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Fitness to practise changes during COVID-19: logo-image

27 Mar 2020

SSSC registration Professional standards

Fitness to practise changes during COVID-19

To help focus resources on supporting the social service sector during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we’re making changes to fitness to practise.

Investigations

Protecting people who use services is our focus and we will continue to deal with high risk cases where there is a serious concern about a worker’s fitness to practise.

To help you focus on delivering services we’re asking that you only refer serious fitness to practise concerns to us. Serious fitness to practise concerns are:

  • sexual misconduct including indecent images of children
  • violent or threatening behaviour
  • serious incidents of dishonesty including theft
  • abusive or neglectful behaviour towards a person using services
  • behaviour that is fundamentally incompatible with registration such as serious criminal acts
  • health which is not being managed and affects the safety of people who use services.

When the pandemic is over, and things return to normal we’ll be able to deal with concerns meeting our normal fitness to practise referral criteria.

How do I make a fitness to practise referral?

We have designed a referral form to support our new process. Remember, the more information you provide about the referral, the easier it is for us to assess without asking you for more information. For more information about raising a concern visit https://www.sssc.uk.com/fitness-to-practise/raising-a-concern/ 

How will you deal with existing fitness to practise cases?

We’ll continue to carry out investigations and conclude cases where possible. However, we won’t contact employers for information unless it relates to a serious, high risk concerns, so the focus can be on delivery of services.

We will review cases and provide updates to people whose fitness to practise is being investigated. We understand being investigated is stressful and that these unprecedented circumstances may add to that.

If my fitness to practise is being investigated, how do I get in touch for an update?

We are working as normal while working from home. The best way to get in touch with your case holder is through our Fitness to Practise Portal. We’ll have sent you a link to this. You can also contact your case holder directly if you have their contact details. If you don’t, please email ftp@sssc.uk.com or phone 0345 60 30 891, choosing option 3 for Fitness to Practise.

The only thing we cannot do is receive mail, so please contact us as above.

Will fitness to practise hearings go ahead?

Impairment or Application Hearings

We initially rescheduled all planned Impairment and Application Hearings due to take place in March, April and May.

Some Impairment and Application Hearings are now taking place by video conference. We are arranging to hold other Impairment and Application hearings in our offices in Dundee with physical distancing measures in place. We anticipate these starting to take place from Monday 17 August. We will contact you with details of any hearing you are involved in.

Temporary Order Hearings

These hearings will go ahead using video conferencing. Our hearings team will be in touch with people directly to support them to take part. If you’ve been invited to a Temporary Order Hearing you can contact the Hearing Officer who initially wrote to you about it.

My fitness to practise is being investigated. Can I work in the sector?

Unless you are temporarily suspended from the Register, you can still work. You should let any potential employer know there is an ongoing fitness to practise investigation but that you are not suspended.

If you were removed from the Register because your fitness to practise was impaired can you rejoin the social work or social care workforce?

No, our Rules say that workers removed from the Register due to a fitness to practice concern must wait for at least three years from the date of removal until they can apply to us for restoration to the Register. We assess the application and decide whether to restore the person to the Register.

What if there is a fitness to practise concern about someone on the new Temporary Social Work Register?

This is a new Register part set up to help respond to the pandemic. If there’s a concern about the fitness to practise of someone on the Register we’ll assess that and we may remove them.

Working during the pandemic

Will you take the challenges facing the sector right now into account when assessing a worker’s fitness to practise?

Yes. We understand the pressures workers and employers face in these unprecedented times. People may be working in new ways, may be moved into different roles and may be working with limited supervision. We’ll continue to take the relevant circumstances, the Codes of Practice and the context of each case we investigate into account.

We made a joint statement with other UK workforce regulators about this earlier in March How we will continue to regulate in light of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Relevant parts of the SSSC Codes of Practice

We know that people work in social services because they care. Some of the values from the Code that are helpful to bear in mind include:

  • protecting and promoting the rights and interests of people who use services and carers
  • creating and maintaining the trust and confidence of people who use services and carers
  • promoting the independence of people who use services while protecting them, as far as possible, from danger and harm
  • upholding public trust and confidence in social services.

Guidance on specific COVID-19 scenarios

We’ve had queries from workers and employers asking for advice about how to respond to different COVID-19 situations. These include:

  • what to do if a service is locked down
  • concerns about working without PPE
  • what to do if someone comes into work with COVID-19 symptoms
  • worries about travelling in cars with colleagues.

Everyone is doing their best in challenging circumstances. The national guidance about self-isolation and shielding can be confusing, the arrangements for key workers is different in different areas, people are concerned about the health of people using services, as well as their own and that of their families, services have individual terms and conditions of employment and the financial support available from the government is evolving.

All of this means that workers and employers are making difficult judgments about how to deliver services as safely as possible.

We cannot provide guidance on these scenarios as they are not issues that we think affect a worker’s fitness to practise. Every service and local situation is different and employers and workers are best placed to find solutions together. If there is deliberate, reckless behaviour or wilful negligence then we will consider that.

When will these changes end?

We don’t know but will follow Scottish Government guidance closely.

If you have any queries about any of these changes please email ftp@sssc.uk.com

Contact information

Lorraine Wakefield
Communications Manager
Scottish Social Services Council
lorraine.wakefield@sssc.uk.com