Responding to concerns and allegations
Your organisation must take any concerns raised about staff or volunteers seriously, regardless of who the person is, how long they've been involved with the organisation, or whether they are directly employed by you.
You should not attempt to investigate the matter, but gather the facts of the case and keep written records.
If an allegation is made that a staff member or volunteer has:
- behaved in a way that has harmed, 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 in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.
You must report this immediately to the relevant agencies (for example the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000, your local child protection services or the police).
> Find out more about recognising and responding to abuse
Liaise with your local child protection services and the police to ensure that you are responding appropriately.
If the allegation is against someone you do not employ directly, the organisation they work or volunteer for should be involved in the investigation.
In England, each local authority must have one or more designated officers whose role is to manage and oversee investigations of allegations against people who work with children (Department for Education, 2018c).
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has created an online portal for charities in England to help manage safeguarding allegations made against an employee or volunteer.
Resignations and ‘settlement agreements’
If someone resigns from their post or refuses to cooperate with the process, this must not prevent an allegation being followed up.
'Settlement agreements' (where a person agrees to resign and the employer agrees not to pursue disciplinary action) must not be used in cases of alleged abuse.
Confidentiality and support
You should make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of all parties while an allegation or concern is being investigated. Make sure everyone involved in the investigation understands this.
Consider how best to support the children involved, their parents or carers, and individuals who have had an allegation made against them. This includes:
- telling parents or carers and the employee or volunteer concerned about the allegation as soon as possible (as long as this does not place any children at further risk of harm)
- telling them how you are going to manage the allegation
- keeping everyone informed about the progress and outcomes of the case.
It’s important to keep a clear and comprehensive summary of:
- all allegations that have been made
- details of how allegations have been followed up and investigated
- decisions made about the allegation and actions taken.
> Read our guidance on child protection records retention and storage
If your organisation removes a member of staff or volunteer from working with children because they pose a risk of harm (or if you would have but the person has resigned or left), you have a legal duty to inform the relevant disclosure and barring agency. Failure to do this is a criminal offence.
You should also make a report to the appropriate regulatory bodies. This includes:
- regulators for your organisation (for example the Charity Commission in England, Northern Ireland and Wales or the Charity Regulator in Scotland)
- regulators for particular professions (for example the Teaching Regulation Agency in England and Wales or the General Teaching Council in Northern Ireland and Scotland).