1.10 Allegations of Abuse made Against a Person who Works with, or is in Contact with Children
DfE statutory guidance 'Dealing with Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff'
- Principles of Good Practice in Working with Children
- Principles of Good Practice in Considering Suspicions of Abuse
- Whistle Blowing
- Organised and Complex and Historical Abuse
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Disciplinary Investigation and Employment Issues
- Initial Response to an Allegation or Concern
- Initial Action by Person Receiving or Identifying an Allegation or Concern
- Initial Action by the Designated Senior Managers
- Initial Consideration by the Designated Senior Manager and the Local Authority
- Restrictions on Identifying Teachers Against Whom Allegations of Criminal Misconduct Have Been Made
- Strategy Discussion/Meeting
- Allegations against Staff in their Personal Lives
- Disciplinary Process
- Record Keeping
- Monitoring Progress
- Unsubstantiated and False Allegations
- Referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service
- Learning Lessons
- Procedures in Specific Organisations
- Required Response within Educational Establishments
- Allegations against Local Authority Staff
- Support and Advice for Carers
- Conclusion of Enquiries
- Allegations Against Prospective Adopters
- Allegations Against Providers of Day Care
- Allegations Against Health Services Staff
- Allegations Against Agency Staff
- Allegations Against Volunteers
- Allegations Against Staff Employed in other Local Authorities
This procedure concerns allegations against people who work with or care for children in a paid or unpaid capacity and about whom allegations of Child Abuse are made.
Children can be subjected to abuse by those who work with them in any and every setting. All allegations of abuse or maltreatment of children by a professional, staff member, foster carer, teaching staff, volunteer or any other person in contact with children must be taken seriously and treated in accordance with consistent procedures.
All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm, including those receiving services from statutory or other agencies.
These procedures are designed to ensure that if allegations of abuse are made, or there is any suspicion, appropriate enquiries are made such that children are protected and public confidence in services maintained.
The scope of the procedures apply to all cases where suspicion or allegation arises in connection with:
- The individual's own work;
- His or her own children;
- Other children living outside the family.
And whether the concern is current or historical.
All organisations which provide services for children (including day care, independent schools, leisure, churches and voluntary services) should have a procedure for handling allegations which is consistent with Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013 and the CSCB inter-agency procedures.
All allegations or suspicions of abuse by a professional, staff member, foster carer or volunteer from LSCB member agencies should be taken seriously and treated in accordance with these procedures.
These procedures should be followed in all cases in which there is an allegation or suspicion that a person working with children 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 which indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children.
And whether the concern is current or historical. Where relevant the procedures must be applied in conjunction with those about organised and complex abuse, see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure.
This should include indications that the person has employed behaviour, which could constitute grooming.
If concerns arise about the persons behaviour in regard to his/her own children, the police and/or social care should consider informing the person's employer in order to assess whether there may be implications for children with whom the person has contact at work.
Children who are Looked After by the local authority, or who are receiving health, education or recreational services have a right to receive the highest possible standards of care and to be protected from abuse while in the care of adults outside the family.
Employing agencies and others who provide services to children have an active duty to have in place basic safeguards including:
- Rigorous recruitment and selection procedures, which create a high threshold of entry to deter and detect abusers; and include awareness training for, decision makers;
- Guidelines for staff behaviour which promote safe care and promote the welfare of children;
- Clear procedures and support systems for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff and carers;
- Clear internal processes for responding to suspicion or allegations of abuse which support these agreed inter-agency procedures;
- Clear information on where staff and managers can seek advice.
Additionally, all agencies must have mechanisms to identify patterns of complaints or concerns raised about a staff member which taken together raise suspicion of significant harm and therefore warrant referral. Minor complaints or concerns must be considered with this in mind.
All staff should be aware that all children can be vulnerable when cared for outside their own home, particularly when they are living away from home. Those factors which increase vulnerability to abuse within their own family, such as being very young, disabled or in an isolated, closed family also apply when cared for by others.
All staff who work with children have a personal responsibility to report suspicions or allegations of abuse. This also applies when the suspicion is raised against a colleague.
Everyone involved with suspicions or allegations of abuse by staff should maintain an open and enquiring mind.
All allegations will be examined objectively by staff who are independent of the service, organisation or institution concerned.
If the suspicion or allegation is about physical contact the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should take account of the fact that staff in certain settings have to manage difficult behaviour.
In particular Section 550A of the Education Act 1996 sets out when teachers and other school staff may use reasonable force to manage disruptive behaviour. Residential care staff employed by the Children, Learning and Young People's Directorate are given similar guidance. Wherever possible, staff who operate in such settings should receive suitable training about when physical intervention should be employed, and about the use of appropriate restraint techniques.
The risk of harm posed by the person under investigation will be carefully evaluated and managed in respect of the child(ren) involved and any other children in the individuals home, work or community life.
All staff should be made aware of the organisations 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.
Allegations of historical abuse, usually of an organised and complex or multiple nature where adults have reported abuse that they experienced when children, while living away from home in whatever setting should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns, in terms of prompt referral to the Safeguarding Children Service (in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.
Investigators should be alert to signs of organised and complex or widespread abuse and/or the involvement of other perpetrators or institutions. They should consider whether the matter should be dealt in accordance with complex abuse procedures which, if applicable, will take priority. See Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure.
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.
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. Any breach of confidentiality may lead to disciplinary action.
Information about criminal investigations will not usually be made public until a person is charged with a criminal offence, 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.
The organisation together with Safeguarding Children Service and/or 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.
As soon as possible after an allegation has been received, the accused member of staff 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 organisations occupational health or employee welfare arrangements.
Named Senior Officers
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010, Appendix 5 - Procedures for Managing Allegations Against People who Work with Children (now archived) required that LSCB members and other agencies, employers and schools appoint a Named Senior Officer within the organisation to whom allegations or concerns should be reported. This person will:
- Ensure that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with these procedures;
- Ensure that all staff know who they are and how to bring concerns to their attention;
- Ensure there is an alternative manager in case of absence or in case the concern relates to the named senior officer;
- Liaise with the Local Authority Designated Officer as necessary in relation to individual cases;
- Resolve any inter-agency issues;
- Liaise with the LSCB on the matter.
Local Authority Designated Officers
The Local Authority will have designated officer(s) to:
- Be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases;
- Provide advice and guidance to schools, employers and voluntary organisations in regard to allegations and concerns, including when and whether to share information about the allegation with the staff member concerned. This will involve discussion with social care and police where there are child protection and/or criminal concerns;
- 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;
- Where appropriate, challenge schools and employers if their decisions do not appear to ensure the protection of children.
The Detective Inspector of the Child Abuse Investigation Unit will:
- Have strategic oversight of the local police arrangements for managing allegations against staff and volunteers;
- Liaise with LSCB on the issue;
- Ensure compliance with these procedures;
- Designate a detective sergeant/s:
- To liaise with the Local Authority Designated Officer and take part in Strategy Discussion/Meetings;
- Review the progress of cases in which there is a police investigation;
- Share information as appropriate, on completion of an investigation or related prosecution.
Where a serious allegation has been made employers should consider whether the member of staff should be suspended from duty. Suspension is a neutral act and it should not be automatic or considered as a default option. Advice should be sought from HR advisers and/or employment lawyers who may assist with finding alternative arrangements to suspension. It should be considered in any case where:
- 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 constitute grounds for gross misconduct and /or dismissal.
Where a suspension is deemed appropriate, the reasons and justification should be recorded and the individual notified of the reasons. (See 'Dealing with Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff' ) for detailed provisions relating to suspension of staff in educational establishments.)
The possible risks to children should be evaluated and managed in respect of the child/ren involved and any other children in the accused member of staff's home, work or community life.
If a Strategy Discussion/Meeting is to be held or if social care or police are to make enquiries, the Local Authority Designated Officer should canvass their views on suspension and inform the employer.
However, only the employer has the power to suspend an accused employee and they cannot be required to do so by a local authority, police or other agency.
If suspension is deemed appropriate, the reasons and justification should be recorded and the individual notified of the reasons.
Where, on conclusion of a case, it is decided that a person who has been suspended can return to work this process should be managed. 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 staffs contact with the child concerned, if still in the work place.
Resignations and ‘Compromise Agreements’
Every effort should be made to reach a conclusion about the risk to children and to ensure children are safeguarded in all cases even if:
- The individual refuses to cooperate, having been given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations;
- It may not be possible to apply any disciplinary sanctions if a person's period of notice expires before the process is complete but it is important to reach and record a conclusion wherever possible.
‘Compromise agreements’ must not be used i.e. where a member of staff agrees to resign provided that disciplinary action is not taken and that a future reference is agreed.
Consideration should be given in these circumstances as to whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service is warranted.
Initial Considerations and Persons to be Notified
As soon as practicable (i.e. after having consulted promptly with relevant professionals, as appropriate, so as not to jeopardise any investigation) after an allegation is made, the employer should inform the parent(s) or carer(s) of the child/ren involved. Advice must be sought from the Local Authority Designated Officer 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.
Parents/carers of involved children (and children where appropriate), should be given information about the concerns and helped to understand the processes involved and about the outcomes reached. The aim will be to advise them as soon as possible. In the case of older young people, especially those looked after by the local authority, attention should be paid to their wishes as regards information to be provided to their parents, carers or other family members.
The employer should as soon as possible, inform the accused person about the nature of the allegation, how enquiries will be conducted and the possible outcomes e.g. disciplinary action, and dismissal or referral to the barring lists or regulatory body.
Advice should first be sought from the Local Authority Designated Officer as police and/or social care may want to impose restrictions on the information that can be provided. The employer should also seek advice from their HR adviser.
The timing and manner of doing so must not hinder the investigation and any disciplinary process.
The member of staff should:
- Be treated fairly and honestly and helped to understand the concerns expressed and processes involved;
- Be kept informed of the progress and outcome of any investigation and the implications for any disciplinary or related process;
- If suspended, be kept up to date about events in the work place;
- If the person is a member of a trade union or professional association s/he should be advised to contact that organisation at the outset.
Ofsted should be informed of any allegation or concern made against a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 or against a registered childminder. They should also be invited to take part in any subsequent Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
The Regulatory Authority should be informed of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or member of staff in a residential child care facility.
Each agency should nominate a Senior Manager, who should be informed in the event that a worker, carer or volunteer of that agency is suspected of child abuse.
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. This list is not exhaustive.
The person to whom an allegation or concern is first reported should treat the matter seriously and keep an open mind.
S/he should not:
- Investigate or ask leading questions if seeking clarification;
- Make assumptions or offer alternative explanations;
- Promise confidentiality, but give assurance that the Information will only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis.
- Make a written record of the information (where possible in the child/adult’s own words), including the time, date and place of incident(s), persons present and what was said;
- Sign and date the written record;
- Immediately report the matter to the designated senior manager, or alternative manager in his/her absence, or where the designated senior manager is the subject of the allegation.
If that person is implicated in the allegation, the concern must be reported to the designated / named person for child protection in that agency and in either case a record of the report which is timed, dated and includes a clear name or signature must be made.
The recipient of an allegation should not determine its validity. All allegations of abuse must be reported to the Safeguarding Children Service. Failure to report it in accordance with procedures should be a potential disciplinary matter.
When informed of a concern or allegation, the designated senior manager should not investigate the matter or interview the member of staff, child concerned or potential witnesses. He/she should:
- Obtain written details of the concern/allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving (not the child/adult making the allegation);
- Countersign 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 decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions;
- If the allegation meets the criteria the designated senior manager should report it to the Local Authority Designated Officer within 1 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;
- If a police officer receives an allegation, s/he should, without delay, report it to the designated detective sergeant, Child Abuse Investigation Unit. The Detective Sergeant should then immediately inform the Local Authority Designated Officer;
- Similarly an allegation made to Children’s Social Care Services should be immediately reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer.
13. Initial Consideration by the Designated Senior Manager and the Local Authority Designated Officer
Any enquiry/investigation may well have three related, but independent strands, all of which need to be thoroughly assessed and a definite conclusion reached. These strands are:
- A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
- Social care enquiries and/or assessment about whether a child is in need of protection or services;
- Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action.
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 social care and ask them to convene an immediate Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
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 (Strategy Discussion/Meeting), to include the police, employer and other agencies involved with the child.
The fact that a prosecution is not possible, because there is insufficient evidence to mount a criminal prosecution, does not mean that action in relation to safeguarding children or employee discipline is not necessary or feasible.
14.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:
- 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.
References in these procedures to ‘Strategy Discussions’ should be read to include ‘Initial Evaluations’ where appropriate.
The Safeguarding Children Service will co-ordinate all initial enquiries in accordance with the guidelines set down by the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board.
If a decision is made that a Strategy Discussion/Meeting/Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) is required, the Safeguarding Children service will chair the meeting.
Wherever possible, a Strategy Discussion should take the form of a meeting, however on occasions a telephone discussion may be justified.
The Safeguarding Children Service will inform the relevant Children’s Social Care Services Office and the Police of the need to hold a Strategy Discussion/Meeting and/or undertake a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry).
A Strategy Meeting should be arranged within 3 working days of the receipt of the allegation or concern with membership consisting of:
(The following is a list of possible participants)
- Local Authority Designated Officer;
- Relevant social worker and his/her manager;
- Detective sergeant (CAIU);
- Designated senior manager for the employer concerned;
- Human resources representative;
- Legal adviser where appropriate;
- Senior representative of the employment agency or voluntary organisation if applicable;
- Manager from the fostering service provider when an allegation is made against a foster carer;
- Supervising social worker when an allegation is made against a foster carer;
- Those responsible for regulation and inspection where applicable e.g. Ofsted;
- Consultant paediatrician;
- Where a child is placed or resident in the area of another authority, representative(s) of relevant agencies in that area;
- Complaints officer if the concern has arisen from a complaint.
The Strategy Discussion should:
- Decide whether there should be a Section 47 Enquiry and/or police investigation and plan the child protection enquiry ensuring that the three independent strands are considered and managed;
- 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 e.g. Section 550a education act 1996 in respect of teachers and authorised staff;
- Consider whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable (if so see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure;
- Plan enquiries if needed, allocate tasks and set time-scales;
- Decide what information can be shared, with whom and when.
The Strategy Discussion should also:
- Ensure that arrangements are made to protect the child/ren involved and any other child/ren 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;
- Ensure that investigations are sufficiently independent;
- 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 Local Authority Designated Officer, having regard to the target timescales;
- Consider issues for the attention of senior management e.g. Media interest, resource implications;
- Consider reports for consideration of barring;
- Consider risk assessments to inform the employers safeguarding arrangements;
- Agree timescales for actions;
- Agree dates for future Strategy Discussion/Meetings;
- A final Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be held to ensure that all tasks have been completed and, where appropriate, agree an action plan for future practice based on lessons learnt.
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/Meeting should decide whether the concern justifies:
- Approaching the member of staffs employer for further information, in order to assess the level of risk; and/or
- Inviting the employer to a further Strategy Discussion/Meeting about dealing with the possible risk.
If the member of staff lives in a different authority area to that which covers his/her work place, liaison should take place between the relevant agencies in both areas and a joint Strategy Discussion/Meeting 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/Meeting should be convened to consider:
- The ability and/or willingness of the member of staff to adequately protect the child/ren;
- Whether measures need to be put in place to ensure their protection;
- Whether the role of the member of staff is compromised.
It is in everyone's interest for cases to be dealt with expeditiously, fairly and thoroughly and for unnecessary delays to be avoided. Information sharing should happen without delay.
Where an allegation or concern arises that does not require police or social care investigation, the employer should determine what action is needed within 3 working days.
If a Strategy Meeting is required, this should take place without delay and normally within 3 working days.
At each Strategy Meeting the police, where involved, should give an estimate of the time required to carry out investigations. This should be kept under review. The investigating officer should provide regular updating information to the Local Authority Designated Officer and the agency senior officer (where different) at least every 4 weeks.
Where police or social care investigation is needed and concluded, the employer should determine whether a further investigation is needed within 3 working days.
Where a further investigation is needed, the investigating officer should aim to complete the investigation within 10 working days. Where this is not possible, the employer should be informed and an estimated time of completion established. Where a disciplinary hearing is required, without or on completion of an investigation, this should be held within 15 working days.
Disciplinary or Suitability Process and Investigations
The Local Authority Designated Officer and the designated senior manager should discuss whether disciplinary action is appropriate in all cases where:
- It is clear at the outset or decided by a Strategy Discussion/Meeting that a police investigation or social care enquiry is not necessary; or
- The employer or Local Authority Designated Officer is informed by the police or the crown prosecution service that a criminal investigation and any subsequent trial is complete, or that an investigation is to be closed without charge, or a prosecution discontinued.
The discussion should consider any potential misconduct or gross misconduct on the part of the member of staff, and take into account:
- Information provided by the police and/or social care;
- The result of any investigation or trial;
- The different standard of proof in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.
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 persons services, or provide future work with children, and if not, whether to make a report for consideration of barring or other action.
Advice should be sought from their HR adviser and employment lawyer for the agency.
If following the initial Strategy Discussion/Meeting, 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.
Where 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. The investigation should not be conducted by a relative or friend of the member of staff.
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 individuals suitability to work with children. Its purpose is not to prove or disprove the allegation.
The investigating officer should aim to provide a report within 10 working days. On receipt of the report the employer should decide, in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer and HR adviser, within 2 working days, whether a disciplinary hearing is needed.
If a hearing is required, it should be held within 15 working days.
If, 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 social care and police. Consideration should again be given as to whether suspension is appropriate in light of the new information.
Sharing Information for Disciplinary Purposes
Wherever possible police and 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.
If the police or CPS 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.
Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case record on a persons confidential personnel file 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 kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years if longer.
Details of allegations that are found to be malicious should be removed from personnel records.
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 Discussion/Meetings or direct liaison with the police, 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 LSCB 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 CPS about continuing or closing the investigation or charging the individual. Wherever possible, this should be no later than 4 weeks after the Strategy Discussion/Meeting. Dates for further reviews should also be agreed, either fortnightly or monthly depending on the complexity of the investigation.
Where it is concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate an allegation, the chair of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting or initial evaluation should prepare a separate report of the enquiry 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.
False allegations are rare and may be a strong indicator of abuse elsewhere which requires further exploration. If an allegation is demonstrably false, the employer, in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer, should refer the matter to social care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by someone else.If it is established that an allegation has been deliberately invented, the police should be asked to consider what action may be appropriate. (In an educational establishment, the headteacher/proprietor should consider whether any disciplinary action is appropriate against the pupil who made the allegation.)
If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the persons services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide his/her services, the Local Authority Designated Officer should discuss with the employer whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service 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 1 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 organisations procedures or practice
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 and registered child care providers.
Where organisations do have specific procedures, they should be compatible with these procedures and additionally provide the contact details for:
- The designated senior manager to whom all allegations should be reported;
- The person to whom all allegations should be reported in the absence of the designated senior manager or where that person is the subject of the allegation;
- The Local Authority Designated Officer (Local Authority Designated Officer).
Head teachers, Governors, Principal and Local Authority managers should ensure that they are familiar with and have access to the document entitled 'Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education 2006' and Guidance for Safe Working Practices for the Protection of Children and Young People in Education Settings.
They should also refer to the DfE statutory guidance 'Dealing with Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff', which was published in August 2011 and revised in October 2012, and applies to teachers and staff (including volunteers) in a school or FE college that provides education for children under 18).
Upon receipt of an allegation of abuse by a member of staff, head teachers/governors must inform and consult with the Local Authority Designated Officer (Safeguarding Children Service.)
If the allegation is against a head teacher, the staff member receiving it must alert the nominated governor (usually the chair or vice-chair) who in turn must inform the Local Authority Designated Officer.
The Local Authority Designated Officer must determine (following consultation with either of these agencies) if the nature or seriousness of the allegation is within the scope of these procedures (see above) requires referral to Children’s Social Care Services or the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit.
If the circumstances justify it, a referral should be made without delay and police informed at the earliest opportunity of any matters that may constitute a criminal offence.
A referral of an allegation against staff, carer or volunteer must be reported immediately to Children’s Social Care Services and the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit.
The Children’s Social Care Services, on the basis of the discussions with the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit, and the Safeguarding Children Service agree whether or not the referral meets the threshold for a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry). The police will decide whether or not to investigate an allegation of crime.
A Strategy Discussion/Meeting must generally be arranged within 3 working days for all Section 47 Enquiries (Child Protection Enquiries) (see below), and chaired by the Safeguarding Children Service.
If complex abuse procedures are applicable they take priority over those below; see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure.
If an allegation is made about any staff member employed by the Local Authority the allegation should be reported to the relevant senior managers to ensure that arrangements are made for the officers conducting the enquiries to be independent.
Where the allegation or suspicion relates to a member of residential staff or volunteer at a children’s home, a registered foster carer or a member of staff in the Family Placement Service, the Regulatory Authority must be notified of any action taken under the child protection procedures and invited to the Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
The Strategy Meeting must also consider, in planning the enquiry:
- The significance of any previous allegations made against the carers or their family;
- The close inter-relationship between foster carers and Children’s Social Care Services and the need to ensure the investigating social workers independence;
- The position of all children currently in the placement;
- 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 what information to be given;
- Other children currently living in the carer’s household, and those previously placed with the carers (including the need for Strategy Discussion/Meeting with regard to any of these children) and what information to be given. The status of the carers, as co-workers and individuals who have a right to be heard;
- The support to be provided to the child/ren in the placement, including the carer’s children;
- The support to be provided for the carers from the link worker;
- Clarify that no new placements will be made until the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) is complete, a formal foster home review has been held, the review recommendations considered by the Fostering Panel and a decision made as to the future approval of the foster carers;
- Practical arrangements such as transport to and from school; contact and what should happen to the child/ren’s personal belongings;
- The needs of the child/ren who may have to leave the foster family and any contact arrangements with other children in the placement The status of the foster carers - any action to suspend fostering must be forwarded to the foster carers in writing by the Service Manager, Placements;
- The Social Worker conducting the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) needs to provide the carers, the Family Placement Service, as well as the chair of the strategy meeting, with regular updates of the progress of the enquiry, no less than fortnightly.
The role of the fostering / adoption team in the provision of support should be considered at the Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
The supervising social worker must consider any appropriate independent support for the carer, giving relevant information about contacts for legal advice and the role of the local and National Association (NFCA).
At the conclusion of an enquiry a Strategy Discussion/Meeting must be held to ensure all information is shared and plans are agreed for follow up work including if justified, the removal of child/ren.
The supervising social worker must attend the follow up interview with the carer and her/his family, unless this is judged inappropriate.
If the allegation is substantiated, the supervising social worker must consult with her/his manager so as to initiate the foster care review procedures and notify the Fostering Panel.
If the allegation is not substantiated, this should be recorded and made clear to the carer so as to protect her/him as far as possible, from lingering doubts and suspicions.
The foster/adoptive carer has a right to receive details in writing of all decisions made and actions taken.
The managers of both the child’s social worker and the link worker 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 (Child Protection Enquiry).
The above discussion and the decision arising from it must be put in writing and placed on both the child’s and carers’ files.
The outcome of any Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) involving a carer must be shared with the Fostering /Adoption Panel.
Following conclusion and feedback of the results of all investigations the link worker should generally offer the carers the opportunity to discuss the process of the investigation, including its impact on the family and future implications for provision of care.
In cases where the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) has been complex, or particular difficulties have arisen, it may be beneficial to convene a debriefing meeting to ensure that all matters have been followed up and to consider any lessons to be learnt of good practice as well as in relation to difficulties.
The Children's Social Care Services have obligations comparable to those which apply to foster children, to visit and ensure the welfare of a child placed for adoption and whose prospective adopter has given notice of her/his intention to adopt.
In the event of an allegation with respect to a child placed for adoption (or about a prospective or approved adopter who has no child placed with her/him), the same procedures as those described above for the outcome (substantiated or unsubstantiated) to the Adoption Panel.
Any allegation about abuse or neglect of a prospective adopter's own child/ren must be responded to in the same way as any other child. Adoption staff must be informed and involved in the Strategy Discussion/Meeting, to provide information and consider the implications with regard to adoption.
The outcome of any Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)involving an approved adoptive placement must be shared with the Adoption Panel.
Where there is an allegation or suspicion relating to a member of staff or volunteer involved in the provision of day care for children, including childminders, OFSTED must be notified of any action taken under these procedures.
A member of OFSTED staff should be invited to the Strategy Discussion/Meeting. Their role will be to consider the legal implications of continued registration or cancellation.
The 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.
The timing, method and content of the information to be shared with parents of other children will be discussed and agreed at the Strategy Meeting.
Achieving an appropriate degree of independent scrutiny over the process and an independent element in the investigation may involve:
- The appointment of 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.
The relevant designated doctor or nurse of the Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group should be informed of allegations against health services staff and be involved in Strategy Discussion/Meetings.
Allegations against agency staff should be dealt with by compliance with the procedures in this chapter.
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 volunteers should be dealt with in a manner which is as consistent with the principles and procedures contained in this chapter as is possible.
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 and the outcome of the enquiry.
Where the allegation concerns staff employed in establishments located in another authority, the referral must be passed to that authority, for enquiries to be made in accordance with its own inter agency child protection procedures.
The consultation between the person referring an incident/allegation and the Safeguarding Children Service will address whether the matter should be referred for a formal Strategy Discussion/Meeting and/or Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) or is more suitably dealt with under the agencies disciplinary procedures or complaints procedures.
The aim of this discussion is to agree on the appropriate course of action on an informed basis. If the outcome of the discussion is that the matter does not require a Strategy Discussion/Meeting /Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry), the agency concerned must consider whether there is a need to take any disciplinary action or to consider a complaints Investigation.
The Safeguarding Children Service must then be informed of the outcome of this consideration.