4.1 Managing Allegations Against Adults Who Work With Children and Young People
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 and the chapter 2. Organisational responsibilities under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 state that:
"Any allegation should be reported immediately to a senior manager within the organisation. The Designated Officer should also be informed within one working day of all allegations that come to an employer's attention or that are made directly to the police".
In September 2016, this chapter was updated, all amendments are highlighted in red text.
- Scope of Allegations
- Responsibilities for Oversight and Monitoring
- Principles Underpinning Response
- Allegations Against Education Staff
- Allegations Against Children's Services Staff
- Allegations Against Volunteers
- Allegations Against Carers: Foster/Short-Break/Lodgings and Approved Adopters
- Registered Child Minders
Application of this module is not limited to allegations involving 'significant harm / risk of significant harm' and should be applied whenever it is alleged a person who works with children has in any activity connected with her/his employment or voluntary activity:
- Behaved in a way that has, or may have harmed a child;
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against / related to a child;
- Behaved toward a child in a way that indicates he or she would pose a risk of harm.
The procedures apply to situations when:
- There are suspicions or allegations of abuse by a person who works with children in either a paid or unpaid capacity - as a permanent, temporary or agency staff member, contract worker, consultant, volunteer, approved foster carer, child minder or approved adopter;
- It is discovered that an individual known to have been involved previously in child abuse, is or has been working with children.
If concerns arise about the person's behaviour to her/his own children, Police and/or Children's Services must consider informing her/his employer in order to assess whether there may be implications for children with whom the person has contact at work. A decision as to whether the person's employer should be approached, either for further information and/or whether it is appropriate to invite the employer to a future Strategy Meeting when decisions are to be made about managing the possible risk, should be made at the initial Strategy Meeting when all agencies can contribute. The risk that someone presents needs to be properly considered and a decision made whether the risk outweighs the employee's right to confidentiality before an employer is approached.
If an allegation relating to a child is made about a person undertaking paid or unpaid care of an Adult at Risk, consideration must also be given to the need to alert those who manage her/him in that role.
These procedures are applicable to all those working with children but additional agency or status specific guidance is provided / signposted as follows:
- Section 5, Allegations Against Education Staff;
- Children's Services see Section 6, Allegations Against Children's Services Staff;
- Approved Carers see Section 8, Allegations Against Carers;
- Registered Child Minders see Section 9, Registered Child Minders.
Responses to private foster carers and kinship carers should be as for any other member of the public.
When relevant, these procedures must be applied in conjunction with those about organised or complex abuse (see Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure).
Residential social workers, teachers, foster carers, health workers in residential child care establishments, hospital staff and early years professionals are all prohibited by regulations and/or guidance relevant to respective settings from applying more than specified types and levels of restraint to those children for whom they are professionally responsible, e.g. detailed guidance for schools can be found in Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges (2015).
Volunteers and students on placement who work with children are also expected to maintain standards of conduct comparable to those prescribed for colleagues in paid employment.
Allegations or suspicions of abuse or neglect by staff, carers, approved adopters or volunteers e.g. physical punishment, use of restraint other than permitted by law or guidance issued by government or professional associations, as well as abuse and neglect should be considered under these procedures.
A 'position of trust' is one in which a teacher or other member of staff / volunteer is in a position of power or influence over a child, by virtue of the work or nature of activity being undertaken. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (ss.16-24) and/or Crown Prosecution Service Website sets out detailed definitions and a range of criminal offences associated with abuse of such a position.
Each LSCB member organisation should identify.
- A named senior officer with overall responsibility for:
- Ensuring the organisation operates procedures in accordance with LSCB child protection procedures;
- Resolving any inter-agency issues;
- Liaising with the LSCB on the subject.
- Managers to whom allegations / concerns should be reported (and deputy in her/his absence or if the subject of the allegation): this may be the employee's line manager or a senior manager as designated in the agencies procedures.
A local authority should appoint a Designated Officer(s) (formerly known as LADO) to:
- Be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases;
- Provide advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations;
- Liaise with the Police and other agencies;
- Monitor the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a thorough and fair process.
Police Forces should identify:
- A Senior Officer within the professional standards department to:
- Have strategic oversight of the arrangements;
- Liaise with the LSCB in the Force area;
- Ensure compliance.
Unit Managers to:
- Liaise with the Designated Officer;
- Take part in Strategy Meetings;
- Review the progress of cases in which there is a Police investigation;
- Share information on completion of the investigation or any prosecution.
All organisations which provide services for children, or provide staff or volunteers or students on placement to work with or care for children, should have and operate a procedure for handling allegations.
NOTE: Any other organisations contracted or commissioned by all agencies working in accordance with these HSCB procedures must be informed that they are expected to comply with all these requirements.
The employing or responsible agency must ensure that allegations are investigated and that any justifiable action is taken to ensure that the service is safe for children.
Any allegation of abuse must be dealt with fairly, quickly and consistently in accordance with the Referrals Procedure, in a way that provides effective protection for the child and supports the person who is the subject of the allegation. The Hertfordshire County Council Professional Referral Form to LADO can be accessed here.
It is not permissible for a member of staff to conduct (though their involvement may still be required in) an enquiry about suspicion or allegation of abuse with respect to a:
- Colleague, supervisor / supervisee or someone who has worked with her/him previously in any of these capacities.
If, following the conclusion of child protection processes, further enquiries are pursued for the purpose of disciplinary, regulatory or complaint investigation, they should be arranged in a way that avoids the repeated interviewing of children or other vulnerable witnesses.
Information about an allegation must be restricted to those who have a need to know in order to:
- Protect children;
- Facilitate enquiries;
- Avoid victimisation;
- Safeguard the rights of the person about whom the allegation has been made and others who might be affected;
- Manage disciplinary / complaints aspects.
A media strategy should be developed with no improper or inadvertent releases of information to the media, in accordance with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidance (now known as The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC)).
Police will not normally provide identifying information to the Press / media, unless and until a person is charged. In exceptional circumstances e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect, this confidentiality may be breached, but the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted first.
Parents / carers of a child(ren) involved should be:
- Informed of the allegation as soon as possible provided provision of information and advice at that stage does not impede the enquiry, disciplinary or investigative processes and may need to be told immediately if, e.g. a child requires medical treatment;
- Helped to understand the process involved and kept informed about the progress of the case;
- Told that there has been an enquiry or disciplinary process ( but no detail is to be provided in relation to any internal HR processes);
- When necessary, helped to understand the outcomes reached (but see above proviso in relation to the provision of advice).
There may be occasions when parents may choose to go directly to the Press. In these circumstances it is advisable to seek guidance from the media / communications team / press office and the Designated Officer.
Children's Services or Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT), as appropriate, should consider support for a child who may have suffered significant harm or been subject to a criminal prosecution.
The employer should keep the subject of the allegations informed of progress in the case and arrange to provide appropriate support (via Occupational Health or equivalent). If the person is suspended, (s)he should be kept informed of development in the workplace and if a member of a Trades Union or professional association, advised at the outset to contact that body link to Section 4 Process.
The Designated Officer should monitor the progress of cases either fortnightly or monthly depending on its complexity either via review Strategy Discussions or by liaising with Police and/or Children's Services colleagues, or employer as appropriate. The Designated Officer should keep records to ensure that every case is dealt with without undue delay.
If the Strategy Discussion / initial evaluation have decided that a Police investigation is required, the Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) should also set a target date for reviewing the progress of its investigation and consulting the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider whether to charge the individual / continue to investigate / close the investigation. Whenever possible that review should take place within four weeks of the decision to initiate a criminal investigation.
If the investigation is to continue, dates for subsequent reviews, ideally at fortnightly (at most monthly) intervals, should be set at the meeting.
It is in everyone's interest for cases to be dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a fair and thorough investigation. Timescales (which are not performance indicators) will depend on nature, seriousness, and complexity of allegation(s) though in general (based upon data about allegations against education staff):
- 80% of cases should be resolved within one month;
- 90% within three months;
- All but the most exceptional should be completed within twelve months (it is unlikely cases requiring a criminal prosecution or complex Police investigation can be completed in less than three months).
For the purpose of these procedures, working with children indicates a person whose work brings them into contact with children and includes:
- Individuals working in a voluntary capacity;
- Agency staff;
- Contract workers (consultants or the self-employed);
- Those working on or off site e.g. undertaking home visits;
- Temporary and permanent employees;
- Students on placement.
An allegation may require consideration from any of the following four inter-related perspectives:
- Child protection enquiries by Children's Services;
- Criminal investigation by the Police;
- Staff disciplinary procedures of employing agency;
- Complaint procedures of employing agency.
The following procedures deal with child protection enquiries and any associated criminal investigation and complaints of poor practice and disciplinary procedures where there could be a child protection element.
Any allegation of abuse must be reported to the worker's line manager or senior manager as described in internal agency procedures. Within a school this will be the Head Teacher or, in their absence, their deputy.
If the above manager is implicated in the allegation, the concern must be reported to a senior manager or the designated / named person for child protection in that agency. Within a school this will be the chair of governors.
The person to whom an allegation is first reported should take the matter seriously and keep an open mind. (S)he should not investigate or ask leading questions if seeking clarification, it is important not to make assumptions. Confidentiality should not be promised and the person should be advised that the concern will be shared on a 'need to know' basis only.
Actions to be taken include making a written record of the allegation using the informant's words - including time, date and place where the alleged incident took place, what was said and anyone else present. This record should be signed and dated and immediately passed on to the designated senior manager.
The recipient of an allegation must not unilaterally determine its validity, and failure to report it in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.
Any member of staff who believes that allegations or suspicions, which have been reported to the appropriate manager, are not being investigated properly has a responsibility to report it to a higher level in her/his agency or directly to the Designated Officer.
The Designated Officer must be informed, within one working day, of all allegations that come to the employer's attention and appear to meet the criteria in Section 1, Scope of Allegation so that (s)he can consult or refer to the Police Designated Unit Manager and Children's Services Team Manager as appropriate. See Local Contacts for details.
If, for any reason, there are difficulties with following the above procedure, the Whistle Blowing Procedure of the agency involved should be considered or a referral made directly to Children's Services and / or the Police.
The need for consultation must not delay a referral, which should be in accordance with Referral procedure.
Procedures need to be applied with common sense and judgment. Some allegations will be so serious as to require immediate referral to Children's Services and Police. Others may appear at first to be much less serious. It is important to ensure that even apparently less serious allegations are seen to be followed up and examined objectively. Consequently, the Designated Officer should be informed of all allegations coming to an employer's attention and satisfy the criteria in Section 1, Scope of Allegation within one working day. The Designated Officer should also be informed of any allegations that are made directly to Police (which should be communicated via the Police Designated Officer) or to Children's Services within one working day.
The Designated Officer and employer should consider whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence / information that establishes the allegation is false or unfounded. Section 4, Process.
If there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the Designated Officer should immediately refer to Children's Services, which should respond in accordance with Strategy Discussion and Meetings Procedure and Section 47 Enquiry Procedure
If 'significant harm' is not considered an issue, but a criminal offence might have been committed, the Designated Officer must immediately liaise with the Police Designated Unit Manager, conduct discussions and share information with any other agencies involved with the child to evaluate the allegation and decide on any other action required e.g. need for disciplinary action. Children's Services must be informed.
If clear from the outset, following initial consideration or from the conclusions of the Strategy Meeting, that neither Police nor Children's Services need to be involved, the Designated Officer should discuss the next steps with the employer.
This discussion must take account of any information provided by the Police and Children's Services. If a formal discussion is required an Evaluation Meeting should be called. These meetings can be chaired by the Designated Officer, be formally recorded and include the same identified professionals as for Strategy Meetings.
The Designated Officer must always first consult Police / Children's Services if either agency is likely to be involved or a Strategy Meeting is needed in order to agree what information can be disclosed. The employer should, as soon as possible, following briefing from the Designated Officer inform the subject of the allegation(s).
Human Relations (HR) should be informed of any potential disciplinary investigation and the subject of the allegations should be informed by the employer, on the advice of HR:
- Advised at the outset to contact her/his Union or professional association;
- Treated fairly and honestly and helped to understand the concerns expressed, processes involved and possible outcomes;
- Kept informed of the progress of the case and of the investigation;
- Clearly informed of the outcome of any investigation and the implications for disciplinary or related processes;
- Provided with appropriate support (via occupational health or employee welfare arrangements where these exist);
- (If suspended) kept informed about workplace developments.
Suspension should not be automatic, but must be considered with the advice of HR representatives (normally at the first Strategy Meeting) if:
- There is cause to suspect a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer significant harm; or
- The allegation warrants investigation by the Police; or
- The allegation is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal.
If an urgent consideration of the option of suspension is required prior to that discussion, the Designated Officer should canvass the views of Police and Children's Services on suspension and inform the employer.
A decision to suspend or temporarily re-deploy staff rests exclusively with the employing agency (Head Teacher / Chair of Governors in the case of a school), which should consider:
- The safety of the child(ren);
- Any impact on the enquiry;
- If a suspended person is to return to work, appropriate help / support e.g. phased return and/or provision of a mentor and how to manage contact with any child(ren) who made the allegation.
For details relating to disciplinary procedures see section 4.10, Action following Section 47 Enquiry and / or criminal investigation.
All allegations should be followed up regardless of whether the person involved resigns her/his post, responsibilities or a position of trust, even if the person refuses to co-operate with the process.
'Compromise agreements', when a person agrees to resign without any disciplinary action and agreed future reference, must not be used in these cases.
The social worker or Police officer must always inform her/his line manager of any allegations received.
The receiving agency Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) or Children's Services must in turn alert the other agency (Children's Services / Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT)).
In cases where the Designated Officer has not been involved in the referral, (s)he must be informed immediately of the concerns / allegations and always within one working day.
Arrangements for Strategy Discussions should be in accordance with Strategy Discussion and Meetings Procedure and:
- Should be chaired by the relevant senior manager;
- Will set dates for meetings to plan and monitor the enquiry;
- Should be held within two working days of receipt of the allegation.
If the complex abuse procedures are applicable ( see Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure) they take priority over those detailed below.
A Strategy Meeting should be arranged within two working days of the receipt of the allegation or concern with a core membership consisting of:
- The Deputy Head of Head of Child Protection as chair. In exceptional circumstances this can be delegated to a Principal Officer;
- Designated Officer;
- Relevant social worker and her/his manager;
- Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT);
- Senior member of the organisation of the worker concerned other than an immediate line manager of the subject of enquiries (in the case of an educational establishment, the representative will ordinarily be the Head Teacher / Principal - or if (s)he is the subject of concern - the Chair of Governors instead).
The following should be invited as appropriate:
- Those responsible for regulation and inspection of the unit e.g. CQC or Ofsted, if applicable
- HR representatives;
- Consultant paediatrician if sexual abuse alleged;
- Lead / named / designated professional for child protection for the agency in question;
- A representative of the other local authority if the child is placed, or alleged perpetrator is resident there;
- Complaints officer if the concern has arisen from a complaint, or a complaint investigation is in progress;
- A representative of the legal department.
Where the representative of an agency is implicated through an accusation of collusion or failure to respond to previous complaints, it may be inappropriate for her/him to attend the Strategy Meeting. The chair of the meeting will have the discretion about the decision.
The Strategy Meeting (preferably with a dedicated minute taker) must:
- Review any previous allegations made against the worker and the establishment;
- Decide whether there should be a Section 47 Enquiry, an evaluation meeting and/or an internal disciplinary investigation;
- Consider the implications arising from the Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) decision whether or not to investigate an allegation of crime;
- Consider, if a Section 47 Enquiry is appropriate, whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable;
- Scope and plan the Section 47 Enquiry;
- Consider the sequence of any investigation so that it avoids duplication and ensures that evidence is obtained to the necessary standard of proof;
- Set a date for a further Strategy Meeting (preferably within one month of the referral being received with a view to concluding the enquiry as soon as possible);
- Allocate tasks;
- Set time-scales;
- Consider who will need to receive minutes of the meeting if they are not present e.g. legal and HR representatives.
The meeting must also:
- Ensure any emergency action needed to protect a child is taken;
- Ensure all children who may be affected directly or indirectly are identified, considered and provided with support, including ex-residents if appropriate;
- Consider (where relevant) which other local authorities should be informed;
- Ensure the investigation is sufficiently independent;
- Make arrangements to ensure the safety of children known to the worker outside of the workplace;
- Make arrangements to inform the child's parents, and consider how to involve them in the investigation and provide support and information during enquiries;
- Consider the safety of children after the enquiry;
- Recommend to employing agency or responsible authority any action required to protect the interests of children whilst enquiries are conducted, including staff transfer, suspension or removal (such action is the responsibility of the employing / responsible agency and is to be taken in the light of details of the individual case and in accordance with HR procedures agreed with trades union or work place representatives);
- Agree which manager within each agency will be responsible for co-ordinating the investigation;
- Consider the need to interview other members of staff and ex-members of staff;
- Consider the need for individual support for any workers, including those who are the subject of allegations e.g. local authority occupational health or employee welfare arrangements;
- Consider linkage and impact on industrial relations, personnel issues, registration and complaints issues;
- Consider use of any record of video interviews for disciplinary purposes;
- Consider the future of the establishment where it is considered that abuse has pervaded the whole staffing group with the involvement or collusion of managers;
- Consider possible claims for compensation and alert insurers;
- Consider notifying the chief executive / senior officer of the employing agency;
- Identify the information to be shared with the alleged abuser and who should undertake this;
- Agree on management of any anticipated media interest and consider initiating a media strategy;
- Completion of a 'Need to Know' if appropriate.
Notes of the Strategy Meeting should be approved by the chair and circulated to all participants within five working days.
The enquiry should take into account any signs or patterns, which could suggest the abuse may be more widespread than it appears and involves other alleged perpetrators or institutions (see procedures for organised & complex abuse in Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure.
During the course of the enquiries, the chair of the Strategy Meeting and the Designated Officer must be provided with regular progress reports as agreed at the initial Strategy Meeting.
In the initial consideration of a case, the agencies concerned, including the employer, should share all information they have about the subject of the allegation and about the alleged victim.
Whenever possible, Police and Children's Services 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. This should be done as the investigation proceeds rather than at its conclusion so as to enable Police / CPS to share information those agencies consider may be relevant without delay when the investigation or any court case is over. If consent is denied, Police will have to request it formally and consult the Police legal team.
Children's Services should adopt a similar procedure when making enquiries to determine whether the child(ren) named in the allegations is in need of protection or support services, so that any information obtained in the course of those enquiries and relevant to a disciplinary case, can be passed to employers without delay.
If the person is convicted, the Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) should promptly inform the Designated Officer who will inform the employer immediately so that appropriate action can be taken.
In addition to the issues addressed at the initial Strategy Meeting, review meetings must also address:
- Progress and results of enquiries;
- Therapeutic and support needs of child(ren);
- Appropriate applications for criminal injuries compensation;
- Support needs of all appropriate staff;
- Future needs of the establishment.
A final Strategy Meeting should be held at the end of enquiries to plan, e.g.:
- Relevant information from Children's Services / Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) that should be provided to the Designated Officer and the employer for disciplinary purposes;
- In the case of unsubstantiated allegations, what information will be recorded by Police for purposes of future DBS checks;
- Whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service is required, and the form and content of a referral;
- If the person is subject to registration or regulation by a professional body or regulator, for example by the Health and Care Professionals Council, General Medical Council, OFSTED etc. the Designated Officer should advise on whether a referral to that body is appropriate;
- Identification of any improvements to enquiry process followed.
The Police or CPS should inform the employer and Designated Officer straightaway when:
- A criminal investigation and any subsequent trial is complete;
- It is decided to close an investigation without charge; or
- It is decided not to prosecute after the person has been charged.
The information provided by the Police and/or Children's Services should inform a consequent discussion between the Designated Officer and employer of next steps which may include:
- No further action;
- Further investigation to decide how to proceed (usually undertaken by the employer, though (s)he may need to commission an independent investigation, dependent on resources and the nature and complexity of the allegation);
- Summary dismissal in compliance with disciplinary procedures;
- Decision not to use the person's services in the future;
- Consideration of a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service ( DBS).
The discussion should take into account the different standard of proof in disciplinary (balance of probabilities) and criminal proceedings (beyond all reasonable doubt).
If formal disciplinary action is not required, appropriate action should be instituted within three working days.
If a disciplinary hearing is required and can be held without further investigation, the hearing should be held within fifteen working days.
If further investigation is required to inform consideration of disciplinary action the employer should discuss with the Designated Officer, who is best positioned to undertake it (in some settings and circumstances, it may be appropriate for the disciplinary investigation to be conducted by a person independent of the employer or person's line management to ensure objectivity. In any case, the investigating officer should aim to provide a report within ten working days.
On receipt of the above report, the employer should decide within two working days whether a disciplinary hearing is needed, and if so it should be held within fifteen working days.
In any case in which Children's Services has undertaken enquiries to determine whether child(ren) are in need of protection, the employer should take account of any relevant information obtained in the course of these enquiries when considering disciplinary action.
The Designated Officer should continue to liaise with the employer to monitor progress and advise / support when required / requested.
If the allegation is substantiated and on conclusion of the case, the employer dismisses the person, ceases to use the person's services, or the person ceases to provide her/his services, the employer should consult the Designated Officer about whether a referral to the is required, or advisable, and the form and content of such a referral. If the allegation is substantiated and on conclusion of the case, the employer dismisses the person, ceases to use the person's services, or the person ceases to provide her/his services, the employer should consult the Designated Officer about whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service is required and the form and content of such a referral. Referrals must be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (see Home Office website) when an employer or organisation believes a person has caused harm or poses a future risk of harm to children and young people.
The Designated Officer should also advise whether it is appropriate to make a referral to a professional body or regulatory body e.g. the Health and Care Professions Council, General Medical Council, National College for Teaching and Leadership, Ofsted etc.
If a referral is appropriate the report should be made within one month.
When, following initial enquiries, it is concluded there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the allegation is substantiated, the chair of the Strategy Meeting will ensure relevant information is passed to the employing agency. The relevant senior manager of that agency will consider what further action, if any, should be taken in consultation with the Designated Officer.
The member of staff concerned must be notified in writing of the outcome and the child and her/his parents should also be notified of this decision.
Consideration must be given to:
- Any support the staff member may need, particularly if returning to work following suspension e.g. phased return, mentor;
- The provision of support or counselling for the child, and if appropriate her/his parents, taking full account of a child's needs if a seemingly false or malicious allegation has been made;
- How to manage any future contact between the member of staff and the child(ren) who made the allegation.
If an allegation is determined to be unfounded, the Designated Officer should consider:
- Referring the matter to Children's Services to determine if the child is in need of services, or may have been abused by someone else;
- Asking Police to consider what action may be appropriate in the rare event an allegation was deliberately invented or malicious.
Any disciplinary process must be clearly separated from child protection enquiries. Child protection enquiries take priority over any disciplinary investigations, and will determine whether the investigations can be carried out concurrently.
The fact that there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police investigation or prosecution should not prevent any action being taken that is necessary to safeguard a child's welfare.
It may be the allegation was prompted by inappropriate behaviour, not considered sufficiently harmful under the child protection procedures, but may still need to be considered under the disciplinary procedures.
Following notification that the child protection enquiry and or criminal investigation has been concluded, staff conducting any disciplinary proceeding should have all relevant information from Children's Services and the Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) made available to them.
All possible steps must be taken to avoid repeat interviewing of a child.
All allegations must be recorded clearly and accurately. Where a child has made an allegation, a copy of the statement / record must be kept on the section of her/his file not open to disclosure, together with a record of the outcome of any investigation. For related criminal or civil proceedings, records may be subject to disclosure.
A clear and comprehensive record must be maintained (by the employing agency) on the worker's confidential HR file (and a copy provided to the member of staff concerned) of:
- Any allegations made;
- How the allegation was followed up and resolved;
- Any action taken and decisions reached.
This record will:
- Enable accurate information to be provided in response to future requests for references;
- Provide clarification in cases where a future DBS disclosure reveals information of an allegation that did not result in a criminal conviction;
- Prevent unnecessary re-investigation if an allegation re-surfaces in the future.
The record should be retained, including for people who leave the organisation, at least until the individual concerned has reached normal retirement age, or for a period of ten years from the date of the allegation (if longer).
If an allegation is substantiated, the employer should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice to help prevent similar events in the future.
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 Designated Officer, police and children’s social care services should agree the following:
- Who needs to know and, importantly, exactly what information can be shared;
- How to manage speculation, leaks and gossip;
- What, if any information can be reasonably given to the wider community to reduce speculation; and
- How to manage press interest if and when it should arise.
Further detailed guidance for schools is provided in: Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges (2015).
If an allegation is made about any staff member employed by Children's Services, the Children's Service Manager must inform the Head of Children's Services, who must ensure that an appropriately senior manager directs the enquiry and chairs the Strategy Meetings.
Achieving an appropriate degree of independent scrutiny over process and an independent element in the investigation may involve:
- Appointment of external independent investigator(s) to supplement or replace the team and/or to oversee the process;
- Use of staff within the organisation who are sufficiently separate from the line management of those against whom the allegation is made;
- A reciprocal arrangement with another local authority.
Allegations Against Agency Staff
Allegations against agency staff should also be dealt with by following the procedures in this module. The employing agency must (following receipt of legal advice with respect to confidentiality and preservation of integrity of the investigation), be informed of the allegation and the outcome of the enquiry.
Allegations Against Staff Working in Regulated Environments
Ofsted must be notified of any action taken under the child protection procedures in any residential and other regulated establishments.
Allegations against volunteers should be dealt with in a manner that is consistent with the principles and procedures contained in this Chapter and related procedures in this manual.
The organisation using the volunteer should (following receipt of legal advice with respect to confidentiality and preservation of integrity of the investigation) be informed of the allegation by the Designated Officer. The organisation will be kept informed about the Enquiry and the outcome of the enquiry as appropriate by the Designated Officer. A representative of the organisation may be invited to participate in the Enquiry and Strategy Discussions if appropriate in the interest of the child and to progress the investigation as advised by the Designated Officer and Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT).
For the purposes of this procedure, the term 'carer' refers to formally approved foster carers, short break carers and supported lodgings carers who may provide placement(s) directly for the local authority or for an independent organisation.
This procedure also covers approved adopters, prior to the making of the final adoption order for children and young people not yet adopted.
From the point at which a child or young person is formally adopted, any allegations made against the adopter should be managed under Child Protection Procedures instead of the LADO process.
Any allegation of abuse must be dealt with fairly, quickly and consistently, in a way that provides effective protection for the child and supports the person who is the subject of the allegation.
Fostering / adoption staff should be informed and involved in Strategy Discussions to provide information and consider the implications for past, current and future placements, and requirements of panel procedures.
An allegation may require consideration from four inter-related perspectives: child protection, criminal investigation, fostering or adoption panel procedures and the complaints procedure. This manual primarily addresses the child protection perspective.
Recognition of concerns or an allegation may arise from a number of sources e.g. a report from a child or an adult within a placement, a complaint or information arising from a complaint investigation.
If a member of staff or other involved professional is suspicious or has received allegations of abuse about a carer, or by a person living within a placement, (s)he must report this to her/his line manager.
The recipient of an allegation should not attempt to determine its validity and failure to report it in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.
If the allegation or child protection concern relates to a placement in another geographical authority, the referral must be made to that authority and dealt with under its local procedures by liaison with the Designated Officers.
The social worker receiving the referral must inform the manager identified in their procedures.
If the supervising social worker receives the allegation, her/his Team Manager must be informed and the referral passed to the team holding case responsibility for the child.
The relevant Team Manager for the child and fostering / adoption / family placement Team Manager (as appropriate) may clarify whether the allegation / complaint / concern satisfies the criteria in Section 1, Scope of Allegations, the Designated Officer, the service and safeguarding managers must be informed.
If the concern does not satisfy the criteria in Section 1 or after consultation with the Designated officer, it is agreed it is not a child protection issue (there may be occasions where children are harmed in the course of managing a child's challenging behaviour), the case may be appropriately responded to through internal management structures. The Designated Officer may discuss how this is best accomplished with the service provider.
If there are disagreements about whether the concern is one of child protection, this should be resolved through the Designated Officer, the managers and the safeguarding manager. Where there is any doubt child protection procedures should be initiated in the first instance.
The decision and the reasons for it must be clearly recorded on both the child and the carer's files.
If the matter is to be considered under the child protection process Children's Services, in consultation with the Designated Officer, must discuss the case with the Police at the first opportunity and inform them if a criminal offence may have been committed against a child.
Ofsted must be notified of any allegation against a registerable carer.
Other local authorities will need to be alerted e.g. if they have a child placed with the carer.
The manager of the team responsible for the enquiry (see below) should make an immediate assessment of the level of risk to the child(ren) in placement (and any need to move them prior to the strategy meeting) in consultation with the investigating social worker, supervising social worker and child(ren)'s social worker(s) and manager(s).
The close inter-relationship between carers and Children's Services and the need to ensure the investigating social worker's independence should be taken into consideration in the allocation and management of any enquiries / investigation.
The person undertaking the enquiries must not be the child's social worker, or a worker managed by the person with line responsibility for the child(ren).
It is not permissible for a member of staff to conduct an enquiry about a suspicion or allegation of abuse with respect to a relative, friend, colleague or someone who has worked with her/him previously.
A Strategy Discussion, in the form of a meeting, must be held within 2 working days. If emergency action is required immediately, the Strategy Meeting should be convened as soon as possible. See also Strategy Discussion and Meetings Procedure.
The meeting will be chaired by a Designated Officer who should be independent of management responsibility for the child or carer; the following should be invited:
- Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) (all first Strategy Meetings);
- Child's social worker and manager;
- Supervising social worker (fostering, short breaks, adoption) and manager;
- Social workers for any other children in placement;
- The employer's HR representative if the foster carer is an employee of the fostering service provider;
- Child protection advisor;
- Ofsted representative;
- Relevant health and education representatives;
- LA Insurers, if relevant.
The Strategy Meeting must consider and record whether any further action is required with respect to:
- Child Protection;
- Criminal Investigation;
- Fostering or adoption panel procedures;
- Complaint procedures.
In addition to planning enquiries in accordance with standard Strategy Discussion procedures the meeting should consider the following issues:
- The significance of any other previous allegations made against the carers or their family or other members of their household;
- Whether the child(ren) remain in placement (removal of child(ren) should not be an automatic course of action - the decision making should be in the context of the best interests of the child and the information available);
- Other children currently living in the carer's household, and those previously placed with the carers (including the need for Strategy Discussions / meetings with regard to any of these children) and what information to be given;
- Any other children the carer may have contact with in other roles e.g. as a child minder or youth worker;
- Any proposed new placements with the carer - should generally be delayed pending the outcome of the enquiry;
- The status of the carers, as co-workers and individuals who have a right to be heard;
- Who will inform the carers of the allegation and when;
- The support to be provided to the child(ren) in the placement, including the carer's children e.g. use of advocates;
- Support to be provided for carers from supervising social worker, fostering / adoption / family placement team and other sources;
- How, and when the parents will be informed of the allegations;
- Whether to initiate complex abuse procedures.
The Section 47 Enquiry and any Police investigation will take place in accordance with the Section 47 Enquiry Procedure.
Enquires must be conducted in the strictest confidence so that information can be given freely without fear of victimisation, and in a way that protects the rights of carers and their families.
Parents of relevant children should be given information about the concerns, advised on the process and outcomes reached. Provision of information and advice must not impede the proper exercise of the enquiry, disciplinary and investigative processes whilst protecting the rights of carers and their families.
No further placements of any kind should be made with the foster carers until the enquiry has been concluded unless the Strategy Meeting decides otherwise.
The fostering / adoption / family placement service manager should determine the nature of carer(s)' payments during the enquiry.
Support for carers during the enquiry.
The supportive role of the fostering / adoption / family placement team should be considered at the Strategy Discussion, which must ensure all involved understand the focus for the supervising social worker is the child and that (s)he will be unable to provide unconditional support to the carer.
When the carer is informed of the allegation the supervising social worker should explain her/his role and ensure the carer is aware of other sources of support, e.g. one or more of the following:
- A friend;
- Local Foster Care Association; or
- The Fostering Network.
Carers who are members of the Fostering Network have access to legal advice (see the Fostering Handbook for details). Those who are not members of the Fostering Network should be informed that they can seek legal advice and representation.
Carers must be informed that, if the allegations culminate in court proceedings, witnesses including support workers or friends may be required to give evidence.
During the course of the investigation carers have the right to:
- Details concerning the nature of allegations (timing will be dependant upon Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) and Children's Services investigation);
- Written contact details for the relevant managers;
- A written copy of the procedures being followed;
- A written statement about existing placements;
- A written statement about future placements;
- A written statement about financial arrangements;
- Make a written statement to the fostering team;
- An indication of the time scale for the investigation;
- Details of independent support and how this may be acquired;
- Receive details in writing of all decisions made and actions taken.
A Strategy Discussion must be held at the conclusion of an enquiry to ensure all information is shared to:
- Ensure all actions agreed in previous strategy meetings have been completed;
- Agree the conclusions of the enquiry:
- Alleged abuse has taken place (papers may or may not be forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service);
- Alleged abuse not proven but concern may remain;
- Standards of care issues that need to be addressed; or
- Allegation of abuse was not founded.
- Address whether looked after child(ren) remain in or return to placement;
- Address how best (if applicable) to protect any children in the home including whether an initial Child Protection Conference is to be convened;
- Consider counselling / therapeutic needs for those affected.
The concluding Strategy Discussion record / decisions arising must be put in writing and placed on both the child's and carers' files.
The Designated Officer must ensure that within two weeks of the concluding Strategy Discussion, a letter is sent to all parties including parents and carers, outlining conclusions made and actions to be taken. A copy should be placed on the carer's file.
The fostering / adoption / family placement team must review the status of the carers within twenty eight days of the conclusion of the enquiry and present a review report to the fostering / adoption panel.
The report will address:
- Findings of the enquiry, including if a report has been forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service;
- What, if any concerns remain;
- The views and experience of the carer;
- Views of the family placement / supervising social worker;
- Any implications for the safer caring agreement;
- Training issues;
- Any other issues relevant to an annual review;
- Other information relevant to the child in placement.
This process provides the carer with the opportunity to reflect on their experience and consider what action they might wish to consider. They must be informed of the panel date and information on the complaints and access to files procedures.
Following the review, the responsible manager must confirm in writing to the carer the recommendation that will be made to the panel along with a copy of the review report. The possible recommendations are:
- Immediate re-instatement of the carer, if approval and use had been suspended;
- Re-assessment of the carer in relation to the identified concerns;
- The carer remaining on hold pending the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service;
- The carer choosing to resign;
- The concerns are sufficiently serious to warrant termination of approval regardless of whether there is a Crown Prosecution Service decision to prosecute.
The panel must consider the following information prior to drawing its conclusions:
- The review report and recommendation by the supervising social worker;
- Any written submission by the carer(s);
- Minutes from any relevant child protection conference;
- A summary of or a redacted version of the strategy minutes if requested by the supervising social worker and agreed with the Designated Officer.
Both the supervising social worker and her/his manager must attend the panel meeting.
The panel chair should without delay, forward the panel's recommendations to the 'agency decision maker'. The decision maker, informed by the panel's conclusions, must then make her/his determination and progress it in accordance with the respective requirements of:
- For foster carers, the Fostering Services Regulations 2011;
- For approved adopters, the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2011.
A copy of the letter must be sent to the service manager (fostering / adoption / family placement) for inclusion on the carer's file.
The Team Manager responsible for the child must consider whether any additional / individual support should be offered to the child and her/his family at the end of the Section 47 Enquiry.
The fostering / adoption / family placement Team Manager must consider whether any additional / individual support should be offered to the carer and her/his family at the end of the Section 47 Enquiry.
Following conclusion and feedback of the results of the enquiry and any investigation the supervising social worker should offer the carers the opportunity to discuss the process, including its impact on the family and future implications for provision of care.
Whatever the final outcome, carers should be offered continued advice, support and help from the fostering / adoption / family placement team, using a written agreement to define the period of time, level and quality of support.
The role of the supervising social worker should be to:
- Be informed of the allegation from the outset;
- Attend the Strategy Discussions;
- Link with investigating social workers about when to make contact with the carer(s);
- Contact the carer as determined at the Strategy Discussion;
- Ensure the carer receives appropriate information and advice;
- Attend any follow up interview with the carer and her/his family, unless this is judged inappropriate.
If following the conclusion of protection processes, further enquires are pursued for the purposes of the fostering panel, Ofsted or a complaint investigation, they should be arranged in a way that avoids the repeated interviewing of children and other vulnerable witnesses.
Subject to legal constraints the fostering manager should consult with the Designated Officer to obtain any evidence gathered in the course of an enquiry about allegations against foster carers so that it can be made available to staff responsible for complaints, fostering panel and Ofsted.
Consideration must be given by the case responsible team / service manager and the Strategy Meeting chair about the possibility that the circumstances may meet the criteria for a Serious Case Review (see Learning and Improvement Framework Procedure). The Head of Child Protection CS and the HSCB Business Manager must be consulted and informed of any potential cases.
The Designated Officer should advise whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service and relevant regulatory body.
Any instigation and outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry involving a child placed with foster carers must be notified to Ofsted.
The supervising social worker should, after the panel has drawn its conclusions and the agency decision maker has communicated her/his qualifying determination to the carer(s), complete a report, including the following information:
- Name of foster carer(s);
- D.O.B and ethnicity of foster carer(s);
- Address of foster carer(s);
- Name, D.O.B and ethnicity of child(ren) concerned;
- Nature of child protection enquiry, including date of allegation;
- Panel's conclusions and recommendations i.e. immediate reinstatement of the carer / re-assessment of the carer in relation to the concerns that have been identified / the carer(s) remaining on hold depending on the decision of the CPS / carer(s) choosing to withdraw / concerns sufficiently serious to warrant termination of approval regardless of whether there is a CPS decision to prosecute;
- Date of outcomes.
This report should be countersigned by the registered manager for the adoption / fostering service and copies sent within 7 working days of receipt of the agency decision maker's decision to:
- Service manager for looked after children;
- The carer;
- Designated Officer.
A copy of the report must be placed in key information at the front of the carer's file.
Whenever an allegation is made against a registered childminder, the following procedures must be followed in addition to those outlined in Strategy Discussion and Meetings Procedure and Section 47 Enquiry Procedure.
The Designated Officer must be informed of the allegation within one working day and invited to the Strategy Discussion.
Customer Service Centre Children's Services must inform Ofsted's Early Years inspectors of any allegations (relating to her/his own, minded or other children) against a registered childminder,
A member of Ofsted staff should be invited to the Strategy Discussion. Her/his role will be to consider the legal implications of continued registration or cancellation.
Planning must include consideration of all children using the childminder, as well as the implications for any children that have used the facility in the past and the childminder's own children.
Timing, method and content of information to be shared with parents of other children should be discussed and agreed at the Strategy Discussion.
Ofsted should also be notified by the Designated Officer of the outcome and decisions made following any investigation if they have not participated in the process.