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3.2 Allegations Against Persons in a Position of Trust


  1. Introduction
  2. Scope of these Procedures
  3. Unsubstantiated Allegations
  4. Historical Concerns
  5. Employer’s Responsibilities
  6. Resignations
  7. Concerns that Do Not Meet Threshold for a Safeguarding Adults Enquiry

1. Introduction

For the purposes of this policy and procedure a person in a position of trust is someone who works with or cares for Adults at Risk in a paid or voluntary capacity. This includes ‘shared lives carers’ (previously known as ‘adult foster carers’).

Adults at Risk can be subjected to Abuse by those who work with them in any and every setting. All allegations of abuse, Neglect or maltreatment of Adults at Risk must be taken seriously and treated in accordance with procedures.

There is a particular concern when abuse is caused by the actions or omissions of someone who is in a position of power or authority and who uses their position to the detriment of the health and well-being of a person at risk, who in many cases could be dependent on their care.

There is always a power imbalance in a relationship of trust. Where the person who is alleged to have caused harm is in a position of trust with the Adult at Risk, they may be deterred from making a complaint or taking action out of a sense of loyalty, fear, of abandonment or other repercussions.

2. Scope of these Procedures

The safeguarding procedures apply where there is a concern, allegation or suspicion that a person working with Adults at Risk has:

  • Abused or neglected an Adult at Risk;
  • Behaved in a way that has harmed or may have harmed an Adult at Risk;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to an Adult at Risk';
  • Behaved towards an Adult at Risk in a way that indicates she or he is unsuitable to work with such adults; or
  • Any sexual relationship that develops between adults where one is in a position of trust, power or authority in relation to the other (e.g. day centre worker/social worker/residential worker/health worker etc.).

Concerns should be reported as a safeguarding adults concern. If it is decided that a safeguarding enquiry is required, the Safeguarding Adult’s process must be followed (see Part 2: Safeguarding Framework).

It is important to involve the person’s employer in the Safeguarding Adults process so the employer can:

  • Following consultation with agency making the enquiry, 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;
  • Take appropriate action in line with their own procedures, in particular, disciplinary procedures, to ensure Adults at Risk are protected from abuse and harm;
  • Carry out appropriate risk management and employment procedures – including referrals to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and other registration bodies;
  • Feedback the above actions into the Local Authority team with oversight of the Safeguarding Adults process.

If the person works for a commissioned service, the relevant commissioner should be informed. It should be clearly agreed whether the employers actions in relation to disciplinary procedures and DBS referrals where relevant are to be followed up within the safeguarding process or by commissioners. The local authority may also make a DBS referral where it is appropriate using information gathered as part of the safeguarding enquiry to support the application.

If there are concerns about the employers ‘fitness’ to operate in certain positions and safeguard Adults at Risk, the Care Quality Commission should be informed.

Where there are cross border issues, other local Authority Safeguarding Adults Teams should be informed.

If there are specific issues about the person’s contact with children, liaise with Children Teams and make a referral to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

3. Unsubstantiated Allegations

Where, following initial enquiries, it is concluded there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the allegation is substantiated, the Adult Safeguarding Manager will liaise with the employing agency. The relevant manager of that agency will consider what further action, if any, should be taken. The member of staff concerned must be notified in writing of the outcome and the service user and his/her relative where appropriate should also be informed of the outcome.

4. Historical Concerns

A historical allegation of adult abuse must be referred to the Adult Safeguarding team in the area where the abuse occurred for investigation.

An out of City/borough historical allegation of adult or child abuse must be referred to the most appropriate team in the City / County where the alleged abuse took place.

5. Employer’s Responsibilities

Where the person who is alleged to have caused the Abuse or Neglect has a relationship of trust with the Adult at Risk because they are a member of staff, a paid employee, a paid carer, a volunteer or a manager or proprietor of an establishment, the organisation will invoke its disciplinary procedures as well as taking action under the Safeguarding Adults procedures where appropriate (see Part 2: Safeguarding Framework). If a crime is suspected a report must always be made to the police.

Statutory, voluntary and private sector employers will be expected to:

  • Raise a safeguarding adults concern if there is an allegation of abuse or neglect;
  • Ensure the protection of Adults at Risk, and that their expressed desired outcomes are central to their decision making;
  • Take appropriate action in line with their own procedures, in particular, disciplinary procedures, to ensure Adults at Risk are protected from abuse and harm;
  • Ensure the organisation has a range of policies and procedures which will support their decisions;
  • Carry out appropriate risk management and employment procedures – including referrals to DBS and other registration bodies;
  • Ensure staff and volunteers are aware that what happens in their life outside of work may impact on their employment.

5.1  Communication with the Subject of the Allegations

The subject of 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.

5.2 Suspensions

Only the employer has the power to suspend an employee against whom allegations have been made. The employer cannot be required to suspend any employee by a local authority, police or other agency.

Where a serious allegation has been made employers should consider whether the employee should be suspended from duty in accordance with the provisions of their Disciplinary Procedure. Suspension should not be automatic. Advice should be sought from Human Resources advisors and / or employment lawyers who may assist with finding alternative arrangements to suspension. Suspension should be considered in any case where:

  • There is cause to suspect an Adult at Risk has suffered or is likely to suffer abuse or neglect; or
  • The allegation warrants investigation by the police; or
  • The allegation is so serious that it might constitute grounds for gross misconduct and /or dismissal.

The possible risks to the Adult at Risk should be evaluated and managed together with the risks to any other Adults at Risk or children in the accused member of staff’s home, work or community life.

An assessment should be made about the continuing risk to any Adult at Risk.

The assessment should include proposed actions to manage the risks of any Adult at Risk involved and any other Adults at Risk, or children who may be in contact with the employee in a home, work or community environment.

Where, on conclusion of a case, it is decided that a person who has been suspended can return to work this process should be carefully managed. The employer should consider what help and support might be appropriate, for example a phased return to work and / or provision of a mentor, and also how best to manage the employee contact with the adult concerned, if still in the work place.

6. Resignations

Any employee has the right to resign, giving contractual notice at any time during disciplinary proceedings. The management in consultation with Human Resources needs to consider how to respond in the event that the employee wishes to resign with ‘immediate effect’. It may be more appropriate to require the contractual notice period to be fulfilled. This will ensure that there is an obligation on the employee to co-operate with employment procedures. Employees may still fail to attend meetings.

Every effort should be made to define risks to ensure Adults at Risk are safeguarded in all cases even if the employee refuses to participate in an internal investigation, having been given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations.

If the employee’s period of notice expires before the disciplinary process is complete the employee should continue to be invited to participate at each stage of the process. It may not be possible to apply any disciplinary sanctions if an employee's period of notice expires before the process is complete.

Nevertheless, where an enquiry concludes that ‘there is a case to answer’ a disciplinary hearing should take place. If the (ex) employee fails to attend the chair should continue with the normal format of a disciplinary hearing and reach a conclusion to determine whether or not the allegations are proven. If some or all allegations are proven the chair of the hearing should record the action that would have been taken if the employee had remained in employment up to the date of the hearing. The (ex) employee must always be notified in writing of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.

Consideration must be given as to whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is warranted when any disciplinary process has been concluded.

See also: Referral guide for employers and volunteer managers.

Managers must not negotiate any form of ‘compromise agreements’ to release the employee without matters being concluded.

Regardless of the circumstances of an employee leaving their employment, the employer will have an obligation to consider requests for references. References must only be given by managers with the authority to provide an accurate reference and managers are advised to seek advice from Human Resources on receipt of reference requests.

7. Concerns that Do Not Meet Threshold for a Safeguarding Adults Enquiry

If the concerns do not meet the criteria for a safeguarding enquiry but is a concern about Abuse by a person in a position of trust, in some situations, the concern may be reported to the Local Authority Adult Safeguarding Manager. This may apply for example:

  • Where a person has more than one employer working with Adults at Risk;
  • An allegation arises in connection with the person’s life outside work (i.e. concerning Adults at Risk in the family or the social circle, risks to children, whether the individual's own children or other children);
  • A person in a position of trust has behaved in a way that has harmed children or may have harmed children which means their ability to provide a service to Adults at Risk should be reviewed.

When notified, the Adult Safeguarding Manager will make a monitoring log of each concern. The record will include details of the person referring, the person, the allegation, how the allegation was followed up and resolved, the decisions reached and the action taken.

The Adult Safeguarding Manager will work with the employer and commissioners to ensure that appropriate action is taken in line with their own procedures, in particular, disciplinary procedures, to ensure Adults at Risk are protected from abuse and carry out appropriate risk management and employment procedures – including referrals to DBS and other registration bodies.

Where concerns relate to historical abuse it is important to ascertain if the person is currently working with Adults at Risk or children and if that is the case, the Adult Safeguarding Manager may take legal advice as to whether the current employer should be informed.

In complex circumstances, formal meetings bringing together all the relevant parties may be held. This would routinely include the person’s employer (an exception would be where the employer was implicated in some way in the risk issue) and may include Care Quality Commission, commissioning, etc. The purpose of these meeting would be to share information, risk assess, agree actions to be taken and by whom and monitor to case conclusion.