Her conduct took place in the course of carrying out her professional duties.
  • We have already found that Ms Stephenson has failed to accept ownership of her conduct and hasn’t demonstrated insight into her actions.
  • We also consider that she has shown a serious disregard for Social Care Wales Code of Professional Practice for Social Care.

We first considered whether to close the matter without any action or to impose a Warning. In view of the significant aggravating factors we did not consider that either would reflect the seriousness of Ms Stephenson’s misconduct.

We then considered the imposition of a Conditional Registration Order but concluded that this was neither practical nor appropriate. Ms Stephenson has not displayed insight into her failings, and we do not have a social care employer with whom to engage with the implementation of any suitable conditions. In any event we do not consider that any conditions would provide the necessary level of public protection in this case.

A Suspension Order would protect members of the public and the public interest during the period for which it existed. For the imposition of a Suspension Order to be appropriate, we would need to have some confidence that Ms Stephenson would be fit to practise by the time that the order came to an end. We decided that such an Order would not be sufficient due to the serious nature of Ms Stephenson’s conduct. We are not satisfied that her behaviour is unlikely to be repeated and find that dishonesty is not easily remedied.

We regard the actions taken by Ms Stephenson as being serious enough to warrant the imposition of a Removal Order. We consider such an order to be proportionate. Ms Stephenson abused her position by instructing a colleague to provide false information to the police and acted dishonestly. The public must be able to place complete reliance on the integrity of registered persons.

She has displayed a serious departure from the relevant professional standards set out in the Code of Professional Practice for Social Care and we find her behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with being a registered person.

We have also concluded that a Removal Order is necessary to protect the public and the wider public interest and no lesser disposal is appropriate.

We therefore impose a Removal Order.

We have also decided that it is necessary for the protection of members of the public and is otherwise in the public interest to make an Immediate Order that shall apply immediately until the Removal Order comes into effect.