Community Care reported that Social Work England (SWE) reportedly said measures to tackle overspend on current budget and likely tight government settlement for 2024-25 means case lengths will rise from current average of just over two years.

It is reported that case lengths – from referral to a decision on the practitioner’s fitness to practise – will increase over the next 12 months from a current average of just over two years, Social Work England said in a report to its board meeting last month.

The situation is driven by the regulator’s constrained capacity to hold hearings determining the outcome of an FTP case.

UK Fitness to Practise News

Social Work England said its current financial difficulties were mainly triggered by ministers requiring all government departments and agencies to pay non-senior civil servants a cost of living payment of £1,500 last summer.

The “unbudgeted” item cost the regulator £355,000, leaving it facing a projected overspend of £488,000 for 2023-24, net of income from social worker fees, as of the end of September last year.

To counter this, it developed a “financial mitigation” plan that included a recruitment freeze and reducing hearing numbers, which resulted in the projected overspend dropping to £222,000 as of the end of 2023.

However, this meant that the number of hearings per quarter fell from 64 in April to June 2023, to 35 in July to September and just 17 in October to December.

And though the number of cases awaiting a final hearing had fallen from a high of 412 last February to 354 in September 2023, it rose slightly in the last quarter of the year, to 361 in December.

Source: Community Care

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