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Just disposal of transfer cases policy

The purpose of this policy is to set out the approach we will take to the cases that are transferred to us. This policy will apply to each transfer case until its determination. It will only exist for the time that it takes for all transfer cases to be determined.

Just disposal of transfer cases policy

Last updated: 26 November 2019


About this policy

From 2 December 2019 Social Work England will deal with concerns about the fitness to practise of social workers. The Health Care Professional Council (‘HCPC’) will pass to Social Work England all concerns about social workers which it is investigating and/or it has passed to any of the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service’s (‘HCPTS’) panels.

Social Work England will need to determine how these cases should proceed and ensure that they are handled in a risk based, just and proportionate manner.

Purpose of policy

Part 4 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 (Transitional and Savings Provisions) (Social Workers) Regulations 2019 (‘transitional regulations’) sets out transitional arrangements for the transfer of allegations of impaired fitness to practise from the HCPC to Social Work England.

All existing cases will be transferred to Social Work England, except hearings before the HCPTS’ Conduct and Competence Committee or Health Committee which commenced but did not conclude by 2 December 2019 (‘the transfer cases’). The "transfer date” is defined in the transitional regulations as the date on which section 39(1) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 comes into force.

This includes all cases that have not progressed to the HCPC’s Investigating Committee Panel (‘ICP’), all decisions made by the ICP, and all cases referred by the ICP where a hearing did not commence before 2 December 2019.

The purpose of this policy is to set out the approach Social Work England will take to the cases that are transferred to it. This policy will apply to each transfer case until its determination. It will only exist for the time that it takes for all transfer cases to be determined.


Policy statement

Each transfer case will be determined in accordance with Part 5 (Discipline and fitness to practise) of The Social Workers Regulations 2018 (‘the regulations’) and the Social Worker Fitness to Practise Rules 2019 (‘the rules’), subject to the modification of the application of the regulations and fitness to practise rules set out in this policy. Each transfer case will be considered individually by Social Work England, and all relevant factors will be taken into consideration.


Standards

Social Work England will apply the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics (2016) and Standards of Proficiency for social workers in England (2017) (or earlier standards in force at the relevant time) to each transfer case.


Pre-ICP transfer cases

Fraudulent entry

Any fraudulent entry transfer cases will be considered by Social Work England under Regulation 14(1)(a) of the regulations.

Conviction cases

Any transfer cases where a social worker has been convicted of:

  • i. An offence in respect of which a custodial sentence has been imposed, other than a listed offence (as defined in the regulations).
  • ii. A listed offence before 2 December 2019;will be considered by Social Work England under paragraphs 1(2) and 7(2) of schedule 2 to the regulations.

Standard of acceptance

Social Work England will apply the pre-triage test set out in its triage guidance to all allegations received by the HCPC that have not yet been considered under the HCPC’s triage stage (as set out in the HCPC’s threshold policy for fitness to practise investigation).

Pre-assessment threshold

Social Work England will apply the triage test set out in rule 3 of the rules and its triage guidance to all transfer cases that have not yet been considered under the HCPC’s threshold criteria (as set out in the HCPC’s threshold policy for fitness to practise investigation).

Post-assessment threshold

Social Work England will take into account the following (non-exhaustive) factors when determining whether a transfer case that has passed the HCPC’s threshold criteria may be referred back for consideration under rule 3 of the rules:

  • i. As a result of further investigation (or if the circumstances at the time the threshold criteria was applied have since changed) there is no longer sufficient evidence to support an allegation of impaired fitness to practise
  • ii. Expert advice/opinion has been obtained/received that means there is no longer sufficient evidence to support an allegation of impaired fitness to practise (e.g. no evidence of a serious breach of guidance, rules, regulations, procedures or laws in place at the relevant time)
  • iii. A local investigation ongoing at the time the threshold criteria was applied has since concluded and exonerates the social worker in relation to the concerns that form the basis of the allegation of impaired fitness to practise
  • iv. Clear evidence that the social worker has successfully completed remedial actions in respect of the allegation of impaired fitness to practise has been provided since the threshold criteria was applied and the case is not sufficiently serious to engage the wider public interest, maintain confidence in the profession or maintain proper professional standards for social workers in England.


Post-ICP transfer cases

Cases suitable for accepted disposal

Social Work England will take into account the following (non-exhaustive) factors when determining whether a transfer case may be referred back to the case examiners for consideration as to whether the case is suitable for accepted disposal:

  • i. the social worker has admitted the key facts
  • ii. the social worker has admitted that their fitness to practise is impaired
  • iii. the social worker has made an application for voluntary removal
  • iv. the concerns are so serious that no other outcome other than removal would be enough to protect the public, maintain confidence in the profession or maintain proper professional standards for social workers in England
  • v. the concerns are so serious that not holding a public hearing would carry a real risk of damaging public confidence in the regulation of social workers in England

The case examiner can propose the following accepted disposals: taking no further action, giving advice and a final order (warning, conditions or suspension).

Cases where there is no realistic prospect that the social worker’s fitness to practise is impaired

Social Work England will take into account the following (non-exhaustive) factors when determining whether a transfer case may be referred back to the case examiners for consideration as to whether there is a realistic prospect that the social worker’s fitness to practise is impaired:

  • i. new evidence has been obtained/received since the case to answer decision was made that materially impacts on the seriousness of the allegations
  • ii. new evidence has been obtained/received since the case to answer decision was made that materially impacts on whether or not there is a realistic prospect of proving the alleged facts and/or current impairment
  • iii. evidential concerns have arisen since the case to answer decision was made that materially impact on whether or not there is a realistic prospect of proving the alleged facts and/or current impairment
  • iv. evidence needs to be tested or material evidential conflicts need to be resolved at a substantive hearing


Measurement and evaluation

The policy will be reviewed and reported on as part of the annual fitness to practise report until all transfer cases are concluded. The executive leadership team will receive an annual report on the implementation of this policy until all transfer cases are concluded.

For the first year of Social Work England operations, the executive leadership team will receive a report on the implementation of this policy at least 4 times in the year, the report to include:

  • a statistical report on the use of the policy
  • a report on any significant challenges received, either to the policy or its interpretation or implementation
  • an anonymised sample which gives a fair reflection of the uses of the policy
  • a critical evaluation of the impact of the policy
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