2.5 Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure provides information about dealing with allegations against staff (including supply staff) and volunteers who have contact with children and young people in their work or activities. It is addressed to employers and organisations responsible for providing services to children, young people and adults who are parents or carers.
AMENDMENTIn June 2022, the LADO Referral Form for Bradford was updated. Local information for Wakefield was updated.
1. Introduction and Criteria
All allegations concerning abuse of children by those who work with children must be taken seriously. Allegations against people who work with children, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity, can cover a wide range of circumstances and 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 member of staff and their life outside work or at home.This procedure should be applied in all situations where it is alleged that a person who works with children or is in a position of trust has:
- Behaved in a way which 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 which indicates that they may pose a risk to children; or
- Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children
Any concerns should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse (i.e. physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect), and include concerns relating to the possession of indecent images / pseudo images of children or 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 / email messages or images, gifts, socialising etc).
The allegations may relate to the person's behaviour at work, at home or in another setting. 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. In the context of this procedure, the term "employer" means the organisation that has a working relationship with the person against whom the allegation has been made and includes voluntary organisations, employment agencies, fostering services, child minder services, youth clubs and others.
If concerns arise about a person's behaviour in relation to their own children (or children they have care of), and that person works with children, the LADO should be informed. The police and Children's Social Care Services will need to consider informing the person's employer in order to assess whether there may be implications for children with whom the person has contact at work, in which case this procedure will apply.Allegations of non recent (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. If they are the person's current employer or voluntary organisation must be informed of the allegation and their family referred to Children's Social Care Services.
2. Roles and Responsibilities
Working Together to Safeguard Children requires that:
County level and unitary local authorities 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 have a designated 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. The designated officer, or team of officers, should be sufficiently qualified and experienced to be able to fulfil this role effectively, for example qualified social workers. Any new appointments to such a role, other than current or former designated officers moving between local authorities, 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 to employers and voluntary organisations and agencies on how to deal with allegations against people who work with children. 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 Safeguarding Children Partnership member organisation should identify a named senior officer with overall responsibility for allegations who should:
- Ensuring that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with this procedure;
- Resolving any inter-agency issues;
- Liaising with the Safeguarding Children Partnership on the subject.
The local authority should assign a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) or team of Designated Officers to:
- Receive notifications of allegations and to be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases;
- Provide advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations and agencies;
- 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 in relation to making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and regulatory bodies such as Ofsted, the GMC etc.
- Ensure that the identified senior manager is aware of local LADO procedures and specifically that it is a line manager decision, in conjunction with the senior line manager, whether to consult with the LADO;
- Ensure the provision of reports necessary to support the allegations process.
During an investigation into an allegation against a professional, the police should designate a Detective Sergeant(s) to:
- Liaise with LADO;
- Take part in Allegations Management Meetings;
- Review the progress of cases in which there is a police investigation;
- Share information as appropriate, on completion of an investigation or related prosecution.
3. General Considerations Relating to Allegations Against Staff
Persons to be notified
The LADO must be informed within 1 working day when an allegation is made and prior to any further investigation taking place. This would normally be by the appropriate manager.
Parents should usually be informed by the manager of any alleged account of harm to their child. Before doing so consideration should be given to whether or not informing the parents of the child/ren involved will impede the disciplinary or investigative processes. Managers can consult with the LADO if they are unsure of this. In some circumstances, however, the parent/s may need to be told straight away (e.g. if a child is injured and requires medical treatment).
The parent/s and the child, if they are sufficiently mature, should be helped to understand the processes involved and be kept informed about the progress of the case and of the outcome where there is no criminal prosecution. This will include the outcome of any disciplinary process, but not the deliberations of, or the information used in, a hearing.
Advice should be sought from the LADO, the police and / or Children's Social Care Services about how much information should be disclosed to the person who is the subject of the allegation.
Subject to restrictions on the information that can be shared, the appropriate manager should, as soon as possible, inform the person who is the subject of the allegation about the nature of the allegation, how enquiries will be conducted and the possible outcome (e.g. disciplinary action, and dismissal or referral to the DBS or regulatory body).The person who is the subject of the allegation 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.
Ofsted should be informed of any allegation or concern made against a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 years or against a registered child minder. They should also be invited to take part in any subsequent Allegations Management Meeting.
Children's Social Care Services should inform Ofsted of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or member of staff in a residential child care facility.
Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered. Apart from keeping the child, parents and the person who is the subject of the allegation (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.
The police should not provide identifying information to the press or media, unless and until a person is charged, except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect). In such cases, the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted beforehand.
Section 13 of the Education Act 2011 introduced restrictions implemented in September 2012 on the publication of any information that would identify a teacher who is the subject of an allegation of misconduct that would constitute a criminal offence, where the alleged victim of the offence is a registered pupil at the school. See Section 7, Restrictions on Identifying Teachers Against Whom Allegations of Criminal Misconduct Have Been Made.
The organisation, and the child where appropriate, together with Children's Social Care Services 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.
As soon as possible after an allegation has been received, the person who is the subject of the allegation should be advised to contact their union or professional association. Human resources should be consulted at the earliest opportunity in order that appropriate support can be provided via the organisation's occupational health or employee welfare arrangements.
Suspension should not be automatic. It should be considered in any case where:
- There is cause to suspect a child is at risk of harm; or
- The allegation warrants investigation by the police; or
- The allegation is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal.
The possible risk of harm to children should be evaluated and managed in respect of the child/ren involved and any other children in the home, work or community life of the person who is the subject of the allegation.
If an Allegations Management Meeting is to be held or, if Children's Social Care Services or the police are to make enquiries, the LADO should canvass their views on suspension and inform the employer. Only the employer, however, has the power to suspend a person who is the subject of an allegation and they cannot be required to do so by a local authority or police.
If a suspended person is to return to work, the employer should consider what help and support might be appropriate (e.g. a phased return to work and/or provision of a mentor), and also how best to manage the member of staff's contact with the child concerned, if still in the workplace.
Resignations and 'compromise agreements'
Every effort should be made to reach a conclusion in all cases even if:
- The individual refuses to cooperate, having been given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations;
- It may not be possible to apply any disciplinary sanctions if a person's period of notice expires before the process is complete.
Compromise agreements' must not be used (i.e. where a member of staff agrees to resign provided that disciplinary action is not taken and that a future reference is agreed). A settlement /compromise agreement which prevents the employer from making a DBS referral when the criteria are met for so doing would likely result in a criminal offence being committed for failure to comply with the duty to refer. The organisation must make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service to consider whether to add the individual to the barred list. This applies irrespective of whether a referral has been made to local authority children's social care and/or the designated officer or team of officers. It is an offence to fail to make a referral without good reason.
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 Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure.
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 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.
It is in everyone's interest for cases to be dealt with expeditiously, fairly and thoroughly and for unnecessary delays to be avoided. This should be discussed with the appropriate line manager and due consideration be given to notifying the LADO.
4. Direct Referrals to the Police/Children's Social Care Services
Where a referral is made directly to Children's Social Care Services, they will consult with the LADO, the police and the relevant manager in the organisation.If a referral is made to the police first, the officer who receives it should report it to the relevant Child and Public Protection Unit (CPPU) without delay and they should in turn inform the LADO.
5. Cross Boundary Issues
Where a child from any of the West Yorkshire Consortium local authority areas makes an allegation in a setting or placement which is outside their own area, the lead responsibility for action lies with the local authority for the area where the alleged abuse occurred.
In these circumstances, the LADO and, where appropriate, the child's social worker will liaise with the relevant local authority and agree a joint strategy.
Checks should be made as to whether there are any other children in the setting or placement. If so, the child's social worker and manager must be informed, and the LADO should consult them about the action required.
Interviews of children will usually be undertaken by the Children's Social Care Services for the area where the child resides, in conjunction with the police as appropriate.Where the referral relates to a child from another local authority temporarily placed in an establishment located within the West Yorkshire Consortium local authority areas, for example a boarding school, the LADO should liaise with the child's home authority about the roles and responsibilities in carrying out this procedure.
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 should give assurance that the information will only be shared on a 'need to know' basis.
- Make a written record (using the LADO Notification / Referral Form if one is available in the area) 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 record / form;
- Report concerns to their line manager who, in consultation with the senior officer with responsibility for allegations, will make a decision about consulting the LADO.
Initial action by the line manager
When informed of a concern or allegation, the line manager should gather facts and information in order to aid the decision whether to consult with the LADO. (In Leeds this would be guided by the LADO notification form) The line manager should notify the LADO if they think the allegation has reached the agreed threshold criteria in Section 1, Introduction and Criteria within 1 working day. Managers can consult with the LADO at any part of this initial process. If an allegation requires immediate attention, but is received outside normal office hours, the designated line manager should consult the Children's Social Care Services emergency duty team or local police and inform the LADO as soon as possible.
Initial consideration by the senior line manager and the LADO
The LADO and the line manager should consider first whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence or information that establishes that the allegation is false.
If the allegation is not demonstrably false, there are up to three strands in the consideration of an allegation and next steps:
- A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
- Children's Social Care Services enquiries and/or assessment about whether a child is in need of protection or services;
- Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action.
7. Restrictions on Identifying Teachers Against Whom Allegations of Criminal Misconduct Have Been Made
The Education Act 2011 prevents 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 (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 the allegation. The reporting restrictions also cease to apply if the individual to whom the restrictions apply effectively waives their right to anonymity by going public themselves or by giving their written consent for another to do so or if a judge lifts restrictions in response to a request to do so. Breaching the reporting restrictions is a criminal offence.
When an allegation is made, the employer should take advice from the LADO, police and Children's Social Care Services to agree the following:
- Who needs to know and, importantly, exactly what information can be shared;
- How to manage speculation, leaks and gossip;
- What, if any information can be reasonably given to the wider community to reduce speculation; and
- How to manage press interest if and when it should arise.
Please note that this provision applies only to teachers, not to other staff in educational establishments.
It is an offence to publish any information in breach of these restrictions. Publication includes any communication, in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public. It is a defence to show that the person publishing was not aware of the allegation having been made as set out in Section 141H 'Defences' of the Act.
8. Allegations Management Meeting
The LADO and any agencies / organisations involved with the allegation will need to ensure that the relevant people are invited to an Allegations Management Meeting and any follow up meetings to ensure that the full scope of the enquiry can be effectively addressed.
The employer should notify OFSTED of allegations regarding day care and child-minders, residential staff, foster carers and prospective adopters.
The Allegations Management Meeting will be chaired by the LADO (or their nominated representative) and those present will need to:
- Share all relevant information about the person who is the subject of the allegation and about the alleged child victim;
- Plan the investigation/enquiries and set timescales for tasks to be undertaken or receive information about enquiries and investigations that have been already agreed prior to a meeting between the LADO and senior manager;
- Consider whether any other children are affected by the allegations e.g. the persons own children or other children in the agency setting for example children placed with foster carers, child-minders, a youth club, grandchildren;
- Determine any action that needs to be taken in respect of any other children identified including Section 47 Enquiry;
- Decide how regular information and support will be provided to the child and family and by whom;
- Ensure that the person who is the subject of the allegation is kept informed and supported;
- Plan all interviews and agree who should undertake them so that there is no confusion between a criminal investigation, Section 47 Enquiry/Single Assessment and disciplinary processes;
- Consider whether the circumstances suggest that the person who is subject to the allegation should be suspended from contact with children, so as to inform the employers decision about this issue (including whether a foster carer's approval should be suspended and the implications for other children in the placement); this may change as the investigation progresses and should be reviewed regularly;
- Consider the need to develop a media strategy.
The progress of the investigation and enquiries needs to be reviewed by the LADO and the line manager fortnightly or, at a maximum, monthly depending on the complexity of the case.
9. Monitoring Progress
The LADO should regularly monitor and record the progress of each case. This could be by way of review Allegations Management Meetings / discussions / initial evaluations or direct liaison with the police, Children's Social Care Services, or employer, as appropriate. Where the target timescales cannot be met, the LADO should record the reasons.
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 may also be used to assist the Safeguarding Children Partnership 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 4 weeks after the Allegations Management Meeting. Dates for further reviews should also be agreed, either fortnightly or monthly depending on the complexity of the investigation.
To conclude an Allegations management episode the line manager and LADO should ensure that all tasks have been completed, including any referrals to the DBS if appropriate, and, where appropriate, agree an action plan for future practice based on lessons learnt.
The professionals involved should take in to account the following definitions when determining the outcome of allegation investigations:
- Substantiated: there is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation;
- 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;
- Unsubstantiated: this is not the same as a false allegation. It means that there is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation; the term therefore does not imply guilt or innocence;
- Unfounded: to reflect cases where there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made.
All relevant professionals must keep their relevant senior officer with responsibility for allegations and the LADO informed of any developments in the case. Children's Social Work Services should not close a case in which the LADO is involved without consulting them. The senior officer with responsibility for allegations must ensure that the LADO is aware of the outcomes of the actions within the allegations management process, and the LADO and senior officer with responsibility for allegations must ensure the child/young person and any other professionals who have been involved are aware of the outcome. In cases of dismissal, the DBS must be informed by the senior officer with responsibility for allegations.
11. Post Investigation
At the end of any investigation, the LADO will consider whether it is necessary to convene a Post Investigation Meeting (reconvened Allegation Meeting), for example in particularly complex cases.
This meeting must ensure that:
- All the original allegations have been addressed;
- The investigation has been clearly recorded;
- All strands of the investigation have been concluded;
- All those involved have been informed of the outcomes appropriately;
- The children have been safeguarded and services have been provided;
- The recommendations and decisions of the Post Investigation Meeting / reconvened Allegation Meeting are reviewed within an agreed timescale to ensure that they are followed through;
- If an organisation removes an individual (paid worker or unpaid volunteer) from work, or would have, had the person not left first / resigned because the person poses a risk of harm to children, the organisation must make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service. It is an offence to fail to make a referral without good reason.
12. Unsubstantiated and False Allegations
Where it is concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate an allegation, the LADO should liaise with the relevant manager of the employer to enable them to consider what further action, if any, should be taken and record as appropriate.
False allegations are rare and may be a strong indicator of abuse elsewhere which requires further exploration. If an allegation is demonstrably false, the employer, in consultation with the LADO, should consider referring the matter to Children's Social Care Services to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by someone else.If it is established that an allegation has been deliberately invented, consideration should be given by the LADO to informing the police.
13. Confidentiality and Record Keeping
The LADO and relevant manager may need to liaise with legal services and information governance when making decisions and advising on the sharing of relevant information.
During the investigation the police should obtain consent from the individuals concerned to share the statements and evidence they obtain with the employer and/or Regulatory Authority, for disciplinary purposes. This will enable the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to share relevant information without delay at the conclusion of the investigation or any court case.
Children's Social Care Services should also obtain consent when making enquiries so that any information that is relevant to a disciplinary case can be passed on to the employer or Regulatory Authority.
Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being considered or investigated.
The police will not normally provide any information to the press or media that might identify an individual who is under investigation, unless or until the person is charged with a criminal offence. In exceptional circumstances where the police might make an appeal to trace a suspect, the reasons for this action should be documented and partner agencies should have been consulted beforehand.
The child and parents or carers can be informed about the outcome of any disciplinary process but they do not have access to the deliberations of a disciplinary hearing nor the information taken into account in reaching the decisions in the hearing.
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 10 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.
14. Action Following a Criminal Investigation or a Prosecution
The police should inform the employer's relevant manager and LADO straight away when a criminal investigation and any subsequent trial are complete, or if it is decided to close an investigation without charge, or not to prosecute after the person has been charged.
In all circumstances the LADO should discuss with the employer's relevant manager what further action is appropriate and agree how to proceed. The information provided by the police and/or Children's Social Care Services should inform that decision.
If an allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the person's service or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide their services, the LADO should discuss with the employer whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
If a referral is to be made; it should be submitted within 1 month of the allegation being substantiated.
Bodies with a legal duty to refer
The following groups have a legal duty to refer information to the DBS:
Regulated Activity suppliers (employers and volunteer managers);
- Personnel suppliers;
- Groups with a power to refer.
Bodies with the power to refer
The following groups have a power to refer information to the DBS:
- Local authorities (safeguarding role);
- Health and Social care (HSC) trusts (NI);
- Education and Library Boards;
- Keepers of registers e.g. General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council;
- Supervisory authorities e.g. Care Quality Commission, Ofsted.
If the person being referred to the DBS is a teacher in England they should also be referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency.
If it is decided that a person who has been suspended from work can return, the employer must consider how best to facilitate that return. The employer must also consider how the persons contact with the child or children who made the allegation can best be managed if they are still in the work place.
15. Learning Lessons
At the conclusion of a case where the allegation has been substantiated, the relevant manager, in consultation with the Named Senior Officer and the LADO, should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisations procedures or practice to help prevent similar events for the future.Consideration should be given to sharing any lessons from investigations and enquiries with other members of the West Yorkshire Consortium.
In some cases, a Serious Case Review / Child Safeguarding Practice Review may be appropriate.