HCPC: Fitness to practise process is not designed to punish practitioners

The regulator responds to common questions raised about its system for managing fitness to practise concerns

The HCPC was set up to protect the public. The legislative framework in which we operate can be complex and we often see opinions and statements, particularly about our fitness to practise process, which are either misleading or incorrect. We have put together the following information to help social workers in England understand what we do and why we do it.

Only a small number of social workers have concerns raised about them.

The number of social workers in England subject to concerns is small. There are currently 93,341 social workers on the HCPC Register. In 2015-16, there were just 1,174 allegations (1.26%). 1,006 were closed because they did not meet our Standard of Acceptance. Of the cases that went to a final hearing, 28 were struck off, 17 cautioned, 18 issued a conditions of practice and 29 suspended.

The fitness to practise (FTP) process is not designed to punish registrants.

Anyone can raise a concern about a registrant’s practice, however not every allegation meets our threshold for investigation. Sometimes registrants make mistakes that are unlikely to be repeated or have a one-off instance of unprofessional conduct or behaviour. Our processes do not mean that we will pursue every isolated or minor mistake. Our FTP proceedings are instead developed to deal with the most serious of concerns.

When we say ‘fit to practise’ we mean that a registrant has the skills, knowledge and character to practise safely and effectively. This is only likely to be impaired if evidence shows they were dishonest, exploited others, hid their mistakes or persistently failed to meet the standards. We don’t consider cases that are about an organisation or get involved in social care arrangements. We do not consider issues dealt with by the employer such as timekeeping or issues between work colleagues.

If a concern is raised about someone on our register they can expect to be treated fairly and each stage will be explained. They can contact a HCPC case manager if they have any questions and will be kept up to date on progress of the investigation.

If a case does continue to a final hearing the panel must find that the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired to be sanctioned. There are a range of sanctions including caution, conditions of practise, suspension and strike off. Each independent panel will include at least one social worker. A panel will consider all the facts and evidence before making a decision about any possible sanction.

We work closely with employers to help them understand the role of HCPC.

Employer engagement is important to us. We hold employer events where they can meet us and get a better understanding of our processes. We also have dedicated online information and publications specifically for employers, which cover how to promote employee’s registration, how to manage their continued professional development and their fitness to practice.

We do this to ensure that employers understand the role of regulation and the part they play in relation to employees who are on the HCPC Register. If you are an employer and would like to know more visit http://www.hpc-uk.org/audiences/employers/

We offer a range of resources to support registrants.

We run free registrant events so that they can find out more about the work we do. We also produce the In Focus newsletter and run consultations to maintain up to date guidance for registrants on topics such as social media, standards of proficiency and confidentiality.

We offer resources to support registrants in promoting their registration. They explain the importance of using a registered health and care professional and give the public reassurance.

Our role as the regulator is different from a professional body.

The professional body for social workers is the independent and member-led professional association, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). They offer a range of member services, they promote the profession and also seek to improve the protection of their members in the workplace.

The HCPC’s main aim is to protect the public. We do this by maintaining a register of qualified health and care professionals and ensuring that all those registered with us meet our standards for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health. We also approve education and training programmes in the UK for the sixteen professions we regulate. An individual who successfully completes one of the approved courses is eligible to apply to the Register.

We are an evidence based regulator that commissions research to better understand the professionals on our register.

We understand that the social work profession is a unique one. As an evidence based regulator, we commission research into issues relevant to use and use those outcomes to help us understand registrant issues. Recently we looked into how to prevent small problems from becoming bigger problems in health and care.

We are currently commissioning research looking in to why social workers in England face higher rates of FtP proceedings than other professions. We hope that the findings may identify ways that all those involved in this profession could work together to prevent problems occurring in the future.

The research we do assists us in thinking about what we might undertake in the future about trends in other professions or about cross-professional issues.

5 Responses to HCPC: Fitness to practise process is not designed to punish practitioners

  1. Ian May 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    I think he forgot to say: ”And most importantly we exist to justify and perpetuate our existence and thus we are writing this now instead of when we first won social work because now our role in social work is heading for the dustbin of history and we’re hoping to leave in peace not in pieces.”

  2. Michael Murphy May 8, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

    But the Fitness to Practice process has been used to punish practitioners and has been used to get employers out of difficult ‘political’ situations. The case of the ‘Burnley 3’, which dragged on for several years is the best example of this.

  3. David Steare May 8, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

    More fake news.

    I was cleared by my LA disciplinary hearing in 2013. My HCPC registration lapsed in 2014 five months after I stopped working as a social worker. My registration was reinstated against my will shortly afterwards. In 2015 I started collecting my state pension. Prior to the HCPC hearing a 26 page report about my systemic therapy practice written by a social worker with no qualification in systemic therapy was allowed as evidence. Also, my repeated requests for my registration to lapse was refused. Following an 8 day hearing during 2016 at the HCPC several of the allegations were found against me on the basis of professional opinion only. I was suspended from the register and this suspension was renewed six months later.

    As far as my own experience demonstrates, FTP is about punishing practitioners. If it were about protecting the public then my registration would have been allowed to lapse nearly three years ago, or I could have been struck off. I don’t know how much an 8 day hearing + 2 further hearings costs- maybe £50000 in legal fees alone – but perhaps that shows how much punishment of social workers is valued by this government. Time will tell if/when anything changes when the power goes to Social Work England.

  4. sandy beach May 8, 2017 at 11:31 pm #

    who cares now… glad they are gone, but whats going to be next? can’t imagine they will be any better.
    HCPC, the organisation that sent me a letter with the complainants name on it, but didn’t check that l was the actual worker with similar name before sending. Oh well.

    Still it’s nice to know BASW has got our backs, and when the chips are down they will be there for us, well maybe us, but probably just the government, or Isabelle, not us really.

  5. Margaret May 9, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    I needed to check the date on this as I was sure it was April Fools Joke but after checking the date it seems I was wrong. Only the HCPC could publish this rott and think it is going to fly. Only the HCPC has no professsional body that you can question their decisions with or ask for a review. HCPC answers to NO ONE Even if their decision is obviously wrong or incorrect there is no body that HCPC has to justify their decisions too! Yes folks there is no one to question them in order to get to the real truth, Basicly this means they can do and say what they want to Social Workers because there is no legislation or system that will pull them up when they get it wrong. Never has been, how can that be? Police Officers have internal investigations teams should a registrant not agree with a decision, If your a social worker and a member of HCPC forget it. But be careful If HCPC finds out you don’t agree with their decision they will come after you again and strike you off for having the cheek to NOT AGREE WITH A HCPC decision.

    If your a manager don’t worry they will always agree with your actions.