Social Work England said it will undertake a review of its fitness to practise approach to “to improve service quality and fairness, and ensure value for money.”

As part of its equality, diversity and inclusion action plan for 2023 to 2024, the Social Work regulator said:

“Fitness to practise cases can be difficult and sometimes distressing for both the social worker and those who raise concerns. Ensuring that our processes and outcomes are fair, efficient, proportionate, and in the public interest will always remain critical for us.”

It says in the plan that it has “developed a range of quality assurance activities to help us understand where we need to develop or improve our work” including a “particular focus on building our evidence base … to understand and address concerns about equality, diversity and inclusion at all stages of the fitness to practise process.”

The plan goes on to say that:

“As more referrals come to us, and the complexity increases, this brings challenges to remain as user focused, timely and cost effective as possible. The time taken to safely and effectively investigate the concerns which come to us risks being too long, with higher rates of cases going into hearings, and hearings often taking longer. We may need to review the fitness to practise process and the nature of investigation and decision making within it. We will continue to review and develop our processes at all stages to ensure that fairness, efficiency, and timely conclusion of processes remain at the forefront of our approach to our work. And we will work within the resources and frameworks available to us.”

Legacy Cases

Social Work England said it expects to clear its legacy fitness to practise cases by the end of 2023, however, it also said:

“the fitness to practise position remains challenging. Because of the increase in the volume of concerns we have received, we have a large caseload at the final hearings stage of the process. Over time we will need to ensure there is sufficient continuing investment in this area to bring it in line with our timeliness targets and objectives. Building from that, we will accelerate our progress on working with employers and others, moving towards a position where we are dealing only with concerns where there is a risk to the protection of the public.

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