Management guidance and procedures

Recognition of abuse

It is recognised that some members of the University will have only slight contact with children at work and consequently may not be in a position to recognise abuse. (See Procedure Appendix 1 for definitions of abuse).

The recognition of abuse is not always easy and the University acknowledges that members of staff may not be experienced in this area and will not easily know whether or not abuse is taking place. Indeed, it is not the place of University members to make such a judgement, but it is their responsibility to act on any concerns in order to safeguard the welfare of the child.

Dealing with a disclosure

The following procedure should be adhered to if any person has concerns about the safety of a child or if a disclosure is made, particularly if a child or another adult says something or acts in such a way that abuse is suspected.

Remember that those who abuse children can be of any age (even other children), gender, ethnic background or class and it is important not to allow personal preconceptions about people to prevent appropriate action taking place.

Therefore the following advice and guidance is given:

  • React calmly
  • Reassure the child it is OK for them to talk to you
  • Do not promise confidentiality, but explain that it may be necessary to consult/share information with another colleague to (for example) protect them from further harm.
  • Keep questions to a minimum. If necessary, ask open and/or non-leading questions, e.g. is there anything else you want to say? ‘Can you tell me more about that?’
  • On an Incident Report Form, make a full record of what has been said/observed/heard (within 24 hours of disclosure). Use the child’s language where possible. Include the date, time and place the disclosure was made.
  • Refer the incident to your Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) as soon as possible and do not tell any other adults or children about it. Ensure that the relevant DSO receives your Incident Report Form. (Any information regarding child protection issues will be stored in a secure place and there will be limited access to this by the DSO).

Please note:

All staff have a responsibility for action in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. See Procedure Appendix 1 for definitions of abuse. University staff are encouraged to discuss any concerns with a DSO in the University.

Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality. Suspicions must not be discussed with anyone else on campus other than the SDSO or DSOs. If the SDSO/DSO is absent then individuals should not delay and contact Oxford’s Children’s Social Care Team. For contact details, see Procedure Appendix 2 (PDF 79KB).

Under no circumstances should members of the University carry out their own investigation into suspicions or allegations of abuse, neither should they question children closely, as to do so may distort any investigation that may be carried out subsequently by the Police or Social Services.

Regardless of how the initial assessment develops, the DSO responding to the issue/allegations will follow up with all relevant parties/stakeholders to ensure it was concluded

Reporting

Refer any incident or suspicion to a DSO or SDSO through the ‘Incident Report form’ see Procedure Appendix 3 (Word doc 48KB)

Procedure: Dealing with Allegations of Abuse against Staff or Volunteers

All members of the University (including those members with obligations to particular codes of conduct/professional ethics that may be thought to constrain their actions) are required to report or act on any disclosures or allegations of abuse that involve a member of the University and that have taken place on campus or on University business. This must be in line with both the Children Act (2004) and current Health and Safety legislation (so that the risks either of further abuse and of litigation against the University, can be eliminated or removed).

The University recognises the importance of having a procedure in place for dealing with allegations against staff and volunteers who work with children. This procedure must aim to strike a balance between the need to protect children from abuse and the need to protect staff and volunteers from false or unfounded allegations.

If a member of staff has concerns about a child’s safety or a child confides in a member of staff, in relation to another member of staff’s actions, they should:

  • report this immediately to a Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO). The DSO will obtain any notes of the allegation from the member of staff.

Procedure to follow allegation:

  • The DSO will report this allegation to the Director of Human Resources, who may designate one of the managers within Human Resources to act on his/her behalf.  The DSO should also report, and provide a copy of the Incident Report Form, to the SDSO, who will be required to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) at Oxfordshire County Council, (currently Alison Beasley tel. no. 01865 815956) within one working day of the allegations made.
  • The Human Resources representative will contact the member of staff against whom the allegations have been made. Throughout, the University will aim to balance the welfare of the accused member of staff and the interests of the investigation, taking account of the need to minimise the stress to anyone who may be wrongly or mistakenly accused. The initial assessment will be undertaken within 48 hours and may require further information to be obtained from the member of staff who reported the concern/allegation.
  • The individual will be made aware of the nature of the allegations that have been made against him/her and notified that an initial assessment of the allegation will be undertaken by the Human Resources representative in conjunction with the SDSO.
  • The Human Resources representative will also inform the parents of the child(ren) of the allegation. At this stage the name of the member of staff will remain confidential.
  • Whilst allegations are being investigated the member of staff whom allegations have been made against will be removed from all further activities that involve contact with children. This may also necessitate formal (paid) suspension from work if felt appropriate. Suspension would not imply guilt and may be prudent to protect the member of staff and the reputation of the University. Such decisions would be made on a case by case basis. Separate provision for Nursery staff applies.
  • The University acknowledges such allegations are likely to be extremely stressful for the individual concerned and are likely to have a significant impact on him/her even if the allegations are not substantiated. The individual will therefore be offered support from the University.

The University acknowledges that such allegations are highly sensitive and will ensure that confidentiality is maintained throughout the assessment and investigation process.

If the initial assessment reveals a need for further investigations then there may be up to three strands in the consideration of an allegation:

  • a police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
  • enquiries and assessment by children’s social care about whether a child is in need of protection or in need of services; and
  • consideration by the University of a potential disciplinary action in respect of the individual.

The University may also be requested to provide information and help agree how the social services team and/or the Police will undertake their enquiries.

Guidelines for Staff/Volunteers Working with Children and/or Young People

Minimising risk

All members of the University should be encouraged to demonstrate exemplary behaviour when working with children. The following are common sense examples of how to create a positive culture and climate.

Good practice

Staff should:

  • treat all children equally and with dignity regardless of age, sex, religion, race etc;
  • always put the welfare of the child first;
  • wear clothing that promotes a positive and professional image, is appropriate to their role and the activities they are undertaking, is not offensive, revealing or sexually provocative and is absent of any political or otherwise contentious slogans;
  • keep a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given and
  • refer all concerns of a child’s welfare and safety to a Designated Safeguarding Officer.

Staff should avoid:

  • working alone with a child. If a child requests a private interview, ask a teacher/adult to be present or ensure there is visual access and/or an open door;
  • physical contact, especially if there is risk of it being misinterpreted by the child. There may be some occasions where physical contact is necessary, such as if a child is distressed or a member of staff needs to administer first aid. Staff are asked to use their discretion in these circumstances. If this occurs, it is advised two members of staff are present and
  • going into a child’s room unless absolutely necessary. If activities involve overnight stays, appropriate sleeping arrangements must be considered.

Should never:

  • give out personal details. This includes your home address and personal telephone/mobile phone number;
  • interact with, or accept friend requests on their personal accounts from, children or young people you are working with on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter;
  • share a room overnight with a child, or go into a child’s room unless absolutely necessary. (If it is necessary, two members of staff should enter.);
  • invite or allow children to stay with you at your home unsupervised;
  • allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching;
  • allow or engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games with children;
  • allow or use inappropriate language;
  • make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun;
  • deliberately reduce a child to tears as a form of control.
  • allow allegations made by a child to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon and
  • do things of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves.

Further help and advice

The University recognises that children who have been abused, or witness violence, may find it difficult to develop a sense of self-worth. They can feel helplessness, humiliation and a sense of blame. Brookes may provide the only stability in the lives of some children and we will endeavour to support them by:

  • liaising with other agencies that support children, (e.g. Social Care and Health) where appropriate;
  • providing opportunities for children to discuss and explore issues around safety and ensuring children know who to talk to in Oxford Brookes if they need help and
  • promoting a positive ethos within Oxford Brookes, giving children the sense of being safe, supported and valued.

It is recognised that staff may need support after receiving a disclosure from a child and appropriate counselling will be offered by the University.