The British Association of Social Workers has criticised the General Social Care Council’s policy on promoting free representation for social workers facing misconduct charges.
The GSCC began sending details about the Bar Pro Bono Unit and Free Representation Unit, charities which take on legal cases free of charge, to unrepresented social workers involved in conduct hearings last year.
But BASW raised concerns that social workers who opt for representation from these providers may lose out because pro bono barristers do not know enough about social work.
Marcia Lawrence-Russell is head of BASW’s advice and representation service, which has five full-time officers who represent social workers in conduct hearings and disputes involving employers.
She said: “A pro bono service is going to be provided by a solicitor who doesn’t have a clear knowledge about what makes good practice, and doesn’t fully appreciate the standards social workers need to be meeting in order to make a judgement on whether a registrant should be subject to an interim suspension order, or any sanction under the conduct process.”
BASW is instead urging the GSCC to provide information about the association’s own advice and representation service, which is provided by registered and qualified social workers who have also received legal training.
In response, a spokesperson for the GSCC said the Bar Pro Bono Unit and Free Representation Unit had some very experienced barristers, and the question of whether they knew enough about social work was “not a concern”.
She added: “We strongly favour registrants being properly represented at hearings, and we recommend that they seek representation.”
BASW said it has been discussing with the GSCC whether to send social workers a booklet outlining details of the A&R service at the point they register, but no agreement has yet been reached.