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Hearings guidance for social workers

This guidance is for social workers who have had a concern raised against them that is going to a hearing.

Fitness to practise hearings guidance for social workers

Last updated: 19 April 2022


About this guidance

This guidance is for social workers who have had a concern raised against them that is going to a hearing.

The aim of this guidance is to:

  • provide information about the hearings process (which your case will go through)
  • explain the possible outcomes

This guidance is not intended to substitute legal advice. If your case is going to a hearing, we encourage you to get (one of the following):

  • legal advice
  • support from your professional association or union (if you have one)

View our list of other organisations that may be able to support you.

What is a hearing?

At a hearing, you (and your representative if you have one) and our advocate (usually our external legal provider) will present the case to a panel of adjudicators.

Adjudicators are independent and make impartial decisions about fitness to practise cases.

For more information about how adjudicators make decisions, go to the section about the type of hearing (or meeting) your case is going to.

Who will be at a hearing?

There will be a number of different people at a hearing.

  • Adjudicators - including at least a lay panel chair and a qualified social worker.
  • Witnesses - people giving evidence for you or for Social Work England.
  • Transcriber - a person who will take notes during the entire proceedings (not all hearings have a transcriber, but sometimes one will be required).
  • You (if you choose to attend) and your representative (if you have one).
  • Social Work England’s advocate – usually our external legal provider (this is the person who will present the case to the adjudicators).
  • Hearings officer - a Social Work England staff member who makes sure the hearing runs smoothly.
  • Hearing support officer - a Social Work England staff member who assists the hearings officer as well as supporting witnesses and others at the hearing.
  • Legal adviser (to the panel) - the legal adviser’s primary role is to ensure that there is a fair hearing.
  • Journalists and other members of the public (at public hearings) – if part of the hearing is private, journalists and any other observers will be asked to leave.

Taking photos, audio-visual recording or taking screenshots of a hearing is strictly forbidden. However, you and the person who raised the complaint about you, are able to request a copy of the transcript which confirms exactly what was said.

Public and private hearings

All hearings usually take place in public, except for:

  • interim order applications and interim order reviews
  • hearings that are about your physical or mental health

When a hearing takes place in public, that means that any member of the public can observe it.

Sometimes the adjudicators may decide that the hearing should be held partly in private. For example, if personal health details about you or a witness will be discussed. When a hearing is in private, members of the public are not permitted to be present. The information discussed during private session will not be published.

You or Social Work England can ask for the hearing to be fully or partly held in private. You should make this request in writing and as soon as possible. The adjudicators will then decide whether that is appropriate.

Meetings

If a hearing is being held as a meeting, the adjudicators will meet to make a decision about the case based on documentary evidence only. This means that no one will be able to give oral evidence or make oral submissions, including:

  • you (and your representative if you have one)
  • Social Work England’s advocate
  • any witnesses

Meetings are held remotely.

Final fitness to practise hearings cannot take place by way of meeting. This includes applications to discontinue the concerns in full. All other types of hearing can take place as a meeting.

Publishing hearing and meeting details

We will publish the details of the hearing or meeting on our website before the event. Once the hearing or meeting has finished, we will publish the outcome on our website.

For more information, read our publications policy.

Hearing types

There are several different types of hearing, including:

Interim orders applications

If we receive a concern that is very serious, we may apply for an interim order to:

  • prevent you from practising (interim suspension order)
  • put restrictions on your practice (interim conditions of practice order)

We do this when we think it:

  • is necessary for the protection of the public
  • may be in your best interests

When we apply for an interim order, the case will first go to the case examiners. They will decide whether an interim order might be necessary.

If the case examiners think an order might be necessary, they will refer the case to the adjudicators to consider. If they decide to proceed, the hearings team will arrange an interim order application hearing or meeting.

Interim order application hearing or meeting

At the hearing or meeting, a panel of adjudicators (and a legal adviser) will consider the interim order application. The panel will decide whether an interim order is necessary and what type of interim order to impose.

The Social Workers Regulations 2018 (Schedule 2, Paragraph 8 and 11) sets out when adjudicators can impose an interim order.

If the interim order application is heard at a hearing, we will invite you to attend the hearing. You can choose to:

  • have a representative
  • represent yourself

If you want to attend the hearing, it’s important that you inform us as soon as possible.

If you choose not to attend the hearing, the panel may still decide to proceed without you. Before they decide whether to go ahead without you, the panel must consider many factors, including whether:

  • we have complied with our statutory duty to give you proper notice of the hearing
  • it’s fair to proceed without you

How long the interim order will last

The interim order will last until the (one of the following):

  • order has been revoked
  • order has expired without extension
  • final fitness to practise hearing has concluded

The maximum length of an interim order is 18 months.

If we think the order needs to be extended, we must apply to the High Court to extend the length of the order. We will let you know if we apply for the order to be extended.

Interim order reviews

If the adjudicators impose an interim order, we will allocate your case to the case review team. The case review team will then:

  • monitor your compliance with the order
  • explain the review process and any deadlines
  • gather any evidence from you

We review interim orders regularly for as long as the order remains in place. We will do an initial review after 6 months and then every 3 months until the order expires.

For each review, your case review officer will produce an evidence bundle for the adjudicators. Your case review officer will tell you the deadline for submitting any additional evidence as part of the bundle.

Interim order reviews are usually conducted remotely and often proceed as meetings. If you would like the review to take place as a hearing, you can ask for this.

Early interim order reviews

If new evidence (which is relevant to your order) becomes available after the last review, we may do an early review, for example if:

  • you do not provide the evidence you need to submit (as part of your order) within the designated timescales
  • there is evidence which could suggest that you may have breached your conditions of practice or suspension order

Your case review officer will let you know if we are considering an early review.
You can also request an early review of your order if:

  • you are not able to comply with it anymore
  • there is new information which could suggest that the order is no longer required

We will decide whether the information you have provided suggests that we need to do an early review.

An early review hearing usually takes place as soon as possible. This means that it might be earlier than the next scheduled review.

When we schedule an early review hearing, you will receive:

  • a notice of hearing
  • an evidence bundle

The notice of hearing will outline why we believe the early review is necessary.

Final fitness to practise hearings

Once an investigation into a concern has finished, the case examiners will consider the evidence collected during the investigation.

They will then decide whether there is a realistic prospect that the adjudicators would find that:

  • the facts are capable of being proved
  • that the statutory grounds are capable of being met
  • that the social worker’s fitness to practise is impaired

Read more about the role of case examiners.

If the case examiners decide to refer your case to the adjudicators, the hearings team will arrange a hearing. A hearing means that a panel of adjudicators will consider evidence (such as witness statements) and decide whether:

  • your fitness to practise is impaired
  • they should impose a sanction your registration

A full hearing often takes several days.

What we do to prepare your case for a hearing

First, we will instruct our external legal services provider to act on our behalf. They will then contact you to let you know who your contact person is.

They will also prepare your case for a hearing by:

  • gathering relevant information
  • taking witness statements from people they think have relevant information (such as the person who raised the concern)
  • preparing a statement of case

The statement of case will include the:

  • allegations that we are taking forward to the hearing
  • evidence we are relying on

You will also receive a bundle of evidence.

You will have an opportunity to respond to the statement of case. You can also provide your own bundle of evidence and documents that you want the adjudicators to consider at the hearing.

The hearings team will publish the concerns or allegations on our website no later than 14 days before the hearing.

Before the hearing

Before the hearing, we will invite you (and your representative if you have one) to take part in our pre-hearing case management process.

As part of this process we:

  • will ask you to complete a case management questionnaire
  • may ask you to take part in a case management meeting with a hearings case manager or an adjudicator to discuss any practical issues related to the hearing

During this meeting, we will likely:

  • find a suitable hearing date
  • identify the number of witnesses we want to call (including any witnesses you want to call)
  • agree dates when information will be disclosed between the parties
  • decide on any issues such as the format of the hearing or any reasonable adjustments

At the case management meeting, directions (instructions) will be set for:

  • deadlines for when everyone needs to provide documents
  • when other actions need to take place

A neutral hearings case manager (with no involvement in your case) will facilitate all communication.

We encourage you to take part in the pre-hearing case management process. It allows us to communicate effectively with each other.

You can read more about this process in our pre-hearing case management guidance. The hearings case manager will also send you a link to this guidance.

If you do not engage with the pre-hearing management process

If you do not take part in this process, we may not be able to effectively consider any requirements you have in the scheduling of your hearing.

The hearings team cannot guarantee that they can schedule the hearing at a time that suits everyone. They will try to accommodate any requirements as best they can.

Even if you do not attend the case management meeting, you must comply with any directions that apply to you. If you do not, then this may be taken against you at the hearing.

Confirmation of location, date and time

We will notify you of a hearing at least 28 calendar days before the hearing (unless you agree to a shorter period). There are some cases where the notice period may be shorter, such as some types of conviction cases.

The notice of hearing will include:

  • the date and time of the hearing
  • the location of the hearing
  • an enclosed statement of case setting out details of the allegations made against you

We will usually send this by email, but we may also send it by post or other delivery methods.

Postponements

Both you and Social Work England can request an adjournment to postpone the hearing to another date.

If you want to request an adjournment, you must explain why you need it and provide:

  • detailed reasons
  • evidence to support your reasons

The adjudicators will not grant adjournments simply because it would be more convenient to have the hearing at another time.

For more information, read our guidance on postponements and adjournments of hearings.

Panel of adjudicators

When a case goes to a hearing, we will assign a panel of adjudicators. The panel of adjudicators will include:

  • at least a chair (who is a lay person)
  • a qualified social worker

For final fitness to practise hearings, an additional lay adjudicator may join the panel.

Adjudicators are independent of Social Work England. We appoint them to make impartial decisions about fitness to practise cases. Adjudicators must all declare any actual or possible conflicts of interest that could relate to the case. Read more about how we manage adjudicator conflicts of interest.

Adjudicators make decisions based solely on the:

  • evidence presented to them (to reach a fair decision)
  • relevant laws that apply

They must give clear reasons for their decisions.

A legal adviser will advise the panel during the hearing but will not take part in the decision making of the panel. If the legal adviser gives the panel advice during a break, they will usually repeat it on the record. They will then give both you and our advocate an opportunity to comment on that advice.

How the adjudicators make a decision about your case at a hearing

Once the adjudicators have heard all the evidence, the panel of adjudicators will consider:

  • whether we have proved any of the facts set out in the allegations and, if so
  • whether your fitness to practise is impaired

The hearing will end if the adjudicators decide that:

  • we have not proved the facts
  • the statutory grounds (on which the case is based) are not met
Statutory grounds

Possible statutory grounds to an allegation include (but are not limited to):

  • misconduct
  • lack of competence
  • health
Impairment

Impairment means that there would be serious concerns about:

  • the suitability of your character
  • your ability to practise safely and effectively

The adjudicators will decide whether the evidence shows that you may still present a continuing risk of harm to the public (or to yourself). They will also consider the nature and seriousness of the allegations and any actions you have taken to address the concerns raised.

The adjudicators have to decide if your fitness to practise is currently impaired, not whether it was impaired when the alleged events took place.

Because of this, the adjudicators may need to know more about what has happened since those events happened.

If the adjudicators decide that your fitness to practise is not impaired, they may:

  • take no further action
  • provide advice
  • issue a warning

If the adjudicators find that your fitness to practise is impaired, the adjudicators will consider what (if any) sanction they should impose.

Sanctions

The purpose of fitness to practise hearings is to protect the public, not to punish social workers. When deciding what sanctions to apply, public protection is the most important consideration.

The adjudicators must also take account of the interests of the social workers and the wider public interest. Public interest includes:

  • protecting people with lived experiences of social work
  • promoting professional standards for the social work profession
  • maintaining public confidence in the social work profession and the regulatory process

Sanctions should be the minimum necessary to protect the public and the wider public interest. The sanctions guidance sets out the factors the adjudicators may consider when deciding whether a sanction is appropriate.

If the adjudicators decide that your fitness to practise is impaired, they may:

  • take no further action
  • provide advice
  • make a final order

You can appeal some decisions made by the adjudicators, including a decision to impose a final order. You must make the appeal within 28 days of being notified of the decision.

Final orders
Warning order

A warning is a public record that your past conduct was unacceptable but there was no need for a more restrictive sanction.

Conditions of practice order

The adjudicators can impose conditions of practice which you must comply with to be able to continue practising. A conditions of practice order will be reviewed before it expires.

Suspension order

The adjudicators can place a suspension on your ability to practise as a social worker. A suspension order will be reviewed before it expires. For more information, read our guidance for suspended social workers.

Removal order

A removal order removes your name from the register. This means you will no longer be able to practise as a social worker.

Read more about the different stages of the hearing and decision making process for the adjudicators in our sanction guidance.

How we will tell you the outcome

When the panel is making their decision, they will retire from the hearing room.

At an in-person hearing, this means that they will leave the room and go into a private room. At a remote hearing, they will meet in a separate virtual room.

Once they have made a decision, you will be asked to return to the hearing room where someone will read out the decision.

The adjudicators will also produce a detailed write up of the decision. We will usually share this with you at the end of the hearing, but sometimes there will be a short delay.

Depending on the outcome of the hearing, we may also publish the decision on our website.

What happens next

We will send your decision document to you by (one of the following):

  • email
  • post

We will also send you a letter that explains:

  • what happens next
  • how long the decision will be published on the register and website
  • how to appeal the decision (and the timeframe for making an appeal)

If the adjudicators have imposed a suspension or conditions of practice order, the case review team will write to you shortly after the hearing.

Final order reviews

Working with the case review team

If you receive a suspension or conditions of practice order, we will allocate your case to the case review team.

The case review team will then:

  • monitor your compliance with the order
  • request and compile any evidence needed to show whether you have met the requirements of your order

While they cannot change the decision made, they will be there to guide you (wherever possible) through your remediation.

Read more about what happens during case review.

Conditions of practice orders

If you have a conditions of practice order, you must send your case review officer evidence of how you are complying with your conditions. You must do this regularly while the order is in place.

Compliance with the order is your responsibility, but your case review officer will send you a letter once the order starts. This will set out what evidence you need to provide and when.

The case review officer contacts you regularly while the order is in place to support you to submit evidence.

Your case review officer will collate all the evidence you submit into an evidence bundle. The evidence bundle will inform the decision made by the adjudicators at the final order review hearing or meeting.

Suspension orders with recommendations

We encourage the adjudicators (and case examiners) to make recommendations with a suspension order. These recommendations are things you can do during the suspension period that might help at the review hearing.

While it is not mandatory for you to follow these recommendations, we would encourage you to engage with them.

If you have a suspension order with recommendations, the adjudicators will consider how you have engaged with them at the review hearing.

Your case review officer will write to you regularly to:

  • remind you of the recommendations
  • inform you of the deadline for submitting additional evidence for the evidence bundle

It is your choice whether to send any additional evidence. We will add anything you do send to the evidence bundle for the review hearing.

Suspension orders without recommendations

If you have a suspension order without any recommendations, there may not be any set evidence you have to provide. This means you will have to choose what evidence to provide to your case review officer for the review hearing.

Your case review officer will contact you before the expiry of the order to ask if you have anything you want to present to the adjudicators.

It is your choice whether to send any additional evidence. We will add anything you do send to the evidence bundle for the review hearing.

Final order review hearing or meeting

Your review hearing or meeting will take place just before your suspension or conditions of practice order expires.

At the review, a panel of adjudicators will decide whether you have addressed the concerns that led to your final order by:

  • complying with the order
  • showing appropriate remediation

The adjudicators must then decide whether you have done this to the extent that:

  • your fitness to practise is no longer impaired
  • you can move towards full and unrestricted practice
Final order review outcomes

At a review hearing for a final order, the adjudicators may decide to:

  • extend your current conditions of practice or suspension order (up to a period of a further 3 years)
  • impose a new order – this can be any order that the adjudicators or case examiners could have made at the time of the original order, such as:
    • taking no further action
    • giving advice
    • giving a warning order
    • giving a conditions of practice order
    • giving a suspension order
    • giving a removal order
  • replace your suspension order with a conditions of practice order

These outcomes would take effect once your current order expires.

Removal orders

The adjudicators can impose a removal order at a final order review depending on what grounds the final order was made.

For instance, if the original order was made on the statutory ground of health, competence or not having necessary knowledge of the English language, you will need to have been suspended or subject to a conditions of practice order continuously for 2 years (or more) before a removal order can be made.

The adjudicators cannot impose a removal order if the original order was imposed by the case examiners through the accepted disposal process, unless it has already been reviewed by the adjudicators.

Early final order reviews

Sometimes we may review a final order (suspension, conditions of practice or warning order) before it is due to expire. For example, if:

  • you do not provide the evidence you need to submit (as part of your order) in the designated timescales
  • there is evidence which could suggest that you may have breached your conditions of practice or suspension order
  • there is evidence which could suggest that you are unable to comply with the final order

An early review usually takes place when the concerns are raised and as soon as possible. This means that it might be much earlier than the next scheduled review.

Your case review officer will let you know if we are considering an early review.

You can also request an early review of your final order if:

  • new evidence becomes available after you receive the order
  • you are no longer able to comply with the conditions of practice

If you want to request an early review of your order, you must make this request within 28 days of being notified of the order.

We will decide whether the information you have provided suggests that we need to do an early review.

The case review officer will then instruct our external legal provider to present the case on our behalf.

The external legal provider will then:

  • contact you to provide a copy of the notice of hearing, setting out why we believe an early review is necessary
  • provide a copy of the evidence bundle for the adjudicators

For more information, read our early review guidance.

Where are hearings held?

Hearings can be:

  • in person in a physical location
  • remote using video conferencing software
  • hybrid – where people can attend the hearing in person or remotely

The location of the hearing will be decided during the pre-hearing case management process.

Most of our hearings are remote, but we can arrange a hybrid or in-person hearing if:

  • everyone agrees that a remote hearing is not suitable
  • the adjudicators direct us to do so

Remote hearings

Remote hearings take place using Microsoft Teams (a video conferencing software). This software allows everyone to:

  • join the hearing from different locations
  • be visible and heard by all other participants

If we schedule a remote hearing, we will send you instructions on how to join the electronic hearing. If you want to do a test call, the hearings team can arrange this before the hearing.

When attending a remote hearing, you will be expected to control your microphone yourself, remaining muted when you are not speaking.

In-person hearings

In-person hearings take place at our dedicated facilities in Sheffield at the following address: 1 North Bank, Blonk Street, Sheffield, S3 8JY.

Our building has access for wheelchair users and those less able to stand. Hearings take place on the ground floor of the building.

In exceptional circumstances, hearings may take place in other locations in England.

We will normally ask you to arrange any overnight accommodation and book travel tickets, but we can do this for you if required. We will reimburse you for your travel to and from our offices.

Microphone system

The physical hearing room is set up with a microphone system. Hearing staff will inform everyone in the room when recording has started. You will not need to press anything to activate your microphone.

Hybrid hearings

Our hearing suites support video conferencing. This means that we can do hybrid hearings where:

  • some participants are at our offices in Sheffield
  • others join the hearing remotely

Personal requirements

Our equality and diversity policy sets out our duty to:

  • treat people fairly
  • make reasonable adjustments to our processes (if required)

We have designed our hearings process to be as accessible as possible, including:

  • our physical hearing suites
  • how we deliver our hearing service remotely

Our employees have undergone equality and diversity training. They are trained to (among other things) make reasonable adjustments to make sure everyone is able to participate at a hearing.

We want to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Please let us know in advance if you need any help accessing our services.

For in-person hearings, this includes (but is not limited to):

  • mobility assistance or wheelchair access
  • a hearing loop
  • a prayer room and breaks
  • dietary requirements, including allergies
  • a nursing room and breaks
  • storage for medication

For all hearings, this includes (but is not limited to)s:

  • sign language
  • translation services
  • large print
  • help with reading
  • having a personal carer or assistant with you
  • having a mental health support worker with you

Attending a hearing

The hearing is your chance to present your case, so it’s in your best interest to attend it.

If you attend your hearing, you will get the opportunity to:

  • give evidence yourself under oath or affirmation
  • call your own witnesses (including expert witnesses) to give evidence under oath or affirmation, for example to give evidence to your character
  • question our witnesses

Bringing witnesses

If you want to call witnesses, you must let us know before the hearing.

Preparing written statements

To help the adjudicators understand the situation, you should also prepare written statements and documents in support of your case from:

  • yourself
  • other people who can provide relevant evidence

On the day of the hearing

Hearings will normally start at 9.30am and finish at 5pm, with a break for lunch.

Please arrive at the hearing in good time (either remotely or in-person) and allow for any delays like:

  • technological issues
  • transport delays

On your arrival at the hearing, we will direct you to either a virtual or physical waiting area. The hearings officers or hearing support officers will meet you in the waiting area. They will discuss the process with you and your representative (if you have one).

You will then have the opportunity to get settled in the hearing room before the panel arrives.

If you have representation, our advocate may ask to speak to you and your representative before the hearing starts.

If you are not represented, the legal adviser may speak to you (in the presence of our advocate and/or a hearings officer). The legal adviser can:

  • explain the hearing process
  • explain what to expect
  • answer any questions you may have
Giving your evidence

The adjudicators will ask you to give your evidence. Bringing a prepared statement (or notes) might help you tell the adjudicators your version of the events. Once you have completed your evidence, our advocate may ask you some further questions.

Next there might be a short period of adjournment (break) where the adjudicators will decide which questions to ask you. The adjudicators will then ask their questions.

The panel chair will make sure that:

  • the hearing is managed fairly
  • questioning is not unreasonable, repetitive or hostile

No one will be allowed to raise their voice at you while you are giving evidence, but:

  • the questions may come across as challenging
  • you may feel under pressure

If at any stage you need to take a break, please let the panel chair know.
Read more about how the adjudicators make a decision about your case at a hearing.

The oath or affirmation

If you decide to give evidence at your hearing, we will ask you to repeat the words of (one of the following):

  • an oath (on a religious text)
  • a non-religious affirmation

Taking an oath or affirmation is an important part of our proceedings. This is because it allows the panel to place more weight on the things you say during your evidence.

Hearings officers and hearing support officers will discuss the process of taking an oath or affirmation before the hearing. However, if you have any particular requirements please let us know in advance.

Each physical hearing room will have a range of religious texts if you choose to take an oath. If you want to take an oath as part of a remote hearing, you will need to have the relevant religious text with you.

Delays

As with any legal proceedings, there might be delays during the day. We will make sure you are informed of any delay and kept up to date throughout the day.

If you choose not to attend your hearing

If you choose not to attend the hearing, the adjudicators must decide whether to proceed in your absence. Before making this decision, the adjudicators will make sure:

  • they have complied with the statutory duty to give you proper notice of the hearing
  • it’s fair to proceed without you

For more information, read our guidance on service of notices and proceeding in the absence of the social worker.

If you do not attend at your hearing, you will not:

  • get the opportunity to question the witnesses on any points in their statements that you do not agree with
  • be able to clarify any points that you think are relevant for the adjudicators to consider in their decision-making
  • be able to give evidence under oath or affirmation in response to the concerns or allegations raised

You will only be able to:

  • provide a written statement to be read out in your absence
  • submit other documents as part of your evidence

The adjudicators will make sure the hearing is run fairly and will take this information into consideration before they make their decision. However, evidence given under oath or affirmation is generally considered to hold more weight.

Representation at hearings

It’s up to you whether you want representation at your hearing, but it may be helpful to:

  • get advice from your defence organisation or professional body (if you are a member)
  • get free legal advice from organisations such as law centre or Citizens Advice
  • pay for private legal representation

For all hearings, you can:

  • have a legal representative
  • represent yourself
  • have representation from an organisation you are a member of
  • be representation by a friend, family member or someone else (whether they are legally qualified or not) – with the approval of the adjudicators or Social Work England

If you choose to appoint a representative, you should tell us soon as possible. If you do not tell us that you have appointed a representative, we will assume that you are representing yourself.

You may want to refer your representative to our detailed fitness to practise guidance.

If you choose to represent yourself

Even if you do not have representation, we would still encourage you to attend your hearing. This is to make sure that you have an opportunity to:

  • respond to the concerns
  • answer any questions the adjudicators may have
  • answer any questions our advocate may have

For more information, read out guidance for self-represented social workers at fitness to practise panel hearings.

We understand that attending a hearing can be an anxious experience, particularly if you do not have representation.

On the day of the hearing, you will be able to speak with the independent legal adviser. This is the person who will assist the panel during the hearing.

They will be able to explain the fitness to practise process to you, but will not be able to:

  • give you any legal advice
  • tell you how to represent yourself
Practical tips for effective questioning and probing techniques

Decide any questions that you want to ask our witnesses in advance (if possible).

You may want to follow up questions or comment on something the witnesses said:

  • in their statement
  • when they gave oral evidence

For example, if you:

  • disagree with anything they have said – you should explain your version of events to the witness and ask them to comment
  • want to raise any issues (that supports your case) but that were not addressed by the witnesses

You should try to keep the tone of your questioning neutral regardless of how witnesses may react to your questions. Make sure you remain polite and ask questions in a respectful manner.

The following types of questioning techniques may help when asking witnesses questions at a hearing. The aim of this list is to help you prepare. You are not limited to the questioning techniques in this list, and you may want to do your own research.

Open ended questioning

Use this style of questioning to discover more information about a particular situation. You can use these questions to explore the witnesses’ opinions or perspective more deeply. Open ended questions often start with ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’.

Closed ended questioning

Use this style of questioning to:

  • find out or confirm very specific details
  • validate your understanding of a situation

You can also use closed questions to finish your questioning. Closed ended questions usually result in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.

Funnel questioning

Use this technique to get very specific information about the past (using closed-ended questions) to:

  • establish facts about a situation
  • help set a scene

Once the facts have become clear, you should ask effective open-ended questions that will help to further explore the witnesses’:

  • opinions
  • concerns
Probing questions

This technique involves asking for more information about a previous statement. This is useful if you need:

  • more information to clarify a situation
  • to sort out an issue by uncovering layers of details, opinions or feelings

For example: ‘when you said you were working on that date, what specific duties were you carrying out?’

If you have any questions

Our hearings team will have spoken to you before the hearing to confirm which days and times you are required to attend.

The hearings team provides an impartial service to make sure that fitness to practise hearings are fair and that the public is protected.

You can call the hearings team on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected] if you have any questions about:

  • attending a hearing
  • travelling to and from a hearing
  • personal requirements

Our rules and other guidance

Our rules

Our rules set out what people can expect from us across appointments, registration, education and training, and fitness to practise. They provide detail of how we will regulate social workers across England.

View our rules.

Other guidance

We also publish many other pieces of guidance.

View all guidance.

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