Fitness to practice for social workers

If you have any further questions around the registration for HCPC or HCPC standards for social workers please read my previous posts.

What is fitness to practice?

Fitness to practice is the process undertaken by HCPC to ensure that the public are protected from social workers who are not ‘fit to practice”.

If any concerns are raised to HCPC they will determine whether a social workers practice is ‘impaired’. Ultimately, this could mean that the social worker may no longer be able to practice and this is this a decision that the panel would make.


How is a report made if there are concerns around fitness to practice?

Any person can may make a complaint to HCPC about a social worker if they are concerned about the behaviour, health or treatment they have received. This can include any professional, employer or member of the public.

It is sad to know of cases where reports are made by members of the public to HCPC maliciously and that people can be known to use this as a threat to the social workers.

I am also aware of some employers that have unfairly threatened this to social workers before too. HCPC receive a number of these cases and fortunately they appear to be dealt with quite quickly. It’s a very intimidating process and is also terrifying to think that we could lose out registration. This process should only be taken if people really feel that our practice is dangerous or we have genuinely done something wrong.

You can check on the register to determine whether any reports have been made against a social worker and details of the investigation and findings are made available to the public.


What happens when a report has been made to HCPC?

A report can be completed either over the phone or in writing. After this has happened the formal investigation will commence. The social worker will be notified about this and a case manager will be allocated to the case. The case manager acts as a mediator and collects all of the required information and documentation.

If the social worker is part of a union or a professional body this would be the time to notify them about the claims that have been made. Unions or professional bodies are also able to provide legal advice if this is required. Alternatively, the social worker can always seek their own legal advice at any point.

They are able to continue working at this time whilst the investigation continues unless an interim order had been put in place to prevent this.

An independent panel will meet where consideration will be given to whether further action is required and will take into account all of the information that has been provided. The social worker will then be sent a copy of all the evidence gathered and will have 28 days to respond to this.  The only decision that is made here is if the report raises concerns about the social workers fitness to practice.

If it is determined that a concern has been raised around fitness to practice the case is then passed to another panel who may determine what further action is required and it becomes a “case to answer’.  The case would then be passed to one of the three areas;

  • Concerns around lack of competence, misconduct or convictions
  • Where health concerns have been raised
  • Being entered onto the register fraudulently or by error

Consideration will then be given as to whether a consent order is made. This can only take place if the social worker admits to the allegation and the Committee agree on a proposed outcome. Or, if it is not in the publics interest to hold a full contested hearing. A final hearing will still take place but this will happen sooner and will not involve witnesses.

Alternatively, the final hearing will take place.  At this point the decisions that can be made include;

  • Case closure no further role
  • A caution can be made against the social worker
  • Conditions of practice may be set for the social worker
  • The social worker could be suspended or removed from the HCPC register

If you require any further information with regards to this please make reference to the HCPC website.

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