SEFTON LSCB Safeguarding Policies and Procedures Online Manual

    15.3 The Process (Referring to the DO)

    Last updated 12/11/1018

      Confidentiality and Information-sharing 

    Information sharing is vital to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people.

    The Data Protection Act 1988 and the Human Rights Act 1998 are the two main legislative frameworks governing how, what and in what circumstances information may be shared.

    Record-keeping 

    Record keeping is an integral part of the management of allegations. Complete and accurate records will need to contain information which provides comprehensive details of:

    • Events leading to the allegation or concern about an adult’s behaviour;
    • The circumstances and context of the allegation;
    • Professional opinions;
    • Decisions made and the reasons for them;
    • Action that is taken;
    • Final outcome.

    Employers, managers and officers who are involved in the process of managing allegations should follow the principles of record-keeping contained within the Data Protection Act 1988, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2002.

    It is a North West Regional decision that records will be retained for ten years in relation to malicious, false and unfounded allegations and then reviewed. Those allegations that are substantiated or unsubstantiated will be retained until the individual reaches 100 years of age.

    15.5.1 Using the Procedures
     

    All those involved in the management of allegations should be familiar with the process which must be followed for considering information arising from an allegation or concern about the behaviour of an adult working with children.

    The process of managing allegations starts where information comes to the attention of a manager which suggests that an adult working with children may have:

    • 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; or
    • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he/she may pose a risk of harm to children.

    Concerns or allegations about the behaviour of an adult may be brought to the attention of a manager in a variety of ways. For example:

    • An allegation made directly by a child or parent;
    • An allegation made by a colleague or member of staff;
    • Information from police or local authority social care team;
    • Information from a third party or the general public;
    • Information disclosed anonymously or online; or
    • Concerns generated through an employment relationship.

    The procedures allow for consideration of the adult’s behaviour at the earliest opportunity when a concern or allegation arises and is brought to the manager/employer’s attention.  The flowchart provides an outline of the process.

    Where there is no employer, the allegation should nevertheless be brought to the attention of the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) and the process described below be followed.

    15.5.2 Stage 1: The Manager's Initial Response
     

    Managers need to understand which behaviours to address directly through their complaints or disciplinary procedures and under what circumstances they should contact the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO)

    What constitutes appropriate or inappropriate behaviour will vary depending upon the context and nature of the work undertaken. All employers have a responsibility to set personal and professional boundaries for their staff and to be explicit about what behaviours are illegal, inappropriate or unacceptable.

    15.5.3 When to contact the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO)
     

    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.

    All allegations should be reported to the Local Authority (DO) within one working day of it coming to an employer's attention.

    What to record
    At this stage the manager should ensure that a factual account of the allegation is recorded, dated and signed, a chronology of events initiated and any other key information identified. No attempts should be made to investigate further before discussion with the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO).

    Employers may also seek the advice of the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) where an employee’s behaviour is a matter for concern to his/her manager because it compromises or may be seen to comprise the reputation and ability of the organisation to safeguard children and young people. Some examples of this may be where an individual has:

    • Contravened or has continued to contravene any safe practice guidance given by his/her organisation or regulatory body;
    • Exploited or abused a position of power;
    • Acted in an irresponsible manner which any reasonable person would find alarming or questionable given the nature of work undertaken;
    • Demonstrated a failure to understand or appreciate how his or her own actions or those of others could adversely impact upon the safety and wellbeing of a child;
    • Demonstrated an inability to make sound professional judgements which safeguard the welfare of children;
    • Failed to follow adequately policy or procedures relating to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children;
    • Failed to understand or recognise the need for clear personal and professional boundaries in his or her work;
    • Behaved in a way in her or her personal life which could put children at risk of harm;
    • Become the subject of criminal proceedings not relating to a child;
    • Become subject to enquiries under local child protection procedures and/or child subject to Child Protection Plan;
    • Behaved in a way which seriously undermines the trust and confidence placed in him or her by the employer.
    15.5.4 Stage 2: Discussion with the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO)
       
    15.5.5 Initial Discussion
     

    The purpose of an initial discussion is for the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) and the Senior Manager to consider the nature, content and context of the allegation and agree a course of action.

    The Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) may ask the senior manager to provide or obtain any additional information which may be relevant, such as previous history, whether the child/family have made similar allegations and current contact with children.

    This initial sharing of information and evaluation may lead to a decision that no further action is to be taken in regard to the individual facing the allegation or concern, and the manager will then decide how best to proceed within their organisation.

    For all other cases, the discussion will then focus on agreeing a course of action including deciding whether the information meets agreed thresholds to hold a Strategy Meeting under child protection procedures, and whether suspension of the adult is appropriate. The Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) should ascertain the views of police and/or children’s social care as to whether the member of staff should be suspended from contact with children. The decision to suspend rests with the employer alone and it cannot be requested by another agency, although the employer should have regard to the views of investigative agencies if involved. Suspension should be seen in this context as a neutral act. 

    15.5.6 Use of Suspension
     

    Suspension should be considered in every case where:

    • There is cause to suspect a child is at risk of Significant Harm;
    • The allegation warrants investigation by the police; or
    • The allegation is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal.

    Suspension should not be seen as an automatic response to an allegation or imposed as a ‘knee jerk action’. A decision to suspend without careful thought could impede a police investigation. In some cases it will not be immediately obvious that suspension is appropriate and the need for this course of action may only become clear after information has been shared with, and discussion had, with other agencies and the employer’s Human Resources provider.

     15.5.7  Alternatives to Suspension
     

    While weighing the factors as to whether suspension is necessary, alternatives to suspension should be considered if available and deemed suitable. This may be achieved by:

    • The individual undertaking duties which do not involve direct contact with the child concerned or other children e.g. office work;
    • Providing an assistant/colleague to be present when the worker has contact with children.

    It may be appropriate to use an alternative to suspension when an allegation is first made. This would allow time for an informed decision regarding suspension to be made and possibly reduce the initial impact of the allegation. This will however depend upon the nature of the allegation.

     15.5.8 Referral and the Referral Process
     

    All Designated Officer’s will receive information which might be viewed as a referral, a complaint or a consultation.

    Where information amounts to an allegation that meets the thresholds this should be recorded. Where information amounts to an allegation but it doesn’t meet the thresholds for an Allegations Management meeting, the Designated Officer should record this as no further action after initial consultation.

    For example: a teacher is alleged to have shouted for a prolonged period at a child. The school feels the incident has happened but that the child hasn’t been singled out (not emotional abuse). School are completing a setting of standards interview with the teacher who is aware that further action will be taken if the incident is repeated. School have spoken to parents who agree with this way forward. This might be recorded as NFA after initial discussion in case it becomes a pattern of behaviour that might later amount to emotional abuse.

    Complaints: Where information relates to a complaint about practice rather than an allegation of abuse, the Designated Officer should direct the referrer to the relevant complaints process.

    For example: a social worker is visiting a family who allege that his manner is over familiar and intimidating. He puts his feet up on the chair, helps himself to biscuits tells them that if they don’t like it they will have to report him. He ‘tuts’ at them and shakes his head when he writes things down and makes them feel small. While completely inappropriate, this wouldn’t meet the Allegations Management thresholds without further concern. It is a complaint regarding practice rather than an allegation of abuse.

    Consultations: Where information does not constitute an allegation but is more general and ‘in principal’ the Designated Officer may decide not to record this at all.

    For example: a foster carer has accidently dropped their laptop down the stairs and it has smashed at the bottom. The foster carer swears several times out loud and this is heard by the fostered child. The referrer asks whether in principle swearing at or in front of a fostered child would amount to an allegation of emotional abuse of the fostered child. In this case, the swearing was not at a child and the LADO might decide that this doesn’t constitute an allegation at all and therefore not record it anywhere.

    Referral Indicator Matrix

    Regionally, Designated Officers’ have developed a matrix of what the suggested threshold should be for something to be referred to the Designated Officer. This is aimed at standardising procedure across the Region and ultimately allow for better data comparison. This does not detract from organisations contacting the Designated Officer at any time to discuss a concern they may have. (Referral Matrix - Appendix 2)

     15.5.9 Agreeing Next Actions 
     

    In some cases further consultation by the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) will take place. The Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) may decide to consult with police and social care colleagues to determine the next course of action.

    If the information given about an adult’s behaviour does not require a Strategy Meeting under Section 47, a similar meeting should be called to evaluate jointly the level of concern and to determine whether the person’s ability to continue working with children in his or her current position, has been called into question.

    If, following consultation, it is decided that the allegation does not meet any of the criteria above, then it may be dealt with by the employer at organisational level.

    The Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) will retain overall management of the process (including the monitoring of cases which have been referred back to the employer for internal resolution) until the case reaches its conclusion and will ensure that accurate records are kept.

     15.5.10 Professionals Referral Form to Designated Officer for the Local Authority 
     

    Once a decision has been made that the information discussed with the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) meets the criteria for an allegation to be investigated, the Senior Manager will be responsible for completing the allegations referral form and communicating it to a central referral point, safeguardingunitadmin@sefton.gcsx.gov.uk. The Referral Form can be found on the LSCB website.

     15.5.11 Confidentiality during Investigations 
     

    During an investigation, the employer and Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) have a responsibility to safeguard confidentiality as far as is possible. Sensitive information must only be disclosed on a need to know basis to other professionals involved in the investigative process. Confidentiality should be maintained by those professionals dealing with the allegation, but if other people become aware of the allegation they may not feel bound to maintain confidentiality. Therefore consideration should be given as to how best to manage this, particularly in relation to who should be told, what information can be disclosed, when and how.

    In terms of teachers who are facing allegations, Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018 states that 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 or college (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 publishes information about an investigation or decision in a disciplinary case arising from an allegation.

     15.5.12 Section 47 Strategy Meetings 
     

    It is unlikely that a Section 47 Strategy meeting would be held if the allegation refers to a professional/volunteer or carer. Section 47 strategy meetings are normally held when it is family members that are involved, not for professionals, volunteers or carers. However, if the allegation is against a foster carer, then a Section 47 strategy meeting will be considered. The team manager will chair the Section 47 Strategy Meeting and the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) will attend where possible. If the arranged Strategy Meeting has all the relevant agencies round the table, then once the child’s needs have been discussed the second consecutive meeting allowing people to leave or arrive, should be used to discuss what should happen to the alleged member of staff rather than setting up a separate meeting for this at a later date. This is to minimise delays.

    The employer should consider carefully and, together with the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO), should keep under review decisions as to whom else should be informed of any suspension and/or investigation, e.g. senior members of staff, and to what extent confidentiality can or should be maintained according to the circumstances of a particular case. The Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) should seek advice from the police and children’s social care as appropriate.

    What to record

    In reaching a judgement on an allegation the Senior Manager and Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) in consultation with other professionals as appropriate, should specify and record their concerns clearly indicating why the behaviour may be inappropriate and identifying any potential risk to a child. A written record of this discussion and the agreed outcomes should be made by the Designated Officer for the Local Authority (DO) and shared with the senior manager. The employee should be informed of the outcome in writing subject to any multi-agency recommendations to the contrary.