Adapting hearings in the current pandemic
In view of the current coronavirus pandemic, we’re adapting our fitness to practise hearings process to ensure that we continue to meet our overarching objectives.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update on hearings
We recognise that this is an extremely difficult and stressful time and we want to thank everyone all for their continued patience. In view of the current coronavirus pandemic, we’re adapting our fitness to practise hearings process to ensure that we continue to meet our overarching objectives of:
- protecting the public, and
- maintaining public confidence in the social work profession
We have, in accordance with our fitness to practise rules, changed how hearings are currently conducted. As a result, we are holding hearings remotely by electronic means rather than at our offices.
Hearings must continue to be held in a timely manner and all social workers are encouraged to attend and participate at hearings. As circumstances continue to change, we will do our best to keep everyone informed in line with government guidance.
As a result of the pandemic, all interim order application, interim order review, substantive order review hearings and final hearings are now taking place electronically. Social workers have the right to respond to any allegations made about their fitness to practise by sending us written submissions and/or attending a hearing to make submissions in person.
If a social worker does not want to attend a hearing or does not engage with us, then we, or a panel of adjudicators, may decide that the case should be considered at a meeting rather than a hearing. The meeting would then be held in private by the panel of adjudicators and a legal adviser. No one else will be permitted to attend the meeting.
If you have an upcoming final hearing, please contact the hearings team for an update on your case. You can call us on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected].
Notice of hearings
We will continue to send notices of hearings to social workers in advance of a hearing or meeting. A notice will be sent either to the social worker’s registered address or, following a recent rule change, to an email address provided by the social worker. Social workers must make sure that we always have their up-to-date contact information.
The notice of hearing will also contain a bundle of relevant documents which will be shared with all hearing participants. Any evidence provided by a social worker must be disclosed as soon as possible, so it can be shared. Along with the notice of hearing, the social worker will receive a hearing participation form which they must complete and return if they want to attend the remote hearing.
Attending a hearing
We encourage all social workers to attend their remote hearing by video link. We use Microsoft Teams software for this purpose. We allocate a hearings officer and a hearings support officer to every hearing. They will contact the social worker as soon as they have received confirmation that the social worker wants to participate at the hearing.
In preparation for a hearing, the hearings officer will contact all hearing participants and provide them with the necessary links to the electronic hearing. These links will usually be sent out the day before the hearing. The hearings team can also offer test calls to social workers, representatives and other participants to check that audio and video is working correctly on devices works ahead of the hearing.
Social workers (and their representatives) will have opportunity to speak with the legal adviser and case presenter before the hearing to answer any queries.
Support during hearings
The hearings officer will be present throughout the hearing to manage the process and provide updates, for example on timings. The hearings support officer will also be available throughout the hearing to provide any additional support.
We recognise that this is an especially difficult time and the hearings team will be available to provide as much support as is reasonably possible. Please be assured that the panel will make sure hearings are managed carefully, scheduling regular breaks where necessary. We encourage hearing participants to contact the team ahead of the hearing with any questions.
Observing a hearing
All interim order applications and interim order review hearings are held in private, so members of the public cannot attend. A member of public may observe substantive order review hearings and final hearings.
If you want to observe a hearing, please contact the hearings team by calling 0808 196 2273 or sending an email to [email protected].
You will then receive a link which you can use on the day of the hearing. Please note that as an observer you will not be able to participate in the hearing and your microphone will be muted. If private matters are due to be discussed, all observers will be asked to leave temporarily. Social Work England will make a recording of all its fitness to practise hearings and therefore unauthorised recordings of hearings are not permitted.
Our team and panel provide transparency throughout the hearings process. If you have any questions regarding any stage of the process, please contact us.
All social workers who have attended their hearing will have the hearing decision handed to them by the panel chair. The hearings support officer will also email a copy of the full decision to the social worker. This will be on the day of the hearing, where reasonably possible. If it is not possible to send the decision by email, a copy will be sent to by first class post. Please note that due to the current pandemic, post is not currently sent daily.
Read more about hearing outcomes.
If you have any questions or need support, call us on 0808 196 2273 or email [email protected].