Case examiners review the evidence collected during an investigation to decide next steps.
Once an investigation into a concern has finished, the evidence will be considered by a lay case examiner and a professional case examiner. One of the case examiners will always be a practising social worker.
Role of case examiners
Case examiners review the evidence collected during an investigation to decide whether there is a realistic prospect that the concerns could be proved, and if so, whether your fitness to practise could be found to be impaired.
Impairment means that there would be serious concerns about the suitability of the social worker’s character or their ability to practise safely and effectively.
If there is a realistic prospect of impairment, the case examiners will then decide whether there is a public interest in a hearing being held.
You can read more about hearings.
The case examiners can:
- close the case
- refer the case to a hearing
- offer the social worker an accepted disposal outcome (disposal of a case without a hearing)
If they decide that there is not a public interest in referring the case to a hearing, the case examiners consider whether the case can be resolved in another way.
Case examiners can ask the investigators to get additional information if they think it is necessary for them to decide on an appropriate outcome.
To help you understand the range of possible outcomes in response to concerns about a social worker’s fitness to practise, please read our case examiner guidance.
You can also find more information about fitness to practise outcomes in our sanctions guidance.
In serious cases, an interim order of conditions of practice or suspension may be needed while the case is resolved.
You can read more about interim orders.
It is essential that case examiner decisions are made independently and are completely objective. You can read more about how case examiners maintain independence.
Case examiners must all declare any conflict of interest that could relate to the case, whether the conflict exists or could just be thought to exist. You can read more about how we manage case examiner conflicts of interest.
Disposal of a case without a hearing
Disposal without hearing, or ‘accepted disposal’, means that we can avoid sending cases to public hearings in circumstances where a suitable outcome can be agreed.
Contested or very serious concerns will almost always be sent to a hearing.
If the case examiners decide that accepted disposal is possible, the social worker will be asked if they agree to the offer of accepted disposal.
For an accepted disposal of a case, the social worker must accept that their fitness to practise is impaired and agree to the proposed sanctions.
If a social worker does not accept the proposed sanction or case examiners find that the social worker does not accept that their fitness to practise is impaired, their case is sent to a hearing.
Case examiners can propose the following accepted disposal outcomes:
- no further action
- a written warning
- conditions of practice
- removal from the register
Accepted disposal outcomes are published on our website and the online register.
You can read more about what fitness to practise information we publish in our fitness to practise publications policy.
Conditions of practice and suspension orders are monitored by our case review team and will be subject to a review. A review hearing will need to take place before the order is replaced or removed.