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Reporting safeguarding concerns to regulators

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When you are managing safeguarding concerns where either your organisation or your staff, volunteers, trustees or anyone in contact with your organisation has caused harm or pose a risk to individuals you will usually need to make a number of different reports.

Who you report to will depend on the severity of the incident and the status or funding of your organisation. Each organisation will have guidelines on when and how you must report a concern to them.

The Disclosure and Barring Service

The Disclosure and Barring Service provides information on criminal records and barring decisions. It helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with adults at risk and children.

If a safeguarding concern involves staff or volunteers who’ve caused harm or posed a significant risk of causing harm to individuals, you should consider making a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service. If staff or volunteers have been dismissed or removed from your organisation and you work directly with children and adults at risk, you must make a referral.

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission requires any registered charity to report ‘serious incidents’. You must report to the Charity Commission if any safeguarding concerns have resulted or could have resulted in harm. This includes some situations where your own policies or procedures have not been followed properly. If those breaches have put people who come into contact with the charity through its work at significant risk of harm, you must report them even if no actual harm occurred.

What needs to be reported depends on the context of your charity, taking account of its staff, operations, finances and/or reputation. A report should always be made where the level of harm to the victims and/or the likely damage to the reputation of or public trust in the charity is particularly high.

If an incident has occurred involving one of your charity’s partners in the UK or internationally, which materially affects your charity, its staff, operations, finances and/or reputation then this may also need to be reported to the Charity Commission by your charity. This includes where the partner is delivering on your behalf, is a subsidiary trading company, received funding from you or connected through a federated structure.

The responsibility for reporting serious incidents rests with the charity’s trustees. In practice, this may be delegated to someone else within the charity, such as the CEO or DSL. You should ensure that you follow any protocol for delegated authority to report to the Charity Commission. If in doubt, always ensure that trustees have authorised the report.

Upon receipt of a report, the role of the Charity Commission must:

  • focus on the conduct of the trustees
  • focus on steps the trustees have taken to protect the charity
  • consider what the trustees have done to make sure they’re compliant with their legal duties and responsibilities towards the charity in managing safeguarding concerns.

Even if the incident is not illegal or there is no police investigation, the Charity Commission may still have serious concerns about the charity, the conduct of its trustees or its safeguarding systems. They will be looking for reassurance that your organisation has taken steps to limit the immediate impact of the incident and, where possible, prevent it from happening again. They may undertake an investigation and decide how to respond on the basis of evidence collected.

The Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission monitors, inspects and regulates health and social care services provided by hospitals, care homes, doctors and dentists in England. If your organisation receives funding from an NHS Commissioning Group, or are inspected by the CQC you may need to report incidents that affect the health, safety or welfare of people who use your services.

Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED)

OFSTED inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. This includes adoption and fostering agencies, and residential homes and facilities. If your organisation provides social care for children and is inspected or regulated by Ofsted, you may need to report serious incidents to them.

National Crime Agency

In cases where a person has committed or potentially committed a child sexual abuse/exploitation offence overseas, involving a British national or a person with a claim to UK residency, the UK authorities may have an interest even though it is overseas.

The NCA advise reporting to them after the concern has reported locally in the country where the offence allegedly took place.

Health and Safety Executive

The Health and Safety Executive is the independent regulator of work-related health, safety and illness.They are responsible for enforcing health and safety laws where a body has caused or has potential to cause significant harm, or alleges the denial of basic employee welfare facilities. Your organisation may need to report injuries, diseases, dangerous occurrences and concerns raised by workers, the public or others.

Professional bodies

Where you have staff or volunteers who is a member of a regulated profession, and they have been the subject of an allegation or concern, you may also choose to refer the issue to that professional body. These tend to deal with issues relating to fitness to practice or bringing that profession into disrepute. They tend to be for roles with specific health or social care responsibilities.

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