Information for witnesses
Information about hearings for witnesses
This page is for anyone giving evidence at a fitness to practise hearing. You may have been asked to give evidence for us, or you may be called by a social worker to give evidence in support of their defence.
You may find it helpful to read our guidance for witnesses.
What happens at a hearing
When you arrive on the day, you will be taken to the waiting area by one of our hearings officers or hearing support officers. The hearings officer, or hearings support officer, will discuss what will happen in the hearing with you and look to introduce you to the presenting officer and show you the hearing room.
When you are called to give evidence, you will be asked to give an oath or affirmation. It is your choice whether you want to swear an oath on a religious text or take a non-religious affirmation to attest the truth of the evidence given.
Why you need to give an oath or affirmation at a hearing
Taking an oath or affirmation is an important part of our proceedings because it allows the panel to place more weight on the things you say when you give evidence.
Each hearing room will have a range of religious texts.
Hearings officers, and hearing support officers, will discuss the process of taking an oath or affirmation before the hearing. It would be helpful if you could let us know in advance if you have any special requirements.
Giving evidence at a hearing
Once you have taken your seat and given an oath or affirmation, the panel will introduce themselves and ask others in the room to do the same.
After introductions, you will usually be asked to confirm your signature and that your witness statement remains correct. You may be asked any other questions for clarification.
The legal representative for Social Work England may then ask you questions. We are unable to confirm the nature of any questions, but if you would like to discuss the process of giving evidence in general, please call us on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected].
The panel members may also ask you questions, often after a short break. During the break, panel members decide on the questions they want to ask you. The panel’s questions will be designed to clarify issues and better understand the evidence you have already given.
If the social worker is not there or not represented, the panel may ask the legal advisor to ask you questions to make sure the hearing is fair.
Throughout, the panel chair will make sure the hearing is managed fairly and the 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 and you may feel under pressure.
No one will be able to ask you questions which are unfair, offensive or distressing. If at any stage you need to take a break, please let the panel chair know.
How long hearings take
The length of hearings will depend on the complexity of the case, but on average a case could last between three and five days. Details of the hearing and the number of days it is scheduled for will be published on our website 14 days before the first day of the hearing.
As part of our pre-hearing case management process, we will schedule the attendance of witnesses, so adjudicators and the social worker know when witnesses are being called to give evidence.
We will only pay expenses for witnesses called to give evidence for us.
Hearing outcomes are published to the website. You can read more about the possible outcomes of a hearing.
Normally hearings will take place in public. If this is the case, there may be journalists and other observers present.
Sometimes the panel may decide that all or part of a hearing should be held in private. For example, if personal health details about the social worker in question, or a witness, are due to be discussed.
During private sessions, journalists and any other observers will be asked to leave. When the decision of the panel is published, witnesses who gave evidence will be anonymised.
If you need any reasonable adjustments
Our equality and diversity policy sets out our duty to treat people fairly and make reasonable adjustments to our processes if required.
If you want to discuss anything with us before a hearing that you think we need to accommodate, please let us know as soon as possible. You can call us on 0808 196 2273 or send an email to [email protected].
Our facilities have been developed to help make our services accessible and our employees have undergone equality and diversity training. They are trained to, among other things, make reasonable adjustments to make sure everyone can participate in a hearing.
We want to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Please let us know in advance if you’d like any help accessing our services.
This can include (but is not limited to) having access to:
- mobility assistance or wheelchair access
- a hearing loop
- sign language
- a prayer room and breaks
- dietary requirements, including allergies
- a nursing room and breaks
- translation services
- large print
- help with reading
- storage for medication
- bringing a personal carer or assistant
- bringing a mental health support worker
Before a hearing, we will call you to talk about what happens at a hearing and discuss any concerns. You will also receive further guidance documents.
If you have any questions, or need help with anything, please call us on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected].
Last updated: 28 November 2019