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What we mean by fitness to practise

To be a social worker in England, a person must be registered with us and be ‘fit to practise’.

What we mean by fitness to practise

To be a social worker in England, a person must be registered with us and be ‘fit to practise’. By ‘fit to practise’ we mean that this person can practise safely and effectively because they have the relevant:

  • skills
  • knowledge (including knowledge of the English language)
  • character, and
  • health.

When we make a decision about someone’s fitness to practise, we consider their current and future situation. Our process is not about assigning blame or punishment for past mistakes.

A social worker’s past actions might not affect their ability to practise now. The fact that the social worker has made a mistake or has done something that you disagree with does not mean that their fitness to practise is impaired.

We will also assess whether the social worker's practice, conduct or behaviour may pose a risk to the public now (or in the future).

Fitness to practise is not just about professional performance, it is also about a social worker’s conduct outside the workplace. For example, an act resulting in criminal investigations.

Fitness to practise is only about individual social workers. We cannot investigate concerns about social care services or employers of social workers. For example where there are many social workers involved in your concern.

View list of other organisations that can help you.

Examples of fitness to practise concerns

  • Dishonesty, fraud or abuse of trust or position. This includes not maintaining professional boundaries with a person with lived experience of social work.
  • Exploitation of a vulnerable person.
  • Failure to act in the best interests of a person with lived experience of social work (who the social worker is working with).
  • Serious breaches of a person’s confidentiality or data protection requirements. By ‘serious’ we mean that the breach represents a risk to the public, or it is capable of undermining public confidence in the profession.
  • Serious or repeated failings in a person’s care, for example failing to conduct statutory visits.
  • Where a social worker’s performance in their role has harmed people with lived experience of social work or put them at risk of harm.
  • Violence, sexual misconduct or indecent behaviour.
  • A caution or conviction for a criminal offence.
  • Action (or inaction) that has put either a child or a vulnerable adult at risk of significant harm and which has resulted in a statutory intervention.

You may also find it helpful to read our professional standards. The standards set out what a social worker in England must know, understand and be able to do.

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