A watchdog accused of “burying bad news” about dodgy carers is to start publishing reports again.
The taxpayer-funded Scottish Social Services Council used to publish investigation reports about social service workers accused of wrongdoing, such as in care homes or children’s centres.
But it decided in March to start keeping them private in case negative publicity led to public services getting swamped with phone calls.
At the time, an SSSC spokeswoman said the reports “can generate negative publicity, which is unhelpful at a time when services are experiencing unprecedented pressure.”
The body now says it will start publishing the reports again as of Sunday, November 1.
The watchdog has continued to publish reports explaining what an individual worker has been accused of in advance of disciplinary hearings.
Senior politicians claim not explaining the outcome is unfair to people who use the services at the centre of allegations and also to the falsely accused who cannot fully clear their name.
Reports relating to more than 100 disciplinary cases have not been published since March.
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald, of Labour, said: “This is an extraordinary sequence of events.
“A public body has chosen to cease to publish material that is ordinarily published, with no particular consultation I’m aware of.
“The public has a right to know these process are being followed fairly and openly – and so do people’s whose professional reputation depends on it.
“It’s very surprising that this happened.”
Mr Macdonald added: “The reporting restriction is being suddenly stopped on November 1 when we’re still dealing with restrictions as a result of Covid-19. It calls into question whether it was a safe decision in the first place.”
“I’m very concerned at the way this decision was taken and the way it was reversed and I want to know what the grounds were for both. I’ll be asking questions in parliament to establish that.
“Ministers need to explain to parliament why this change was made, why it was abandoned and whether it was abandoned because it wasn’t a ‘safe’ policy decision.”
North-east MSP Mike Rumbles, of the Lib Dems, said: “The SSSC provides an important service for communities across Scotland and it must be alert to any decision that might erode the public’s trust in its work or in the ability of social workers to carry out their responsibilities.
“More than ever, it is essential that we protect vulnerable people and provide support for people working in our care sector.
“In the long run, burying bad news will do more harm than good to our social services.”
An SSSC spokeswoman said it has at all times published the outcome of hearings but decided to delay making detailed reports public.
She added: “We did this due to the unprecedented pressure on social services where both services and the individuals concerned had reduced capacity while dealing with the pandemic to respond to the queries that publicity generates.
“This was a temporary position at the height of the pandemic with the intention, as stated on our website, to return to our normal publishing procedure as soon as possible, which we are doing from November 1.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This is an operational matter for the SSSC as an independent professional regulator, and they are responsible for any decisions on changes to operational delivery.
“However, we are clear that we expect full transparency from regulatory organisations and the SSSC continued to publish the outcome of hearings, which have been held online and physically in their offices since March.
“The Chief Social Work Advisor (Iona Colvin) was notified on September 10 of the SSSC’s intent to resume publishing notices of decisions on November 1, when they will publish notices of decisions from current hearings and those held since March in a phased approach.”