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Welsh regulator seeks views on conduct system

Social workers in Wales are being asked to contribute views on how the Care Council for Wales (CCW) can improve its handling of conduct cases. The regulator announced this week that it is looking at ways to “streamline” the system and expand the number of sanctions that can be imposed when someone is found to have committed misconduct.

Under proposed changes, social workers given a suspension order could be asked to meet specific conditions, which could include undertaking additional training, in order to be placed back on the register at the end of the suspension period. The move is designed to address concerns that people who are suspended automatically rejoin the register once their suspension is up without any evidence that their practice has improved.

Gerry Evans, care council director of standards and regulation, said: “The changes we are proposing are born out of six years’ experience of dealing with cases of alleged misconduct by workers registered with the Care Council.

“They are designed to streamline the processes of the Care Council and minimise distress to registrants who are accused of misconduct and those who have made complaints, while also ensuring our system remains as robust and fair as ever. The changes will help us resolve cases at an earlier stage and make the whole process more effective and efficient.

“Implementation of some of the proposed changes will require amendments to the Care Standards Act 2000. Discussions are already underway with the Welsh Assembly Government to bring this about,” he added.

Dave Allan, a BASW advice and representation officer, said: “We welcome this review and are really encouraged that the care council is going down this road.” He described the system as “hugely bureaucratic” and said BASW welcomed in particular plans to simplify the process.

“It is not unusual for people to wait a year to 18 months for their hearing and I’ve got several at the moment that are coming up to two years,” he said, adding: “I represented a woman recently who had to wait two and half years for her case to be heard, which is outrageous.”

He said that in addition to the stress that social workers experienced while waiting for their case to be heard, they often suffered financial hardship if they were placed on an interim suspension order. Mr Allan added that the process was “incredibly legalistic” and social workers often felt daunted by the barristers and solicitors hired to present the regulator’s case against them.

“There is nothing in the rules that says they have to use barristers. Why can’t the investigating officer present the case?” He said BASW would highlight the issue in its response to the consultation and would also argue that more social workers needed to be involved in the processes.

Between 2003 and 31 March 2010, the Care Council for Wales held 24 conduct hearings and one health committee hearing, resulting in 11 removals, 13 admonishments and one suspension.

The proposals are open for consultation for 12 weeks. If you would like to contribute go to http://www.ccwales.org.uk/your-voice/consultation