Allegations against childcare professionals - advice

Introduction

This guide has been written to provide you with an explanation of the process, along with information about appropriate support and guidance that will be followed if you are faced with an allegation of abuse.

Legislation and guidance

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

City of York Managing Allegations Against Staff Procedure and Practice Guidance

What happens when an allegation is made?

An allegation may be made by, or to, a colleague, parent or carer, another professional worker or to the police.

When an allegation is made, a senior manager within your organisation (SMO) will contact the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) for advice on what process should be followed. At this stage it is unlikely that you will be told about the allegation.

This initial consideration will look at whether the allegation or concern fits within the scope of the statutory guidance that you have:

  • 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, or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she may pose a risk of harm to children or
  • That the allegation is clearly and demonstrably without foundation

Where it is believed that allegation falls within the scope of the guidance, there are three possible strands to enquiries that may be initiated:

  • Child protection
  • Criminal enquiries
  • Disciplinary

In some cases all three strands of enquiry will be followed, coordinated by a strategy meeting (see below). However, it is more usual that your employer’s investigation will be held in abeyance until the external agency investigations are complete. Where it is felt that the allegation or concern does not necessitate child protection or criminal enquiries, the SMO and LADO will agree an appropriate internal process to be followed by your agency.

Whilst the investigations will always be conducted as speedily as possible, this will always be balanced against the need for a thorough and fair process.

Where it is deemed that the allegation is demonstrably false, you will be informed formally, both verbally, and in writing, of the nature of the allegation and that it is without foundation. You should be informed that no further action will be taken and you should be offered support as necessary.

Strategy meeting

When considered that the allegation fits within the scope of the guidance, a strategy discussion, convened by Children's Social Care, will take place involving the Police, Social Care, your employers, the LADO, and others who have relevant information to contribute. The strategy discussion is held under Child Protection Procedures and the primary focus is on the needs of the child.

Your manager will normally be asked to attend. The discussion could take place before you have been made aware of the allegation, but in either case you will not be invited to contribute. The discussion will determine what actions are to be taken next and is not part of any disciplinary procedures.

The strategy discussion will consider not only the children directly involved in the allegation but also any other children with whom you have significant contact. This could include your own children.

What considerations are made regarding suspension?

You should not be automatically suspended. Your employer should consult with your agency’s Human Resources/Personnel department and consider the recommendations made by a Strategy Meeting before any decision to suspend is taken.

Suspension is not a sanction, does not indicate guilt, and should only occur when:

  • the allegations are so serious that a dismissal for gross misconduct is possible
  • a child or children may be at risk
  • the suspension is necessary to allow the conduct of the investigation to proceed unimpeded

Where suspension is being considered a meeting will be normally be arranged with you and you are advised to seek assistance from your trade union or professional body. You may be accompanied at the meeting where suspension is a possible outcome. One of the roles of the union or professional body representative will be to promote your interests during suspension and raise issues that may be of concern to you. At this stage you may not be informed about the details of the allegation, where it is felt that informing you may prejudice enquiries.

Importantly, the meeting is not concerned with examining the evidence; rather, it is an opportunity for you to make representations concerning possible suspension.

Alternatives to suspension should always be considered, for example, transfer of duties or additional supervision.

If you are suspended you should be kept informed of the position regarding your case by your employer on a regular basis even if there are no developments to report.

General information about the disciplinary process and suspension can be found on the ACAS website or in their guide. For specific guidance please consult your employers human resources manual or union.

Who will be notified?

Various people will need to be informed that an allegation has been made, regardless of whether a suspension has taken place or not. Decisions will be based on who needs to know and taking into consideration, as far as possible, the issues of confidentiality.

The following individuals will be informed that an allegation has been made and the likely course of action:

  • The child or young person concerned, their parents/carers and any party making an allegation.
  • You – at the appropriate time.
  • Your employer.

There may be occasions when the police will decide the appropriate timing for the above individuals to be notified.

On those occasions where the matter becomes common knowledge or subject to speculation it may also become necessary to issue a brief and accurate statement for parents, children, and the public. However, it is for the Strategy Meeting to make this decision and you will be informed in advance.

It may also be appropriate to release a press statement for the media during and/or at the conclusion of any investigation; however, where possible you will be informed in advance.

What support will be offered to me if an allegation is made?

You should be:

  • Advised to contact your union representative or professional body
  • Given the name a supporter (appointed by your employer) as an information contact, who will in turn contact you on a regular basis as agreed between the parties (as appropriate)
  • Offered the services of the staff counselling service and/or occupational health services, if available.

What happens regarding a return to work?

If a decision is made for you to return to work, arrangements will be made to lift the suspension, where one is in place. You should be involved with your union or professional body representative (as applicable) in planning your supported return to work. This may include discussion of opportunities for future training and development, guidance and support.

What records will be kept?

Your employers must retain key documents, relating to an investigation, in a secure place. A record will also be kept by the LADO on a secure database. If involved, Children's Social Care and the Police will also keep records on a secure database.