8.2 Allegations Against People who Work with, Care for or Volunteer with Children
In September 2015, this chapter was updated to reflect Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Local Safeguarding Children Partnership
- Employers or Organisations
- Sussex Police
- Terms used Throughout this Section
- Procedures in Specific Organisations
- Persons to be Notified
- Managing Interim Risk
- Resignations and Compromise Agreements
- Organised and Historical Abuse
- Whistle Blowing
- Restrictions on Identifying Teachers Against Whom Allegations of Criminal Misconduct Have Been Made
- Strategy Discussion or Meeting
- Allegations against Carers
- Section 47 Enquiry and Police Investigation
- Disciplinary or Suitability Process and Investigations
- Suggested Timescales
- Record Keeping and Monitoring Progress
- Referral to Disclosure and Barring Service or Regulatory Body
- Learning Lessons
- Allegations Against Staff in their Personal Lives
These procedures are based on the framework for dealing with allegations of abuse made against a person who works with children, detailed in Chapter 2 of Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018.
They should be followed by all organisations providing services for children and staff or volunteers who work with or care for children.
Compliance with these procedures will help to ensure that allegations of abuse are dealt with expeditiously, consistent with a thorough and fair process. Local Safeguarding Children Boards should therefore have arrangements in place for monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness.
These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation or concern that any person who works with children, in connection with his/her employment or voluntary activity, has:
These behaviours should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse i.e. Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse and Neglect.
These include concerns relating to inappropriate relationships between adults and children or young people, e.g. having a sexual relationship with a child under 18 if in a position of trust in respect of that child, even if consensual (Sections 16-19 Sexual Offences Act 2003; 'grooming', i.e. meeting a child under 16 with intent to commit a relevant offence (Section 15 Sexual Offences Act 2003); other 'grooming' behaviour giving rise to concerns of a broader child protection nature e.g. Inappropriate text, e-mail messages or images, gifts, socialising, etc. and possession of abusive images of children.
All references in this document to 'members of staff' should be interpreted as meaning all staff, whether they are in a paid or unpaid capacity (including contracted staff).
Roles and Responsibilities
Working Together 2018 states:
County level and unitary local authorities should ensure that allegations against people who work with children are not dealt with in isolation. Any action necessary to address corresponding welfare concerns in relation to the child or children involved should be taken without delay and in a coordinated manner. Local authorities should, in addition, have designated a particular officer, or team of officers (either as part of multi- agency arrangements or otherwise), to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people that work with children. Any such officer, or team of officers, should be sufficiently qualified and experienced to be able to fulfil this role effectively, for example qualified social workers. Any new appointments to such a role, other than current or former designated officers moving between local authorities, should be qualified social workers. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that any allegations about those who work with children are passed to the designated officer, or team of officers, without delay.
Local authorities should put in place arrangements to provide advice and guidance on how to deal with allegations against people who work with children to employers and voluntary organisations. Local authorities should also ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to effectively liaise with the police and other agencies to monitor the progress of cases and ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process.
Local Safeguarding Children Partnership
Each safeguarding partnership member organisation should identify a Named Senior Officer with overall responsibility for:
Local Authorities should designate an officer(s) (LADO) or team of Designated Officers to:
Employers or Organisations
Employers, Voluntary Organisations and organisations such as independent foster care agencies should designate:
The Head of Specialist Investigations Branch will:
Each Specialist Investigation Unit detective inspector will:
Terms used Throughout this Section
For the purposes of this procedure the term 'employer' will be used to describe the different types of organisation or agency which will either employ, or be recruit and support a volunteer.
The term 'member of staff' is used to describe the person subject to the allegation or concern. This covers roles such as volunteer, foster carer, childminder or employee.
The term 'disciplinary process' includes procedures contained within:
Procedures in Specific Organisations
It is recognised that many organisations will have their own procedures in place, some of which may need to take into account particular regulations and guidance, e.g. schools, registered child care providers, foster carers, etc.
Where organisations do have specific procedures, they should be compatible with these procedures and additionally provide the contact details for:
Persons to be Notified
In principle, as soon as possible after an allegation is made, the employer should inform the parent(s) or carer(s) of the child(ren) involved. The LADO should be consulted first to ensure that this does not impede the disciplinary or investigative processes. In some circumstances, however, the parent(s)/carer(s) may need to be told straight away, e.g. if a child is injured and requires medical treatment.
The responsibility for carrying out the LADO duties rests with the LADO for the area where the person works. Where a person works in more than one area, a discussion should take place between the relevant LADOs to determine who should take the lead in managing the case.
The parent(s)/carer(s) and the child, if sufficiently mature, should be helped to understand the processes involved and kept informed about the progress of the case 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.
In principle the employer should, as soon as possible, inform the person who is subject to the allegation or the concern relates to about the nature of the allegation, how enquiries will be conducted and the possible outcome e.g. disciplinary action. Advice should first be sought from the LADO as the Police and/or Children's Social Care may want to impose restrictions on the information that can be provided.
The member of staff should:
Ofsted should also be informed of all allegations or concern made against a:
They should also be invited to take part in any subsequent Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
Where the member of staff is agency teaching staff, a referral should be made to the LADO and the agency who supplied the teacher must be informed.
Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered. Apart from keeping the child, parents and accused person up to date with progress of the case, information should be restricted to those who have a need to know in order to protect children, facilitate enquiries, manage related disciplinary or suitability processes.
The Police should not provide identifying information to the press or media, unless and until a person is charged, except in exceptional circumstances, e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect. In such cases, the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted beforehand.
Support for the child
The employing organisation together with Children's Social Care and/or the Police, where they are involved, should consider the impact on the child concerned and provide support as appropriate. Liaison between the agencies should take place in order to ensure that the child's needs are addressed.
It should be clear to the child and their family who will keep them informed of the progress of the allegation or complaint.
Support for the person subject to the allegation or concern
As soon as possible after an allegation has been received, the person subject to the allegation or concern should be advised to contact his/her union or professional association.
Human Resources should be consulted at the earliest opportunity in order that appropriate support can be provided via the organisation's occupational health or employee welfare arrangements.
The person should be clear on who will update them on the progress of the investigation. This is an ongoing process and should be continued throughout any police investigation, Section 47 Enquiry or disciplinary investigation.
Managing Interim Risk
In all situations the perceived level of risk during the investigation needs to be considered and managed.
In certain situations the level may require the member of staff not to be working with specific children or young people or all children and young people until the investigation is completed.
If this is the case then various options are open to the employer including:
Refraining or suspension should be considered neutral acts and should not be automatic or considered as a default option. They should be considered in any case where:
If suspension is deemed appropriate, the reasons and justification should be recorded and the individual notified of the reasons.
Decisions around risk are best made in an inter professional forum, if a Strategy Discussion/Meeting is to be held or if Children's Social Care or the Police are to make enquiries, the Local Authority Designated Officer should canvass their views on refraining/suspending and inform the employer.
Only the employer, however, has the power to refrain/suspend an accused employee and they cannot be required to do so by a local authority or the police.
The possible risks to children should be evaluated in terms of the child(ren) involved in the incident. Additionally, consideration must be given to the risks of any children related to, living with or in contact with through other work or community life, to the accused member of staff.
If the child also lives with the member of staff, for example in situations such as foster care or boarding school, then the welfare of the child should be considered paramount and the risk managed in a way which ensures the minimum of disruption, and encourages placement stability, but maximises the protection of the child(ren).
Resignations and Compromise Agreements
Every effort should be made to reach a conclusion in all cases even if:
In these circumstances consideration should be given to making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service's Barred Lists and regulator/registration bodies.
'Compromise agreements' must not be used, e.g. where a member of staff agrees to resign provided that disciplinary action is not taken and that a future reference is agreed.
Organised and Historical Abuse
Investigators should be alert to signs of organised or widespread abuse and/or the involvement of other perpetrators or institutions. They should consider whether the matter should be dealt with in accordance with Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure which, if applicable, will take priority.
Historical allegations should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. It will be important to ascertain if the person is currently working with children and if that is the case, to consider whether the current employer should be informed and a Strategy Discussion/Meeting held.
All staff should be made aware of the organisation's whistle-blowing policy and feel confident to voice concerns about the attitude or actions of colleagues.
If a member of staff believes that a reported allegation or concern is not being dealt with appropriately by their organisation, (s)he should report the matter to the Local Authority Designated Officer.
It is in everyone's interest for cases to be dealt with expeditiously, fairly and thoroughly and for unnecessary delays to be avoided. The target timescales provided in these procedures are realistic in most cases, but some cases will take longer because of their specific nature, or complexity.
Initial Response to Allegation or Concern
An allegation against a member of staff may arise from a number of sources, e.g. a report from a child, a concern raised by another adult in the organisation, or a complaint by a parent or carer.
Initial action by person receiving or identifying an allegation or concern
The person to whom an allegation or concern is first reported should treat the matter seriously and keep an open mind.
He or she should not:
He or she should:
Initial action by the Designated Senior Manager
When informed of a concern or allegation, the Designated Senior Manager should not investigate the matter or interview the member of staff, the child concerned or potential witnesses. He/she should:
If the allegation meets the criteria set out in Section 1, Scope, the Designated Senior Manager should report it to the Local Authority Designated Officer within one working day. Referral should not be delayed in order to gather information and a failure to report an allegation or concern in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.
If an allegation requires immediate attention, but is received outside normal office hours, the Designated Senior Manager should consult the Social Care Emergency Duty Team or local Police and inform the Local Authority Designated Officer as soon as possible.
Allegations received by the Police or Children's Social Care
If a police officer receives an allegation, he or she should, without delay, report it to the Safeguarding Investigations Unit who should then immediately inform the Local Authority Designated Officer.
Similarly an allegation made to Children's Social Care should be immediately reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer.
Initial consideration by the Designated Senior Manager and the Local Authority Designated Officer
There are up to 3 strands in the consideration of an allegation:
The Local Authority Designated Officer and Designated Senior Manager should consider first whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence or information that establishes that the allegation is false or unfounded. Care should be taken to ensure that the child is not confused as to dates, times, locations or identity of the member of staff.
If the allegation is not demonstrably false and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, the Local Authority Designated Officer should refer to Children's Social Care and ask them to convene an immediate Strategy Discussion.
The police must be consulted about any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed. If the threshold for Significant Harm is not reached, but a police investigation might be needed, the Local Authority Designated Officer should immediately inform the police and convene an Initial Evaluation (similar to Strategy Discussion), to include the police, employer and other agencies involved with the child.
References in this document to 'Strategy Discussions' should be read to include 'Initial Evaluations' where appropriate.
Restrictions on Identifying Teachers Against Whom Allegations of Criminal Misconduct Have Been Made
With effect from 1 October 2012, the Education Act 2011 introduced reporting restrictions preventing the publication of any material that may lead to the identification of a teacher who has been accused by, or on behalf of, a pupil from the same school (where that identification would identify the teacher as the subject of the allegation). The reporting restrictions apply until the point that the accused person is charged with an offence, or until the Secretary of State or the General Teaching Council for Wales publishes information about an investigation or decision in a disciplinary case arising from the allegation. The reporting restrictions also cease to apply if the individual to whom the restrictions apply effectively waives their right to anonymity by going public themselves or by giving their written consent for another to do so or if a judge lifts restrictions in response to a request to do so. Breaching the reporting restrictions is a criminal offence.
The case manager should take advice from the LADO, Police and Children’s Social Care services to agree the following:
(Note that this provision applies only to teachers, not to other staff in educational establishments.)
Strategy Discussion or Meeting
Wherever possible, a Strategy Discussion should take the form of a meeting, however on occasions a telephone discussion may be justified. The following is a list of possible participants:
All participants should be aware that the Strategy Meeting is a confidential meeting and the notes of the meeting should not be shared with any other person without the express consent of the Chair. Where an invitee is from a non-statutory organisation a confidentiality agreement should be used.
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should:
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should also:
Allegations against Carers
The Strategy Meeting should be chaired by a suitable experienced and independent manager. This could be the Local Authority Designated Officer, or a suitable Children's Social Care Manager.
Section 47 Enquiry and Police Investigation
If at the Strategy Discussion it is decided that either the police and/or Children's Social Care are to undertake enquiries or investigations then the progress of these enquires should be reported back to the employer and the Local Authority Designated Officer at agreed intervals.
At the completion of the police investigation and/or Section 47 Enquiry, then a further Strategy Discussion should be held to ensure that all tasks have been completed. This Strategy Discussion should:
This information should be recorded and given as a written record to the employer and the Local Authority Designated Officer (as per the procedures or, if in East Sussex, the operating instruction (OICS)).
Where a decision is made that criminal proceedings cannot be pursued, it should then be decided whether further investigation be undertaken, which may clarify whether the allegation is substantiated on a balance of probabilities, i.e. using the burden of proof used in civil cases (as opposed to the criminal burden of proof, which is 'beyond all reasonable doubt').
Sharing Information for Disciplinary Purposes
Wherever possible, the Police and Children's Social Care should, during the course of their investigations and enquiries, obtain consent to provide the employer and/or regulatory body with statements and evidence for disciplinary purposes.
Where an allegation involves a person who is not a member of an organisation represented on the safeguarding partnership, evidence from the case will not be released by the police for disciplinary proceedings until the following has been considered and established:
Any case involving such a person should therefore be considered by the Police at the appropriate time, and the LADO informed. Even when the above has been confirmed there will be a presumption against the release on an investigative video recording, particularly if they contain evidence of sexual abuse or other sensitive matters.
If the Police or Crown Prosecution Service decides not to charge, or decide to administer a caution, or the person is acquitted, the police should pass all relevant information to the employer without delay.
If the person is convicted, the police should inform the employer straight away so that appropriate action can be taken.
Where it is concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate an allegation, the chair of the Strategy Discussion or initial evaluation should prepare a separate report of the enquiry which uses the information from the Police/Children's Social Care and forward this to the Designated Senior Manager of the employer to enable her/him to consider what further action, if any, should be taken.
Such allegations are rare and may be a strong indicator of abuse elsewhere which requires further exploration. If an allegation deliberately invented and demonstrably malicious, the employer, in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer, should refer the matter to Children's Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by others.
Disciplinary or Suitability Process and Investigations
The Local Authority Designated Officer and the Designated Senior Manager should discuss whether disciplinary/standards of care action is appropriate in all cases where:
The discussion should consider any potential misconduct or gross misconduct on the part of the member of staff, and take into account:
In the case of supply, contract and volunteer workers, normal disciplinary procedures may not apply. In these circumstances, the Local Authority Designated Officer and employer should act jointly with the providing agency, if any, in deciding whether to continue to use the person's services, or provide future work with children, and if not, whether to make a report for consideration of barring or other action.
Considerations Post Investigation
If a refrained/suspended person is to continue to work with children after the investigation into the process has been completed, 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 still in the workplace. if an organisation removes an individual (paid worker or unpaid volunteer) from work such as looking after children (or would have, had the person not left first) because the person poses a risk of harm to children, the organisation must make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service. It is an offence to fail to make a referral without good reason.
The following process suggests timescales, which are the timescales to be used to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer.
It is important to recognise that the right outcome is far more important than meeting these timescales. The following principles should be used at all times.
If formal disciplinary action is not required, the employer should institute appropriate action within 3 working days. If a disciplinary hearing is required, and further investigation is not required, it should be held within 15 working days.
If further investigation is needed to decide upon disciplinary action, the employer and the Local Authority Designated Officer should discuss whether the employer has appropriate resources or whether the employer should commission an independent investigation because of the nature and/or complexity of the case and in order to ensure objectivity. A relative or friend of the member of staff should not conduct the investigation.
The aim of an investigation is to obtain, as far as possible, a fair, balanced and accurate record in order to consider the appropriateness of disciplinary action and/or the individual's suitability to work with children.
If there has not been a police investigation/Section 47 Enquiry then the process would need to also come to the conclusion as to whether the allegation was substantiated, etc. as in Section 47 Enquiries and Police Investigations.
At any stage, new information emerges that requires a child protection referral, the investigation should be held in abeyance and only resumed if agreed with Children's Social Care and the Police. Consideration should again be given as to whether suspension is appropriate in light of the new information.
The investigating officer should aim to provide a report within 10 working days.
On receipt of the report the employer should decide, within 2 working days, whether a disciplinary hearing is needed. If a hearing is required, it should be held within 15 working days.
Record Keeping and Monitoring Progress
Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case record and give a copy to the individual
The record should include details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached and the action taken. It should be completed in collaboration with the Local Authority Designated Officer.
A copy of this summary should be:
It should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years if longer.
The Local Authority Designated Officer should monitor and record the progress of each case, either fortnightly or monthly depending on its complexity. This could be by way of review Strategy Discussions or direct liaison with the police, Children's Social Care, or employer, as appropriate. Where the target timescales cannot be met, the Local Authority Designated Officer should record the reasons.
The Local Authority Designated Officer should keep comprehensive records in order to ensure that each case is being dealt with expeditiously and that there are no undue delays. The records will also assist the safeguarding partnership to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations and provide statistical information to the Department for Education as required.
If a police investigation is to be conducted, the police should set a date for reviewing its progress and consulting the Crown Prosecution Service about continuing or closing the investigation or charging the individual. Wherever possible, this should be no later than 4 weeks after the Strategy Discussion. Dates for further reviews should also be agreed, either fortnightly or monthly depending on the complexity of the investigation.
Referral to Disclosure and Barring Service or Regulatory Body
If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the person's services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide his or her services, the Local Authority Designated Officer should discuss with the employer whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Servicefor inclusion on the Barred Lists and/or a regulatory body, e.g. the Teaching Agency or General Medical Council.
Consideration will then be given as to whether the individual should be barred from, or have conditions imposed in respect of, working with children.
If a referral is to be made, it should be submitted within one month.
The employer and the Local Authority Designated Officer should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice. Where appropriate, this should include agreement to an action plan for future practice based on lessons learnt.
Allegations Against Staff in their Personal Lives
If an allegation or concern arises about a member of staff, outside of his/her work with children, and this may present a risk to child(ren) for whom the member of staff is responsible, the general principles outlined in these procedures will still apply.
The Strategy Discussion should decide whether the concern justifies:
If the member of staff lives in a different authority area to that which covers his/her workplace, liaison should take place between the relevant agencies in both areas and a joint Strategy Discussion convened.
In some cases, an allegation of abuse against someone closely associated with a member of staff, e.g. partner, member of the family, or other household member, may present a risk to child(ren) for whom the member of staff is responsible. In these circumstances, a Strategy Discussion should be convened to consider: