Why have you been asked to attend a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing?
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.
Who is at the hearing?
- The worker may attend. They may have someone representing them. Sometimes the worker does not attend and is not represented.
- Fitness to Practise Panel. This includes a legally qualified chair (a qualified solicitor or advocate and the person who leads the hearing), a social service member and a lay member. The social service member has experience of working in a similar role to the worker and is registered with us.
- Some hearings, which started under our old rules, may have a legal adviser instead of a legally qualified chair. In these hearings, the chair of the panel is another lay member. The legal adviser is an independent solicitor or advocate from a private firm who is there to give the panel legal advice. The legal adviser does not take part in the decision making process.
- A clerk. An SSSC employee who makes sure the hearing process runs smoothly.
- A presenter. This is a solicitor employed by the SSSC to present the SSSC's case to the Panel.
- Other witnesses (if any).
- Members of the public and the media may also attend (if the hearing is in public).
What happens when you 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 u what case is being heard and ask everyone to introduce themselves to you. We do not ask you to take an oath but we expect you to be honest when giving evidence.
The following people may ask you questions:
- The worker or their representative. The questions may be about 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 about 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 if there is one, the legal adviser. They can ask questions about anything they think is important.
If you do not understand any of the questions, please ask the person to repeat them.
If you have any questions about giving evidence before the hearing, please contact the clerk at any time.
Why would you be asked to leave the hearing room during your evidence?
In some cases, the Panel may ask you 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 continue with hearing your evidence.
Do you have to attend?
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 to the SSSC clerk on the day of the hearing.
When and where to attend?
We hold most of our hearings at our offices in Dundee. They usually take place between 10am and 5pm. Sometimes we hold our hearings in other places. 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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What should you bring with you?
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 any other refreshments/snacks so you may wish to bring these with you.
You may want to bring a book or magazine to read while you are waiting to give evidence. We try to stagger witness attendance 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.
What should you wear?
You should wear clothes that you feel comfortable in for attending the hearing but our Fitness to Practise Panel hearings are formal.
Can you bring a supporter with you?
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.
What if you cannot attend?
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 for confirmation of this.
What if you have a disability?
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
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 wait to give evidence.
Is the hearing in public?
This depends on the purpose of the hearing.
Hearings about a registered worker’s fitness to practise are usually in public. This means members of the public and the media may attend. 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.
Hearings about a worker’s application to be registered or to consider a temporary order referral are usually in private.
How long will the hearing last?
The length of a hearing varies from case to case. If the hearing lasts 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 give all your evidence on the day you attend. Sometimes it’s not possible and you may be asked to come on another day to complete your evidence.
What happens after you have given 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.
If the hearing is about a registered worker’s fitness to practise, the decision will be available on our website seven days after the hearing finishes. We do not publish decisions from application hearings and temporary order hearings.
Will your name and your evidence be made public?
Vulnerable witnesses, people who use services and some third parties remain anonymous throughout the hearing to protect their identity. We do not use their full names during the hearing or release them to the public or media.
All other witness’ names are 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.
Can I claim expenses?
If you attend a hearing as a witness for the worker, we are unable to cover your expenses or any loss of earnings.
Giving feedback about your experience as a witness
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.