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Guidance for employers

Guidance for employers and locum agencies who employ social workers to help them decide if and when to refer a concern to Social Work England.

Fitness to practise guidance for employers

Last updated: 23 July 2021


About this guidance

We have written this guidance in collaboration with:

  • social workers
  • social work employers
  • regulatory partners, and
  • people with lived experience of social work.

The guidance explains what we expect from you as an employer of social workers. It aims to support you to decide what concerns about a social worker’s fitness to practise to refer to us and when.

The fitness to practise process can be a difficult and emotional time for social workers. We want to support you to manage concerns at a local level where possible.

If we then need to get involved at a later date, our processes and decision making can happen quicker.

The majority of social workers are committed to doing their best for people who use their services. But, on rare occasions, there may be concerns about whether someone is fit to practise. As an employer, you need to take action to respond to those concerns.

Your role as an employer

In most cases, you should conduct your own internal investigation before making a referral to us. You do not need to tell us about all performance or disciplinary issues.

If the concerns are particularly serious or raise significant risks, you should make a referral to us immediately. This is so we can decide whether we need to apply for an interim order to restrict the social worker’s practice.

You should use this guidance, alongside other guidance and local policies, when there are concerns about a social worker. When considering whether to make a referral, we expect you to consider your duties under the Equality Act 2010.

If you have any doubts about whether to raise a concern, contact our regional engagement team. They will support you in the first instance.

What we do

Our main objective is to protect the public. We do this by:

  • Setting standards for social work education and training
  • Approving the qualifications that allow social workers to apply to join the register
  • Upholding public confidence in the social workers we regulate
  • Setting professional standards, and
  • Investigating and acting on concerns about social workers’ fitness to practise.

Our approach to fitness to practise

We are taking a unique approach to fitness to practise. We want to work more closely with the sector to help resolve as many concerns as possible. Together, we want to resolve concerns quickly, effectively and at a local level.

We’re doing this by:

  • Putting people at the heart of fitness to practise
  • Following a robust triage process that includes taking into account:
    • any actions that have already been taken at a local level, and
    • whether there is evidence that the social worker has taken steps to address any issues with their practice
  • Emphasising the need to give social workers the chance to remedy and address the concern themselves
  • Recognising that many concerns are best resolved by employers at a local level
  • Underlining the importance of considering the complex circumstances and context surrounding the concern
  • Considering each concern on a case by case basis.

We also recognise that, in most cases, we may not need a public hearing. This reduces the burden on everyone involved who may have to give evidence, including:

  • social workers
  • people with lived experience
  • employers.

We’ll continue to give full reasons for decisions we make. We will also continue to be transparent and open about what steps we have taken to protect the public and why.

What we mean by fitness to practise

There is no agreed legal definition of fitness to practise. But it is generally understood to mean:

‘The current suitability of the social worker to hold registration and practise without restriction.’

To be a social worker in England, a person must be registered with us and be fit to practise. By ‘fit to practise’ we mean that this person can practise safely, effectively, and without restriction because they have the relevant:

  • skills
  • knowledge (including knowledge of the English language)
  • character, and
  • health.

Determining someone’s fitness to practise involves assessing their current and future situation. These may be different to the situation they were in when the events (which caused us to consider their fitness to practise) occurred. It also involves assessing whether their practice, conduct or behaviour may pose a risk to the public now or in the future.

Fitness to practise is not just about professional performance. It is also about a social worker’s conduct outside the workplace. This includes doing something that could damage public confidence in the profession. For example, an act resulting in criminal investigations.

Following an investigation, we can decide that a social worker’s fitness to practise is impaired. This means that we have identified serious concerns about their:

  • character, or
  • ability to practise safely and effectively.

We can take several different actions, such as:

  • restricting a social worker’s practice following an investigation, or
  • issuing an order which removes a social worker’s ability to practise immediately.

Fitness to practise process map

 

Map of the fitness to practise process.

  1. The concern is considered by the triage team. If the concern does not meet the triage test, it is closed. If it does meet the triage test, a case is opened. 
  2. The case then goes through investigation and is prepared for the case examiners. 
  3. The case examiners then decide whether to refer the case to the adjudicators straight away, close the case with an outcome (warning, advice or no action) or close the case through accepted disposal.
  4. If the social worker does not agree to accepted disposal, the case is referred to the adjudicators. If the social worker agrees, the concern is closed. If the case examiners close the case with an outcome of warning, advice or no action, agreement is not necessary from the social worker.

Our professional standards

The professional standards set out what a social worker in England must know, understand and do throughout their career.

When considering fitness to practise concerns, we will assess whether there has been a breach of our professional standards.

It’s not for you to decide whether a social worker is meeting the professional standards. That is the role of the regulator. But you may find it helpful to refer to the standards when deciding whether to raise a concern about a social worker’s fitness to practise.

The professional standards are:

  1. Promote the rights, strengths and wellbeing of people, families and communities
  2. Establish and maintain the trust and confidence of people
  3. Be accountable for the quality of my practice and the decisions I make
  4. Maintain my continuing professional development
  5. Act safely, respectfully and with professional integrity
  6. Promote ethical practice and report concerns

Professional and personal conduct

We may call a social worker’s fitness to practise into question following concerns about their:

  • professional capacity, or
  • personal conduct.

Our process is not about assigning blame or punishment for past mistakes. This means that a social worker’s past actions might not affect their ability to practise now. This may be because they have taken steps to regain their fitness to practise. We call this ‘remediation’.

If we receive a concern about a social worker’s practice, we will decide if we need to open an investigation. We do this by applying our triage test. Our triage test helps us decide if there are reasonable grounds to investigate the social worker’s fitness to practise.

When we apply the triage test, we carefully consider all the information you have given to us. It is very important that you give us as much information as possible about your concern.

When making this decision, we apply the following criteria:

  • The seriousness of the concern by reference to the pursuit of the regulator’s over-arching objective
  • The likely availability of sufficient evidence to support an allegation of impaired fitness to practise
  • The concern suggests the registered social worker may have breached any relevant published professional or ethical guidance, Rules, regulations, procedures or laws in place at the time of the events giving rise to the concern
  • The outcome of, and subsequent actions arising from, an investigation carried out by a body referred to in regulation 7
  • Whether the registered social worker is taking, or has successfully completed, remedial actions in respect of the concern, and
  • Whether the registered social worker has been subject to an adverse finding in any previous investigations by the regulator, its predecessors, or a body referred to in regulation 7, into matters relevant to the registered social worker’s fitness to practise.

What we can deal with

You should refer your concerns to us, if you think a social worker may not be fit to carry out their work because of their:

  • misconduct
  • competency issues
  • conviction or caution
  • inclusion in a barring list
  • health
  • knowledge of the English language, or
  • a finding by another regulator that the social worker’s fitness to practise is impaired

Issues that are likely to raise concerns about a social worker’s fitness to practise include (but are not limited to):

  • Dishonesty, fraud or abuse of trust or position. This includes not maintaining professional boundaries with a person with lived experience of social work
  • Exploitation of a vulnerable person
  • Failure to act in the best interests of a person with lived experience of social work (who the social worker is working with)
  • Serious breaches of a person’s confidentiality or data protection requirements. By ‘serious’ we mean that the breach represents a risk to the public, or it is capable of undermining public confidence in the profession
  • Committing reckless or deliberately harmful acts in the course of their work
  • Hiding mistakes or blocking an investigation
  • Serious or repeated failings in a person’s care
  • Where a social worker’s performance in their role has harmed people with lived experience of social work or put them at risk of harm
  • Violence, sexual misconduct or indecent behaviour
  • A caution or conviction for a criminal offence
  • Unmanaged health concerns that may affect the safety of people with lived experience of social work or colleagues
  • An adverse finding by another regulatory body
  • A fraudulent, omission, or incorrect entry onto our register
  • Action (or inaction) that has placed either a child or a vulnerable adult at risk of significant harm and which has resulted in a statutory intervention.

As an employer, you should try to address your concerns at a local level (in line with your organisation’s policies and procedures) first. If you’ve tried this approach and it’s not been successful or the concerns are serious, you should inform us.

You should inform us immediately if:

  • taking action at a local level is not possible
  • taking action at a local level has failed to adequately address the concern
  • the social worker has left before local processes have concluded, or you know they’re working elsewhere
  • the problem is so serious that we clearly need to be involved.

What we mean by 'serious'

There is no single way to define seriousness. When determining if a concern is serious, you could consider the following factors:

  • Repetition
  • Risk of harm
  • Remediation
  • Breaches of guidance and rules.

Repetition

You should consider whether there is evidence of repeated misconduct or competency concerns. You should also consider whether the concerns would be serious if repeated in the future. If so, this could weigh strongly towards raising a concern with us.

Risk of harm

Concerns about a social worker putting the public at unnecessary risk of harm, or causing actual unnecessary harm, will almost always be serious.

You should interpret harm as physical or emotional injury. It may also include psychological and financial harm.

Some actions by social workers which cause harm (such as emotional distress) may be unavoidable in the context of proper delivery of a social worker’s professional duties.

To assess whether the harm (or risk of harm) was unnecessary, you should consider whether it was foreseeable and avoidable. You should assess the social worker’s actions against what they knew at the time or should have foreseen.

Actions that led to consequences (including harm) which could not have been foreseen, are very unlikely to justify an investigation by us.

Social workers also have very clear responsibilities to protect the public by intervening if another person is putting people at risk of unnecessary harm.
A social worker’s failure to intervene in response to specific evidence of risk of harm by others (including fellow professionals) is as serious as if they had committed those acts themselves.

Remediation

Where a social worker has been through (or is currently in) remediation, it is possible that there is no current or future risk to public safety. This means that a fitness to practise investigation may be unnecessary.

But we may still require you to raise a concern with us to promote and maintain confidence in the profession.

If the public interest is engaged, this normally warrants an investigation.

We will usually need to investigate if:

  • the concern is serious enough to undermine confidence in social workers in England in general
  • action might be necessary to promote and maintain standards for social workers

This applies even if the social worker has fully remediated the deficiency in their practice that caused the concern.

Personal remediation is unlikely to offset the wider public interest issues where:

  • confidence in the profession is at risk, or
  • we need to send a signal about the standards social workers must observe.

Breaches of guidance or rules

Any assessment of the seriousness of the concern should take into account whether the social worker has breached any:

  • guidance
  • rules
  • regulations
  • procedures, or
  • laws

The above must have been in place at the time of the event.

If the concern suggests that the social worker applied these correctly, this will weigh against needing to raise a concern with us.

Examples

Example 1: you must raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker is reported to have breached professional boundaries in relation to a child known to the local authority. The concerns are about the social worker inappropriately meeting a young person outside of working hours and sending personal and inappropriate messages to the child via social media.

The local authority initiated an internal investigation and referred the matter to the designated officer.

Our response

You must raise a concern with us about the social worker as soon as possible. You should not wait for the outcome of your internal investigation to raise a concern.

Due to the seriousness of the concerns, we would need to consider whether to apply for an interim order to restrict the social worker’s practice while waiting for the investigation outcome. The public would not expect a social worker who is being investigated for these concerns to practise without restriction.

Example 2: you must raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker is reported to have assaulted their elderly father on at least 2 occasions. Someone has made an anonymous referral to the local authority.

The father has also reported the abuse to employees of a care agency. This has resulted in an adult safeguarding referral.

Our response

You must raise a concern with us about the social worker as soon as possible. You should not wait for the outcome of your internal investigation to raise a concern.

Due to the seriousness of the concerns, we would need to consider whether to apply for an interim order to restrict the social worker’s practice while waiting for the investigation outcome. The public would not expect a social worker who is being investigated for these concerns to practise without restriction.

Example 3: you must raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker has resigned during an internal investigation process. You initiated the investigation because the social worker did not complete a report for court on time. This meant that care proceedings could not be issued at the birth of a child. There have previously been concerns about the social worker’s compliance with court timescales.

You had previously anticipated that the concerns about the social worker’s conduct could have been managed through an improvement plan. But as the social worker is no longer in your employment, the investigation was not completed. You cannot be confident that the social worker is fit to practise.

Our response

You must raise a concern with us about the social worker as soon as possible.

Given that the social worker has left your employment, there is no current oversight of the social worker’s practice. There is also no opportunity for you to support the social worker to improve their practice.

There is no evidence of insight or remediation from the social worker and there is potential for repetition.

Example 4: you must raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker has been involved in a historic serious case review. This has raised concerns about their practice. The social worker is still registered but has since left your employment. You do not know whether they are in new employment.

Our response

You must raise a concern with us about the social worker as soon as possible. Events at the time resulted in serious harm to a person with lived experience.

As an employer, you cannot assess whether remediation has taken place or whether there is a risk of repetition. This is because the social worker left your employment shortly after the events in question. There is a wider public interest due to the seriousness of the concerns.

Example 5: you must raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker has disclosed to you that they were arrested and charged with assault. The social worker has been charged and is awaiting prosecution.

Our response

You must raise a concern with us about the social worker as soon as possible. You should not wait for the outcome of your internal investigation to raise a concern.

This is not safe and effective practice. We would expect the social worker to make a self-referral alongside your concern.

There is a public interest element. The public would not expect a social worker who is being prosecuted for assault to practise without consideration of their fitness to practise.

What we cannot deal with

Depending on the circumstances and its seriousness, you may not need to refer a matter to us. This is because some issues are unlikely to also raise fitness to practise concerns. These issues are more appropriately dealt with locally through your performance or disciplinary process.

Issues that you may not need to refer to us include (but are not limited to):

  • persistent lateness, poor timekeeping or unauthorised leave, unless it has a direct impact on a person’s care
  • personality conflicts, providing there is no evidence of bullying or harassment
  • disputes between social workers and their employers or managers, providing there is no evidence of bullying or harassment. You should refer to your own internal guidance around bullying and harassment. You may also want to consider ACAS guidance on bullying and harassment at work
  • sickness absence unless there is evidence of misconduct (such as dishonesty) or if the social worker is not managing their health and the public is at risk. Read more about what you should and should not refer in our safe and effective practice guidance, and
  • other contractual or breach of local policy issues unless it raises serious concerns about an employee’s conduct or character.

We appreciate that it can be difficult to distinguish between a disciplinary issue in an employment context and a fitness to practise investigation.

In those cases, you should contact our regional engagement team. They will be able to work with you to establish whether we can investigate your concern.

Examples

Example 6: you do not need to raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker has demonstrated an inability to effectively use the local authority case recording system. Case records have been poorly recorded or not recorded on time.

You have followed your internal procedures and agreed an improvement plan with the social worker. You have provided support and training over a time specific period.

Our response

You do not need to raise a concern with us. The social worker has been through a capability investigation. The outcome of the investigation was to implement an improvement plan to manage the social worker’s performance.

Example 7: you do not need to raise a concern with us
The concern

Following a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, a social worker has discussed many health concerns with you. They have a history of repeated ill health absence.

You referred the social worker to occupational health. This has resulted in reasonable adjustments being made to their work patterns. The social worker and you now have a plan in place to manage their health needs.

Our response

You do not need to raise a concern with us. There is evidence that you are appropriately managing the social worker’s health issues.

A plan of support is in place and there is no evidence that the health issues have an impact on the social worker’s fitness to practise.

Newly qualified social workers and agency or locum workers

Social workers doing the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) programme

The ASYE programme is not currently mandatory. This means that failure to complete or pass the programme does not necessarily mean that you should raise a concern with us.

The decision to raise a concern needs to take account of the professional standards, seriousness and risk.

You should also consider the underlying practice issues which led to the decision to not pass the person doing the AYSE programme. If the underlying concerns raise questions about their fitness to practise, then you should raise your concerns with us.

If you have any doubts about whether to raise a concern, contact our regional engagement team.

Agency or locum workers

We know that there is some confusion about who should raise fitness to practise concerns about agency and locum social workers.

You should apply the same factors to agency and locum social workers when determining what concerns to raise with us and when. A decision to end a contract with an agency worker does not necessarily mean that you should refer the underlying concerns to us.

If you decide to end a contract with an agency worker, you should discuss the concerns with the agency. You will need to discuss whether to make a referral to us and decide who will be responsible for making that referral.

Examples

Example 8: you do not need to raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker employed through an employment agency has been persistently late. Despite many warnings, their punctuality has not improved. As a result, you ended the social worker’s contract.

Our response

You do not need to raise a concern with us. This is an employment issue for you and the agency to address using the appropriate policies and procedures. It does not raise concerns about the social worker’s fitness to practise.

Example 9: you must raise a concern with us
The concern

A social worker employed through an employment agency is reported to have lied about:

  • visits being undertaken, and
  •  having made false recordings.

As a result, you have ended the social worker’s contract.

Our response

You must raise a concern with us. Given that the social worker’s employment with you has ended, there is no current oversight of their fitness to practise.

There is no evidence of insight or remediation, and there is potential for the social worker to repeat this conduct.

What we need from you as the employer

We consider all concerns referred to us on a case by case basis.

If you raise a concern about a social worker’s fitness to practise, it will not automatically result in us opening an investigation. We may need you to provide us with the evidence that supports your concerns. If you’re investigating the concerns at a local level, we may need to wait until you have finished.

We cannot progress our investigations without evidence. In most cases, you will be the best person to provide us with that evidence.

When you refer your concerns to us, we will need you to provide us with:

  • copies of internal investigation reports, disciplinary and appeal documents
  • correspondence between your organisation and the social worker
  • any relevant records, for example case records
  • contact details of the relevant police force (if you’re reporting that a social worker has been charged with a criminal offence), and
  • a copy of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check or a certificate of conviction or caution (if you’re reporting a conviction or caution).

Sometimes we’re told about a concern while another regulator or organisation (such as the police) is doing their own investigation. Unless there are conduct or behavioural issues that are putting the public at risk of harm, we may wait to investigate until the other investigation has finished.

When we receive a concern, we consider whether to apply for an interim order. Interim orders prevent the social worker from practising, or restricts their practice, while their case is being investigated.

If an interim order is not imposed, the social worker can continue to practise without restriction. But you may put local restrictions in place while we investigate. For example, you may decide that the social worker cannot undertake lone visits.

In some cases, the allegations will be so serious that we will open our own investigation before any others have finished.

For example, this may be the case if there are allegations of:

  • serious and persistent misconduct or competence issues
  • sexual misconduct, or
  • significant dishonesty.

In these types of cases, we may need to take immediate action to protect the public. This means that the social worker cannot avoid an investigation (and any later action) by leaving the register. It also means we can apply for an interim order to temporarily remove or restrict the social worker’s practice.

What happens to information you provide?

If you’ve done your own investigation, please provide us with all the paperwork in relation to that investigation. We will send anything you provide us with to the social worker you are referring to us, so they can respond.

If there is anything you would prefer that we did not send to the social worker, you should tell us. But if it’s an important piece of evidence, we may have to send it to the social worker anyway. We will not share any information that might compromise a criminal investigation.

We may use any information that you provide as evidence in the fitness to practise process. If the case goes as far as a hearing, any information used as evidence may become public. This is because hearings are usually held in public which means the press may attend.

All documents in the public domain will comply with GDPR and data protection laws. For example, we may anonymise names from the information used in the hearing. We may also refer to individuals as ‘employee A’ or ‘service user 1’ for example.

The social worker may need to know the identities so that they can properly respond to the concerns.

What happens if a complaint is made about one of your employees?

We may receive a concern from members of the public or another source about one of your employees. As the employer you may not be aware that someone has raised a concern to us.

If we decide to investigate, we will contact you to request further information. We may also contact you if the social worker is not currently working, but you were their last employer.

We may ask for:

  • the records in relation to the person who has complained
  • the records in relation to any local investigation, or
  • more information about a particular incident.

If you’re aware that a member of the public (or another source) has raised a concern about one of your employees, we may contact you at the triage stage. This will be to help inform our decision about whether to investigate.

Our regulations give us legal powers to require you to supply information to us. Therefore the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR may not apply when we request this information from you.

If you have any concerns about providing information to us, you should speak to us. We recommend that you get your own legal advice or speak to your internal information governance or data protection team (if you have one).
We cannot give you legal advice, but we can explain:

  • why we are making the request
  • our powers to request the disclosure of information for the purposes of carrying out our regulatory duties.

What we can tell you

Fitness to practise investigations are private. We do not publicise the fact that a social worker is under investigation. But we will write to you (as their employer) to notify you of the investigation.

If you ask for more information about the investigation, we will decide whether it’s in the public interest to provide it. You must make that request to us in writing. You should explain in your request why it’s in the public interest for you to receive more information.

Once the case examiners have made a decision about the case, we will write to you again with the outcome. If the case examiners refer it for a hearing, we will let you know. We will also let you know the outcome of the hearing.

If you’re asked to give evidence, we will contact you to take a witness statement. We will also explain the hearings process to you.

Interim orders

An interim order is a measure to protect the public. It prevents a social worker from practising, or places limits on their practice, until our investigation is concluded. Interim orders do not involve a finding of fact. They apply immediately.

An interim order will be required in cases where concerns about a social worker’s fitness to practise are so serious that, if we allowed the social worker to continue to practise or practise without restriction, public safety or the social worker themselves would be put at risk.

Examples of cases where we may apply for an interim order include (but are not limited to):

  • sexual misconduct
  • serious mistakes, or
  • serious criminal convictions.

These are not the only examples where we may put an interim order in place. We consider each case individually to make an informed decision.

In most cases, we will not put an interim order in place. This means that the social worker can continue to work without restriction.

If we impose an interim order against a social worker that is your employee, and we’re aware that you are their employer, we will let you know.

Read more about interim orders.

Conditions of practice

If we decide to place conditions on a social worker’s practise, they can continue to work but under restriction. The conditions may stop them from carrying out certain tasks. Or it may only allow them to carry them out with your oversight.

You may be asked to supervise the social worker in their daily practice or act as a workplace mentor. Or you may be asked to identify someone who could perform this role.

The social worker should ask you to carry out this role in advance of an order being put in place. But depending on how conditions are applied to their registration, they may not be able to ask you about this beforehand. For example, a social worker might not be able to give you advance notice if an interim order is put in place because they come into effect immediately.

You may also be asked to provide regular reports to us. This is so we know that the social worker is complying and that there is no risk to public safety.

If you become aware that a social worker is working in breach of their conditional registration, you must tell us immediately.

There are many ways you can support an employee who is going through the fitness to practise process. For more information and links to other sources of support, view this list of organisations that may be able to help.

How to raise a concern

If you need to tell us about concerns you have, you should complete our online concerns form for employers.

Alternatively, you can send your concerns to the following address along with any supporting documents: Social Work England, Triage Team, 1 North Bank, Blonk Street, Sheffield, S3 8JY.

You should consider sending your concerns and any supporting documents by 'Recorded Delivery' or 'Signed for Delivery' to protect any sensitive information.

What happens next?

We will first consider whether your concern is something we can deal with. This assessment takes place during our initial triage stage.

If a concern is not a matter for us, we will take no further action. We may refer it to a relevant third party such as another regulator.

We may need more information from you to help us assess the concern. If this is the case, we will contact you to let you know what information we need. We will let you know when we have made a decision.

If we decide at the triage stage that a matter is something we can deal with, we will carry out an investigation. This will be to get the relevant information about the concern. It may involve gathering information from several sources.

We will also contact the social worker to let them know that we have begun an investigation into concerns about their fitness to practise. We will also tell you at this stage (if you did not raise the concern).

Once we have completed our initial investigation, we will refer the information we have gathered, together with a report summarising our investigation, to our case examiners.

Every investigation is considered by 2 case examiners. A lay case examiner (who is not a social worker), and a social worker case examiner.

The case examiners will decide what action to take. They can decide to:

  • take no further action
  • take no further action (but issue the social worker with advice about their future conduct or practice)
  • ask for a further investigation to be carried out
  • give a formal warning to the social worker
  • place restrictions or conditions on the social worker’s practice (such as the social worker doing extra training or working under supervision)
  • suspend the social worker’s practice for a period of time, or
  • refer the concern to an independent fitness to practise panel of adjudicators who will usually hold a public hearing to decide what action to take.

If the 2 case examiners cannot agree, they will refer the case to a panel of adjudicators.

The panel is made up of 3 adjudicators. This will include at least one social worker and one lay member (who is not a social worker). The panel will have a chair and someone who can provide them with legal advice.

If the panel decides that the social worker is not fit to practise, they can choose to do any of the following:

  • Give a warning to the social worker regarding their future conduct or performance
  • Place restrictions or conditions on the social worker’s practice (such as the social worker doing extra training or working under supervision)
  • Suspend the social worker’s practice for a period of time, or
  • Remove the social worker’s entry from the register. This means that they can no longer practise as a social worker in England.

What you can expect from us

We’re committed to investigating any concerns we receive efficiently and effectively. We aim to do so proportionately and appropriately and to deliver high quality customer service.

We will keep you up to date throughout the fitness to practise process, giving you relevant updates on a regular basis.

If we receive a referral about your employee from someone else, we will contact you to let you know. We will do this shortly after we receive the referral unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Each case is allocated to a multidisciplinary regulatory team supervised by a senior manager and made up of:

  • investigators
  • social workers, and
  • lawyers.

Each case is the responsibility of a named person within the team. You can contact this person for support, information and updates.

Sometimes, for reasons of confidentiality or data privacy and protection, we’re unable to share specific information with you. If this happens, we will always explain why.

Our investigation is independent and any decisions we make are made impartially, taking into account our duty to act in the public’s interest.

Occasionally, you may not agree with the steps we need to take in our investigation or with the decisions we make. We will always explain our decisions and why we need to take certain investigative steps.

We aim to reassure people raising concerns, witnesses and social work professionals that we’re dealing actively with the matter by providing regular updates to everyone involved.

If you have a concern or complaint about our investigation or our approach, please raise that concern with the named investigator. They will then respond or escalate that concern appropriately.

For more information about complaints and about how we carry out our duties, read our guidance on how we deal with concerns.

Version history

Last updated: 23 July 2021

  • Changes made to make the guidance more accessible and user-friendly following feedback from the sector, including social workers, social work employers, regulatory partners, and people with lived experience of social work, alongside experiences of our first year of regulation.
  • Examples added to help employers to better understand when they should raise a concern.

First published: 6 January 2020

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