Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides information about dealing with allegations against people who work with children and young people in either a paid or voluntary capacity. This procedure should be used by all organisations where the people work with children and young people, including organisations that provide staff or volunteers who work with or care for children ( including those that work for more than one organisation). It also takes into account the requirements laid out in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

All references in this document to 'staff or members of staff' should be interpreted as meaning all paid or unpaid professionals and volunteers, including for example agency staff, foster carers, approved adopters and child minders. This chapter also applies to any person, who manages or facilitates access to an establishment offering services to children or young people.

This procedure is for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland each authority uses different terminology for the meetings undertaken within the LADO processes. For the purposes of this procedure the meetings will be called ‘Managing Allegations Meetings’. The local terminology for each Local Authority can be found in the associated guidance see the Referrals Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Working Together to Safeguard Children: Statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Available at: GOV.UK - Working together to safeguard children

Detailed guidance can be found for schools and all educational establishments in Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges

Guidance about the use of physical restraint in schools for governing bodies, headteachers and school staff. Available at: GOV.UK - Use of reasonable force in schools

Additionally new statutory guidance has been issued 'Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006' (February 2015) which replaces the supplementary advice that was issued by the Department for Education on 10 October 2014. Available at: GOV.UK - Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006

Guidance regarding making a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) website is available at: GOV.UK - Making barring referrals to the DBS

Guidance regarding the legal duty to refer and power to refer to the DBS is available at: GOV.UK - DBS barring referral guidance

Guidance regarding Fostering and handling allegations and suspicions of harm

AMENDMENT

In March 2021 this chapter has been substantially updated and should be re-read.

1. Introduction

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. All organisations which have employees or volunteers working with children should therefore have clear and accessible policies and procedures, consistent with these LLR Child Protection Procedures, where services for children and families are being commissioned, commissioners should ensure that contracts include these requirements.

The LADO should keep comprehensive records in order to ensure that each case is being dealt with expeditiously and that there are no undue delays. The records will also assist the LRSCP/LSCPB to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations as required.

This document uses the abbreviation LADO (local authority designated officer) throughout, to refer to the specific role of the designated officer employed by the local authority to manage and have oversight of allegations across the children's workforce. This term is used in order to distinguish between safeguarding leads in health and education who can also be referred to as 'designated' leads.

This procedure is a multi-agency procedure sitting within the LLR SCPs procedure manual for all agencies working across the three Local Authorities Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR). The Procedure will refer meetings undertaken as part of the allegation’s management process as Allegation Management Meetings, these meetings may have different titles for each of the local authorities utilising this procedure. Local terminology will be evidenced in guidance available for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

2. Allegations Dealt with by these Procedures

These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation that any person who works with children, in connection with their employment or voluntary activity, has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children;
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may be unsuitable to work with children (KCSIE Guidance 2020).

Allegations can be made in relation to physical chastisement and restraint but can also relate to inappropriate relationships between members of staff and children or young people, for example:

  • Having a sexual relationship with a child under 18 if in a position of trust in respect of that child, even if consensual (see ss16-19 Sexual Offences Act 2003);
  • 'Grooming', i.e. meeting a child under 16 with intent to commit a relevant offence (see s15 Sexual Offences Act 2003);
  • Other 'grooming' behaviour giving rise to concerns of a broader child protection nature e.g. inappropriate text / e-mail messages or images, gifts, socialising etc;
  • Possession of indecent photographs / pseudo-photographs of children.

In addition, 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 arrest for possession of a weapon;
  • As a parent or carer, whose child has become subject to child protection procedures;
  • Is closely associated with someone in their personal lives (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.

In some circumstances schools and colleges will have to consider an allegation against an individual not directly employed by them, where its disciplinary procedures do not fully apply, for example, supply teachers provided by an employment agency or business. Whilst schools and colleges are not the employer of supply teachers, they should ensure allegations are dealt with properly and the LADO is consulted and provided with the full employment details.

Finally, these procedures should be followed where a person's employment is covered by the Childcare Act 2006 amendments 2018 (see definition in the statutory guidance) and Statutory guidance 'Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006'.

By amendment of regulation 9 of the Childcare (Disqualification) and Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (“the 2018 Regulations”), the disqualification by association for individuals working in childcare in non-domestic settings has been removed (e.g. schools and nurseries).

Disqualification by association continues to apply for individuals providing and working in childcare in domestic settings (e.g. where childcare is provided in a childminder’s home). 3. The arrangements continue to disqualify individuals working in domestic and nondomestic settings if they themselves have been found to have committed a relevant offence.

It is also important to note that, whilst not specifically covered by statutory guidance, the risks associated with the wider family and close associates of the member of staff may also need to be considered even if their work with children does not fall within the remit of the statutory guidance.

These procedures should be followed where allegations are made against a 16 and 17-year-old 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 in other school or out of school activities.

The procedures for dealing with allegations need to be applied with common sense and judgement. Many cases may well either not meet the criteria set out above or may do so without warranting consideration of either a police investigation or enquiries by local authority children's social care services. In these cases, employers should follow their safeguarding and other relevant procedures to resolve cases without delay.

If the Local Authority Designated Officer receives information or an allegation from an employer or other source which does not fit into the criteria above, but it does still raise concerns about the overall conduct or culture within an organisation, then the LADO may refer this information to the appropriate regulatory body or organisation, and if necessary use the Leicester, and Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Children Partnerships (LLR SCPs) professional resolution and escalation policy. (See Resolving Practitioner Disagreements and Escalation of Concerns Procedure). If the concerns are being raised about a setting in any of the LLR authorities, then the LADO should notify the relevant Director of Children’s Services who will decide how this matter should be dealt with.

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 harm 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). Breaches of the organisation’s/agency’s internal code of conduct/ standard of expectation of behaviour may indicate that person’s behaviour may pose a risk of harm to children and therefore consultation with the LADO is required (e.g. Code of conduct, Safer Working Practices and Fostering Standards).

Issues that do not meet this threshold may constitute conduct or disciplinary issues and should be addressed by employers using the appropriate organisational procedure.

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?

If there is a clear allegation or if the information is unclear then there must be a discussion with the LADO. If it falls short of the allegation threshold 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.

Organised abuse

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

Non-recent abuse

Allegations of non-recent abuse should be responded to and reported in the same way as contemporary allegations. In cases of non-recent abuse, the person against whom the allegation is made may still be working with children and it will be important to investigate whether this is the case. See Historical (non recent) Abuse Allegations.

3. Key Roles and Responsibilities

Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) requires that:

County level and unitary local authorities should ensure that allegations against people who work with children are not dealt with in isolation. Any action necessary to address corresponding welfare concerns in relation to the child or children involved should be taken without delay and in a co-ordinated manner. Local authorities should, in addition, have designated a particular officer, or team of officers (either as part of local multiagency arrangements or otherwise), to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people who work with children. Any such officer, or team of officers, should be sufficiently qualified and experienced to be able to fulfil this role effectively, for example, qualified social workers. 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 liaise effectively with the police and other organisations and 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.

Local Authority Designated Officer

The local authority should have a Designated Officer, or team of officers, to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people that work with children. In LLR the officers are called Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and their role is to:

  • Manage the overall allegations process, including receiving reports and maintaining accurate records of allegations;
  • Provide advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations and agencies; including Ofsted disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006 (including advice regarding internal disciplinary procedures and human resource processes that need to be followed);
  • 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 General Medical Council etc.;
  • Escalate and challenge concerns with organisations at any stage in this process using the Resolving Practitioner Disagreements and Escalation of Concerns Procedure;
  • To contribute to the LLR SCPs inter-agency training programmes and awareness raising across all agencies.

To make a referral to the Local Authority Designated Officer, please see the Referral Procedure.

Where there is evidence that a child has been harmed a referral to the Local authority where the child resides should always be made in line with the referral process

Named Senior Officer

Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out that employers and voluntary organisations should ensure that they have clear policies in place setting out the allegations process, including timescales, for investigation and what support and advice will be available to individuals against whom allegations have been made.

Each LRSCP/LSCPB member organisation should identify a named senior officer with overall responsibility for:

  • Ensuring that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with this LLR SCPs procedure;
  • Ensuring safer recruitment practices and safeguarding training are in place within the organisation and aligned to this LLR SCPs procedure;
  • Resolving any inter-agency issues which impede the implementation of LLR SCPs procedures;
  • Ensuring effective reporting and recording arrangement are in place in their organisations/agencies.

Designated Senior Manager

Employers should also appoint a designated senior manager who has overall responsibility for ensuring that this procedure is followed at an operational level.

Responsibilities include:

  • Whom allegations or concerns should be reported to;
  • A deputy to whom reports should be made in the absence of the designated senior manager or where that person is the subject of the allegation or concern;
  • Ensuring that this procedure is properly applied and implemented;
  • Providing advice, information and guidance for staff within the organisation;
  • Ensuring risk assessments are undertaken where and when required.

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 Management Meetings;
  • Review the progress of cases in which there is a police investigation;
  • Share information during the investigation as appropriate, on completion of an investigation and related prosecution.

Interviews of children from any of the local authority areas will usually be undertaken by their own local Children's Social Care Services 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 LLR local authority areas, for example a boarding school, the Local Authority Designated Officer should liaise with the child's home authority about the roles and responsibilities in carrying out this procedure.

4. General Considerations Relating to Allegations Against Staff

Persons to be Notified

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

The employer should seek advice from the LADO, about how much information should be disclosed to the person against whom the allegation has been made. The LADO may liaise with the Police and/or Children's Social Care regarding this so that employers feel supported in how much information can be shared in the context of allegations that may require evidence to be gathered.

Subject to restrictions on the information that can be shared, the employer should, as soon as possible, inform the person against whom the allegation has been made 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 member against whom the allegation has been made of staff 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.
  • Supported by employer as per duty of care and signposted to support services (GP/counselling/staff welfare).

Ofsted should be informed of any allegation or concern made against a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 (this is usually the responsibility of the setting, but the LADO will enquire as to whether this course of action has been taken and if not advise accordingly) or against a registered child minder. They should also be invited to take part in any subsequent Managing Allegations Meeting where the allegation is against the owner or manager of the setting.

Children's Social Care should inform Ofsted of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or member of staff in a residential child care facility.

If an organisation removes an individual (paid worker or unpaid volunteer) from regulated activity as a result of safeguarding concerns such as looking after children, (or would have, had the person not left first), because the person poses a risk of harm to children, the organisation must make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service. (The referral should be made as soon as the employer has sufficient evidence/admission at any point in the process and not wait until the end of the proceedings). Note: It is an offence to fail to make a referral.

Confidentiality

Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered.

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.

Reporting restrictions regarding allegations against teachers

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.

Such restrictions remain in place unless or until the teacher is charged with a criminal offence, though they may be dispensed with on the application to the Magistrates’ Court by any person, if the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so, having regard to the welfare of:

  1. The person who is the subject of the allegation; and
  2. The victim of the offence to which the allegation relates.

There is a right of appeal to the Crown Court.

This restriction will apply to allegations made against any teacher who works at a school, including supply and peripatetic teachers. ‘School’ includes Academies, Free Schools, Independent Schools and all types of Maintained schools.

There is a new offence of publishing 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.

Support

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

Organisations/Agencies should consult their Human Resources at the earliest opportunity in order that appropriate support can be provided via the organisation's occupational health or employee welfare arrangements.

It is good practice for the accused person to have access to the following:

  • Copy of the LLR SCP's Procedure on Allegations of Abuse made against a Person who works with children;
  • Information on how to access legal / union advice and representation;
  • Relevant leaflets on the process. These do not replace the need for a face to face discussion, but provide a framework for discussion;
  • Information on the process of the enquiry and the planned timescales;
  • Information on independent support which may be available.

Suspension

Suspension should be considered only in cases where there is cause to suspect a child or other children at the place of employment is/are at risk of harm or the case is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal. The Designated Senior Manager must consider carefully whether the circumstances warrant suspension from contact with children until the allegation is resolved, and may wish to seek advice from their personnel adviser and the LADO(s).

The Designated Senior Manager should also consider whether the result that would be achieved by immediate suspension could be obtained by alternative arrangements. 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 services have no objections to the member of staff continuing to work during the investigation, the Designated Senior Manager should be as inventive as possible to avoid suspension. Based on assessment of risk, the following alternatives should be considered by the Designated Senior Manager and Human Resources before suspending a member of staff:

  • Redeployment so that the individual does not have direct contact with the child or children concerned;
  • Providing a supervisor to be present when the individual has contact with children;
  • Redeploying to alternative work so the individual does not have unsupervised access to children;
  • Temporarily redeploying the member of staff to another role in a different location.

If immediate suspension is considered necessary, the rationale and justification for such a course of action should be agreed and recorded by both the Designated Senior Manager and the LADO(s). This should also include what alternatives to suspension have been considered and why they were rejected.

Where it has been deemed appropriate to suspend the person, written confirmation should be dispatched within one working day, giving as much detail as appropriate for the reasons for the suspension. It is not acceptable for an employer to leave a person who has been suspended without any support. The person should be informed at the point of their suspension who their named contact is within the organisation and provided with their contact details.

Children's Social Care services or the police cannot require the Designated Senior Manager to suspend a member of staff or a volunteer, although they should give appropriate weight to their advice. The power to suspend is vested in the employer. However, where a discussion concludes that there should be enquiries by the Children's Social Care services and/or an investigation by the police, the LADO(s) should canvass police and Children's Social Care services for views about whether the member of staff against whom the allegation has been made needs to be suspended from contact with children in order to inform consideration of suspension. Police involvement does not make it mandatory to suspend a member of staff; this decision should be taken on a case-by-case basis having undertaken a risk assessment.

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.

Police bail

It should be noted that police guidelines on arrest have changed and it is now the case that the defendant will not be arrested unless there is a need for bail conditions. Cases may be dealt with by an interview under caution. The lack of an arrest can impact on the strength of the case to suspend someone so it is very important to have clear information about the police decision making process and why actions were and were not taken.

Schools and colleges - interim prohibition order

In cases where a school or college is made aware that the Secretary of State has made an interim prohibition order in respect of an individual at the school or college, it will be necessary to immediately suspend that person from teaching pending the findings of the Teaching Regulation Agency.

Whistle-blowing

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 their LADO. See also Whistleblowing Procedure.

5. 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 Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) or delegated representative, the Police and the Senior Manager in the relevant agency or organisation.

If a referral is made to the Police first, the officer who receives it should report it to the relevant Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) without delay and s/he should in turn inform the LADO or delegated representative.

If the matter is sensitive, see also Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure.

6. Cross Boundary Issue

Where a child from any of the Leicester City, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) 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 perpetrator holds their substantive post.

Checks should be made as to whether these allegations are likely to affect any other children within the placement.

7. Responding to an Allegation or Concern – Role of the Employer

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;
  • Make assumptions or offer alternative explanations;
  • Promise confidentiality.

They should follow their organisation's/agency’s procedures, which should include the following:

  • Making 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;
  • Signing and dating the written record;
  • Immediately reporting the matter to the Designated Senior Manager or the deputy in their absence or; where the designated safeguarding lead is the subject of the allegation report to the deputy or other appropriate senior manager;
  • In situations where, vital evidence may need to be secured, the employer will take no further steps to inform the accused or further interview the alleged victim. The employer will immediately consult with the police and/or social care;

Some, very serious allegations, should be immediately reported to the police – this will also enable prompt action to be taken to gather evidence from mobile phones, etc.

Initial action by the Designated Senior Manager

When informed of a concern or allegation, the Designated Senior Manager should not investigate the matter, but they should continue to gather factual information in regards to the incident and ensure any evidence is preserved. This fact-finding should be a neutral process and should not amount to an investigation of the incident.

They should:

  • Obtain written details of the concern / allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving it (not the child / adult making the allegation);
  • Approve and date the written details;
  • Record any information about times, dates and location of incident/s and names of any potential witnesses;
  • Record discussions about the child and/or member of staff, any decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions;
  • The Designated Senior Manager should review the information available and consideration should be given as to whether the case meets the threshold of harm/risk of harm;
  • If it is decided that the incident does not meet the threshold of harm/risk of harm, then they should take steps to ensure any conduct or behaviour issues are addressed with the member of staff through normal employment practices;
  • If the Designated Senior Manager is unclear whether the incident meets the threshold of harm/risk of harm, they may wish to seek advice from the LADO.

Notifying the LADO within one working day of an allegation or concern

The Designated Senior Manager must inform their LADO within one working day or immediately if necessary, when an allegation is made and prior to any further investigation taking place. It is important to note that information gathering is distinct from investigation. Employers should continue to gather information about the facts of the case, for example, checking if there is any evidence and taking statements from other witnesses.

  • If it is outside of normal working hours and there is an immediate risk to a child, a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care. See the Referral Procedure The LADO should be informed as soon as possible;
  • An immediate risk assessment should be carried out and if necessary immediate safeguarding arrangements to be put in place by the employer;
  • If appropriate the police should also be notified within one working day – or immediately if necessary;
  • A failure to report an allegation in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.

8. Role of the LADO

Initial Consideration by the Designated Senior Manager and the LADO

All concerns reported to the LADO should be assessed to decide if the threshold for an allegation has been met. In cases where it is not clear whether the threshold has been met, it might be necessary to have a discussion (by phone or in a meeting) to evaluate whether the threshold is met – sometimes referred to as an evaluation meeting.

It is essential to keep the employer who raised the concern informed whilst the case is being assessed. Organisations/agencies raising concerns may want to challenge or discuss decisions made by the LADO and will need to be updated on any action taken.

The employer 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 normal employment practices,

Considering an allegation

There are up to four possible outcomes to an allegation and three possible related but independent 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; (Refer to the appropriate Children’s Social Care team);
  • Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action (Ensure that the appropriate registered body is informed in line with the procedures of that organisation);
  • Employer led advice or support, i.e. training needs, reflective learning.

The LADO and the Designated Senior Manager should consider first whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence or information that establishes that the allegation is false. Care should be taken to ensure that the child is not confused as to dates, times, locations or identity of the member of staff.

If the allegation is not demonstrably false and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the LADO should refer to Children's Social Care and them to consider an immediate Section 47 Strategy Meeting

Social Work Assessment / S47 Strategy Meeting

Where LADO has identified that there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm then they must inform the appropriate Social Care team for their consideration of the need for an immediate Section 47 strategy discussion/meeting. (See Strategy discussions procedure.)

If a safeguarding referral is made directly to Children’s Social Care, in the Local Authority where there is an allegation made against any individual who has a role in providing for the care of children or young people either through employment or volunteering then they need to refer through to LADO. The Children’s Social Care team receiving the referral are required to ensure that the following information as a minimum is gathered:

  • Adults name who the allegation is made against;
  • Adult's address;
  • Adults date of birth;
  • Employer;
  • Employers address;
  • Date of incident and date allegation made;
  • Nature of allegation;
  • If the adult who the allegation is made against has children residing with them.

Where the adult is in a position of trust the LADO will be invited to attend the Section 47 Strategy discussion/meeting.

An Allegations Management Meeting/Discussion

An Allegations Management 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 agency 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 Allegations Management meeting will normally only be convened when it has been decided that the threshold of harm/risk of harm has been met. 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 Allegations Management 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 Designated Senior Manager/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.

The meeting / discussion should:

  • Consider the role of Children’s Social Care and share information in respect of the child as part of the allegation process;
  • 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 legitimate use of by staff to use reasonable force to control or restrain children by staff for example Use of reasonable force in schools - DfE
  • Consider whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable (see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure);
  • Plan enquiries if needed, allocate tasks and set timescales;
  • Decide what information can be shared, with whom and when.

The meeting /discussion should also:

  • 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, having regard to the target timescales;
  • Consider issues for the attention of senior management (e.g. media interest, resource implications);
  • Consider reports for consideration of barring and informing regulatory/professional bodies;
  • Consider risk assessments to inform the employer's safeguarding arrangements;
  • Agree dates for future meetings / discussions.

A final meeting /discussion should be held to 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.

Timescales for completing investigations 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, but these targets should be achieved in all but truly exceptional cases. Target timescales are shown below:

  • For those cases where it is clear immediately that the allegation is unsubstantiated or malicious, they should be resolved within one week;
  • Where the initial consideration decides that the allegation does not involve a possible criminal offence it will be for the employer to deal with it, although if there are concerns about child protection, the employer should discuss them with the LADO;
    • In such cases, if the nature of the allegation does not require formal disciplinary action, the employer should institute appropriate action within three working days;
    • If a disciplinary hearing is required and can be held without further investigation, the hearing should be held within 15 working days.

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. [1]

[1] Taken from keeping Children Safe in Education (Sept 2020)

Monitoring progress

The LADO should regularly monitor and record the progress of each case. This could be by way of review 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 will also assist the LRSCP/LSCPB to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations as required.

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

9. Outcomes Following an Investigation

To conclude an Allegations management process episode Designated Senior 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:

  1. Substantiated: there is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation;
  2. False: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation;
  3. Malicious: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation and there has been a deliberate act to deceive;
  4. 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;
  5. Unfounded: to reflect cases where there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made.

All relevant professionals must keep their Designated Senior Manager with responsibility for allegations and the LADO informed of any developments in the case. Children’s Social Care 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

References in cases where the allegation is false, unsubstantiated or malicious

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.

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 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.

10. Record Keeping and Monitoring Progress

Record keeping

Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case record on a person's confidential personnel file and give a copy to the individual. The record should include details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached, and the action taken. It should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for ten years if longer. For employee’s in education ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2020 240’ identifies ‘Details of allegations that are found to have been malicious should be removed from personnel records.’

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.

11. Substantiated Allegations

Referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The DBS was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges the functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The relevant legislation is set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

There is a legal requirement for employers to make a referral to the DBS where they think that an individual has engaged in conduct that harmed (or is likely to harm) a child; or if a person otherwise poses a risk of harm to a child; or is there is an investigation and the outcome is substantiated either by criminal investigation or by the balance of probabilities

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 his/her services, the guidance regarding making a referral - available on the Disclosure and Barring Service website.

The DBS will refer cases involving teachers to the Teaching Regulation Agency.

Legal duty to refer and power to refer

See the DBS referral guidance and tools.

The following groups have legal duty to refer information to the DBS:

  • Regulated activity suppliers (employers and volunteer managers);
  • Personnel suppliers that may be an employment agency, employment business or an educational institution;

The following groups have the power to refer information to the DBS:

The power to refer may be used when a local authority or regulatory body is acting in a role other than as a regulated activity provider, for example, when undertaking a safeguarding role.

  • Local authorities;
  • A Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust;
  • Education and Library Boards;
  • Keepers of registers e.g. General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Social Work England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
  • Supervisory authorities e.g. Care Quality Commission, Ofsted. in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The DBS will refer cases involving teachers to the Teaching Regulation Agency.

Whenever a local authority refers a person to the DBS, they must consider whether they are doing so under the duty to refer or their power to refer.

Notifying Ofsted

Child minders and day care

Ofsted should be informed of any allegation or concern made against a member of staff in any day care establishment for children under 8 or against a registered child minder. They should also be invited to take part in any subsequent meeting / discussion.

Foster carers, prospective adopters and residential care

A senior manager of the employer or fostering agency should inform Ofsted of all allegations made against a foster carer, prospective adopter, or member of staff in a residential child care facility. There are established notification processes in place.

12. Disciplinary or Suitability Process and Investigations

The LADO and the employer should discuss whether disciplinary action is appropriate where:

  • It is clear at the outset or decided by a meeting / discussion that a police investigation or LA children's social care enquiry is not necessary;
    Or
  • The employer or the LADO is informed by the police or the Crown Prosecution Service that a criminal investigation and any subsequent trial is complete, or that an investigation is to be closed without charge, or a prosecution discontinued.

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

  • Information provided by the police and / or LA children's social care;
  • The result of any investigation or trial;
  • The different standard of proof in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.

In the case of supply, contract and volunteer workers, normal disciplinary procedures may not apply. In these circumstances, the LADO and employer should act jointly with the providing agency, if any, in deciding whether to continue to use the person's services, or provide future work with children, and if not, whether to make a report for consideration of barring or other action. See Substantiated allegations and referral to the DBS.

If a disciplinary hearing is required, and further investigation is not required, it should be held within the timeframe laid out in the employer's procedures.

If formal disciplinary action is not required, the employer should meet the employee, discuss fully the outcome of the allegation and ensure they are reintegrated into the work environment.

Further investigation

If further investigation is needed to decide upon disciplinary action, the designated safeguarding lead and the LADO should discuss whether the employer has appropriate resources or whether the employer should commission an independent investigation because of the nature and/or complexity of the case and in order to ensure objectivity. The investigation should not be conducted by a relative or friend of the member of staff.

The aim of an investigation is to obtain, as far as possible, a fair, balanced and accurate record in order to consider the appropriateness of disciplinary action and / or the risk of harm to children. Its purpose is not to prove or disprove the allegation

If, at any stage, new information emerges that requires a child protection referral, the investigation should be held in abeyance and only resumed if agreed with LA children's social care and the police. Consideration should again be given as to whether suspension is appropriate in light of the new information.

The investigating officer should aim to provide a report within ten working days.

On receipt of the report the employer should follow their disciplinary procedures

Sharing information for disciplinary purposes

Wherever possible, police and LA Children's Social Care should, during the course of their investigations and enquiries, obtain consent to provide the employer and/or regulatory body with statements and evidence for disciplinary purposes.

If the police or CPS decide not to charge, or decide to administer a caution, or the person is acquitted, the police should pass all relevant information to the employer without delay.

If the person is convicted, the police should inform the employer and the LADO straight away so that appropriate action can be taken.

Resignations and 'Compromise/Settlement 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.

‘Settlement agreements’ (sometimes referred to as compromise agreements), by which a person agrees to resign if the employer agrees not to pursue disciplinary action, and both parties agree a form of words to be used in any future reference, should not be used in cases of refusal to cooperate or resignation before the person’s notice period expires. It is important to reach and record a conclusion and to determine what action would have been taken, wherever possible, and to make a referral to DBS if the criteria are met.

Any settlement/compromise agreement that would prevent a regulated activity provider or personnel supplier making a DBS referral even though the criteria for referral are met, is likely to result in a criminal offence being committed as they would not be complying with their legal duty to make the referral.

The organisation/agency 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.

13. Learning Lessons

At the final Allegations Management meeting/discussion, or at an earlier opportunity if appropriate, the LADO should consider whether there are any areas for learning from a specific case (this can involve discussions with other key managers involved with the case) and raise any issues with the LADO Manager. There should also be consideration as to whether it meets the threshold for a Learning Lessons Review under the LLR SCPs procedures.

Please note any local guidance that your agency may provide.