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Glossary of terms

Our glossary of terms is intended to help provide consistency across our different formal decision making stages in our fitness to practise process.

Fitness to practise glossary of terms

Last updated: 26 November 2019


About this guidance

Our glossary of terms is intended to help provide consistency across our different formal decision making stages in our fitness to practise process. These stages are:

  • agreeing conditions of practice with social workers at our case examiner stage
  • imposing conditions on a social worker’s practice at our adjudications stage
  • imposing interim order conditions on a social worker’s practice
  • imposing conditions on a social worker’s practice at registration, renewal or restoration

To help the relevant decision maker, the universal conditions bank should be used together with this glossary of terms. This guidance sets out the wording that decision makers should use when formulating restrictions on a social worker’s registration and their ability to practise. The glossary of terms should be used by:

  • those representing social workers
  • social workers under investigation
  • Social Work England
  • adjudicators
  • case examiners
  • people with lived experience of social work (service users)
  • the public

The glossary of terms should be referred to by decisionmakers but, from time to time, it may be necessary for them to deviate from standard conditions to create workable restrictions for some social workers. In these instances, the glossary of terms may not cover all the terms used.

This is working guidance so please send any comments or suggestions to [email protected].


Agency social worker (locum)

An agency social worker or locum is a registered social worker who has been contracted to fill an established post or position to cover for an absent social worker or to temporarily cover a vacancy. Agency social workers are usually contracted to cover short-term positions, sickness, holiday, or any other form of short-term absence.

The social worker is usually contracted by an agency and carries out a locum ‘placement’ at a specific organisation or local authority. A social worker with conditional registration carrying out locum or agency social work could be at risk of not being adequately supported.

This is because a locum placement is carried out in an environment where others are not aware of their registration status or where their position, workplace, or management is changing on a regular basis.


Audits

An audit is a process where records (also referred to as cases or files) are selected by the social worker or their workplace supervisor or reporter to objectively look at whether or not the records meet the expected standards.

The social worker or their supervisor or reporter may choose to look at the record at as a whole or at a specific aspect of practice, for example, undertaking statutory visits. The audit may also look at whether that specific area of practice was necessary to fulfill statutory obligations and whether it was carried out within agreed timescales.

The audit will usually be signed by the workplace supervisor or reporter to verify the information.


Contracting body

A contracting body is an organisation or individual with whom the social worker has a contract to provide social work services. This includes the provision of social work training or education.

For example, a social worker may have a contract with an independent fostering agency to complete a specialist fostering assessment or may work independently when doing court work or training other social workers.


Case management supervision

Case management supervision allows for the assessment of the performance of a social worker in relation to their caseload and helps to give an indication of their competence in certain practice areas. It’s usually carried out between the social worker and another registered social worker, usually their line manager.

Some example practice areas might be mental capacity assessments, best interest decisions, assessments undertaken in relation to the Children Act, Care Act or Mental Health Act, record keeping, and conducting visits. They allow the supervisor to confirm that proper standards and statutory activity is taking place in relation to the child, adult or family.

It also provides a way of documenting discussions about and presentations of cases by social workers who are required to be supervised as part of a conditions of practice order or agreement.


Logs

Logs are a record (usually represented as a table) of an activity or interaction that is made as soon as the activity or interaction has taken place. The log must always include:

  • the social worker’s name
  • the date and time of the activity or interaction
  • the service user’s anonymous identifier or identification number
  • the service user’s needs or reason for intervention
  • the reason for the activity or interaction
  • the subsequent action taken or outcome of the action or interaction
  • any relevant background information
  • any other information needed to meet conditions on the social worker’s registration (for example signature of workplace supervisor or reporter to verify the information)


Medical supervisor

The medical supervisor will be nominated by the social worker but will need to be approved by Social Work England. They will usually be the social worker’s GP or another medical professional responsible for their care. This could be a consultant if the social worker is under the care of a specialist for a specific condition.

The medical supervisor will meet with the social worker regularly to discuss the progress or ongoing management of their health concern and will communicate with any of their other treating physicians.

The medical supervisor may, with the consent of the social worker, consult with others involved in the social worker’s conditional registration. The medical supervisor will report to us on a regular basis, giving their opinion in relation to the social worker’s progress under treatment, compliance with their conditions, and their fitness to practise in general.


Mentorship

The social worker may choose to have a mentor whom they will appoint themselves. This is usually carried out by a more senior and experienced colleague who is able to offer guidance to a social worker and who is registered with Social Work England.

A mentor is a wide-ranging role and can cover direct work with service users and provide advice around professional relationships and career plans. Mentorship can be a useful way of supporting asocial worker who has become professionally isolated.

The relationship between the social worker and their mentor is confidential. The social worker is not expected to provide reports from their mentor.


Out-of-hours work/on-call

Out-of-hours work/on-call work is carried out outside of the regular business hours of an establishment. This work is usually during anti-social hours, for example, between the hours of 6pm and 8am on weekdays, weekends, and bank holidays.


Personal development plan (PDP)

This is a document outlining a social worker’s plan for continued professional and/or personal development over a set period. It might also be used as part of an appraisal. All social workers should have an active PDP that applies SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timebound) principles.

In the context of conditions, a PDP is the starting point for the process of professional remediation or retraining. It can cover any area of our professional standards but must specifically set out an action plan for the areas of practice identified by the decision maker as a concern.

The PDP should identify the planned action, the measures to be taken, and a completion date. It’s the social worker’s responsibility to initiate, draft, and action the plan, although they may be able to get support with their plan in an employment setting.


Reporter

Every social worker who has conditions on their registration must have a reporter in place. This person must be registered with Social Work England and approved by us but will usually be nominated by the social worker.

The reporter must agree to provide regular feedback to us, any workplace supervisor, any medical supervisor, or GP as referred to in their conditions. In general, their feedback should include:

  • confirmation the social worker is complying with their conditions
  • confirmation of any new complaints received and the outcome
  • confirmation of any new concerns raised in the workplace about the social worker and the outcome
  • confirmation of progress made in relation to any remedial activities
  • any other relevant information

The person acting as a reporter might also be, but does not need to be, the social worker’s workplace supervisor. If the reporter does not work at the same premises as the social worker, they must be able to attend and have access to any documentation relevant to the conditions at any time.


Single-handed social work practice

A social worker operating as a sole practitioner (independent social worker) without the support of any other social workers is working single-handedly.

If this is the case, the social worker may not be safe to practise without daily contact from a workplace supervisor or without having the option of getting help from a supervisor on-site.

In these circumstances, it maybe appropriate to deny a social worker the right to work single-handedly for the protection of the public.


Workplace supervisor

A workplace supervisor is responsible for overseeing the social worker’s practice on a day-to-day basis. They will give helpful and constructive feedback to the social worker and will provide us with a review of their practice throughout the period of supervision.

The role of the workplace supervisor and the reporter can be held by the same person but this must be approved by us.


Levels of workplace supervision

Supervised

The social worker’s day-to-day work must be supervised by a person who is registered with and approved by Social Work England. The supervisor does not have to work at the same premises as the social worker but must make themselves available for advice or assistance within a reasonable time period if needed.

The social worker’s practice must be reviewed at least once every two weeks by the supervisor in one-to-one meetings and case-management supervision. These fortnightly meetings must be focused on all areas of the concerns identified in the conditions.

Closely supervised

The social worker’s day-to-day work must be supervised by a person who is registered with and approved by Social Work England and who must be contactable at all times. As a minimum, the social worker’s practice must be reviewed at least one a week by the supervisor in one-to-one meetings and case-management supervision.

These weekly meetings must be focused on all areas of the concerns identified in the conditions.

Directly supervised

All aspects of the social worker’s day-to-day work must be supervised at all times by a person who is registered with and approved by Social Work England. This is unlikely to be feasible as a full-time arrangement but may be useful for certain areas of the social worker’s practice or on a short-term basis.

For example, it may only be necessary when having direct contact with service users on visits or it could be necessary on a short-term basis for a social worker who was struggling to complete their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE).

As a minimum, the social worker’s practice must be reviewed at least twice a week by the supervisor in one-to-one and case management supervision. These twice weekly meetings must be focused on all areas of the concerns identified in the conditions.

Social Work England’s decision makers may decide to impose different levels of supervision for different areas of practice. For example, the social worker must be ‘supervised’ in all their work except for carrying out statutory visits, where they must be ‘directly supervised’. 

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