Akhigbe v GSCC, Court of Appeal, April 27, 2011, [2011] UKFTT 263 (HESC)

Resolution Date:April 27, 2011
Actores:Akhigbe v GSCC
 
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[2011] UKFTT 263 (HESC)IN THE FIRST TIER TRIBUNAL CASE NO: [2010] 1860.SW BETWEEN:VIVIAN AKHIGBE ApplicantandGENERAL SOCIAL CARE COUNCIL RespondentTribunal John Burrow - JudgeMr Jim Lim - Specialist member Mr Chris Wakefield - Specialist member1. Introduction1.1 The appeal was heard at Pocock Street London SE1 0BW on 18 April 2011. The General Social Care Council (GSCC) was represented by Guy Michelwright of Blake Lapthorne, who called no witnesses. Ms Akhibe appeared in person, was unrepresented and called one character witness, Ms Essien. 1.2 In March 2007 Ms Akhigbe pleaded guilty to three counts concerned with the dishonest claiming of benefits. She commenced a social work degree, and joined the GSCC as a student member but failed to report the convictions to her college or to the GSCC. When she applied to be a full member the Registration Committee refused her application. She appealed pursuant to Section 68 of the Care Standards Act 2000. 2. The Hearing Bundle 2.1 The bundle consisted of 341 pages. We took all this evidence into account, along with the evidence of Ms Essien and submissions made in the hearing, in reaching our decision.3. Legal Considerations.3.1 Under section 58(1) of the CSA 2000, an application to be included on the GSCC register shall be refused if the GSCC is not satisfied that the applicant is of good character or has not met the requirements as to conduct in the GSCC (Conduct ) Rules 2008. 3.2 Under Section 68 of the CSA 2000 the Tribunal may confirm the decision or direct that it shall not have effect. It may not substitute its own decision for that of the Registration Committee, but it may impose conditions on any registration. 3.3 The burden is on the Appellant to demonstrate her competence and good character and that she is suitable for registration. The standard of proof is the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities. 4 The Grounds of Appeal4.2 Ms Akhigbe's grounds of appeal are set out in the Appeal Application Form dated 6 December 2010. In summary the grounds are:-- The Registration Committee did not permit the Appellant to make oral submissions.- Mitigating factors should outweigh the concerns raised by the convictions.- The conduct is unlikely to be repeated - The failure to notify the convictions was not dishonest.5. The Evidence5.1 Ms Akhigbe was registered as a student Social Worker in about November 2006. In this period she was working part time and studying part time at Goldsmith College for the Social Work degree. On the 9 November 2009 she applied to the GCSS to be admitted to the register as a Qualified Social Worker. The application disclosed a conviction for ``overpayment of housing benefit, dishonest representation on 20.3.07 at Camberwell Magistrates Court''. 5.2 On a later Criminal Declaration Form dated 8 December 2009, Ms Akhigbe said she had received 40 hours Community Service Order (CSO) and that the offence had occurred in 2004. She said she was a single parent at the time with many financial responsibilities. She said she was naïve and was unsure how the benefit system operated. She said she was given wrong information by a friend and that if her income was low she could still work and claim housing benefit. She said since the conviction her situation has changed in that she is in a better situation financially and the birth of her daughter had made her more responsible. 5.3 On the Form she also said her daughter was born out of wedlock and that her parents had disowned her. She had no support from her family or partner. She suffered depression. Currently she has reconciled with both her family and partner and had completed her social work studies. She disclosed some details of her convictions. 5.4 The GSCC wrote to Southwark Council for full details of the convictions. These showed that she had pleaded guilty to three offences. These were that between the 15th March 2004 and 5th August 2004 she failed to notify the London Borough of Southwark of a change in circumstances which she knew would affect her entitlement to benefit. Secondly on 6th August 2004 that she furnished an application form for housing and council tax benefit which she knew to be false in that it failed to declare her income. Thirdly, on the 1st April 2005 she again furnished a housing and council tax benefit review form which she knew to be false in that it failed to declare her income. These offenses were contrary 112(1)(b) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 for which she received a Community Punishment Order of 40 hours and an Order to pay £200 costs. She disclosed details showing she had completed the CSO. 5.5 She also included a character reference from Margaret Essien stating she was ``honest, hardworking, reliable and dedicated with high integrity, good character and high moral standards.'' A second character...

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