Last reviewed 22 November 2013
Every local authority is required to have a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). They provide advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations that have concerns about a person who may have behaved inappropriately when working or volunteering with children and young people, or if information has been received that may constitute an allegation. Liz Hodgman has the details.
The role of the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) is set out in the HM Government guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013). Chapter 2, Organisational Responsibilities, lays out the procedures for managing allegations against people who work with children, for example, those in a position of trust, including volunteers.
The LADO works within Children’s Services and should be alerted to all cases in which it is alleged that a person who works with children has:
behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child
possibly committed a criminal offence against children, or related to a child
behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she is unsuitable to work with children.
The LADO should also be informed within one working day of all allegations that come to an employer’s attention or that are made directly to the police.
The LADO is involved from the initial phase of the allegation through to the conclusion of the case. They will provide advice, guidance and help to determine whether the allegation sits within the scope of the procedures.
The LADO helps co-ordinate information-sharing with the right people and will also monitor and track any investigation, with the aim of resolving it as quickly as possible.
Provisions and practitioners should report any concern that meets the criteria. If they are unclear how serious the allegation is or there is any doubt, the LADO must be contacted for advice. It may be possible to initially ask for guidance from the LADO without disclosing names.
If the allegation is about physical contact, the strategy discussion or initial evaluation with the police should take account of the fact that teachers and other childcare providers are entitled to use reasonable force to control or restrain a child in certain circumstances.
The LADO’s first step will be to offer an initial discussion about the concerns raised. This may include advice and guidance regarding the most appropriate way of managing the allegation.
They will then establish what the “next steps” should be in terms of investigating the matter further. They will liaise with the police and other agencies and arrange for a strategy meeting to be held if required. The first meeting must be held within 15 days. If the case is complex there may be more than one meeting.
The LADO monitors and maintains an overview of cases to ensure they are dealt with as quickly as possible in a fair and thorough process.
The LADO may ask the provision:
to obtain the previous history of the member of staff (have they had any previous allegations made against them?)
whether or not the child or their family have made allegations in the past
to establish the extent of the member of staff’s current contact with children.
In simple cases, the LADO may ask for a senior member of the provision to conduct an investigation. The LADO will work with the provision to set very clear parameters for the investigation.
In more complex cases or if the allegations are more serious then it may be more appropriate for an external independent person to conduct the investigation. The LADO will advise who this is for your local authority.
The LADO ensures:
that child protection procedures are initiated where the child is considered to be at risk of significant harm
the appropriate agencies are involved in the investigation
advice is provided in relation to the adult’s remaining in post over the course of the investigation
issues of sharing information with parents and other relevant individuals are considered.
The LADO also assists an employer in decisions about a person’s suitability to remain in the children’s workforce and whether a referral needs to be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service.
If the adult is unaware of the allegation or the concern that has been raised, the LADO may advise whether it is appropriate to inform them immediately or not, as it may prejudice a potential police investigation.
There are a number of possible outcomes following a referral to the LADO:
the allegation is malicious
the allegation is unsubstantiated
internal investigation by the employer including possible disciplinary measures for the staff member involved
a police investigation
Definitions of outcomes
It is important that the correct definitions are used when determining outcomes.
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.
Malicious and unfounded allegations by children
The LADO should refer the child making the allegation to the local social care department for them to decide whether the child may be in need of services as a result of abuse by someone else.
Where malicious, the lead officer for the provision should decide whether any actions should be taken against the child, including, where appropriate, by asking the police whether action is warranted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Each provision should have the name and contact details (telephone number and email address) of their LADO within their safeguarding policy.
No information should be shared when writing references about allegations that are concluded to have been false, unsubstantiated, unfounded or malicious.