This information is about how we investigate concerns about social service workers and students, what information we need and what we expect you to do. You can also find out about the decisions we can make and accepting or not accepting a sanction or condition.
Our investigation process
There are three stages to our investigation.
- Initial screening and risk assessment.
- Investigation and decision.
For more information about our investigation please see Factsheet 1 Investigation for Registered Workers or see Factsheet 2 Investigation Workers Applying Registration.
What is screening and risk assessment?
Screening means that we review information we receive about you to decide if we need to investigate. We may need to make further enquiries.
If we decide that the information provided does not affect your fitness to practise, then we will take no further action and close the case. Where the information does raise a concern, we will open a case and allocate it to a caseholder.
If the information relates to a registered worker or student, we will also carry out a risk assessment. If the case is assessed as high risk, it is passed to a solicitor who may refer it to a Fitness to Practise Panel Hearing to consider a Temporary Order. For more information see Factsheet 6 Temporary Orders Hearings.
Who do we contact during an investigation?
We may gather further information from a variety of different sources.
In every case, we will contact:
- you to explain any allegations and may ask for your comments
- your current or most recent employer or higher education institution (HEI)
- any other person or body we think should be informed if we consider it necessary for the protection of the public, or is in the public interest.
During our investigation, we may contact:
- witnesses who may include the complainant (the person who made the complaint), people who use services, employers/higher education institutions and colleagues
- the Scottish Court Service
- the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
- the police or other public bodies
- health professionals involved in your care.
What kind of information do we request during an investigation?
This depends on the type of case. We may request:
- investigation/disciplinary paperwork, including statements, hearing minutes, interviews and relevant polices from an employer/HEI
- information about any other concerns about your fitness to practise or for an assessment of your performance
- confirmation of criminal convictions, or more information relating to police investigations
- reports from an employer/HEI, general practitioner or other health professional who knows about your health or is treating you.
What do we expect of you during an investigation?
We understand that being investigated by us may be stressful. However, it is important that we have all relevant information. This includes your comments and views.
We expect you to respond to our requests for information as part of your responsibilities as a social service worker or student.
You have the right to choose not to respond to us and this is something that you may wish to take independent advice about. If we don’t receive comments from you, our investigation will continue and we will make a decision on the matter without the benefit of your point of view.
For more information please see Factsheet 5 Help and Advice and our Hearings Guide.
How do we communicate with workers and students?
We can make contact by email, letter or telephone but there may be times when we must send a letter. Please let the caseholder know if email is preferred. They can arrange to register you on our encrypted email system so we can send emails securely.
It is important if you have a solicitor, trade union representative or other professional body representing you during our investigation that you let us know as soon as possible so that we can discuss your case with them.
The information we hold about you is your own personal data. We can discuss your case with a supporter or representative if we have your consent.
Why do we investigate convictions or disciplinaries that have already been investigated?
As the regulator of social service workers, we have specific statutory duties to protect the public and uphold public confidence in the profession. Our purpose is different to employers/HEIs or criminal courts.
We may need to conduct independent investigations to decide whether the information we have received affects your fitness to practise.
Our cases are investigated to the civil standard of proof, which is different to that of the criminal courts, so even if you were found not guilty, we may still need to investigate.
Can a worker or student still work or study if we are investigating?
Being under investigation does not automatically mean that you cannot remain employed or seek employment in the social service sector or continue studying.
Registered worker or students
At any stage during our 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, public interest or to you.
The Panel can suspend you, or place conditions on your registration while our investigation continues. If you are suspended, you cannot work in the particular role you are registered for, for the period of the suspension.
For more information please see Factsheet 6 Temporary Orders Hearings or see the hearings section.
Worker or students applying to be registered
Being under investigation does not automatically mean that you cannot work in the social service sector or attend an HEI. In most cases, you can continue to work or study whilst we are processing your application.
Usually, you must achieve registration within six months of starting your course or employment in a social service role which requires registration and you should not work in such a role after this period, without a reasonable excuse (the ‘six month rule').
If you do, your employer may be committing an offence and the Care Inspectorate may enforce this. If the only reason that you are not registered is because of a fitness to practise investigation, we will not refer your employer to the Care Inspectorate.
If you think you may be affected by the ‘six month rule’, you should discuss this with your employer. For more information view our Frequently Asked Questions about SSSC Registration leaflet.
Do worker or students need to tell anyone they are being investigated?
We expect you to be open and honest with your HEI, employer or any future employer about the status of our investigations.
We will tell your current or most recent social service employer that we are investigating you.
For registered workers or students, we will also tell employers/HEIs about any application we make for a Temporary Order and the decision.
How long will an investigation take?
Depends on the complexity and seriousness of the concerns raised and will vary case by case. We often need to ask for information from other organisations or individuals. This can take time. Once we receive the information, we need to take time to carefully consider it and make our decision.
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.
We will complete our investigation as quickly and as efficiently as possible. You can contact your caseholder at any time for an update on your investigation.
After investigation, what decisions can be made?
We decide whether there is enough evidence to prove the allegations and whether they raise a concern about your fitness to practise.
If you are a registered worker or student we can decide to:
- conclude the case and take no further action
- impose a sanction with your consent
- refer the case to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing to consider impairment.
For more information please see the Factsheet 3 Sanctions.
If you are a worker or student who is applying to be registered, we can decide to:
- take no further action and grant the application
- grant the application subject to condition(s) with your consent
- refuse the application and refer it to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing to consider registration.
How will we tell you about our decision?
We will send you a letter explaining our decisions and reasons.
If we have offered a sanction or a registration condition, our letter will provide you with an opportunity to accept or decline the offer.
For more information please see Factsheet 10 Offer of Sanction: Warnings, conditions or Suspension Orders, Factsheet 11 Offer of Sanction: Removal Orders or Factsheet 12 Offer of a registration condition.
Sometimes we take no further action. What does this mean?
We can take no further action:
- when we do not have enough evidence to prove the allegations
- if we decide, after looking at all of the information and the circumstances, that there is no longer a concern about your fitness to practise
- in some circumstances, where a worker or student is no longer eligible for registration.
If you are a registered worker or student, this decision will not affect your registration. If you are a worker or student applying for registration, your registration will be granted.
We will keep the information and should we receive any other allegations then we may reconsider it.
What information can we take into account to decide if a worker or student’s fitness to practise is impaired?
We can take into account a wide range of factors and these will vary on a case by case basis.
For more information about the factors we can take into account, please see the Decisions Guidance.
Why do we decide to impose a sanction or a registration condition on a worker or student?
If we impose a sanction or registration condition, we have decided that there is enough evidence to prove the allegation and that a worker or student’s fitness to practise is impaired and also that a sanction is necessary.
We make our decisions on sanctions to protect the public, in the public interest to maintain public confidence and in your interests.
For more information about the factors we can take into account, please see the Decisions Guidance.
What happens if you accept a sanction or registration condition?
If you choose to accept a sanction or registration condition, we will ask you to sign and return an acceptance form. When we receive this we will send a Notice of Decision to:
- whoever referred the case to us/made the allegation if relevant
- your current or most recent employer or higher education institution
- any other person or body we think should be informed of our decision if we consider it necessary for the protection of members of the public, or otherwise in the public interest.
For registered worker or students, the Notice of Decision will also be published on our website and your record on our Register will be updated.
For more information on what we publish and why, please see our Public Information Policy.
What happens if you choose not to accept a sanction or registration condition?
You should contact the caseholder as soon as possible to advise them of your decision not to accept. Arrangements will be made for the case to be transferred to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing.
For more information please see Factsheet 7 Fitness to Practise Impairment Hearings or Factsheet 8 Fitness to Practise Application Hearings.
Why do we refer cases to Fitness to Practise Panel hearings?
We may refer a case to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing in the following circumstances for the Panel to consider and decide:
- on the fitness to practise of a worker or student applying to be registered or when a registration condition is refused by a worker or student
- whether a registered worker or student’s fitness to practise is impaired, and if so, what sanction should be imposed or when a sanction is refused by a worker or student
- whether a former registered worker or student’s application to be restored to our Register should be granted
- whether a Temporary Order should be imposed on a registered worker or student’s registration while we carry out our investigation.
For more information please see:
- Factsheet 8 Fitness to Practise Application Hearings
- Factsheet 7 Fitness to Practise Impairment Hearings
- Factsheet 13 Offer of a Temporary Order
Can a you appeal our decision?
You have the right to appeal to the Sheriff Court against certain decisions. Appeals must be made, in writing to the court, within 14 days of the decision being sent to you.
Do we treat the information you provide us confidentially?
We will treat all information you provide us with care and process it in accordance with our responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Any communication we have from you, including notes we have made of telephone calls, may be:
- used by us in making a decision
- used during a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing.
If it contains personal data about you or other people, it may be released to you or those other people if requested under the Data Protection Act 1998.
If you want us to share information with a third party about what is happening with your case you will need to give us your consent.
Why are we investigating you when you have left your job/course and don’t want to be registered?
There are three reasons for this.
- You were registered at the time of the concern so we must investigate.
- You may wish to be registered in the future and it is important for us to investigate and make a decision at a time when evidence is still available and both you and any witnesses can remember what happened.
- In addition to taking action to protect the public, we also need to uphold public confidence in the profession whether or not you are still working or studying.