1.12 Allegations against Persons who work with Children (including Staff, Carers and Volunteers)
DfE, Dealing with Allegations of Abuse (National Archives)
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in March 2021 to reflect changes from the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children.
These procedures provide information about dealing with allegations against staff (including supply staff), volunteers and foster carers who have contact with children and young people in their work or activities. They are addressed to employers and organisations responsible for providing services to children, young people and adults who are parents or carers.
Note: Appendix 1: Action by Senior Manager and LA Designated Officer Flowchart illustrates these procedures graphically.
Statutory guidance sets out the responsibility placed on all (see Section 2.1, Employer) employers and other organisations who provide services to children to take steps when allegations of abuse or other inappropriate behaviour toward a child are made against someone in that organisation.
The local authority has appointed a designated officer (sometimes referred to as the Local Authority Designated Officer - LADO) to oversee the investigation of all allegations and to maintain detailed records of their conduct and the outcomes. All referrals to the LADO must be made within one working day of the allegation being made. General enquiries about these procedures and their implementation can be made with the LADO directly by phone (see Local Contacts).
For convenience, the term employer is used throughout these procedures to refer to organisations that have a working relationship with the individual against whom the allegation is made.
The term includes organisations that use the services of volunteers, or people who are self-employed, as well as service providers, voluntary organisations, employment agencies or businesses, contractors, fostering services, regulatory bodies such as Ofsted in the case of child-minders, and others that may not have a direct employment relationship with the individual, but will need to consider whether to continue to use the person's services, or to provide the person for work with children in future, or to de register the individual. The term also applies to organisations that licence individuals who may otherwise be considered self-employed.
In some circumstances the term 'employer' for these purposes will encompass more than one organisation. For example where staff providing services for children in an organisation are employed by a contractor, or where temporary staff are provided by an agency. In those circumstances both the contractor or agency, and the organisation in which the accused individual worked will need to be involved in dealing with the allegation.
These procedures should be applied when there is an allegation or concern that any person who works with children, in connection with their employment or voluntary activity, has:
- Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
- Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children;
- Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.
These concerns should be considered within the context of the four categories of abuse (i.e. physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect) and should also include allegations regarding inappropriate behaviour. These will include concerns relating to inappropriate relationships for some employments between members of staff and children or young people, for example:
- A teacher having a sexual relationship with a child under 18 in their school/college is in a position of trust in respect of that child, even if the relationship is 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);
The possession of indecent photographs / pseudo-photographs of children should also be considered as meeting the threshold to be considered a LADO allegation.
There may be up to three strands in considering a concern or an allegation:
- A police investigation of a criminal offence;
- Enquiries and assessment by Children's Social Care about whether a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer harm or is a Child in Need of services;
- Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action in respect of the individual.
If an allegation relating to a child is made about a person who undertakes paid or unpaid care of vulnerable adults, consideration should be given to the possible need to alert those who manage her / him in that role.
These procedures can also be applied if a complaint or an allegation is made against a person in relation to their work with adult service users, which causes concern about the welfare of an adult service user's children.
Compliance with these procedures should help ensure that allegations of abuse are dealt with expeditiously, consistent with a thorough and fair process.
3. Roles and Responsibilities
Organisations and agencies working with children and families should identify a named senior officer with overall responsibility for:
- Ensuring that the organisation deals with allegations in accordance with this procedure;
- Resolving any inter-agency issues;
- Liaising with the Safeguarding Children Partnership on the subject.
The Local Authority
The Local Authority will appoint a designated officer (LADO) who will:
- • Receive reports about allegations and 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 GMC etc.
The LADO will not conduct their own separate investigations but will liaise with the appropriate individuals to form an overall outcome.
Other employers should:
- Put in place and operate arrangements for handling allegations in accordance with these procedures;
- Identify a senior manager to whom allegations or concerns should be reported, and a deputy in their absence or if they are the subject of the allegation and inform the LADO of the contact details of the identified person and update them of any changes to the identified individual.
South Yorkshire Police
South Yorkshire Police should identify a senior officer to:
- Have strategic oversight of the arrangements;
- Liaise with SCSP;
- Ensure compliance within the organisation.
The Police should identify a designated officer to:
- Liaise with the LADO;
- Take part in strategy 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;
- On completion of an investigation or related prosecution the police should pass information regarding outcomes without delay to the LADO.
4. Recognising and Responding to an Allegation
There are a number of sources from which an allegation might arise including from:
- A child or an adult;
- A parent;
- A member of the public;
- A disciplinary investigation;
- Agencies covered by these procedures should have in place their own policies, procedures and guidance relating to the conduct of their employees and they should be used to ensure compliance with these procedures.
4.1 Responding to an Allegation made to an Employer
The person to whom an allegation or concern is reported should not seek to question the child concerned or investigate the matter further, and should:
- Treat the matter seriously;
- Avoid asking leading questions;
- Keep an open mind;
- Communicate with the child (if the complainant) in a way that is appropriate to the child's age, understanding and preferred language or communication style;
- Make a written record of the information (where possible in the child's own words), including:
- When the alleged incident took place? (time and date)
- Who was present?
- What was said to have happened?
- Sign and date the written record;
- Report the matter immediately to the designated senior manager, or deputy in their absence or where the senior manager is the subject of the allegation.
4.2 Initial Action by the Designated Senior Manager
The designated senior manager in the agency should not investigate the matter by interviewing the accused person, the child or potential witnesses, but should:
- Obtain written details of the allegation, signed and dated by the person receiving the complaint, or allegation (not the child / person making the allegation);
- Countersign and date the written details;
- Record any other 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.
If the allegation meets any of the criteria in Section 2.2, Criteria the designated senior manager should report it to the LADO within one working day.
Referral should not be delayed in order to gather information.
If a concern or an allegation requiring immediate attention is received outside normal office hours the designated senior manager should consult straight away with the Children's Social Care Out of Hours Service (see Local Contacts) or South Yorkshire Police via 999 if an emergency or 101. The designated senior manager should ensure that the LADO is informed the next working day.
4.3 Responding to an Allegation made to the Police
If a police officer receives an allegation they should report it without delay to the designated Police Sergeant based in the Safeguarding Hub, who should inform the LADO straight away (or ensure that the LADO is informed the next working day if the allegation is received out of hours).
4.4 Responding to an Allegation made to Children's Social Care
If the complaint or allegation is received by Children's Social Care, the person receiving the allegation should report it straight away to the LADO, inform their line manager of the allegation and ensure their manager is copied into the referral to the LADO. If the allegation is received out of hours, the LADO should be informed the next working day.
4.5 Initial Consideration by the LADO and the Employer
The LADO and Designated Senior Manager should:
- Establish that the allegation is within the scope of these procedures;
- Verify whether there is evidence or information that establishes that the allegation is false or malicious;
- Consider whether further details are needed.
If the allegation is about physical contact, the discussion should take account of any entitlement by staff in certain professions to use reasonable force to control or restrain children in certain circumstances e.g. in respect of teachers and authorised school staff.
The LADO will notify the employer / designated manager of reports made via the Police and Children's Social Care only if the LADO threshold is met.
4.6 Strategy Discussions and LADO Allegations Management Meetings
If the allegation is not patently false and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm (see Recognition of Significant Harm and Types of Abuse and Neglect Procedure), the LADO should immediately refer to Children's Social Care and ask them to initiate a Strategy Discussion straight away. See Making a Referral following the Identification of Child Safety and Welfare Concerns Procedure. The police must be informed about any case in which a criminal offence involving a child may have been committed.
If the Significant Harm threshold is not reached, but a police investigation might be needed, the LADO should tell the police immediately and initiate a LADO Allegations Management Meeting with the police, employer and other agencies involved with the child, to evaluate the complaint or allegation and decide how it should be dealt with.
A Strategy Discussion or LADO Allegations Management Meeting can be conducted by way of a series of telephone calls, but it should take the form of a face-to-face meeting with a dedicated minute taker wherever practicable.
The LADO will normally chair the LADO Allegations Management Meeting and a Senior Fieldwork Manager will normally chair a Strategy Discussion, supported by the LADO. The participants of either meeting should be sufficiently senior to contribute all relevant available information about the allegation child and accused person, and make decisions on behalf of their agencies.
The Strategy Meeting will include:
- The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
- The relevant social worker and their manager;
- The supervising social worker and their manager when an allegation is made against a foster carer;
- The designated senior manager for the employer / establishment concerned;
- Human Resources representatives from the employer (as appropriate);
- Where a child is placed by or normally resident in the area of another local authority, a representative of that authority.
The Strategy meetings may also consider the following attendees where appropriate:
- A senior representative of the employment agency or voluntary organisation if the member of staff or volunteer has been place by them, unless it is alleged that they have colluded or failed to respond to previous complaints;
- Those responsible for regulation and inspection where applicable e.g. CQC or OFSTED;
- A medical practitioner with an appropriate area of specialist knowledge;
- A complaints officer if the concern has arisen from a complaint or a complaint investigation is in progress;
- A representative of the legal department of the local authority.
In the case of a LADO Allegations Management Meeting, Children's Social Care need only take part if they are involved with the child or have a contribution to make.
The Strategy Discussion or LADO Allegations Management Meeting, as appropriate, should also:
- Consider the three possible strands set out in Section 2.2, Criteria above;
- Review any previous concerns or allegations about conduct of the accused person;
- Decide whether there should be a Section 47 enquiry and / or police investigation and consider the implications;
- Consider whether any parallel disciplinary process should take place;
- Consider whether a Complex Abuse Investigation is applicable, that is if there is more than one suspected abuser and two or more children (see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure);
- Scope and plan enquiries;
- Allocate tasks;
- Set time-scales;
- Decide what information can be shared, with whom and when;
- Ensure that arrangements are made to protect the child/ren involved and any other child/ren affected (including the person's own children), including taking emergency action where needed;
- Consider what support should be provided to all children who may have been affected directly and indirectly;
- Consider what support should be provided to the person against whom the complaint or allegation has been made and others who might have been affected;
- Ensure that investigations are sufficiently independent;
- Make arrangements to inform the child's parents, and consider how to provide them with support and information during enquiries;
- Make recommendations where appropriate regarding suspension, or alternatives to suspension, of the subject of the complaint or allegation;
- Identify a lead contact manager within each agency;
- Agree protocols for reviewing investigations and monitoring progress by the LADO, noting the target timescales;
- Agree dates for future Strategy or Evaluation Discussions or Meetings;
- Consider obtaining consent from the individuals concerned by the police and Children's Social Care to share the statements and evidence they obtain with the employer and / or regulatory body for disciplinary purposes.
4.7 Reviewing Progress
The LADO should regularly monitor the progress of cases either by:
- Review Strategy Discussions; or
- By liaising with the police and / or Children's Social Care and/or employer.
Where possible, a final Strategy or Evaluation Discussion should be held at the end of enquiries to ensure that all tasks have been completed and where appropriate to agree an action plan for learning lessons in order to inform future practice.
5. Resignations and 'Compromise Agreements'
The fact that a person tenders their resignation or ceases to provide their services must not prevent an allegation from being followed up in accordance with these procedures, and a conclusion reached.
With a so called "compromise agreement", by which a person agrees to resign, the employer agrees not to pursue disciplinary action and both agree a form of words to be used in any future reference must not be used in situations which are relevant to these procedures.
In any event, such an agreement will not prevent a thorough police investigation where appropriate. Nor can it override an employer's statutory duty to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Wherever possible the person should be given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations about the allegation. The investigation should continue to a conclusion even if the person refuses to cooperate.
6. Disciplinary Process or Assessment Regarding Suitability
The LADO and the designated senior manager should discuss and agree what action is appropriate in all cases where:
- It is clear at the outset or decided by a Strategy Discussion or Initial Evaluation Discussion, that investigations by the police or enquiries by Children's Social Care are not necessary;
- The employer and LADO is informed by the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 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 a staff member and take into account:
- Information provided by the police and / or Children's Social Care;
- The result of any investigation or trial and the different standard of proof in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.
The options will range from no further action to summary dismissal or not using the person's services in future.
Where the allegation meets threshold and any subsequent meeting decides that the allegation does not involve a possible criminal offence or require a social care investigation, it will be dealt with by the employer who should institute appropriate action within 3 working days of the decision being made.
If a disciplinary hearing is required and it can be held without further investigation, the hearing should be held within 15 working days of the decision being made that a disciplinary enquiry should commence.
In some circumstances it may be appropriate for the disciplinary investigation to be conducted by a person who is independent of the employer or person's line management to ensure objectivity.
The LADO will endeavour to remind the employers of the above suggested timescales when they commence their investigation.
7. Sharing Information for Disciplinary Purposes
If the police or CPS decide not to charge or decide to administer a caution, or the person is acquitted, the police should pass all relevant information to the employer and LADO without delay.
If the person is convicted, the police should inform the employer and LADO straight away so that appropriate action can be taken.
If the social care investigation determines no harm caused and no further action, the social worker should pass all relevant information to the employer and LADO without delay.
If the Children's Social Care undertake enquiries the outcome of enquiries and relevant information should be shared with the employer.
8. Record Keeping
Employers should keep a clear and comprehensive summary of the case record on a person's confidential personnel file and give a copy to the individual.
The record should include details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached and the action taken. It should be kept at least until the person reaches normal retirement age or for 10 years whichever is the longer.
The record will provide accurate information for any future reference and provide clarification if a future Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) disclosure reveals an allegation that did not result in a prosecution or a conviction. This should prevent unnecessary re-investigation if the allegation re-surfaces at a later date.
9. Action in Respect of Unsubstantiated and False Allegations
Where there is insufficient evidence to substantiate an allegation the employer should consider what further action, if any, should be taken.
False allegations are rare and may be a strong indicator of abuse elsewhere, requiring further exploration. If an allegation is false, the employer, in consultation with the LADO, should refer the matter to Children's Social Care to determine whether the child is in need of services, or might have been abused by someone else.
If an allegation has been deliberately invented or malicious, the police should be asked to consider whether any action might be appropriate against the person responsible.
10. Referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service
If the allegation is substantiated and on conclusion of the case the employer dismisses the person or ceases to use the person's services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide his / her services, there is a legal requirement for the employer to refer the individual to the DBS and to inform the LADO of the date the referral is made.
If a referral is appropriate, the report should be made without unnecessary delay.
A referral should always be made if the employer thinks that the individual has harmed a child, or poses a risk of harm to children.
Bodies with a legal duty to refer to the DBS
The following groups have a legal duty to refer information to the DBS:
- Regulated activity suppliers (employers and volunteer managers);
- Personnel suppliers;
- Groups with a power to refer.
Bodies with the power to refer to the DBS
The following groups have the power to refer information to the DBS:
- Local authorities (safeguarding role);
- Health and Social care (HSC) trusts (NI);
- Education and Library Boards;
- Keepers of registers e.g. General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council;
- Supervisory authorities e.g. Care Quality Commission, Ofsted.
If the person being referred to the DBS is a teacher in England they should also be referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency. This is part of the Department for Education, responsible for the regulation of teachers in respect of serious misconduct.
11. Monitoring Progress
The LADO will 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 assist SCSP to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures for managing allegations, and provide statistical information to the Department of Education as required.
The police can consult the CPS at any stage about the evidence needed to charge a person, but they should also set target dates for reviewing the progress of the investigation and consulting the CPS about charging, continuing or closing the investigation.
This should be no later than 4 weeks after the Initial Evaluation Discussion wherever possible, and fortnightly or monthly thereafter, if the investigation continues.