Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers who Work with Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure provides information about dealing with allegations against staff and volunteers who have contact with children and young people in their work or voluntary activities.

See also London Safeguarding Children Procedures, Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers who Work with Children

See also Allegations against staff and volunteers who work with children - Wandsworth Borough Council

Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)

RELATED CHAPTER

Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2021.

1. Introduction

Despite all agencies making efforts to recruit safely, there will be occasions when allegations of abuse are made against staff or volunteers who work with children. All organisations employing staff or volunteers working with children should therefore have clear and accessible policies and procedures, which explain what should happen when allegations or concerns about the behaviour of a member of staff or volunteer are raised. It should include the requirement to appoint a designated safeguarding lead to whom these allegations are reported. It is the responsibility of this designated safeguarding lead to report allegations to, and otherwise liaise with, the local authority designated officer (LADO) who has the responsibility to manage and have oversight of allegations against people who work with children.

All references to 'members of staff' and 'employment' should be interpreted as meaning all paid or unpaid staff and volunteers, including foster carers, prospective adopters and childminders. All references to 'employer' should be taken to include the agency or organisation that has a working relationship with the person against whom the allegation has been made and includes voluntary organisations, employment agencies, fostering services, childminder services, youth clubs and others. It also applies to any person, who manages or facilitates access to an establishment where children are present.

This procedure is based on Chapter 7 of the London Child Protection Procedure – Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers, who work with Children. The procedure should also be read in conjunction with Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education.

2. Allegations Dealt with by these Procedures

These procedures should be applied in all situations where it is alleged that a 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 they may pose a risk of harm to children.
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children

Any alleged behaviours should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse (i.e. physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and neglect), and include concerns relating to online abuse and 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);
  • Possession of indecent photographs / pseudo-photographs of children.

These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation that any person who works with children, has behaved in a way in their personal life that raises safeguarding concerns:

  • These concerns do not have to directly relate to a child but could, for example, include an arrest, caution or conviction in relation to offences of violence, difficulties with drug or alcohol misuse or serious mental health concerns.
  • Their own child/ren or the child/ren they care for has become subject to child protection procedures; or has been removed from their care.
  • An allegation of abuse has been made against someone they are closely associated with (e.g. partner, member of the family or other household member) who may present a risk of harm to child/ren for whom the member of staff is responsible in their employment/volunteering.

These procedures should be followed where allegations are made against 16 and 17-year olds who has been put in a position of trust by an organisation in relation to anyone under the age of 18. For example, where they might be involved in coaching a sport or doing out of school activities.

Allegations of non-recent 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.

If there are signs of organised or widespread abuse and/or the involvement of other perpetrators or institutions. It should be considered whether the matter should be dealt with in accordance with complex abuse procedures which, if applicable, will take priority.

3. The Difference between an Allegation and a Concern

It might not be clear whether an incident constitutes an 'allegation'. It is important to remember that in order to be an allegation the alleged incident has to be sufficiently serious as to suggest that harm has or may have been caused to a child/ren or that the alleged behaviour indicates the individual may pose a risk of harm to children (or otherwise meet the criteria above). Issues that do not meet this threshold may constitute conduct or disciplinary issues and should be addressed by employers using the appropriate organisational internal management/employment procedures.

If it is difficult to determine the level of risk associated with an incident the following should be considered:

  • Was the incident a disproportionate or inappropriate response in the context of a challenging situation?
  • Where the incident involved an inappropriate response to challenging behaviour, had the member of staff had training in managing this?
  • Does the member of staff understand that their behaviour was inappropriate and express a wish to behave differently in the future? For example, are they willing to undergo training?
  • Does the child or family want to report the incident to the police or would they prefer the matter to be dealt with by the employer?
  • Have similar allegations been made against the employee – is there a pattern developing?

Incidents which fall short of the threshold could include an accusation that is made second or third hand and the facts are not clear, or the member of staff alleged to have done this was not there at the time; or there is confusion about the account.

Making a referral

All referrals, including requests for advice and guidance must be made by completing the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) Referral Form which must be submitted via the Wandsworth MASH.

A consultation should take place between the LADO and the organisation's safeguarding lead to establish whether the LADO threshold is met or not. Even if the threshold is not met there may still be a role for the LADO to provide advice and support to the employer. Where the matter constitutes a conduct or performance issue, the employer should follow the appropriate disciplinary procedures and let the LADO know of the outcome.

All consultations with the LADO will be followed up in writing for the employer's record.

4. Roles and Responsibilities – All Organisations, the Local Authority and Police

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.

Roles and responsibilities for all organisations

Each organisation should identify a named senior manager with overall responsibility for allegations who should:

  • Ensure that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with this procedure;
  • Resolving any inter-agency issues;
  • Making statutory notifications to professional bodies and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
  • Liaising with the Safeguarding Children Partnership.

Each organisation should also appoint a designated safeguarding lead who is a senior manager to whom allegations or concerns should be reported.

  • They should seek advice from the LADO regarding incidents where it is unclear whether it is an allegation or concern
  • Report all allegations of harm or risk of harm to the LADO.

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.

Roles and responsibilities for the local authority – in addition to their role as employer

The local authority should assign a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) or team of LADOs 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.
  • It is important that those giving advice have expertise in this area, as any errors in advice could have serious ramification; both for those individuals who have had allegations made against them and for those making the allegation.
  • LADOs do not carry out investigations into allegations – responsibility for the investigation remains with the employer (or whoever is commissioned by the employer to investigate the process) and/or the police. The LADO can provide advice and, where necessary, co-ordinate the process. The LADO is also responsible for ensuring an appropriate outcome is reached. Where it is not straightforward to establish which organisation should lead an investigation, for example, where responsibility may be shared between an employment agency and the organisation where the person was working, the LADO will also provide advice regarding which organisation is best placed to lead the investigation.

Cases may often be relevant to more than one borough. For example, an allegation could be made against a member of staff who works or volunteers across multiple boroughs. Decisions about which LADO should take the lead are complex and is usually linked to where the greatest organisational risk lies.

However, in general terms the following guidelines apply:

  • If the allegation relates to a private life concern, the LADO where the member of staff's main employment is, will take the lead.
  • If the allegation relates to concerns about the behaviour of the member of staff in the place where he works or volunteers, the LADO in the area where the organisation is based where the allegation was made will take the lead.
  • In all circumstances the LADOs in the different boroughs will negotiate and agree who takes the lead.
  • In all circumstances each LADO will be responsible for giving safeguarding advice to the organisations based in their local area.
  • In all circumstances all LADOs involved should be invited to contribute to the ASV Meeting or discussion which will be led by the lead LADO.

Roles and responsibilities for the Police

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 against Staff and Volunteers Meetings or other discussions;
  • Review the progress of cases in which there is a police investigation;
  • Share information as appropriate, on completion of an investigation or related prosecution.

5. Direct Referrals to Children's Social Care or the Police

All referrals are managed via Wandsworth Children's Social Care Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). The LADO will provide advice on next steps in relation to the member of staff. Children' Social Care will have to consider whether there is a role for them in relation to safeguarding any children who may have been harmed or is at risk of future harm (which includes the member of staff's own child/ren or those children they work or volunteer with).

If Children's Social Care are undertaking child protection enquiries in relation to a family and it comes to light that either parent works or volunteers with children, the allocated social worker has to make a referral to the LADO immediately via the Wandsworth MASH, who will then consider safeguarding measures needed in relation to the member of staff's employment/volunteering activities. To avoid delay the allocated social worker needs to establish where the parent works or volunteers and in what capacity, so that this can be shared with the LADO who will then contact the employer if necessary, to discuss next steps.

If a referral is made to the Police first, the officer who receives it should report it to the designated detective sergeant on the Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) without delay and they should in turn inform the LADO and make a referral to the LADO via Wandsworth MASH. The Police will have to consider whether there is any evidence of a crime and therefore a potential role for them.

If the Police are investigating concerns linked to the private life of a person; for example: online abuse of children or sexual offences against an adult and it is established that the person works or volunteers with children, the Police Team dealing with the matter should contact the LADO immediately and make a referral to the LADO via the Wandsworth MASH, so that the necessary safeguarding measures can be implemented in relation to the persons work or volunteering activities with children.

6. Cross Boundary Issues relating to allegations involving Wandsworth Looked After Children

Where a Wandsworth Looked After child makes an allegation against a member of staff or volunteer in a residential placement, foster placement or any other setting outside of the London Borough of Wandsworth, the lead safeguarding responsibility lies with the LADO in the area where the alleged abuse occurred.

However, in these circumstances, the matter should still immediately be reported to the Wandsworth LADO in the first instance for initial advice and guidance. This enables the Wandsworth LADO to provide oversight and collect the relevant safeguarding data around Independent Fostering Agencies or organisations which provide Residential Care for Wandsworth Looked After Children. This should however not add any delay to a child being safeguarded.

The above process should also be followed if an allegation or concern is raised through the Children's Complaints Process or within Court Proceedings about a residential placement, foster placement or any other setting the Wandsworth Looked After child may be attending.

The Wandsworth LADO will signpost the allocated social worker in making a referral to the relevant LADO. The relevant LADO will then take the lead in reviewing the information to decide whether the LADO threshold is met, a strategy will then be agreed with the allocated social worker of how best to investigate the allegation and safeguard all children involved. It may be agreed that a Standards of Care Investigation may be more appropriate to explore the concerns.

The Wandsworth LADO will inform Wandsworth Placements Team of the allegation and subsequently the outcome thereof, so that this could be explored with the organisation at their next Quality Assurance visit. This also informs the suitability to continue to commission the said service.

Wandsworth Placements Team will be asked to checks whether there are any other Wandsworth Looked After children in the placement /setting. If so, the child/ren's social worker and manager must be informed. They should also consult the Wandsworth LADO in the first instance for guidance and advice before they liaise with the relevant LADO as described above.

Interviews of Wandsworth Looked After children will usually be undertaken by their allocated Social Worker in Wandsworth, in conjunction with the police as appropriate.

The Wandsworth LADO will inform the IRO (and the IRO Service Manager) for the Wandsworth Looked After child/ren of the allegation and the action that is being taken so that the progress can be monitored through the Independent Reviewing Process, which will also ensure that the child's is receiving appropriate support and that their needs are still being met in the placement/setting. If not, discussions should take place whether an alternative placement may have to be considered to safeguard the child/ren.

In cases where serious safeguarding concerns have been raised or where it may involve more than one Wandsworth Looked After child and therefore more strategic oversight, the Wandsworth LADO will also alert the Wandsworth Head of the Safeguarding Standards Service.

The allocated social worker should share the agreed final outcome of the allegation with the Wandsworth LADO to ensure the data is tracked and that the number of allegations involving Wandsworth Looked After Children can be reported upon to the Senior Management Team.

The Wandsworth LADO will make a note on the child's file to reflect the consultation and involvement of the Wandsworth LADO in the matter.

The allocated social worker needs to ensure that there is a clear record of their correspondence, as well as the actions taken and outcome agreed with the relevant LADO in the area where the alleged abuse occurred. It should also reflect how and what feedback have been given to the child, parent and carer at the conclusion of the process. This should additionally also be shared with the IRO and the Placements Team.

Should any new information come to light in relation to the allegation, the allocated social worker needs to share that with the relevant LADO in the area where the alleged abuse has taken place who will take the lead to review whether any further action is needed or potentially whether the LADO threshold decision should be reviewed again if it was not previously met. The Wandsworth LADO should also be notified of the above for oversight.

7. Responding to an Allegation or Concern

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.

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.
  • Report concerns to the designated safeguarding lead.

Initial action by the designated safeguarding lead

When informed of a concern or allegation, the designated safeguarding lead should gather facts and information in relation to the incident and ensure any evidence is preserved. The fact finding should be a neutral process and should not amount to an investigation of the incident.

They should:

  • Obtain written accounts of the concern/ allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving it;
  • Approve and date the written account;
  • Record any information about times, dates and location of incident/s and names of any potential witnesses;
  • Seek a written account from any potential witnesses of what they saw – without asking any questions;
  • Record discussions about the child and /or member of staff, any decisions made and the reasons for those decisions;
  • Check if there is any CCTV footage of the incident and make sure that it is saved securely;
  • Inform the LADO within one working day of an allegation made and prior to further investigation taking place if it is believed the case meets the threshold of harm or risk of harm;
  • If the allegation is received outside of normal office hours and a child is at immediate risk of harm, the designated lead should consult Children's Social Care – Out of Hours Team or the local police and inform the LADO as soon as possible;
  • The designated safeguarding lead should also carry out an immediate risk assessment and implement safeguarding measures if it is believed a child is at immediate risk of harm.

Initial consideration of an allegation by the designated safeguarding lead and LADO

  • All concerns reported to the LADO should be assessed to decide if the threshold for an allegation has been met;
  • It is essential for the LADO to keep the designated safeguarding lead who raised the concern informed whilst the case is being assessed. Organisations raising concerns may want to challenge or discuss decisions made by the LADO and will need to be updated on any action taken;
  • In cases where it is not clear whether the threshold has been met, the designated safeguarding lead and the LADO should discuss the incident and agree whether or not it meets the threshold for risk of harm. Consideration should be given to the risk or potential risk to both the child/children directly affected by the issue and any other children who may also be at risk;
  • Where it is decided that the incident does not meet the threshold of harm/risk of harm and is a concern only, then the employer should take steps to ensure any conduct or behaviour issues are addressed with the member of staff through the appropriate organisational internal management/employment procedures.

There are 4 strands in the consideration of an allegation:

  • A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
  • Children's Social Care enquiries and/or assessment about whether a child is in need of protection or services;
  • Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action in relation to performance or conduct issues;
  • Where the allegation has no foundation and may be malicious, consideration should be given whether action should be taken against the person who made the allegation.

The LADO and the designated safeguarding lead should consider first whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence or information that establishes that the allegation is false or unfounded.

The Police must be consulted in any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed.

The LADO and designated safeguarding lead will agree appropriate safeguarding measures in relation to the member of staff, which may have to include suspension.

The LADO and designated safeguarding lead will consider whether an Allegation against Staff and Volunteers (ASV) Meeting is necessary. Referrals often do not result in ASV Meetings, but instead the LADO may oversee the Internal Management Investigation undertaken by the employer and provides advice and support in relation to the disciplinary process, changes needed to safeguarding policies and procedures or training needs. This is most appropriate in case where the threshold for a Police (criminal) Investigation and/or Children' Social Care (child protection) investigation have not been met.

8. Suspension and other Safeguarding Measures

Suspension should not be automatic. It should only be considered in cases 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.

Consideration should be given whether the result that would be achieved by immediate suspension could be obtained by alternative safeguarding measures. In many cases an investigation can be resolved quickly and without the need for suspension. If the LADO(s), Police and Children's Social Care have no objections to the member of staff continuing to work during the investigation, the employer should be as inventive as possible to avoid suspension.

Based on assessment of risk, the following alternatives should be considered by the employer before suspending a member of staff:

  • Redeployment so that the member of staff does not have direct contact with the child or children concerned;
  • Providing an assistant (or other adult) to be present when the member of staff has contact with children;
  • Redeploying to alternative work so the member of staff does not have unsupervised access to children – for example administrative duties or working from home;
  • Temporarily redeploying the member of staff to another role in a different location.

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 member of staff.

If an Allegations against Staff and Volunteers (ASV) Meeting is to be held or, if Children's Social Care 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.

9. Allegations against Staff and Volunteers (ASV) Meeting

An ASV Meeting / discussion will decide the strategy for managing the allegation. Where necessary this will be a face-to-face meeting. Many cases can be managed through a discussion between the designated safeguarding lead, the Police, any other relevant agencies and the LADO. Where communication is via phone or email records should be kept for audit purposes.

Where there is a larger number of people involved in the case, the benefit of convening a face-face meeting is increased.

An ASV Meeting will normally only be convened when it has been decided that the threshold of harm/risk of harm has been met. ASV Meetings should not be used to further investigate concerns about inappropriate behaviour or conduct where there are not clear indications of harm /risk of harm to a child.

The ASV Meeting will be chaired by the LADO. It will normally be attended by the police, a social worker for the child (where there is one], and the employer. The employer is advised to bring a human resources advisor. In situations where the allegation is against a health professional, the designated or named nurse for safeguarding [Clinical Commissioning Group/CCG) should be invited. OFSTED will be invited to attend if the allegation relates to a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 or a registered child minder. OFSTED should also be informed by the employer of allegations against residential staff, foster carers and prospective adopters. They however do not normally attend the ASV Meeting in relation to the above staff.

The ASV Meeting/discussion should:

  • Share all relevant information about the person who is the subject of the allegation and about the alleged child victim/s;
  • Decide whether there should be a Section 47 enquiry and / or police investigation;
  • Consider whether any parallel disciplinary process can take place and agree protocols for sharing information;
  • Consider the current allegation in the context of any previous allegations or concerns;
  • Where appropriate, take account of any entitlement by staff to use reasonable force to control or restrain children (e.g. Use of Reasonable Force in Schools);
  • Consider whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable;
  • Plan the investigation/enquiries and set timescales for tasks to be undertaken or receive information about enquiries and investigations that have already been agreed prior to a meeting between the LADO and designated safeguarding lead;
  • Decide what information can be shared, with whom and when.
  • Ensure that arrangements are made to protect the child/ren involved and any other child/ren affected, including taking emergency action where needed;
  • Consider what support should be provided to all children who may be affected;
  • Consider what support should be provided to the member of staff and others who may be affected and how they will be kept up to date with the progress of the investigation;
  • Ensure that investigations are sufficiently independent;
  • Make recommendations where appropriate regarding suspension, or alternatives to suspension;
  • Identify a lead contact manager within each agency;
  • Agree protocols for reviewing investigations and monitoring progress by the LADO;
  • Consider issues for the attention of senior management (e.g. media interest, resource implications);
  • Consider gathering reports for consideration of barring;
  • Consider risk assessments to inform the employer's safeguarding arrangements;
  • Agree dates for future meetings / discussions.

At the end of the investigation the LADO will arrange a Final ASV Meeting/discussion. The purpose of this meeting will be to ensure that:

  • All the original allegations have been addressed and an outcome is reached for each allegation
  • All strands of the investigation have been concluded and is clearly recorded.
  • All those involved have been informed of the outcomes appropriately; this includes the child, parent/carer and member of staff whom the allegation was made against.
  • The children have been safeguarded and where necessary appropriate support services have been provided;
  • The recommendations of Final ASV Meeting are reviewed within an agreed timescale to ensure that they are followed through; including referrals to DBS, Teaching Regulatory Agency or any other regulatory body.
  • Where appropriate, agree an action plan for lessons learned, which may include training for staff or changes to Policy or Procedure.

ASV Meetings/discussions in relation to allegations against staff in their personal lives

If an allegation arises about a member of staff, outside of their work with children, and this may present a risk of harm/risk of harm to child/ren for whom the member of staff is responsible through their employment/volunteering, a meeting / discussion should be convened to decide whether the concern justifies:

  • Approaching the member of staff's employer for further information, in order to assess the level of risk of harm; and / or
  • Inviting the employer to a further meeting / discussion about dealing with the possible risk of harm.

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 in both areas and a joint meeting / discussion convened.

In some cases, an allegation of abuse against someone closely associated with a member of staff (e.g. partner, member of the family or other household member) may present a risk of harm to child/ren for whom the member of staff is responsible through their employment/volunteering. In these circumstances, a meeting / discussion should be convened to consider:

  • The ability and/or willingness of the member of staff to adequately protect the child/ren;
  • Whether measures need to be put in place to ensure their protection;
  • Whether the role of the member of staff is compromised.

10. 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 or direct liaison with the Police, Children's Social Care, 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.

11. Timescales for Completing Investigation of Allegations

It is in everyone's interest to resolve cases as quickly as possible consistent with a fair and thorough investigation. All allegations should be investigated as a priority to avoid any delay. The time taken to investigate and resolve individual cases depends on a variety of factors including the nature, seriousness and complexity of the allegation.

It is expected that:

  • 80 per cent of cases should be resolved within one month;
  • 90 per cent should be resolved within three months;
  • All but the most exceptional cases should be completed within 12 months.

12. Outcomes Following an Investigation

The LADO should make a record of the agreed outcome of each allegation following the outcome of an investigation and forward this to the employer for their record. The following definitions, should be used when determining the outcome of an allegation:

Substantiated allegations: There is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation that a child has been harmed or there is a risk of harm.

If the facts of the incident are found to be true but it is not found that a child has been harmed or there is a risk of harm, then consideration should be given to deciding that the outcome is 'unsubstantiated' or 'unfounded'. The decision making in relation to the above needs to be clearly recorded.

Malicious allegations: There is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation and there has been a deliberate act to deceive.

The police should be asked to consider what action may be appropriate in these circumstances to protect the member of staff whom the malicious allegation has been made against.

False allegations: There is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation, however, there is no evidence to suggest that there was a deliberate intention to deceive.

False allegations may be an indicator of abuse elsewhere which requires further exploration. If an allegation is demonstrably false, the employer, in consultation with the LADO, should refer the matter to Children's Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by someone else.

Unsubstantiated allegations: There is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation. The term, therefore, does not imply guilt or innocence.

Unfounded allegations: There is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made. It might also indicate that the person making the allegation misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what they saw. Alternatively, they may not have been aware of all the circumstances.

13. What happens when an Allegation has been Substantiated and when to Refer to DBS or Regulatory Body, such as Ofsted or TRA?

Once the LADO process has concluded and the allegation has been substantiated, the employer will consider disciplinary action in relation to the member of staff.

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 compromise agreement which prevents the employer from making a DBS referral when the criteria are met for doing so would likely result in a criminal offence being committed for failure to comply with the duty to refer. A compromise agreement should not be used as a way to conclude any disciplinary investigation where there is a substantiated outcome. A compromise agreement will not prevent a police investigation where that is appropriate.

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.

If the person being referred to the DBS is a teacher in England they should also be referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency.

Ofsted should be notified of all allegation made against a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 or against a registered childminder, no matter the outcome.

The employer or Fostering Agency should inform Ofsted of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or a member of staff in a residential child carer facility, no matter the outcome. There are established notification processes in place.

14. When does the Outcome of an Allegation need to be included in Employment References?

Cases in which an allegation was proven to be false, unsubstantiated or malicious should not be included in employer references. A history of repeated concerns or allegations which have all been found to be false, unsubstantiated or malicious should also not be included in any reference.

15. Record Keeping

All referrals to the LADO must be submitted via the Wandsworth Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). The MASH will open a contact and allocate the case to the LADO. All LADO activity will be recorded on Mosaic, Wandsworth Children's Services ICS system.

The child and parents or carers can be informed about the outcome of any disciplinary process in confidence. 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. A record should be made of what feedback has been given to them.

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 member of staff themselves, as well as in cases where substantiated allegations need to be known about to safeguard future children.

16. Learning Lessons

At the conclusion of a case the employer and the LADO, should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisations policies, procedures or practice to help minimise similar events for the future. This may also identify training needed for the member of staff whom the allegation was made against or for all staff in the organisation.

17. General Responsibilities when Investigating an Allegation

Responsibilities in relation to the child and family involved

The organisation, and the child where appropriate, 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.

The parents/carers should usually be informed by the designated safeguarding lead or manager of the organisation of any alleged account of harm to their child. Before doing so consideration should be given to whether or not informing the parents/carers of the child/ren involved will impede the disciplinary or investigative processes. The designated safeguarding lead can consult with the LADO if they are unsure of this. In some circumstances, however, the parents/carers may need to be told straight away (e.g. if a child is injured and requires medical treatment).

The parents/carers 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.

Responsibilities in relation to the member of staff or volunteer alleged to have caused harm

As soon as possible after an allegation has been received, the member of staff 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. In addition, the member of staff should be encouraged to contact their GP for support if they feel that the are struggling to cope.

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 member of staff who is the subject of the allegation. Consideration should be given to withholding information in the following circumstances:

Whether it is safe to disclose – this applies both to any child/ren and any witnesses particularly where there is domestic abuse.

If the matter is subject to police involvement, the police should always be consulted so criminal investigations are not compromised.

Subject to restrictions on the information that can be shared, the appropriate manager should, as soon as possible, inform the member of staff 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;
  • If the member of staff was suspended and returns 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 (and/ or family) concerned, if still in the workplace.

Confidentiality

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 LADO and relevant senior manager in the organisation where the member of staff is employed may need to liaise with legal services and information governance when making decisions and advising on the sharing of relevant information.

The police will not normally provide any information to the press or media that might identify a person 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.

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 18, Reporting Restrictions Regarding Allegations Against Teachers who work in Schools.

18. Reporting Restrictions Regarding Allegations against Teachers who work in Schools

Parents and carers should be made aware of the requirement to maintain confidentiality about any allegation made against teachers whilst investigations are ongoing as is set out in Section 13 of the Education Act 2011. This legislation prevents the publication of any material that may lead to the identification of a teacher who has been accused of abuse by, or on behalf of, a registered pupil at the same school where they work. It is a criminal offence to publish any information in breach of these restrictions. Publication includes any speech, writing or any other communication, in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public. This means that a parent or carer who, for example, published details of the allegation on a social networking site would be in breach of the reporting restrictions, if what was published could lead to the identification of the teacher by members of the public.

The reporting restrictions will remain in place unless or until the teacher is charged with an offence.

The reporting restrictions will cease to apply if the teacher 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 restriction in response to a request to do so. For example, parents or carers could apply to the court to have the reporting restrictions removed.

This provision applies only to teachers (including supply and peripatetic teachers) who works at a school, not to other staff in educational establishments.