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Whistle Policy

SUNBEAM FOSTERING AGENCY LTD

Confidential Reporting (Whistle Blowing) Policy

Agency reference

The policy is applicable for Sunbeam Fostering Agency and Sunbeam Pride Fostering respectively. Any reference to Sunbeam is for the relevant applicable agency dependent on the user. Sunbeam Fostering Agency includes Sunbeam London and Sunbeam Midlands.

Contents

Legislation and Guidance

Principles

Scope of Whistle Blowing Policy and Procedures

Safeguards Against Harassment or Victimisation

Confidentiality

Concerns Raised Anonymously

Unfounded Concerns and Allegations

Whistle Blowing Procedure

  • Raising a Concern
  • How Sunbeam Fostering Agency will Respond

The Responsible Officer

E-Files

LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

‘There is a whistle-blowing policy which is made known to all staff, volunteers, foster carers and panel members. This makes it a clear duty for such people to report to an appropriate authority any circumstances within the fostering service which they consider likely to significantly harm the safety, rights or welfare of any child placed by the service’ (19.6)

PRINCIPLES

Sunbeam Fostering Agency defines whistle blowing as the disclosure by a member of staff, volunteer, panel member, foster carer, child, or a person outside the agency, of confidential information which refers to some danger, fraud, or other illegal or unethical behaviour associated with our work. This disclosure of malpractice can be made about another colleague or about Sunbeam itself.

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

Sunbeam Fostering Agency is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability.  In line with that commitment, we expect employees and others with whom we deal who have serious concerns about any aspect of the Agency’s work to come forward and voice those concerns.  It is recognised that most cases will have to proceed on a confidential basis.

This policy document makes it clear that you can make a disclosure without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage.  This Confidential Reporting or ‘Whistle Blowing’ policy is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns within the Agency.

The policy applies to all employees and volunteers, and those contractors and their staff working for Sunbeam on our premises; for example, agency staff, builders and drivers.  It also covers providers of works, services and supplies, including Sunbeam’s external contractors and those providing services under a contract in their own premises; for example, foster homes. 

SCOPE OF WHISTLE BLOWING POLICY AND PROCEDURES

It is a requirement of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services that there is a whistle blowing policy made known to all staff and carers. This whistle blowing policy and procedures are in addition to, and do not replace, Sunbeam’s complaints and other statutory reporting procedures.

The whistle blowing policy and procedures are not an alternative route to the existing procedures in place to enable you to lodge a grievance relating to your own employment.

This policy aims to:

Encourage you to feel confident in raising serious concerns and to question and act upon concerns about practice;
Provide avenues for you to raise those concerns and to receive feedback on any actions taken to ensure that you receive a response to your concerns;
Ensure you are aware of how to pursue your concerns if you are not satisfied;
Reassure you that you will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if you have a reasonable belief that the malpractice disclosed has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur and that the disclosure is in the public interest.

Types of malpractice that might lead to Whistle Blowing include:

Conduct which is a criminal offence;
Disclosures related to miscarriages of justice;
Health and safety risks, including risks to the public, children, foster carers, as well as other employees;
Damage to the environment;
The unauthorised use of agency funds or resources;
Possible fraud and corruption;
Sexual, physical or emotional abuse of children or employees, or neglect;
Other unethical conduct.

Thus, any serious concerns that you have about any aspect of service provision or the conduct of officers or members Sunbeam Fostering Agency, including foster carers or others acting on behalf of Sunbeam, can be reported under these procedures.  This may be about something that:

Makes you feel uncomfortable in terms of known standards, your experience or the standards to which you believe Sunbeam subscribes;
Is against Sunbeam’s statement of purpose or policies;
Falls below established standards of practice;
May amounts to improper conduct.

SAFEGUARDS AGAINST HARASSMENT OR VICTIMISATION

Sunbeam Fostering Agency is committed to good practice and high standards and will be supportive of employees, children and foster carers.

The Agency recognises that the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make.  If you reasonably believe what you are saying is true, you have nothing to fear because you will be doing your duty to the Agency and those for whom you are providing a service.

The Agency will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation (including informal pressures) and will take immediate and appropriate action to protect you when you raise a concern.

Any investigation into allegations of potential malpractice made will not influence or be influenced by any disciplinary or redundancy procedures that may already affect you.

CONFIDENTIALITY

All concerns will be treated in confidence and your identity will not be revealed to the subject/s of your concern without your prior agreement.  Of course, in some instances you may need to come forward as a witness and this should be discussed with you.

CONCERNS RAISED ANONYMOUSLY

This policy encourages you to put your name to your concern/s. Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful, but will be considered at the discretion of the Agency.

In exercising this discretion, the factors to be taken into account would include:

The seriousness of the issues raised;
The credibility of the concern/s;
The likelihood of confirming any allegations from attributable sources.

UNFOUNDED CONCERNS AND ALLEGATIONS

If you make an allegation but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against you.  If, however, you make an allegation frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain, appropriate disciplinary action may be taken against you which could include dismissal.

WHISTLE BLOWING PROCEDURE

Raising a Concern

As a first step, you should normally raise concerns with your supervising social worker or immediate manager or his/her superior.  This depends, however, on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved and who is suspected of the malpractice. For example, if you believe that management is involved, you should directly approach the Chief Executive of Sunbeam Group or the Responsible Individual for the service on 0208 799 0930 or write to:

The Chief Executive, Sunbeam Fostering Agency Ltd., Block A, The Courtyard, Waterside Drive, Langley, Berkshire, SL3 6EZ

Alternatively, you may also contact:

Ofsted, Whistle Blowing Hotline (WBHL), Piccadilly Gate, Store Street, Manchester, M1 2WD; ring on 0300 123 3155 or email whistleblowing@ofsted.gov.uk

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome you have the right to express your concerns to the relevant Prescribed Person designated by the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 1999 or any statute or statutory instrument which subsequently supersedes this legislation.

If you reasonably believe that the relevant failure as listed in any of the above practices relates wholly or mainly to the conduct of a person other than someone in the Agency on or any other matter for which a person other than the Agency has legal responsibility, then you should make that disclosure to that other person.

Also, you may make such a disclosure to Public Concern at Work, the leading authority on public interest whistleblowing, if you consider that it has an interest in the matter and, despite the best efforts of the Agency, you believe that disclosure within the Agency is inappropriate or as noted previously has been unsuccessful. Disclosures made to legal advisors in the course of obtaining legal advice will be protected.

Concerns may be raised orally or in writing.  Staff who wish to make a written report are invited to use the following format:

About whom or what you are raising the concern;
The background and history of the concern (giving relevant dates);
The reason why you are particularly concerned about the situation;
Details of other persons involved or who are witnesses.

The earlier you express the concern the easier it is to take action.

Although you are not expected to prove beyond reasonable doubt the truth of an allegation, you will need to demonstrate to the person contacted that there are sufficient grounds for your concern.

You may invite your trade union or professional association representative or someone else who can support and advise you to be present during any meetings or interviews in connection with the concerns you have raised.

How Sunbeam Fostering Agency will Respond

The Agency will respond to your concerns formally.  Within ten working days of a concern being raised, the person with whom you have raised your concern will write to you:

Acknowledging that the concern has been received;
Indicating how it is proposed to deal with the matter;
Giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response;
Supplying you with information on support mechanisms.

Do not forget that the process of checking the details of your concerns is not the same as either accepting or rejecting them.

Where appropriate, the matters raised may:

Be investigated by management, internal audit, or through the disciplinary process;
Be referred to the police;
Be referred to the external auditor;
Form the subject of an independent inquiry.

In order to protect individuals and those accused of misdeeds or possible malpractice, initial enquiries will be made to decide whether a formal investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take.  The overriding principle which the Agency will have in mind is the public interest and protection of children. Concerns or allegations which fall within the scope of specific procedures (for example, child protection or discrimination issues) will be referred for consideration under those procedures.

Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for investigation.  If urgent action is required, this will be taken before any investigation is conducted.

The amount of contact between the officers considering the issues and you will depend on the nature of the matters raised, the potential difficulties involved and the clarity of the information provided.  If necessary, the Agency will seek further information from you.

Where any meeting is arranged this can take place off site if you so wish. You can be accompanied by a trade union or professional association representative or someone else who can support and advise you.

The Agency will take steps to minimise any difficulties which you may experience as a result of raising a concern.  For instance, if you are required to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings the Agency will arrange for you to receive advice and support about the procedure.

The Agency accepts that you need to be assured that the matter has been properly addressed and you will be informed of the outcome of any investigation.

THE RESPONSIBLE OFFICER

The Managing Director of Sunbeam Fostering Agency has overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of this policy, including minor updates/amendments.  He will maintain a record of concerns raised and the outcomes (but in a form which does not endanger your confidentiality) and will report as necessary to the Board of Directors.

E-FILES

Sunbeam operates a secure electronic record system for recording electronic files (“E-Files”). Secure and bespoke software is used for the system referred to as CHARMS (“CHARMS”), which is supported by a software provider.  This system is used to record all information relating to foster carers and looked after children. Any references in this document to files, records, cases or data would apply to information held on E-files using CHARMS.

Where any relevant matter, incident or event relating to Confidential Reporting is relevant to a Foster Carer to Child/Young Person, this should be recorded on E-files as appropriate (subject to Confidentiality).

This Confidential Reporting (Whistle Blowing) Policy should be read in conjunction with the following Sunbeam policies and procedures:

Child Protection Policy & Procedures
Allegations Incidents and Suspicions of Abuse by Staff or Carers Policy and Procedures
Safer Caring Policy
Conflicts of Interest Policy;
Comments, Compliments and Complaints Procedure.