Friday, June 14, 2024

BASW, SWU & UNISON press for action to resolve fitness to practice delays

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All three organisations have expressed concerns about Fitness to Practice hearing delays announced by Social Work England (SWE) due to budget constraints.

It is a tenet of justice that there is in principle an ‘equality of arms’ where legal processes are involved. It appears that this is not a concept that stretches to Fitness to Practice processes at SWE, the specialist regulator for social workers. 

The consequence for a registrant social worker can be very grave. Ultimately, they can face suspension from the register for a period of time or permanent erasure. This means that these social workers are not allowed to practise as social workers, losing their earning capacity.

All of us would want any social worker whose Fitness to Practice was impaired and potentially a risk to the public to be prevented from practising, but those decisions should be made after a relatively speedy process in which registrants are properly enabled to defend allegations made against them. This, however, is far from the case. 

Colin Anderson, A&R Service Manager for BASW/SWU, commented:

“Fitness to Practice can be a complex process taking time to complete. However, there is a point where delay becomes unreasonable and can interfere with fairness and justice. It is BASW, SWU and Unison’s view that far too frequently we witness delays that are well beyond any notion of ‘reasonableness’ and is now disproportionately impacting upon social workers.

“We believe this is made far worse by a basic and intrinsic unfairness in the process and by an apparent unwillingness on the part of the regulator to review their approach other than to call for greater resources to do more of the same.

“Today, we call for four key changes to remedy this unacceptable situation, including a more collaborative and thorough investigation stage, updating training for case examiners, and developing alternative outcomes for cases which have been pending final hearing for multiple years.”

Read our full joint statement and letter to the CEO of Social Work England, Colum Conway, on the links below.

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