Social Work England’s annual report following its first full year as regulator reports that it continues to struggle under a heavy load of fitness to practise case load.
SWE began the year with 477 new cases and 1,487 live cases from the previous regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). During the year SWE opened 2,159 new fitness to practise cases. Referral rates were 35% higher in the first year than SWE had forecast.
The report stated that during the first year, SWE “faced significant challenges, with our teams working from home, a complex transition caseload, and new referrals coming to us at a rate of 35% higher than forecast”. This heavy case load was caused by a “significant number of cases at the outset and a high rate of new ones.”
Alongside fitness to practise work, SWE reported it has investigated 105 misuse of title cases.
It said however that SWE “have worked to overcome this and in doing so have restructured our teams and processes. We continue to learn and work in collaboration with key stakeholders in this area”.
The report noted that SWE consulted on how to conclude complex investigations through hearings under lockdown. Whilst this process accelerated hearings activity in the second half of the year, it found it difficult to get information to progress investigations, due to pressures on key services. And without physical hearings, it has been unable to resolve some of the oldest investigations it inherited.
Strengthening capacity and performance
SWE said the current “structure of the team meant that we didn’t have the capacity to manage incoming caseloads”. SWE reported significant recruitment to shore up its fitness to practise capacity including a fitness to practise expert to support the training and development of new and existing staff. This it said should allow the social work regulator to “reduce the caseload to 1,230 open investigations by the end of March 2022.”