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Raise a concern as a manager or an employer

This is for managers and employers (including locum agencies) who want to raise a concern about a social worker employee. 

What we can and cannot do

Before raising a concern, please make sure that we can investigate the issue. The information on this page should help you decide whether to raise a concern with us.

What we can investigate

Issues that we can investigate, include:

  • failure to act in the best interests of people with lived experience of social work
  • dishonesty, fraud or abuse of trust or position, including not maintaining professional boundaries
  • exploitation of a vulnerable person
  • serious breaches of confidentiality or data protection requirements
  • committing reckless or deliberately harmful acts
  • hiding mistakes or blocking an investigation
  • serious or repeated failings in care
  • where a social worker’s performance in their role has harmed people or put them at risk
  • violence, sexual misconduct or indecent behaviour
  • a caution or conviction for a criminal offence
  • health concerns that are not being managed and may affect the safety of people or colleagues, including substance abuse or misuse
  • an adverse finding by another regulatory body
  • fraudulent or deceptive entry onto Social Work England register
  • other serious actions or behaviour which affect public confidence in the social work profession

What we cannot investigate

Issues that should be dealt with through your performance or disciplinary process, include:

  • persistent lateness, poor timekeeping or unauthorised leave, unless it has a direct impact on care
  • personality conflicts, providing there is no evidence of bullying or harassment
  • disputes between the social worker and their employers or managers, providing there is no evidence of bullying or harassment
  • sickness absence, unless there is evidence of misconduct (such as dishonesty) or the social worker is not managing their health condition effectively
  • other contractual or breach of local policy issues, unless it raises serious concerns about an employees’ conduct or character

Internal investigations

We recommend that you try to address your concerns at a local level first. If you have tried this approach and it has not been successful, or the concerns are serious, you should raise a concern as soon as possible.

You should tell us straight away if:

  • you cannot take action at a local level,
  • action at a local level has failed,
  • the problem is so serious that we clearly need to be involved,
  • you have dismissed or suspended a social worker, including if you are a locum agency and you have decided to remove the social worker from your books.

Our investigations can take place at the same time as yours. If you have already started investigating your concerns, you should continue to investigate in line with your internal processes.

If we receive a concern that is already being investigated locally, and the social worker does not put the public at risk of harm, we may choose to put our investigation on hold until other processes have finished.

If a concern is very serious, we will not wait for your outcome. For example, allegations of serious and persistent misconduct or competence issues, sexual misconduct or large scale dishonesty.

In those cases, we will take immediate action to protect the public. If you need guidance to decide whether Social Work England can investigate your concern, visit our raise a concern page.

Raise a concern about an employee

If you think a social worker may not be fit to practise because of their behaviour, their professional skills, their health or their knowledge of the English language, you need to tell us about it.

You may find it helpful to consider whether the social worker’s action or lack of action was intentional or reckless, and the degree of harm caused as a result. You should also consider whether the social worker’s actions were a breach of our professional standards.

Issues that are likely to raise a concern about a social worker’s fitness to practise may also relate to their conduct outside of their working environment. For example, where issues could affect the protection of the public or undermine public confidence in the profession. This may include if a social worker has been cautioned or convicted of an offence.

You may want to read our fitness to practise guidance for employers

Raise a concern about an employee
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