Safeguarding children: Ofsted’s whistleblowing policy
Ofsted recently published its external whistleblowing policy outlining procedures to adopt when receiving referrals about children’s safety and their safeguarding arrangements.
The document defines whistleblowing as:
“…someone who works in or for an organisation [who] wishes to raise concerns about malpractice, wrongdoing, illegality or risk in the organisation (for example, crimes, civil offences, miscarriages of justice, dangers to health and safety)”
The Whistleblowing Act (also known as The Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998) encourages those working in child-centred workplaces to promote accountability and self-regulation. Where there is genuine concern about child safeguarding, the Act promotes public interest by providing a service that protects the worker who raises honest concern against reprisals from their workplace.
Differing from a personal complaint or a grievance, whistleblowing generally applies when there is no vested interest and a person is acting as a witness to misconduct or malpractice they have observed.
If you do find that you have genuine concerns regarding child safety, you should decide whether the matter is an emergency. If the danger surrounding a child is imminent, it is best to directly contact your local authority’s children’s services or the police straight away. It is important to remember any details that may be needed at a later date.
In the situation where the danger is less imminent, you may contact the Whistleblower Hotline (0300 123 3155). They will need to know whether you have already raised your concern internally and whether there was any action taken. Once the hotline attendant has gathered as much information as possible they will forward the record onto specially trained staff to determine whether Ofsted is able to take action on your behalf.
When your concern is being dealt with by Ofsted, they will categorise into one of the following:
- Category 1:
child protection concerns about a ‘risk of harm’ to specific child or childrens. Ofsted’s Compliance, Investigation and Enforcement (CIE) team will immediately refer the matter to the local authority’s child protection team for urgent attention.
- Category 2:
specific concerns or allegations about wider or systematic failure in safeguarding practice in the local authority. These will be referred to the Ofsted whistleblowing team.
There should be a transparent system in place when whistleblowing. If however you are worried about raising a concern you would be wise to seek out independent advice. This can be found through your union or through the charity Public Concern at Work.