Children may be subjected to abuse by those who work with them, in any setting. All allegations of abuse or maltreatment of children by a professional, staff member, foster carer or volunteer must therefore be taken seriously and treated in accordance with these procedures.
Information about the present position of the Independent Safeguarding Authority is included in the final section of this procedure.
Organisations to which these Procedures Apply
These procedures apply to organisations that have a working relationship with the individual against whom an allegation is made. This includes:
- Organisations that use the services of volunteers or people who are self-employed, as well as service providers, voluntary organisations, employment agencies or businesses, contractors and fostering services;
- Regulatory bodies such as Ofsted in the case of child minders, and others that may not have a direct employment relationship with the individual, but will need to consider whether to continue to use the person's services, or to approve the person for work with children in future, or to deregister the individual.
In some circumstances, the term 'employer' encompasses more than one organisation e.g. where staff providing services for children in an organisation are employed by a contractor, or where temporary staff are provided by an agency. In those circumstances, both the contractor or agency and the organisation in which the accused individual worked need to be involved in dealing with the allegation.
Scope of Allegations to which these Procedures Apply
These procedures apply to a wide range of allegations, including those that indicate a person may be unsuitable to work with children in their present position, or in any capacity. They are therefore to be followed in respect of any allegation that a person who works with children has:
- Behaved in a way that has harmed, 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 s/he is unsuitable to work with children
Within each organisation there is to be a Named Senior Officer who has overall responsibility for:
- Ensuring that the organisation operates procedures for dealing with allegations in accordance with 'Working Together to Safeguard Children';
- Resolving any inter-agency issues;
- Liaising with the LSCB.
Each Local Authority is to have a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) to be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases. The role of the LADO includes provision of advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations, liaising with the Police and other agencies. The LADO monitors the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process.
The Police are to identify a Senior Officer to have strategic oversight of the arrangements, liaise with the LSCBs and ensure compliance. The Police are also to identify a Designated Liaison Officer(s) who will:
- Liaise with the LADO;
- Take part in Strategy Meetings/Discussions and Evaluation Meetings;
- Review the progress of cases in which there is a Police investigation;
- Share information on completion of the investigation or any prosecution.
Each LSCB organisation, including the Local Authorities, is to identify a Senior Manager within the organisation to whom allegations or concerns that a member of staff or volunteer may have abused a child should be reported. Each LSCB organisation is to show in its internal procedures, the name of the person and the name of an alternative person should the Senior Manager be absent or where that person may be the subject of the allegation or concern. The internal procedures should also include contact details for the LADO.
Three Strands in Consideration of an Allegation
There may be up to three strands in the consideration of an allegation:
- Police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
- Enquiries and assessment by Children's Social Care about whether a child is in need of protection or in need of services;
- Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action in respect of the individual.
The role of the LADO is integral to all of these strands.
Historical and/or Complex Abuse
There have been a number of widely reported cases of historical abuse, which have generally come to light after adults have reported abuse that they experienced as children, while living away from home in settings provided by Local Authorities, the voluntary sector or independent providers. When such allegations are made, they should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. In those cases it is also important to find out whether the person accused is still working with children and, if so, to inform the person's current employer or voluntary organisation.
Those undertaking investigations should be alert to any sign or pattern that suggests that the abuse is more widespread or organised than it appears at first sight, or that it involves other perpetrators or institutions. It is important not to assume that initial signs are necessarily related directly to abuse, and to consider occasions where boundaries have been blurred, inappropriate behaviour has taken place, and matters such as fraud, deception or indecent images have been involved.
In deciding what information to disclose, careful consideration should be given to duties under the Data Protection Act 1998, the law of confidence and, where relevant, the Human Rights Act 1998.
Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated/ considered. In accordance with ACPO guidance, the Police do not normally provide any information to the press or media that might identify an individual who is under investigation, unless and until the person is charged with a criminal offence. (In exceptional cases, where the police might depart from that rule e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect, the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted beforehand.)
It is in everyone's interest to resolve cases as quickly as possible, consistent with a fair and thorough investigation. Every effort should be made to avoid any unnecessary delay. It is expected that most cases are resolved within one month, although cases which require a criminal prosecution or a complex Police investigation are likely to take longer than three months.
Information and Support for the Child and Family
In some circumstances an employer may need to advise parents of an incident involving their child straight away, for example, if the child has been injured while in the organisation's care and requires medical treatment. In other circumstances, where there may need to be involvement from the Police and Children's Social Care, there should be consultation about how best to inform the parents.
Parents or carers of a child or children involved should be kept informed about the progress of the case, and told the outcome where there is not a criminal prosecution, including the outcome of any disciplinary process. (The deliberations of a disciplinary hearing, and the information taken into account in reaching a decision, cannot normally be disclosed, but those concerned should be told the outcome.)
The provision of information and advice must take place in a manner that does not impede the proper exercise of enquiry, disciplinary and investigative processes.
The child or children concerned should receive appropriate support. They and their parents or carers should be helped to understand the process, told the result of any enquiry or disciplinary process and, where necessary, helped to understand the outcomes reached.
In cases where a child may have suffered significant harm, or there may be a criminal prosecution, Children's Social Care or the Police, as appropriate, should consider what support the child or children involved may need.
Employer: Information and Support for the Individual Concerned
Staff, foster carers, volunteers and other individuals about whom there are concerns should be treated fairly and honestly, and should be provided with support throughout the investigation process, as should others who are involved. They should be helped to understand the concerns expressed and the processes being operated, and be clearly informed of the outcome of any investigation and the implications for disciplinary or related processes.
The employer should keep the person who is the subject of the allegation informed of the progress of the case, and arrange to provide appropriate support to the individual while the case is ongoing. That support may be provided via occupational health or employee welfare arrangements where those exist.
If the person is suspended, the employer should also make arrangements to keep the individual informed about developments in the workplace. If the person is a member of a Union or professional association, they should be advised to contact that body at the outset.
If it is decided on conclusion of the case that a person who has been suspended can return to work, the employer should consider how best to facilitate that. Most people will benefit from some help and support to return to work after a very stressful experience.
Depending on the individual's circumstances, a phased return and/or the provision of a mentor to provide assistance and support in the short term may be appropriate. The employer should 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.
It is important that employers keep a clear and comprehensive summary of any allegations made, details of how the allegations were followed up and resolved, and of any action taken and decisions reached. These should be kept in a person's confidential personnel file and a copy should be given 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 is longer. The purpose of the record is to enable accurate information to be given in response to any future request for a reference. It will provide clarification in cases where a future CRB disclosure reveals information from the Police that an allegation was made but did not result in a prosecution or a conviction. It will also prevent unnecessary re-investigation if, as sometimes happens, allegations resurface after a period of time.
Employer: Reporting the Allegation
Any allegation or concern which arises should be reported to the Senior Manager identified in the employer's internal procedures immediately, unless that person is the subject of the allegation, in which case it should be reported to the designated alternative.
Procedures need to be applied with common sense and judgment. Some allegations are so serious as to require immediate referral to Children's Social Care and the Police for investigation. Others are much less serious, and at first sight may not seem to warrant consideration of a Police investigation or enquiries by Children's Social Care. However, it is important to ensure that even apparently less serious allegations are seen to be followed up, and that they are examined objectively by someone independent of the organisation concerned.
Consequently, the LADO is to be informed of all allegations that come to the employer's attention and appear to fall within the scope of these Procedures. The employer should report the allegation to the LADO within one working day.
Employer: Next Steps
The employer should inform the accused person about the allegation as soon as possible after consulting the LADO. However, where a child protection Strategy Discussion/Meeting is needed, or it is clear that Police or Children's Social Care may need to be involved, that should not be done until those agencies have been consulted and have agreed what information can be disclosed to the person.
Where it is, or becomes, clear that enquiries by Children's Social Care and/or Police investigation are not necessary, there should be a discussion between the LADO and the employer about next steps.
The nature and circumstances of the allegation and the evidence and information available will determine which of the range of possible options is most appropriate. 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.
In such cases, if the nature of the allegation does not require formal disciplinary action, appropriate action should be instituted within three working days.
Employer: Consideration of Disciplinary Action
Where further investigation is required to inform consideration of disciplinary action, the employer and the LADO should discuss who will undertake that. This should normally be undertaken by the employer. However, in some circumstances appropriate resources may not be available, or the nature and complexity of the allegation might point to the employer commissioning an independent investigation. Similarly, in some settings and circumstances, it may be appropriate for the disciplinary investigation to be conducted by a person who is independent of the employer or the person's line management to ensure objectivity. In any case, the investigating officer should aim to provide a report to the employer within ten working days.
On receipt of the report of the disciplinary investigation, the employer should decide whether a disciplinary hearing is needed within two working days. If a hearing is needed it should be held within fifteen working days.
In any case in which Children's Social Care has undertaken enquiries to determine whether the child or children are in need of protection, the employer should take account of any relevant information obtained in the course of those enquiries when considering disciplinary action.
Employer: Consideration of Suspension
The possible risk of harm to children posed by an accused person needs to be evaluated and managed effectively. In some cases this requires the employer to consider suspending the person. Suspension should be considered in any case where there is cause to suspect a child is at risk of significant harm, or the allegation warrants investigation by the Police, or is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal.
People must not be suspended automatically or without careful thought. Employers must consider carefully whether the circumstances of a case warrant a person being suspended from contact with children until the allegation is resolved. Neither the Local Authority or the Police or Children's Social Care can require an employer to suspend a member of staff or a volunteer. The power to suspend is vested in the employer alone. Where however, Children's Social Care are involved or there is an investigation by the Police, their views, canvassed by the LADO, should inform the employer with regard to that decision.
Employer: Resignations and 'Compromise Agreements'
The fact that a person tenders his or her resignation, or ceases to provide their services, must not prevent an allegation being followed up in accordance with these procedures. It is important that every effort is made to reach a conclusion in all cases of allegations bearing on the safety or welfare of children, including any in which the person concerned refuses to co-operate with the process. Wherever possible, the person should be given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations about it.
The process of recording the allegation and any supporting evidence, and reaching a judgment about whether it can be regarded as substantiated on the basis of all the information available, should continue, even if that cannot be done or the person does not co-operate. It may be difficult to reach a conclusion in those circumstances, and 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
By the same token, so-called 'compromise agreements' – by which a person agrees to resign, the employer agrees not to pursue disciplinary action, and both parties agree a form of words to be used in any future reference – must not be used in these cases. In any event, such an agreement will not prevent a thorough police investigation where appropriate, nor can it override an employer's statutory duty to make a referral to the Independent Safeguarding Authority where circumstances require.
Employer: Action Re False/Unfounded Allegations
If an allegation is determined to be unfounded, the employer should refer the matter to Children's Social Care to determine whether the child concerned is in need of services, or may have been abused by someone else. In the rare event that an allegation is shown to have been deliberately invented or malicious, the Police should be asked to consider whether any action might be appropriate against the person responsible.
Employer: Learning Lessons
At the conclusion of a case in which an allegation is substantiated, the employer should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice to help prevent similar events in the future.
From October 12th 2009, a new duty to share information has been introduced under the Vetting and Barring Scheme. From that date employers, social care and professional regulators will have to notify the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) of relevant information so that individuals who pose a threat to vulnerable groups can be identified and barred from working with these groups.
It is important that the referrals process to the ISA is clear robust and practical to all, therefore the ISA has published guidance on its website. The practice guidance sets out:
- the key elements of the new referral process
- the circumstances under which a referral should be made
- the legal responsibilities of employers, including the paid and voluntary sector and also employees.
- the main points of the law in relation to referrals
Referrals to the ISA should be made on the ISA referral form.
LADO: Initial Response
The LADO, on receiving an allegation, should first establish, in discussion with the employer, whether the allegation falls within the scope of these procedures. Where necessary the LADO should obtain further details of the allegation and the circumstances in which it was made. Discussion should also consider whether there is evidence/information that establishes that the allegation is false or unfounded.
If the parents/carers of the child concerned are not already aware of the allegation, the LADO should discuss how and by whom they are to be informed. In circumstances in which the Police or Children's Social Care may need to be involved, the LADO should consult those colleagues about how best to inform the parents. However, in some circumstances an employer may need to advise parents of an incident involving their child straight away, for example, if the child has been injured while in the organisation's care and requires medical treatment.
LADO: Referral to Children's Social Care and/or Police
If the allegation is not patently false and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the LADO will immediately refer to Children's Social Care and ask for a child protection Strategy Meeting/Discussion to be convened straightaway. The Strategy Meeting/Discussion will be in two parts, the first to focus on the welfare and safety of the child. The second part of that meeting, termed the Evaluation Discussion, will focus on the person accused and should be led by the LADO.
In cases where a formal Strategy Meeting/Discussion is not considered appropriate – because the threshold of 'significant harm' is not reached – but a Police investigation might be needed, the LADO should hold an Evaluation Discussion with the Police, the employer, and any other agencies involved with the child to evaluate the allegation and decide how it should be dealt with. (The Police must be consulted about any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed.)
This Evaluation Discussion should share available information about the allegation, the child and the person against whom the allegation has been made, consider whether a Police investigation is needed and, if so, agree the timing and conduct of that.
Where a Police investigation is necessary, the Evaluation Discussion should also consider whether there are matters that can be taken forward in a disciplinary process in parallel with the criminal process, or whether any disciplinary action needs to wait for completion of the Police investigation and/or prosecution.
LADO: Monitoring Progress
In all cases, whether or not Children's Social Care and/or the Police have become involved, the LADO should continue to liaise with the employer to monitor progress of the case and provide advice/support when required or requested. The LADO should also regularly monitor the progress of the case with the Police and/or Children's Social Care, where they are involved by way of reviews on a fortnightly or monthly basis, depending on the complexity of the case.
In circumstances where the Police or the CPS have informed the LADO that a criminal investigation and/or trial is complete, or the investigation is not going to result in a charge or prosecution, he LADO should discuss with the employer whether any further action is appropriate and, if so, how to proceed. The information provided by the Police and/or Children's Social Care should inform that decision. Action by the employer, including dismissal, is not ruled out in any of those circumstances. The range of options open depends on the circumstances of the case, and the consideration needs to take into account the result of the Police investigation or trial, as well as the different standard of proof required in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.
LADO: Action on Conclusion of a Case
If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the person's services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide his/her services, the LADO should discuss with the employer whether a referral to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) is required. Referral guidance has been published by the ISA to inform decisions to refer using a referral form.
Also, if the person is subject to registration or regulation by a professional body or regulator, e.g. General Social Care Council, General Medical Council, Ofsted etc, the LADO should advise whether a referral to that body is appropriate. If a referral is appropriate, the report should be made within one month.
Police: Allegation made to the Police
If an allegation is made to the Police, the officer who receives it should report it to the Police Designated Liaison Officer without delay. The Designated Liaison Officer should then inform the LADO immediately.
Police: Investigation and Liaison
If the Police are undertaking an investigation, they should obtain consent from the individuals concerned to share the statements and evidence they obtain with the employer and/or regulatory body, for disciplinary purposes. This should be done as the investigation proceeds rather than after it is concluded, to enable the Police and CPS to share relevant information without delay at the conclusion of their investigation or any Court case.
If undertaking an investigation, the Police should set a target date for reviewing the progress of the investigation and consulting the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider whether to charge the individual, continue to investigate, or close the investigation. Wherever possible, that review should take place no later than four weeks after the Strategy or Evaluation Discussion. Dates for subsequent reviews, at fortnightly or monthly intervals, should be set if the investigation continues. (It is open to the Police to consult the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the evidence that will need to be obtained in order to charge a person with an offence at any stage.
If the Police and/or CPS decide not to charge the individual with an offence, or decide to administer a caution, or the person is acquitted by a Court, the Police should pass all information they have which may be relevant to a disciplinary case to the employer, without delay.
The Police or the CPS should inform the employer and the LADO straightaway when a criminal investigation and any subsequent trial is complete, or if it is decided to close an investigation without charge, or not to prosecute after the person has been charged.
Children's Social Care: Allegation made to Children's Social Care
If the allegation is made to Children's Social Care, the person who receives it should report it to the LADO without delay.
Children's Social Care: Strategy Meeting/Discussion and Evaluation Discussion
If there is cause to suspect a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, a child protection Strategy Meeting/Discussion should be convened. In such a case, the Strategy Meeting/Discussion should include a representative of the employer (unless there are good reasons not to do that) and should take account of any information the employer can provide about the circumstances or context of the allegation.
In those circumstances, the Strategy Discussion should include the LADO and a representative of the employer.
Any Strategy Meeting held in these circumstances should run as a meeting of two parts.
The first part, to be chaired and led by the Team Manager, should focus on the safety and welfare of the child/ren about whom the allegation is concerned. Any confidential information about the child and their family held by agencies should only be shared with the employer of the person against whom an allegation has been made if it is justifiable to do so within this particular situation.
Any views from professionals present, which may inform the employer in respect of future decisions about the person concerned, should be made known. This part of the meeting should be recorded in the usual way that a Strategy Meeting/Discussion is recorded.
The second part of the meeting, to be termed an Evaluation Discussion, should be led by the LADO, should focus on the individual against whom the allegation has been made and should plan next steps. Only those professionals who are relevant to this process at that point, e.g. the LADO, the employer, Police and Children's Social Care Team Manager should remain for this Evaluation Discussion, plus any professional who has been invited in order to give specialist information and/or advice. The Evaluation Discussion should be recorded separately from the notes of the Strategy Meeting/Discussion and should only be available to those present during the Evaluation Discussion.
Children's Social Care: Consent for Information
If subsequently undertaking child protection enquiries, Children's Social Care should seek to obtain consent from the individuals concerned to share information obtained in the course of their enquiries that may be relevant to a disciplinary case or regulatory body. Such information should be passed to the employer without delay.
About the Independent Safeguarding Authority ( ISA)
In June 2010 the work of the national Vetting and Barring Scheme was halted whilst the Coalition Government undertakes a review of the scheme. However the new safeguarding regulations introduced in October 2009 continue to apply. These include:
- A person who is barred from working with children or vulnerable adults will be breaking the law if they work or volunteer, or try to work or volunteer with those groups.
- An organisation which knowingly employs someone who is barred to work with those groups will also be breaking the law.
- If your organisation works with children or vulnerable adults and you dismiss a member of staff or a volunteer because they have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or you would have done so if they had not left, you must tell the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
In October 2009, the right to ask for an enhanced CRB disclosure was extended to all those who employ or use volunteers in types of activity called ‘Regulated Activity’. This right remains, and employers should continue to carry out appropriate pre-recruitment checks, including CRB checks where appropriate or required by law.