Conduct: facts and figures
The conduct system is a core part of the General Social Care Council’s work. Some 93,000 social workers are on the GSCC register, each of whom has signed up to codes of practice. Between 2003 and 2007 it received 916 allegations about social workers. The majority, 44 per cent, come from service users, followed by employers, which accounted for 35 per cent. Most complaints are dismissed early on. But to date 52 social workers have appeared before the conduct committee. Darlington social worker Yvonne Doyle, who was suspended for two years for advertising herself as an escort in April 2006, was the first to appear before the committee. It found her actions had brought social work into disrepute and damaged public confidence in social care services. But they had not been illegal or harmful.
No misconduct 2
Grand total 52
Her case was heard in private, at her request, on health grounds. It is the only case to be heard entirely in private to date, although other registrants have unsuccessfully applied for their cases to be heard behind closed doors.
Social workers appearing before the committee can apply for their case to be heard in private in advance or on the first day of the hearing. But all cases are heard in public unless there are concerns about protecting the identities of vulnerable witnesses or, as in Doyle’s case, health reasons. Some of those appearing before the committee have argued, without success, that their cases should be held in private to protect their reputation. Witnesses, particularly those who are vulnerable, can give their evidence in private and in a number of hearings, special arrangements have been so they can give their evidence from behind a screen.
If found guilty of misconduct, social workers can be removed from the register, admonished ie cautioned for up to five years or suspended from the register for up to two years.
The most commonly breached code is 5.8: ‘Behave in a way, in work or outside work, which would call into question a social worker’s suitability to work in social care services,’ which has featured 25 times.
Interim Suspension Orders
The GSCC has the power to temporarily suspend a social worker from practice before a hearing. Interim suspension orders can be imposed for a maximum of six months, and can be renewed for a period lasting up to two years, if there are concerns the person is a threat to public safety or there are concerns about the individual. Between 2003 and 2008 they have been used 39 times.
Six people have appealed the conduct committee’s decision at the Care Standards Tribunal, three were dismissed and the others have yet to be decided.