Empanelment, scheduling and cancellation
The empanelment, scheduling and cancellation of hearings is managed by Social Work England’s hearing case managers. Hearings are usually scheduled around 6 months in advance to allow for pre-hearing case management to take place.
Empanelment, scheduling and cancellation policy
Last updated: 25 August 2021
The empanelment, scheduling and cancellation of hearings is managed by Social Work England’s hearing case managers. Hearings are usually scheduled around 6 months in advance to allow for pre-hearing case management to take place. This is to make sure hearings are not scheduled and then cancelled due to issues that could have been avoided.
The pre-hearing case management process aims to resolve any issues that could be contested during the hearing and make sure a hearing is scheduled far enough in advance to avoid them ending part heard.
Hearings will include a panel whose role it is to consider fitness to practise cases. The panel must have at least 2 members - a lay panel chair (a panel chair with no background in social work) and a social worker (an adjudicator who is a qualified social worker). Final hearings (where the panel are considering the full investigation and hearing all the evidence) will usually have 3 adjudicators – a lay panel chair, a social worker and an additional lay person. Legal advisers are also required to provide legal advice to the panel and hearing participants.
Panel members are booked by the hearing case managers in advance of a hearing date and are allocated work based on their availability, any previous involvement in a case and any conflicts that a panel member has declared.
The hearing case managers will also look to ensure that a mixed panel based upon gender is empanelled where reasonably possible.
The hearing case managers will keep everyone informed of any changes to arrangements. Panel members must update the hearing team if their availability changes at any point.
If information comes to light that a hearing is unlikely to go ahead because of panel members’ availability, the hearing case management team will try to find replacement panel member(s).
Normally, the hearing team will keep a reserve list of panel members on standby in case any issues or conflicts of interest arise during or in the lead up to a hearing. The hearing case management team may also transfer panel members from one hearing to another but only if there is agreement between hearing parties.
We will begin scheduling a hearing within 2 weeks of the case examiners’ decision being made. Due to availability of various people hearings can be expected to take place approximately 3 months from when we start scheduling.
The hearing case manager will schedule a hearing for a provisional set of dates and inform the hearing participants that are required to attend. Hearing dates are subject to the pre-hearing case management process and can change depending on the case management discussions.
Wherever possible, Social Work England avoid moving hearing dates. All hearings will be held at Social Work England’s offices in Sheffield unless there is an exceptional reason to hold the hearing elsewhere. If a hearing needs to be held at another location, the hearings team must risk assess a suitable venue in advance.
Occasionally, hearings will need to be cancelled in advance. This could happen following a request from a social worker to either adjourn or postpone their hearing or if a hearing participant is not available.
The hearings team will try to avoid cancellations by making sure cases are carefully managed and any potential issues are addressed quickly. If a hearing is cancelled, the hearings team will try to reschedule the case as soon as possible to avoid any further delays and additional stress to the hearing parties. If a hearing cannot be rescheduled immediately, the hearing team will keep parties informed until they are in a position to reschedule the hearing.
For any request for a hearing to be cancelled more than 28 days in advance of a hearing date, an administrative decision will be made by either the head of adjudications or an appointed adjudicator. For any requests that are made 28 days or less before the hearing date, a decision will be made by an adjudicator. Any requests for a hearing to be adjourned that take place at the start or during a hearing will be decided by the panel members hearing that case.