Attending a hearing
Information about hearing locations and times, how to attend and what happens at a hearing.
In view of the current coronavirus pandemic, we have adapted our fitness to practise hearings process to ensure that we continue to meet our overarching objectives. As a result, we are holding hearings remotely by electronic means rather than at our offices.
Read more about how we have adapted hearings in the current pandemic.
Information about attending hearings
Last updated: 25 August 2021
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.
A social worker can be represented at the hearing by a professional, such as a lawyer, or they may represent themselves.
Social workers do not have to attend the hearing, but it is usually in their best interest to be there.
The hearing will usually take place in public. This means that members of the public, including journalists, have the right to attend and report on what happens.
The panel may decide that all or part of a hearing should be held in private. This could be to protect the lives of people involved, for example if health details about the social worker, or a witness, are about to be discussed.
During private hearing sessions, journalists and any other observers will be asked to leave.
Any decisions the panel make, and the reasons for them, will still be given in public.
The length of hearings will depend on the complexity of the case. Normally, cases last between three and five days but they could take longer.
You will be informed of the length of the hearing in advance and we will try to keep to timetables during the hearings.
Hearings will normally start at 9.30am and finish at 5pm, with a break for lunch.
We publish hearing details on our website 14 days before the first day of the hearing.
Observing a hearing
If you want to attend a hearing, it is best to tell us in advance. While we understand that in some circumstances it may not always be possible, only a limited number of observers can attend each hearing due to size of the rooms.
Upon arrival please sign in at reception who will inform you when you can go to the hearing or hearings you are attending.
If you have a query about a hearing you want to attend, please call us on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected].
Sometimes, hearings may be cancelled at short notice. If you are planning on attending a hearing, you may want to contact us the day before to check that the hearing is taking place.
Please ensure you have turned off your mobile phone before the hearing starts. Food should should not be consumed while hearings are in session. Hearings staff will provide details of where it is acceptable to consume food.
If you need to leave the room during the hearing, please be as quiet as possible so other people at the hearing are not disturbed. If necessary, panels have the power to make any person who disturbs the hearing leave.
You will not be permitted to ask the panel 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.
An official recording of the hearing will be taken and this will be used to produce a transcript of the hearing. You cannot record audio, video or take photos at a hearing or anywhere in the building.
At the hearing
There will be a number of different people in the hearing room, including:
- the panel
The panel will consist of at least a lay panel chair and a qualified social worker. Final hearings (where the panel are considering the full investigation and hearing all the evidence) will usually have 3 adjudicators: a lay panel chair, a social worker and an additional lay person.
The panel will make decisions on the case based on the facts and evidence presented by Social Work England and the social worker.
You can read more about adjudicators.
- the social worker
The social worker that the concern is about and their representative (if they are at the hearing).
If you are a social worker, you can find more information in our guide for social workers under investigation.
A person giving evidence on behalf of Social Work England or the social worker.
If you are a witness, you can read more about witness support.
- Social Work England representative
Social Work England’s representative will present the case to the panel. The representative is independent and there to set out the factual background to the allegation. They may call witnesses in support of the evidence.
- hearings officers and support officers
Social Work England staff who make sure the hearing runs smoothly and support witnesses and others at the hearing.
You can read more about the hearings team.
- legal advisor
Legal advisors are independent and there to support everyone at the hearing with any questions related to law or procedure. The legal advisor’s main role is to ensure that there is a fair hearing.
- transcriber, if needed
If hearings are public, there may be journalists and other observers present. During private sessions, journalists and any other observers will be asked to leave.
You can find more information about reporting on hearings.
All hearings and meetings are held at: 1 North Bank, Blonk Street, Sheffield, S3 8JY.
Our building has access for wheelchair users and those less able to stand. If you have any mobility issues, please raise these when the hearing is being scheduled.
You can find more information about our commitment to equality and diversity as well as a reasonable adjustment process at fitness to practise hearings .
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.