Safeguarding from the Perspective of a Former Police Detective
Safeguarding from the Perspective of a Former Police Detective
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This blog is based on Judicium’s Safeguarding ‘Sofa Session’ from the 23rd of March, with our resident expert James Simoniti. This session focused on demystifying the Police role in safeguarding, how schools can work effectively with the Police, and working with the LADO.
What Types of Police Officers Are Schools Most Likely to Encounter?
Schools are likely to encounter three different types of Police Officer:
1. Your Safer Schools Officer or Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT)
- They are uniformed Police Officers dedicated to working with your school or local community.
- Schools can work with them to solve longer term problems or seek information about pupils that may be involved with the Police.
- They can also assist in providing information to students about topical issues, such as assisting in assemblies for knife crime.
- If you don’t know your local officer – you can find out here - https://www.police.uk/pu/your-area/
2. Emergency Response Team Police Officers
- Also uniformed Police Officers, but they immediately respond to emergency calls.
- They deal with everything and anything, and bounce from ‘job to job’ and it’s unlikely that they will have had in depth-training about working with children.
- These officers are likely to be the ones attending if you call 999 in an emergency situation at school such as an intruder on school property.
3. Child Protection Team Detectives
- They are plain-clothed detectives that will have received specialist training in working with children.
- They will attend schools following referrals and strategy meetings and are likely to be the officers that you see the most frequently.
What Role does the Police have in Safeguarding?
The Police role in safeguarding is outlined in the Working Together to Safeguard Children document. Within this document police are listed as one of the three statutory safeguarding partners, alongside the Local Authority and Health.
If you have a concern about a pupil, and make a referral to Children’s Social Care, this will usually go through the MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub).
It is also sometimes known as the ‘Front Door’ or the ‘Children’s Advice and Support Service (CASS)’, depending on your Local Authority.
If there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm’, then they should convene a Strategy Discussion, which must involve at least the three statutory partners mentioned above. The school should also be invited as the source of the referral.
What are Strategy Discussions and What do the Police do in Them?
The Strategy Discussion is where professionals from various agencies meet to discuss the referral and concerns around the child. A Strategy Discussion has three objectives:
To share information between agencies
To agree the conduct of any criminal investigation
To decide whether S47 enquiries are appropriate
At the end of a Strategy Discussion, the Chair will go to all professionals and ask whether they believe S47 enquiries are appropriate.
This relates to S47 of the Children’s Act 1989, which requires Local Authorities to ‘undertake enquiries if they believe a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm’. It is sometimes called ‘Child Protection’ and is the most ‘serious’ outcome of a Strategy Discussion.
- The Police and a Social Worker will meet the child you have made the referral for.
- They will conduct basic enquiries immediately to establish the child’s safety and take immediate action if there are concerns.
- Police can instantly remove a child from someone with parental responsibility and take them into ‘Police Protection’ for up to 72 hours unlike Social Workers who must obtain a court order, e.g., EPOs.
- If the Police decide that a crime may have taken place, they will investigate.
- Often the investigation will include requesting the child’s records from school, which can be quite controversial and is often challenged. If you are unsure about the disclosure, speak to your safeguarding partner.
- KCSIE clearly states schools should not wait for the outcome of a Police investigation before protecting the children involved! Don’t delay acting to safeguard children out of a fear of disrupting a Police investigation and ask for help from your safeguarding partner!
- After the investigation, the Police will charge the perpetrator, or may take No Further Action (NFA). The Police role in the investigation is then finished.
- When the Police take NFA against a perpetrator, what should your school do?
- KCSIE says schools should continue to offer support to both parties for ‘as long as necessary’ and that the NFA does not mean that it did not happen, and schools should continue support with this in mind.
- We recommend putting an updated risk assessment in place and continuing to work with, and listen to, both parties.
The Police and Peer-on-Peer Abuse
The Police do NOT need to be called for every instance of peer-on-peer abuse. Ofsted’s ‘Sexual violence and sexual harassment’ paper makes clear that schools can deal with peer-on-peer abuse internally if suitable. However, as a starting point, reports of rape, assault by penetration or sexual assault should be passed to the Police.
When the Police are involved with a report of peer-on-peer, the process is referral, strategy discussion, and visit to the child. They will rely heavily on the school’s input you know the children involved and are able to explain the maturity of the pupils.
The Police will decide whether to treat the matter as criminal or whether to see it as an opportunity for other agencies to educate the perpetrator. Remember, the Police will try to act in the best interests of the children involved.
After the investigation, the Police will charge the perpetrator, or may take No Further Action (NFA). But what should schools do when the Police take NFA against a perpetrator. KCSIE says:
- Schools should continue to offer support to both parties for ‘as long as necessary.’
- NFA does not mean that it did not happen, and schools should continue support with this in mind.
5 Top Tips on How Schools Can Work More Effectively with the Police
1. Remember the importance of challengeVarious Safeguarding Practice Reviews emphasise the importance of professionals challenging each other. It can sometimes be intimidating to challenge the Police and their decision, but do not be afraid. Many Police officers in the strategy discussions really appreciate your opinion.
- This challenge extends to questioning them WITHIN the school too.
- Always have the ‘Working Together’ document available to quote to the Police when needed.
- Make sure to record your challenge appropriately – usually this will be on the child’s record. Or request this to be on the strategy meeting minutes themselves.
2. Make referrals ASAP!If you have a concern for a child, do not wait to refer it. Speak to the MASH as soon as you possibly can.
- Police decision making is heavily influenced by the promptness of a referral.
- If there is an emergency situation that requires the immediate presence of the Police, do not be afraid to call 999!
3. Share information on the childSchools often know the child, and family, better than many other professionals so other agencies value your relationship with them. Your school may be the only constant support in the child’s life.
- You work hard to foster positive relationships with your pupils and that is extremely beneficial for partnership working.
- Other agencies will be able to make much better decisions equipped with the wealth of knowledge you can give them in the Strategy Discussion.
4. Train staff on how to deal with disclosures from pupils and subsequently record themThe member of staff receiving the disclosure should feel confident in dealing with this as the child has chosen this member of staff to talk to for a reason! Quick tips include:
- Actively listen to the child – non-verbals, body language
- Make notes - at the time or immediately afterwards
- Do not promise confidentiality – Making a promise that will quickly be broken can erode the child’s trust in professionals and dissuade them from speaking up in the future.
- Reassure the child – they will probably be very scared so assure them they have done the right thing by telling you and that they are not in trouble.
- Establish basic facts, but don’t lead the child – For example, if a child comes in with a concerning bruise, instead of asking ‘Did dad do that?’, ask ‘How did you get that bruise?’ or the even broader ‘Tell me about that bruise’.
- The recording must be first-hand - Staff dealing well with disclosures is crucial for criminal investigations. The Defence in court will focus on the initial disclosure, and any inconsistencies or leading questions may be fatal to any prosecution. It is vital that the member of staff receiving the disclosure is the one who records it.
5. Use your Safer Schools officer or Safer Neighbourhood TeamsThey are a great source of local knowledge! Having a good relationship with your community Police can be invaluable. They can:
- Assist you in implementing safety plans around the school site (target hardening)
- Share information about community tensions (for example gangs that may be active locally)
- Assist in Policing the parking nightmare outside your school
- Hold talks with pupils and teachers (e.g. PREVENT)
Working with the LADO
Sometimes we need to investigate an allegation about a person in a position of trust. The role of the LADO is to ensure that allegations against people who work with children are not dealt with in isolation. They will manage and provide oversight for allegations against people working with children, though they will not investigate themselves. LADOs tend to be trained Social Workers, and there will usually be multiple LADOs for each Local Authority.
As almost all staff in schools work with children, leadership teams should be aware of how to use the ‘Harm Test’ and make a referral to the LADO within one working day of becoming aware of the concern. The harm test asks if someone who works with children 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
However, Low Level Concerns, i.e., concerns that cause a ‘nagging doubt’ about an individual but are not in themselves enough to meet the ‘Harm Test’, should be reported to the Headteacher, recorded and eventually referred to the LADO if the Headteacher believes the Harm Test has been met after multiple reports.
A LADO Investigation
If the ‘Harm Test’ is met, the LADO will start the relevant process and begin to direct the investigation. Once this begins, regular meetings will be chaired by the LADO – these are often called ‘PoT Meetings’, an acronym for ‘Position of Trust’, reflecting the status of the alleged perpetrator. Relevant agencies will be invited to share information and updates on the investigation, until the investigation is complete, and an outcome is achieved.When the investigation is complete, the PoT Meeting will seek professionals’ opinions on the outcome. There are five outcomes from a LADO investigation:
- Unfounded – There is no evidence or basis to support the allegation.
- Unsubstantiated – There is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove NB: it does not imply guilt or innocence.
- False – There is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation.
- Malicious – There is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation AND there has been a deliberate act to deceive or cause harm to the alleged perpetrator.
- Substantiated – There is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation.
Important Information for Schools regarding outcomes:
- If the allegation is substantiated, and the perpetrator is dismissed, resigns, or the school no longer chooses to use their services, the employer has a legal duty to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service themselves.
- For any other outcomes, your school should consider whether the child making the allegation has made it as a cry for help or may be being abused by someone else. You should also consider whether disciplinary action is appropriate, as per your behaviour policy.
- False and malicious allegations should be removed from personnel records. However, all other allegations should be retained until the accused has reached pension age OR from a period of 10 years from the date of the allegation if this is longer.
5 Key Takeaways to Help Schools Work More Effectively with the LADO
1. When considering a referral to the LADO, focus on the TRANSFERRABLE RISK of harm.
- If the allegation relates to concerning behaviour within school towards a pupil, then the risk is clearly present. However, what about scenarios where the allegations relate to activity outside of school?
- For example, if a member of staff has been caught drink driving, what is the transferrable risk of this harming pupils at the school? Was this on a Saturday morning after a night out? Or was this on the way to school?Same offence very different scenario! The latter presents a clear transferrable risk to pupils, whereas the former may not in isolation.
- If you are ever in any doubt – ask the LADO! But remember to think about the transferrable risk.
2. The LADO makes the final decision on whether an incident meets the threshold.
- Although you may bring concerns to the LADO, they are the ones who make the final decision, not the school.
- Never fear challenging a decision - you will know the member of staff and their circumstances far better than the LADO will.
3. Contact LADO within one working day of becoming aware of the allegation, after conducting your own basic enquiries.
- Working Together to Safeguard Children covers this, but always contact them for advice if it is something that you are not sure of.
- The LADO will expect basic enquiries to have been completed (e.g. was the area where the incident took place covered by CCTV? Was the staff member actually in school at the alleged time of the incident?)
- The LADO will give detailed advice on how to investigate, so do not investigate any further without consulting them.
4. Consider arranging training for those who will be leading investigations.
- LADOs encourage training in this area, as a good investigation can make a significant difference in safeguarding children.
- Many school staff have never received training in this area and therefore lack specialist skills in conducting investigations.
- The training should cover the investigation itself, but also about preparing a case file to eventually be shared with the LADO.
5. If the accused resigns during an investigation – DO NOT STOP INVESTIGATING!
- Although this does not necessarily indicate guilt, you must follow through with this investigation.
- In some circumstances, you may also need to make a referral to the DBS.
- Seek the advice of the LADO if this does happen, as they will be able to direct you appropriately.
NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council) Document –https://www.npcc.police.uk/documents/Children%20and%20Young%20people/When%20to%20call%20the%20police%20guidance%20for%20schools%20and%20colleges.pdf
You can follow the Safeguarding team on Twitter: @JudiciumSG
The Safeguarding Service is also providing CPD accredited open training courses for DSLs, ALL staff and Governors, including Level 3 equivalent DSL training. Upcoming dates and links to book your place are listed below:
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