Whistleblowing (Confidential Reporting) Policy

Date Drafted: September 2018

Approved by Trust Board: 18th October 2018

Date Adopted by LGB: tbc

Review Frequency: Annual

To be Reviewed By: Trust Board

 

Preamble

As the employer of staff in our Academies, the Northworthy Trust (the Trust) recognises the statutory responsibilities related to employment. Day to day management of staff is delegated to the Headteacher and line managers in each Academy. Throughout this document reference is made to the responsibilities held by the Governing Body/Headteacher for operational purposes. Ultimate responsibility rests with the Trust.

This policy has been introduced to enable employees, and other persons working for the Trust on Academy or Trust premises, together with suppliers and those providing services under a contract with the Trust or Academy, to confidentially voice serious concerns over malpractice and wrongdoing within the Trust or Academy.

In the case of an issue where an individual does not feel comfortable raising concerns to the Headteacher or Governing Body, the individual should approach the Trust Executive Board by contacting either of the following nominated officers:

Neil Calvert
The Northworthy Trust
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Malcolm Todd
Chair of the Northworthy Trust Self Evaluation Audit Risk Committee
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If an employee feels unable to contact the Trust, or the concern is about the Trust, they may contact:

The Charity Commission for England and Wales
Tel: 0300 066 9197

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
Tel: 0370 000 2288

Secretary of State for Education
Ministerial and Public Communications Division
Department for Education
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester
M1 2WD
Tel: 0370 000 2288

Ofqual
Tel: 0300 303 3346

Ofsted
Tel: 0300 123 3155

 

1. Introduction

1.1 Employees are sometimes the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within the Academy. However, they may not express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the Academy; or they may fear harassment, victimisation or other reprisals. In these circumstances it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may be just a suspicion of malpractice.

1.2 The Trust and the Governing Body are committed to the highest possible standards of service provision and for full accountability for those services. In line with that commitment employees are encouraged to come forward and voice any serious concerns they may have about the work of the Academy or the Trust. It is recognised that certain cases will have to proceed on a confidential basis. This policy document makes it clear that any individual can do so without fear of reprisals. This policy is intended to encourage and enable an individual to raise serious concerns within the Academy rather than overlooking a problem or “blowing the whistle” outside.

1.3 The policy applies to all employees and those contractors working for the Trust on Academy premises, for example, agency staff, builders and drivers. It also covers suppliers and those providing services under a contract with the Academy or the Trust.

 

1.5 Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998

This Act protects workers who ‘Blow the Whistle’ about wrongdoing. It makes provision about the kind of disclosures, which may be protected; the circumstances in which the disclosures are protected; and the persons who may be protected. The provisions introduced by the Act protect most workers from being subjected to a detriment by their employer. Detriment may take a number of forms, such as denial of promotion, facilities or training opportunities which the employer would otherwise have offered. Employees may make a claim for unfair dismissal if they are dismissed for making a protected disclosure.

1.6 The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA)

The ERRA came into force on 25 June 2013 and introduced a number of changes to whistleblowing legislation. A worker will be eligible for protection if they honestly think what they are reporting is true and they think they are telling the right person. From 25 June 2013 the new law says that a whistle-blower should also believe that their disclosure is in the public interest.

2. Aims & Scope of this Policy

2.1 This policy aims to:
• Provide avenues for the complainant to raise concerns and receive feedback on any action taken.
• Allow the complainant to take the matter further if they are dissatisfied with the Academy’s response to the concerns expressed; and
• Reassure the complainant that they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation.

2.2 This policy does not replace the Trust’s complaints procedure. There are also existing procedures in place relating to Disciplinary, Grievance and Capability etc. The Whistleblowing Policy is intended to cover concerns that fall outside the scope of these procedures e.g. malpractice or wrongdoing.

2.3 Thus any serious concern that the complainant may have regarding the suspicion of malpractice or wrongdoing in any aspect of the Academy provision, or the conduct of staff within the Academy, or others acting on behalf of the Academy, can and should be reported under this policy.

2.4 Employees are expected to report malpractice and wrongdoing. They may be liable to disciplinary action if they knowingly and deliberately do not disclose information relating to malpractice or wrong doing in any aspect of the Academy or Trust’s provision or the conduct of staff or others acting on behalf of the Academy or Trust.

3. What is Malpractice or Wrongdoing?

3.1 Malpractice and wrongdoing may be about something which:-
• Is unlawful; or
• Against the Trust’s policies; or
• Is not in accordance with established standards of practice; or
• Amounts to improper conduct by an employee.

The overriding concern should be that it would be in the public interest for the malpractice to be corrected and, if appropriate, sanctions to be applied. The following are examples of issues which could be raised under this policy. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list and there may be other matters which could be dealt with under this policy:
• Any unlawful act or omission, whether criminal or a breach of civil law.
• That a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is likely to be committed.
• Maladministration.
• Breach of any statutory code of practice.
• Breach of or failure to implement or comply with any policy determined by the Trust.
• Failure to comply with appropriate professional standards or other established standards of practice.
• That a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur
• Corruption or fraud.
• Actions which are likely to cause physical danger to any person or give rise to a risk of significant damage to property.
• Concerns regarding potential or actual harm to children.
• Failure to take reasonable steps to report and rectify any situation which is likely to give rise to a significant avoidable cost or loss of income to the Trust or an Academy, or would otherwise seriously prejudice the Trust or Academy.
• Abuse of power, or the use of the Trust or Academy’s powers and authority for any unauthorised or ulterior purpose.
• Unfair discrimination in the Trust or Academy’s employment or provision.
• Dangerous procedures risking health and safety.
• Abuse of clients.
• Damage to the environment.
• Other unethical conduct.

4. Safeguards

4.1 Harassment or Victimisation
The Trust recognises that the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make, not least because of the fear of reprisal from those responsible for the malpractice or from the Trust or Academy as a whole. The Trust will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation and will take appropriate action in order to protect an employee if they raise a concern. In addition an employee is protected by law by the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which gives employees protection from detriment and dismissal where they have made a protected disclosure, provided the legal requirements of the Act are satisfied. This does not necessarily mean that if an employee is already the subject of disciplinary procedures that those procedures will be halted as a result of a concern being raised under this policy.

4.2 Confidentiality
It will be easier to follow up and to verify complaints if complainants are prepared to give their names. However, wherever possible the Trust will protect those who do not want their names to be disclosed. It must be appreciated that any investigation process may reveal the source of the information and a statement from the complainant may be required as part of the evidence.

4.3 Anonymous Allegations
Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful, but they will be treated with caution and considered at the discretion of the Trust. In exercising this discretion the factors to be taken into account would include:
• The seriousness of the issues raised;
• The credibility of the concern; and
• The likelihood of obtaining the necessary information and confirmation of the allegation.

4.4 Deliberately False or Malicious Allegations
The Trust will view very seriously any deliberately false or malicious allegations it receives, and will regard the making of any deliberately false or malicious allegations by any employee as a serious disciplinary offence which could result in dismissal. If an allegation is made and the complainant genuinely thought what they were reporting was true but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against the complainant. The Trust will try to ensure that the negative impact of either a malicious or unfounded allegation about any employee is minimised. However, it must be acknowledged that it may not be possible to prevent all of the repercussions potentially involved.

5. How to Raise a Concern

5.1 If the complainant suspects wrongdoing in the workplace:
• they must not approach or accuse the individuals directly
• they must not try to investigate the matter themselves
• they must not convey their suspicions to anyone other than those with the proper authority but they must do something!

5.2 As a first step, the complainant should normally raise concerns with the Headteacher. However, the most appropriate person to contact will depend on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved and who is thought to be involved in the malpractice. For example, if the complainant believes that the Headteacher is involved in the matter of concern, or the normal channels of communication are inappropriate for some reason, they should approach the Chair of Governors. If, for some significant reason, the complainant does not feel comfortable raising the concern within the Academy, they should approach one of the Nominated Officers’ identified on page 1 of this policy.

5.3 Concerns may be raised verbally but are better raised in writing. The complainant is invited to set out the background and history of the concern giving relevant names, dates and places where possible, and the reason why they are particularly concerned about the situation.

5.4 The earlier a concern is expressed; the easier it is to take appropriate action.

5.5 Although the complainant is not expected to prove the truth of an allegation that is made, it will be necessary for them to demonstrate to the person contacted that there are sufficient grounds for concern.

5.6 Advice and guidance on how matters of concern may be pursued can be obtained from the Trust HR function.

5.7 Alternatively, the complainant may wish to seek advice from their trade union or professional association, or Public Concern at Work, the Whistleblowing Charity

6. How the Trust or Academy will respond

6.1 The action taken by the Trust or Academy will depend on the nature of the concern. Where appropriate, the matters raised may:
• Be investigated by management, or through the disciplinary process.
• Be referred to the Police
• Need to be the subject of a referral to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL)
• Form the subject of an independent external enquiry.

6.2 In order to protect individuals and the Trust or Academy, initial enquiries will be made to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take. Concerns or allegations which fall within the scope of specific procedures (for example child protection or capability issues) will normally be referred for consideration under those procedures.

6.3 Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for investigation.

6.4 Within 10 working days of a concern being raised under this procedure the Investigating Officer considering the issues will write to the complainant:
• Acknowledging that the concern has been received. Indicating how it is proposed to deal with the matter.
• Giving an estimate (so far as reasonably practicable) as to how long it will take to provide final response.
• Informing them whether any initial enquiries have been made; and
• Informing them whether further investigations will take place and if not, why not.

6.5 The amount of contact between the complainant and the Nominated Officer considering the issues will depend on the nature of the matters raised; the potential difficulties involved; and the clarity of information provided. If necessary, further information will be sought from the complainant.

6.6 Where any meeting is arranged, the complainant has the right, if they so wish, to be accompanied by a trade union or professional association representative or a colleague who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.

6.7 The Trust will take appropriate steps to minimise any difficulties the complainant may experience as a result of raising a concern. For example, if they are required to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings the Trust will advise them about the procedure.

6.8 The Trust accepts that the complainant needs to be assured that the matter has been properly addressed. Therefore, subject to any legal restraints, the complainant will receive as much information as possible about the outcomes of any investigation.

7. How can the matter be taken further?

7.1 This policy is intended to provide employees and other persons with an avenue to raise concerns within the Trust and it is hoped that they will take this option in the first instance. The Trust hopes they will be satisfied but if not, and the complainant feels it is right to take the matter outside the Trust, then depending upon the nature of the issue involved, the following are possible contact points:
• Relevant professional bodies or regulatory organisations.
• The Secretary of State for Education
• OFSTED
• OFQUAL
• The Police.
• NCTL.
• The local Citizen Advice Bureau.
• An independent legal adviser within the meaning of the Public Interest
Disclosure Act 1998.
• A regulatory body designated for the purposes of the Public Interest
Disclosure Act.
• The ESFA/DFE.
• Member of Parliament
• National Audit Office
• Health and Safety Executive

7.1.1 Complainants are strongly advised to take advice from their Trade Union before raising a complaint with an external body.

7.1.2 It is extremely unlikely to be the case that a complaint should ever be shared with the media. Again, complainants considering this step are strongly advised to take advice from their Trade Union Representative before taking such action.

7.2 If the complainant does wish to take the matter outside the Trust, they must first ensure that they do not disclose confidential information. In addition, if the complainant wishes to secure the protections afforded by the Public Interest Disclosure Act, they must ensure that their disclosure is protected within the meaning of the Act and that it complies with a set of specific conditions which vary according to whom the disclosure is made. If necessary the complainant may wish to seek advice from the Trust HR function or their Trade Union. The wording of the Act can be found by following this link:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-public-interest-disclosure-act

8. Responsibility for the Policy

8.1 The responsibility for the effectiveness and efficiency of this policy rests with the Local Governing Body of the Trust’s Academies, although ultimate responsibility rests with the Trust Board. The local Governing Body will be advised about and instructed to maintain records of concerns raised and the outcomes (but in a form which does not endanger the Complainants confidentiality).

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