LA v General Social Care Council, Court of Appeal - Social workers/social care workers, June 02, 2008, [2007] EWCST 985(SW)

Resolution Date:June 02, 2008
Issuing Organization:Social workers/social care workers
Actores:LA v General Social Care Council
 
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Care Standards Tribunal

40

LA v General Social Care Council [2007] EWCST 985(SW) (2 June 2008)

LA

v

General Social Care Council

[2007] 985.SW

BEFORE

Mr. Simon Oliver, Deputy President

Mrs. Lydia Gladwin, Specialist Member

Mrs. Margaret Williams, Specialist Member

DECISION

Heard on 25th January, 6th, 7th and 11th March 2008

Representation

The Applicant was represented by Mr. Martin Weinbren of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) on all days except 11th March when the Applicant was represented by Ms D Tuck, a solicitor.

The Respondent was represented by Ms Eleanor Grey, of counsel

Appeal

1. Lisa Arthurworrey (the Appellant or LA) was the social worker named in the Victoria Climbié enquiry. This is an appeal against the Respondent's decision, dated 18th December 2006, not to register the Appellant as a Social Worker. It is for the Care Standards Tribunal (``the CST'') to endorse that decision or to direct that it shall not have effect: see section 68(2) of the Care Standards Act 2000. The CST may also impose conditions (s68(3)).

Preliminary matters

2. On 19th November 2007 the Deputy President issued a written decision extending the time in which LA was able to appeal the decision of the General Social Care Council. The reason that an extension of time was given was that, as is known, on 18th December 2006 the Respondent wrote to the Appellant giving her notice of its decision to refuse her registration as a social worker. The letter informed the Appellant of her right to appeal to this Tribunal within 3 months of service of that decision upon her. That would have been 19th March 2007, if the letter from the Respondent was received the day after it was posted.

3. The Appellant appealed to this Tribunal on 7th April 2007, received on 13th April 2007. That was some 20 working days late. In her appeal form the Appellant stated that `[m]y application is late because I became distressed with the GSCC's decision and their assessment and was not able to take any further action. It has only been through the use of ongoing counselling from a clinical psychologist, that I am now in a position to submit this application. I can provide a medical report if required.' On 17th April 2007 the Tribunal sought a copy medical report from the Appellant. That report did not materialise until September 2007.

4. The GSCC applied on 26th April 2007 under Regulation 4A(1)(a)(i) of the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults and Care Standards Tribunal Regulations 2002 (`the Regulations') to strike out this appeal against the decision to refuse the registration of LA on the register of social workers because it was out of time. That application first came before the Deputy President on 7th August 2007 although the medical report had still not been obtained by the applicant. At the August hearing Ms Grey, very fairly, suggested that the tribunal should consider the hearing as an application to extend time rather than as an application to strike out, even though she did not agree with the extension of time.

5. Although Regulation 35(3) expressly excludes Schedule 6 paragraph 1 from the Tribunal's general power to extend time, Regulation 35(4) provides that in relation to appeals under sub-paragraph (3A) of Paragraph 1 of Schedule 6, there is power to extend time under paragraph 1 of Regulation 35. Regulation 35(2) states that the President or nominated Chairman may extend any time limit if in the circumstances (a) it would be unreasonable to expect it to be, or to have been complied with; and (b) it would be unfair not to extend it. In the circumstances, the Tribunal may have power to extend the time limit for bringing this appeal.

6. Because the medical report was not available at that time the August hearing was adjourned and a time table set that required Dr. Wolgroch's report to be available by 7th September 2007. In fact it did not arrive until 14th September 2007.

7. At the hearing in September the Deputy President came to the conclusion that, on balance, the notional application to extend time would be allowed on the basis that, although it had been very hard work to obtain the medical report from LA - 5 months, in fact, and even then it was not as effective as it could have been - that actually worked in favour of LA. If it was this difficult to make her engage in obtaining something that she knew to be very important, it is clear that she was almost certainly just as unable to engage with the process for appealing in March 2007. The Deputy President was satisfied, therefore, that this delay in filing the Notice of Appeal was not a `simple' failure to comply with the time limits but was because, given everything that had happened in the last few years, to receive notification of the Refusal to Register must have come as yet another shock and that, in the circumstances, it would be unfair to the appellant not to extend the time limit for appealing. The time limit in which to appeal was extended until 19th April 2007.

The Law

8. The decision of the GSCC's Registration Committee (RC) was made under s58 of the Care Standards Act 2000, coupled with the General Social Care Council (Registration) Rules 2005 (Rule 4(10)). It is for the applicant to establish her suitability to be registered.

9. S58 states as follows;

(1) If the Council is satisfied that the applicant-

(a) is of good character

(b) is physically and mentally fit to perform the whole or part of the work of persons registered in any part of the register to which his application relates; and

(c) satisfies the following conditions

it shall grant the application, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as it thinks fit; and in any other case it shall refuse it.

(2) The first condition is that-

in the case of an application for registration as a social worker-

(i) he has successfully completed a course approved by the Council under S63 for persons wishing to become social workers;

(j) (ii) he satisfies the requirements of Section 64; [qualifications gained outside England] or

(iii) he satisfies any requirements as to training which the Council may by Rules impose in relation to social workers.

(3) The second condition is that the applicant satisfies any requirements as to conduct and competence, which the Council may by rules, impose.

10. The Respondent asks the Tribunal to note that the decision in this case was made by the GSCC's Registration Committee. This is an independent body, made up of three (or sometimes five) members, with a lay majority. The committee has one person with relevant experience of the applicant's area of practice (see Rule 12(7) of the Registration Rules 2005).

11. The Respondent also asks us to bear in mind that, in carrying out its task in this appeal, we should have at the front of our minds, the fact that the primary purpose of the Care Standards Act 2000, and therefore the Tribunal, is to safeguard vulnerable members of the public. We are exhorted to ensure that we do not allow matters of livelihood and reputation to undermine the principle of safeguarding. See Miss Quigley (Kinderland Montessori School) v OFSTED [2004] 0285.EY. Ms Grey says that it is apparent that in the Laming Inquiry, the vulnerable (in the shape of Victoria Climbié) were at the forefront of the Inquiry's mind and concerns; the same should be equally true in this hearing.

The evidence heard and read

12. We heard from Mr. Robin Weekes on behalf of the GSCC and Ms LA. We had a bundle of about 1500 pages of documents to which we were referred. Those documents comprised, amongst other documents,

(1) the decision letter of the Registration Committee

(2) The submission to the GSCC's Registration Committee, which included a full evaluation of the available evidence and suggested conclusions

(3) The Report of Lord Laming, Chapter 6 [abbreviated as ``LL'' and then a paragraph number eg: LL 6.123 in this decision];

(4) Summary of LA's evidence to the Laming Inquiry [compiled by Mr Bernard Monaghan];

(5) The decision of the Care Standards Tribunal in [2004] 268.PC (``the 268 decision''); This was a previous Care Standards Tribunal hearing in May 2005 which concerned LA's inclusion on the Protection of Children Act (PoCA) Register.

(6) The Appellant's employment application form to Haringey Council.

The Registration Committee's decision

13. The Registration Committee set out its decision in considerable detail. We have to consider that decision and so we too set out what it said. This is not the whole contents of the decision letter, just that part of it which is relevant to our decision. The tribunal has considered those matters in detail and will need to make findings in relation to them.

14. The Registration Committee (RC) said that, in considering whether LA met the conditions for registration as to good character, conduct, and competence, the Committee fully recognised and took into account that there were a number of significant extenuating circumstances, which are referred to in detail by Lord Laming and the CST 268 appeal. These included her relative lack of experience for a case of this kind, the lack of supervision, the lack of training, the complexity of the case, the failure by Haringey Council to manage the reorganisation of the Children and Family Service appropriately, and the unsupportive, chaotic and demoralised office environment. We agree that there are significant extenuating circumstances and that they need to be taken into consideration in our decision making process.

15. The Committee was not satisfied that LA met the criterion set out in section 58(3) of the Care Standards Act 2000 (``the Act'') and Rule 4 of the General Social Care Council (Registration) Rules 2005 (``the Rules), where the Council must be satisfied that she is of good conduct in that:

``Over the 211 days that you held the Victoria Climbié case, you failed to spend more than 30 minutes with Victoria at any one time during the 4 visits you made. On these occasions, the conversations between you and Victoria were no...

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