Removal by Agreement means that through this process, a registered person can apply to be removed from the Register without being referred to a Panel.
The decision to agree to the application is made at a Case Conference. A registered person can apply for this at any stage in the fitness to practise process.
Applying for removal by agreement does not mean that a registered person has the right to be removed, but it enables Social Care Wales to agree to removal in an appropriate case.
The decision whether to agree the application is made taking into account whether the allegation involves exceptional public interest issues.
1. Ms Karen Williamson ('Ms Williamson') registered with Social Care Wales (SCW), formerly known as Care Council for Wales, as a Qualified Social Worker on 8 November 2004.
2. Ms Williamson was employed by Newport City Council ("the Council"). In July 2010, she was promoted to post of Senior Practitioner. On 5 October 2015, Ms Williamson was referred to SCW in relation to an allegation that she had failed to follow child protection procedures in relation to a child protection referral. Ms Williamson was issued with a final written warning for 18 months by her employer and was demoted to position of Social Worker with effect from January 2016. No further action was taken by SCW in relation to the referral, save that Ms Williamson was reminded of the need to follow the Code of Professional Practice for Social Care.
3. Ms Williamson worked in the Safeguarding Hub of the Council's Children and Young People's services. The Hub is the front-line duty team which responds to referrals that come through to Children and Young People Services, including child protection referrals.
4. On 19 February 2019, Ms Williamson undertook a visit to a School in Newport ('the School') to talk to Pupil 1 in response to a Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF) which has been sent by the School on 6 February 2019. The concern was that Pupil 1 had been sexually abused by her step-father. As the allegation was that the sexual abuse had taken place with the knowledge of Pupil 1's mother, it was not considered appropriate to obtain the mother's consent to interviewing Pupil 1. Ms Williamson sought, and obtained, permission from the headteacher of the School to interview Pupil 1.
5. Concerns about Ms Williamson's conduct during her visit to the School on 19 February came to light during a subsequent court case. As a result of those concerns, Ms Williamson was suspended by the Council on 12th April 2019, while the concerns were investigated.
6. Ms Catherine Hywood was appointed by the Council as Investigation Officer. During the course of her investigation Ms Hywood interviewed Karen Williamson twice. Amongst the evidence considered by Ms Hywood, were court statements made by the School Receptionist and the Headteacher. Ms Hywood also reviewed the transcript of Gwent Police’s Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview with Pupil 2, who was a friend of Pupil 1, in which concerns were raised about Karen Williamson’s behaviour.
7. Ms Hywood prepared an Investigation Report and the Council held a disciplinary hearing on 6 August 2019, which resulted in Ms Williamson's summary dismissal in relation to the allegations set out below.
That you, on 19 February 2019, whilst registered as a Qualified Social Worker and employed by Newport City Council:
(1) Made inappropriate comments to Pupil 2
8. The School Receptionist, provided a statement in which she referred to Ms Williamson coming out of the room in which she had been speaking to Pupil 1, requesting that she speak to Pupil 2. The receptionist stated that Pupil 2 was present as the bell had just rung for break. The Receptionist stated that Pupil 2 immediately said that she did not wish to speak to Ms Williamson about the allegations and also questioned if she would have to speak in Pupil 1's presence. The Receptionist stated that Ms Williamson said that Pupil 2 would have to speak in Pupil 1's presence, which caused Pupil 2 to be agitated.
9. The Receptionist stated that Ms Williamson then said to Pupil 2: 'l need you to come in and speak in front of me and Pupil 1 about what you know. That girl in there could end up murdered or become a prostitute, would you want what you know happening to you?', or words to that effect.
10. In a statement prepared by Ms Williamson for a court hearing, Ms Williamson stated: '...in an attempt to encourage her to speak to me, I advised her that I was worried that [Pupil 1] may end up dead or a prostitute'. During her first investigating interview, Ms Williamson acknowledged that she had used this phrase when talking to Pupil 2. Ms Williamson also accepted that this was inappropriate and was not her normal practice. Ms Williamson also stated that she had asked Pupil 2 if she believed the disclosures made by Pupil 1 and she accepted that this was poor practice.
(2) Behaved inappropriately towards Pupil 2
11. The Receptionist described Pupil 2 as being 'cornered against the wall' by Ms Williamson and that Ms Williamson was 'quite forceful in her manner'. The Receptionist described Pupil 2 at this stage as being 'very worked up' and was 'shaking and tearful with her hands to her head'.
12. In her ABE interview, Pupil 2 said that Ms Williamson was shouting at her and was 'right in my face'. Pupil 2 also described herself as being 'backed into a corner'.
13. Ms Williamson expressed regret at causing Pupil 2 to be upset.
(3) Failed to follow procedures when interviewing a child
14. The Receptionist stated that, when Ms Williamson asked to speak to Pupil 2, she asked her if she had obtained consent from Pupil 2's parents. Ms Williamson said that she had not done so and asked that the School call Pupil 2's mother. Pupil 2 said that she lived with her aunt. Ms Williamson requested that the School make a call to the aunt. Pupil 2 made a call from her own phone to her aunt. Her aunt then phoned the School that say that Pupil 2 was not, under any circumstances, to go into any room and speak to anyone.
15. The Receptionist referred to Ms Williamson's insistence that she needed to speak to Pupil 2 despite the fact that Pupil 2's aunt had not provided consent.
16. The Receptionist stated this to the Headteacher when she arrived at the reception area. While The Receptionist was explaining what was happening, Ms Williamson came back out of the conference room into reception and shouted quite loudly, 'l have had a disclosure, we need to call the police'. The Receptionist stated that this was said in front of the Headteacher. The Receptionist stated that Ms Williamson had not met the Headteacher at that point. As this was the reception area, Ms Williamson might have been disclosing sensitive information in front of a member of the public.
17. Prior to leaving the School that day, Mr Williamson apologised to The Receptionist and the Headteacher for her emotional state throughout the day and acknowledged that she had not behaved appropriately.
18. Ms Williamson confirms her agreement to the facts set out in this statement
19. Ms Williamson confirms that it is not her intention to work in the future in any capacity which would require her to be registered by SCW and that she wishes her name to be removed from SCW's register by agreement under Rule 9 of the Investigation Rules 2018. This statement of agreed facts has been prepared for that purpose.
20. If, contrary to her expressed intention, Ms Williamson should make an application for registration with SCW at a future date, Ms Williamson acknowledges that SCW may have regard to the contents of this statement when considering such an application.