Allegations and Concerns Against Staff, Carers or Volunteers
Children can 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.
All references in this document to ‘members of staff’ should be interpreted as meaning all paid or unpaid staff, including volunteers, sessional staff, foster carers and approved adopters. People whose role places them in ‘a position of trust’ will be considered within the remit of these procedures.
It is essential that any allegation of abuse made against a person who works with children and young people, including those who work in a voluntary capacity, are dealt with fairly, quickly and consistently, in a way that provides effective protection for the child and, at the same time, supports the person who is the subject of the allegation.
The aim of the Procedures is to:
N.B. The area responsible for implementing the procedure is determined by where the individual, who is the subject of the allegation or concern, works. Should the individual not work in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland or Stockton, then the LADO for the relevant area is to be notified.
1.1 These procedures should be applied in all settings and work places where employees, volunteers and regular visitors either: work with children, are in a position of trust and/or have a duty of care to children. This includes those who:
1.2 The framework for managing cases set out in these procedures applies to a wider range of allegations than those in which there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. They should be used in respect of all circumstances where it is alleged that a person has:
1.3 This can be in connection with his/her employment or voluntary activity or where:
1.4 The procedures also apply where there are concerns relating to inappropriate relationships between those who work with children or young people as outlined in the ‘Sexual Offences Act 2003’ namely
If an allegation relating to a child is made about a person who works with vulnerable adults, consideration should be given to alerting those who manage her / him in that role. (Reference Adult Safeguarding Procedures).
2 Roles and Responsibilities
Safeguarding Children Partnerships
2.1 Safeguarding Children Partnerships (SCPs) have responsibility for ensuring there are effective inter agency procedures in place for dealing with allegations against people who work with children and for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the procedures. Each Safeguarding Children Partnership member organisation should identify a named Senior Officer with overall responsibility for:
2.2 Councils should appoint an Officer (LADO) who will:
2.3 Cleveland Police should identify a Senior Officer to:
2.4 Identify local Designated Officers to:
2.5 Employers should:
Schools or other education settings should also refer to ‘Dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff (October 2012)’ available at Gov.uk which covers issues relating to allegations of abuse made against teachers and other education staff.
3 Recognising and responding to an allegation
3.1 There are a number of sources from which a complaint or an allegation might arise including those from:
Initial Action by Person Receiving or Identifying An Allegation or Concern
3.2 The person to whom an allegation is first reported should treat the matter seriously and keep an open mind. They should:
3.3 They should not:
Initial Action by the Designated Senior Manager
3.4 When informed of a concern or allegation, the designated Senior Manager should not investigate the matter or interview the member of staff, child or any potential witnesses. They should:
3.5 Any organisation that receives information regarding a complaint or allegation (including the Police and Social Care) should report it to the LADO within one working day. Reporting should not be delayed in order to gather information. If an allegation is received outside normal working hours and requires immediate attention, the designated Senior Manager should consult the local authority Emergency Duty Team or Police and inform the LADO as soon as possible.
Initial Consideration by the Designated Senior Manager and the LADO
3.6 There are up to three strands in the consideration of an allegation:
3.7 The LADO and designated Senior Manager/Deputy should consider 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 a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the LADO should refer to local authority Children’s Social Care and request a strategy meeting is convened.
3.8 The Police must be consulted about any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed. In circumstances where the criteria for a child protection referral is not met, but a Police investigation might be needed, the LADO should immediately inform the Police and convene an initial LADO meeting.
3.9 Where there are concerns regarding the conduct or behaviour of an individual which raises concerns about their suitability to work with children, but the threshold criteria for a child protection referral is not met, an initial LADO meeting should be convened. In some circumstances i.e. when the action needed to be taken is evident, a discussion between the relevant parties may be appropriate instead of convening a meeting.
Information Sharing and Data Protection
Informing the parent(s) and/or child
3.10 The Employer has a responsibility to inform the LADO immediately an allegation is made. If the parent(s) of the child is not already aware of the allegation, the LADO, in consultation with colleagues in the Police and Social Care, will advise the Employer about when and how to do this. In some circumstances, the parent will need to be told straight away; for example if the child has been injured or requires medical treatment. The parent(s), and the child if sufficiently mature, should be helped to understand the processes involved.
Informing the employer
3.11 Where the LADO receives a complaint or an allegation from sources other than the Employer, the LADO should consider what information, if any, should be disclosed to the Employer applying the Information Sharing: Guidance for Practitioners and Managers (HM Government 2008) and/or the Pressing Needs Test, RV Local Authority & Police Authority, Midlands Ex Parte LM.
3.12 In all cases, the information shared and reasons for doing so should be recorded on the Allegations Management Referral Form, which will be completed by the LADO for each referral received and a copy will be sent to the Employer on conclusion of the case. The LADO should have regard to existing information sharing protocols.
Informing the referred person
3.13 The Employer should seek advice from the LADO and the Police about how much information should be disclosed to the referred person. Subject to the restrictions on the information that can be shared, the Employer should, as soon as possible, inform the referred person about the nature of the allegation, how enquiries will be conducted and the possible outcome. The referred member of staff should:
3.14 Ofsted should be informed by the Employer of any allegation or concern made against a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 years and, if appropriate, by the LADO if the allegation is against a registered childminder. Ofsted should be invited to attend any safeguarding strategy meeting or LADO meeting and kept informed of the progress of the case and the outcome.
3.15 Local authority Children’s Social Care should inform Ofsted of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or member of staff in a residential child care facility.
Strategy Meeting/Discussion and LADO Meeting
3.16 If there is cause to suspect a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, a child protection Strategy Meeting/Discussion will be held. This meeting will be held in two parts: the first part of the meeting will be a Strategy Meeting and will focus on the welfare and safety of the child/ren and will be chaired by an experienced Manager. The Strategy Meeting should:
3.17 The second part of the meeting, an initial LADO Meeting, should be chaired by the LADO and should focus on the individual against whom the allegation has been made. The following is a list of possible participants:
3.18 The LADO meeting should:
If a Strategy Meeting is not required, the LADO will convene and chair an initial LADO Meeting, considering the above points.
3.19 If necessary, a second or subsequent LADO review meeting should be held to ensure that all tasks have been completed and where appropriate, agree an action plan for future practice based on lessons learned.
Allegations Against Staff in Their Personal Lives
3.20 If an allegation or concern arises about a member of staff outside of their work with children, and this may present a risk of harm to children for whom the member of staff is responsible or comes in to regular contact with, the general principles outlined in these procedures will still apply.
The LADO meeting should 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/LADOs in both areas.
3.21 In some cases, an allegation of abuse against someone closely associated with a member of staff may present a risk of harm to children for whom the member of staff is responsible or comes in to regular contact with. In these circumstances the LADO meeting should consider:
Organised and Historical Abuse
3.22 Investigators should be alert to signs of organised or widespread abuse and 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. Historical allegations should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. It will be important to ascertain if the person is currently working with children and, if so, to consider whether the current employer should be informed.
Whistle-Blowing / Confidential Reporting Policy
3.23 All staff should be made aware of the Organisation’s whistle-blowing / confidential reporting policy and feel confident to voice concerns about the actions or attitude of colleagues. If a member of staff believes that a reported allegation or concern is not being dealt with appropriately by their Organisation, they should report the matter to the LADO.
Cross Boundary Considerations
3.24 Allegations or concerns might be raised about individuals who work within more than one authority. When this occurs, the LADO receiving the information should contact the LADO in the area(s) where the individual is also known to work or have contact with children.
3.25 If concerns arise in an individual’s private life that have a bearing on their work with children in another authority, the LADO should contact the LADO for that area and offer to attend a LADO meeting to share information and agree any action necessary.
3.26 The LADO / Adult Safeguarding Protocol should be used when there is a need to share information between authorities that is relevant to an individual who may also work with vulnerable adults.
4 Actions and outcomes
4.1 Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity whilst 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 and manage disciplinary processes.
4.2 The Police will not provide identifying information to the press or media, until a person is convicted, other than in exceptional circumstances. In such cases, the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted beforehand.
4.3 The employing organisation, together with Children’s Social Care and/or the Police where involved, should consider the impact upon the child and provide appropriate support. Liaison between agencies should consider how the child’s needs are addressed.
4.4 As soon as practicable after an allegation has been received, the referred member of staff should be advised to contact their union or professional association. The employing organisation should alert their HR advisors in order that support can be offered via the organisation’s occupational health or well-being arrangements and so that procedures can be adhered to. The leaflet ’Guidance for Staff Facing an Allegation’ should also be provided, when appropriate.
Unsubstantiated and False Allegations
4.5 Following the initial LADO Meeting or Discussion, if an allegation is determined to be unsubstantiated, false or unfounded, the LADO should complete the Allegations Management Form, including sufficient details of the findings, and forward it to the designated Senior Manager/Deputy of the employer to enable them to consider what further action, if any, should be taken.
4.6 False allegations are rare, but may be an indicator of abuse elsewhere that requires further exploration. If an allegation is demonstrably false the employer, in consultation with the LADO, should consider referring the child to Children’s Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services or might have been abused by someone else.
4.7 If it is established that an allegation has been deliberately invented, the Police should be asked to consider whether it might be appropriate to take action against the person responsible.
4.8 At the conclusion of a case in which the allegation is unsubstantiated, 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 occurring in the future.
Disciplinary Process and Investigation
4.9 In all cases, the LADO, the designated Senior Manager and the Employer’s Human Resources (HR) representative should discuss whether an investigation under disciplinary procedures is necessary. The discussion should consider any potential misconduct or gross misconduct on the part of the member of staff and take into account:
The decision to instigate disciplinary proceedings lies with the Employer, who will adhere to HR policy and procedures.
4.10 In the case of supply, contract or 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, provide future work with children, or whether to make a report for consideration for barring or other action.
References to timescales in paragraphs 4.11 – 4.15 are included for guidance only. All employers should do their utmost to ensure a timely resolution to any investigation / disciplinary proceedings and be compliant with employment law.
4.11 If formal disciplinary action is not required the employer should institute any agreed actions arising from the LADO Meeting 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. The timescales detailed will be adhered to wherever possible.
4.12 If further investigation is needed to decide upon disciplinary action, the Employer and the LADO should discuss whether the Employer has appropriate resources or whether the Employer should commission an independent investigation because of the nature or complexity of the case or to ensure objectivity. The investigation should not be conducted by a relative or friend of the member of staff.
4.13 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 individual’s suitability to work with children. Its purpose is not to prove or disprove the allegation. The investigating officer should aim to provide a report within 10 working days.
4.14 On receipt of the report the employer should decide, within 2 working days, whether a disciplinary hearing is needed. If a hearing is required it should be held within 15 working days.
4.15 If at any stage of the investigation new information emerges that requires a child protection referral, the investigation should be held in abeyance and only resumed, if agreed, with Children’s Social Care and the Police. Consideration should again be given as to whether suspension is appropriate in light of the new information.
4.16 The possible risk of harm to children posed by the referred person needs to be evaluated and managed effectively in respect of the children involved, and any other children who may be at risk in the referred member of staff’s home, work or community. In some cases this requires the employer to consider suspending the member of staff. Suspension is a neutral act and is not automatic. The power to suspend is invested in the Employer alone, in consultation with its HR department. It should be considered where:
4.17 If a strategy meeting is to be held or if Children’s Social Care and/or the Police are to make enquiries, the LADO should canvass their views on the risks posed and inform the Employer. Only the Employer has the power to suspend a referred employee and they cannot be required to do so by a local authority or Police.
4.18 If a suspended person is to return to work, the Employer should consider what help or support might be appropriate (e.g. a phased return to work, the provision of a mentor), and also how best to manage the member of staff’s contact with the child concerned.
Resignations and 'Compromise Agreements'
4.19 A conclusion should always be reached in all cases even if:
4.20 The fact that a person tenders his or her resignation or ceases to provide their services must not prevent an allegation from being followed up in accordance with these procedures. A so-called ‘compromise agreement’ 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 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 Disclosure and Barring Service.
4.21 The LADO should also advise whether it is appropriate to notify a professional body or regulator for example, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the Teaching Agency, Nursery & Midwifery Council (NMC) or the General Medical Council (GMC). Any referral, if appropriate, should be made within one month.
4.22 Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case on a person’s confidential personnel file and give a copy to the individual. The record should include details of:
4.23 Such information should be retained on file in accordance with each agencies retention and Human Resources policies this includes for people who leave the organisation.
4.24 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 DBS disclosure reveals information from the police that an allegation was made but did not result in a prosecution or conviction. It will also prevent unnecessary re-investigation if, as sometimes happens, allegations resurface after a period of time.
4.25 A central record of allegations will also be maintained by the LADO on behalf of partner organisations of each Safeguarding Children Partnership.
4.26 The LADO’s records will assist the Safeguarding Children Partnership to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of managing allegations and provide statistical information to central government, and for Freedom of Information requests, if required.
4.27 The LADO should monitor and record the progress of each case, fortnightly or monthly, depending on its complexity. This could be by way of review LADO Meetings or by direct communication with the Police, Children’s Social Care or the Employer. Where target timescales cannot be met, the LADO should record the reasons.
4.28 If a police investigation is to be conducted, Police will consider each matter on a case by case basis and determine whether or not a disclosure will be made. In the event there is, 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 concludes, to enable the police and CPS to share relevant information without delay at the conclusion of their investigation of any court case. The police should set a date for reviewing its progress and consulting with the CPS. Wherever possible this should be no later than 4 weeks after the LADO meeting. Dates for any further reviews should be agreed, being either fortnightly or monthly.
5 Actions on conclusion of a case
5.1 If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed, or the Employer ceases to use the person’s services, or the person resigns, the LADO should discuss with the Employer whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service and / or to a regulatory body such as the HCPC, GMC, NMC or relevant Teaching Agency. Consideration will then be given as to whether the individual should be barred from, or have conditions imposed in respect of, working with children. If a referral is to be made, a named person should be identified to make that referral.
5.2 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.
5.3 The Employer and the LADO should review the circumstances of each case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the Organisation’s procedures or practise.
It is in everyone’s best 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.
Useful Guidance Pathway Tools, Contacts and Websites:
Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) Contacts:
Hartlepool and Stockton LADO: Philip Curtis. LADO, Civic Centre, Victoria Road, Hartlepool, TS24 8AY
Telephone number: 01429 401844 / secure email: LADO@hartlepool.gov.uk
Middlesbrough LADO: Lynn Dickens, Review and Development Unit, South Tees Multi Agency Hub, Daisy Lane, Ormesby, Middlesbrough, TS7 9JF
Telephone number: 01642 726004 / secure email: MiddlesbroughLADO@middlesbrough.gov.uk
Redcar & Cleveland LADO: Joanne Dickson, South Tees Multi Agency Hub, Daisy Lane, Ormesby, Middlesbrough, TS7 9JF
Telephone number: 01642 130700 / secure email: RedcarLADO@redcar-cleveland.gov.uk
Guidance for Staff Facing an Allegation