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1.5 Dealing with Allegations (Against Staff and Volunteers, Informal Carers, Family and Friends)

This chapter was added to the manual in April 2015.


  1. Introduction
  2. Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers
  3. Personal Assistants
  4. Allegations Against Informal (Unpaid) Carers, Relatives or Friends

1. Introduction

All allegations of abuse of an adult by those who work with adults must be taken seriously. Allegations against any person who works with adults, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity, cover a wide range of circumstances.

This procedure applies to all those who work with Adults, including:

  • Individuals working in a voluntary capacity;
  • Agency staff;
  • Contract workers (consultants or the self-employed);
  • Those working on or off site e.g. undertaking home visits;
  • Temporary and permanent employees;
  • ‘Shared lives carers’ (previously known as ‘adult foster carers’);
  • Personal Assistants employed through Direct Payments/Personal Budgets (See Section 3, Personal Assistants).

These people are also known as ‘persons in a position of trust’.

This procedure should be followed in all cases in which there is an allegation or suspicion that a person working with Adults has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed or may have harmed an Adult;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to an Adult;
  • Behaved towards an Adult in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with such adults;
  • Behaved in a way that has harmed children or may have harmed children which means their ability to provide a service to Adults must be reviewed;
  • Been subject to Abuse themselves, which means their ability to provide a service to Adults must be reviewed.

The allegations may relate to the person's behaviour at work, at home or in another setting.

Allegations of historical abuse should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. In such cases, it is important to find out whether the person against whom the allegation is made is still working with Adults.

2. Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers

Reporting Concerns

Any allegation of abuse must be reported to the worker's line manager or senior manager. If the manager is implicated in the allegation, the concern must be reported to a senior manager or the designated / named person for safeguarding Adults in that agency.

A record of the report, which is timed, dated and includes a clear name or signature must be made.

The recipient of an allegation must not unilaterally determine its validity, and failure to report it in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.

Any member of staff who believes that allegations or suspicions, which have been reported to the appropriate manager, are not being investigated properly has a responsibility to report it to a higher level in her/his agency or directly to the Safeguarding Adults Manager/Coordinator.

The Safeguarding Adults Manager/Coordinator must be told of all allegations that come to the employer's attention.

If, for any reason, there are difficulties with following the above procedure, the Whistleblowing Procedure should be considered or a referral made directly to Adult Social Care under Stage Two: Making a Referral and / or the police.

Initial Consideration of Allegation

An allegation may require consideration from any of the following four inter-related perspectives:

  • Safeguarding Assessments by Adult Social Care about whether an adult needs protection or services;
  • Criminal investigation by the police;
  • Staff disciplinary procedures of the employing agency;
  • Complaint procedures of the employing agency.

Where a member of staff, carer or volunteer is implicated in a case of alleged abuse, immediate discussion will take place between the employer and Adult Social Care. The police and health care providers should also be involved as appropriate.

A Strategy Meeting will be convened immediately in accordance with the Stage Four: Strategy Discussion or Meeting Procedure.

The Strategy Meeting (preferably with a dedicated minute taker) must:

  • Review any previous allegations made against the worker and the establishment;
  • Decide whether there should be a Safeguarding Assessment and/or an internal disciplinary investigation;
  • Consider the implications arising from the police decision whether or not to investigate an allegation of crime;
  • Allocate tasks;
  • Set time-scales;
  • Decide who to inform.

Where the allegation or concern relates to an adult in a Regulated Activity, for example, a residential care home or nursing home or adult placement scheme or is supported by a domiciliary care or nursing agency, the Care Quality Commission as the Regulatory Body, should be informed and invited to the Strategy Meeting.

Managing Issues Relating to the Subject of the Allegations

The employer should, following consultation with Adult Social Care and the Police where appropriate, inform the subject of the allegations. If it is deemed appropriate to conduct an investigation prior to informing those who are implicated, a clear record needs to be made of who took the decision and why.

Suspension of the employee concerned from his or her employment should not be automatic, but should be considered if:

  • There is cause to suspect an Adult has suffered Abuse or Neglect; and/or
  • The allegation warrants investigation by the police; and/or
  • The allegation is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal.

Where an investigation requires the suspension of the member(s) of staff implicated, the appropriate employer's procedures must be followed.

This will include consideration of whether a referral should be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service because the person concerned is considered unsuitable to work with Adults.

The Subject of the Allegations Should be:

  • Advised at the outset to contact her/his Union or professional association;
  • Treated fairly and honestly and helped to understand the concerns expressed, processes involved and possible outcomes;
  • Kept informed of the progress of the case and of the investigation;
  • Clearly informed of the outcome of any investigation and the implications for disciplinary or related processes;
  • Provided with appropriate support (via occupational health or employee welfare arrangements where these exist);
  • (If suspended) kept informed about workplace developments.

Resignations and Compromise Agreements

All allegations should be followed up regardless of whether the person involved resigns her/his post, responsibilities or a position of trust, even if the person refuses to co-operate with the process.

'Compromise agreements', where a person agrees to resign without any disciplinary action and agreed future reference, must not be used in these cases.

Substantiated Allegations

If the allegation is substantiated and the person is dismissed or the employer ceases to use the person's services, or the person resigns or otherwise ceases to provide her/his services, the Safeguarding Adults Manager/Coordinator should discuss with the employer whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service is required, or advisable, and the form and content of such a referral.

The Safeguarding Adults Manager/Coordinator should also advise whether it is appropriate to make a referral to a professional body or regulatory body e.g. the General Social Care Council, the General Medical Council or the Care Quality Commission.

If a referral is appropriate, it should be made within one month of the conclusion of the case.

If an allegation is substantiated, the employer should review the circumstances of the case to determine whether there are any improvements to be made to the organisation's procedures or practice to help prevent similar events in the future.

Unsubstantiated Allegations

Where, following initial enquiries, it is concluded there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the allegation is substantiated, the chair of the Strategy Meeting (see Stage Four: Strategy Discussion or Meeting Procedure) will ensure relevant information is passed to the employing agency. The relevant senior manager of that agency will consider what further action, if any, should be taken in consultation with the Safeguarding Adults Manager/Coordinator.

The member of staff concerned must be notified in writing of the outcome and the service-user and his/her relative should also be informed of the outcome.

3. Personal Assistants

The Local Authorities are committed to providing personalised care and support to people through provision of Personal Budgets and Direct Payments which allow people to exercise maximum choice and control over how their needs are met.

Arranging care through a direct payment may bring additional risks which should be addressed as part of support planning with vulnerable people.

Employment of Staff

People who employ their own staff may be less inclined to come forward if there are problems with staff. People may not realise that certain treatment by their staff may constitute abuse. People may need additional support to follow a disciplinary process.

People employing their own staff should be supported to keep themselves safe by:

  • Checking references and Disclosure and Barring Service checks before employing staff;
  • Setting out clear boundaries and expectations of staff;
  • Seeking advice over any concerns of bullying, harassment or any other form of abuse from staff.

Recruitment of Staff

If recruiting a new Personal Assistant (PA) people should arrange an induction explaining exactly what is expected of them and to what standard. They should also ensure a review of the PA’s performance (through appraisals) should take place after 3 months and 6 monthly thereafter.

If issues arise with the PA’s performance or attitude, actions may include:

  • Safeguarding Adult Alert - Contact Adult Social Care to make a Safeguarding Alert reporting the abuse, neglect or mistreatment. This should happen prior to any disciplinary meeting. Adult Social Care will support you throughout the process. Ask to make a Safeguarding Adults Alert;
  • Supervision meeting - to have the opportunity to talk through any issues relating to quality of care;
  • Disciplinary meeting - to address unacceptable behaviour, breach of contract, gross misconduct etc. Before undertaking a disciplinary meeting, you may need to check employer’s liability insurance provider.

Direct Payments Not Agreed

Adult Social Care should not agree to a Direct Payment or arrangements for self-directed support if there are reasonable grounds to believe the Adult will employ someone likely to abuse them.

Reasonable grounds includes:

  • Evidence of past criminal or non-criminal investigations relating to the alleged abuse of Adults or children that resulted in a conviction or police caution; or
  • A finding that the allegation was proved, admitted or likely on the balance of probability.

It also includes:

  • Other relevant criminal convictions (such as for theft or violence);
  • Disciplinary action (such as dismissal for gross misconduct);
  • Removal of the person from the Health and Care Professions Council or any other register of professional staff (such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council).

4. Allegations Against Informal (Unpaid) Carers, Relatives or Friends

This procedure will apply where the alleged perpetrator of abuse is a family member, a friend or an informal (unpaid) carer (whom may also be a family member or a friend).

Wherever it is suspected that a crime may have been committed, then the police must be notified.

However, there may be situations where harm has been caused unintentionally, for example because the carer is also an Adult and/or who does not have the necessary skills, knowledge or awareness to provide care without inadvertently causing harm.

In such a situation, the focus should be on providing assistance to the carer with the aim of enabling them to provide safe care.

A carer’s assessment should follow the legal requirements of the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 and take into account the following factors:

  • Whether the adult for whom they care has a Learning Disability, mental health problems or a chronic progressive disabling illness that creates caring needs which exceed the carer’s ability to meet them;
  • The emotional and/or social isolation of the carer and the Adult;
  • Whether there is minimal or no communication between the Adult and the carer either through choice, mental incapacity or poor relationship;
  • Whether the carer is or is not in receipt of any practical and/or emotional support from other family members or professionals;
  • Financial difficulties;
  • Whether the carer has an enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney or appointeeship;
  • Whether there is a personal or family history of violent behaviour, alcohol or other substance abuse or mental illness;
  • The physical and mental health and wellbeing of the carer.