It is important to differentiate between complaints about the standard of service and allegations of abuse.
Investigations into allegations or suspicions of abuse of children in residential establishments must have an element of independence from the external management.
When a young person makes an allegation a decision has to be made about whether or not it is in fact an allegation of abuse. If it appears that the young person has suffered significant harm at the hands of a member of staff then it should be dealt with as an allegation of abuse.
At any stage in the process the possibility of convening a case discussion should be considered to share information and decide on how to progress the investigation.
There are several courses of action in deciding how the allegation should be responded to. These include deciding that:
- the allegation is unclear and agreeing who should approach the child for more information in order to clarify the allegation
- it is not an allegation of abuse and utilising the complaints procedure
- there is an allegation of abuse against a member of staff and agreeing on the following:
- referral to the police
- investigation under child protection procedures.
While the possible need for a fact finding investigation or disciplinary proceedings must be taken into account, any child protection investigation or measures must take precedence over such actions.
How to do it
The allegation must be recorded as soon as possible after the young person has spoken. Hand-written notes must be retained on file.
The Co-ordinator, Children Services must be notified of the allegations or suspicion immediately The Co-ordinator, Children Services for the child is responsible for deciding whether child protection measures are required and managing any subsequent investigation if the child has been placed by South Ayrshire.
The Co-ordinator will decide, with the Co-ordinator (Specialist Services) about notification to another authority or organisation if the residential establishment is not managed by South Ayrshire.
If the residential establishment is managed by South Ayrshire, but the child was placed by another authority, then the Co-ordinator, (Specialist Services), must ensure that the other authority is informed of the allegations and agree the appropriate action with the equivalent manager (child protection) from the placing authority.
Where the allegations are of a serious nature, the young person or staff may need to be moved or the member of staff made the subject of a precautionary suspension until the allegation has been investigated and a plan of action agreed. The Co-ordinator, Children Services and Co-ordinator (Specialist Services) or, the equivalent senior manager in another authority should discuss the need for such actions.
The young person’ s view regarding a move from the establishment must be taken into account and disruption to the young person’s placement should be avoided where possible.
In instances where suspension or disciplinary measures may be required, the senior manager should consider seeking advice from personnel services and/or legal services.
Notification – South Ayrshire Residential Establishments
When an allegation of abuse is made in a local authority establishment the manager of the establishment must advise the Co-ordinator, Children Services for the child and the external manager, who must in turn notify their senior manager. Where the allegation implicates the manager of the establishment, the member of staff in the establishment should directly contact the external manager for the unit.
Notification – placements in other local authorities or organisations
The placing authority maintains responsibility for co-ordinating the investigation of allegations of abuse by an individual child. The Team Leader for the child should seek guidance from Co-ordinator (Specialist Services) on liaison and collaboration with another local authority or organisation.
Where there are multiple allegations the local authorities and organisations and the police should discuss how best to proceed, to ensure that any investigation is properly co-ordinated. A case discussion to plan the investigation may be required.
Deciding how the matter should be investigated and by whom
At any stage in the process the possibility of convening a case discussion can be considered to share information and decide on how to progress the investigation.
There are several possible courses of action in deciding how the allegation should be investigated. These are (see flowchart) :
- deciding that the allegation is unclear and agreeing whom should approach the child for more information in order to clarify the allegation
- deciding it is not an allegation of abuse and utilising South Ayrshire’s complaints procedure, or that of another authority or organisation
- deciding that there is an allegation of abuse against a member of staff and agreeing disciplinary procedures only
- deciding on a police referral and disciplinary procedures (a criminal investigation must take precedence over internal disciplinary procedures). A planning meeting should be considered.
Any or all of these processes may occur concurrently or sequentially
When an abusive regime is suspected in a South Ayrshire establishment an urgent review of the establishment should be conducted. Consideration should be given to submitting information to the appropriate regulatory bodies for South Ayrshire staff or establishment or for establishments in other local authorities and organisations.