Find out about our investigation process, what we expect from you and what we can tell you about an investigation. There is also information on Temporary Orders and the different outcomes or sanctions. This information relates to workers and students.
What happens when we investigate?
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 for Registered Workers
- Factsheet 2 Investigation Workers Applying Registration
- Factsheet 20 Managing the impact of an investigation
How long will an investigation take?
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. After 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.
What information can we give about the progress of an investigation?
We will tell you:
- when we start investigating a case
- when we have finished our investigation into a person’s fitness to practise
- if we are seeking a Temporary Order and the worker or student is currently working for or studying with you
- if a worker or student consents to a Temporary Order being imposed on their registration
- if we refer a worker or student’s case to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing.
Because all other information we hold about a worker or student and their investigation is their own personal data, we can only discuss it with you if they agree for us to talk to you.
What do we expect of you during an investigation?
Under the SSSC Code of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers and the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 you must refer concerns and provide information.
We expect you to:
- respond to our requests for information within specified timescales
- cooperate with or facilitate requests for you or your staff to meet/speak with the caseholder to provide witness statements
- cooperate with or facilitate requests for you or your staff to attend a hearing and give evidence.
To make a referral please see the Employer Referral Guidance and download the Employer Referral Form.
How do we contact employers?
We can contact you by email, phone, letter or the Fitness to Practise portal.
Do we treat the information employers provide us confidentially?
We treat all information you provide us with care and process it in accordance with our responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the GDPR.
Any communication we have from you, including notes 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 and GDPR.
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.
What will happen if an employer does not provide information?
Under the SSSC Code of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers and the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 we expect you to cooperate with our requests for information.
The Care Inspectorate is responsible for enforcement of the Code of Practice for Social Service Employers. We may make a report to the Care Inspectorate if we believe you are not following the Code and we may consider raising court proceedings for any documents requested.
If you have any queries about a request for information, you should raise this with the caseholder or your allocated inspector.
High risk cases and Temporary Orders
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 worker or 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 or worker’s interests.
It is extremely important that employers and 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 worker’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 worker cannot practise in the particular role 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 worker 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.
Can a person work or attend a placement or continue to study when we are investigating them?
Being under investigation by the SSSC does not automatically make a worker or student unsuitable for employment or study. 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 worker. The Panel can suspend the worker or student or place conditions on their registration while our investigation continues. If a worker/student is suspended, they cannot work in a registerable role during the suspension period.
If conditions are imposed on a worker/student's registration, they are responsible for making sure they are met. As an employer you can decide to accommodate their conditions to allow the worker to continue working in their role.
For more information please see Factsheet 1 Investigation Process for Registered Workers and Factsheet 2 Investigation Process for Workers Applying for Registration.
For more information please see Factsheet 6 Fitness to Practise Temporary Orders Hearings.
Can an employer still employ a worker when we are considering an application for registration?
A worker can continue to work while we are processing their application. However, they must apply for registration as soon as possible on starting employment and achieve registration within six months.
Being under investigation does not automatically mean that they cannot work in the social service sector. In most cases, they can continue to work while we are processing their application.
You can contact the caseholder to discuss any concerns.
Workers and students can get advice from any 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.
What are the possible outcomes following our 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 the worker/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 worker we can decide to:
- conclude the case and take no further action
- issue a sanction if a worker accepts
- refer the case to a Fitness to Practise Panel Impairment hearing.
For a worker 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 worker accepts
- refuse their application and refer to a Fitness to Practise Panel application hearing.
For information about outcomes see Factsheet 3 Sanctions and Factsheet 4 Application Outcomes.
For information about Impairment and Application hearings see Factsheet 7 Fitness to Practise Impairment Hearings and Factsheet 8 Fitness to Practise Application Hearings.
What information do we publish in advance?
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.
More information about Fitness to Practise Panel hearings
We have four types of Fitness to Practise Panel hearings.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Application hearing considers the fitness to practise of a worker applying to be registered.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Impairment hearing considers whether a registered worker’s fitness to practise is impaired, and if so, what sanction should be imposed.
- Fitness to Practise Panel Restoration hearing considers a former registered worker who has previously been removed from our Register’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 worker’s registration while we carry out our investigation.
What are sanctions?
Sanctions apply only to workers/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.
How do we publicise decisions about workers?
We will send a copy of the decision to:
- the worker
- you (the current or most recent employer)
- where relevant, the person who made the complaint.
We update our online Register and our website in advance with summarised details of impairment hearings and publish the full decision, unless the worker’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired due to health only. We also list workers 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.
For more information on what we publish and why, please see our Public Information Policy.
Attending a hearing
You or a member of your staff may be invited to provide a witness statement or attend a hearing.