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Concerns for the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults could arise in a variety of ways and in a range of situations. For example, a child/vulnerable adult may report or show signs of abuse, someone may hint that a child/vulnerable adult is at risk or that a colleague is an abuser, or someone may witness abuse.

According to the Department for Education and Skills, there are five main types of abuse, which are outlined in Appendix A. It is not always easy to recognise a situation where abuse may occur or has taken place and University employees are not experts at such recognition. However, each person has a responsibility to act if they have any concerns about someone’s behaviour towards a child or vulnerable adult. It is important that the recipient of any complaint or accusation that a child or vulnerable adult has been or is being abused listens carefully without making or implying any judgment as to the truth of the complaint or accusation.

Action required

To ensure that all of the details of an allegation are captured for any future investigation, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the matter being raised. The HR34 Incident Report form is provided for this purpose.

It is impossible to promise complete confidentiality when a concern is raised or an accusation made. This is because the University owes a duty of care to its staff, students or visitors that cannot be fulfilled unless the University takes action on the basis of information that may have been provided in confidence. The duty of confidentiality must be weighed against the duty of care, in case of potential or actual harm of an individual. However, at all stages, only those people who need to be made aware of an incident or concern, whether internal or external to the University, should be informed.

Where an individual suspects or is informed that a child or vulnerable adult has been, is being or could be harmed as a result of taking place in a University activity/event or through contact with University staff, volunteers or students, it is not the responsibility of that person to decide whether abuse has taken place. Instead, the individual aware of these suspicions or allegations must contact the relevant school/institution’s HR Business Manager/Adviser immediately for guidance and assistance on the action that must be taken. If circumstances make this impossible, the Assistant Director or Director of Human Resources must be contacted. In cases that involve students, the Head of Student Registry must be contacted immediately. Staff who are worried about sharing concerns about abuse are encouraged to speak with an appropriate agency for further advice (for example, the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or Childline on 0800 1111).

Where a complaint of abuse is reported, the relevant manager/adviser will carefully consider the information available and decide on the appropriate course of action.  Such situations may require contact with the relevant external agencies (including social services and the police) for them to investigate the matter and determine any necessary action. Consideration will also be given to whether it is necessary to notify the relevant head of department/institution and take further action through the relevant internal procedures. This may include invoking the University’s employee disciplinary procedures, or in the case of students, the student disciplinary procedures

In emergency circumstances (for example, where there is certain immediate and significant danger to an individual or a criminal act has been witnessed), University staff should make referrals to the police, social services or other appropriate authorities themselves prior to consulting with HR/the Student Registry. Where this is necessary, HR should be informed immediately afterwards. In such cases, a criminal investigation may follow.

The University has a legal duty to refer an individual to the DBS if they have been removed from working in regulated activity with children and/or adults because they caused harm to children/adults or posed a risk of causing harm. The duty to refer is absolute and overrides any concerns about data protection.

All cases for possible referral must be raised with the relevant HR Business Manager in the first instance as soon as harm or a risk of harm is identified. The HR Business Manager and the department/institution should work together to complete the DBS referral form found on the DBS’s web pages. They make seek advice from the Head of Recruitment, who is the University's DBS check counter-signatory for employees.

The completed form must then be provided to the HR Director for review and a final decision on whether the referral is required. Where it is deemed that a referral must be made, the referral form must be forwarded to the Head of Recruitment to be logged prior to be being sent to the DBS.

Any enquiries made by the media about possible allegations of abuse regarding children/vulnerable adults should be referred to the Office of External Affairs and Communications immediately.