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1.3.3 Management of Allegations Against Adults who Work with Children (Southwark Safeguarding Children Board Protocol)

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Working Together to Safeguard Children

London Child Protection Procedures

Keeping children safe in education (DfE, 2015)

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Allegations against Foster Carers, Prospective Adopters and Adopters Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2015 in line with Working Together and Keeping children safe in education (2015). Amendments have been made to the process.


Contents

  1. Context
  2. Roles and Responsibilities
  3. General Considerations relating to Allegations and Concerns of Abuse
  4. Strategy Meetings
  5. Disciplinary Process
  6. Referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for Inclusion on the Barred Lists
  7. Record Keeping and Monitoring
  8. Procedures in Specific Organisations
  9. Safe Recruitment and Good Practice


1. Context

This protocol is drawn up in accordance with the guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children.

Further guidance is contained within London Child Protection Procedures and Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education 2007 and DfE, Keeping children safe in education (2015).

Working Together requires organisations to have in place arrangements that reflect the importance of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, including, policies and procedures which make a clear distinction between an allegation, a concern about the quality of care or practice or a complaint.

These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation or concern that any person who works with children, in connection with their employment or voluntary activity 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 would pose a risk of harm if they work regularly or closely with children.

These behaviours should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse - Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse and Neglect. These include concerns relating to inappropriate relationships between members of staff and children or young people. For example:

  • Having a relationship with a child under 18 if in a position of trust in respect of that child, even if consensual (see Sections 16-19 Sexual Offences Act 2003);
  • ‘Grooming’ i.e. meeting a child under 16 with an intent to commit a relevant offence (see Section 15 Sexual offences Act 2003);
  • Other ‘grooming ‘ behaviour giving rise to concerns of a broader child protection nature (e.g. inappropriate text/e-mail messages or images, gifts, socialising etc.);
  • Possession of indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of children.

In addition for more detailed HR guidance please also refer to:

  • Safeguarding Standards in Human Resource Management;
  • Recruitment & Selection May 2013 (available on the LB Southwark website).

Where a person working with children has been the subject of a Child Protection Enquiry in their personal life and where there is a potential of transfer of risk, then advice must be sought from the Designated Officer as to whether these procedures should be initiated.


2. Roles and Responsibilities

Working Together requires that Local Authorities should have designated a particular officer, or team of officers (either as part of multi-agency arrangements or otherwise), to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people that work with children. Any such officer, or team of officers, should be sufficiently qualified and experienced to be able to fulfil this role effectively, for example qualified social workers. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that any allegations about those who work with children are passed to the Designated Officer, or team of officers, without delay.

Within London Borough of Southwark, the Designated Officer is the Quality Assurance Service Practice Group Lead, with the support of a duty rota provided by CP chairs. For purposes of this guidance this role will be referred to throughout as the Designated Officer.

 The Designated Officer has responsibility for:

  • Having an oversight into the management of individual cases referred to Children and Young People Service;
  • Providing advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations;
  • Liaison with the police and other agencies;
  • Monitoring the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a fair and thorough process;
  • Providing a quarterly report to the LSCB Standards Group summarising activity on the above.

Each SSCB member organisation should designate a Named Senior Officer with over all responsibility for:

  • Ensuring that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with Section 15 of the London Child Protection Procedures;
  • Resolving inter-agency issues;
  • Liaison with the SSCB on the subject.

The Named Senior Officers would normally designate Senior Managers (DSM’s) within organisations, who would deal directly with individual allegations or concerns.


3. General Considerations relating to Allegations and Concerns of Abuse

All organisations, both statutory and voluntary, should follow the procedures laid down in the London Child Protection Procedures.

If an organisation is in doubt as to whether to refer a matter for investigation, they should contact the Designated Officer in the Quality Assurance Service for advice.

Where a person considers that an allegations falls within the threshold described under section 1, they must inform their designated senior manager who will make arrangements for the designated officer to be contacted within one working day. When a referral is necessary this should be completed on referral form and sent to the quality assurance unit email at safeguardingchecks@southwark.gov.uk.

Advice should always be sought from the Designated Officer, the appropriate Designated Senior Manager, or the police if appropriate, as to whether to share information about the allegation with the victim, perpetrator or the victim’s parents. This decision would be dependant on whether there was likely to be an ongoing police or internal disciplinary investigation.


4. Strategy Meetings

In most cases where a referral is sent about an allegation or a concern in relation to a member of staff, a Strategy Meeting will be convened by the Quality Assurance Team.

The Strategy Meeting will be chaired by a Child Protection Coordinator. It will be formally conducted and records kept.

Attendees at the Strategy Meeting should include:

  • The Designated Senior Manager of the organisation in question or an appointed delegate;
  • A representative from the HR section of the organisation in question (where the allegation may result in a decision to start a conduct investigation or to suspend the staff member);
  • Police CAIT;
  • An investigating social worker from the Referral and Assessment Team;
  • Those responsible for regulation and inspection where appropriate (e.g. OFSTED).

The Strategy Meeting should:

  • Decide whether there should be a Child Protection Enquiry and/or a police enquiry;
  • Consider whether any parallel disciplinary process should take place;
  • Consider the current allegation in the context of previous allegations or concerns;
  • Plan enquiries, allocate tasks and set time-scales;
  • Decide what information can be shared, with whom and when.

The Strategy Meeting should also:

  • Ensure that arrangements are in place to protect the child/ren involved and any other children affected;
  • Consider what support should be offered to children involved;
  • Consider what support should be offered to the member of staff or volunteer involved;
  • Ensure that investigations are sufficiently independent;
  • Make recommendations where appropriate about suspension or alternatives to suspension.

A final meeting should generally held when the Child Protection Enquiry is concluded to ensure that all tasks have been completed and where appropriate agree an action plan for future practice based on lessons learnt.

It is good practice for the chair of the Strategy Meeting to formally write to the member of staff or volunteer at the end of the process outlining the findings of the investigation. This may however not be appropriate if there is an ongoing police or disciplinary investigation.

Normally the minutes of Strategy Meetings are not widely distributed because of confidentiality issues - both with regard to staff members and of service users or members of the public. In certain circumstances it may be appropriate for the chair of the meeting to summarise the findings of an investigation for the purposes of a disciplinary investigation.


5. Disciplinary Process

The Designated Officer and the Designated Senior Manager of the service concerned should discuss at a Strategy Meeting whether disciplinary action is appropriate or necessary (see Section 4, Strategy Meeting). The final decision about disciplinary action would always lie with the employer of the member of staff concerned.

The discussion should consider any alleged potential misconduct or gross misconduct on the part of the member of staff and take into account:

  • Information presented by the police and/or Children’s Social Care;
  • The result of any investigation or trial;
  • The different standards of proof in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.

Where the workers concerned are supply, contract or volunteer workers, normal disciplinary procedures do not apply. In these circumstances the providing agency (if any) should be involved in the Strategy Meeting


6. Referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for Inclusion on the Barred Lists

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has powers under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and Adults at Risk.

The range of organisations who are able to make referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) include;

  • Regulated Activity providers;
  • Personnel suppliers;
  • Local authorities;
  • Education and Library Boards;
  • Health and Social Care (HSC) bodies;
  • Keepers of Registers named in the legislation; and
  • Supervisory authorities named in the legislation.

Whenever a Strategy Meeting and the resultant investigation concludes in a member of staff leaving their post, either as a result of disciplinary action or the staff member resigning, there should be careful consideration as to whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). See the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) website for further guidance and the referral form.

Once a decision has been made about this, it should be recorded by the Designated Officer.

The responsibility for ensuring that the referral is sent lies with the Designated Senior Manager of the organisation concerned. In practice this will normally be:

  • The head teacher of a school;
  • The senior manager of a nursery/day centre;
  • The service manager of a social care department.

In cases where there is disagreement with an organisation about whether such a referral should be sent, it may be appropriate for the Designated Officer to send a referral or contact the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for advice.

The Designated Officer should always be informed in writing of such referrals.


7. Record Keeping and Monitoring

All Strategy Meetings should have records kept of decisions made and information received.

Following an investigation, employers should keep a summary of the case on the person’s confidential personnel file. The record should include details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached and the action taken. A copy of this summary should be given to the individual concerned. It should be kept for at least 10 years or until the person reaches normal retirement age.

The Designated Officer should keep records of all Strategy Meetings held and their conclusion.

A report should be prepared by the Designated Officer for the Standards Group of the Southwark Safeguarding Children Board on a quarterly basis. This report would present summarised information that does not identify individuals.


8. Procedures in Specific Organisations

Education

Education staff have several guidance documents as follows:

  • ‘Definitions and thresholds for managing allegations against education staff’, produced by the national network of investigation and support co-ordinators - updated February 2005;
  • Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education - produced by DfES January 2007;
  • ‘Thresholds for and alternatives to Suspension’, produced by the National Network of Investigation and Support co-ordinators - updated February 2005.

In addition there is detailed guidance (see Use of reasonable Force: Advice for headteachers, staff and governing bodies) issued by the government around the use of restraint in classrooms. All schools and educational establishments should ensure that they have robust recording systems to log any incidents that have resulted in the use of restraint. All schools should have physical intervention policies that are in line with the Local Education Service and Department for Education guidance.

Foster Carers and prospective adopters

See also Allegations against Foster Carers, Prospective Adopters and Adopters Procedure.

Foster carers are often subject of allegations because of their high level of contact with children and young people.

If the foster carer concerned is a Southwark Carer, whether resident in borough or outside then the above procedures apply. If however the foster carer lives within another Local Authority (borough) then a referral also needs to be made to the Children’s Service in the borough of residence. If the foster carer is resident in Southwark but employed by an IFA then the authority in which the IFA is based also needs to be informed, and may require a joint enquiry with Southwark leading on any enquiry into the child and the host authority for the IFA leading on matters relating to the foster carer. For guidance and clarification the Designated Officer within the quality assurance service should be contacted.

Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group, South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College hospital NHS foundation Trust.

The above trusts have policies and procedures in place, which identify action to be taken in case of allegations against staff. This covers directly employed staff as well as independent contractors (e.g. GP practices, dentists and optometrists).

In addition the Trusts have a responsibility, where there is concern that the individual may have broken their code of conduct, to refer to their professional body.


9. Safe Recruitment and Good Practice

The London Child Protection Procedures describes the processes required in order to ensure that staff recruited to an organisation are suitable to work with children.

It is not necessary to repeat these processes in detail, but they should involve:

  • Following standard procedures to draw up job descriptions, person specifications and advertisements;
  • Conducting standard interviews, which test a candidate’s ability, including the use of written and other aptitude tests;
  • Taking up at least two references prior to appointment - at least one of which should be the previous employer;
  • Conducting criminal record checks for all appointees, which will include checks of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS);
  • Ensuring that new staff have proper induction, including an introduction to the organisation’s child protection policies and procedures;
  • Ensuring that new staff are made aware of the organisation’s whistle blowing policy;
  • Ensuring that staff are given adequate child protection supervision.

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