Information about our process
In this section Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can find out about our investigation process, what we expect from you and what information we can give you about an investigation. It also includes information on Temporary Orders and different sanctions that can be imposed.
There are three stages to our investigations.
- The initial screening and risk assessment.
- The investigation and decision.
For more information please see Factsheet 1 Investigation Process for Registered Workers and Factsheet 2 Investigation Process for Workers Applying for Registration.
We may refer a case to a Fitness to Practise Panel, at any time during our investigation, to seek either a Temporary Conditions or Suspension Order or both. We do this if:
- we receive information which suggests that a student’s conduct, professional practice or health has caused or presents a risk of serious harm to people who use services or the public or
- we feel that such action is necessary to uphold public confidence in the profession or
- it is in the student’s interests.
It is therefore extremely important that HEIs report serious matters to us as early as possible.
The Panel will consider whether a Temporary Order is necessary, and if so can make a decision to impose a:
- Temporary Conditions Order which means that a student’s practice may be restricted or they may be required to do something differently or under supervision, but they can continue to work while we investigate their case
- Temporary Suspension Order which means that a student cannot practise in the course for which they are registered while we investigate their case
- or both.
Temporary Orders can be imposed for up to two years (or longer in some circumstances). They can also be imposed if the student accepts.
A Temporary Order is not a conclusion and our investigation will continue.
If you have any queries about a case that you think might be high risk, please contact us at any time.
For more information please see Factsheet 6 Fitness to Practise Temporary Orders Hearings.
Being under investigation does not automatically make a student unsuitable to be in employment or to continue with their studies. The purpose of our investigation is to make sure the person is suitable to be on our Register.
At any stage during an investigation we can refer a case to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing for them to consider a Temporary Order. We do this if we think that there is a risk to public protection, it is in the public interest or in the interest of the student. The Panel can suspend the student, or place conditions on their registration while our investigation continues. If a student is suspended, they cannot participate in the course during the suspension period.
For more information please see Factsheet 1 Investigation Process for Registered Workers, Factsheet 2 Investigation Process for Workers Applying for Registration and Factsheet 6 Fitness to Practise Temporary Orders Hearings.
We understand that during an investigation, a student can feel unsettled and uncertain and you may want to provide guidance and support. The caseholder will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
You may also wish to suggest that a student gets advice from a union or professional body that they are a member of, or from Citizens Advice. They can also seek legal representation from a solicitor.
For more information please see Factsheet 5 Help and Advice.
We have four types of Fitness to Practise Panel hearings.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Application hearing considers the fitness to practise of a student applying to be registered.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Impairment hearing considers whether a registered student’s fitness to practise is impaired, and if so, what sanction should be imposed.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Restoration hearing considers a former registered student’s application to be restored to our Register.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Temporary Orders hearing considers whether a Temporary Order should be imposed on a registered student’s registration while we carry out our investigation.
Sanctions apply only to students already registered with us and are imposed if it is necessary to protect people who use services or the public and to maintain confidence in the social service profession.
The following sanctions can be imposed:
- a warning
- a condition
- a suspension
- a combination of either a warning and condition or a suspension and condition
- removal from our Register.
For information see Factsheet 3 Sanctions.
For more information on how sanction decisions are made see our Decisions Guidance.
This will depend on the complexity and seriousness of the concerns raised and varies case by case. We often need to ask for information from other organisations or individuals. This can take time. Once we receive the information, we need to take time to carefully consider it and make our decision.
We will complete our investigation as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Cases where we take no further action are on average open for six months. In cases where we decide a sanction is necessary it may take on average 12 months. Cases which are referred to a hearing may take longer.
For more detailed information on timescales see Part 3 A trusted workforce of the 2016 Trusted, skilled and valued workforce report.
We will tell you:
- when we start investigating a case about a student
- once we have finished our investigation into a student’s fitness to practise
- if we are seeking a Temporary Order and the student is currently enrolled on a course with you
- if a student consents to a Temporary Order being imposed on their registration
- if we are referring a student’s case to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing.
Because all other information we hold about a student and their investigation is their own personal data, we can only discuss it with the student unless they agree for us to talk to you.
It is important that you cooperate with us and in particular we expect that you will:
- respond to our requests for information about a student within specified timescales
- help with requests for you or your staff to meet/speak with the caseholder to provide witness statements
- help with requests for you or your staff to attend a hearing and give evidence.
We understand that this may take up your time and resource and we will work with you to make it as straightforward as possible.
We can contact you by email, letter or phone.
If you would prefer us to email you, please let us know. The caseholder can arrange to register you or your service on our encrypted email system. This means that we can send emails securely.
There may be times when we have to send correspondence by letter.
We will treat all information you provide us with care and process it in accordance with our responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Any communication we have from you, including notes we have made of telephone calls, may be:
- used by us in making a decision
- used during a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing
- released to you or those other people (if it contains personal data about you or other people), if requested under the Data Protection Act 1998.
If there is anything you would prefer that we did not send to the worker please let us know and explain your reasons why. Although we may still need to send it, for example if it is an important piece of evidence, we will make sure that we are complying with the Data Protection Act 1998. We will not share any information that might compromise a criminal investigation.
When our investigation is complete, we will make a decision. We will decide whether there is enough evidence to prove the allegations and whether they raise a concern about a student’s fitness to practise.
We consider a wide range of factors. Find more information on what we take into account in our Decisions Guidance.
For a registered student we can decide to:
- conclude the case and take no further action
- issue a sanction if the student accepts
- refer the case to a Fitness to Practise Panel Impairment hearing.
For a student who is applying to be registered, we can decide to:
- conclude the case, take no further action and grant their application
- grant their application subject to condition(s) if the student accepts
- refuse their application and refer to a Fitness to Practise Panel Application hearing.
For information about Impairment and Application hearings see Factsheet 7 Fitness to Practise Impairment Hearings and Factsheet 8 Fitness to Practise Application Hearings
We publish details of impairment hearings and the allegations in advance on our website. We do not publish information in advance about:
- a health matter
- application hearings
- temporary orders
- restoration hearings.
The media read our website and may report on any decision published.
We will send a copy of the decision to:
- the student
- you (the HEI)
- where relevant, the person who made the complaint.
We update our online Register and our website in advance with details of impairment hearings and publish the full decision, unless the student’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired due to health only. We also list students who are subject to a current Temporary Order.
Our function is to protect and enhance the safety and welfare of people who use social services and their carers. Publishing information about hearings and decisions:
- allows those connected to cases but not formally notified, and other stakeholders to attend hearings
- reassures the public that complaints are fully considered and we can and do take action
- educates the profession about impairment and fitness to practise
- helps employers with recruitment decisions.
You, a member of your staff or a student may be invited to provide a witness statement or attend a hearing.