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Sometimes whistleblowing is called ‘speaking up’ or ‘raising a concern’. It’s all about making sure if you see something wrong in your workplace or organisation, you can report this to the right people - within the organisation or outside it. Whistleblowing protects everyone within the organisation, your beneficiaries and the organisation itself by identifying harm early so action can be taken.
This guide has a focus on whistleblowing relating to safeguarding issues, but it is also useful when thinking about any type of whistleblowing. It focuses on questions you might ask yourself as you decide to raise a whistleblowing concern.
If you’re worried about the safety or wellbeing of a child or adult at risk (see our definition), you should start by finding out how your organisation deals with safeguarding concerns. If your concern is about anyone else, then you need to look for your organisations complaints procedure or the internal part of the whistleblowing procedure.
Hopefully your organisation has made it clear who you should speak to about safeguarding concerns. If you don’t know who to speak to, you should ask if the organisation has a designated safeguarding lead or a safeguarding policy and procedure that can tell you what to do next.
There is no need to have proof of harm or abuse before you report – a suspicion is enough.
You may believe your concern has not been dealt with. This might make you feel worried that your organisation is not taking safeguarding seriously.
This could happen in a number of ways including if:
You’ll need to consider what other action you can take and whether internal or external whistleblowing should be your next step.
If you are worried that your organisation is not taking safeguarding seriously or any acting unethically or illegally in other ways, you can consider telling an external organisation or people.
The law allows certain organisation to handle cases of whistleblowing which are in the public interest. They have obligations to investigate cases. You must make sure that you have chosen the correct person or organisation for your issue.
If you raise a concern with someone in your organisation, they will follow their established policies and procedures. They may want to discuss it with you to gain more information and to assess the nature and seriousness.
They may take some time to deal with it, but they should give you feedback on how your concern is progressing.
If you whistleblow externally the process will depend on the organisation you reported to, so make sure to ask them what to expect.
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It's not acceptable for anyone to be victimised for whistleblowing. Unfortunately, it still happens. The Public Interest Disclosure Act protects workers if they are bullied, harassed, dismissed or forced out of their job for raising whistleblowing concerns.
The protection from this law only applies to employed staff Volunteers are not included in this protection.
Nonetheless, if you’re a volunteer and you feel victimised for raising concerns then tell your organisation. Use your organisations volunteer problem solving policy if necessary. Though you don’t have the same rights as an employee, your organisation should still take the victimisation of a volunteer who is a whistleblower seriously.
How you speak up is important. Anonymously speaking up means no one knows who you are.
This may seem appealing but there are some potential downsides.
Although there are downsides you may feel reporting anonymously is the only way to come forward with vital safeguarding information. If that's what feels safest to you, then do it that way.
If you can do, confidentially or openly raising concerns avoids these downsides as:
Confidentially raising a whistleblowing concern means whoever you’ve approached will keep your identity secret. There are however, limits to this secrecy. For example, if you’ve raised a concern in the past, people may guess your identity.
Openly speaking up about a worry is often safer. Openness makes it easier for the employer to investigate and get more information. It may also encourage others to come forward as they’ll know a concern has been raised. This is often only possible in workplaces where there’s a positive culture for raising concerns.
If you decide you want to report an issue and you do not want anyone else to know it was you who raised the concern, you must say this straight away to the person you share this with.
A whistleblowing concern is when you witness a risk that affects someone other than yourself. For example, it could be that your organisation is not doing anything about flaws in a service that's provided to children, ultimately putting them at risk.
A grievance (for staff members) or complaint under problem solving procedures for volunteers is a personal issue which affects only you. For example, if you’re being bullied by a manager or colleague.
Last reviewed: 06 December 2018Help us improve this content
Resources and guides to help your organisation do safeguarding well
Understand the basics of safeguarding and why it's important
Find out what safeguarding means for your organisation
What the Charity Commission expects you to do, and the main areas of activity to focus on
Find out more about your legal and regulatory responsibilities in safeguarding
Get advice on the safeguarding challenges of working outside the UK
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