The General Social Care Council has pledged to tackle weaknesses in its problem-hit conduct department with the appointment of 63 freelance investigators, Community Care has learned.
Final checks are being made on the officials, who will join the team of 20 full-time investigators in a new system designed to deal more flexibly with unexpected increases in referrals.
Minimum requirements for the £30-per-hour post include having a degree and “knowledge and understanding of social care”. Their main responsibility is to assess conduct cases, but investigators will also be expected to analyse serious case reviews and “high profile media cases” when they arise.
GSCC chief executive Mike Wardle was suspended in July after a backlog of 203 conduct cases, including 21 with public protection concerns, was identified . A GSCC spokesperson said at the time that staff had been struggling to deal with a sharp increase in referrals following the Peter Connelly case, which became public in November last year.
A report into the regulator’s conduct function by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, ordered by the Department of Health, is now due to be published by 26 October, one month later than planned.
Last month, a Community Care investigation highlighted that referrals of allegations of misconduct involving social workers received from 2007 to 2009 were taking an average of two years to complete.
But with Paul Snell (right), the former chief inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection, as its new acting chief executive, the GSCC promised to ensure a stronger and more efficient conduct department in future, having cleared the backlog of cases.
“Having identified serious problems in the management of our conduct cases, we have introduced a number of measures to ensure we are effectively managing risks to public protection,” said Hilary Lloyd, interim director of regulation. “One of these is the recruitment of a number of external investigators, which will provide us with the flexibility to deal with different volumes of cases at different times.”
A GSCC spokesperson added that an internal inquiry into Wardle’s actions was ongoing, and he remained suspended.