Thirty social workers have been refused registration by the General Social Care Council on health grounds since 2003.
And figures included in its review of the conduct process show that the GSCC is more likely to investigate declarations involving health conditions than criminal convictions.
Between 2003 and 2007 13,186 social workers declared a criminal conviction, while 4,382 included details about a health condition in applications to register. But of more than 2,000 declarations investigated by the GSCC, a quarter related to criminal convictions while 33% related to health declarations.
A total of 214 people have been refused registration by the GSCC since 2003. There have been 56 appeals against registration decisions since 2003, with four on health grounds. Three of the latter were decided in favour of the social worker with the fourth yet to be determined.
Scrap health declaration
In January, GSCC chair Rodney Brooke wrote to the Department of Health urging it to scrap the requirement to declare health conditions. In its report this week, the GSCC said it should be up to individuals and their employers to manage their health condition, rather than the regulator.
A year-long investigation by the now defunct Disability Rights Commission, published in September 2007, found health-based fitness to practice standards led to “discriminatory attitudes, policies and practices”.
Cases cited include that of Peter Van der Gucht, a mental health social worker, who the GSCC initially said should register with conditions after he declared that he had bipolar affective disorder. The GSCC allowed him to register unconditionally after he challenged the decision.
Alison Cobb, policy officer at mental health charity Mind, said: “People with mental health problems often have the sort of valuable knowledge and experience that can enrich their work in social care roles but the use of health screening not only risks filtering these people out automatically but discourages people from taking up social work in the first place.”