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CHAPTER 13: Allegations Against Staff, Carers & Volunteers

RELATED PROCEDURES

School staff should read the following chapter in conjunction with Milton Keynes Council’s Model Child Protection Policy for Schools and Settings.

Guidance for Managing Allegations in Schools (Milton Keynes Council, 2013)

Safer Recruitment Guidance

Approved by MKSCB BMG February 2012.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2014. Links to documents for dealing with allegations against education professionals were added (see above) and references to Criminal Record Checks (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority were replaced with details for the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).


Contents

  1. Scope
  2. Threshold Considerations
  3. Roles and Responsibilities
  4. General Procedures
  5. Allegations Against Staff / Volunteers in Work
  6. Allegations Against Carers: Foster, Short-Break Lodgings and Approved Adopters
  7. Independence of Staff Conducting Enquiry
  8. Strategy Discussion
  9. Conducting the Enquiry / Investigation
  10. Conclusion Enquiries
  11. Other Linked Processes
  12. Recording
  13. Allegations Against Registered Childminders


1. Scope

These procedures for managing allegations against people who work with children are overarching inter-agency procedures and should be consulted in conjunction with each individual agency's own policies and guidance.

This procedure and guidance applies whenever it is alleged that a person who works with children has, in any connection with her/his employment or voluntary activity:

  • Behaved in a way that has or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child in a way which indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children.

These procedures apply to situations when:

  • There are suspicions or allegations of abuse by a person who works with children in either a paid or unpaid capacity - as a permanent, temporary or agency staff member, contract worker, consultant, volunteer, approved foster carer, child minder or approved adopter;
  • It is discovered that an individual known to have been involved previously in child abuse, is or has been working with children.

If concerns arise about the person's behaviour to her/his own children, police and/or Children's Social Care must consider informing her/his employer in order to assess whether there may be implications for children with whom the person has contact at work.

If an allegation relating to a child is made about a person who undertakes paid or unpaid care of vulnerable adults, consideration must be given to the possible need to alert those who manage her/him in that role.

The response to private foster carers should be as for any other member of the public (see local private fostering procedures).

Where relevant, the procedures must be applied in conjunction with those about organised or complex abuse (see Organised & Complex Abuse Procedure).


2. Threshold Considerations

Residential social workers, teachers, foster carers, health workers in residential child care establishments, hospital staff, staff within a secure estate and early years professionals are all prohibited by law from applying more than specified types and levels of restraint to those children for whom they are professionally responsible.

Volunteers who work with children are also expected to maintain standards of conduct comparable to those prescribed for colleagues in paid employment.

Allegations or suspicions of abuse or neglect by staff, carers, approved adopters or volunteers e.g. physical punishment, use of restraint other than permitted by law or guidance issued by government or professional associations, as well as abuse and neglect as defined in Section 4 should be considered under these additional procedures.

A relationship of trust is one where a teacher or other member of staff/volunteer is in a position of power or influence over a child by virtue of the work or nature of activity being undertaken. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (ss.16-24) sets out a range of criminal offences associated with abuse of the position of trust.


3. Roles and Responsibilities

Each LSCB member organisation should identify:

  • A Named Senior Officer with overall responsibility for:
    • Ensuring the organisation operates procedures in accordance with LSCB child protection procedures;
    • Resolving any inter-agency issues;
    • Liaising with the LSCB on the subject;
    • Liaising with the Local Authority Designated Officer.
  • Named Senior Managers to whom allegations/concerns should be reported (and deputy in his/her absence or if the subject of the allegation): this may be the employee's line manager or a senior manager as designated in the agency's procedures. 

Local Authorities should also appoint a Designated Officer/s 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;
  • Liaise directly with the Named Senior Officer.

Police forces should identify:

  • A senior officer within the professional standards department to:
    • Have strategic oversight of the arrangements;
    • Liaise with the LSCB's in the Force area;
    • Ensure compliance.
  • Unit managers to:
    • Liaise with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
    • Take part in strategy meetings;
    • Review the progress of cases in which there is a police investigation;
    • Share information on completion of the investigation or any prosecution.

All organisations which provide services for children, or provide staff or volunteers to work with or care for children, should have and operate a procedure for handling allegations consistent with guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013.

Any other organisations contracted by agencies working in accordance with these procedures should be made aware that they are also expected to comply with these requirements.

The employing or responsible agency must ensure that allegations are investigated and that any justifiable action is taken to ensure that the service is safe for child users.


4. General Procedures

4.1

Principles

Any allegation of abuse must be dealt with fairly, quickly and consistently, in a way that provides effective protection for the child and supports the person who is the subject of the allegation.

It is not permissible for a member of staff to conduct an enquiry about suspicion or allegation of abuse with respect to a:

  • Relative;
  • Friend;
  • Colleague, supervisor/supervise or someone who has worked with her/him previously in any of these capacities.
If, following the conclusion of child protection processes, further enquiries are pursued for the purpose of disciplinary, regulatory or complaint investigation, they should be arranged in a way that avoids the repeated interviewing of children or other vulnerable witnesses.

4.2

Confidentiality

Information about an allegation must be restricted to those who have a need to know in order to:

  • Protect children;
  • Facilitate enquiries;
  • Avoid victimisation;
  • Safeguard the rights of the person about whom the allegation has been made and others who might be affected;
  • Manage disciplinary/complaints aspects.

A media strategy should be developed with no improper or inadvertent releases of information to the media, in accordance with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidance.

Police will not normally provide identifying information to the media, unless and until a person is charged. In exceptional circumstances e.g. an appeal to trace a suspect, this confidentiality may be breached, but the reasons should be documented and partner agencies consulted first.

4.3

Support to Parents/Children

Parents/carers of a child/ren involved should be:

  • Informed of the allegation as soon as possible provided that the information and advice does not impede the enquiry, disciplinary or investigative processes (and may need to be told immediately if, for example a child requires medical treatment);
  • Helped to understand the process involved and kept informed about the progress of the case;
  • Told the outcome where there is no criminal prosecution (including the outcome of any disciplinary process except the deliberations/information taken into account in a hearing);
  • Where necessary, helped to understand the outcomes reached (but see above proviso in relation to the provision of advice).
Children's Social Care or Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU), as appropriate, should consider support for a child who may have suffered significant harm.

4.4

Monitoring Progress

The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) should:

  • Provide advice/support when required or requested;
  • Monitor progress of a case, either fortnightly or monthly depending on its complexity, by way of review management planning meetings or liaison with Police, Children's Social Care, or the employer as appropriate.

The CAIU should set a target date for reviewing the progress of the case and consulting the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Wherever possible this should take place within four weeks of the decision to initiate a criminal investigation.

Dates for subsequent reviews, ideally at fortnightly intervals, should be set at the meeting if the investigation continues.

4.5

Timescales

It is in everyone's interest for cases to be dealt with expeditiously, fairly and thoroughly and that unnecessary delays are avoided. Target timescales will depend on the nature, seriousness, and complexity of the allegation:

  • 80% of cases should be resolved within one month;
  • 90% within three months;
  • All but the most exceptional should be completed within 12 months (it is unlikely cases requiring a criminal prosecution or complex police investigation can be completed in less than three months).


5. Allegations Against Staff/ Volunteers in Work

5.1

Terminology

For the purpose of these procedures a 'worker' is a person whose work brings them into contact with children. This includes:

  • Individuals working in a voluntary capacity;
  • Agency staff;
  • Contract workers (consultants or the self-employed);
  • Those working on or off site e.g. undertaking home visits;
  • Temporary and permanent employees.

5.2

Perspectives

An allegation may require consideration from any of the following three inter-related perspectives:

  • Child protection enquiries by Children's Social Care;
  • Criminal investigation by the police;
  • Staff disciplinary procedures of employing agency.
The following procedures deal primarily with child protection enquiries and any associated criminal investigation, as distinct from complaints of poor practice and disciplinary procedures, though exploration of these may reveal abuse and/or neglect.

5.3

Reporting Concerns/Suspicions/Allegations

Any concerns/suspicions/allegations which fall within the scope of this procedure (see Section 1, Scope) must be reported to the worker’s line manager or senior manager as described in internal agency procedures. Within a school this will be the head teacher.

If the above manager is implicated in the allegation, the concern must be reported to a senior manager or the designated/named person for child protection in that agency. Within a school this will be the chair of governors.

In either case a record of the report, which is timed, dated and includes a clear name or signature must be made.

The recipient of an allegation must not unilaterally determine its validity, and failure to report it in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.

Any member of staff who believes that allegations or suspicions, which have been reported to the appropriate manager, are not being investigated properly has a responsibility to report it to a higher level in her/his agency or directly to the Local Authority Designated Officer.

The Local Authority Designated Officer must be told, within one working day, of all allegations that come to the employer’s attention and appear to meet the criteria in Section 1, Scope, so that s/he can consult or refer to police and Children’s Social Care as appropriate.

If, for any reason, there are difficulties with following the above procedure, the whistle blowing procedure (see Whistle Blowing Procedure) should be considered or a referral made directly to Children's Social Care and/ or the Police.

The need for consultation must not delay a referral, which should be in accordance with Section 6 of these procedures.

5.4

Initial Consideration of Allegation

There are up to three strands in the consideration of any allegation:

  • A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
  • Children's Social Care enquiries/assessment about whether a child needs protection or services;
  • Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action.

The Local Authority Designated Officer and employer should consider whether further details are needed and whether there is evidence/information that establishes the allegation is false or unfounded.

Child suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm

If there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, the Local Authority Designated Officer should immediately refer to Children's Social Care, who should hold a Strategy Discussion (see Section 8, Strategy Discussion).  

Criminal offence suspected, but Significant Harm threshold not reached

If Significant Harm is not considered an issue, but a criminal offence might have been committed, the Local Authority Designated Officer must immediately inform CAIU, conduct discussions and share information with any other agencies involved with the child to evaluate the allegation and decide on any other action required e.g. need for disciplinary action. Children's Social Care must be informed.

Investigation by police/enquiries by Children's Social Care not required

If clear from the outset, following initial consideration, that neither police nor Children's Social Care need to be involved, the Local Authority Designated Officer should discuss the next steps with the employer.

This discussion must take account of any information provided by the Police and Children's Social Care.

5.5

Managing Issues Relating to the Subject of the Allegations

Information and support

The employer should, as soon as possible, following consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer, inform the subject of the allegation/s. The Local Authority Designated Officer should always first consult the Police/Children's Social Care if either agency is likely to be involved/a strategy discussion needed, in order to agree what information can be disclosed.

Human Resources should be informed of any potential disciplinary investigation.

The subject of the allegations should be:

  • Advised at the outset to contact her/his Union or professional association;
  • Treated fairly and honestly and helped to understand the concerns expressed, processes involved and possible outcomes;
  • Kept informed of the progress of the case and of the investigation;
  • Clearly informed of the outcome of any investigation and the implications for disciplinary or related processes; 
  • Provided with appropriate support (via occupational health or employee welfare arrangements where these exist);
  • (If suspended) kept informed about workplace developments.

Suspension

Suspension should not be automatic, but should be considered if:

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

If Children's Social Care or Police are to make enquiries or investigate, the Local Authority Designated Officer should canvas their views on suspension and inform the employer.

A decision to suspend or temporarily re-deploy staff rests with the employing agency (school governing body in the case of a school), which should consider:

  • The safety of the child/ren;
  • Any impact on the enquiry;
  • If a suspended person is to return to work, appropriate help/ support e.g. phased return and/or provision of a mentor and how to manage contact with any child/ren who made the allegation;
  • The need to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Disciplinary procedures

For details relating to disciplinary procedures see 5.14 below.

Resignations and compromise agreements

All allegations should be followed up regardless of whether the person involved resigns her/his post, responsibilities or a position of trust, even if the person refuses to co-operate with the process. In these circumstances, the need to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service should be considered.

'Compromise agreements', where a person agrees to resign without any disciplinary action and agreed future reference, must not be used in these cases.

5.6

Response by Children's Social Care and Police CAIU

General

The receiving agency (CAIU or Children's Social Care) must in turn:

  • Alert the other agency (Children's Social Care/CAIU);
  • Inform the first line/police force designated manager.

In cases where the local authority designated officer has not been involved in the referral, s/he must be informed immediately of the concerns.

Arrangements for strategy discussions should be in accordance with 7.8, though:

  • Should be chaired by the Local Authority Designated Officer;
  • Will require meetings to plan and monitor the enquiry;
  • Should be held within two working days of receipt of the allegation.

If the complex abuse procedures are applicable (see Organised and Complex Abuse) they take priority over those detailed below.

Allegations against Children's Social Care staff

If an allegation is made about any staff member employed by Children's Social Care the manager of the service must inform the safeguarding manager (Assistant Director Quality and Safeguarding,) and Assistant Director Children's Social Care, who must ensure that an appropriately senior manager directs the enquiry and consults with the Local Authority Designated Officer.

Achieving an appropriate degree of independent scrutiny over process and an independent element in the investigation may involve:

  • Securing paper records as well as electronic referral details;
  • Appointment of external independent investigator/s to supplement or replace the team and/or to oversee the process;
  • Use of staff within the organisation who are sufficiently separate from the line management of those against whom the allegation is made e.g. child protection co-ordinators and manager;
  • A reciprocal arrangement with another local authority.

Allegations against agency staff     

Allegations against agency staff should also be dealt with by following the procedures in this Section. The employing agency must (following receipt of legal advice with respect to confidentiality and preservation of integrity of the investigation), be informed of the allegation and the outcome of the enquiry.

Allegations against Students on Placement

Allegations against students should also be dealt with by following the procedures in this Section. A representative from the relevant college should be contacted and involved in any strategy discussion.

Allegations against volunteers

Allegations against volunteers should be dealt with in a manner that is as consistent with the principles and procedures contained in this Section as is possible.

The organisation using the volunteer should (following receipt of legal advice with respect to confidentiality and preservation of integrity of the investigation) be informed of the allegation and the outcome of the enquiry.

Allegations against staff working in regulated environments

OFSTED must be notified of any action taken under the child protection procedures in any residential establishment.

5.7

First Strategy Meeting

A strategy meeting should be arranged within two working days of the receipt of the allegation or concern with core membership consisting of:

  • Local Authority Designated Officer to chair the meeting;
  • Relevant social worker and her/his manager;
  • Police CAIU;
  • Nominated Senior Manager of the organisation of the worker concerned.

The following should be invited as appropriate:

  • Those responsible for regulation and inspection of the unit e.g. OFSTED, if applicable;
  • Human Resources representatives;
  • Consultant paediatrician if sexual abuse alleged;
  • Lead/named/designated professional for child protection for the agency in question;
  • A representative of the other local authority if the child is placed, or alleged perpetrator is resident there;
  • Complaints officer if the concern has arisen from a complaint, or a complaint investigation is in progress;
  • A representative of the legal department;
  • A representative from the employing agency.

Where the representative of an agency is implicated through an accusation of collusion or failure to respond to previous complaints, it is inappropriate for her/him to attend the strategy meeting.

The strategy meeting (with a dedicated minute taker) must:

  • Review any previous allegations made against the worker and the establishment;
  • Decide whether there should be a s.47 enquiry and/or an internal disciplinary investigation;
  • Consider the implications arising from the CAIU decision whether or not to investigate an allegation of crime;
  • Consider, if a s.47 enquiry is appropriate, whether a complex abuse investigation is applicable;
  • Scope and plan the s.47 enquiry;
  • Allocate tasks;
  • Set time-scales;
  • Decide who to inform.

The meeting must also:

  • Ensure any emergency action needed to protect a child is taken;
  • Ensure all children who may be affected directly or indirectly are identified, considered and provided with support, including ex-residents if appropriate;
  • Consider (where relevant) which other local authorities should be informed;
  • Ensure the investigation is sufficiently independent;
  • Make arrangements to ensure the safety of children known to the worker outside of the workplace;
  • Make arrangements to inform the child's parents, and consider how to involve them in the investigation and provide support and information during enquiries;
  • Consider the safety of children after the enquiry;
  • Recommend to employing agency or responsible authority any action required to protect the interests of children whilst enquiries are conducted, including staff transfer, suspension or removal (such action is the responsibility of the employing/responsible agency and is to be taken in the light of details of the individual case and in accordance with 'human resource' procedures agreed with trades union or work place representatives);
  • Agree which manager within each agency will be responsible for co-ordinating the investigation;
  • Consider the need to interview other members of staff and ex-members of staff;
  • Consider the need for individual support for any workers, including those who are the subject of allegations (e.g. local authority occupational health or employee welfare arrangements);
  • Consider linkage and impact on industrial relations, personnel issues, registration and complaints issues;
  • Consider use of any record of video interviews for disciplinary purposes;
  • Consider the future of the establishment where it is considered that abuse has pervaded the whole staffing group with the involvement or collusion of managers;
  • Consider possible claims for compensation and alert insurers;
  • Consider notifying the chief executive/senior officer of the employing agency;
  • Identify the information to be shared with the alleged abuser;
  • Agree on management of any anticipated media interest;
  • Set a date for a further strategy meeting.
The strategy meeting should set a review date within one month of the referral being received with a view to concluding the enquiry as soon as possible.

5.8

Conduct of Enquiry

The enquiry should take into account any signs or patterns, which could suggest the abuse may be more widespread than it appears and involves other alleged perpetrators or institutions (see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure).

During the course of the enquiries, the chair of the strategy meeting (Local Authority Designated Officer) must be provided with regular progress reports as agreed at the initial strategy meeting (see also 5.7).

5.9

Second and Subsequent Strategy Meetings

In addition to the issues addressed at the first strategy meeting, subsequent monthly meetings must also address:

  • Progress and results of enquiries;
  • Therapeutic and support needs of child/ren;
  • Appropriate applications for criminal injuries compensation;
  • Support needs of all appropriate staff;
  • Future needs of the establishment.
A final strategy meeting must be held at the end of enquiries to plan further actions, if required.

5.10

Action Following S.47 Enquiry and/or Criminal Investigation

In respect of timescales, individual agency policies should be consulted, the following are timescales all agencies should aspire to, although it is acknowledged that there will be times when the timescales stated below cannot be met.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 (para.27 Appendix 5 now archived) makes it clear that 'the Police or CPS should inform the employer and Local Authority Designated Officer straightaway when:

  • A criminal investigation and any subsequent trial is complete;
  • It is decided to close an investigation without charge; or
  • It is decided not to prosecute after the person has been charged.

The information provided by the Police and/or Children's Social Care should inform a consequent discussion between the Local Authority Designated Officer and employer of next steps which may include:

  • No further action;
  • Further investigation to decide how to proceed (usually undertaken by the employer, but the employer may need to commission an independent investigation, dependent on resources and the nature and complexity of the allegation);
  • Summary dismissal;
  • Decision not to use the person's services in the future.

The discussion should take into account the different standard of proof in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.

If formal disciplinary action is not required, appropriate action should be instituted within three working days.

If a disciplinary hearing is required and can be held without further investigation, the hearing ideally should be held within 15 working days.

The investigating officer should aim to provide a report within 10 working days. On receipt, the employer should decide whether a disciplinary hearing is needed within two working days and if so it should be held within 15 working days.

5.11

Substantiated Allegations: Referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service or Regulatory Body

If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the person's services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide her/his services, the Local Authority Designated Officer should discuss with the employer whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children's Barred List and/or Adults' Barred List is required, or advisable, and the form and content of such a referral.

The Local Authority Designated Officer should also advise whether it is appropriate to make a referral to a professional body or regulatory body e.g. the Health and Care Professionals Council, General Medical Council, OFSTED etc.

If a referral is appropriate the report should be made within one month of the conclusion of the case.

5.12

Unsubstantiated Allegations

Where, following initial enquiries, it is concluded there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the allegation is substantiated, the chair of the strategy meeting (Local Authority Designated Officer) will ensure relevant information is passed to the employing agency. The relevant senior manager of that agency will consider what further action, if any, should be taken in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer.

The member of staff concerned must be notified in writing of the outcome and the child and her/his parents should also be informed of the outcome.

Consideration must be given to:

  • Any support the staff member may need, particularly if returning to work following suspension e.g. phased return, mentor;
  • The provision of support or counselling for the child, and if appropriate her/his parents, taking full account of a child's needs if a seemingly false or malicious allegation has been made;
  • How to manage any future contact between the member of staff and the child/ren who made the allegation.
Staff conducting disciplinary proceedings need to be informed in writing by the Local Authority Designated Officer when the child protection enquiry has been concluded.

5.13

Action in Respect of Unfounded Allegations

If an allegation is determined to be unfounded, the employer should, in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer:

  • Refer the matter to Children's Social Care to determine if the child is in need of services, or may have been abused by someone else;
  • Ask police to consider what action may be appropriate in the rare event that an allegation was deliberately invented or malicious.

5.14

Disciplinary Procedures

Any disciplinary process must be clearly separated from child protection enquiries. Child protection enquiries take priority over any disciplinary investigations, and will determine whether the investigations can be carried out concurrently.

The fact that there may be insufficient evidence to support a police investigation or prosecution should not prevent any action being taken that is necessary to safeguard a child's welfare.

It may be the allegation was prompted by inappropriate behaviour, not considered sufficiently harmful under the child protection procedures, but may still need to be considered under the disciplinary procedures.

Following notification that the child protection enquiry and/or criminal investigation has been concluded, staff conducting any disciplinary proceeding will have relevant information from Children's Social Care and the CAIU made available to them. 

All possible steps must be taken to avoid repeat interviewing of a child.

5.15

Recording

All allegations must be recorded clearly and accurately. Where a child has made an allegation, a copy of the statement/record must be kept on the section of her/his file not open to disclosure, together with a record of the outcome of any investigation. For related criminal or civil proceedings, records may be subject to disclosure.

A clear and comprehensive record must be maintained (by the employing agency) on the worker's confidential personnel file (and a copy provided to the member of staff concerned) of:

  • Any allegations made;
  • How the allegation was followed up and resolved;
  • Any action taken and decisions reached.

This record will:

  • Enable accurate information to be provided in response to future requests for references;
  • Provide clarification in cases where a future DBS disclosure reveals information of an allegation that did not result in a criminal conviction;
  • Prevent unnecessary re-investigation if an allegation re-surfaces in the future.
The record should be retained at least until the individual concerned has reached normal retirement age, or for a period of 10 years from the date of the allegation (if longer).

5.16

Learning Lessons  

If an allegation is substantiated, the employer should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice to help prevent similar events in the future.

5.17

Further Guidance

Further guidance is available from:

Working Together to Safeguard Children HM Government 2010 section 6.32 to 6.42 and Appendix 5 (now archived)

5.18

Contact Details

The LADO can be contacted on the following number 01908 254300.


6. Allegations Against Carers: Foster, Short-Break Lodgings and Approved Adopters

6.1

Terminology

For the purposes of this procedure, the term 'carer' refers to formally approved foster carers, short break carers and supported lodgings carers who may provide placement/s directly for the local authority or for an independent organisation. This procedure also covers approved adopters, prior to the making of the final adoption order.

6.2

Principles

Any allegation of abuse must be dealt with fairly, quickly and consistently, in a way that provides effective protection for the child and supports the person who is the subject of the allegation. 

Fostering/adoption staff should be informed and involved in strategy discussions to provide information and consider the implications for past, current and future placements, and the requirements of panel procedures. 

An allegation may require consideration from three inter-related perspectives: child protection, criminal investigation, and Children's Social Care procedures. These procedures primarily address the child protection perspective.

6.3

Making a Referral

Recognition of concerns or an allegation may arise from a number of sources e.g. a report from a child or an adult within a placement, a complaint or information arising from a complaint investigation.  

When a member of staff or other involved professional is suspicious or has received allegations of abuse about a carer, or by a person living within a placement, s/he must report this to her/his line manager.   

The recipient of an allegation should not attempt to determine its validity and failure to report it in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.  

If the allegation or child protection concern relates to a placement in another geographical authority, the referral must be made to that authority and dealt with under its local procedures. In these instances Milton Keynes Children's Social Care should assist.

6.4

Initial Response to a Referral

The social worker receiving the referral must inform her/his team/group manager.

If the fostering supervising social worker receives the allegation, her/his team manager must be informed and the referral passed to the team holding case responsibility for the child.

The fostering/adoption/ team manager must consult with The Local Authority Designated Officer for advice. 

If the concern does not satisfy the criteria in Section 1, Scope or after consultation it is agreed it is not a child protection issue (there may be occasions where children are harmed in the course of managing a child's challenging behaviour), the case may be appropriately responded to through internal management structures. The Local Authority Designated Officer will discuss how this is best accomplished with the service provider.

Where there are disagreements about whether or not the concern is one of child protection, this should be resolved through line managers and the safeguarding manager (Assistant Director Quality and Safeguarding). Where there is any doubt child protection procedures should be initiated in the first instance.

The decision and the reasons for it must be clearly recorded on both the child and the carer's files.

If the matter is to be considered under the child protection process Children's Social Care must discuss the case with the Police at the first opportunity and inform them if a criminal offence may have been committed against a child.

OFSTED must be notified of any allegation which is processed in line with child protection procedures.

Other local authorities may need to be alerted e.g. if they have a child placed with the carer.

The manager of the team responsible for the enquiry (see below) should make an immediate assessment of the level of risk to the child/ren in placement (and any need to move them prior to the strategy meeting) in consultation with the investigating social worker, fostering social worker and child/ren's social worker/s and manager/s.


7. Independence of Staff Conducting Enquiry

The close inter-relationship between carers and Children's Social Care and the need to ensure the investigating social worker's independence should be taken into consideration in the allocation and management of any enquiries/investigation.

It is not permissible for a member of staff to conduct an enquiry about a suspicion or allegation of abuse with respect to a relative, friend, colleague or someone who has worked with her/him previously.


8. Strategy Discussion

A Strategy Discussion, in the form of a meeting, must be held within two working days. If emergency action is required immediately, the strategy meeting should be convened as soon as possible.

The strategy meeting should be chaired by the Local Authority Designated Officer and consideration given to inviting the following: 

  • Police CAIU (all first strategy meetings);
  • Child's social worker and manager;
  • Fostering social worker (fostering, short breaks, adoption) and manager;
  • Social workers for any other children in placement;
  • The employer's HR representative if the foster carer is an employee of the fostering service provider;
  • Child protection advisor;
  • OFSTED representative;
  • Relevant health and education representatives.

The strategy meeting must consider and record whether any further action is required under the four headings:

  • Child Protection;
  • Criminal Investigation;
  • Fostering or adoption panel procedures;
  • Complaint procedures;
  • In addition to planning enquiries in accordance with strategy discussion procedures in 7.8 the meeting should consider the following issues;
  • The significance of any other previous allegations made against the carers or their family or other members of their household;
  • Whether the child/ren remain in placement (removal of child/ren should not be an automatic course of action - the decision-making should be in the context of the best interests of the child and the information available);
  • Other children currently living in the carer's household, and those previously placed with the carers (including the need for strategy discussions/meetings with regard to any of these children) and what information to be given;
  • Any other children the carer may have contact with in other roles e.g. as a child minder or youth worker;
  • Any propose;
  • new placements with the carer should generally be delayed pending the outcome of the enquiry;
  • The status of the carers, as co-workers and individuals who have a right to be heard;
  • Who will inform the carers of the allegation and when;
  • The support to be provided to the child/ren in the placement, including the carer's children e.g. use of advocates;
  • Support to be provided for carers from  fostering social worker, fostering/adoption team and other sources;
  • How, and when the parents will be informed of the allegations;
  • Whether to initiate complex abuse procedures.


9. Conducting the Enquiry/Investigation

The s.47 enquiry and any police investigation will take place in accordance with Section 7.

Enquires must be conducted in the strictest confidence so that information can be given freely without fear of victimisation, and in a way that protects the rights of carers and their families.

9.1

Informing parents and those with parental responsibility

Parents of relevant children should be given information about the concerns, advised on the process and outcomes reached. Provision of information and advice must not impede the proper exercise of the enquiry, disciplinary and investigative processes whilst protecting the rights of carers and their families.

9.2

Placements

No further placements of any kind should be made with the foster carers until the enquiry has been concluded (unless the strategy meeting decides otherwise).

The manager of the fostering/adoption/ service should determine the nature of carer/s' payments during the enquiry.

9.3

Support for carers during the enquiry

The supportive role of the fostering/adoption team should be considered at the strategy discussion, which must ensure all involved understand the focus for the fostering social worker is the child and that s/he will be unable to provide unconditional support to the carer.

When the carer's are informed of the allegation the fostering social worker should explain her/his role to the carer and ensure that the carer is aware of other sources of support. This could be from one or more of the following:

  • The Fostering Network;
  • A friend;
  • Local Foster Care Association. or

All MKC approved foster carers are members of the Fostering Network and have access to legal advice (see the Foster Carers Handbook for details).

Carers must be informed that, if the allegations culminate in court proceedings, witnesses including social workers or friends may be required to give evidence.

During the course of the investigation carers have the right to:

Details concerning the nature of allegations (timing will be dependent upon CAIU and Children's Social Care investigation)

  • Contact details for the relevant managers;
  • A copy of the procedures being followed;
  • A statement about existing placements;
  • A statement about future placements;
  • A statement about financial arrangements;
  • Make a written statement to the fostering team;
  • An indication of the timescale for the investigation;
  • Details of independent support and how this may be acquired;
  • Receive details in writing of all decisions made and actions taken.


10. Conclusion Enquiries

A strategy discussion must be held at the conclusion of an enquiry to ensure all information is shared to:

  • Ensure all actions agreed in previous strategy meetings have been completed;
  • Agree the conclusions of the enquiry:
    • That the alleged abuse has taken place (papers may or may not be forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service);
    • The alleged abuse has not been proven but concern may remain;
    • There may be standards of care issues that need to be addressed; or
    • That the allegation of abuse was not founded;
    • Address whether children in care remain or return to placement;
    • Address how best (if applicable) to protect any children in the home including whether or not an initial child protection conference is to be convened;
    • Consider counselling/therapeutic needs for those affected by the enquiry.

The concluding strategy discussion record/decisions arising must be put in writing and placed on both the child's and carers' files.

The team manager responsible for the enquiry must ensure that within two weeks of the concluding strategy discussion a letter is sent to all parties, including parents and carers outlining conclusions made and actions to be taken. A copy of this should be placed on the carer's file.

10.1

Informing the fostering/adoption panel

The fostering/adoption team must review the status of the carers within 28 days of the conclusion of the enquiry and present a review report to the fostering/adoption panel. The report will address:

  • Findings of the enquiry, including if a report has been forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service;
  • What, if any, concerns remain;
  • Feelings and experience of the carer;
  • Views of the fostering/adoption social worker;
  • Any implications for the safer caring  policy;
  • Training issues;
  • Any other issues relevant to an annual review;
  • Other information relevant to the child in placement.

This process provides the carer with the opportunity to reflect on their experience and consider what action they might wish to consider. They must be informed of the panel date and information on the complaints and access to files procedures.

Following the review, the responsible manager must confirm in writing to the carer the recommendation that will be made to the panel along with a copy of the review report. The possible recommendations are:

  • Immediate re-instatement of the carer, if approval and use had been suspended;
  • Re-assessment of the carer in relation to the identified concerns;
  • The carer remaining on hold pending the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service;
  • The carer choosing to resign;
  • The concerns are sufficiently serious to warrant termination of approval regardless of whether there is a Crown Prosecution Service decision to prosecute.

10.2

The panel

The panel must consider the following information prior to drawing its conclusions:

  • The review report and recommendation by the fostering social worker;
  • Any written submission by the carer/s;
  • Decisions from the concluding strategy discussion.

Both the fostering social worker and her/his manager must attend the panel meeting.

The panel chair should without delay, forward the panel's recommendations to the 'agency decision maker'. The decision maker, informed by the panel's recommendations, must make her/his decision and communicate it in writing to the carer/s. A copy of the letter must be included on the carer's file.

10.3

Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)

Following the review being presented to fostering panel and the foster carer receiving a qualifying determination they do not agree with they have two options:

  • They can apply to the IRM for a review; or
  • Make representations to the fostering panel.

10.4

Support for child after the enquiry/investigation

The team manager responsible for the child must consider whether any additional/individual support should be offered to the child and her/his family at the end of the s.47 enquiry.

10.5

Support for carer after the enquiry/investigation

The fostering/adoption team manager must consider whether any additional/individual support should be offered to the carer and her/his family at the end of the s.47 enquiry.

Following conclusion and feedback of the results of the enquiry and any investigation the fostering social worker should offer the carers the opportunity to discuss the process, including its impact on the family and future implications for provision of care.

Whatever the final outcome, carers should be offered continued advice, support and help from the fostering/adoption team, using a written agreement to define the period of time, level and quality of support.

10.6

Role of the fostering social worker

The role of the supervising social worker should be to:

  • Be informed of the allegation from the outset;
  • Attend the strategy discussions;
  • Link with investigating social workers about when to make contact with the carer/s;
  • Contact the carer as determined at the strategy discussion;
  • Ensure the carer receives appropriate information and advice;
  • Attend any follow up interview with the carer and her/his family, unless this is judged inappropriate.


11. Other Linked Processes

If following the conclusion of protection processes, further enquires are pursued for the purposes of the fostering panel, OFSTED or a complaint investigation, they should be arranged in a way that avoids the repeated interviewing of children and other vulnerable witnesses.

Subject to legal constraints, evidence gathered during an enquiry about allegations against foster carers can be made available to staff responsible for complaints, fostering panel, and OFSTED.

Consideration must be given by the case responsible team/service manager and the strategy meeting chair about the possibility that the circumstances may meet the criteria for a serious case review (see Serious Case Review Procedure). The safeguarding manager (Assistant Director Quality and Safeguarding) must be consulted and informed of any potential cases.

If the allegation is substantiated and on conclusion of the case the LADO would advise whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service and / or to a professional or regulatory body. If a referral is appropriate the report should be made within one month. A referral must always be made if the employer thinks that the individual has harmed a child or poses a risk of harm to children.


12. Recording

Any investigation and outcome of a s47 enquiry involving a child placed with foster carers must be notified to OFSTED.

The fostering social worker should, after the panel has drawn its conclusions and the agency decision maker has communicated her/his decisions to the carer/s, update the foster carers file, to include the following information:

  • Name, date of birth and ethnicity of child/ren concerned;
  • Nature of child protection enquiry, including date of allegation;
  • Panel's conclusions and agency decision i.e. immediate reinstatement of the carer/re-assessment of the carer in relation to the concerns that have been identified/the carer/s remaining on hold depending on the decision of the CPS/carer/s choosing to withdraw/concerns sufficiently serious to warrant termination of approval regardless of whether there is a CPS decision to prosecute;
  • Date of outcomes.


13. Allegations Against Registered Childminders

Whenever an allegation is made against a registered childminder, the following procedures must be followed in addition to those outlined in Section 7 of these procedures.

The Local Authority Designated Officer must be informed of the allegation and invited to the strategy discussion.

The social worker must inform the OFSTED early years inspectors of any allegations (relating to her/his own, minded or other children) against a registered childminder.

A member of OFSTED staff should be invited to the strategy discussion. Her/his role will be to consider the legal implications of continued registration or cancellation.

Planning must include consideration of all children using the childminder, as well as the implications for any children that have used the facility in the past and the childminder's own children.

Timing, method and content of information to be shared with parents of other children should be discussed and agreed at the strategy discussion.

End