‘Fitness to practise’ means that a Registrant has the skills, knowledge and character to practise their profession safely and effectively. Fitness to practise is about more than professional performance - it also includes acts by a Registrant which may have an impact on public protection or confidence in the profession or the regulatory process. This may include matters not directly related to professional practice.
NISCC's Fitness to Practise is managed according to the processes set out in the NISCC Fitness to Practise Rules 2016. Read to find out more about Fitness to Practise and How it Works. PDF copies of the Fitness to Practise Rules and processes are available to download from the resources below
Fitness to Practise
Being fit to practise means that a Registrant is fit to practise in their role now, irrespective of whether something may have affected this in their past. For a Registrant on the NISCC Register, being ‘fit to practise’ means adhering to the Standards of Conduct and Practice for Social Workers and Social Care Workers. These set out the required attitudes, behaviours and competence a Registrant requires to practise safely and effectively. All Registrants agree to adhere to the Standards as a condition of their on-going registration with NISCC.
Impaired Fitness to Practise
If it is considered that a Registrant’s fitness to practise is ‘impaired’, it means there are concerns about their ability to practise safely and effectively. This may mean that they should not practise at all and should be removed from the Register, or If a Registrant has been referred to NISCC due to concerns as to whether they are fit to practise, NISCC will consider whether their fitness to practise has been impaired due to:
- lack of competence;
- physical or mental health;
- a conviction or caution in the UK for a criminal offence, or a conviction elsewhere for an offence which, if committed in the UK, would constitute a criminal offence;
- a determination by a relevant regulatory body that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired;
- inclusion on a list maintained by the Disclosure and Barring Service
Misconduct is conduct that calls into question the suitability of a Registrant to remain on the Register without restriction or to be registered at all. The type of matters that can be considered in deciding whether a Registrant has committed misconduct includes issues relating to a Registrant’s character, for example, where a Registrant has been dishonest in his or her actions.
Lack of Competence
When it is alleged that a Registrant lacks competence, this could mean:
- not having the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake the role
- persistent inability or failure to meet standards a persistent inability to improve work practices, following advice, guidance or training provided
- failure to accept and undertake agreements put in place by an employer
- behaviour and attitude which affects the integrity required for the role
Competence would be assessed and measured against the Standards of Practice.
Physical or Mental Health
Health matters will only be considered if it appears, through evidence obtained, that the alleged impaired fitness to practise may have been caused, or substantially contributed to, by the Registrant’s mental or physical ill health. NISCC will only consider health concerns that may have contributed to the alleged impaired fitness to practise. Examples of the types of health matters are:
- serious and uncontrolled mental health issues
- alcohol misuse
- substance misuse
- a health condition that affects reasoned decision making, thinking and/or behaviour
- health problems that have not been addressed
Factors Taken into Account in Assessing Impaired Fitness to Practise
The purpose of fitness to practise is not to punish Registrants for past mistakes. It is to protect the public by ensuring that social workers and social care workers are fit to continue practising (or restricting their practice if not). In deciding whether a Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, NISCC will take into account any action/inaction that led to the allegation, together with factors such as whether it was an isolated incident. We will also consider whether, as a result of the Registrant’s conduct and practice since, he/she is fit to practise now and should be allowed to continue working. A Registrant may be able to continue working if he/she can show that they have learnt from their past mistake, there has been no repeat of the conduct, and steps have been taken to ensure that it will not happen again. Each case is considered separately and on its own merit.