7.2 Managing Allegations against Staff and Volunteers
This procedure was updated on 12/01/22 and is currently uptodate.
- Introduction(Jump to)
- Allegations dealt with by these procedures(Jump to)
- Roles and Responsibilities(Jump to)
- The role of LADO(Jump to)
- Outcomes following an Investigation(Jump to)
- Substantiated Allegations(Jump to)
- Disciplinary or Suitability(Jump to)
- General Responsibilities(Jump to)
Despite all efforts to recruit safely there will be occasions when allegations are made of abuse by staff or volunteers against children Safer Employment & the LADO (Allegations) - Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (buckssafeguarding.org.uk) . All organisations which have employees or volunteers working with children and young people should therefore have clear and accessible policies and procedures which are consistent with these procedures. There should be an explanation of what should happen when allegations about the behaviour of a member of staff or volunteer are raised.
These should include the requirement to appoint a designated safeguarding lead to whom these allegations are reported. It is the responsibility of the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) report allegations to, and otherwise liaise with, the Local Authority Designated Officer/s (LADO) who has Statutory the responsibility to manage and have oversight of allegations against people who work with children Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018.
Multiagency Safeguarding Arrangements (MASA) are in place for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the arrangements to manage allegations.
All references in this document to 'members of staff' and ‘employment’ should be interpreted as meaning all paid or unpaid staff and volunteers, including foster carers and prospective adopters. All references to ‘employers’ should be taken to include any agency or organisation with responsibility for paid or unpaid staff and volunteers, including foster carers and prospective adopters. This chapter also applies to any person, who manages or facilitates access to an establishment where children are present.
This document uses the abbreviation LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) throughout, to refer to the specific role of the designated officer or officers employed by the local authority to manage and have oversight of allegations across the Children’s workforce. This term is used in order to distinguish between safeguarding leads in health and education who can also be referred to as ‘designated’ leads.
Allegations dealt with by these procedures
These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation that any person who works with children/young people, in connection with their employment or voluntary activity, has:
Allegations can be made in relation to physical chastisement and restraint but can also relate to inappropriate relationships between members of staff and children or young people, for example:
In addition, these procedures should be applied when there is an allegation that any person who works with children:
Finally, these procedures should be followed where a person’s employment is covered by the Childcare Act 2006 (See definition in the statutory guidance.)
It is also important to note that, whilst not specifically covered by statutory guidance, the risks associated with the wider family and close associates of the member of staff may also need to be considered even if their work with children does not fall within the remit of the statutory guidance.
These procedures should be followed where allegations are made against a 16 or 17 year’s old who has been put in a position of trust by an organisation in relation to anyone under the age of 18. For example, where they might be involved in coaching a sport or in other school or out of school activities.
The procedures for dealing with allegations need to be applied with objectivity and professional judgement. Many cases may not meet the criteria set out above or may do so without warranting consideration of either a police investigation or enquiries by Local Authority Children’s Social Care Services. In these cases, employers should follow their safeguarding and other relevant procedures to resolve cases without delay.
It might not be clear whether an incident constitutes an ‘allegation’. It is important to be mindful that in order to be an “allegation” the alleged incident has to be sufficiently serious as to suggest that harm has or may have been caused harm to a child/ren or that the alleged behaviour indicates the individual may pose a risk of harm to children (or otherwise meets the criteria above). Issues that do not meet this threshold may constitute conduct or disciplinary issues and should be addressed by employers using the appropriate organisational procedures.
If it is difficult to determine the level of risk associated with an incident the following should be considered:
Incidents which fall short of the threshold could include an accusation that is made second or third hand and the facts are not clear, or the member of staff alleged to have done this was not there at the time, or there is confusion about the account.
Whether an incident constitutes an allegation and hence needs to be dealt with through these procedures, may need to be discussed by the LADO and the employer’s safeguarding lead. If it falls short of this threshold there may still be a role for the LADO to provide advice and support to the employer. Where the matter constitutes a conduct or performance issue, the employer should follow the appropriate disciplinary procedures and let the LADO know of the outcome.
Investigators should be alert to signs of organised or widespread abuse and/or the involvement of other perpetrators or institutions. They should consider whether the matter should be dealt with in accordance with complex abuse procedures which, if applicable, will take priority. See Organised and Complex Abuse Procedurehttps://bscb.procedures.org.uk/pkqlx/joint-working-procedures-and-guidance/complex-abuse-procedure .
Allegations of non-recent abuse should be responded to and reported in the same way as contemporaneous allegations. In cases of non-recent abuse, the person against whom the allegation is made may still be working with children and young people and it will be important to investigate whether this is the case.
Roles and Responsibilities
Responding to an allegation or concern – the role of the employer
An allegation or concern raised about a member of staff may arise from a number of sources, for example, a report from a child / young person, a concern raised by another adult in the organisation, or a complaint by a parent / carer. It may also arise in the context of the member of staff and their life outside work or at home.
The person to whom an allegation or concern is first reported should treat the matter seriously and keep an open mind. They should not:
They should follow their organisation’s procedures, which should include the following:
Police should be immediately informed where there is an urgent safeguarding risk or the allegation is of a very serious nature – this will also enable prompt action to be taken to gather evidence from mobile phones, etc.
When informed of a concern or allegation, the designated safeguarding lead should not investigate the matter but they should continue to gather factual information in regards to the incident and ensure any evidence is preserved. This fact-finding should be a neutral process and should not amount to an investigation of the incident.
The designated safeguarding lead should review the information available and consideration should be given as to whether the case meets the threshold of harm/risk of harm.
If the designated safeguarding lead is unclear whether the incident meets the threshold of harm/risk of harm they should seek advice from the LADO.
The designated safeguarding lead must inform their LADO within one working day when an allegation is made and prior to any further investigation taking place. A failure to report an allegation in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.
Suspension should be considered only in cases where there is caused to suspect a child or other children and young people at the place of employment is/are at risk of harm or the case is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal. The case manager must consider carefully whether the circumstances warrant suspension from contact with children until the allegation is resolved and may wish to seek advice from their HR Consultant / HR Advisor personnel adviser and the LADO.
The case manager should also consider whether the result that would be achieved by immediate suspension could be obtained by alternative arrangements. In many cases an investigation can be resolved quickly and without the need for suspension. If the LADO, police and Children’s Social Care Services have no objections to the member of staff continuing to work during the investigation, the case manager should be as flexible as possible to avoid suspension. Based on assessment of risk, the following alternatives should be considered by the case manager before suspending a member of staff:
These alternatives allow time for an informed decision regarding the suspension. This will, however, depend upon the nature of the allegation. The case manager should consider the potential permanent professional reputational damage to employees that can result from suspension where an allegation is later found to be unsubstantiated or maliciously intended.
If immediate suspension is considered necessary, the rationale and justification for such a course of action should be agreed and recorded by both the case manager and the LADO. This should also include what alternatives to suspension have been considered and why they were rejected.
Where it has been deemed appropriate to suspend the person, written confirmation should be dispatched within one working day, giving as much detail as appropriate for the reasons for the suspension. It is not acceptable for an employer to leave a person who has been suspended without any support. The person should be informed at the point of their suspension who their named contact is within the organisation and provided with their contact details.
Children’s Social Care Services or the police cannot require the case manager to suspend a member of staff or a volunteer, although they should give appropriate weight to their advice. The power to suspend is vested in the employer. However, where a discussion concludes that there should be enquiries by the Children’s Social Care Services and/or an investigation by the police, the LADO should canvass police and Children’s Social Care Services for views about whether the accused member of staff needs to be suspended from contact with children in order to inform consideration of suspension. Police involvement does not make it mandatory to suspend a member of staff; this decision should be taken on a case-by-case basis having undertaken a risk assessment.
If a suspended person is to return to work, the employer should consider what help and support might be appropriate (e.g. a phased return to work and/or provision of a mentor), and also how best to manage the member of staff's contact with the child or young person concerned, if still in the workplace.
The necessity for arrest is set out in Code G PACE 1984 and guides police decision making as to whether a suspect is arrested (need to establish identity, prevent harm, secure evidence etc.). If the requirement to arrest is not met, the suspect will often be interviewed under caution on a voluntary basis.
If arrested, police have several options if the decision is made to release the suspect from custody whilst the investigation continues. The default option is to “release under investigation” (RUI) which means the suspect remains under investigation, albeit there are no linked conditions or specific timescales imposed on them.
The other option is to release on police bail under Section 50a of PACE 1984, where specific conditions may be imposed. The decision to bail and impose conditions must be both necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances and has strict timescales associated with it. These are initially set at 28 days, however, can be extended to 3 months by authority of a police superintendent and longer by application through the magistrate’s court.
The decision by police to arrest or interview a suspect on a voluntary basis and whether they are RUI or bailed should have no bearing on assessing the evidential merits of the case. Any decision to suspend an individual should be made after a full assessment of the evidence and information gathered.
Schools and colleges - interim prohibition order
In cases where a school or college is made aware that the Secretary of State has made an interim prohibition order in respect of an individual at the school or college, it will be necessary to immediately suspend that person from teaching pending the findings of the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) investigation.
The role of LADO
Deciding if it is an allegation of harm or a concern
Considering an allegation there are up to four strands in the consideration of an allegation:
The LADO and the designated safeguarding 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.
If the allegation is not demonstrably false and there is cause to suspect that the adult (or in specific circumstances the 16 or 17 year old) poses a risk of harm, the LADO should convene an Allegations against Staff and Volunteers (ASV) meeting/discussion. This will sometimes have to take place immediately but the speed at which it is convened should be commensurate to the risk.
If the allegation does not meet the threshold for risk of harm, and there is no evidence of harm, but there is concern about inappropriate behaviour etc., the LADO should inform the employer/HR provider of this who will then take responsibility for addressing the issue.
The LADO can provide advice and support to the employer where necessary.
The police must be consulted about any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed.
An ASV meeting/discussion will decide the strategy for managing the allegation. Where necessary this will be a face-to-face meeting. Many cases can be managed through a discussion between the designated safeguarding lead, the police, any other relevant agency and the LADO. Where communication is via phone or email records should be kept for audit purposes. This will run parallel to any investigation by Children Social Care (CSC) who may need to convene a strategy meeting to determine if s47 enquiries. The LADO and CSC will agree how the two processes will be managed the welfare of the child as paramount.
The ASV will be chaired by the LADO. It will normally be attended by the police, social care and the employer. The employer is advised to bring a Human Resources advisor. In situations where the allegation is against a health professional, the designated or named nurse for safeguarding (Clinical Commissioning Group/CCG) should be invited; or appropriate safeguarding lead from a provider trust/organisation.
Where there is a larger number of people involved in the case, the benefit of convening a face-face meeting is increased.
A ASV will normally only be convened when it has been decided that the threshold of harm/risk of harm has been met. Meetings should not be used to further investigate concerns about inappropriate behaviour or conduct where there are not clear indications of harm /risk of harm to a child or young person.
The meeting/discussion should:
The meeting /discussion should also:
A final meeting /discussion should be held to ensure that all tasks have been completed, including any referrals to the DBS if appropriate, and, where appropriate, agree an action plan for future practice based on lessons learnt.
Meetings/discussions in relation to allegations against staff in their personal lives
If an allegation arises about a member of staff, outside of their work with children and young people, and this may present a risk of harm/risk of harm to child/ren for whom the member of staff is responsible through their employment/volunteering, a meeting/discussion should be convened to decide whether the concern justifies:
If the member of staff lives in a different authority area to that which covers their workplace, liaison should take place between the relevant agencies in both areas and a joint meeting/discussion convened.
In some cases, an allegation of abuse against someone closely associated with a member of staff (e.g. partner, member of the family or other household member) may present a risk of harm to child/ren for whom the member of staff is responsible through their employment/volunteering. In these circumstances, a meeting/discussion should be convened to consider:
It is in everyone’s interest to resolve cases as quickly as possible consistent with a fair and thorough investigation. All allegations should be investigated as a priority to avoid any delay. The time taken to investigate and resolve individual cases depends on a variety of factors including the nature, seriousness and complexity of the allegation, but these targets should be achieved in all but truly exceptional cases. Target timescales are shown below:
In such cases, if the nature of the allegation does not require formal disciplinary action, the employer should institute appropriate action within three working days;
If a disciplinary hearing is required and can be held without further investigation, the hearing should be held within 15 working days
It is expected that:
Taken from ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’
The LADO should monitor and record the progress of each case, either fortnightly or monthly depending on its complexity. This could be by way of review meetings / discussions or direct liaison with the police, LA children's social care, or employer, as appropriate. Where the target timescales cannot be met, the LADO should record the reasons.
The LADO 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 safeguarding partners to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations and provide statistical information to the multiagency safeguarding partners as required.
If a police investigation is to be conducted, the police should set a date for reviewing its progress and consulting the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about continuing or closing the investigation or charging the individual. Wherever possible, this should be no later than four weeks after the meeting/discussion. Dates for further reviews should be so be agreed, either fortnightly or monthly depending on the complexity of the investigation.
Outcomes following an Investigation
There is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation that a child or young person has been harmed or there is a risk of harm.
If the facts of the incident are found to be true but it is not found that a child or young person has been harmed or there is a risk of harm, then consideration should be given to deciding that the outcome is ‘unsubstantiated’ or ‘unfounded’.
There is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation and there has been a deliberate act to deceive. The police should be asked to consider what action may be appropriate in these circumstances.
There is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation, however, there is no evidence to suggest that there was a deliberate intention to deceive.
False allegations may be an indicator of abuse elsewhere which requires further exploration. If an allegation is demonstrably false, the employer, in consultation with the LADO, should consider referring the matter to LA Children's Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by someone else.
There is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation. The term, therefore, does not imply guilt or innocence.
The additional definition of ‘unfounded’ can be used to reflect cases where there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made. It might also indicate that the person making the allegation misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what they saw. Alternatively, they may not have been aware of all the circumstances.
The LADO should make a record of the agreed outcome and forward this to the employer.
Cases in which an allegation was proven to be false, unfounded, unsubstantiated or malicious should not be included in employer references. A history of repeated concerns or allegations which have all been found to be false, unsubstantiated or malicious should also not be included in any reference.
Details of allegations that are found to have been malicious should be removed from personnel records. However, for all other allegations, it is important that a clear and comprehensive summary of the allegation, details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, and a note of any action taken and decisions reached, is kept on the confidential personnel file of the person subject to the allegation and a copy provided to the person concerned. The purpose of the record is to enable accurate information to be given in response to any future request for a reference, where appropriate. It will provide clarification in cases where future DBS checks reveal information from the police about an allegation that did not result in a criminal conviction and it will help to prevent unnecessary re-investigation if, as sometimes happens, an allegation resurfaces after a period of time. The record should be retained at least until the accused has reached normal pension age or for a period of 10 years from the date of the allegation if that is longer. The Information Commissioner has published guidance on employment records in its Employment Practices Code and supplementary guidance, which provides some practical advice on record retention.
The DBS was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges the functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The relevant legislation is set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
There is a legal requirement for employers to make a referral to the DBS where they think that an individual has engaged in conduct that harmed (or is likely to harm) a child; or if a person otherwise poses a risk of harm to a child; or is there is an investigation and the outcome is substantiated either by criminal investigation or by the balance of probabilities
If an allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the person's service or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide his/her services, the guidance regarding making a referral - available on the Disclosure and Barring Service website.
The DBS will refer cases involving teachers to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) to consider prohibiting the individual from teaching.
See the DBS referral guidance and tools
The following groups have legal duty to refer information to the DBS:
The following groups have the power to refer information to the DBS;
The power to refer may be used when a local authority or regulatory body is acting in a role other than as a regulated activity provider, for example, when undertaking a safeguarding role.
The DBS will refer cases involving teachers to the Teacher Regulation Agency (TRA) to consider prohibiting the individual from teaching. The TRA is part of the Department for Education and is responsible for the regulation of teachers in respect of serious misconduct.
Whenever a local authority refers a person to the DBS, they must consider whether they are doing so under the duty to refer or their power to refer.
Child minders and day care
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 child minder. They should also be invited to take part in any subsequent meeting/discussion.
Foster carers, prospective adopters and residential care
A senior manager of the employer or fostering agency should inform Ofsted of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or member of staff in a residential childcare facility. There are established notification processes in place.
Disciplinary or Suitability
The LADO and the employer should discuss whether disciplinary action is appropriate where:
The discussion should consider any potential misconduct or gross misconduct on the part of the member of staff, and take into account:
In the case of supply, contract and volunteer workers, normal disciplinary procedures may not apply. In these circumstances, the LADO and employer should act jointly with the providing agency, if any, in deciding whether to continue to use the person's services, or provide future work with children, and if not, whether to make a report for consideration of barring or other action. See Substantiated allegations and referral to the DBS.
If a disciplinary hearing is required, and further investigation is not required, it should be held within the timeframe laid out in the employer’s procedures.
If formal disciplinary action is not required, the employer should meet the employee to discuss fully the outcome of the allegation and ensure they are reintegrated into the work environment.
If further investigation is needed to decide upon disciplinary action, the designated safeguarding lead and the LADO 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 must 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 risk of harm to children. Its purpose is not to prove or disprove the allegation.
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 LA Children's Social Care and the police. Consideration should again be given as to whether suspension is appropriate in light of the new information.
The investigating officer should aim to provide a report within ten working days.
On receipt of the report the employer should follow their disciplinary procedures.
Sharing information for disciplinary purposes
Wherever possible, police and LA children's social care should, during the course of their investigations and enquiries, obtain consent to provide the employer and/or regulatory body with statements and evidence for disciplinary purposes.
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 and the LADO straight away so that appropriate action can be taken.
Every effort should be made to reach a conclusion in all cases even if:
Settlement Agreements (sometimes referred to as compromise agreements), by which a person agrees to resign if the employer agrees not to pursue disciplinary action, and both parties agree a form of words to be used in any future reference, should not be used in cases of refusal to cooperate or resignation before the person’s notice period expires. Nor should they be used as a way of concluding any disciplinary investigation where there is a substantiated outcome. Such an agreement will not prevent a thorough police investigation where that is appropriate.
The employer and the LADO should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice.
The organisation, together with LA Children's Social Care and/or police where they are involved, should consider the impact on the child or young person concerned and provide support as appropriate. Liaison between the agencies should take place in order to ensure that the child's needs are addressed.
Keeping parents/cares and children informed
Support to the accused member of staff
As soon as possible after an allegation has been received, the accused member of staff should be advised to contact their union or professional association. Human Resources should be consulted at the earliest opportunity in order that appropriate support can be provided via the organisation's occupational health or employee welfare provision
Keeping the accused member of staff informed
Subject to restrictions on the information that can be shared, 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 outcome (e.g. disciplinary action, and dismissal or referral to the DBS or regulatory body).
The accused member of staff should:
The employer may need to seek advice from their LADO, the police and/or LA Children's Social Care about how much information should be disclosed to the accused person. However, providing information to the accused person throughout the process of dealing with the concern or allegation is an essential part of the common law duty to act fairly. The person that is alleged to be responsible for abuse and/or neglect should be provided with sufficient information to enable them to understand what it is that they are alleged to have done or threatened to do that is wrong and to allow their view to be heard and considered. This also needs to be seen in the wider context of prevention, for example, information can be used to support people to change or modify their behaviour. Feedback should be provided in a way that will not exacerbate the situation or breach the Data Protection Act 2018 or General Data Protection Regulations.
Consideration should be given to withholding information in the following circumstances:
The Local Government Ombudsman and the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman can provide advice and the Information Commissioner provides advice on sharing information.
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 (where this would not place the child at further risk) 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 and manage related disciplinary or suitability processes.
The police should not provide identifying information to the press or media, unless and until a person is charged, except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect). In such cases, the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted beforehand.
Parents and carers should also be made aware of the requirement to maintain confidentiality about any allegations made against teachers whilst investigations are ongoing as set out in Section 13 of the Education Act 2011 (which amended the Education Act 2002). If parents or carers wish to apply to the court to have reporting restrictions removed, they should be advised to seek legal advice.
The restrictions remain in place unless or until the teacher is charged with a criminal offence, though they may be dispensed with on the application to the Magistrates’ Court by any person, if the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so, having regard to the welfare of:
There is a right of appeal to the Crown Court.
This restriction will apply to allegations made against any teacher who works at a school, including supply and peripatetic teachers. ‘School’ includes academies, Free Schools, independent schools and all types of maintained schools.
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.
The legislation imposing restrictions makes clear that publication of material that may lead to the identification of the teacher who is the subject of the allegation is prohibited. “Publication” includes “any speech, writing, relevant programme or other communication in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public”. This means that a parent who, for example, published details of the allegation on a social networking site would be in breach of the reporting restrictions (if what was published could lead to the identification of the teacher by members of the public).