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What you need to know about whistleblowing

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Sometimes whistleblowing is called ‘speaking up’ or ‘raising a concern’. It’s about making sure if you or someone else sees something wrong, it’s reported to the right people. Whistleblowing policies protect your organisation, everyone within it and people you work with.

This is why you must have a whistleblowing policy, so harm can be identified early, action can be taken and everyone can be safer.

Key principles for effective whistleblowing arrangements

There are five key principles for setting up, running and reviewing effective whistleblowing arrangements.


You must make it clear you’re committed to encouraging staff and volunteers to raise concerns. Leaders should take action to build a culture where safeguarding is taken seriously and people are respected for taking action to keep people safe. They must not tolerate bullying or harassment against those who speak up.

Whatever the size of your organisation, senior managers and trustees must discuss how to make those arrangements effective – alongside other work on safeguarding. They need to be sensitive to the power dynamics of your organisation, especially between staff and volunteers.

Your policy

You can either have a standalone policy or include whistleblowing in your general safeguarding policy. It should be written in plain English so all staff can understand the policy and raise concerns as soon as they are worried.

The document should cover:

  • how to raise whistleblowing concerns internally and externally
  • protection and confidentiality
  • how internally raised concerns will be investigated, recorded and dealt with
  • how you will let people who raised a concern know the outcome.

Want to see an example whistleblowing policy? Check out our sample whistleblowing policy and procedure.

Briefing and training managers

When you have good safeguarding policies, procedures and training, many concerns will be raised openly as part of day-to-day practice.

Whistleblowing is for when those procedures have gone wrong and people feel that their concerns are not being taken seriously. Whistleblowing allows people to escalate their concerns. Escalating means reporting to someone more senior – and in a small organisation, to a different trustee - and eventually outside the organisation.

Managers need to understand their responsibilities around the investigation process, maintaining the confidentiality of the whistleblowing and feeding back to the person raising the concern.

Effective communications

You must communicate your whistleblowing arrangements to everyone.

Good examples of how to do this include:

  • posters
  • screensavers
  • team briefings
  • a piece written by the chief executive or chair for a newsletter or blog
  • staff surveys.

Review of arrangements

You should regularly review how well your arrangements are working.

You could review:

  • the number of whistleblowing concerns raised
  • types of concern
  • staff survey results
  • feedback from staff briefings
  • incidents that are known about but were not properly reported internally to the safeguarding lead, managers or trustees
  • incidents that people you work with reported outside your organisation before they told anyone inside the organisation.

Last reviewed: 06 December 2018

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 December 2018

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