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1.11 Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers

RELATED GUIDANCE

Dealing with Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and Other Staff (2011) revised in October 2012 - this applies to teachers and staff (including volunteers) in a school or FE college that provides education for children under 18).

Guidance for Safe Working Practices for the Protection of Children and Young People in Education Settings (2009)

Keeping Children Safe In Education

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in December 2014 to reflect the development of the to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). See Section 4, Initial Considerations, Section 5, Direct Referrals to the Police/Children, Education and Families and Section 9, Action.


Contents

  1. Scope
  2. Designated and Named Officers
  3. Responding to Allegations
  4. Initial Considerations
  5. Direct Referrals to the Police/Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
  6. Cross Boundary Issues
  7. Restrictions on Identifying Teachers Against Whom Allegations of Criminal Misconduct Have Been Made
  8. Providing Information about the Allegation
  9. Action
  10. Resignations and Compromise Agreements
  11. Strategy Discussion/Meeting
  12. Confidentiality and Record Keeping
  13. Action Following a Criminal Investigation or a Prosecution
  14. Learning Lessons


1. Scope

All allegations of abuse of children by those who work with children must be taken very seriously.

Allegations against those who Work with Children, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity, cover a wide range of circumstances. 

The scope of this inter agency procedure is not limited to allegations involving Significant Harm or risk of Significant Harm to a child. 

This procedure should be applied when there is such an allegation or concern that a person who works 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;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she may pose a risk of harm to children.

This includes allegations where it might indicate that the person is unsuitable to continue to work with children in their current position.

The allegations may relate to the person’s behaviour at work, at home or in another setting.

It may concern a paid employee, unpaid volunteer, child minder, approved foster carer or prospective adopter.

In the context of this procedure, the term “employer” means the organisation that has a working relationship with the person against whom the allegation has been made and includes voluntary organisations, employment agencies, fostering services, child minder services, youth clubs and others.

Allegations of historical abuse against a person who works with children (i.e. where an allegation is made by an adult which relates to abuse which he or she suffered as a child while living away from home in a setting provided by a local authority, the voluntary sector or an independent provider) should be dealt with by employers in accordance with this procedure. In such cases, it is important to find out whether the person against whom the allegation is made is still working with children and if so, to inform the person’s current employer or voluntary organisation or refer their family for assessment.

Where concerns arise about a person’s behaviour in relation to their own children, the Police and Children, Education and Families need to 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, in which case this procedure will apply.


2. Designated and Named Officers

2.1 Local Authority Designated Officer

The Local Authority must appoint a Designated Officer (the “LADO”) whose responsibility it is to be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases which fall within this procedure, providing advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations, liaising with the Police and other agencies, and monitoring the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a thorough and fair process. 

2.2 Named Senior Officer

Each member agency of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board must appoint a Named Senior Officer to have overall responsibility for ensuring that their agency operates procedures for dealing with allegations against those who work with children in accordance with the guidance set out in Appendix 5 of Working Together 2010 (now archived), resolving inter agency issues and liaising with the Safeguarding Children Board on the subject.

2.3 Senior Manager

Each member agency of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board and other employers who provide services to children or young people must also appoint a Designated Senior Manager to whom allegations or concerns are reported. The Senior Manager will have responsibility for dealing with allegations in accordance with this procedure, including liaising with the Designated Officer (LADO), attending Strategy Meetings where required, liaising with Human Resources where disciplinary action is required and ensuring relevant support programme's are in place for staff, parents and young people.

An alternative person should also be identified to act as Senior Manager should the principal post-holder be absent when an allegation is made or be the subject of such an allegation. This alternative Senior Manager should be made aware of the contact details for the Designated Officer (LADO).

The contact details of the Senior Manager should be publicised within the organisation. The Senior Manager will be kept informed of the contact details of the Designated Officer (LADO's).

2.4 The Police

The Police should also identify officers to fulfil similar roles – a senior officer to have a strategic oversight of arrangements, liaise with Local Safeguarding Boards in the force areas and ensure compliance – and others, possibly unit managers, responsible for liaising with the Local Authority Designated Officer and Named Senior Officer, taking part in Strategy Discussions/Meetings, reviewing the progress of cases in which there is a Police investigation and sharing information on completion of the investigation or any prosecution. The Police should also identify officers to fulfil similar roles – a senior officer to have a strategic oversight of arrangements, liaise with Local Safeguarding Boards in the force areas and ensure compliance – and others, possibly unit managers, responsible for liaising with the Local Authority Designated Officer and Named Senior Officer, taking part in Strategy Discussions/Meetings, reviewing the progress of cases in which there is a Police investigation and sharing information on completion of the investigation or any prosecution.


3. Responding to Allegations

All organisations which provide services to children, or provide staff or volunteers to work with or care for children, should operate a procedure for handling allegations that fall within this procedure.

Where such allegations are made, consideration must be given to the following three strands:

  1. The Police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
  2. Enquiries and assessment by Children, Education and Families as to whether the child is need of protection or in need of services;
  3. Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action in respect of the individual.


4. Initial Considerations

All allegations falling within the remit of this procedure that come to the employer’s attention should be notified to the Designated Officer (LADO). The Named Senior Officer should receive reports in relation to allegations against those within their organisation. A senior member of the Human Resources section for the relevant agency must also be consulted.

The Senior Manager must consult with the Designated Officer (LADO) within one working day of receiving information about the allegation to determine what steps should be taken; this will include consideration of whether a referral to the MASH is required and may include consideration of whether the allegation constitutes gross misconduct or not.

Consideration must also be given to an immediate referral to the Police where it is believed that a crime against a child may have been committed. It is essential that any such referral is made urgently so as to avert the risk of spoiling evidence that may assist in any investigation.

Some allegations will be so serious as to require immediate referral to the MASH and the Police, but common sense and judgement must be applied in reaching a decision about what action to take.

Where there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, the Designated Officer (LADO) will immediately refer the matter to the MASH and ask for a Strategy Discussion/Meeting to be convened straight away.

Where the safety of other children is in question as a result of the allegation, consideration should be given to invoking the Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure.

Some allegations may be less serious and at first sight might not seem to warrant consideration of a police investigation or enquiries by the MASH. However, it is important to ensure that even apparently less serious allegations are followed up and examined objectively.


5. Direct Referrals to the Police/Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub

Where a referral is made directly to the MASH, they will consult with the Designated Officer (LADO), the Police and the Named Senior Officer or Named Senior Manager in the relevant agency or organisation.

If a referral is made to the Police first, the officer who receives it should report it to the Force Designated Liaison Officer without delay and he/she should in turn inform the Designated Officer (LADO). 


6. Cross Boundary Issues

Where an Oxfordshire child makes an allegation in a setting or placement which is outside the county, the lead responsibility for action lies with the local authority for the area where the alleged abuse occurred. In these circumstances, the Designated Officer (LADO) and, where appropriate, the child’s social worker will liaise with the relevant local authority and agree a joint strategy. Checks should be made as to whether there are any other children from Oxfordshire in the setting or placement. If so, the child’s social worker and manager must be informed, and the Designated Officer (LADO) should consult with them about the action required.

Interviews of Oxfordshire children will usually be undertaken by Oxfordshire Children, Education and Families staff in conjunction with the Police as appropriate.

Where the referral relates to a child from another local authority placed in an establishment located within the Oxfordshire area, for example a boarding school, the Designated Officer (LADO) should liaise with the child’s home authority about the roles and responsibilities in carrying out this procedure.


7. 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 Designated Officer (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.
(Note that this provision applies only to teachers, not to other staff in educational establishments.)


8. Providing Information about the Allegation

If the parents/carers of the child are not already aware of the allegation, the Designated Officer (LADO) needs to determine how and by whom they should be informed. They should be kept informed about the progress of the case and told the outcome, where there is not a criminal prosecution, and the outcome of any disciplinary process. 

The employer should inform the accused person about the allegation after consulting with the Designated Officer (LADO). However, where a Strategy Discussion/Meeting is needed or it is clear that Children, Education and Families and/or the Police may need to be involved, that should not be done without consulting those agencies and an agreement being reached about what information can be disclosed to the person.

Staff, foster carers, prospective adopters, volunteers and other persons about whom there are concerns should be treated fairly and honestly and should be provided with support through the investigative process, as should others also involved.

If the accused person is a member of a union or other professional association, they should be advised to seek support from that organisation. If the person is suspended the employer should make arrangements to keep the individual informed about developments in the workplace.


9. Action

  • Where there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made to the MASH and a decision taken to call a Strategy Discussion/Meeting which should take place within one working day of the referral – see Section 11, Strategy Discussion/Meeting. Where the safety of other children is in question as a result of the allegation, consideration should be given to invoking the procedure in Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure;
  • Where the involvement of Children, Education and Families is not required as no child is believed to be suffering Significant Harm (for example where there is an allegation of historical abuse), but a police investigation will be necessary, the Designated Officer (LADO) should conduct a discussion with the police, the employer and any other agencies involved to evaluate the allegation and decide how it should be dealt with. This Joint Evaluation Discussion should take place without delay and must consider how to take matters forward in a criminal process parallel with a disciplinary process or whether any disciplinary action will need to await the completion of the police enquiries and/or prosecution. The police should set a target date for reviewing the progress of their investigation and consulting the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether to charge the individual, continue the investigation or close it down. Wherever possible this review discussion should take place no later than 4 weeks after the initial meeting to consider the allegation. Dates for subsequent reviews, at fortnightly or monthly intervals, should be set at the first review if the investigation is to continue;
  • Where a decision is made that neither the Children, Education and Families nor the Police is required to continue any involvement, the Designated Officer (LADO) should discuss next steps with the person’s employer within three working days. In those circumstances options open to the employer range from taking no further action to summary dismissal or a decision not to use the person’s services in future. Where a Disciplinary Hearing is required and can be held without further investigation, this should take place within 15 working days. Where further investigation is required, the employer should discuss who will undertake that with the Designated Officer (LADO). The investigating officer should provide a report to the employer within 10 working days; the employer should decide whether disciplinary action is required within 2 working days and if a hearing is needed it should be held within 15 working days. The Designated Officer (LADO) should continue to liaise with the employer to monitor progress of the case and provide support/advice as required;
  • The progress of the investigation and enquiries must be reviewed regularly by the Designated Officer (LADO) either by Review Strategy Discussions/Meetings or by liaising with Children, Education & Families, the Police and the employer, as appropriate. Reviews should be conducted at fortnightly or monthly intervals depending on the complexity of the case.


10. Resignations and Compromise Agreements

The fact that a person tenders his/her resignation, or ceases to provide their service, must not prevent the allegations being followed up in accordance with this procedure.

Whether or not an individual cooperates with an investigation, or remains in employment at its conclusion, it is important that the investigation continues, considering all available evidence in an attempt to reach a judgement about the allegation.

It therefore follows that so called 'compromise agreements' (by which a person agrees to resign, the employer agrees not to pursue disciplinary action and both parties agree a formula of words to be used in future references) should not be used in these cases. Such an agreement would not, in any case, prevent police action nor can it override an employer's duty to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service should circumstances require this.


11. Strategy Discussion/Meeting

It is essential that the relevant people are included in the Strategy Discussion/Meeting and any follow up discussions or meetings to ensure that the full scope of the enquiry can be effectively addressed. This should include the employer unless there is good reason not to do so.

Notifications will be required to be made to the relevant Regulatory Authority regarding day care and child minders, residential staff, foster carers and prospective adopters.

The Strategy Discussion/Meeting will need to:

  • Share all relevant information about the person who is the subject of the allegation and about the alleged child victim;
  • Plan the investigation/enquiries and set timescales for tasks to be undertaken;
  • Consider whether any other children are affected by the allegations e.g. the person’s own children or other children in the agency setting for example children placed with foster carers, child minders, a youth club, grandchildren; 
  • Determine any action that needs to be taken in respect of any other children identified including Child Protection Assessments;
  • Decide how regular information and support will be provided to the child and family and by whom;
  • Ensure that the person who is the subject of the allegation is kept informed and supported;
  • Plan all interviews and agree who should undertake them so that there is no confusion between a criminal investigation, Child Protection Assessment/Child and Family Assessments and disciplinary processes;
  • Consider whether the circumstances require the person who is subject to the allegation to be suspended from contact with children, so as to inform the employer’s decision about this issue (including whether a foster carer’s approval should be suspended and the implications for other children in the placement); this may change as the investigation progresses and should be reviewed regularly; and
  • Where a person has been suspended from contact with children, consider whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service is required.

The progress of the investigation and enquiries must be reviewed regularly by the Designated Officer (LADO) either by review Strategy Discussions/Meetings or by liaising with Children Young People Families, the Police and the employer, as appropriate. Reviews should be conducted at fortnightly or monthly intervals depending on the complexity of the case.


12. Confidentiality and Record Keeping

During the investigation the police should obtain consent from the individuals concerned to share the statements and evidence they obtain with the employer and/or the Regulatory Authority, for disciplinary purposes. This will enable the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to share relevant information without delay at the conclusion of the investigation or any court case.

Children, Education and Families should also obtain consent when making enquiries so that any information that is relevant to a disciplinary case can be passed on to the employer or the Regulatory Authority.

Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being considered or investigated.

In line with the National Police Chief’s Council guidance, the Police will not normally provide any information to the press or media that might identify an individual who is under investigation, unless or until the person is charged with a criminal offence. In exceptional circumstances where the police might make an appeal to trace a suspect, the reasons for this action should be documented and partner agencies should have been consulted beforehand.

The child and parents or carers can be informed about the outcome of any disciplinary process but they do not have access to the deliberations of a Disciplinary Hearing nor the information taken into account in reaching the decisions in the Hearing.

Employers must keep a clear and comprehensive record of any allegations made, details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, and details of any action taken and decisions reached, on a person’s confidential personnel file and give a copy to the individual. Such information should be retained on file, including for people who leave the organisation, at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years if that will be longer.

Details of allegations that are found to be malicious should be removed from personnel records.

The purpose of the record is to provide accurate information in response to any future request for a reference.

Each agency must take great care to ensure that the records they keep respect the confidentiality of the victim and/or the alleged perpetrator i.e. the child’s file should contain limited information about the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s file should contain limited information about the child victim.


13. Action Following a Criminal Investigation or a Prosecution

The Police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should inform the employer and the Designated Officer (LADO) straightaway when a criminal investigation and any subsequent trial are complete, or if it is decided to close an investigation without charge, or not to prosecute after the person has been charged.

In all circumstances the Designated Officer (LADO) should discuss with the employer what further action is appropriate and agree how to proceed. The information provided by the Police and/or Children, Education and Families should inform that decision. 

Action on conclusion of a case should include consideration of whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children's Barred List is required or advisable, and the form and content of a referral.

If the person is subject to registration or regulation by a professional body or regulator, for example by the General Social Care Council, General Medical Council, OFSTED etc. the Designated Officer (LADO) should advise on whether a referral/report to that body is appropriate.

If it is decided that a person who has been suspended from work can return, the employer must consider how best to facilitate that return. The employer must also consider how the person’s contact with the child or children who made the allegation can best be managed if they are still in the workplace.


14. Learning Lessons

At the conclusion of a case where the allegation has been substantiated, the employer should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation’s procedures or practice to help prevent similar events for the future.

Any lessons from investigations and enquiries should be reported by the Designated Officer (LADO) on a regular basis to the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board.

In some cases, a Serious Case Review may be appropriate.

End