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An analysis of HCPC fitness to practise hearings: Fit to Practise of Fit for Purpose?

Leigh, J and Worsley, A and McLaughlin, KG (2017) An analysis of HCPC fitness to practise hearings: Fit to Practise of Fit for Purpose? Ethics and Social Welfare. ISSN 1749-6535


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All professions regulated by the HCPC have ‘protection of title’. This means that only those on its relevant register can legally work as or call themselves a social worker. As such, the HCPC’s Fitness to Practise panel wields a lot of power over individuals brought before it, effectively being able to prevent them from gaining employment as a social worker or imposing conditions on their practice. This article reports the findings from a study which examined publically available notes of HCPC fitness to practise hearings. The aim was to analyse what happens when an initial investigation finds that there is a case to answer, what factors influence the findings of the Fitness to Practise panel and how the outcome of the hearing then affects the social worker subject to the HCPC process. Using thematic analysis, our findings suggest that the seriousness of the alleged misconduct does not necessarily relate to the severity of sanction applied. It is the social worker’s engagement with the process, her insight into the issues and her credibility as a witness that appears to have the most significant bearing on the level of sanction applied.

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