Attending a hearing as a witness for a worker
If you've been asked to attend a hearing as a witness for a social service worker who is appearing at a SSSC Fitness to Practise Panel hearing, this section explains what you need to know.
If we receive information about a worker’s conduct, professional practice or health which causes us a concern, we may refer the worker to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing. At this hearing a Panel will consider evidence, and may hear from witnesses, before making a decision.
The worker may ask you to attend the hearing if they think you have information which is relevant to their case. It might be so you can tell the Panel what you have seen or heard. Or, they may have asked you to attend as a character witness so you can tell the Panel about their character.
Witness evidence is very important in hearings. Your attendance will help the Panel get a better understanding of the circumstances and gives them a chance to ask you questions.
We appreciate witnesses giving up their time to attend our hearings. However, it is entirely up to you whether you wish to attend to give evidence or not.
We understand giving evidence may be difficult and worrying. If you have any concerns about giving evidence you can speak to the worker who has asked you to attend or you may speak to the SSSC clerk on the day of the hearing.
We hold most of our hearings at our offices in Dundee. They usually take place between 10am and 5pm. We will contact the worker to confirm the exact date, place and time of the hearing. The worker can then advise you of when and where to attend.
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We provide tea/coffee making facilities and water. There is no catering in our offices but a supermarket cafe and a number of restaurants are within walking distance. Unfortunately we do not provide refreshments/snacks so you may wish to bring these with you.
You may want to bring a book or magazine with you to read while you are waiting to give evidence. We do try to stagger the attendance of witnesses to reduce waiting time, but sometimes this is not possible.
You are welcome to bring work with you, but please be aware that you may be sharing the witness room with other witnesses.
You should wear clothes that you feel comfortable in for attending the hearing but our Fitness to Practise Panel hearings are formal.
You can bring a person to support you while you wait to give evidence. This cannot be the worker or another witness in the case. It is important that you do not discuss your evidence with any other person while you are waiting to give evidence.
The supporter may be able to sit in the hearing (if the hearing is in public) but sometimes the Panel may decide to hear all or part of a hearing in private. This might include your evidence and if so, the supporter may be asked to leave.
A supporter cannot speak during the hearing.
If at any time you think you are unable to attend, or have concerns about attending, please speak to the worker who has asked you to attend as early as possible. Your particular circumstances can then be discussed.
Telling the worker as early as possible means they can decide if they are happy to go ahead without you or if they would like to ask for a postponement or an adjournment.
If you are ill or on holiday we may ask you to confirm this with us.
Please contact us to discuss any arrangements we can make to help you to attend the hearing. We will do everything we can to meet your needs.
You can read a definition of a vulnerable witness on pages 27 and 28 of the Scottish Social Services Council (Fitness to Practise) Rules 2016.
If you are a vulnerable witness and you have any concerns about attending a hearing, please speak to the SSSC clerk as soon as possible. Your particular circumstances can then be discussed and special measures to help you give evidence can be considered.
When you arrive, you should go to reception and explain you are a witness for a hearing. You will be shown to a witness waiting area.
It is important that you do not discuss your evidence with any other witnesses while you are waiting to give evidence.
The worker may attend. They may have someone representing them. Sometimes the worker will not attend and will not be represented.
Fitness to Practise Panel. This will usually include a chair, a social services member and a lay member. The social services member will have experience of working in a similar role to the worker and will be registered with us.
A clerk. An employee of the SSSC who makes sure the hearing process runs smoothly.
An independent legal adviser appointed from an external firm to give legal advice to the Panel during the hearing.
A presenter. This is a solicitor who is employed by the SSSC to present the SSSC's case to the Panel.
Other witnesses (if any).
Members of the public and local and national media may also attend (if the hearing is in public).
This depends on the purpose of the hearing.
If the hearing is to consider the worker’s fitness to practise, the hearing is usually in public. This means members of the public and the media may attend. However, sometimes the Panel may decide to hear all or part of the hearing in private, for example to protect a vulnerable witness or when they are discussing a worker’s health.
If the hearing is to consider the worker’s application to be registered or to consider a temporary order referral, the hearing is usually in private.
The clerk will show you to the hearing room when it is time for you to give evidence.
The chair of the Fitness to Practise Panel will explain to you what case is being heard and ask everyone to introduce themselves to you. You will not be asked to take an oath, but are expected to be honest when giving evidence.
The following people may ask you questions:
- The worker or their representative. The questions may be based on the allegations against the worker and/or your opinion of the worker’s character (or the character of others).
- The presenter. Their questions will be based on the allegations against the worker. Their questions might suggest that you are mistaken about the circumstances or that your evidence is not accurate.
- The panel members and legal adviser. They can ask questions about anything they think is important.
If you do not understand any of the questions, please ask for them to be repeated.
If you have any questions about giving evidence before the hearing, please contact the clerk at any time.
In some cases, the Panel may be asked to leave the hearing room during your evidence. If this happens, please do not worry, it is not because you have done anything wrong but because the Panel need to discuss a particular matter before proceeding.
The clerk will tell you where to wait. It is important that you do not discuss your evidence with anyone else while you are waiting.
The clerk will let you know when the Panel is ready to proceed with hearing your evidence.
The length of a hearing varies from case to case. If the hearing is expected to last for several days you are unlikely to be asked to attend every day. The worker and/or their representative will confirm the exact date and time they would like you to attend.
The Panel will try to make sure that you complete your evidence on the day you attend. Sometimes this is not possible and you may be asked to attend on another day to complete your evidence.
When you have finished giving evidence, you may sit in the public seating area (if the hearing is in public) to listen to the rest of the hearing or you may leave the building. You should not discuss your evidence with any other witnesses involved in the hearing.
The decision will be available on our website seven days after the hearing finishes.
Vulnerable witnesses, people who use services and some third parties will remain anonymous throughout the hearing to protect their identity. Their full names will not be used during the hearing or released to the public or media.
The names of all other witnesses will be used during the hearing. If you are concerned about your name or your evidence being made public, please speak to the clerk before the hearing.
We do not invite the media to attend hearings. If the media do attend, we cannot control or influence what they say in any of their reports. The media may use your name and quote something you have said during your evidence in a public hearing.
If you attend a hearing as a witness for the worker, we are unable to cover your expenses or any loss of earnings.
If you would like to provide feedback about your experience as witness, please complete our witness feedback form. We appreciate any feedback given and will use it to review our processes and improve them where appropriate.