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Attending a hearing

Information about hearing locations and times, how to attend and what happens at a hearing.

Information about attending hearings

At the hearing, we will explain the evidence relating to our concerns about a social worker. Usually, we will also call witnesses to provide evidence to support our concerns.

The social worker will have the opportunity to question these witnesses and provide their side of events, which may include calling their own witnesses.

They can be represented at the hearing by themselves or a professional such as a:

  • lawyer
  • union representative

Social workers do not have to attend the hearing, but it is usually in their best interest to be there so they can assist the adjudicators with any questions they may have.

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 the social worker 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).
  • The social worker (if they choose to attend) and their representative (if they 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.

Public and private hearings

All hearings usually take place in public, except for:

  • interim order applications and interim order reviews
  • hearings that are about the social worker’s physical or mental health

When a hearing takes place in public, that means any member of the public (including journalists) have the right to:

  • attend
  • report on what happens

Sometimes the adjudicators may decide that the hearing should be held partly in private. For example, if personal health details about 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.

Any decisions the panel make, and the reasons for them, will still be given in public (except for any information discussed in private).

Hearing times

The length of hearings will depend on the complexity of the case. Normally, cases last between 3 and 5 days but they could take longer.

We will inform the people involved of the length of the hearing in advance. During hearings, we will try to keep to timetables.

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

Upcoming hearings

We publish hearing details on our website 14 days before the first day of the hearing.

View upcoming hearings

Observing a hearing

If you want to attend a public hearing, you must tell us in advance. You can request to attend a hearing via email to [email protected].

Please call us on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected] if you:

  • have any questions about a hearing you want to attend
  • want more information about the process of attending a hearing

You will be given instructions how to join the hearing by our hearings team.

You must ensure that your presence at a hearing is not disruptive. For example, by turning off your mobile phone, muting your microphone and not using the chat function in remote hearings. If necessary, the adjudicators have the power to make any person who disturbs the hearing leave.

You will not be permitted to ask the adjudicators or any other person at the hearing any questions. Any questions you may have should be directed to the hearings staff who will be able to help you.

Food should not be consumed while hearings are in session.

Recordings

We will take an official recording of the hearing, and this will be used to produce a transcript. Taking photos, audio-visual recording or taking screenshots of a hearing (or anywhere in our physical hearing suites) is strictly forbidden.

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

Remote hearings

Remote hearings take place using Microsoft Teams (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.

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

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

There are separate waiting areas for people involved in the hearing. When you arrive at the building, a member of the hearings team will take you to the appropriate area.

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):

  • 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
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