2.2 Managing allegations against people that work or volunteer with children
Proformas for use when managing allegations
- Surrey LADO referral form
- Risk assessment template
- Summary of Child Protection Allegation/Concern to be kept on Personnel File.
- 1. Introduction(Jump to)
- 2. Allegations dealt with by these procedures(Jump to)
- 3. Relevant statutory guidance(Jump to)
- 4. Roles and responsibilities(Jump to)
- 5. Responding to an allegation or concern - the role of the emloyer(Jump to)
- 6. The role of the LADO(Jump to)
- 7. Outcomes following an investigation(Jump to)
- 8. Substantiated outcomes(Jump to)
- 9. Disciplinary or suitability process and investigations(Jump to)
- 10. General responsibilites when investigating an allegation(Jump to)
- 11. Professional dispute and complaints(Jump to)
- 12. Managing allegations flow chart(Jump to)
The Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership LADO Team is guided by specific legislation and Statutory Guidance, in particular:
The Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to promote and safeguard the welfare of children in need in their area
Education Act 2002
Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 places a duty on:
- Local Authorities in relation to their education functions; and
- The governing bodies of maintained schools and the governing bodies of further education institutions (which include sixth-form colleges ) in relation to their functions relating to the conduct of the school or the institution
To make arrangements for ensuring that such functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children (in the case of the school or institution, being those children who are either pupils at the school or who are students under 18 years of age attending the further education institution).
The Children Act 2004
Section 11 places duties on a range of organisations and individuals to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions, and any services that they contract out to others, are discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Section 11 places a duty on:
- Local authorities and district councils that provide children’s and other types of services, including children’s and adult social services, public health, housing, sport, culture and leisure services, licensing authorities and youth services
- NHS organisations and agencies and the independent sector, including NHS England and clinical commissioning groups, NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts and General Practitioners
- The Police, including police and crime commissioners and the chief officer of each police force in England and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London
- The British Transport Police
- The National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies (35)
- Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender Institutions (YOIs)
- Directors of Secure Training Centres (STCs)
- Principals of Secure Colleges
- Youth Offending Teams/Services (YOTs)
These organisations and agencies should have in place arrangements that reflect the importance of safeguarding and promote the welfare of children (Working together to safeguard children 2018 pg. 56)
Working Together 2018
This Statutory Guidance requires that “. . . Local authorities should . . . have designated a particular officer, or team of officers (either as part of local multi-agency 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. . . . 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.” (Working Together p.58 and see para 1.4.7.ff below).
Employers, school governors, trustees and voluntary organisations should ensure that they have clear policies in place setting out the process, including timescales for investigation and what support and advice will be available to individuals against whom allegations have been made. Any allegation against people who work with children should be reported immediately to a senior manager within the organisation or agency. The designated officer, or team of officers, should also be informed within one working day of all allegations that come to an employer’s attention or that are made directly to the police.
The Senior Manager may choose to appoint a leadership colleague with appropriate safeguarding experience such as a designated safeguarding lead to manage the liaison with the LADO and or the Police and this person will be known as the Case Manager, throughout this report.
Despite all efforts to recruit safely there will be occasions when allegations are made of abuse by staff or volunteers against children. Each organisation which has employees or volunteers working with children should therefore have clear and accessible policies and procedures, consistent with these Surrey Child Protection Procedures, which explain what should happen when allegations about the behaviour of a member of staff or volunteer are raised. It is the responsibility of Head teacher / Manager 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 (Working Together 2018).
Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership (SSCP) should have arrangements in place for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the arrangements to manage allegations.
All references in this document to 'members of staff' and ‘employment’ should be interpreted as meaning ALL paid or unpaid staff and volunteers, including foster carers and prospective adopters. All references to ‘employers’ should be taken to include any agency or organisation with responsibility for paid or unpaid staff and volunteers, including foster carers and prospective adopters (note that allegations about adoptive parents should be addressed within the SSCP Child Protection Procedures and Section 47, Children Act 1989). This chapter also applies to any person, who manages or facilitates access to an establishment where children are present.
This document uses the abbreviation LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) throughout, to refer to the specific role of the Designated Officer (DO) as set out in Working Together 2018 employed by the local authority to manage and have oversight of allegations across the children’s workforce. Note that in Surrey the designated posts are known as Assistant LADOs. The term LADO is used in order to distinguish between safeguarding leads in health and education who can also be referred to as ‘designated’ leads.
This procedure should be read in conjunction with Surrey Family Resilience document which will bring clarity around threshold issues and the Managing allegations against Foster Carers procedure 2018.
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, with the children’s workforce. These procedures also apply to independent contractors such those who may be a partner to a GP service, dental service or provide sports/ fitness coaching service to a school or any other setting where she are the direct service users.
- 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.
Allegations can be made in relation to restrictive physical interventions 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 images / 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 or indecent images of children;
- As a parent or carer, has become subject to child protection procedures;
- Is closely associated with someone in their personal lives (e.g. partner, member of the immediate 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.
Finally, these procedures should be followed where a person’s employment is covered by the Childcare Act 2006 (See definition in the statutory guidance) and:
Is living in the same household where another person who is disqualified lives or is employed - a person is disqualified if they are ‘found to have committed’ an offence which is included in the 2009 Regulations updated July 2018 (a ‘relevant offence’). See Working Together to Safeguard Children 2108 and statutory guidance ‘Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006’. This guidance was updated in 2018 (as listed but not detailed at para 1.3 below):
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 in section 1.2.4.
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 Section 47 child protection 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.
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 at para 1.2.1. and 1.2.2. above). Issues that do not meet this threshold may constitute conduct, performance or disciplinary issues and should be addressed by employers using the appropriate organisational procedures. If it doubt, please consult with the Duty LADO (Telephone number: 0300 123 1650 option 3).
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 previously 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 (by someone who did not witness the alleged incident) 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.
Whether an incident constitutes an allegation and hence needs to be dealt with through these procedures, may need to be discussed between the LADO and the employer’s safeguarding lead. If it falls short of this 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.
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 (“Historical 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.
3. Relevant statutory 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 2018 and Transition Guidance
- Detailed guidance can be found for schools and all educational establishments in Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges (September 2018).
- Guidance about the use of physical restraint in schools for governing bodies, head teachers 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’ (September 2018): 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
- Also see GOV.UK –Information sharing
4. Roles and responsibilities
Roles and responsibilities for all organisations
Each organisation providing a service to children and families must have its own written policy on how it manages child safeguarding concerns so that staff, children and families know how to identify and report abuse and neglect. The policies should be consistent with and refer to these Surrey Protection Procedures. Safeguarding training for staff should be provided and refreshed regularly and children and families should be regularly reminded of how they can report concerns.
Where services for children and families are being commissioned, commissioners should ensure that contracts include the above requirements.
Each organisation should identify a named senior manager with overall responsibility for:
- Ensuring that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with these Surrey Child Protection Procedures;
- Resolving any inter-agency issues;
- Making statutory notifications to professional bodies and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS);
- Liaising with the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership (SSCP) on the subject.
Organisations should also appoint:
- Allegations about staff should be reported to the Head of School or the manager of the setting and if that person is not available the matter should be referred to a deputy lead. If the head or manager wishes to delegate the matter, this could be dealt with by A designated safeguarding lead (“DSL”) to whom allegations or concerns should be reported. This person should be a senior manager. They should:
- A deputy to whom reports should be made in the absence of the designated safeguarding lead or where that person is the subject of the allegation or concern.
In practice the named senior manager and the designated safeguarding lead may be the same person.
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 Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedure.
Roles and responsibilities for local authorities – in addition to their role as an employer
Local authorities should assign a LADO or a team of LADOs, to:
- Receive reports about allegations and to be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases;
- Provide advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations;
- Liaise with the police and other agencies;
- Monitor the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process;
- Provide advice and guidance to employers in relation to making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and regulatory bodies such as Ofsted, the General Medical Council (GMC), Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) etc.
It is very important that those giving advice have expertise in this area, as any errors in the advice could have serious ramifications, both for those individuals who have had allegations made against them and for those making the allegation.
It is important to be aware that 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, but will not have any direct contact with the adult who is the subject of the allegation. 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 which cross borough boundaries
Cases will often be relevant to more than one local authority. For example, an allegation could be made against an agency worker who works across multiple boroughs and whose agency is based in a further borough. Decisions about which LADO should take the lead are complex and should consider the following:
- Which agency holds the greatest risk? For example, if an agency worker has only worked one day in the school where the allegation has taken place and won’t be returning, it might be that the employment agency holds the most risk;
- Where is organisational learning required? For example, an agency worker may have only worked in a school for a day, but if the school did not follow good practice with the worker and this contributed to the incident, the greatest learning might be with the school.
Roles and responsibilities for the Police
The Police Detective Inspector on each Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU) or the Paedophile Online Investigation Unit (POLIT) will:
- Have strategic oversight of the local police arrangements for managing allegations against staff and volunteers. This will include, for example, responsibility for informing partners of changes to police practice (such as the changes to bail conditions) and keeping partners aware of the number of cases they are dealing with and any themes which emerge from them;
- Liaise with SSCP (Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership) on the issue and, in particular, which department of the police will lead the investigation, This will most likely be the Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU)
- Ensure compliance with these procedures.
The police should designate a Detective Sergeant/s to:
- Liaise with the LADO and their team;
- Take part in meetings / 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.
If a police officer receives an allegation, they should, without delay, report it to the designated Detective Sergeant on the Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU) or the Paedophile Online Investigation Unit (POLIT). The Detective Sergeant should then immediately inform the LADO.
Police will make an informed decision on making an arrest based on the information known at the time. If an arrest is justified, and following the custody process, the Inspector in the case will consider if the threshold for bail conditions has been met and either release the suspect on bail with conditions or release under investigation (RUI) without conditions. The Inspector can authorise bail for 28 days, and a Superintendent for a 3 month period after that an application to the Magistrate will made for any extension to bail. This decision should be shared with the LADO for ongoing risk management
5. Responding to an allegation or concern - the role of the emloyer
An allegation or concern raised about a member of staff may arise from a number of sources, for example, 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.
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 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 safeguarding lead, 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.
- 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 safeguarding lead (if different)
When informed of a concern or allegation, the designated safeguarding lead 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.
- Obtain written details of the concern / allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving it (not the child / adult making the allegation or the alleged person)
- 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.
Deciding if it is an allegation of harm or a concern
The designated safeguarding lead 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 it meets the threshold of harm/risk of harm and therefore is an allegation they should follow the procedures below and notify the LADO within one working day. The police should also be notified immediately. Police will liaise with the LADO service and advise them of any proposed actions and timescale for these. If it is decided that the incident does not meet the threshold of harm/risk of harm and is a concern only, 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 safeguarding lead 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
The designated safeguarding lead must inform their LADO within one working day after an allegation is made and prior to any further investigation taking place. A failure to report an allegation in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.
- If it is outside of normal working hours and there is an immediate risk to a child, the local authority emergency duty team for Children Families and Learning and the Police must be called.
- In Surrey County Council (0300 123 1650 option 3). The LADO should be informed as soon as possible and at least within 24 hours.
- An immediate risk assessment should be carried out;
- The police should also be notified immediately if there is any potential criminal allegation and Police will decide on the appropriate level of response. 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.
Suspension – when it should be considered
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/further harm or the case is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal. The case 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 HR adviser and the LADO(s).
The case manager/employer should also consider whether the result that would be achieved by immediate suspension could be obtained by agreeing alternative working arrangements (see below). In many cases an investigation can be resolved quickly and without the need for suspension. The decision around suspension would be the responsibility of the case manager/employer and should be directly informed by the severity, complexity of the allegation and any ongoing Police investigation. The LADO service will provide professional advice based upon the facts presented at the time to support the case manager/employer in their decision making, and on rare occasions this may result in challenge to the case manager/employer decision where the LADO disagrees with the assessment of risk.
Based on assessment of risk, the following alternatives should be considered by the case manager before suspending a member of staff:
- Redeployment so that the individual does not have direct contact with the child or children concerned;
- Providing an assistant 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.
These alternatives allow time for an informed decision regarding the suspension. This will, however, depend upon the nature of the allegation. The case manager should consider the potential permanent professional reputational damage to employee that can result from suspension where an allegation is later found to be unsubstantiated or maliciously intended.
If immediate suspension is considered necessary, the rationale and justification for such a course of action should be agreed and recorded by both the case 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 (without revealing details of the allegation). 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.
Where the alleged person is contracted or works independently such as a G.P, childminder or home tutor then a discussion must be held with the senior manager in the setting, or the regulatory body if there is one and the LADO and a decision made as to who will communicate with the alleged person and how support will be given to the alleged person. It is important to consider the circumstances in each case and for professionals to come together at a MASM meeting to decide how to progress with a view to working together and being flexible in finding ways of managing the concerns.
Children’s social care services or the police cannot require the case 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 accused member of staff 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 will make an informed decision on making an arrest based on the information known at the time. If an arrest is justified, and following the custody process, the officer in the case will consider if the threshold for bail conditions has been met and either release the suspect on bail with conditions or release under investigation (RUI) without conditions. This decision should be shared with the LADO for ongoing risk management.
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 (TRA) investigation
6. The role of the LADO
Initial consideration of an allegation by the Senior Manager and the LADO
Deciding whether it is an allegation of harm or a concern
- All concerns reported to the LADO should be assessed to determine whether the threshold for an allegation of harm 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; In Surrey CC this is known as a Managing Allegations Strategy Meeting (MASM)
- It is essential to keep the employer 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;
- 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 and feed the outcome back to the LADO team, this information will be added to consultation notes held by the LADO team.
Considering an allegation
There are up to four strands in the consideration of an allegation:
- A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
- LA 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 possible performance/ conduct issues;
- Whether action in regards to the person making the allegation should be considered where the allegation has no foundation and may be malicious.
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.
If the allegation is not demonstrably false and there is cause to suspect that the adult (or in specific circumstances the 16 or 17 year old) poses a risk of harm, the LADO should convene a Managing Allegations Strategy / Evaluation Meeting (MASM) This will sometimes have to take place immediately but the speed at which it is convened should be commensurate to the risk.
If the allegation does not meet the threshold for risk of harm, and there remains a concern that a child has possibly been harmed, however, there is no evidence to support this, but there is concern around inappropriate behaviour or actions of an employee/volunteer, then the LADO should inform the employer of this concern. The employer will then take be expected to take responsibility for addressing the issue. The LADO can provide advice and support to the employer where necessary. Once the employer has concluded an internal investigation and followed up on any other action in conjunction with their Human Resources (HR) department, then the LADO team should be informed of the outcome.
The police must be consulted about any case in which a criminal offence may have been committed.
If the threshold for harm is not reached, but a police investigation might be needed, the LADO should immediately discuss the case with the police and, where necessary, convene a meeting, to include the police, employer and other agencies involved with the child. The outcome of such discussions must be recorded accurately in records include the decision and rationale for the decision having been reached.
A Managing Allegations Strategy / Evaluation Meeting (MASM)
A MASM 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 Senior Lead, the Police, any other relevant agency and the LADO. Where communication is via phone or email records should be kept for audit purposes that record any decision making and the rationale for this decision.
Where there is a larger number of people involved in the case, the benefit of convening a face-face meeting is increased.
A MASM 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 MASM will be chaired by the LADO. It will normally be attended by the Police, the allocated Social Worker for the child (only where there is one], or if the allegation/harm is very serious and child and family may need support a social worker from the Assessment Team, and the Employer. The Employer is advised to be accompanied by their Human Resources advisor. In cases where the allegation is against a Health Care professional, the designated or named nurse for safeguarding (Clinical Commissioning Group/CCG) should be invited. If an allegation is against a childminder or nursery worker then Ofsted should be informed and if appropriate invited to a MASM meeting. It may be appropriate to invite Ofsted to some other MASMs that concern staff in regulated settings.
The meeting / discussion should:
- 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. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-reasonable-force-in-schools);
- 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 children in the immediate family/household of the accused. If there are concerns about the accused as a parent then these need to be shared with Children’s Social Care;
- 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;
- 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.
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.
- It is not within the LADO role to contact or meet the alleged member of staff directly.
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.
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.
The LADO should monitor and record the progress of each case, either fortnightly or monthly depending on its complexity. This could be by way of review meetings / discussions or direct liaison with the police, LA 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 SSCP 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 will conduct this as expeditiously as possible and will keep the LADO informed of progress. The timeliness of decision making on for example charging decision is entirely dependent upon the complexity of the investigation.
Records of LADO Allegations Management
Information of all allegations that meets LADO Threshold will be kept on a restricted and confidential LADO data base. The LADO will not upload information on to the children’s data base System (LCS). Information regarding allegations will be uploaded onto the LCS by social workers in the children services Teams. The Child’s Social Worker will make a record about the events experienced by the child, allegations made and the actions taken by the Social Worker in response to the concerns/ allegations.
The alleged person’s name must not be recorded on the child’s file, but initials can be used. Any personal information regarding the perpetrator that may be discovered during the investigation is not to be placed on the child’s records. An anonymised summary of the allegation should be placed on the child’s file but this must not enable the alleged perpetrator to be identified. The personal details of the alleged perpetrator should kept securely on the LADO’s secure files/database and access to this information should be restricted to only LADO’s and relevant senior managers.
Retention of data is in line with agreed departmental procedures. The Social worker should note the LADO’s reference number, which links to the allegation records, on the child’s file, and the LADO team should be contacted for more information as required.
The outcome of the investigation into the alleged Perpetrator should be recorded on the child’s file by the Social Worker. This is seen as critical, particularly when children, when adults, come back to read their file. They must be able to understand the depth of the investigation. If there is a Social Worker allocated at the time of the allegation/investigation part of their role will be the recording and they will also be concerned to assess and address the child’s support needs arising from the events that are the subject of the allegations. If there is no Social Worker involvement then the LADO should consider whether to refer the child for any support that may be required as the result of the allegations. Such support might best be provided by school staff, counselling, CAMHS services, early help services, faith organisations, victim support services, voluntary organisations.
7. Outcomes following an investigation
The following definitions should be used when determining the outcome of allegation investigations:
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’.
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.
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 LA children's social care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by someone else.
There is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation. The term, therefore, does not imply guilt or innocence.
The additional definition of ‘unfounded’ can be used to reflect cases where 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.
The Chair of the meeting / discussion should make a record of the agreed outcome and recommendations. The Chair of will then ask the employer/manager of the alleged person to put the outcome and recommendations in writing to the employer/ alleged person and send/ email a copy of the letter to the LADO who will keep this on the LADO data base.
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 automatically be included in employer references, but a discussion about relevance of such sharing of information should take place with the Human Resources (HR) department and the LADO before a final decision is made as to what will or will not be included in the reference. A history of repeated concerns or allegations which have all been found to be false, unsubstantiated or malicious should also not be routinely included in any reference and again a discussion about balancing risk and maintaining confidentiality should be held with relevant parties, such as line managers, HR and LADO.
It is noted in Keeping Children Safe in Education that allegations against teachers that are found to be unsubstantiated, or unfounded should not be shared in future references, however working together to safeguard children does not stipulate this for other professionals or volunteers.
Record keeping in relation to the outcome of an investigation
Details of allegations that are found to have been malicious should be clearly recorded as such and should not be referred to in any employment reference. Details and outcomes should not be removed from personnel records, since to do so would render the fact of the investigation incomprehensible. For all other allegations, it is important that a clear and comprehensive summary of the allegation, details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, and a note of any action taken and decisions reached, is kept on the confidential personnel file of the accused, by the employer and a copy provided to the person concerned. The purpose of the record is to enable accurate information to be given in response to any future request for a reference, where appropriate. It will provide clarification in cases where future DBS checks reveal information from the police about an allegation that did not result in a criminal conviction and it will help to prevent unnecessary re-investigation if, as sometimes happens, an allegation re-surfaces after a period of time. The record should be retained at least until the accused has reached normal pension age or for a period of 10 years from the date of the allegation if that is longer. The Information Commissioner has published guidance on employment records in its Employment Practices Code and supplementary guidance, which provides some practical advice on record retention.
8. Substantiated outcomes
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 (TRA) to consider prohibiting the individual from teaching.
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 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;
- Keepers of registers e.g. General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, HCPC in 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 (TRA) to consider prohibiting the individual from teaching. The TRA is part of the Department for Education and is responsible for the regulation of teachers in respect of serious misconduct.
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.
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.
9. 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;
- 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.
If further investigation is needed to decide upon disciplinary action, the Senior Manager 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. All new information should be shared with the LADO.
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 the person is acquitted, the police should pass all relevant information to the employer without delay.
If the person is cautioned or convicted, the police should inform the employer and the LADO straight away so that appropriate action can be taken.
Resignations and 'compromise agreements'
Every effort should be made to reach a conclusion in all cases even if:
- The individual refuses to cooperate, having been given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations;
It may not be possible to apply any disciplinary sanctions if a person's period of notice expires before the process is complete.
‘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. Nor should they be used as a way of concluding any disciplinary investigation where there is a substantiated outcome. Such an agreement will not prevent a thorough police investigation where that is appropriate.
The employer and the LADO should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice.
10. General responsibilites when investigating an allegation
Support to the child and family involved
The organisation, together with LA 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.
Keeping parents/carers and children informed
- The employer must inform the parents of the child/ren involved of the allegation and the process that is being followed unless this will impede the disciplinary or investigative processes. The LADO can advise the employer whether or not the parents should be informed. However, in some circumstances, the parent/s may need to be told straight away (e.g. if a child is injured and requires medical treatment);
- The parent/s and the child, if 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 to employees/volunteers alleged to have caused harm
Support to the accused member of staff
As soon as possible after an allegation has been received, the accused member of staff 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.
Keeping the accused member of staff informed
Subject to restrictions on the information that can be shared, the employer should, as soon as possible, inform the accused person 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 accused member 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.
The employer will need to seek advice from the LADO, the police and / or LA children's social care about how much information should be disclosed to the accused person. However, providing information to the accused person throughout the process of dealing with the concern or allegation is an essential part of the common law duty to act fairly, subject to the below exceptions. The person that is alleged to be responsible for abuse and/or neglect should be provided with sufficient information to enable them to understand what it is that they are alleged to have done or threatened to do that is wrong and to allow their view to be heard and considered. This also needs to be seen in the wider context of prevention, for example, information can be used to support people to change or modify their behaviour. Feedback should be provided in a way that will not exacerbate the situation, or breach the Data Protection Act 2018 or General Data Protection Regulations.
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 prior to any discussion with the accused so criminal investigations are not compromised, this however should not delay the need to safeguard children as the child’s needs are paramount.
The Local Government Ombudsman and the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman can provide advice and the Information Commissioner provides advice on sharing information.
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 accused person (where this would not place the child at further risk) up to date with progress of the case, information should be restricted to those who have a need to know in order to protect children, facilitate enquiries and manage related disciplinary or suitability processes.
The police should not provide identifying information to the press or media, unless and until a person is charged, except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect). In such cases, the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted beforehand, at a Managing Allegations Strategy Meeting (MASM).
Reporting restrictions regarding allegations against teachers
Parents and carers should also be made aware of the requirement to maintain confidentiality about any allegations made against teachers whilst investigations are ongoing as set out in Section 13 of the Education Act 2011 (which amended the Education Act 2002). If parents or carers wish to apply to the court to have reporting restrictions removed, they should be advised to seek legal advice.
The 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:
- The person who is the subject of the allegation, and
- 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.
The reporting restrictions also cease to apply if the individual to whom the restrictions apply effectively waives their right to anonymity by going public themselves or by giving their written consent for another to do so or if a judge lifts restrictions in response to a request to do so.
The legislation imposing restrictions makes clear that “publication” of material that may lead to the identification of the teacher who is the subject of the allegation is prohibited. “Publication” includes “any speech, writing, relevant programme or other communication in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public”. This means that a parent 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).
11. Professional dispute and complaints
Surrey LADO team have a duty to support and guide all external and partnership agencies in addressing issues or concerns pertaining to a worker, paid or unpaid who may be alleged to have behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child a child or failed to protect a child as well as issues that may indicate that a worker poses a risk to children, in their setting or in any other area of their profession and life.
Dealing with allegations is often a stressful and anxiety provoking task for all parties involved. Some settings may have limited experience of addressing allegations and will find these procedures helpful. If in doubt always talk to the LADO who will assist.
The most effective way of addressing allegations against professionals it to become familiar with the procedures before having to deal with any safeguarding issues and ensuring that all staff are aware of what will happen in an allegation is made against them, this can be achieved through training, supervision and all having access to the written policies and procedures.
In the event that a referrer is unhappy with the guidance given by the LADO team, then the matter should be shared with the LADO involved and a discussion should follow to resolve the issue. In the even that either party remains dissatisfied with the outcome then the concerns are to be put in writing via email to the LADO team Manager/ co-ordinator. The LADO manager will consider the concerns and feedback to the referrer and LADO involved within two weeks, it is important that in spite of the disagreement between professionals the Surrey safeguarding and LADO process must be followed in a timely fashion with no delay while professionals resolve their differences.
General Approach to Escalation and Disagreements
(See also Inter-Agency Escalation Policy and Procedure on the SSCP website)
If the professionals are unable to resolve differences through discussion and/or meeting within a time scale, which is acceptable to both of them, their disagreement must be escalated and addressed by more experienced / more senior staff. This should be referred to the Service Manager, or Head of Service Child Protection and Statutory Review Service.
Where a professional in any agency has concerns about the response of another agency, it is expected that the individual professional will take responsibility for raising those concerns through their line management and across to other agencies in accordance with these procedures.
With respect to most day to day difficulties this will require a Children's Services Team Manager liaising with her/his equivalent in the relevant agency, e.g.:
- A Detective Sergeant in the Safeguarding Investigation Unit
- A senior health visitor / nurse / GP;
- Designated Senior Manager.
If agreement cannot be reached following discussions between the above 'first line' managers (who should normally seek advice from Designated /named / Lead Officer/ Principal Officers) the issue must be referred without delay through the line management to the equivalent of Service Manager / Detective Inspector / Head Teacher or other Designated Professional.
Alternatively, and more commonly in health services, input may be sought directly from the Designated Doctor or Nurse for Child Protection.
Clear records of any discussions and the outcomes of discussions must be maintained by all the agencies involved.
In the unlikely event that matters cannot be resolved by the above processes, the issue should be escalated as a matter of urgency to the SSCP/ chair.
Information on thresholds can be found by following this link: Effective family resilience