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Sarah Elizabeth Thomas
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Registered role
Social Worker
Outcome
Removal by agreement
Location
N/A
Employer
Previously Platfform and Cardiff Women's Aid
Type of hearing
No panel held - removal by agreement process

Decision summary

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.

Introduction

1. Ms Sarah Elizabeth Thomas ('Ms Thomas') registered with Social Care Wales (SCW) as a Qualified Social Worker on 5 September 2007.

2. Ms Thomas was employed by Platfform as a Case Worker from 15 April 2019. Platfform is a mental health and social change charity that works with people experiencing challenges with their mental health. Ms Thomas was dismissed from that employment following a disciplinary hearing on 29 July 2020. At that disciplinary hearing, allegations which broadly corresponded with allegations 1 to 4 below were considered.

3. Ms Thomas was subsequently employed by Cardiff Women's Aid ('CWA'). She was suspended by CWA on 26 March 2021, pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct. Ms Thomas resigned with effect from 1 April 2021. However, CWA wrote to Ms Thomas on 1 April 2021 informing her that, if she had not resigned, the outcome of the investigation would have resulted in her contract being terminated. That investigation had considered an allegation which corresponded with allegation 5 and 6 below.

Allegations

That you, whilst registered as a Qualified Social Worker

Whilst employed by Platfform:

(1) Accessed the CCTV system without prior authorisation and recorded footage on your personal mobile phone.

4. At her disciplinary hearing on 29 July 2020, Ms Thomas admitted that she had viewed CCTV footage of a resident who had fallen from a chair and recorded that footage on her personal mobile phone. Two other members of staff stated that Ms Thomas was 'laughing hysterically' at the footage. Ms Thomas asserted that she was only smiling at the footage and that she had wanted to show the footage to another member of staff to prove who had broken and removed the chair. Ms Thomas accepted that there was no defensible reason to record the footage on her personal mobile phone. The disciplinary panel found that the actions of Ms Thomas were inappropriate. Further, that even if she had not read Platfform's policies and procedures, she had previously worked in a number of related fields, including working as a Social Worker, involving interacting with vulnerable people where standards of behaviour around conduct and confidentiality were similar to those of Platfform's.

(2) Provided the police with your personal phone number for them to contact you regarding concerns relating to a Platfform client.

5. On 15 November 2019, Ms Thomas and another member of staff had been asked to go to the main Barry office to listen to voicemails that had been received from a Platfform client that were of an abusive nature. They were instructed to ring 101 to report the calls to the police. Due to the length of time waiting, Ms Thomas decided to go to Barry police station to report to report the voicemails. When she did so, she gave her personal mobile number to the police. At her disciplinary hearing, the panel accepted her explanation that she had passed on her personal mobile number by accident initially. Ms Thomas said that she had then returned to the reception desk at the police station during the same visit and asked that her personal number be removed from the system. The panel did not accept this explanation. Ms Thomas admitted that, on 16 November 2019, she had received a message from the police on her personal mobile phone and that she did not answer this or return the call and deleted the message immediately. Ms Thomas also confirmed during the hearing that she had received calls from the police on her work phone and that she could then have asked that her personal mobile number be removed. The panel concluded that Ms Thomas had not taken all necessary and reasonable steps to have her personal mobile number removed from the police system and that this was in breach of Platfform's ICT Acceptable Use and Data Protection, Privacy and Confidentiality Policies.

(3) Failed to maintain an appropriate professional boundaries with Client A.

6. During the course of Platfform's investigation, allegations came to light that Ms Thomas had failed to maintain an appropriate professional boundary with Client A. It was alleged that:

• Ms Thomas had arranged a date on an online dating agency, which she talked about to Client A during a meeting. Client A further alleged that, the following day, Ms Thomas left two voicemail messages in which she called to tell Client A about her date.

• On 11 November 2019, Ms Thomas called Client A for around 15 minutes asking Client A to play a game. Client A said that the game that Ms Thomas suggested was that Client A should ask Ms Thomas questions. Ms Thomas than wanted Client A to ask her to swear on the life of the daughter of Ms Thomas (who was named to the client). Ms Thomas had told the client that this would determine whether she was lying or not. Ms Thomas denied that she had said this to the client, but another member of staff referred to an occasion when Ms Thomas had told her about a call that she had made to Client A and that she had been playing a game. When asked by that other member of staff what the purpose of playing the game with the client was, Ms Thomas had responded, 'Oh, just to cheer her up'.

• Client A stated that Ms Thomas had shared with her details of the illness of a relative of another member of staff.

7. The panel concluded that Ms Thomas had disclosed information to Client A of a personal nature, which was inappropriate and which Client A had found difficult to deal with.

(4) Spoke inappropriately to Client B.

8. With reference to Client B, it was alleged that on 20 November 2019, Ms Thomas had been suspended and was presenting as visibly distressed when she was about to leave the supported housing project. Ms Thomas then suggested to Client B that she should accompany her for a coffee, but for the fact that Ms Thomas would be in 'even more trouble' if she did this. The panel was informed that Ms Thomas had been asked on more than one occasion to leave by two managers so that clients did not see her upset, but she had failed to do so. Her comment was overheard by another member of staff. The panel concluded that this conduct was an inappropriate, particularly in relation to Client B who had a history of self-harming.

Whilst employed by Cardiff Women's Aid

(5) Failed to maintain an appropriate professional boundary with Client B

9. As part of the investigation conducted by CWA, a manager from Platfform was interviewed. She said that, after Ms Thomas had been suspended on 20 November 2019, Client B had thought that she was responsible for Ms Thomas not returning to work for Platfform. In January 2020, Platfform was contacted by the parents of Client B as they were concerned for Client B. They had heard that Client B was staying with a friend called 'Sarah'. It was confirmed that the police subsequently found Client B at the home of Ms Thomas.

10. When interviewed as part of CWA's investigation on 31 March 2021, Ms Thomas said that a 'friend,' Client B, had been staying with her for some months. Ms Thomas described Client B as a 'self-harmer' with 'mental health issues'. Ms Thomas said that she had invited Client B to stay with her as she was concerned about her. Ms Thomas said that Client B had been a client of Platform but that she had not actually been her client. Ms Thomas said that there had been two incidents of threatened suicide by Client B when she had been living with Ms Thomas, which had resulted in the police being called to her house. On one of these occasions, she said that Client B had self-harmed vaginally with scissors. Ms Thomas said that Client B had not lived with her since the second incident and that Ms Thomas had contacted Client B's sister as she (Ms Thomas) had been unable to cope with Client B.

(6) Failed to maintain the confidentiality of a client.

11. During the interview on 31 March 2021, Ms Thomas said that she had not deliberately shared confidential information with Client B about any client of CWA. However, Ms Thomas said that there had been an occasion when Client B was living with her when Client B had come into the room when Ms Thomas had been discussing a client on a three way call. Ms Thomas said that, sometimes Client B sat in her bedroom and may have been listening to calls. Ms Thomas said that Client B may have heard names and other sensitive personal information if she had overheard calls that Ms Thomas was involved in

Conclusion.

12. Ms Thomas confirms her agreement to the facts set out in this statement.

13. Ms Thomas 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 2020. This statement of agreed facts has been prepared for that purpose.

14. If, contrary to her expressed intention, Ms Thomas should make an application for registration with SCW at a future date, she acknowledges that SCW will have regard to the contents of this statement of agreed facts when considering such an application.