We previously reported on the case of Ms R Meade v Westminster City Council and Social Work England (Case No: 2201792/2022 & 2211483/2022) that surrounds a social worker who was sanctioned by Social Work England and suspended by Westminster City Council in 2021 for private social media posts that included gender-critical beliefs.

In January 2024, Judge Nicolle found that both her regulator and her employer had subjected Meade to harassment related to her gender-critical belief when SWE threatened her with fitness to practice proceedings and sanctioned her for misconduct, and then WCC suspended her for a year on charges of gross misconduct.

Reporting on the subsequent remedy hearing held in April 2024, The International Comparative Legal Guide, wrote:

“A subsequent remedy hearing determined compensation worth GBP 58,344, including GBP 40,000 for injury to feelings and GBP 5,000 for aggravated damages, to be jointly paid by Westminster City Council and Social Work England. The tribunal also levied a separate £5,000 sum in exemplary damages against Social Work England. Exemplary damages, as explained in the judgment, are reserved for “the most serious abuses of governmental power”, and this case marks the first instance where a regulator has been penalised in this way for its conduct during a regulatory function.

“The judgment highlighted Ms Meade’s experience under “significant duress” to accept a sanction that would appear on Social Work England’s public register. Beyond the financial compensation, the tribunal ordered both Westminster City Council and Social Work England to provide mandatory training within six months for relevant staff on freedom of expression and protected belief, including the implications of the Forstater case.”


UK Fitness to Practise News

In response, and further to the statement issued on 29 April 2024, Colum Conway, Chief Executive of Social Work England, said:

As the national regulator for the social work profession we take this case extremely seriously. We want to reiterate again how we recognise this has been a particularly difficult case for Rachel Meade and all others involved.

“Gender critical views, namely the belief that sex is immutable, are a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act 2010. We have already started implementing our learning from this case.

“Our fitness to practise role sits under the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which established us as a regulator to protect the public. Under this legislation, we have a responsibility to ensure that social workers maintain their professional standards and consider any concerns raised with us that a social worker may not be meeting these.

“We have already developed internal guidance for our fitness to practise team. The guidance considers concerns raised to us on the use of social media by social workers. In addition, we are in the process of updating and delivering training on the drafting of regulatory concerns, have started providing case law updates and implemented amendments to our regulations on the review of case examiner decisions.

“We will continue to develop, using learning from this case to further improve our processes. This includes (all of the following):

  • continuing to enable anyone to raise a concern about a social worker in England in line with our legal framework, and the Standards of Good Regulation set by the Professional Standards Authority
  • developing guidance and principles for our fitness to practise teams in relation to cases that may relate to aspects of the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act and how this interacts with the regulatory process

  • delivering training to our triage, investigation and case examiner teams on the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act and their impact on regulatory process and how to appropriately factor this into decision making. This will include training on freedom of expression and protected characteristics

  • This will be delivered by an external legal provider within the next 2 months

  • developing guidance for social workers on the use of social media, with a view to supporting social workers to navigate the links to our professional standards

  • making our guidance on the accepted disposal process clearer for social workers, to ensure they understand the regulatory framework and can make informed decisions about the impact of agreeing an offer of an accepted disposal

“While we remain committed to learning from this case and implementing next steps, we are still considering the remedy judgment and our options.”

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