SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The Dioceses and Religious Congregations of the Catholic Church in England and Wales are committed to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability. In line with that commitment we encourage employees, office holders, Volunteers and others who have serious concerns about any aspect of the Church's safeguarding work to come forward and voice those concerns. It is recognised that most cases will have to proceed on a confidential basis.
People who work within the Catholic Church in England and Wales, employees, office holders or Volunteers, are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within the Church. They may not, however, express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the Church. They may also fear harassment or victimisation. In these circumstances it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may just be a suspicion of malpractice.
This Confidential Reporting ("Whistle blowing") Policy is intended to encourage and enable anyone with a serious concern, to raise that concern. This policy document makes it clear that they can do so without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage.
The policy will apply equally, and with equal confidentiality to employees, office holders, Volunteers or anyone holding an office within the Church. It is intended to provide a forum for concerns to be raised in relation to other individuals or groups of individuals.
AIMS OF THIS POLICY
This policy aims to:
- Encourage you to feel confident in raising serious concerns and to question and act upon concerns about practice;
- Provide avenues for you to raise those concerns and receive feedback on any action taken;
- Reassure you that you will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if you have a reasonable belief that you have made any disclosure in good faith.
If you are an employee, there are existing procedures in place to enable you to lodge a grievance relating to your own employment. There are also complaints and disciplinary procedures. The scope of this policy covers concerns about the Church's safeguarding role only.
Thus, any concerns that you have about any aspect of the Church's safeguarding responsibilities for children and adults, or the conduct of those who hold an office within the Church, or others acting on their behalf, can be reported under this Policy. This may be about something that:
- Is against the National Safeguarding Policies for England and Wales; or
- Falls below established standards of good practice.
The Dioceses and Religious Congregations of the Catholic Church are committed to good practice and high standards and want to be supportive of employees, office holders and Volunteers.
The Dioceses and Religious Congregations of the Catholic Church recognise that the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make, not least because of the fear of repercussion from those responsible for the failure or malpractice.
The Catholic Church will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation (including informal pressures) and will take appropriate action to protect you when you raise a concern in good faith.
Any investigation into allegations of potential malpractice will not influence or be influenced by any other procedures such as grievance, disciplinary etc. which may already affect you, but will be treated on its own merits.
All concerns will be treated in confidence. At the appropriate time, however, you may be approached to come forward as a witness, in order to bring the matter to a conclusion.
The Dioceses and Religious Congregations of the Catholic Church accept that individuals will raise genuine concerns that are based on factual evidence or direct observation. With this in mind you are encouraged to put your name to the allegation. Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful and far more difficult to investigate and prove. They will however be considered at the discretion of the Diocese or Religious Congregation.
Untrue or Malicious Allegations
If you make an allegation in good faith, but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against you. If, however, you make an allegation frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain, action may be taken against you.
How to Raise a Concern
As a first step, you should normally raise concerns with your Safeguarding Coordinator from your Safeguarding Commission. You may get their contact details from your Local Parish Safeguarding Representative or Religious Safeguarding Representative.
If you are not sure who to contact, either due to not knowing who fills the above named roles, or to the seriousness or sensitivity of the issue, or the identity of the individual who is suspected of malpractice, you should seek advice from CSAS.
- Concerns may be raised verbally or in writing. They are better raised in writing, setting out the background and history of the concern, giving names, dates, places, the reason you are particularly concerned about the situation and any other supportive evidence you might have;
- The earlier you express the concern the easier it is to take action;
- Although you are not expected to prove beyond any doubt the truth of an allegation, you will need to demonstrate to the person contacted that there are reasonable grounds for your concern.
Advice and guidance on how to pursue matters of concern can be obtained from CSAS either by direct contact or via the CSAS website.
How the Catholic Church will Respond
The action taken by the Diocese or Religious Congregation will depend upon the nature of your concerns. Remember that testing out your concerns is not the same as either accepting or rejecting them. The matters raised may be subject to:
- Internal investigation;
- Referral to the statutory authorities (Police or Social Care Services);
- Consideration under the Disciplinary Procedure;
- Consideration under Canon Law;
- Notification to insurers.
Initial enquiries will be made to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take. Concerns or allegations which fall within the scope of our Safeguarding Children and Adults procedures will be referred for consideration under those procedures.
Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for investigation. If urgent action is required this will be taken before any investigation is conducted.
If you are required to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings the Diocese or Religious Congregation will arrange for you to receive advice about the procedure and any necessary support. In addition they will take steps to minimise any difficulties which you may experience as a result of raising a concern.
The Diocese or Religious Congregation accepts that you need to be assured that the matter has been properly addressed. Thus, subject to legal constraints, they will inform you of the outcome of any investigation.
Our policy is to ensure that all concerns are fully and satisfactorily investigated. If you are not satisfied with the way your concern has been managed you should contact CSAS using the contact details listed above.
General background information
Following a number of high profile events, the government introduced the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which provides legal protection against detriment for workers who raise concerns in the public interest (also known as making a disclosure) about a danger, risk, malpractice or wrongdoing in the workplace which affects others.
To be protected, the disclosure must be in the public interest, the worker must have a reasonable belief that the information shows that one of the categories of wrongdoing listed in the legislation has occurred or is likely to occur, and the concern must be raised in the correct way.For further information see: