Who can help?
This section explains who the people involved in a hearing are and their roles before and during a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing.
The clerk is an SSSC employee who makes all of the necessary arrangements for your hearing to take place. This includes sending out and distributing the relevant paperwork to the appropriate staff and making sure that you (and anyone you bring with you to the hearing) know about what to expect and are as comfortable as possible.
A clerk will be there to meet you on the day of your hearing, before it starts. The clerk is in the hearings room throughout the hearing to help things run as smoothly as possible. The clerk provides administrative support to the Panel, takes procedural notes, takes a recording, and makes sure the proper procedure is followed.
You can ask the clerk about:
- the Rules (as they relate to your case)
- what to expect before, during and after your hearing
- the purpose of the proceedings
- when we will send paperwork to you
- when you should send us any paperwork to support your case
- who you can bring with you to your hearing
- how to get to our offices
- how to ask for a postponement or adjournment
- how to ask for reasonable adjustments if you have additional needs
- if you can attend your hearing via videoconferencing
- who to contact in the SSSC about other aspects of your case.
The clerk is neutral in terms of the investigation of your case and the decision to proceed with your case.
The clerk cannot provide:
- legal advice or guidance
- information on the investigation of your case
- advice on the impact of sanctions on your employment
- information on the reasons behind the SSSC pursuing a case against you.
The Fitness to Practise Panel
The Fitness to Practise Panel is independent of the SSSC, although it makes decisions in the name of the SSSC. There are usually three Panel members, one who is experienced in social services and registered with the SSSC and two lay members who do not have a social service background, but are experienced in their own professions. One of the Panel members is the chair. The chair takes the lead during proceedings but participates equally in the decision making process.
All Panel members receive specialist training in judicial processes and decision making. Panel members come from all walks of life.
The decision over your Fitness to Practise hearing rests solely with the Panel.
The legal adviser
The legal adviser is independent and works for a private legal firm. They are involved in the process to make sure that legal procedures are followed properly and fairly. They are highly experienced and they advise the Panel on complex legal issues. They can also make sure that during proceedings, you are fully aware of procedures and the reasons why proceedings are developing in a certain way. If necessary, they can and will question the SSSC presenter to clarify things for everyone present at the hearing, including you. Similarly, they can and will question you and/or your representative about how you present your case. This is fair to everyone involved. The legal adviser is not involved in the decision making process.
The legal adviser makes sure that all proceedings are conducted in line with SSSC Fitness to Practise Rules 2016 (the Rules). They will also make sure that other aspects of law that apply to your hearing, such as provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), are taken into consideration.
The legal adviser attends your case management meeting to make sure that the correct procedures are followed and that any decisions taken by the chair comply with the Rules. This will allow the hearing to go ahead smoothly.
The caseholder investigates your case and you can contact them at any time to discuss it. Many of our caseholders are solicitors and they may also present our case at a hearing. This means that they represent the SSSC and put our case across to the Panel. They cannot give you legal advice but can explain about our investigation, the hearing process and what stage we are at.