Statement of procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse against staff
Allegations about safeguarding children (Child Protection)
Allegations about the safeguarding and protection of children must be handled in accordance with statutory guidance and the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (“HSCB”) Procedures Manual (“HSCB” Procedures”) published in September .2017 This document can be accessed at http://hertsscb.proceduresonline.com. The relevant statutory guidance can be found in 'Keeping Children Safe in Education' (Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges) dated September 2016 and 'Working Together to Safeguard Children' dated March 2015. These documents can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education.
Any allegation that a member of staff has:
- behaved in a way that has, or may have, harmed a child
- possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child or
- behaved towards a child in a way that indicates that he/she is unsuitable to work with children should be dealt with in accordance with HSCB procedures
Schools should appoint a designated safeguarding lead (DSL), also known as ‘designated senior person’ (DSP) from the school’s senior leadership team who has appropriate authority and is given the time for training and resources in order to provide support and advice to other staff on child protection matters. There should always be cover for this role should the DSL be away for any reason.
Schools should ensure they are familiar with their designated officer (DO), also known as ‘Local Authority Designated Officer’ (LADO) from the Local Authority who handles child protection/safeguarding allegations. The DO has a statutory duty to ensure that allegations about safeguarding are handled properly and expeditiously.
The key points for all responsible individuals (typically the Headteacher, chair of governors and DSL) to follow when made aware of a safeguarding allegation are:
- read and be familiar with chapter 4.1: “Managing Allegations Against Adults Who Work with Children And Young People” of the HSCB Procedures;
- if it is believed or suspected that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, a referral must be made immediately to the Children’s Services Assessment Team and/or the police
- inform the LADO within one working day of any allegation meeting the criteria above that comes to the school’s attention and any referral made to the Children’s Services Assessment Team and/or the police. Whilst a preliminary assessment of the available evidence can be made in order to inform the LADO, no attempt should be made to carry out an investigation. The standard referral form must be used (available from the Safeguarding portal within the LADO section: https://www.hertsforlearning.co.uk/lado) and a decision is usually made within 24 hours and often within just a few hours
- a strategy meeting should be arranged within two working days in circumstances where the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm which will then determine whether the allegation should be investigated by the police or by some other agency or by the school under this disciplinary policy and procedure
- in circumstances where significant harm is not suspected to be suffered or likely to be suffered by the child, an evaluation meeting may be called with the DO to ascertain next steps
- if the matter is handed back to the school, whether at the first strategy meeting, an evaluation meeting or at some later stage, consideration should be given to any recommendations from the strategy/evaluation meetings
The HSCB procedures contain clear timelines for management of safeguarding cases. Where it is clear straightaway that the allegation is unsubstantiated or malicious, these should be resolved within one week. If a disciplinary hearing is required in relation to a safeguarding case and can be held without further investigation, the hearing should be held within 15 working days. If further investigation is required, an investigation report should be aimed to be produced within 10 working days. On receipt of the investigation report, the school should decide within two working days if a disciplinary hearing is needed, and, if so, it should be held within fifteen working days. If formal disciplinary action is not required, the school should still consider any other appropriate action within three working days. These time limits apply only to safeguarding disciplinaries.
Where the harm test is or may be met allegations concerning the safety and welfare of children must be investigated and heard even if the employee has resigned. The employee should be given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations about it. It may be difficult to reach a conclusion and it may not be possible to apply any disciplinary sanctions if a person leaves employment before the process is complete. However, the disciplinary process should still be completed. If the decision is that the member of staff would have been dismissed or a sanction imposed had they still been in employment, there is a legal duty to make a referral to the DBS.