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Blackpool Social Work and Safeguarding ServiceProcedures Manual

Whistleblowing

Contents

  1. Whistleblowing Policy
  2. Policy and Procedure Statement
  3. Scope of this Policy
  4. Harassment or Victimisation
  5. Confidentiality
  6. Anonymous Allegations
  7. Untrue Allegations
  8. Support for Employees

  9. Whistleblowing Procedure
  10. How to Raise a Concern
  11. Managers
  12. Other Related Procedures
  13. Internal Disclosures
  14. How the Council will Respond
  15. The Responsible Officer
  16. How the Matter Can be Taken Further
  17. Appendix 1: Internal Contacts
  18. Appendix 2: External Contacts
  19. Appendix 3: Report Made Under the Whistleblowing Procedure
  20. Appendix 4: Procedural Flowchart

1. Policy and Procedure Statement

Employees are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within the Council. However, they may not express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the Council. They may also fear bullying, harassment or victimisation. In these circumstances it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may be a suspicion of malpractice.

Blackpool Council is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, professionalism and accountability. In line with that commitment we expect employees, and others that we deal with, who have serious concerns about any aspect of the Council's work, to come forward and voice those concerns.

This document makes it clear that employees can do so without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage. Anyone who raises a concern is protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which is incorporated into the Employment Rights Act 1996. This Whistleblowing Policy is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns within the Council rather than overlooking a problem or `blowing the whistle' outside. Remember, a whistleblower is a witness, not a complainant.

The Policy applies to all employees and those contractors working for the Council on its premises, for example, volunteers, agency staff, builders etc. It also covers suppliers and those providing services under a contract with the Council in their own premises, for example, care homes.

This procedure is in addition to the Authority's complaints procedures and other reporting procedures applying to some departments. The holding of any data in connection with this procedure will comply with the Data Protection Act 1998.

2. Scope of this Policy

This Policy aims to:

  • Encourage employees to feel confident in raising serious concerns and to question and act upon concerns about practice;
  • Provide guidelines for employees to raise concerns and receive feedback on any action taken;
  • Ensure that employees receive a response to their concerns and that they are aware of how to pursue them if they are not satisfied;
  • Reassure employees that they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if they have a reasonable belief that they have made any disclosure in good faith.

All employees have a legal and moral responsibility to report improper acts and omissions. In some circumstances, failure to raise such concerns may amount to breach of contract or breaking the law.

There are existing procedures in place to enable employees to raise a grievance relating to their own employment. This Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure is intended to cover major concerns that fall outside the scope of other procedures. These include:

  • Conduct which is an offence or a breach of law;
  • Failure to comply with a legal obligation;
  • Disclosures related to miscarriages of justice (e.g. failure to provide evidence in a criminal investigation, perjury);
  • Health and safety risks, including risks to the public as well as other employees;
  • Damage to the environment;
  • The unauthorised use of public funds;
  • Possible fraud and corruption;
  • Sexual or physical abuse of clients;
  • Other unethical conduct;
  • Actions which are unprofessional, inappropriate or conflict with a general understanding of what is right and wrong;
  • Deliberate covering up of information relating to any of the above.

Thus, any serious concerns that employees have about any aspect of service provision or the conduct of officers or members of the Council or others acting on behalf of the Council can be reported under this Policy and Procedure. This may be about something that:

  • Makes them feel uncomfortable in terms of known standards, their experience or the standards they believe the Council subscribes to;
  • Is against the Council's Standing Orders and policies;
  • Falls below established standards of practice; or
  • Amounts to improper conduct.

It should be emphasised that this Policy is intended to assist employees who believe they have discovered malpractice or impropriety. It is not designed to question financial or management decisions taken by the Authority, nor should it be used to reconsider any matters which have already been, or are currently being, addressed under the bullying, harassment, complaints, grievance, disciplinary or other procedures.

3. Harassment or Victimisation

The Authority is committed to good practice and high standards and wants to be supportive of employees making the decision to report a concern. If an employee believes that what he/she is saying is true, they should have nothing to fear as he / she will be doing their duty to their employer and those for whom they are providing a service.

The Authority will not tolerate any bullying, harassment or victimisation (including informal pressures) and will take appropriate action to protect employees when they raise a concern in good faith. Such retaliation could include, but is not limited to:

  • Frequent and undesirable changes in work assigned;
  • Unsubstantiated disciplinary action;
  • Unjust denial of promotion or transfer.

Employees should refer to the Dignity at Work policy if they have any concerns regarding their treatment within the workplace.

Any investigation into allegations of potential malpractice will not influence or be influenced by any disciplinary, redundancy or other procedures that already affect employees.

4. Confidentiality

All concerns will be treated in confidence and every effort will be made not to reveal an employee's identity if they so wish. At the appropriate time, however, an employee may need to be a witness, for instance if the matter leads to a disciplinary hearing or a criminal prosecution.

In some cases, confidentiality may not be possible. For instance, if you report abuse or a criminal offence, then the person you tell may have to take some action. If it does become necessary to reveal your identity, you will be consulted before this action is taken. If there is an unauthorised disclosure of your identity, disciplinary action may be taken against that individual.

5. Anonymous Allegations

This Procedure encourages employees to put their name to an allegation whenever possible. Concerns expressed anonymously are much harder to investigate but will be considered at the discretion of the Chief Executive or, if appropriate, the Council's Standards Committee (contact details in Appendix 1: Internal Contacts). In exercising this discretion the factors to be taken into account would include:

  • The seriousness of the issues raised
  • The credibility of the concern; and
  • The likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources.

6. Untrue Allegations

If an employee makes an allegation in good faith, but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against them. If, however, an employee makes an allegation frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain, disciplinary action may be taken against them.

7. Support for Employees

Employees who raise concerns or who are the subject of an investigation can access confidential counselling through the Occupational Health Service.   

The Employee Assistance Programme is an independent organisation that provides completely confidential help and assistance including counselling for employees and their immediate families for any personal or work related issues. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They can be contacted on 0800 525 967, Minicom 0800 376 5467, or email support4u@focuseap.co.uk.

8. How to Raise a Concern

See Appendix 4: Procedural Flowchart.

You should raise this in the first instance with your line manager. In most cases, the matter will be dealt with at that stage. The earlier you raise your concern, the easier it will be to take action. REMEMBER, IF IN DOUBT, RAISE IT.

If you feel unable to raise the issue with your line manager, or if your line manager does not take appropriate action to resolve the issue, you should approach your senior manager.

Whether or not it will be considered reasonable for you to be able to discuss the issue with your manager depends on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved and who is suspected of the malpractice. For instance, if you have previously attempted, unsuccessfully, to raise the issue with your manager or where, in good faith, you believe that the malpractice will only be dealt with by reporting it elsewhere, then you should do so.

9. Managers

  • Have a responsibility to ensure that concerns are taken seriously;
  • Where appropriate, should investigate and make an objective assessment of the concern;
  • Should keep the employee advised of progress;
  • Have a responsibility to ensure that the action necessary to resolve a concern is taken.

There may be an existing procedure for you to follow which is specifically intended to address your specific area of concern and unless, in good faith, you feel unable to, you should follow the appropriate procedure. HR staff or Contact Persons will be able to advise you on this (see Appendix 1: Internal Contacts).

If you have a grievance associated with your employment, you should follow the Grievance Procedure. The Grievance procedure does not cover the following subjects:

  • Disciplinary matters, for which there are separate procedures;
  • Income Tax and National Insurance;
  • The Rules of Pension Schemes;
  • Any matter concerning the terms of a collective agreement which you ought to properly take up through the employees' side of the Joint Negotiating Machinery, or
  • Any other matter for which similar appeal / machinery exists.

If you have a complaint about bullying or harassment, you should follow the Councils Bullying & Harassment Procedure.

If you have a complaint about discrimination, as defined in the Policy on Equality of Opportunity in Employment, then you should inform the Head of HR.

If a member of the public or a service user complains about a fellow member of staff or some action taken by the Authority, you should direct them to the Corporate Complaints Procedure, or the Social Services Complaints Procedure, or the Children and Young Peoples Complaints Procedure, as appropriate (see Appendix 1: Internal Contacts for contact details).

If you have a concern about a Health and Safety issue, you should contact your Departmental Health and Safety Officer or the Occupational Health and Safety Manager Officer (see Appendix 1: Internal Contacts for contact details).

11. Internal Disclosures

If you feel that your senior manager has not dealt with the issue appropriately, or if you feel unable to talk to that person (because of circumstances outlined above), you should contact one of the designated Departmental Contact Persons listed in Appendix 1: Internal Contacts and formally inform them of your concern. This person will advise you as to the operation of the procedure, including whether you ought to be raising your concern under an existing procedure, as outlined in S13.

If you would rather contact someone outside your own Department, then one of the Corporate Whistleblowing Contacts listed in Appendix 1: Internal Contacts will be happy to discuss the matter with you.

If the Contact Person agrees that your concern should be dealt with under the Whistleblowing Procedure, it will be recorded in writing - using the form in Appendix 3: Report Made Under the Whistleblowing Procedure - and you will be given a copy.

You may wish to consider discussing your concern with a colleague in some circumstances, as it can be easier to raise concerns if there is more than one witness.

You are entitled to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague at any meetings or interviews in connection with concerns you have raised. If your chosen representative is someone who is a witness, or clearly someone who will need to be interviewed in his or her own right, an alternative should be chosen.

12. How the Council will Respond

The Council will respond to any concern raised. Where appropriate, the matters raised may:

  • Be investigated by management, internal audit, or through the disciplinary process;
  • Be investigated under another procedure, e.g. child / adult protection;
  • Be reported to the Council's Standards Committee;
  • Be referred to the Police;
  • Be referred to the external auditor;
  • Form the subject of an independent inquiry.

Within ten working days (wherever reasonable possible) of a concern being raised, the Whistleblowing Contact will write to you:

  • Acknowledging that the concern has been received;
  • Indicating how the matter will be dealt with;
  • Where applicable, giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response;
  • Supplying information on staff support mechanisms.

The Whistleblowing Contact will appoint an Investigating Officer who will investigate your concern. Managers of investigating officers must make reasonable allowances as regards time and workload to enable them to carry out a thorough and swift investigation.

If, during the investigation, you are concerned about what progress is being made, require support or reassurance, or feel you may be being victimised or harassed as a result of making the disclosure, you should contact your Whistleblowing Contact.

In order that you can be assured that your concern has been properly addressed, then - subject to legal constraints and following the investigation - the Whistleblowing Contact will write to you to inform you of the outcome. However, this will not include details of any disciplinary action, which will remain confidential to the individual/s concerned.

13. The Responsible Officer

The Monitoring Officer (see Appendix 1: Internal Contacts) has overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of this Policy and Procedure. Whistleblowing Contacts will report all concerns reported under this Procedure. The Monitoring Officer will keep a record of all concerns raised and the outcomes. The Monitoring Officer will report to the Council Standards Committee on an annual basis or more often, as appropriate.

14. How the Matter Can be Taken Further

14.1 Disclosure to Regulatory Bodies

This procedure is intended to provide you with an avenue within the Council to raise concerns. If you feel that your concern has not been dealt with satisfactorily and that it is right to take the matter outside the Council, then you should seek advice from the internal contact point in the first instance. If you still feel that the matter has not been dealt with satisfactorily then there are a number of possible contact points, further details of which are given in Appendix 1: Internal Contacts.

A disclosure to a regulatory body will be protected if it is made in good faith, you have a reasonable belief that malpractice had occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur and you honestly and reasonably believe that the information and any allegation within it are substantially true. If you do take the matter outside of the Council, you should ensure that you do not disclose confidential information. Check with the contact point at all times.

Appendix 1: Internal Contacts*

Internal Procedure Contacts

Corporate Complaints Procedure

George Wood, Asset Management Officer,
Westgate House, Squires Gate Lane,
Blackpool,
FY4 2TS
Tel: (01253) 477150

Corporate Health and Safety Manager

Stephanie Lowdon, Occupational Health and Safety Manager,
Prudential House, Topping Street,
Blackpool,
FY1 3AX
Tel: (01253) 476584

Departmental Whistleblowing Contacts

Adult Social Care and Housing

Karen Smith, Assistant Director Assessment, Prevention and Support,
Progress House,
Clifton Road,
Blackpool
FY4 4US
Tel: (01253) 477195

Children and Young People

Ann Dixon, Principal Governor Services Officer,
Progress House,
Clifton Road,
Blackpool
FY4 4US
Tel: (01253) 476512

Business Services

Stephen Dunstan, Chief Internal Auditor, Westgate House, Squires Gate Lane, Blackpool, FT4 2TS
Tel: (01253) 478560

Tourism and Regeneration / Chief Executive's

Policy and Communications,
Municipal Buildings
Tel: (01253) 477142

Corporate Whistleblowing Contacts

Acting Assistant Director of Human Resources

Mike Redfern,
Westgate House,
Squires Gate Lane,
Blackpool,
FY4 2TS
Tel: (01253) 478031

Monitoring Officer

Mark Lewis,
Head of Legal & Democratic Services,
PO Box 11 Town Hall,
Blackpool,
FY1 1NB
Tel: (01253) 477431

Other Contact Numbers

Council Standards Committee

Chair of Council Standards Committee,
c/o Democratic Services,
Municipal Buildings,
Blackpool,
FY1 1AD

Public Concern at Work

Tel: 020 7404 6609

*The names of individuals may need to be updated from time to time as postholders change. The Corporate Policy and Performance Team will regularly check that this list is up to date.

Appendix 2: External Contacts

External Contacts (and the matters they would deal with)

The Audit Commission
(Proper conduct of public business, value for money, fraud and corruption in local government and health service bodies)

1st Floor,
Millbank Tower,
Millbank,
London,
SW1P 4HQ
Tel: (020) 7828 1212

Certification Officer
(Fraud and other irregularities, relating to the financial affairs of trade unions and employers' associations)

Brandon House,
180 Borough High Street,
London,
SE1 1LW
Tel: (020) 7210 3734 / 3735

Charity Commission
(Administration of charities and of funds given or held for charitable purposes)

Charity Commission Direct,
PO Box 1227,
Liverpool,
L69 3UG
Tel: 0845 3000 218

Criminal Cases Review Commission
(Actual or potential miscarriages of justice)

Alpha Tower,
Suffolk Street,
Queensway,
Birmingham,
B1 1TT
Tel: (0121) 633 1800

HM Customs and Excise
(VAT, insurance premium tax, excise duties, landfill tax, import and export of prohibited or restricted goods)

Customs Confidential,
Freepost SEA 939,
PO Box 100,
Gravesend,
Kent,
DA12 2BR
Tel: (0800) 595000

Inland Revenue
(Other tax issues, national insurance, SSP, SMP)

Tel: 020 7667 4001

The Information Commissioner
(Compliance with data protection legislation)

The Office of the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire,
SK9 5AF
Tel: (01625) 545745

The Environment Agency
(Acts or omissions which have an actual or potential effect on the environment)

Rio House,
Waterside Drive,
Aztec West,
Almondsbury,
Bristol,
BS32 4UD
Tel: (0800) 807060

Health and Safety Executive
(Health and safety at work)

Marshall House,
Ringway, Preston,
PR1 2HS
Tel: (0541) 545500
Tel: (01772) 836 200

Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority
(Pension schemes)

Invicta House,
Trafalgar Place,
Brighton,
BN1 4DW
Tel: (01273) 627600

Standards Board for England
(Allegations of breaches of members codes of conduct)

PO Box 36656,
London,
SE1 0WN
Tel: 0800 107 2001

Local Government Ombudsman
(Council maladministration)

Beverley House,
17 Shipton Rd,
York,
YO30 5FZ
Tel: 01904 633269

One of the contacts listed above is likely to be relevant for your particular concern. If this is not the case, or you are unsure who to contact, Public Concern at Work (Appendix 1: Internal Contacts) will be able to advise you.

Appendix 3: Report made under the Whistleblowing Procedure

Click here for Appendix 3: Report made under the Whistleblowing Procedure.

Appendix 4: Procedural Flowchart

Click here for Appendix 4: Procedural Flowchart.