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Conduct of representatives

Guidance for parties during the fitness to practice process including adjudicators, legal advisors, social workers and any representatives.

Conduct of representatives

Last updated: 5 December 2019


About this guidance

This guidance is for use by parties during the fitness to practice process including adjudicators, legal advisors, social workers and any representatives. It sets out the circumstances and factors which may lead a panel of adjudicators (the panel) to exercise its power to exclude a representative (or other person) from fitness to practise proceedings.

Background

In fitness to practise proceeding, a social worker may be represented by:

  • a solicitor or counsel
  • a representative from any professional organisation of which the social worker is a member
  • (at the discretion of the panel) a member of the social worker’s family or other suitable person

For more information, see Social Work England fitness to practise rules 2019, rule 40.

The panel may exclude from a hearing any person whose conduct, in their opinion, is likely to disrupt the orderly conduct of the proceedings. This includes those representing the parties.

A panel must conduct its proceedings fairly. They must balance the need to meet the public interest of determining issues of a social worker’s fitness to practise as efficiently as possible with making sure all relevant evidence is fully presented and each party has a reasonable opportunity to present their case in full.

All hearings are scheduled according to the length of time the hearing is expected to need to determine the relevant issues. For panels hearing new cases, the detailed hearings timetable will normally have been developed through the pre-hearing case management process.

The panel is entitled to take firm action in response to any conduct that unreasonably threatens the completion of the hearing according to the hearings timetable. 

Examples of behaviour or information which may warrant exclusion of a representative

Conduct, either current or past, that a panel may decide justifies them excluding a person from acting as a representative in the proceedings includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Repeated, unnecessarily aggressive, confrontational or irrelevant questioning of witnesses.
  • Making submissions that’re irrelevant to the issues at hand or are repetitive.
  • Refusal to abide by case management directions or the directions or decisions of the panel.
  • Intimidating, offensive or insulting behaviour towards parties, witnesses, the panel, or Social Work England staff, particularly if discriminatory in nature.
  • Any form of physical aggression, whether actual or threatened, and whether inside or outside the hearing room.
  • A finding that the person is a vexatious litigant, has been subject to a civil restrain order, or has previously been excluded by a Social Work England fitness to practise panel.
  • A direction to restrict or remove the person’s registration from a professional register as a result of concerns about their fitness to practise.
  • A conviction for an offence that would result in automatic removal from the register if committed by a registered social worker.
  • An order by a competent authority barring the person from working with vulnerable adults or children.
  • A criminal or regulatory history of proven acts involving dishonesty.
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