22. Action by the Designated Teacher: The action to be taken will take into account: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 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.
The ISI supplementary report states the requirement very simply.
in the case of a disclosure or suspicion of abuse: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.
(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.
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.
- The allegation is decided to be without foundation.
- A criminal charge should be brought against the alleged abuser.
- 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.
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.