Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 17

Next we come to the procedures to be followed by the Designated Teacher on receipt of a report from another member of staff.
22. Action by the Designated Teacher: The action to be taken will take into account:
  • the local inter-agency procedures of the Ealing Safeguarding Children Board;

  • the nature and seriousness of the suspicion or complaint. A complaint involving a serious criminal offence will always be referred to the SSD or the police without further action within the School;

  • the wishes of the pupil who has complained, provided that the pupil is of sufficient understanding and maturity and properly informed. However, there may be times when the situation is so serious that decisions may need to be taken, after all appropriate consultation, that override a pupil's wishes;

  • the wishes of the complainant's parents, provided they have no interest which is in conflict with the pupil's best interests and that they are properly informed. Again, it may be necessary, after all appropriate consultation, to override parental wishes in some circumstances. If the Designated Teacher is concerned that disclosing information to parents would put a child at risk, he or she will take further advice from the relevant professionals before making a decision to disclose

  • duties of confidentiality, so far as applicable;

  • the lawful rights and interests of the School community as a whole including its employees and its insurers, whilst ensuring that a child’s interests are paramount;

  • if there is room for doubt as to whether a referral should be made, the Designated Teacher may consult with the Local Authority Designated Officer or other appropriate professionals on a no names basis without identifying the family. However, as soon as sufficient concern exists that a child may be at risk of significant harm, a referral will be made within 24 hours. If the initial referral is made by telephone, the Designated Teacher will confirm the referral in writing to SSD within 24 hours. If no response or acknowledgment is received within three working days, the Designated Teacher will contact Social Services again.
I'm afraid we have utterly plumbed the depths again here. The first line really says it all. It says that bullets below describe what will be taken into account, not procedures for what will actually be done. This really isn't good enough.

The ISI supplementary report states the requirement very simply.
in the case of a disclosure or suspicion of abuse:

(i) the investigations are to be carried out by the local safeguarding children board or in case of doubt the advice of such an agency is to be sought;

(ii) the child’s interests are paramount;

(iii) referrals are made not only where a case is considered by the school to be serious and criminal;

(iv) no case of substance is investigated and dealt with under the school’s internal procedures.
So, let us make it clear what this means. Every allegation of any substance must be reported to the local safeguarding children board. The school must not investigate any case at all by itself.

There is a very good reason with this. The local safeguarding children board is not going to know the alleged perpetrator, and so is not going to be burdened with the belief that Mr. X or Father Y is a splendid chap who would never do such a thing. Also, the local safeguarding children board is not going to have a commercial interest in finding that there is nothing in the allegation. Paedophile cases are such bad business for a school, it frightens the parents something terrible to think that somebody might have been getting at little Johnny or Jemima.

And there is potentially a conflict of interest between a child who has been abused and the safety of the other children at the school. In many cases in different schools, parents have been persuaded that it is not in their child's best interest to make a formal complaint to the police or social services, because of the trauma of police questioning and the possibility of having to appear in court as a witness. So the parents are quietly promised that the teacher will be kept out of the way of their child, no action is taken against the teacher, everything is hushed up, and the teacher remains free to abuse other children.

But if no formal complaint is ever made, then the child can't be assessed to see what his or her needs really are. Because the local social services aren't informed, there is nothing done even to assess the continuing risk to that child. So the parents are gulled into thinking they are acting in the best interest of their child, when in fact the opposite is the case, and they never know because they have been kept away from the sources of advice that would enable them to make an informed decision about their child's welfare.

Now, I can't tell from merely reading the Child Protection Policy for St. Benedict's whether this scenario has occurred here. All I can say is that the policy as currently written would make it very easy for this to happen. Even though the policy states that "a serious criminal offence will always be referred to the SSD or the police" few parents will know the law well enough to know what kinds of acts involve a serious criminal offence. A large proportion of child sex abuse cases involve grooming the child before any serious physical contact is made, so that the child is drawn into complicity in the act. Unless the parents know the law well, it is possible to pass off almost anything short of rape or forcible buggery as not being a serious criminal offence, and a groomed child isn't going to be thinking that he or she has been the subject of a forced physical assault.

Also, the mention of duties of confidentiality in the policy can easily be manipulated to suggest that the school cannot make a report to social services without the consent of the child and the parents, and then the school goes about persuading the parents that in the interest of their child they ought not to consent.

Again, from the document I can't tell whether these kinds of games have been played by the school - they are certainly things that can and do happen elsewhere. All I can say is that the language of the policy looks designed to enable it.

The ISI commented in its report that "the school’s written policy for dealing with allegations and suspicions of abuse was focused on investigation by the school rather than speedy referral to outside agencies". Such investigation by the school is inherently bad safeguarding practice, and is open to the most serious abuse. That is why the ISI report required that "the investigations are to be carried out by the local safeguarding children board".

Once the local safeguarding children board has done an investigation (aided or not by the police as appropriate), there will be one of three possible outcomes.
  1. The allegation is decided to be without foundation.

  2. A criminal charge should be brought against the alleged abuser.

  3. If the alleged abuser is a member of staff or a governor, and the allegation has substance but does not involve a criminal offence, the matter is referred back to the school to undertake whatever disciplinary action is appropriate.
It is notable that the school's policy is entirely silent on what to do when social services refers a case back to the school under the third of these possible outcomes. The policy appears to treat a referral to social services as the end of their involvement.

Or more likely, the school has nothing on this subject because they never refer an allegation against staff or trustees to any outside agency. And in fact, the ISI report makes it clear that this is in fact the case.
The allegations against Fr DP were referred to social services by the school following disclosure by a pupil. The school’s safeguarding records since 2003 do not mention any other report to social services in connection with concerns related to staff, volunteers, trustees or monks.
On the occasion that they referred the allegations against Father David Pearce, the school had already lost the civil case against "C" (who had been awarded £43,000) and was at the time the subject of a Statutory Inquiry by the Charity Commission whose report was yet to be published, and had made a promise to the Charity Commission inspectors that Father David would be prevented from having access to children in future. I suspect that if the Charity Commission had discovered the case for themselves without it having been reported by the school, then the Charity Commission would have seriously considered deregistering the Trust as a charity.

1 comment:

  1. With their Safeguarding policy it is clear that the school has put in place every reason not to report to the LADO, police or Children's services and let’s not be fooled - this has been done by design and approved by Shipperlee, his signature is on the document. When you have a child abuse allegation, school administrations are convinced the best practice is to let in no light. Here once again adult logic is foolishly being employed. As I previously posted in Child Protection Policy 15 adult logic has no place in child abuse – instead one must have highly experienced people involved. This is why St Benedict’s must in future report all incidents of alleged abuse to the LADO or Children’s Services. It is for one of these members of the Ealing SCB to establish if the reoport is a minor incident and the child has not been harmed. If so then the matter can be passed back to the school in writing by the LADO or Children’s Services and all parties can be satisfied that right has been done.

    You see this school has no credibility on this subject, trust has been blown to the wind and this is because of what we have discovered. St Benedict's even broke primary legislation by failing to returne Notifications under the Education Acts which among other matters permitted Maestri to return to teaching despite him having 'left' St Benedict’s for abuse. The circumstances of this departure need to be understood - let's hope Lord Carlile informs us.

    In the coming report that Shipperlee has commissioned and will be paying for, expert opinion needs to be employed, someone who understands the dynamics of abuse particularly in independent fee paying schools where the dynamics are unique. We also need someone who understands the statutory framework such as it is, and the complete failure of the inspectorates on this subject.

    Returning to the (partially) revealing follow up report of the ISI and their comments brought to our attention in this most recent West posting.

    Can someone please explain –




    4. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO BE TOLD BY THE DfE WHAT ACTION THEY INTEND TAKING OVER THESE FAILURES BY THE ISI WHICH DEMONSTRATE THAT PARENTS cannot believe the safety critical safeguarding aspects of any report produced by the ISI

    The single most revealing thing is that these decades of failures at St Benedict’s have been discovered by a member of the public who has no access to St Benedict’s files. The safety critical inspectorate has had nothing to do with it.

    The ISI and its accomplice the DfE are part of the problem not the solution.