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Empanelment, scheduling and cancellation

The empanelment, scheduling and cancellation of hearings is managed by Social Work England’s hearings 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: 16 December 2022

About this guidance

This guidance applies to proceedings heard before the adjudicators, including (all of the following):

This guidance is for (all of the following):

  • social workers/applicants and their representatives
  • Social Work England’s advocate
  • adjudicators
  • legal advisers
  • Social Work England’s hearings team
  • members of the public and witnesses

The empanelment, scheduling and cancellation of hearings and meetings is managed by Social Work England’s hearings case managers (acting as the regulator). We usually schedule final fitness to practise hearings around 3 to 6 months in advance. This allows time for pre-hearing case management.

Pre-hearing case management

The pre-hearing case management process aims to (do all of the following):

  • make sure a hearing is not scheduled and then cancelled due to issues that could have been avoided
  • make sure a hearing is scheduled far enough in advance to avoid the hearing running out of time (due to unresolved issues or unactioned directions)
  • resolve any issues that could be contested during a final hearing

We will use the pre-hearing case management processes for other types of hearings or meetings. For example, restoration following a removal order, and registration appeals. However, the process will usually take less than 3 to 6 months when applied to other hearing or meeting types.

The following hearings and meetings do not undergo the case management process (all of the following):

  • interim order applications
  • interim order reviews
  • final order reviews

This is because they are listed in smaller timescales, and only last for half a day or a day. Due to these hearings and meetings being shorter, they are more likely to be rescheduled. However, this is done as a last resort.


All hearings and meetings will include a panel of independent adjudicators. Their role is to consider fitness to practise or registration appeal cases.

The panel must have at least 2 members. These are (both of the following):

  • a lay panel chair (someone with no background in social work)
  • 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. These are (all of the following):

  • a lay panel chair
  • a social worker
  • an additional lay person

We also require legal advisers to provide legal advice to the adjudicators. They should also assist in explaining the hearing process to the social worker (if they are self-represented).

The hearings case managers book adjudicators and legal advisers in advance of a hearing date. They will allocate work to the adjudicators and legal advisers based on their availability. Any previous involvement in a case and any conflicts that the adjudicator or legal adviser has declared may impact on whether they are empanelled to a case.

The hearings case managers will keep everyone informed of any changes to arrangements. The adjudicators and legal advisers must update the hearings team as soon as possible if their availability changes.

In some cases, information may come to light that a hearing or meeting is unlikely to go ahead because of adjudicator or legal adviser availability. In this case, the hearings case management team will urgently try to find a replacement adjudicator(s) or legal adviser.

Normally, the hearings team will keep a reserve list of adjudicators and legal advisers on standby. This is in case any issues or conflicts of interest arise during or in the lead up to a hearing or meeting. The hearings case management team may also transfer panel members from one hearing to another, in order to facilitate hearings or meetings going ahead.

Representative panels

As a regulator, being representative of the people we serve means we are more likely to meet the diverse needs of the public. We appoint adjudicators and legal advisers from a broad range of different backgrounds and experience. Adjudicators and legal advisers receive annual training, which centres around ensuring proceedings are fair.

Hearings case managers will aim to schedule mixed panels of adjudicators, where reasonably possible. This will be based on a range of protected characteristics of the adjudicators that are available to work including (all of the following):

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin)
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

It’s important to note that not all aspects of an adjudicator or legal adviser’s identity will be visible to hearing participants.


When the hearings team schedule a hearing, they should consider the availability of all required hearing participants (where possible). Because of this, final fitness to practise hearings usually take approximately 3 to 6 months to schedule from when the hearings team start the pre-hearing case management process.

A hearings case manager will schedule a hearing for a provisional set of dates. They will then 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, we will only move hearing dates in exceptional circumstances.

We hold most hearings remotely using video conferencing technology. Where a remote hearing is not appropriate, the hearing will be held in-person at our offices in Sheffield. Alternatively, the hearing can be held in a hybrid format, where some of the hearing participants attend remotely and others in-person. In exceptional circumstances, we may hold an in-person hearing elsewhere.


Occasionally, we will need to cancel hearings in advance. This is called a postponement. This could happen following a request from the social worker, Social Work England, or the hearings team (acting as the regulator). 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 it as soon as possible, to avoid any further delays and additional stress to the hearing participants. If a hearing cannot be re-scheduled quickly, the hearings team will keep parties informed until they are in a position to reschedule the hearing.

Our postponement and adjournment guidance contains further information.

Version history

Last updated: 16 December 2022

• Updated to include a link to the Remote Hearings Protocol

September 2022

  • Language review carried out to make guidance more accessible
  • Information about representative panels added

First published: November 2019

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