In 2012, the Health Care Professionals Council, HCPC, became the Regulators for Social Workers. These highly trained SOCIAL CARE professionals are now lumped together with ‘Art Therapists’, ‘Podiatrists’ and other questionable ‘professions’, who have no, or very little professional, let alone the complex legal responsibilities to the service users.
HCPC should perhaps invest in copy of Brayne & Carr “LAW for Social Workers”, which clearly define Social Workers legal responsibilities and tasks involved in both Child and Adult Social Care. HCPC would not be making such crass, off the cuff, unjustifiable statements, as they have made in F’s case.
Sadly, this page demonstrates the fact the the HCPC are NOT fit for purpose to get involved in matters concerning the complex professional legal responsibilities of the newly registered Social Workers.
The ONLY matter HCPC should have got involved in, was to satisfy themselves that Mr Leak, F’s Social Worker had the proper legal AUTHORITY to permit unrestricted access by others to F’s Confidential file, and allow an indiscriminate cull of 146 Confidential documents, some containing details of F’s HIV+ status and clinical information about the condition.
HCPC told F that they contacted the RBKC and the LGO, in their ‘investigation’ of his complaint against his Social Worker. This was irrelevant, as both have NOTHING to do with F’s complaint. It is a sign of poor understanding of the matter, or perhaps, more likely, intentional, agreed obfuscation, to divert the course of investigation.
Yet, from what HCPC told F, it would appear that Mr Leak, the Social Worker, for some obscure reason, was not even made aware of the complaint, let alone asked by HCPC for his statement of the sequence of events and more importantly, to produce a copy of the AUTHORITY to permit access to F’s file.
The ICO’s ‘Data Sharing Code of Practice’, is clear that the owner of the information must make sure that he is PERMITTED to share the information.
What was Mr Leak’s involvement in the disclosure of F’s HIV+ information without consent or knowledge, contrary to F’s May 2010 Amendment to his Information Sharing Agreement?
Taking into consideration what HCPC told F, most probably NONE AT ALL; as addressed on the Disclosure page.
On 8th December 2011, the Local Government Ombudsman, LGO, informed F that he had received copies of his Care Plan Review dating back to 2000.
F was very concerned about this and asked RBKC for its justification for the disclosure, bearing in mind that in May 2010 he had issued an amendment to his ‘Information Sharing Agreement‘, which requires RBKC to obtain his explicit written consent when a disclosure of his personal information is contemplated. The same amendment instructed RBKC to delete any HIV relevant information from his files.
Although RBKC amended F’s Confidentiality Table to reflect the changes, they failed to respond, as requested; F had no reason to assume that no action was taken, as RBKC had ample time to tell him so. It emerged much later that this amendment was in fact a ‘Notice‘ in accordance with paragraph 10 of the Data Protection Act, which required RBKC to reply, which they ignored.
In 2013 F learned that Social Workers usually belong to two organisations: The British Association of Social Workers, the BASW and the Health Care Professionals Council. the HCPC and pay a membership fee to both. Both produce their own guidelines; the BASW a ‘Code of Ethics‘ and the HCPC a ‘Guidance on Confidentiality’. The HCPC issues a ‘licence’, which entitles them to call themselves a ‘Social Worker’. BASW told F later that HCPC, became the Regulator of Social Workers in 2012 and they should deal with any complaints.
On 21st January 2013 F asked HCPC for information relating to Social Workers’ obligation relating to disclosure of HIV+ status and relevant clinical information.
In its reply dated 24th January 2013, HCPC told him that it is not responsible for setting the levels of Social Workers’ responsibilities. He was sent ‘How to make a complaint‘ leaflet.
Indeed, HCPC are NOT responsible for setting anything. This is defined by LAW and various CODES OF PRACTICE, fact carefully omitted by Ms Jones, the 1st HCPC ‘Case Manager’ in her reply.
This was a crucial stage of the ‘investigation’. HCPC’s ethos that ‘we are responsible for protecting the health and wellbeing of people who use the services of registered professionals’; and the Social Workers’ legal obligation to keep his clients’ “information safe and Confidential at all times”, went out of the window.
At this juncture, obfuscation and distortion of the course of investigation kicked in. Protection of the ‘Registrant’, rather than the complainant’s concerns became of paramount importance.
Although HCPC told F on 23rd July 2013, that there may be RBKC’s internal administrative faults, relating to information security and its handling procedures, this should have had NO influence on F’s Social Worker’s legal obligation to keep F’s information ‘safe and confidential at all times.’
It was Mr Leak’s responsibility to ensure that only he and those approved by him, had access to F’s file. Electronic file, held on RBKC computer system, accessed ONLY by those authorised by Mr Leak or his line managers. Paper files, these should be kept under lock and key at all times and subject to same authorisation. He should have ensured that password, key and combinations were known only to those entitled to know them.
It may be true that Mr Leak was NOT responsible for the actual disclosure of F’s information, but he was guilty of granting access to F’s information without any proper legal grounds to do so. Although RBKC claimed that a ‘formal request’ existed, they were unable to provide a copy, when asked, as addressed on the Disclosure page.
The ONLY document relating to request for documents and information is LGO’s letter dated 24th August 2011, which stated that the LGO ‘..would be grateful if you could provide me with copies of all the assessment documents for this matter…’ This is merely a ‘request‘, because that’s all the LGO could issue at that time. Should RBKC refused to provide this information, on the grounds of ‘Confidentiality‘, a process exists at the LGO, to formalise the request, by LGO obtaining a Court Order, to compel RBKC to produce these documents/information, should the LGO deemed it so essential to have these documents/information. This is discussed on the ‘Powers of the High Court‘ page.
Ms Jones, HCPC’s 1st ‘Case Manager’ to deal with F’s concern, chose NOT to tell F that Social Workers must follow NOT only the HCPC’s own ‘ Guidance to Confidentiality‘, but also the Data Protection Act, Department of Health ‘Data Protection Act -1998 -Guidance to Social Services‘ and the ICO ‘Data Sharing Code of Practice‘, which puts the onus on ensuring that the holder of the information is responsible to ensure that he can disclose the requested information.
Section 4 – Data Sharing and the Law of this Code clearly states that note MUST be taken of any existing ‘STATUTORY RESTRICTIONS’, which may influence the handling of specific information. Needless to say, that Article 8 of the Human Rights Act should also be considered.
Social Workers are also obliged to follow Department of Health ‘Confidentiality – NHS Code of Practice’, which contains the relevant ‘STATUTORY RESTRICTION’. Para 46 – Legal Restriction on disclosure‘. This is underpinned by a standalone legislation, the NHS(Venereal Regulations)1974, which controls the handling of a VERY SPECIFIC KIND OF INFORMATION – THAT RELATING TO SEXUALLY TRANSMITTABLE DISEASES, INCLUDING HIV‘.
Had Ms Jones stated these obligations, F may have asked relevant questions, which may have taken a completely different and unpredictable direction, out of Mr Jones’ control. This she obviously wanted to avoid at any cost.
On 19th February 2013 F submitted a complaint against his Social Worker, for allowing unauthorised disclosure of his HIV+ relevant medical information without F’s consent, as stipulated in his May 2010 amendment to his ‘Information Sharing Agreement‘, which clearly requires an explicit written consent to disclose any information.
HCPC replied on 28th February 2013, telling F that as the complaint stands, it does not comply with its ‘Complaint acceptance rules.’ HCPC asked for more information.
The ONLY information F should have been asked to provide, was a copy of his CONSENT. Perhaps NOT even this, as Section 4 of ICO ‘Data Sharing Code of Practice’ puts the onus on the information’s holder to ensure that he has the powers/authority to disclose the requested information.
It was Mr Leak, F’s Social Worker who should have been asked to provide a copy of F’s explicit written consent to disclose his HIV+ relevant information.
Should a CONSENT NOT exist, provide a credible legally sound document, compelling Mr Leak to afford unrestricted access to F’s file and indulge in an indiscriminate cull of 146 documents from his file. Including the disclosure of his HIV status.
The ONLY document relating to the provision of documents, was a REQUEST letter to RBKC from the LGO, which has NO legal agravitas. It is merely what it states, a ‘REQUEST’ for copies of documents.
According to information received, this credible document could ONLY be a Court Order, specifically ordering the disclosure of F’s HIV relevant information. This would be very problematic. Although a Court Order could technically be issued for this specific information, it could only be issued if criminal proceedings were in progress against an individual. There could not be any reason to issue such an Order in a Civil matter.
This NEVER HAPPENED, therefore there was NO authority of any kind to allow/compel Mr Leak to permit access to F’s file and be impotent in preventing indiscriminate cull of 146 documents from F’s file.
Had it happened, the matter might have been resolved in February 2013, as F would have taken the appropriate action. Instead, it has dragged on until this date. Very convenient for Mr Leak and a resounding success for the HCPC in protecting him from any action. Not only Mr Leak, but also RBKC, who so far have got away with everything.
Despite Ms Jones’ obvious confusion, the Complaint form, clearly states that the Complaint is against an individual; a Social Worker properly registered with HCPC. NOWHERE does F claim that RBKC or indeed the LGO was in any way complicit in the disclosure.
It is clear that Ms Jones was determined to keep Mr Leak out of the ‘loop’ by not asking him for his version of events and indeed to provide the crucial document.
Likewise, HCPC’s query as to what the ICO decided in F’s complaint against RBKC, is also irrelevant. It came to light much later, when the ICO admitted that should handling of specific information is protected by legislation different from the DPA, it is outside of his remit. In F’s case, it was/is for the NHS to consider.
On 17th July 2013 F received a reply from Mr Kabir Siddigi, in which he stated that Mr Leak WAS NOT responsible for the release of the information sent to the LGO.
Erroneously, he claimed that F’s concern seem to relate solely to the manner in which the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have handled his information. NOT so. F was NEVER concerned what RBKC did or did not do. This is irrelevant. F was always concerned about Mr Leak’s role in the disclosure. Had Mr Leak NOT allowed access to F’s information, there would not have been anything to disclose and this page would not exist.
In a reply to F dated 23rd July 2013, Mr Siddiqui showed that he is indeed very confused individual. F has always been concerned as to what Mr Leak had done, as he is registered with HCPC. Mr Siddiqui fails to appreciate that Mr Leak is an independent legal entity, with his own legal obligations to his clients. Whether there is a fault in RBKC’s administrative process of handling confidential client information is irrelevant. The onus to keep F’s ’information safe and confidential’, is on Mr Leak, who is obliged by his licence to ensure that this is so.
As far as RBKC compliance with rules relating to confidentiality is concerned, these come under the allegedly watchful eye of the ‘Caldicott Guardian’, who was NOWHERE to be seen or heard.
On 25th July 2013 Mr Siddiqui stated that RBKC had told him that Mr Leak was NOT directly responsible for the disclosure of F’s information to the legal team. This is utter nonsense. F’s file was in Mr Leak’s custody, who was the only one who could grant access to it. Who than, had the God like powers to access this information and remove whatever they felt fit?
He informed F that he was told by RBKC that if a ‘formal request for information from the legal team’ existed, it would render Mr Leak impotent from preventing access to F’s file. Apparently, it would be the Service Manager who could indiscriminately remove whatever she felt fit. RBKC also explained to HCPC that its legal team has access to all documentation which they need for their role. IN THEIR ROLE AS A WHAT?
When F asked RBKC to provide a copy of this crucial document, he was told that RBKC does not have a copy of it.
It can be freely and rightfully alleged that RBKC dreamt up the notion of the document’s existence, which was a blatant attempt to divert the investigation in a different direction, thus perverting the course of justice in a proper investigation of F’s concerns.
Taking into consideration that HCPC conveniently failed to ask for a copy of this important documents, it can be alleged that they colluded with RBKC, not to question the existence of this important document.
Relating to access to F’s file by a ‘legal team’ to obtain and disclose his medical information, including his HIV status without consent or knowledge, F sent on 10th September 2013 an FOI Request to most London and national local authorities. Those who replies, being the majority of those asked, stated emphatically that NO legal team would enjoy such privilege without a specific Court Order requesting the information, particularly F’s HIV status. It is highly debatable, taking into consideration the legislation protecting this specific information, that a Court Order compelling the disclosure of F’s HIV status would ever be issued.
F realised that RBKC’s statement to HCPC was factually incorrect, putting forward fallacious arguments. On 10th October 2013, F submitted an FOI Request to obtain copies of all correspondence exchanged between HCPC and RBKC and LGO.
In their reply dated 5th November 2013 HCPC refused. to provide the requested information, on the grounds that it would prejudice their ‘investigation’. F was told that HCPC had contacted the LGO and RBKC. It is evident that the HCPC went to great lengths to justify NOT to provide these documents, which may confirm existence of some collusion, to obstruct process of F’s complaint..
HCPC’s handbook states that ‘misconduct’ of Registrants is investigated, yet Mr Guthrie, HCPC Director, when asked on could not provide HCPC’s definition of ‘MISCONDUCT’.
Bottom line: Where is the legally sound document which unequivocally compelled Mr Leak to grant unrestricted access to F’s file, without his CONSENT, and be powerless in the removal of 146 confidential documents, containing details of F’s HIV+ status and relevant clinical details?