1.5.5 Non Recent (Historic) Abuse

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the arrangements for dealing with allegations of non recent (historical) abuse. Allegations should be dealt with consistently regardless of the initial point of contact.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989

Working Together to Safeguard Children

Keeping Children Safe in Education

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual and with Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure and Allegations Against Prospective Adopters and in Relation to Children Placed for Adoption or Already Adopted Procedure.

This chapter was added to this manual in February 2018 and should be read throughout.

1. Introduction

This guidance is written to ensure that all allegations of non recent (historical) abuse are dealt with in the same way. Information about allegations may come in to the department via a number of different routes but the process described in these procedures should be followed regardless of the initial point of contact.

This guidance covers historical allegations made which relate to current or previous staff who work or worked with children, including foster carers, prospective adopters and volunteers. Throughout the guidance, the term 'professionals' will be used to cover all of these roles, unless one is specifically excluded. The principles and processes used should also be used to respond to all other allegations of non recent (historical) abuse.

2. Definition of Non Recent (Historical) Abuse

An allegation of Neglect, Physical, Sexual or Emotional Abuse made by or on behalf of someone who is now 18 years or over, relating to an incident which took place when the alleged victim was under 18 years old.

3. General Principles to Apply to Cases of Non Recent (Historical) Abuse

  • Historical allegations of abuse should be responded to in the same way as contemporary allegations. The intervention should include both the investigation of the alleged incident(s) and consideration of any risk currently posed to children;
  • Where there are current risks to any children, safeguarding procedures should be followed;
  • The process of investigating non recent (historical) abuse allegations is distinct from investigating contemporary allegations because;
  • The time lapse between incident and investigation can create significant difficulties in evidence and information collection;
  • This time lapse often means that only the more serious allegations come to light, so almost all the cases involve significant abuse and allegations of crimes;
  • Non recent (historical) abuse allegations can often form part of a complex web of links between victims and perpetrators. This is more common in cases of abuse which occurred in residential units, but can also be true of any allegations;
  • Analysing and understanding current risk in these circumstances can be complex;
  • Non recent (historical) abuse allegations should consider the three strands of the investigation in the same way as contemporary allegations i.e. child protection, criminal investigation and employer action, where the alleged perpetrator is still employed;
  • Risk assessments must be completed in each case to establish, on all the evidence available, whether there is a current risk to children. These risk assessments must be rigorous and proportionate, explicitly giving weight to the severity and the likelihood of harm, and balancing this with any known protective factors;
  • In all cases there must be inter-agency consideration of the issues. This will involve an early dialogue between Children's Social Care, Police and any other agencies if appropriate. The Police and all other agencies should always jointly agree when to inform the alleged perpetrator (s) of the concerns which have been raised;
  • The victim should always be fully informed regarding the process including the information which will be sought, in so far as this meets the needs of the criminal investigation;
  • Historical allegations of abuse should be considered at a Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting, chaired by a Designated Officer;
  • The Designated Officer (DO) has a specific role in the response to historical allegations against people who work or worked with children;
  • The DO provides a central point of contact for professionals, promoting consistency and high standards;
  • The DO role is particularly relevant for people who continue to work or volunteer with children, as the DO can provide both guidance and challenge to employers;
  • The DO can provide advice on thresholds for intervention as in contemporaneous cases;
  • The DO should be mindful of the timeliness of investigations. Timeliness does not necessarily mean that cases will be resolved quickly, due to the nature of the work.

4. Responsibilities

4.1 Responsibilities

Northamptonshire County Council is responsible for managing the investigation into non recent (historical) abuse if the abuse took place within the current County boundaries. This includes the DO role.

DOs hold overall responsibility for enquiries into any non recent (historical) abuse allegation against people who work or worked with children, where the alleged victim was a child in the care of Northamptonshire County Council at the time of the abuse and the abuse occurred in current County boundaries.

Where an adult making an allegation was looked after by Northamptonshire County Council as a child, but was placed in another Local Authority, the responsibility for managing the investigation rests with the Authority in which the alleged abuse took place. The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and police will contribute to the enquiries and the Strategy Meeting. The DO must ensure that they know the outcome of any investigation and consider any implications for the department, including any issues regarding the media.

Non recent (historical) abuse allegations against anyone else (i.e. family members or other people in the community) should be referred to the MASH. These cases will often be police led and generally only actively involve social care if there are any current risks to children either from within the family or the wider community.

Similarly, historical allegations related to the person's private life where they used to, but no longer, work in any capacity with children should be referred to the (MASH).

Staff should be mindful that where historical cases become complex either due to number of children or staff involved, that there is Organised and Complex Abuse guidance available. See Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual, Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure.

4.2 Independence

If the person who is the subject of the investigation is a current Children's Social Care professional then any enquiries undertaken by Children's Social Care should be undertaken and managed by someone who has no personal or professional relationship with the individual. 

Where the alleged perpetrator is still working or fostering, Social Care enquiries should not be undertaken by the social worker for any child in receipt of services from the individual. In the case of allegations against residential staff, social care enquiries should not be undertaken by the social worker for any child placed in the unit. Foster carers' supervising social workers, or the support social worker for potential adoptive carers, also should not undertake any such enquiries.

If the alleged perpetrator is a current Children's Social Care professional, the Team Manager will ensure that the relevant Service Manager is aware of the allegations as soon as this is known.

It is the responsibility of the relevant Service Manager and Strategic Manager to ensure other relevant manager and the Director of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust are made aware of allegations made against current staff or foster carers.

Enquiries will ordinarily be managed by someone senior to the individual about whom the allegation is made i.e. if the enquiry relates to a Team Manager the enquiry will be managed by a Service Manager. The principle of independence as set out above applies.

5. Strategy Discussion

On receipt of the referral MASH will hold a Strategy Discussion with the relevant Sergeant from the police. Following this, MASH will inform the DO of the Strategy Discussion outcome. The purpose of these discussions will be to:

  • Share all relevant information;
  • Ensure all safeguarding checks and any resulting actions have been completed or are in process;
  • Ensure the appropriate support is in place for the victim;
  • Decide on how best to progress the case;
  • Agree whether a Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting (HAJEM) needs to be held.

When the alleged perpetrator is deceased, a Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Strategy Discussion will take place between the Team Manager and the relevant Sergeant. The purpose of the discussion will be to:

  • Make a record of all allegations and analyse the allegations;
  • Share information about where the alleged perpetrator was working, where the alleged victim was living and whether there are any other relevant allegations, including those related to live investigations;
  • Agree a plan for any further work;
  • Agree whether a Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Strategy Meeting needs to be held.
When the alleged perpetrator is deceased and a strategy meeting is not held, the victim's need for a response and a conclusion to the matter can still be recognised. Professional judgement will be needed to consider how best to manage this situation, and a decision will be made on a case-by-case basis. It may be possible for the social worker to complete a report which makes a recommendation about whether there is sufficient information, on the balance of probabilities, to substantiate the allegations.

6. The Purpose of the Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting (HAJEM)

The function and purpose of the Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting (HAJEM) is to make an agreed plan to progress the investigation in a way that is fair, consistent, thorough and timely. This is achieved by:

  • Identifying a SMART action plan;
  • Making recommendations regarding possible action under disciplinary procedures where appropriate;
  • Co-ordinating support for the victim;
  • Coordinating support for the alleged perpetrator as appropriate;
  • Agreeing when and by whom the alleged perpetrator(s) should be made aware of the allegation, and that a Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Strategy Meeting has taken place;
  • Considering whether any referral needs to be made to a regulatory body e.g. the HCPC;
  • Arranging any further HAJEMs or a concluding meeting to inform all concerned about the outcome of the investigation.

7. Preparation for the Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting (HAJEM)

The timing of the HAJEM will depend on the nature of the allegations and the amount of information known; the meeting will usually take place within 28 working days.

If there are current child protection concerns or the alleged perpetrator is currently working with children, a Strategy Meeting should be convened within 3 working days of the receipt of the referral.

Prior to the HAJEM MASH Team Manager must:

  • Ensure that a Designated Officer Referral Form detailing the allegation has been completed and sent to the DOs;
  • Ensure that relevant agency checks have been undertaken and that, where appropriate, reference to relevant service user files has been made to verify facts.

Prior to the HAJEM children social care and the Police:

  • Will check to see if the victim or perpetrator are currently known;
  • Will check to see if they were known as a child;
  • Will check if the Local Authority holds social care files and record searches using the File Search pro forma;
  • Will request files from storage;
  • May start to compile a childcare chronology;
  • May attend the video interview;
  • May signpost the victim to support services;
  • Will establish if there are any safeguarding concerns (e.g. currently working or volunteering with children, children of their own or in their family);
  • Will request any personnel/disciplinary/conduct files and HR chronology;
  • Will contact the current employer;
  • Will check what information is held by social care (e.g. any previous investigations under the Managing Allegations procedures);
  • Will write a report for the meeting which includes an analysis of the allegations;
  • Will contact other Local Authorities if it is known the alleged perpetrator worked there.

This is not an exhaustive list and additional tasks may be necessary.

Prior to the HAJEM the DO will:

  • Liaise with the DO in another Local Authority if it is known the alleged perpetrator worked there.
The DO must ensure that the work is progressed in a timely manner.

8. Invitations to the Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting (HAJEM)

When any agency is invited to attend a HAJEM it is important to provide information about the allegation and the context so that the agency can identify an appropriate representative to attend the meeting.

It is the responsibility of the DO to invite relevant agencies. The following should always be invited to attend:

  • Police;
  • The current employer of the alleged perpetrator, if they are in employment;
  • Any other relevant agency involved with the alleged perpetrator, which may include previous employers.

Where the allegation is against a current member of staff for Northamptonshire County Council Children's Social Care, the following should always be invited to attend:

  • The relevant Service Manager;
  • Human Resources.

Where the allegation is against current or previous foster carers or prospective adopters, the following should always be invited to attend:

  • The Service Manager for Fostering or Adoption, as appropriate.
Where the allegation is against current registered manager for a residential children's home, Ofsted should be invited.

9. The Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting (HAJEM) Process

A series of strategy meetings may be held to discuss the allegations. The format of the meetings will depend on the specifics of the case, but in the first instance meetings will centre on the alleged perpetrator. It may initially be useful to hold a meeting centred on a victim where, for example, they have made allegations against a number of people.

The meetings will endeavour to reach an outcome which is agreed by the professionals involved. Agencies will be encouraged to make a recommendation and explain their reasoning.

The outcomes used by all parties (as identified by the DfE) should be:

  • Substantiated: there is sufficient identifiable evidence to prove the allegation;
  • False: there is sufficient evidence to disprove the allegation;
  • Malicious: there is clear evidence to prove there has been a deliberate act to deceive and the allegation is entirely false;
  • Unfounded: there is no evidence or proper basis which supports the allegation being made. It might also indicate that the person making the allegation misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what they saw. Alternatively they may not have been aware of all the circumstances;
  • Unsubstantiated: this is not the same as a false allegation. It means that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. The term, therefore, does not imply guilt or innocence;
  • Inability to reach a conclusion: this is where there is not enough available evidence to reach a conclusion following an investigation.

Outcomes to HAJEMs are decided on the balance of probabilities. It should be noted that this is a lower standard of proof than that required in criminal cases; it is therefore possible to substantiate allegations even if police investigations have not resulted in a prosecution.

It should also be clear whether the person of concern is aware of the outcome and that a referral to DBS has been considered where relevant.

A concluding letter should be sent to the alleged perpetrator confirming the outcome. The alleged perpetrator's employer or, if not currently employed, the previous employer will be responsible for this task. The timing and content of this letter should be agreed in liaison with the police.

The outcome should be communicated to the victim by the social worker.

10. Minutes of the Non Recent (Historical) Abuse Joint Evaluation Meeting

These meetings will be chaired by the DO and will be minuted by the DO's minute taker.

Minutes should include a summary of the issues discussed along with the decisions and recommendations of the meeting. A copy of the minutes should be sent to all agreed parties.

11. Recording

When a referral indicating an allegation/concern about an adult that works with children is received a file on the Designated Officer Secure Database must be created must be created for both the alleged perpetrator, if files do not already exist.

The following guidance should inform decisions about what information should be placed on which file:

File Information
Alleged Perpetrator
  • Family Details;
  • Relevant personal History;
  • Relevant career History;
  • Case Notes relating to any of the above;
  • Case Notes relating to any discussion and/or meeting with the alleged perpetrator;
  • Written correspondence between Children's Social Care and the alleged perpetrator;
  • Any reference to the victim should use initials and the individual's Framework reference number, not their name;
  • Copies of the minutes from strategy discussions and/or strategy meetings.