Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

The Protection of Children Standard

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the key responsibilities/procedures that must be followed when an allegation is made against a member of staff, volunteer or Manager in the home.

Allegations could be received from the child / young person concerned, their parent / carer or friend, a member of staff working in the Home or another professional. Allegations in relation to an employee’s home or private life which may have implications for children with whom that person has contact at work or in the organisation should also be dealt with under these procedures.

This procedure should be read in conjunction with the Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Children's Safeguarding Assurance Partnership (CSAP) Procedures.

RELATED PROCEDURES

Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Children's Safeguarding Assurance Partnership (CSAP) Procedures, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children (including Carers and Volunteers)

Referring Safeguarding Concerns Procedure

Whistleblowing Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Working Together to Safeguard Children

Making Barring Referrals to the DBS

AMENDMENT

In October 2020, this procedure was reviewed and updated throughout.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Coordinating the Response to Concerns or Allegations
  3. The Role of the Designated Officer in the Local Authority (LADO)
  4. Notifications
  5. Allegations Strategy Discussion / Meeting
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Support
  8. Suspension
  9. Record Keeping
  10. Referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service

    Appendix 1: Guidance on What to Say


1. Introduction

This guidance should be followed in relation to any allegation that a person who works in the Home has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against, or related to, a child; or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children.

Allegations or concerns could be received from the child / young person concerned, their parent / carer or friend, a member of staff working in the Home or another professional. Allegations in relation to a person's home or private life should also be dealt with under these procedures.

Any concerns relating to inappropriate relationships between members of staff and children or young people in our care, together with other offences or behaviour which call into question their capacity as a role model / carer for children - e.g. domestic abuse or other offending behaviour, should also be considered under these procedures.

Allegations of non-recent / historical abuse should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. In such cases, it is important to find out whether the person against whom the allegation is made is still working with children and if so, to inform the person's current employer or voluntary organisation and notify Children’s Social Care Services. Non-recent or historical allegations of abuse should also be referred to the Police.

These procedures need to be applied with common sense and judgement; often concerns raised will not meet the criteria set out above. In such situations, the Senior Manager in the Home should speak to the child/young person and staff member concerned with a view to resolving the issue and establishing if there are any underlying issues which need to be addressed. It is important in such cases to provide the child with information on the Home’s Complaints Procedure, and remind them of their right to access an independent Advocate, as well as being able to speak to their allocated social worker or Independent Reviewing Officer about any concerns they have.

Such matters should be fully reported on the child’s file, including the actions of the Home.

Any allegation of abuse must be dealt with quickly and in a fair and consistent way which provides effective protection for the child / children concerned, while at the same time supporting the person who is the subject of the allegation.


2. Coordinating the Response to Concerns or Allegations

The Home’s Registered Manager or, through delegation, a Senior Manager is responsible for coordinating the response to concerns or allegations against staff. (Note that from hereon in ’the term ‘Senior Manager’ will be used to reference the manager in the Home who is responsible for responding to concerns or allegations).

Where there is a lack of clarity or the Senior Manager is uncertain, they should seek an independent view from the child’s social worker or team manager, the LADO or another senior manager, such as the Head of Service.

Initial action by person receiving or identifying an allegation or concern

The initial response to a child / person reporting an allegation or concern is important. Children are most likely to make a disclosure to someone they trust, so it is important that everyone working in the Home is clear about what they should do in the event of a disclosure.

The person to whom an allegation or concern is first reported should reassure the child / person that they have done the right thing in making a report and explain what they will do next, including who the information will be shared with.

It is important to:

  • Listen carefully to the child / person making the report; do not ask leading questions, only prompt where necessary with open questions (where, when, what etc.);
  • Be non judgemental;
  • Do not promise confidentiality; Explain what will happen next, including that the concern will have to be shared further, but only with the Senior Manager at this stage (who will decide whether the matter should be referred to the LADO);
  • Write a record containing the facts as the child / person reporting the concern presented them; where possible use their own words;
  • Sign and date the written record;
  • Immediately report the matter to the Home’s Senior Manager, or the deputy in their absence or; where the senior manager is the subject of the allegation report to another appropriate senior manager in the local authority. (Note: If a member of staff has concerns about how the child/person’s allegations will be dealt with by the Home, they should consider reporting the concern to Ofsted. See Ofsted, Reporting Concerns and Whistleblowing about Children’s Social Care Services).

Do not:

  • Investigate or ask leading questions if seeking clarification;
  • Discuss the allegation with the alleged perpetrator;
  • Make assumptions or offer alternative explanations;
  • Promise confidentiality, but give assurance that the information will only be shared on a 'need to know' basis.

Initial action by the senior manager

When informed of a concern or allegation, the Senior Manager should not, at this stage, investigate the matter or interview the member of staff, the child concerned or seek potential witnesses.

They should:

  • Obtain written details of the concern / allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving (not the child / adult making the allegation);
  • Approve and date the written details;
  • Record any information about times, dates and location of incident/s and names of any potential witnesses;
  • Record discussions about the child and/or member of staff, any initial decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions.

The Senior Manager should report the allegation to the Designated Officer in their local authority / LADO within 1 working day. In addition, they should reference their local protocol for informing a more senior line manager, e.g. a Head of Service.

The LADO can be contacted by telephone on 01772 536 694

Referrals to the LADO should not be delayed in order to gather additional information. A failure to report an allegation or concern in accordance with this procedure is a potential disciplinary matter.

If the Senior Manager is concerned that there is an immediate risk to children, the Police should be contacted without delay.

Where a Strategy Discussion / Meeting is needed to consider the allegation in a multi agency setting, the LADO, the Police and the child’s social worker / or Children's Social Care will agree what information should be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator. Otherwise, the Home’s Senior Manager should inform the person concerned about the allegation as soon as possible after consulting with the LADO and inform them about the likely course of action.

Additionally, when there is going to be a Strategy Discussion / Meeting, the Police and the child’s social worker will advise on the information which can be shared with parents or carers.

The parents / carers and the child, should be helped to understand the processes involved and be kept informed about the progress of the investigation and of the outcome where there is no criminal prosecution. This will include the outcome of any disciplinary process, but not the deliberations of, or the information used in a hearing.


3. The Role of the Designated Officer in the Local Authority (LADO)

The role of the LADO is to manage and oversee allegations against people who work with children. This includes providing advice and guidance, liaising with the Police and other agencies, resolving any inter agency issues, monitoring the progress of cases to ensure they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a fair process. The LADO will also provide advice and guidance to employers in relation to making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and Ofsted (the Regulatory Authority) (see Section 10, Referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service), and liaise with the 3 safeguarding partners.

The initial discussion between the Senior Manager from the Home and the LADO will consider the nature, content and context of the allegation and agreed a course of action. The Senior Manager may be asked to provide additional information, such as previous history of the child or member of staff concerned.

The initial sharing of information and evaluation may lead to a decision that no further action is to be taken. In this instance, the decision and its reasons should be recorded by the Senior Manager in the Home and the LADO. Agreement should be reached about what the next steps should be together with the information that will be provided - in writing - to the individuals concerned. Follow up support may need to be considered for both the subject of the allegation and the child / young person.

The LADO will consult with the Senior Manager form the Home and other relevant agencies (e.g. the Police, relevant social workers, Ofsted and, where relevant, the placing authority if the child has been placed by another local authority), in order to manage and coordinate decisions which will need to be taken in relation to the member of staff against who the allegation has been made. This will include:

  • Whether it is necessary to move or suspend staff, or can they be moved to other duties which do not involve direct contact with children or vulnerable adults;
  • In relation to the child, whether they should move from the placement?

All other options should be considered before a decision is made to suspend a member of staff (see Section 8, Suspension).

3.1 Initial consideration by the Senior Manager and the LADO

There are up to three strands in the consideration of an allegation:

  • A Police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
  • Children's Social Care enquiries and/or assessment about whether the child is in need of protection or services;
  • Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action.

The LADO and the Senior Manager should consider first whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence or information that establishes that the allegation is false.

The Senior Manager will be consulted as to who from the Home should also contribute to the investigation of the allegation including, where there are concerns of significant harm, who should attend an allegations Strategy Meeting / Discussion (see Section 5, Allegations Strategy Discussion / Meeting).

Reviews of the investigation into the concern / allegation should be conducted at monthly or fortnightly intervals depending on the complexity of the case.


4. Notifications

Whether the concern is progressed further by the LADO or alternative routes are sought, the Senior Manager from the Home or other Senior Manager should promptly advise the placing authority of the concerns and the actions that have been taken.

Ofsted (the regulatory authority) must be notified of any allegation of abuse against the Home or any person working there. See Notification of Serious Events Procedure.

If, during an inspection, Ofsted become aware of an allegation which was made but not notified to them, the Inspector may place a requirement on the Home.


5. Allegations Strategy Discussion / Meeting

If there is cause to suspect a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, a strategy discussion / meeting will be convened.

The Initial Strategy Meeting

The strategy meeting / discussion should:

  • Decide whether there should be a Section 47 Enquiry and / or Police investigation and consider the implications;
  • Consider whether any parallel disciplinary process can take place and agree protocols for sharing information;
  • Consider the current allegation in the context of any previous allegations or concerns;
  • Where appropriate, take account of any entitlement by staff to use reasonable force to control or restrain children;
  • Consider whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable;
  • Plan enquiries if needed, allocate tasks and set timescales;
  • Decide what information can be shared, with whom and when.

The strategy meeting / discussion should also:

  • Ensure that arrangements are made to protect the child/children involved and any other child/children affected, including taking emergency action where needed;
  • Consider what support should be provided to all children who may be affected;
  • Consider what support should be provided to the member of staff and others who may be affected and how they will be kept up to date with the progress of the investigation;
  • Discuss informing the child's parents of the allegation and devising a ‘communication strategy’ to ensure they are kept up to-date (unless this is inappropriate). Also to consider, depending upon the nature of the allegation, whether this impacts upon any contact arrangements that are in place. (Note that where a child is subject to Section 20 Children Act 1989 the local authority do not have Parental Responsibility and therefore informing the parents is a requirement);
  • Make recommendations where appropriate regarding suspension, or alternatives to suspension;
  • Identify a lead contact manager within each agency;
  • Agree protocols for reviewing investigations and monitoring progress by the LADO, having regard to the target timescales;
  • Consider issues for the attention of senior management (e.g. resource implications, media interest) (see also Section 6, Confidentiality);
  • Consider reports for consideration of barring;
  • Consider risk assessments to inform the employer's safeguarding arrangements;
  • Agree dates for future strategy meetings / discussions.

Final Strategy Meeting

A final strategy meeting / discussion should be held to ensure that all tasks have been completed, including any referrals to the DBS if appropriate (see Section 10, Referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service) and, where relevant, agree an action plan for future practice based on lessons learnt.

The following definitions will be used by the LADO when determining the outcome of allegation investigations:

  1. Substantiated: there is sufficient identifiable evidence to prove the allegation;
  2. Malicious: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation and there has been a deliberate act to deceive;
  3. False: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation;
  4. Unsubstantiated: there is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation; the term therefore does not imply guilt or innocence;
  5. Unfounded: to reflect cases where there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made.


6. Confidentiality

The Home must maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered. Apart from keeping the child, their parents / carers  and accused person (where this would not place the child at further risk) up to date with progress of the matter, information should be restricted to those who have a need to know in order to protect children, facilitate enquiries, and manage related disciplinary or suitability processes.


7. Support

For the child

The Home, social worker and/or Police, where they are involved, should consider the impact on the child concerned and any other Children in the Home and provide support as appropriate. Liaison between the agencies should take place in order to ensure that the child's needs are addressed. Note: it is important to ensure that providing children with the relevant support they need does not prejudice the outcome of any other related court proceedings, e.g. criminal charges. A careful balance should be maintained and further legal advice sought if required).

For the employee

Following consultation with the LADO, the accused member of staff should be provided with information about the allegation and the initial actions agreed. The local authority have a duty of care, and should provide effective support for anyone facing an allegation and act to manage and minimise the stress inherent in the allegations process. Any staff member who is suspended should be provided with a named contact person.

The person against whom the allegation is made should be advised to contact their union or professional association. Human Resources should be consulted in order that appropriate support can be provided via the organisation's Occupational Health or Employee Welfare Arrangements. They should be given access to welfare counselling or medical advice where this is provided by the employer.


8. Suspension

Suspension is a neutral act and it should not be an automatic response when an allegation is reported. All options to avoid suspension should be considered first.

Suspension should only be considered in those cases where:

  • There is cause to suspect a child or other children are at risk of harm; or
  • The allegation is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal.

The possible risk of harm to children should be evaluated and managed in respect of the child/children involved and any other children in the accused person’s home, work or community life.

Where an Allegations Strategy Meeting is held, attendees should discuss whether suspension is appropriate and consider a recommendation. However, only the employer, however, has the power to suspend an accused employee.

If a suspended person is to return to work, the employer should consider what help and support might be appropriate (e.g. a phased return to work and/or provision of a mentor), and also how best to manage the member of staff's contact with the child concerned, if they are still in the Home.


9. Record Keeping

Details of allegations that are found to be malicious should be removed from HR records.

Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the allegation, how it was followed up and resolved. A note of any action taken and decisions made should be kept in the person’s confidential HR record, and a copy given to the individual. The record should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years if longer.

The purpose of the record is to enable accurate information to be given in response to any future request for a reference. It will provide clarification where a future DBS request reveals information from the Police about an allegation which did not result in conviction, and will help to prevent unnecessary reinvestigation if an allegation re-surfaces after a period of time. A separate record is held by the LADO.

Please note - while the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is on-going, organisations have been asked to retain any and all documents; correspondence; notes; emails and all other information – however held – which contain or may contain content pertaining directly or indirectly to the sexual abuse of children or to child protection and care.


10. Referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service

If an allegation is substantiated and, the Senior Manager removes the individual from work because they consider that they pose a risk of harm to children (or would have done had the person not left first) they must ensure a referral is made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for them to consider whether to add the individual to the barred list. It is an offence to fail to make a referral without good reason.

If a referral is to be made; it should be submitted within 1 month of the conclusion of any LADO investigation.

For the latest guidance on Making Referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service, please see the GOV.UK website.

Where individual staff continue to have concerns about a colleague or in relation to conduct of an investigation made in response to an allegation, they should consider the Home’s Whistleblowing Procedure, Ofsted, Reporting Concerns and Whistleblowing about Children’s Social Care Services or contact the child’s social worker

In cases where it is identified that no significant harm or offence has been committed, the Children’s Home may still wish to consider disciplinary proceedings against staff.

Where the concerns have not warranted further investigation under these procedures, other routes may be identified as more appropriate at this stage, for example, the complaints process (see Complaints Procedure).

Additional Training for the staff member should also be considered as appropriate.


Appendix 1: Guidance on What to Say

The following are principles of good practice when receiving/reporting concerns

However, this guidance is not exhaustive, all staff should have training on receiving and reporting safeguarding and child protection concerns - if in doubt, staff must consult the senior manager or another manager who is not implicated immediately.

When an allegation is made against a staff member / colleague:

Staff may ask questions or seek clarification regarding any allegation reported to them, but they may not take any actions to investigate or in any way make judgements about what is reported to them. Investigations or enquiries, if necessary, will be led by the LADO.

Staff must not inform or discuss concerns/allegations with any person who is alleged or reported to be the perpetrator, including any colleague/manager. If a manager is implicated, staff must ensure that any reports are passed to their line manager (e.g. Head of Service or other covering manager).

When a child / young person makes a disclosure:

Staff must not give absolute guarantees of confidentiality to those who report possible allegations to them, but they should explain that the information will only be passed to the minimum number of people who need to know to ensure proper action is taken in response to the concern.

DO

  • Give the child your full attention and demonstrate that you are both listening and hearing them, e.g. put a sign on the door; stop telephone calls etc.
  • Ask them if you can take some brief notes (key phrases, short specific detail only) whilst they are talking – but don’t allow this to interfere with the ‘listening process’;
  • Maintain eye contact;
  • Allow the child to talk, but don't press for information;
  • Tell the child throughout that they are not to blame for anything that has happened;
  • Reassure the child that they were right to tell;
  • Let the child know that other people will have to be informed;
  • Try to explain in a way that the child can understand.

DON'T

  • Promise to keep secrets;
  • Make any promises you can't keep;
  • Interrogate the child or ask leading questions;
  • Cast doubt on what they have said;
  • Make the child feel responsible for what's happened;
  • Show anger;
  • Panic and act hastily (it's unlikely to be a life threatening situation);
  • Gossip about what you have been told;
  • Talk to the alleged abuser.

Staff must make a written record as soon as possible of what they have been told, detailing the questions they asked and the replies. They must then give the report to the Senior Manager (unless they are implicated).

The record should be placed on the child's file except where a colleague is implicated or where there is any risk to the child as a result, in which case notes/records should be given to the Senior Manager dealing with the matter.