7.2 Managing Allegations against Staff and Volunteers Working with Children
- When to apply these procedures
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Responding to Allegations or Concerns
- Information sharing and notification
- Allegations Against Staff in their personal lives / transfer of risk
- Patterns of Concerning Behaviour
- Organised Abuse, Past Abuse/Delayed Reporting
- Allegations Against Police Staff
- Allegations against Childminders
- Allegations that do not meet threshold for lado involvement
- Shared Risks for Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults
- Conduct and Disciplinary Processes
- Record keeping and monitoring progress
- Outcome Definitions
- Unsubstantiated, Unfounded, Malicious and False Allegations
- Referral to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Regulatory Body
- Procedures in Specific Organisations
Working Together states that Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships are responsible for developing policies and procedures for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. These should include procedures for investigating allegations concerning persons who work with children.
The procedures should be followed by all organisations providing and/or commissioning services for children and young people. Schools and further education establishments should also follow the statutory guidance issued by the Department of Education, for dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff.
Compliance with these procedures will help to ensure that allegations of abuse are dealt with expeditiously; consistent with a thorough and fair process for all concerned.
When to apply these procedures
These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation or concern raised about any person who works with children, in connection with his/her employment or voluntary activity. The word allegation relates to when someone has:
These behaviours should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse i.e. physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as defined in Working Together. These include concerns relating to inappropriate relationships between members of staff and children or young people e.g.:
• ‘grooming’ i.e. meeting a child under 16 with intent to commit a relevant offence
• other ‘grooming’ behaviour giving rise to concerns of a broader child protection nature e.g. inappropriate text/e-mail messages or images, gifts, socialising etc.
• possession of indecent photographs/pseudo-photographs of children.
References to ‘staff’ should be read as including all staff, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.
All organisations should be proactive in reducing the risk of child abuse taking place within the services they provide by:
• Adopting safe recruitment and effective safe termination of employment practices.
• Ensuring that all staff receive appropriate training in child protection: signs, symptoms and referral procedures, which include how to recognise and respond to allegations against staff.
• Ensuring that staff understand what is safe practice and what is not. In particular, staff must be aware of behaviours that are likely to bring about criminal, child protection or disciplinary action. All staff therefore, should be provided with clear and relevant codes of conduct.
• Ensuring that vulnerabilities expressed by staff are taken seriously and responded to at the earliest stage.
• Ensuring that risk assessments following allegations are undertaken to reduce the likelihood of repetition.
A failure to report an allegation or concern in accordance with the following procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.
Staff and volunteers are also strongly advised to report any incident involving themselves that could give rise to concern, including the potential for misinterpretation by others.
Roles and Responsibilities
Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)
Buckinghamshire’s Local Authority fulfils the national expectation to have a Designated Officer in place with specific responsibility for:
• providing advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations
• liaising with all relevant agencies to support the overall management of the allegations process
• monitoring the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process
If there are concerns that there is a conflict of interests or the management of the allegation is not appropriate, the BSCP escalation process must be followed.
Named Lead for Managing Allegations
Each organisation in Buckinghamshire providing and/or commissioning services for children and young people should have :
• a Deputy to whom reports should be made in the absence of the Named Lead
The Named Lead will:
Commissioners must ensure that there are clear expectations around adhering to these procedures that are embedded into the commissioning and contract monitoring processes.
Designated Roles within Thames Valley Police: Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU)
In cases where there is a Police investigation, this must be carried out in accordance with Police procedures.
The Detective Inspector will have strategic oversight of the local Police arrangements for managing allegations against staff and volunteers and act as the point of contact where other Police forces may be involved (for example where the adult or the child may live outside of the TVP area)
The Designated Sergeant or Deputy will:
Where there is an allegation made against an employee it is the responsibility of the employer to provide timely support, advice and guidance to the employee through the Managing Allegations process.
Responding to Allegations or Concerns
An allegation against a member of staff may arise from a number of sources e.g. a report from a child victim, a concern raised by another child or adult in the organisation, a complaint by a parent or carer, or a pattern of concerning behaviour.
Initial action by person receiving or indentifying an allegation or concern
The person to whom an allegation or concern is first reported should treat the matter seriously and keep an open mind.
They should not:
Where the Named Lead is the subject of the allegation he/she should either speak to the Deputy or consider contacting the LADO directly for advice.
Initial action by the Named Lead
When informed of a concern or allegation, the Named Lead should not investigate the matter or interview the member of staff concerned or potential witnesses. They should:
If the allegation meets the criteria set out above, the Named Lead should report it to the LADO within 1 working day. Referral should not be delayed in order to gather further information.
Where there is an immediate risk of harm to a child (including the member of staff’s own children) or a crime is taking place the Named Lead should ensure that 999 has been called, or 101 if the matter is less serious. Thresholds for Children’s Social Care must be considered and the usual procedures for responding to concerns of abuse and neglect must be followed, including a timely referral to Children’s Social Care.
As soon as possible after an allegation is made, the parents or carers should be informed by the employer. Where necessary, advice should be sought from the LADO in advance on how this should be managed.
The employer must consider whether notifying the member of staff could adversely impact on an investigation (e.g. by giving the accused member of staff the opportunity to destroy evidence).
The LADO can also be consulted about how and when the alleged member of staff is to be informed of the allegation by the employer. At this early stage, it is advisable to only explain that an allegation of a child protection nature has been made. The detail of the allegation can be explained at a later stage by the employer or the Police in cases where there is a criminal investigation.
If an allegation is reported outside of normal office hours, immediate action should be considered to consult the Buckinghamshire Emergency Social Work Team. The Named Lead should also inform the LADO as soon as possible following this action.
If a Police officer receives an allegation, they should, without delay, record it appropriately on Police systems for review by the MASH Police Sergeant who will liaise with the LADO. If immediate action is required, the officer should ensure a supervisor is notified. Any appropriate 'golden hour' action should be taken to ensure that best evidence is gained in a timely manner.
Similarly, an allegation made directly to Social Care should be immediately reported to the LADO.
Information sharing and notification
Children, young people, parents or carers
Please follow the link to the information leaflet for parents or carers
Staff and Volunteers Subject to the Managing Allegations Procedures
Please follow the link to the information leaflet for the employee
The employer must ensure that the member of staff is:
Ofsted should be informed by the employer of any allegations made against:
They should also be invited to take part in Joint Evaluation Meetings.
Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered. 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.
Schools and Further Education Establishments should note the additional reporting restrictions imposed by the Education Act 2011.
Allegations Against Staff in their personal lives / transfer of risk
If an allegation arises about a member of staff, outside of his/her work with children, then this may present a risk to children for whom the member of staff is responsible. Therefore, a LADO referral must be considered and the same principals and procedures apply.
Examples of Transfer of Risk:
If the member of staff lives in a different authority to that which covers their workplace, liaison should take place between the relevant agencies in both areas.
The member of staff should be given the opportunity to inform their employer in advance of statutory agencies making contact within a tight agreed timescale. Any decision not to inform the member of staff should only take place if this is likely to undermine the investigation or place children at further risk. Decisions and reasoning must be clearly recorded with legal advice being sought when needed.
Patterns of Concerning Behaviour
If there are a number of behaviours shown by a member of staff that fall above or below the threshold for LADO, professionals should be alert to this as it could demonstrate a pattern of concerning behaviour / accumulative effect. In these cases, the LADO should be consulted for guidance to form a coordinated response.
Examples of patterns of concerning behaviour:
Organised Abuse, Past Abuse/Delayed Reporting
All professionals should be alert to the signs of organised or widespread abuse and/or the involvement of other perpetrators or institutions. They should consider whether the matter needs to be dealt with in accordance with BSCP Complex Abuse Procedures which, if applicable, will take priority.
Allegations relating to past or non-recent events, should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns and with the same degree of priority. 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.
All staff should be made aware of their organisation’s whistle-blowing policy and encouraged to voice concerns about the attitude or actions of colleagues. If a member of staff believes that a reported allegation is not being dealt with appropriately by their organisation, s/he should report the matter to the LADO.
Allegations Against Police Staff
Designated Officer for allegations against Police staff
The Detective Chief Inspector for Public Protection – Crime Support will oversee all allegations against Police officers and staff:
The following actions must be undertaken immediately:
There are up to 3 strands in the consideration of an allegation:
The LADO and the Named Lead 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 concerns are not dismissed where a child might be confused about dates, times, locations or identity of the member of staff.
If the allegation is not demonstrably false at the outset and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, within 24 hours the LADO should discuss the allegation with the relevant social care manager and decide whether an immediate strategy discussion is required.
The Police must be consulted about any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed. Even where the threshold for significant harm is not reached, but a Police investigation might be needed, the LADO should also request a strategy discussion. The issue of the risk that the adult concerned may pose to children must also be discussed.
Allegations against Childminders
If you are a registered childminder working as a sole trader and an allegation is made about you, you should inform Early Years by calling 01296 387147 within 24 hours. In the first instance, Early Years will support you and consider whether the allegation meets the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) threshold and liaise directly with the LADO as appropriate.
If you are a childminder and employ someone else in a position of trust with children (such as another childminder) and you have concerns or an allegation is made about him or her, you must (in your capacity as an employer) contact the LADO on 01296 382070 or at secure-LADO@buckscc.gcsx.gov.uk to discuss what to do.
In either case, you should inform Ofsted if appropriate.
Allegations that do not meet threshold for lado involvement
When managing concerns that do not meet the threshold for LADO involvement, employers should seek more appropriate support including from their Human Resources service.
In cases where employers are unsure if threshold is met, they can contact the LADO for advice and guidance.
A Joint Evaluation Meeting (JEM) should take the form of a face to face formal meeting. The following is a list of possible participants:
Shared Risks for Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults
Where concerns about harm to children or young people might also have implications for the safety of vulnerable adults, the JEM must include relevant senior staff from adult services. This may be particularly relevant where the alleged perpetrator provides services to both sets of services users, or where there might be implications for a vulnerable adult in his/her personal life. Advice on attendance at the JEM should be sought from the Safeguarding Manager (Adults) Buckinghamshire County Council.
Information required for Joint Evaluation Meetings
The employer or their representative holds important information to consider. The employer (together with Human Resources where involved) should ensure that as much of the following information as possible is made available to the JEM:
Regarding the member of staff:
Regarding the child and his/her family (information dependent upon the nature of the organisation involved):
Regarding the organisation/service:
Conduct and Disciplinary Processes
The Named Lead and a Contract Manager (where appropriate) should discuss with the LADO whether an internal disciplinary investigation is appropriate in cases where:
The discussion should consider any potential misconduct and/or suitability issues on the part of the member of staff and take into account:
The employer must seek advice from their HR provider if conduct and disciplinary processes are relevant.
Where further internal investigation is required, or where there is a conflict of interest within the organisation to carry out such an investigation, the organisation should consider commissioning an independent investigating officer to carry out an investigation.
The aim of an investigation is to obtain, as far as possible, a timely, fair, balanced and accurate record in order to consider the appropriateness of disciplinary action and/or the individual’s suitability to work with children.
On receipt of the report the employer should follow their own HR procedures to ensure the matter is concluded within a timely manner and/or refer to ACAS codes of practice.
If at any stage, new information emerges that requires a child protection referral, the disciplinary investigations should be held in abeyance and only resumed if agreed with Social Care and the Police, and discussed with the LADO. Consideration should be given as to whether suspension is appropriate in light of the new information.
For volunteer workers disciplinary procedures will not apply. In these circumstances, the LADO, manager of the organisation and Contract Manager (where appropriate) should act jointly with the providing agency, if any, in deciding whether to continue to use the person’s services, or provide future work with children, and if not whether to make a report for consideration of barring (e.g. Disclosure and Barring Service) or other action
Sharing Information for discplinary purposes
Wherever possible, during the course of their investigations and enquiries, Police and Social Care should obtain consent to provide the employer and/or regulatory body with statements and evidence for disciplinary purposes. Consideration should also be given to the type of evidence required and how the employer and/or regulatory body is to access such evidence e.g. transcripts from, or direct viewing of, video recorded interviews.
If the Police or CPS decide 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 immediately so that appropriate action can be taken.
Suspension should not be automatic. It should be considered in any case where:
The possible risks 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.
Decision whether to suspend rests with the employer. The employer should make an informed decision by seeking guidance from the HR provider, the LADO and from investigative agencies where they are involved.
Resignations and "Settlemen Agreements" (formerly known as 'Compromise Agreements')
Every effort should be made to reach a conclusion in all cases even if:
In the event that the employee resigns whilst under formal disciplinary action under the Managing Allegations Procedure, the employer must continue and conclude the disciplinary process to reach an outcome. If the outcome would have resulted in a dismissal, the employer must still refer to the relevant regulatory body e.g. HCPC, General Teaching Council, Disclosure and Barring Service.
‘Settlement agreements’ must not be used. A ‘settlement agreement’ is a negotiated settlement which often involves an agreed termination of the contract. Terms of the agreement may include an undertaking that disciplinary action is not taken and that a future reference is agreed.
Record keeping and monitoring progress
Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case record on a person’s confidential personnel file. The record should include details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached and the action taken. It is important that comprehensive records are kept as patterns of concerning behaviour may emerge. They should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years if this is longer. Employers must disclose information in references when an allegation is substantiated or unsubstantiated.
Note: DFE statutory guidance for schools and FE establishments (p45) states that details of allegations that are found to have been malicious should be removed from personnel records and any that are not substantiated, are unfounded or malicious should not be referred to in employer references.
The LADO and Contract Manager (where appropriate) 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 BSCP to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations.
The LADO should monitor and record the progress of each case in line with statutory guidance (Working Together) that cases are resolved in a timely way without undue delay. LADO records should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years if this is longer.
The following definitions should be used when determining the outcome of allegation investigations:
• Substantiated: This is an allegation that is supported or established by evidence or proof. The employer must consult the LADO to discuss whether a referral should be made to the DBS and/or to a professional or regulatory body.
• Unsubstantiated: An unsubstantiated allegation means that there is insufficient identifiable evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. The term, therefore, does not imply guilt or innocence. Where there is insufficient evidence to substantiate an allegation the employer must consider what further action, if any, must be taken.
• Malicious: For an allegation to be classified as malicious, it will be necessary to have evidence to prove the intention to cause harm. Care should be taken in dealing with such allegations as some facts may not be wholly untrue. Some parts of an allegation may have been fabricated or exaggerated but elements may be based on truth. Children rarely fabricate an allegation. In cases that are deemed malicious, employers should work with the child to discover what was behind the allegation and seek further support for the child from other agencies as considered appropriate.
• Unfounded: The term ‘unfounded’ means that there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made, or there is evidence to prove that the allegation is untrue. There is the possibility that the allegation may be malicious, but it might also indicate that the person making the allegation had misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what he/she saw, or was not aware of all the circumstances.
• False: The employer, in consultation with the LADO, must refer the matter to Children’s Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or may have been abused by someone else. In all circumstances where an allegation has been deliberately invented or malicious, the Police will consider whether any action might be appropriate against the person responsible.
Unsubstantiated, Unfounded, Malicious and False Allegations
Where it is concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate an allegation, or the evidence shows the allegation to be unfounded, malicious or false, the LADO will provide redacted notes from the Joint Evaluation Meeting for the Named Lead (and the relevant Contract Manager where appropriate) to enable them to consider what further action, if any, should be taken.
False and malicious allegations are rare and may be a strong indicator of abuse taking place elsewhere in a child’s life, which requires further exploration. If an allegation is demonstrably false, the employer, in consultation with the LADO, should refer the matter to Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abuse by someone else.
If it is established that an allegation has been deliberately invented, the LADO may ask the Police to consider what action, if any, may be appropriate.
Referral to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Regulatory Body
If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed, the employer ceases to use the person’s services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide their services, the employer should discuss with the LADO whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for consideration of inclusion on the barred lists; or to refer to relevant regulatory body e.g the General Teaching Council.
It is a legal requirement for employers to make a referral to the DBS where they think that an individual has engaged in conduct (including inappropriate sexual conduct) that harmed (or is likely to harm) a child; or if a person otherwise poses a risk of harm to a child.
In such circumstances, the duty to refer an individual to the DBS arises where an employer has removed the individual from relevant work with children or the person has chosen to cease relevant work in circumstances where they would have been removed had they not done so.
If a referral is to be made it should be submitted within 1 month.
The DBS or regulatory body will give consideration to whether the individual should be barred from, or have conditions imposed, in respect of working with children.
Procedures in Specific Organisations
All local procedures for managing allegations against staff and volunteers who work with children, should be compatible with these procedures
In addition they should provide contact details for: