Case examiner stage
A guide intended to help answer questions about the fitness to practise process and what to expect.
After an investigation
Last updated: 20 October 2021
Once an investigation into a concern has finished, the evidence is considered by 2 independent case examiners: a lay case examiner and a professional case examiner. One of the case examiners will always be a practising social worker.
Once a case has been allocated to a pair of case examiners, they will usually decide next steps within 2 working weeks. Following this, we will communicate the outcome with you as soon as possible.
What you need to do
Our letters will clearly outline what is expected of you at each stage of the process. Please read them carefully and respond within the timescales stated.
You will also be given a named contact in our letters, who you can contact if you are unsure about what you need to do or have any questions. Your named contact will be a member of our case examiner operations team, not a case examiner, and will be completely separate from the investigations team.
You may want to keep your employer updated on the progress of your case. If you are getting independent support, we would encourage you to keep your representative up-to-date.
Our case examiners make independent, evidence-based decisions based on a series of tests. These tests ensure that our processes are proportionate. The case examiners’ decision may be influenced by how engaged you are and whether you demonstrate insight, so please keep in touch throughout the process.
Case examiner decisions
Case examiners review the evidence collected during an investigation to decide whether – if there was a hearing on this case -there is a realistic prospect that your fitness to practise could be found to be impaired.
Impairment means that there would be serious concerns about the suitability of your character or your ability to practise safely and effectively.
If there is a realistic prospect of impairment, the case examiners will then decide whether there is a public interest in a hearing being held. You can read more about hearings.
If they decide that there is not a public interest in referring the case to a hearing, the case examiners consider whether the case can be resolved in another way.
The case examiners can:
- close the case
- refer the case to a hearing
- offer you an accepted disposal outcome (disposal of a case without a hearing)
Case examiners can ask the investigators to get additional information if they think it is necessary for them to decide on an appropriate outcome.
To help you understand the range of possible outcomes in response to concerns about a social worker’s fitness to practise, please read our case examiner guidance.
You can also find more information about fitness to practise outcomes in our sanctions guidance.
In serious cases, an interim order of conditions or suspension may be needed while the case is resolved. You can read more about interim orders.
It is essential that case examiner decisions are made independently and are completely objective. You can read more about how case examiners maintain independence.
Case examiners must all declare any conflict of interest that could relate to the case, whether the conflict exists or could just be thought to exist. You can read more about how we manage case examiner conflicts of interest.
Disposal of a case without a hearing
Disposal without hearing, or ‘accepted disposal’, means that we can avoid sending cases to public hearings in circumstances where a suitable outcome can be agreed.
Contested or very serious concerns will almost always be sent to a hearing.
If case examiners decide that accepted disposal is possible, you will have at least 14 days, but no more than 28 days, to consider and comment on the proposed sanctions.
Case examiners will always propose the minimum necessary sanction to protect the public. Any amendments you propose will be carefully considered by the case examiners, and if it is safe to do so, they may make minor changes to your sanctions.
For an accepted disposal of a case, you must accept that your fitness to practise is impaired and agree to the proposed sanctions. If the case examiners find that you do not think that your fitness to practise is impaired, or you do not accept the proposed sanctions, your case is sent to a hearing.
Case examiners can propose the following accepted disposal outcomes:
Accepted disposal outcomes are published on the website and the online register.
You can read more about what fitness to practise information we publish in our fitness to practise publications policy.