Attending a hearing as a witness for the SSSC
If you've been asked to attend a hearing by the SSSC, this section explains what you need to do.
If we receive information about a worker’s conduct, professional practice or health, which causes us a concern, we refer the worker to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing. At this hearing a Panel will hear from witnesses and consider evidence and make a decision.
We will ask you to attend the hearing as a witness if we think you have information which is relevant to the case.
Not all cases are referred to a hearing. However, your statement is important when we make a decision.
Witness evidence is very important in hearings. Without the cooperation from witnesses we might be not be able to take action to protect the public, or maintain public trust and confidence. 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.
We understand giving evidence may be difficult and worrying. The caseholder will discuss any concerns you may have with you.
If you are a registered worker we expect you to follow our Code of Practice for Social Service Workers, which includes cooperating with our investigations and attending at hearings. If you fail to follow the Codes we may investigate this.
- 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. A 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 (if the hearing is held in public).
Hearings are usually held in public. This means members of the public and the media may attend.
Sometimes the Panel may decide to hear all or part of a hearing in private, for example to protect a vulnerable witness or when a worker’s health is being discussed.
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 caseholder 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.
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 caseholder will confirm the exact date and time you are required to attend.
We will try to make sure that your evidence is completed on the day that we have asked you to come. Sometimes this is not possible and we may ask you to attend on another day to complete your evidence.
We hold most of our hearings at our offices in Dundee. They usually take place between 10am and 5pm. If you are asked to attend, the caseholder will write to you to confirm the exact date, place and time you need to attend.
If you do not tell us of any dates when you cannot attend, we will assume that you can attend on the dates proposed.
If at any time, you think you are unable to attend, or have any concerns about attending please speak to the caseholder who has asked you to attend as early as possible. Your particular circumstances can then be discussed. If you are ill or on holiday we may ask for confirmation of this.
Telling us as early as possible means that the caseholder can consider alternative arrangements, or ask for an adjournment.
You should contact the caseholder as soon as possible so that they can let the Fitness to Practise Panel know.
The caseholder will discuss your circumstances and whether you will be able to attend on a future date.
When you arrive, you should report to reception and explain you are a witness for a hearing. You should ask for the caseholder who invited you to attend. You will then 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 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.
You will be asked questions as follows.
- The presenter. The questions will be based on the statement you provided to us. You may also be shown documents, which can include your written statement, and employer policies, and be asked to comment on them.
- The worker or their representative. 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.
The last person to ask you questions will be the presenter who may ask some more questions to make sure your evidence is clear.
If you do not understand any of the questions that you are asked, please ask for them to be repeated.
If you have any questions about giving evidence before the hearing, please contact the caseholder who invited you to attend, at any time.
In some cases, you 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 needs 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.
When you have finished giving evidence, you may sit in the public seating area (if the hearing is being held 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.
We cannot give you specific feedback on the case or your role as a witness until the hearing has completely finished. The decision will be available on our website after the hearing.
If you need or would like to speak with the presenter before leaving, you should advise the clerk who will be able to tell you where to wait. When there is a break in the hearing, the presenter will speak to you.
This may not happen immediately as the hearing may still be ongoing.
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 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.
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 be called 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.
Please contact the caseholder who has invited you to attend the hearing to discuss any arrangements we can make to help you attend. We will do everything we can to meet your needs.
If you are a vulnerable witness and you have any concerns about attending a hearing, please speak to the caseholder who has invited you to attend as soon as possible. Your particular circumstances can then be discussed and special measures to help you give evidence can be considered.
Please note that it is only in very limited circumstances that a witness is able to give evidence anonymously. 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 the SSSC has invited you to attend, we will arrange your travel for you or reimburse your travel expenses in line with our subsistence policy. We ask you to use public transport wherever possible. We will ask for receipts before making any payment.
We cannot reimburse you for any loss of earnings.
If you need overnight accommodation, this should be discussed with the caseholder as soon as possible and arrangements can be made.
We will ask you to complete a witness feedback form. We appreciate any feedback given and will use it to review our processes and improve them where appropriate.