Lodging a Complaint
The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) together with the Professional Board for Social Work and Professional Board for Child and Youth Care Work is responsible to determine and maintain the standards of professional conduct, and to exercise effective control over the professional conduct of social workers, social auxiliary workers, student social workers, student social auxiliary workers, child and youth care workers (professional category of registration), child and youth care workers (auxiliary category of registration) and student child and youth care workers (professional and auxiliary category). Each Professional Board sets the professional ethics and standards for professional conduct for the professions that fall under a specific Professional Board.
Understanding Unprofessional or Improper Conduct
Unprofessional or improper conduct refers to any act or omission that is not in line with the standards of practice that are expected from a social service professional (see PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE), whether at a professional level (social workers and child and youth care workers); an auxiliary level (social auxiliary workers and child and youth care workers registered in the auxiliary category); or students that are busy with their practical training or internships in social work, social auxiliary work and/or and child and youth care work (professional and auxiliary category).
The SACSSP is legally obliged in terms of the Social Service Professions Act 110 of 1978 to receive and consider every complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct and to take such actions as deemed necessary should a person registered with Council be found guilty of professional misconduct. This is also part of the SACSSP responsibility to ensure that high standards of conduct are maintained, which all service users are entitled to.
What is unprofessional or improper conduct?
Unprofessional or improper conduct may present in many forms. Below are some examples that may assist in answering the question:
- Not being registered with the SACSSP while practising as a social worker, social auxiliary worker, child and youth care workers (professional category of registration), child and youth care workers (auxiliary category of registration) or doing being enrolled, attend class and doing practical training or internships as student social workers, student social auxiliary workers and student child and youth care workers. This include the timely payment of annual fees as to renew the licence (registration) to practice).
- Pretending to be a social worker, social auxiliary worker, child and youth care workers (professional category of registration), child and youth care workers (auxiliary category of registration) student social worker, student social auxiliary workers and student child and youth care worker without being registered with the SACSSP, including using any of these titles.
- Pretending to be registered with the SACSSP for speciality, while not registered for such a speciality.
- If required when registered at an auxiliary level or as a student, to execute duties under the supervision of a registered professional, and not adhering to that requirement.
- Neglecting or omitting to provide a professional service at the required standards.
- Participate in or associate with dishonesty in the execution of professional duties.
- Receipt of any bribe, or agreement to receive any bribe in connection with any matter which is directly or indirectly related to professional duties or practice.
- Refusing to render professional services which he or she took on or for which he or she was employed.
- Discrimination against a client or colleague or other professional on any grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth account of social or economic status, sex, race, religion, language or nationality.
- Failure to refer a client to a colleague, or another person or body with specialised knowledge in a field, should the matter fall so far outside his or her field of training or experience that such referral could in the circumstances be reasonably considered necessary;
- Failure to keep a record of acts performed, money managed, and fees charged in all matters dealt with by him or her in his or her professional capacity.
- Sharing confidential information of a client with an unauthorised person or third party, subject to certain strict conditions that may allow this, without the express consent of the client.
- Unprofessional behaviour towards colleagues and/or other professional persons.
This is not an exhaustive (complete) list of examples.
Please see Procedures to lodge a complaint if you wish to lodge a complaint of unprofessional or improper conduct:
Procedures to Lodge a Complaint
The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) takes all complaints seriously. Every complaint received is examined, analysed and categorised to ensure that the right course of action is taken. If a complaint does not fall within the jurisdiction of the SACSSP it is referred to the relevant authorities, for example in the case of complaints against organisations, government departments, other professionals that do not fall under the Social Service Professions Act 110 of 1978, or disputes where a social service professional was not involved.
The disciplinary powers of the SACSSP to deal with alleged unprofessional or improper conduct is mandated in terms of Social Service Professions Act 110 of 1978 together with the Regulations and Rules thereto.
Who can lodge a complaint?
Any person who receives a service from a social service professional, for example from a social worker, social auxiliary worker, child and youth care worker (professional category of registration), child and youth care worker (auxiliary category of registration) as well as student social workers, student social auxiliary workers student child and youth care workers providing services as part of the practical training has the RIGHT to lodge a complaint about alleged unprofessional or improper conduct.
A complaint may also be lodged, amongst others, by:
- any member of the public
- another social service professional
- an organisation, including employer
- other professionals
Before lodging a complaint, you are encouraged (where it is practically possible) to first raise your complaint directly with the social service professional concerned so that you can jointly consider the possibility of attaining an expeditious remedy to your complaint.
A complaint of unprofessional or improper conduct may be lodged against:
A complaint of unprofessional or improper conduct can be lodged against a:
- social worker
- social auxiliary worker
- child and youth care worker (professional category of registration)
- child and youth care worker (auxiliary category of registration)
- student social workers
- student social auxiliary workers
- student child and youth care workers
- a person pretending to be any of the above
What is unprofessional or improper conduct?
- Regulations regarding the conducting of inquiries into alleged unprofessional conduct (Government Notice No. R. 917 published in Government Gazette No 25109 of 27 June 2003)
- Rules relating to the acts or omissions of a social worker, a social auxiliary worker or a student social worker which shall constitute unprofessional or improper conduct (Government Notice 54 published in Government Gazette 14526 of 15 January 1993)
- Rules relating to the acts or omissions which constitute unprofessional or improper conduct of child and youth care workers and rules relating to conduct of child and youth care workers practising at professional and auxiliary levels (Government Notice No 833 published in Government Gazette 38128 of 31 October 2014)
- Policy on the fit and proper person requirement (2017)
HOW TO LODGE A COMPLAINT?
If you want to lodge a complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct by any social service professionals (as indicated above) the following steps are recommended:
STEP 1: The complaint needs to be lodged (submitted) in writing and in a specific manner, and FORM C.1.1: Professional Conduct: Complaint regarding alleged unprofessional or improper conduct needs to be used. Download this form by clicking on the underlined text. The form is in PDF and you can either fill it on the form (all the fields are fillable) or you can print it out and fill it in by hand.
STEP 2: The complaint must be specific and all the relevant needs to be provided. The following may assist you:
- Read the Rules as indicated earlier to make sure that you are clear about the alleged unprofessional or improper conduct that you want to report.
- Take time to read FORM C.1.1 before you start to fill it in. It will help you to determine what information is needed to lodge a complaint.
- Gather all the information and facts related to the specific complaint. Provide all the details. You may add documents as annexures to the FORM C.1.1.
- It is important to include the name(s) and contact particulars of the person(s) against whom you are laying the complaint and witnesses (if any).
- Indicate the place, date(s) and time(s) of incidents.
- Only start to complete FORM C.1.1 when you have all the information and details.
STEP 3: Fill in FORM C.1.1 and follow the instructions provided on the side of each page.
STEP 4: After completing FORM C.1.1 double check that you have included everything before you finalise and submit it. Including that all the annexures (if any) are numbered.
STEP 5: If you are sure that all the information is correct and complete, fill in the check list on the last page and sign the form.
STEP 6: Submit the form (see details on FORM C.1.1) to the SACSSP.
STEP 7: Important. Always keep a copy of the complaint form and all supporting documents for your own records.
STEP 8: Keep an eye on your email, post and/or phone for a message from the SACSSP’s professional conduct division regarding the next steps.
How the sacssp deals with a complaint
When dealing with a complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct there are three main (or principal) parties involved:
- The complainant who is the person(s) who lodged a complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct against a registered person;
- The respondent who is the person against whom a complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct have been lodged; and
- The SACSSP represented by the Registrar or designated official, Committee for Preliminary Inquiry (CPI) and/or Conduct Committee.
When a complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct is received it will be reviewed to determine the nature of the complaint and whether it falls within the mandate of the SACSSP.
If it falls within the mandate of the SACSSP the complaint is forwarded to the respondent (the person against whom a complaint of alleged unprofessional or improper conduct is lodged) affording him or her the opportunity to respond in writing within 21 calendar days.
After the response from the respondent is received the Registrar or designated official will review the response and the complaint thoroughly to determine, based on all the facts at his or her disposal, whether the complaint need to proceed or not; or whether it can be resolved cordially with a settlement between the complainant, respondent and/or any other parties involved. The complainant and respondent will be notified in writing of the determinations of the Registrar or designated official related to the complaint.
If the complaint needs to proceed and requires a further inquiry it will be referred by Registrar or designated official either to the Committee for Preliminary Inquiry (CPI) for further investigation or to the Professional Conduct Committee for a disciplinary inquiry, each having a different mandate. Click on the underlined text to find out more about these committees.
If the matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the SACSSP it will be referred to an appropriate body or authority.
Disputes and appeals
A complainant and/or respondent may lodge a dispute or appeal:
- against a finding or determination made by the Registrar or designated official in terms of regulation 4(3)(a); 4(3)(b) and 4(3)(c) of the Regulations.
- against a finding and/or decision made by the Committee of Preliminary Inquiry.
- any finding and/ or penalty of an inquiry of the Professional Conduct Committee.
Also see Dispute and appeal procedures for more information and the procedures to be followed when a dispute or an appeal is lodged. Also download the Professional conduct disputes and appeals policy (2019).