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SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides information about dealing with allegations against people who work with children and volunteers who have contact with children and young people in their work or activities. They are addressed to employers and organisations responsible for providing services to children, young people and adults who are parents or carers. It also takes into account the requirements laid out in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges

1. Introduction and Criteria

All allegations of abuse of children by those who work with children must be taken seriously. Allegations against any person who works with children, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity, cover a wide range of circumstances.

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.

These behaviours should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse (i.e. physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect). These include concerns relating to inappropriate relationships between members of staff and children or young people, for example:

  • Having a sexual relationship with a child under 18 if in a position of trust in respect of that child, even if consensual (see ss16-19 Sexual Offences Act 2003);
  • ‘Grooming’, i.e. meeting a child under 16 with intent to commit a relevant offence (see s15 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.

If concerns arise about the person’s behaviour to her/his own children, the police and/or children’s social care must consider informing the employer / organisation in order to assess whether there may be implications for children with whom the person has contact at work / in the organisation, in which case this procedure will apply.

Allegations of historical abuse should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. 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.

All references in this document to ‘ staff or members of staff’ should be interpreted as meaning all paid or unpaid staff / professionals and volunteers, including for example foster carers, approved adopters and child minders. This chapter also applies to any person, who manages or facilitates access to an establishment where children are present.

2. Roles and Responsibilities

Working Together 2018 states:

County level and unitary local authorities should ensure that allegations against people who work with children are not dealt with in isolation. Any action necessary to address corresponding welfare concerns in relation to the child or children involved should be taken without delay and in a coordinated manner. Local authorities should, in addition, 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 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.

Local authorities should put in place arrangements to provide advice and guidance on how to deal with allegations against people who work with children to employers and voluntary organisations. Local authorities should also ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to effectively liaise with the police and other agencies to monitor the progress of cases and ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process.

Each Cambridgeshire and Peterborough LSCB member organisation should identify a named senior officer with overall responsibility for:

  • Ensuring that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with this Cambridgeshire & Peterborough LSCB procedure;
  • Resolving any inter-agency issues;

Designated Officers (LADO) are responsible for the following:

  • Receive reports about allegations and to be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases that meet the defined Threshold criteria;
  • Provide advice and guidance to employers, including voluntary organisations;
  • Liaise with the police and other agencies;
  • Monitor the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a thorough and fair process;
  • Provide advice and guidance to employers including voluntary organisations in relation to making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and regulatory bodies.

3. General Considerations Relating to Allegations Against People who Work with Children

Persons to be notified

The employer must inform the local authority designated officer (LADO) within one working day when an allegation is made and prior to any further investigation taking place.

Local Authority Designated Officer team:

Telephone contacts:

  • 01223 727967 – Cambridgeshire
  • 01733 864038 – Peterborough
  • Out of Hours Emergency Duty Team: 0345 0455203 Cambridge, 01733 864180 Peterborough

The employer should seek advice from the LADO, the police and / or Children’s social care about how much information might be disclosed to the accused person in the first instance, and this is further discussed at the Allegations Management Meeting.

The accused person who works with children should:

  • Be treated fairly and honestly and helped to understand the concerns expressed and processes involved;
  • Be kept informed of the progress and outcome of any investigation and the implications for any disciplinary or related process;
  • If suspended, be kept up to date about events in the workplace.

The registered provider has a duty to inform Ofsted of all allegations made against any person employed to work with children in any registered setting such as foster carer, prospective adopter, or person who works with children in a Residential Home; School; and day care facility including child minders. OFSTED will also be invited by LADO to take part in any subsequent strategy meeting/ Allegations Management Meeting.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality must be maintained and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered. Apart from keeping the child, parents and accused person (where this would not place the child at further risk) up to date with progress of the case, information should be restricted to those who have a need to know in order to protect children, facilitate enquiries, manage related disciplinary or suitability processes.

Support

The organisation, together with Children’s social care and / or police, where they are involved, should consider the impact on the child concerned and provide support as appropriate. Liaison between the agencies should take place in order to ensure that the child’s needs are addressed.

Employers have a duty of care for employees.

Organised abuse

Investigators should be alert to signs of organised or widespread abuse and/or the involvement of other perpetrators or institutions. They should consider whether the matter should be dealt with in accordance with complex abuse procedures which, if applicable, will take priority. See Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure.

Whistleblowing

All staff should be made aware of the organisation’s whistle-blowing policy and feel confident to voice concerns about the attitude or actions of colleagues.

If a person who works with children believes that a reported allegation or concern is not being dealt with appropriately by their organisation, they should report the matter to the LADO.

Timescales

It is in everyone’s interest for cases to be dealt with expeditiously, fairly and thoroughly and for unnecessary delays to be avoided. The target timescales of 80% of cases to be concluded within 1 month is realistic in most cases.

4. Employers Response to an Allegation or Concern

An allegation against a person who works with children may arise from a number of sources (e.g. a report from a child, a concern raised by another adult in the organisation, or a complaint by a parent). It may also arise in the context of the person who works with children, and their life outside work, including at home.

Initial action by person receiving or identifying an allegation or concern

The person to whom an allegation or concern is first reported should treat the matter seriously and keep an open mind.

They should not:

  • Investigate or ask leading questions if seeking clarification;
  • Make assumptions or offer alternative explanations;
  • Promise confidentiality, but give assurance that the information will only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis.

They should:

  • Make a written record of the information (where possible in the child / adult’s own words), including the time, date and place of incident/s, persons present and what was said;
  • Sign and date the written record;
  • Immediately report the matter to the designated senior manager, or the deputy in their absence or; where the designated senior manager is the subject of the allegation report to the deputy or other appropriate senior manager.

Initial action by the designated senior manager

When informed of a concern or allegation, the designated senior manager should not investigate the matter or interview the member of person who works with children, child concerned or potential witnesses.

They should:

  • Obtain written details of the concern / allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving (not the child / adult making the allegation);
  • Approve and date the written details;
  • Record any information about times, dates and location of incident/s and names of any potential witnesses.

Record discussions about the child and/or member of person who works with children, any decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions.

The designated senior manager should report the allegation to the LADO and discuss the decision in relation to the agreed threshold criteria in Section 1, Introduction and Criteria within one working day. Referrals should not be delayed in order to gather information and a failure to report an allegation or concern in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.

If an allegation requires immediate attention, but is received outside normal office hours, the designated senior manager should consult the Children’s social care emergency duty team or local police and inform the LADO as soon as possible.

Similarly an allegation made to Children’s social care should be immediately reported to the LADO.

5. Initial consideration by the designated senior manager and the LADO

The LADO and Designated senior manager should consider first whether further details are needed. If there is clear evidence that the allegation is demonstrably false / unfounded or malicious, this will be documented and in the case of a malicious allegation, consideration given as to whether the matter should be referred to Police.

The LADO will decide whether the case meets the threshold criteria for LADO involvement:

Working together 2018 stated that the 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 that they may pose a risk of harm to children

6. LADO Allegation Management Meetings (AMM)

When it has been agreed that a case meets the threshold criteria for LADO involvement, and there is no evidence of the allegation being false/unfounded/ or malicious, the LADO will refer the matter to the Police for their consideration and advice as to whether the threshold for a criminal investigation is indicated.  Simultaneously the LADO will convene an Allegations Management Meeting (AMM), wherever possible within 3 working days.  The AMM will be chaired by the LADO and attended by the Named Senior Officer (or their nominated representative).

The purpose of the Initial and any Review AMM is to:

  • Assess and manage the level and nature of any risk to children thought to be posed by the alleged perpetrator in any professional or voluntary capacity. Where there is a Police investigation, this will always take precedence over disciplinary procedures.
  • Fully assess the allegation and any other relevant information shared.
  • Consider and ensure the effectiveness and sufficiency of safeguards in place to protect the child/ren involved and any other child/ren who may be affected.
  • Consider need for any related section 47 enquiries
  • Review and update decisions about information sharing with the alleged victim, parents/ carers and colleagues and the alleged perpetrator.
  • Consider what support may be required for all parties.
  • Ensure investigations are sufficiently independent
  • Agree arrangements for reviewing investigations and monitoring progress, having regard to the target timescales
  • Consider issues for the attention of senior management (e.g. media interest, resource implications);
  • Consider whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable; (see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedures)
  • Plan enquiries if needed, allocate tasks and set timescales
  • Referrals to Professional bodies/DBS/Panels
  • Agree dates for future AMMs (In some cases it is necessary to hold Review AMMs to monitor the progress of cases to a managed conclusion).

At the conclusion of an investigation an AMM will be convened to share information and determine the outcome.  The outcome will be determined using one of the following definitions from Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018:

  • Substantiated: there is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation;
  • Unsubstantiated: there is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation; the term therefore does not imply guilt or innocence.
  • Malicious: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation and there has been a deliberate act to deceive;
  • False: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation;
  • Unfounded: To reflect cases where there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made

Consideration will be given to action against person making the allegation, if found to be malicious.

7. Record keeping and monitoring progress

Record keeping – Employers

Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case record on a person’s confidential personnel file and give a copy to the individual. The record should include details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached and the action taken. It should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for ten years if longer.

The purpose of the record is to enable accurate information to be given in response to any future request for a reference if the person has moved on. It will provide clarification where a future DBS request reveals non convicted information, and will help to prevent unnecessary reinvestigation if an allegation re-surfaces after a period of time. In this sense it may serve as a protector to the individual themselves, as well as in cases where substantiated allegations need to be known about to safeguard future children.

Details of allegations that are found to be malicious should be removed from personnel records. For Education services see Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges.

Monitoring progress – LADO

The LADO should monitor and record the progress of each case. This could be by way of review Allegation Management Meeting / discussions and/or direct liaison with the police, Children’s social care, or employer, as appropriate.

The LADO should keep comprehensive records in order to ensure that each case is being dealt with expeditiously and that there are no undue delays. The records will also assist Cambridgeshire and Peterborough LSCB to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations and provide statistical information to the Department for Education (DfE) as required.

If a police investigation is to be conducted, the police should set a date for reviewing its progress and consulting the CPS about continuing or closing the investigation or charging the individual. Wherever possible, this should be no later than four weeks after the strategy meeting / discussion / initial evaluation. Dates for further reviews should also be agreed, either fortnightly or monthly depending on the complexity of the investigation.

8. Substantiated allegations and referral to the DBS

Who has a legal duty to refer?

Regulated activity providers (employers or volunteer managers of people working in regulated activity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and personnel suppliers have a legal duty to refer to DBS where conditions are met. This applies even when a referral has also been made to a local authority safeguarding team or professional regulator.

You must make a referral when both of the following conditions have been met:

Condition 1

  • you withdraw permission for a person to engage in regulated activity with children and/or vulnerable adults. Or you move the person to another area of work that isn’t regulated activity.

This includes situations when you would have taken the above action, but the person was re-deployed, resigned, retired, or left. For example, a teacher resigns when an allegation of harm to a student is first made.

Condition 2

You think the person has carried out 1 of the following:

  • engaged in relevant conduct in relation to children and/or adults. An action or inaction has harmed a child or vulnerable adult or put them at risk or harm or;
  • satisfied the harm test in relation to children and / or vulnerable adults. eg there has been no relevant conduct but a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable still exists.or
  • been cautioned or convicted of a relevant (automatic barring either with or without the right to make representations ) offence

9. Learning Lessons

The employer and the LADO should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation’s procedures or practice.

10. Procedures in specific organisations

It is recognised that many organisations will have their own procedures in place, some of which may need to take into account particular regulations and guidance (e.g. schools and registered child care providers). Where organisations do have specific procedures, they should be compatible with these procedures and additionally provide the contact details for:

  • The designated senior manager to whom all allegations should be reported;
  • The person to whom all allegations should be reported in the absence of the designated senior manager or where that person is the subject of the allegation;
  • The LADO.
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