Social Work England
On 2 December, Social Work England is due to take over responsibility, from the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC), for regulating England’s social workers. Under Social Work England, social workers will face new fitness to practise criteria and procedures.
Under Social Work England, social workers will face new fitness to practise criteria and procedures. These will differ from the HCPC’s fitness to practise rules which has been criticised for being legalistic and punitive.
The first stage in Social Work England’s fitness to practise process is triage. This will involve an initial screening of the complaint. Some complaints will be filtered out at this stage.
Some very serious complaints will see immediate action or escalation; instances of registration fraud will be forwarded to a dedicated team and social workers convicted of serious ‘listed offences’ will face automatically being struck off.
For the remainder of complaints, a process based on Social Work England’s criteria will be followed to determine if there are reasonable grounds for an investigation.
The criteria referred to above include:
- Seriousness of the complaint;
- the likely availability of sufficient evidence to support an allegation of impaired fitness to practise; and
- whether the social worker has taken any remedial action in respect of the concern.
If after the initial triage process a decision is made that the complaint has merit, a case will be opened and passed to case examiners.
Case examiners are responsible for making decisions on the best course of action once a case has been considered at the triage and investigation stages.
These case examiners will consist of both:
- Lay case examiners – to “bring experience from many different backgrounds but have never been registered as a social workers.”
- Professional case examiners – registered and practising social workers “who will share their sector expertise.”
The case examiners will receive a case report from the investigation team which will outline the nature of the concerns. They will take into consideration the report, any response from the social worker and any further relevant information, such as a medical report or a response from a representative acting on behalf of the social worker.
If the case examiners decide that there is a realistic prospect, they will be given the opportunity to make use of our accepted disposal powers to resolve cases without the need for a contested hearing.
The disposal powers available to case examiners are:
- Formal warning
- Appropriate advice
- Closing a case
If the social worker subject to the fitness to practise complaint agrees to deal with the complaint by way of a disposal through the case examiner (described above), the matter will be closed.
If not, the case will be referred to a panel of adjudicators.
The adjudication panel will be made up of both lay people and one registered social worker. The regulations sets a minimum limit of one lay person and one registered social worker.
The adjudication panel are empowered to do a number of things:
- Issue an Interim Order
- Issue a Removal Order
- Take no further action
The adjudication panel can also do a number of things in cases where a registrant has failed to either comply with the fitness to practise panel’s rules or directions:
- draw adverse inferences; and
- refuse to admit evidence where the failure relates to the admissibility of that evidence.
Legal advice at hearings
Where a case has been referred to an interim order or fitness to practise hearing or a restoration after removal hearing, Social Work England is required to appoint a legal advisor to either chair the meeting or act as legal advisor.
It is therefore also imperative that social workers facing a fitness to practise investigations seek their own legal advice and representation at an early stage in the process.
We are a vastly experienced and successful healthcare defence barrister with a proven track record for successful outcomes for clients.
If you are a social worker facing fitness to practise issues or seeking restoration after removal hearing, contact us today for a free, no obligation case assessment.
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If you are facing any issues with your fitness to practise or are facing difficulties with your registration, call us today for a free initial consultation.
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