Allegations

This course looks at allegations and is aimed at foster carers and their families.  The course looks at the nature of allegations, their possible causes, and the procedures that must be followed when they occur.   Please also see the Allegations Policy & Procedures.

Allegations Training

Training, support & development standards for foster care

Training, Support and Development Standards (TSD) relating to Allegations.

The following standards can be found in your TSD workbook:

  • Standard 1.4 Confidentiality and information sharing (Standard 1: Understand the principles and values essential for fostering children and young people)
  • Standard 2.2 Legislation, Policies and Procedures (Standard 2: Understand your role as foster carer) 
  • Standard 2.6 Complaints and Compliments (Standard 2: Understand your role as foster carer) 
  • Standard 4.4 Communication with Organisations (Standard 4: Know how to communicate effectively) 
  • Standard 6.1 Legislation, Policies and Procedure (Standard 6: Keeping Children Safe from Harm) 
  • Standard 6.2 Keeping Children Safe (Standard 6: Keeping Children Safe from Harm) 
  • Standard 6.3 Recognising and Responding to Abuse (Standard 6: Keeping Children Safe from Harm) 
  • Standard 6.4 Working with other Agencies (Standard 6: Keeping Children Safe from Harm)

What is an allegation?

What is an Allegation?

"An allegation is an assertion from any person that a foster carer or member of a fostering household has or may have behaved in a way that has harmed a child or may have harmed a child, possibly committed a criminal offence against a child, or behaved towards a child in a way that indicates that they are unsuitable to work with children”. Fostering Network 2016

An allegation is more serious than a complaint as it meets the threshold for investigation under child protection procedures.  There is a different legislative and procedural framework for concerns about standards of care.  

Duty of care - to fostering families and looked after children

Foster carers and their families are required to make an enormous commitment to the children and young people they foster.  Foster carers have to accept that having an allegation made against them is always a possibility. The impact of allegations . . . can be devastating.  As a consequence, it is essential that allegations are managed and investigated in a way that safeguards children and is fair to foster carers and their families. 

(Swann 2006)

Fostering agencies have a duty to ensure that foster carers are enabled both to safeguard children and to minimise the possibility of allegations being made against them or members of their family.

(Fostering Network 2008)

What the figures say . . .

In a survey of 1002 foster carers by the Fostering Network in 2006, 35% of carers had experienced an allegation.

Of the 35% that had experienced allegations: 

  • 65% experienced 1 allegation;
  • 30% experienced 2 allegations;
  • 9% experienced 3 or more allegations.

Of the 35% that had experienced allegations: 

  • 72% had fostered for 5+ years;
  • 19% had fostered for 3 - 5 years;
  • 8% had fostered for 2 years or less.

Who were allegations made against?

Of the families who had experienced allegations, they were made against: 

  • Female foster carers - 45%
  • Male foster carers - 39%
  • Birth children of foster carers - 12%
  • Other foster children in placement - 2%

The nature of the allegations was:

  • Physical abuse or assault - 52%
  • Sexual abuse or assault - 16%
  • Neglect or poor standards of care - 16%
  • Other (financial, verbal, emotional abuse) - 17%

Allegations recorded within Phoenix 2012 - 2016

Details of 'recorded' allegations concerning persons' holding a Position of Trust (POT) between January 2012 and March 2016

Who can make an allegation?

Allegations can be made by anyone, including:

  • A looked after child or young person;
  • Parents or other members of the child's family/social network;
  • Neighbours of the fostering family;
  • Professionals such as social workers, teachers, healthcare workers, etc.

Outcomes of allegations

From this study, the number of allegations that were found to be substantiated was less than 10%.  The number that were found to be unsubstantiated was 25%.

It is an unfortunate fact that there is often inconclusive evidence to determine whether an allegation is true or not. If there is insufficient evidence that an allegation is true, 'no further action' is often the outcome. This can be very difficult for foster carers and other professionals against whom allegations are wrongly made, as they are not technically found 'innocent'. 

Why are allegations made?

Because they're true . . .

We must never forget that some allegations against foster carers and other professionals working with children are true. Some adults deliberately seek employment in roles in which they are placed in a position of authority over vulnerable children, in order to abuse those children. There are numerous examples of foster carers who have committed offences against children and young people in their care. 

One such case . . . 

Eunice Spry was a foster carer in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire who was convicted of 26 charges of child abuse against three children in her care (two fostered, one adopted) in April 2007. She was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment and ordered to pay £80,000 costs. In sentencing, the judge told Spry that it was the "worst case in his 40 years practising law".

Spry forced the three children to eat their own excrement and vomit, rammed sticks down the children’s throats, rubbed their skin with sandpaper and locked two of them naked in a room for a month. Two of her foster children and her adopted daughter have published books about their childhoods. 

Following Spry's conviction, Gloucestershire local authority apologised for "shortcomings" in its care system. 

In September 2008 Spry's sentence was reduced by the High Court to 12 years. She was released from prison on licence in June 2014.

Eunice Spry

Victoria Spry

Eunice Spry's home

Trauma

It is important to recognise that living with traumatised children invokes strong feelings and powerful dynamics.  Every family is at risk of becoming dangerously disordered when living with such disorder.Cairns (2004) Attachment, Trauma and Resilience

Allegations procedure should be followed when...

Allegations procedure should be followed when there is an allegation or concern that a person has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child or may have harmed a child
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicated they may pose a risk of harm to children

Where does the current UK allegations procedure come from?

Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015)

Reporting

Who do we report allegations to within Phoenix?

Designated Senior Manager - Paul Dunning

Deputy Designated Senior Manager - Gemma Mallett

Who do we report allegations to outside of Phoenix?

LADO 

(Local Authority Designated Officer)

Position of Trust

What type of allegation is the LADO's role concerned with?

  • Allegations against adults who are in a Position of Trust in relation to a child.

What is a Position of Trust?

  • An adult who holds a position of power, influence or authority over a child or young person, by virtue of the work, or nature of the activity being undertaken.

Position of Trust examples

Examples of adults in a position of trust

  • Foster carer
  • Adult member of fostering household
  • Social care professionals
  • Teachers
  • Police officers
  • Medical professionals
  • Volunteers
  • Adults leading out of school activities
  • Taxi drivers or escorts

Not in a position of trust

  • Parents of foster child
  • Foster carers' birth children (minors)
  • Other adults around the family
  • Other foster children

Other situations

Examples of other situations where the allegations process could be implemented:

  • Concerns about the person's behaviour towards children unrelated to their work or family;
  • Concerns about the person's behaviour towards Adults at Risk or animals.

Which LADO?

Which LADO do we inform about an allegation?

This can be confusing for carers, as a number of local authorities can be involved in the placement of a child. For example, the foster carer might live in one local authority area, their foster child might be placed from a second local authority and that child might attend school in a third local authority area.  

In the event that an allegation is made concerning a child in our care, the LADO that must be informed is the LADO for the local authority in which the child lives (i.e. the foster carer's home).   

Historical allegations

Historical allegations must be reported and investigated using the same procedures as current allegations. One of the reasons for this is because the adult in question may still be working with children. However, it is not the sole reason - ALL allegations of harm caused to a child must be investigated via the correct procedure, regardless of who the allegation is against and whether the allegation is historical or not. 

Technically, the LADO to inform in the case of historical allegations is the LADO for the local authority in which the child was living at the time. However, it might be more appropriate to inform the child's placing authority in the first instance, as they will hold records of all past placements that the child has had and will be able to provide continuity. They will be able to give advice and to pass on information if required.     

Allegations Procedure - Office Hours

In the event of an allegation that is made during office hours, you should:

  • Immediately inform a Designated Senior Manager;
  • Take action, if necessary, to ensure the immediate safety of the child;
  • Make comprehensive recordings as soon as possible after the fact;
  • Cooperate fully with any professional involved in investigating the allegation.    

Phoenix will:

  • Immediately inform the appropriate LADO;
  • Inform the child's placing authority;
  • Notify Ofsted within 24 hours;
  • Provide support to the foster carer/s if they are the subject of an allegation.

You should not:

  • Attempt to deal with the allegation yourself;
  • Make assumptions about or minimise the seriousness of an allegation; 
  • Promise confidentiality;
  • Interview the child or other witnesses (it is fine to converse with the child and to ask for clarification, etc, but do not ask 'leading' questions and do not make assumptions based on what the child tells you); 
  • Inform the alleged perpetrator.

Allegations Procedure - Out of Hours

In the event of an allegation that is made outside of office hours, you should:

  • Report immediately to On Call;
  • Inform EDT and seek advice where appropriate;
  • Take action, if necessary, to ensure the immediate safety of the child;
  • Make comprehensive recordings as soon as possible.


Timescales

It is impossible to predict exactly how long an investigation into an allegation will take. Broadly speaking, however, and from the evidence available:

  • Unsubstantiated, unfounded or malicious allegations - completed in one week or less
  • Other allegations - completed in one month or less
  • 90% of all allegations - completed within 3 months
  • Complex police or Section 47 Investigations can take over a year to resolve.

3 Lines of Enquiry

Allegations procedure - Up to 3 lines of enquiry:

  • Police Investigation
  • Section 47 Investigation
  • Disciplinary or other action by Phoenix     

More than one of these can take place at the same time, and with reference to the same allegation.  

Police Investigations

If the police decide to conduct an enquiry as a result of an allegation, it is essential that foster carers:

  • Offer full cooperation;
  • Share information appropriately and in a timely manner;
  • Do not contaminate evidence, e.g. interviewing child or witnesses, discussion of events with other staff members/foster carers;
  • Maintain confidentiality;
  • Foster carer recordings can be used as evidence in legal proceedings, and should therefore be professional, precise and clearly distinguish fact from opinion.

Section 47 Investigations

If there is a Section 47 investigation (Children Act 1989 - a child protection investigation carried out by a local authority) as a result of an allegation, it is essential that foster carers:

  • Offer full cooperation;
  • Share information appropriately and in a timely manner;
  • Maintain confidentiality;
  • Keep comprehensive recording;
  • Attend a Strategy Meeting (and any subsequent meetings) if requested to do so by a local authority or the agency.

Also invited to the Strategy meeting are: Ofsted, police, education, child's social worker, etc

Phoenix Investigations

If Phoenix is required or decides to undertake an investigation and/or disciplinary action as a result of an allegation, this could involve or result in:

  • The suspension of a staff member/foster carer. This is an agency decision and cannot be imposed by an external authority. Suspension should be viewed as a neutral act, and support will always be provided, both by the agency and independently, if the decision to suspend is taken (information, emotional support, financial).
  • Agency and independent support provided to the subject of the allegation;
  • Possible disciplinary action;
  • Foster carer - review of approval;
  • Provision of additional training;
  • Provision of additional and/or task-focused supervision;
  • Referral to DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service. A referral to the DBS can take place even if a foster carer or staff member resigns prior to the conclusion of an investigation.  As an independent fostering agency we have a legal obligation to refer if there are reasonable grounds to do so).

Why a child might make a false allegation

Children who have suffered abuse, and may have experienced multiple placements, can show signs of deep confusion and trauma.  A child may make a link between their current placement and something that has happened in the past, even though the event previously involved different people.

Some children make allegations as a way of trying to regain or exert control over their lives.  The allegation may be a way of forcing a move, or reinforcing behaviour that is rejecting prior to being rejected.

Children who have previously experienced physical abuse will sometime anticipate a re-occurrence of the abuse, long after it has ceased or in settings that appear to them to have the potential to replicate the experience.

Children with experience of sexual abuse can misinterpret something innocent... comfort/hug/look/smell as something that preceded or accompanied an abusive episode in their past.

How can we minimise risks?

Minimising Risks

  • Safer caring/safe working policies, procedures and practices;
  • Effective communication;
  • Comprehensive, timely recording;
  • Good recruitment practices;
  • Training and Supervision;
  • Effective Support.

The fact is...

The fact is...

  • You work with looked after children and young people who suffer from attachment disorders and developmental trauma and who exhibit a potentially wide range of challenging behaviours.

You need to consider...

  • Safer caring, recording and communication, in order to minimise the risk of allegations.

Allegations safety net

Allegations safety net

  • Participate in continuous learning and development;
  • Communicate clearly and often with agency support staff; 
  • Talk to your own children and family members;
  • Build a strong support network;
  • Discuss safer caring practices, and keep policies updated;
  • Ensure you have as much information as possible;
  • Keep a daily record of events;
  • Keep your fostered child's social worker informed;
  • Find out about your fostering services policies and procedures;
  • Use the independent support service that you are a member of;
  • Keep useful numbers by the phone;
  • Immediately report anything that worries you.

Question 1:  What is an allegation?

  • An allegation is a complaint against a foster carer.
  • An allegation is a concern that is raised regarding the standards of care that a foster carer is providing.
  • An allegation is an assertion from any person that a foster carer or member of a fostering household has or may have behaved in a way that has harmed a child or may have harmed a child, possibly committed a criminal offence against a child, or behaved towards a child in a way that indicates that they are unsuitable to work with children.
Please choose one answer only.

Question 2:  Which LADO should be informed when an allegation is made?

  • The LADO for the local authority in which Phoenix is based.
  • The LADO for the local authority in which the child lives.
  • The LADO for the local authority that placed the child.
  • The LADO for the local authority in which the allegation was made.
Please choose one answer only.

Question 3:  What types of allegation is a LADO concerned with investigating?

  • Any allegation.
  • Only allegations made about foster carers.
  • Allegations made about adults who are in a position of trust.
  • Allegations made about the parents of foster children.
Please choose one answer only.

Question 4:  Which of these roles places an adult in a position of trust?

  • Foster carer.
  • Birth parent of foster child.
  • Social worker.
  • Youth club worker.
  • Adult friend of foster carer's family.
  • Adult birth child of foster carer.
  • Escort for taxi service.
Please choose 'true' or 'false' for each role.

Allegations procedure for foster carers:  Case Study 1 Part 1

  • Report allegation to Paul or Gemma (Designated Senior Managers).
  • Interview the child.
  • Paul or Gemma to notify the Herefordshire LADO and inform Ofsted of the allegation.
  • Notify you about the allegation without prior permission of the LADO.
  • Arrange for emergency respite for the child until the allegation has been investigated.

Your supervising social worker receives a call from school because they have noticed extensive bruising on your 6 year old foster child’s arms and legs.  When a teacher asked the child where the bruises came from he said that his foster brother did it.

The child's foster brother (your son) is 18 years of age (i.e. an adult member of the fostering household).

You live in Herefordshire; the child's placing authority is Worcestershire and school is also in Worcestershire.

What action should your supervising social worker and the agency subsequently take? Please tick all answers that you think are correct.

Case Study 1 Part 2

  • Intentional physical abuse.
  • Unintentional harm, e.g. rough and tumble play.
  • Child gained bruising in another way and is making a false allegation.

Your supervising social worker receives a call from school because they have noticed extensive bruising on your 6 year old foster child’s arms and legs.  When a teacher asked the child where the bruises came from he said that his foster brother did it.

The child's foster brother (your son) is 18 years of age (i.e. an adult member of the fostering household).

You live in Herefordshire; the child's placing authority is Worcestershire and school is also in Worcestershire.

How might the child have got these bruises? Tick all answers that you think are correct.

Case Study 1 Part 3

  • Training of foster carers' birth children.
  • Appropriate clothing to be worn at all times within the foster home.
  • Support for foster carers' birth children.
  • Discouraging 'play fighting' as part of the fostering household rules/safer caring plan.
  • Recording of administration of medication to foster child.
  • Higher level of supervision of foster child by foster carer/s.

Your supervising social worker receives a call from school because they have noticed extensive bruising on your 6 year old foster child’s arms and legs.  When a teacher asked the child where the bruises came from he said that his foster brother did it.

The child's foster brother (your son) is 18 years of age (i.e. an adult member of the fostering household).

You live in Herefordshire; the child's placing authority is Worcestershire and school is also in Worcestershire.

What safer caring practices might have reduced the chance of this allegation occurring? Tick all answers that you think are correct.

Allegations procedure for foster carers:  Case Study 2 Part 1

  • Your supervising social worker.
  • Paul Dunning, or Gemma Mallett (Designated Senior Managers).
  • The respite carer, in order to clarify things.
  • On Call if out of hours.

Your foster child (female, aged 15 years, with severe learning difficulties) has lived with you for 5 years.  She returns from a week of respite care and tells you that when she was in the shower the respite carer was helping her to wash and also took a photograph of her ‘rubbing herself’.  You have known the respite carers for several years and get on well with them.

Despite this young person having significant leaning difficulties she is capable of washing herself – this is outlined in your safer caring policy and is viewed as positive in terms of the development of her independence skills.

Who should you call? Tick all answers you think are correct.

Case Study 2 Part 2

  • Making indecent images of children.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Emotional abuse.

Your foster child (female, aged 15 years, with severe learning difficulties) has lived with you for 5 years.  She returns from a week of respite care and tells you that when she was in the shower the respite carer was helping her to wash and also took a photograph of her ‘rubbing herself’.  You have known the respite carers for several years and get on well with them.

Despite this young person having significant leaning difficulties she is capable of washing herself – this is outlined in your safer caring policy and is viewed as positive in terms of the development of her independence skills.

What crime could potentially have been committed here? Tick all answers you think are correct.

Case Study 2 Part 3

  • No
  • Yes

Your foster child (female, aged 15 years, with severe learning difficulties) has lived with you for 5 years.  She returns from a week of respite care and tells you that when she was in the shower the respite carer was helping her to wash and also took a photograph of her ‘rubbing herself’.  You have known the respite carers for several years and get on well with them.

Despite this young person having significant leaning difficulties she is capable of washing herself – this is outlined in your safer caring policy and is viewed as positive in terms of the development of her independence skills.

Do you think the LADO would recommend the respite carers continue fostering prior to the investigation being resolved?

Allegations procedure for foster carers:  Case Study 3 Part 1

  • Yes
  • No

Your foster child tells you that previous foster carers she lived with several years ago used to ‘treat her differently’ to their other children.  You ask the child in what way she was treated differently and she tells you that when she was naughty she was made to stand in a different room for so long that her legs hurt and she was denied food as a punishment.

The child asks you not to say anything to anyone; she wants you to keep this a secret.

You see the foster carers regularly because the child’s sibling lives with them (i.e. they are still foster carers).

Should you agree to the child's request to keep this secret?

Case Study 3 Part 2

  • Yes
  • No

Your foster child tells you that previous foster carers she lived with several years ago used to ‘treat her differently’ to their other children.  You ask the child in what way she was treated differently and she tells you that when she was naughty she was made to stand in a different room for so long that her legs hurt and she was denied food as a punishment.

The child asks you not to say anything to anyone; she wants you to keep this a secret.

You see the foster carers regularly because the child’s sibling lives with them (i.e. they are still foster carers).

Should the allegations procedure be followed here?

Case Study 3 Part 3

NB: this happened last year. Police wanted to interview the child but she initially refused. She has since said that she would like to be interviewed. This has not happened. The case has been closed. The child still sees her previous foster carers when she has contact with her brother.

  • Because the previous foster carers might not have provided an adequate standard of care to the child.
  • Because the previous foster carers might have behaved in a way that has caused significant harm to a child. They are in a position of trust and are still fostering, which means that other children might potentially be at risk.

Your foster child tells you that previous foster carers she lived with several years ago used to ‘treat her differently’ to their other children.  You ask the child in what way she was treated differently and she tells you that when she was naughty she was made to stand in a different room for so long that her legs hurt and she was denied food as a punishment.

The child asks you not to say anything to anyone; she wants you to keep this a secret.

You see the foster carers regularly because the child’s sibling lives with them (i.e. they are still foster carers).

You answered yes to the previous question, but why should the allegations procedure be followed?

Fostering Network Members

Fostering Networks Members helpline (England)

Members of the Fostering Network can call 020 7401 9582 from 10am - 3pm Monday to Friday.

If you call during opening hours and reach the voicemail, please leave a message clearly stating your name and number.  We are happy to call you back and aim to do so within two working days.

You can also email [email protected] or write to 87 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8HA

Fostering Network Legal

Foster carer members of The Fostering Network can access a 24-hour legal helpline for expert advice on allegations, help with any legal queries and a completely confidential stress counselling service on 0345 013 5004.

Fosterline & Foster Talk