Reporting Safeguarding Concerns - KCSIE Changes
7 January 2020
Our 'go to' statutory guidance on the topic of safeguarding is 'Keeping Children Safe in Education' (KCSIE). The latest version is from September 2019, with a few minor updates on 1 October 2019.
The key changes can be found at paragraphs 27 and 28 of KCSIE. Although schools are aware that safeguarding is everyone's responsibility, the guidance goes a step further to confirm that all staff should be aware that children can abuse other children. This is often referred to as peer-on-peer abuse and can include: bullying; cyberbullying; physical abuse; sexual violence, sexual harassment; upskirting; sexting and initiation type violence or rituals.
Although School's have a designated safeguarding lead (DSL) to oversee child protection and safeguarding issues, all staff play a fundamental role in responding to safeguarding matters. When faced with issues such as peer-on-peer abuse, child exploitation and online safety, staff must implement the School's policies promptly.
The number of these types of allegations is increasing and multi-agency working will be critical. We advise our schools clients to seek guidance at an early stage from the appropriate expert. The first session at our Independent Schools' Conference in January 2020 is entitled 'Managing allegations of peer-on-peer abuse', and will cover the requirements and practical application in more detail.
Where there are concerns about a child's welfare, these should be acted on immediately. Staff should work collectively as a team to communicate and, where necessary, escalate concerns. It is essential that a School has clear policies and procedures for recording, reporting and responding to safeguarding concerns.
KCSIE requires safeguarding policies to be reviewed at least annually and the latest version must include details on the new Local Safeguarding Arrangements that apply in you school's local authority area. The arrangements were required to have been published by 29 June 2019 and implemented by 29 September 2019 (para 69 of KCSIE). We are now 3 months past the deadline for implementation and most local authorities now have their local arrangements in place.
In order to report incidents or concerns quickly and effectively, it is important to have all the necessary information to hand. Staff should continue to consider whether or not the consent of the child's parents should be sought before making a referral. If seeking consent may place the child at risk of significant harm, parents should not be consulted, but staff should always remember to record their reasons for not doing so.
Schools must ensure that all who come into contact with pupils, including staff, governors and volunteers, receive appropriate safeguarding training which covers the relevant safeguarding policies and the role of the DSL.
To the Local Authority:
It is vital that accurate records of allegations and incidents are kept. An essential part of the DSL's role is making referrals to children's social care services through locally arranged procedures. To help prevent delay, all the relevant information should be provided in the referral and should include the steps that the school has already taken (if any). Clear and correct language should be used to describe the concern or incident and to illustrate the risk the child faces.
To the DBS:
The recently updated version of KCSIE includes more detailed guidance regarding a School's legal duty to refer to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) anyone who has harmed, or poses a risk of harm, to a child. The guidance confirms that an investigation should be carried out when an allegation is made in order to gather enough evidence to establish whether there is a case to be answered. Referrals to the DBS should ordinarily be made as soon as possible and either on conclusion of an investigation, when an individual is removed from regulated activity, when the individual is redeployed to work that is not regulated activity, they resign or they have been suspended or dismissed.
Schools must ensure that staff are aware of how to refer a matter to social care services or other bodies and when it may be appropriate to suspend a member of staff when an allegation is made against them.
KCSIE states that suspension should not be the default position when an allegation is reported. All of the circumstances must be carefully considered and an individual should only be suspended if there is no reasonable alternative.
However, if a staff member is suspended, the School continues to owe a duty of care to the employee whilst they are suspended. It is essential that any allegation made against a teacher or other member of staff is dealt with quickly, in a fair and consistent way that provides effective protection for the child and, at the same time, supports the person who is the subject of the allegation. Whilst the investigation is underway, the School must ensure that the individual is kept informed of both the progress of their case and current work-related issues. Social contact with colleagues and friends should not normally be prevented unless there is evidence to suggest that such contact is likely to be prejudicial to the gathering of evidence.