We come across a lot of social workers who are terrified of the care councils. They don’t have a real understanding about when they will be referred and what it will mean. A lot of social workers also don’t realise that they also have an obligation to refer themselves if they have breached the Code of Practice. The rule of thumb is that that someone who is dismissed by their employer should also inform the care council. If you fail to inform the care council when you should have this could result in an additional charge of misconduct. Often people assume their employer has made a referral but registrants must also take responsibility for referring themselves. If you’re not sure, refer yourself anyway. Or call BASW’s Advice & Representation team for advice.
When should I self-refer?
Misconconduct is defined by the care councils as ‘ … conduct which calls into question the suitability of the registrant to remain on the register’, which covers what someone does in and outside work. That’s really important to remember. You have to lead a good life in order to be deemed of ‘good character’. It’s worth looking at the Code of Practice when weighing this up.
But if I have been sacked by my employer then I have already been penalised, haven’t I?
Your employer and the care council have their own codes of practice so dismissal by your employer does not mean the care council will not investigate you. The A&R team has handled cases, for example, where people have been sacked by their employers for drinking and are then referred to the care council, leading them to believe they are being tried twice for the same offence, but the care council often has a different code of practice. We’ve also had cases where an employer has reached a settlement with a social worker before employment tribunal and agreed a reference, so in effect a registrant considers that they have been cleared and the case is closed. Yet the care council may still take the case to a hearing. The care council will again judge your behaviour and capability against its own code.
What will happen once my case is referred?
A decision is taken as to whether it will be investigated. It isn’t always obvious why some cases are pursued and others are not. We have dealt with some cases where it was not clear why a care council had taken it on, compared with other cases where this did not happen. Nevertheless, it is really important to attend the hearing and to provide a good current reference that demonstrates your work is good. The committee places a lot of weight on social workers who can provide references. It is even better if your current manager is willing to attend the hearing as a witness for you.
What’s the point of attending a hearing?I’m bound to be struck off aren’t I?
Often social workers don’t attend conduct hearings because they are frightened but, in our experience, turning up can only work positively. Often social workers have made a mistake because of the environment in which they were working. Care council decisions may note workload pressures, lack of supervision or staff shortages as mitigating factors.
By attending a hearing you have the opportunity to put your conduct in context. There’s no doubt that the process can be intimidating. It is very formal and often the care council employs a solicitor or barrister. It is very challenging to represent yourself and we would never advise people to attend a hearing alone. However, it is not a court and the burden of proof is the balance of probabilities. The committee is not out to get you and if you don’t attend you won’t get the chance to show you are a good professional.
Care Council procedures in brief:
The care councils publish conduct committee decisions on their websites. The First–tier Tribunal (Care Standards), which covers the whole of the UK, hears appeals against care council decisions, also publishes its decisions online. These judgements are more detailed than the documents published by the care councils, setting out the reasons for the care council’s original decision and whether or not it was right.
View more here: www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/courts-and-tribunals/tribunals/care-standards/index.htm
You can also go along to see a case in action – most conduct cases are heard in public so social workers and other interested parties can sit in.