13 Feb 2016, Jo Parkes
Callers to the freephone number will be offered expert advice in confidence and their anonymity will be protected if the complaint is taken any further.
And because the service is being delivered by the NSPCC, which is a ‘prescribed body’, whistleblowers who face a backlash at work will have a special legal protection under employment law.
The £500,000 Home Office initiative is enabling the children’s charity to recruit and train a range of professionals, such as social workers, nurses and police, in the skills to deal with the calls.
The service is available to teaching or nursery staff concerned about anything from potentially harmful practices to instances of abuse.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said, ‘If an employee thinks a child is in danger or has been failed by their organisation then nothing should stand in the way of them speaking out.
‘Too often people with concerns have kept silent because they have been fearful of the consequences for their jobs, and this can have devastating consequences for the children involved.
‘A feature of the child abuse scandals of recent years has been people who said they thought something wasn’t right but were unsure whether they could discuss their concerns confidentially outside their organisation.’
John Cameron, the charity’s head of helplines (pictured), said employees considering raising a concern internally could even use the helpline to ‘rehearse’ how to broach the issue with bosses.
They may have already raised concerns with management but feel they have not been listened to, added Mr Cameron.
He continued, ‘Where we have concerns and we have identified that is actually something that needs to be taken forward because it’s a serious failure, that information gets passed through to the relevant services.’
Mr Cameron said that could include social services, child protection officers, or Ofsted.
Settings wanting to change culture also have the opportunity to bring in help on drawing up and implementing better safeguarding policies.
He added, ‘It’s a message to organisations that there is a prescribed place people can go when they’re unhappy about how the organisation is managing child welfare concerns.’
Karen Bradley MP, minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, who officially launched the helpline this week (Thursday), said the idea for the helpline had come from evidence that concerned professionals in Rotherham may have benefited from such a service and helped to prevent abuse there.
She said, ‘The new NSPCC whistleblowing helpline will be a vital service in our fight to end child abuse, including sexual exploitation.
‘Every child deserves to be safe from abuse, and organisations that are trusted to protect our children must work as effectively as possible to achieve this.
‘Some employers are making great strides in strengthening whistleblowing processes. But more can be done to encourage employees to report malpractice without fear of victimisation - particularly in relation to children where the cost of failure is so high.
‘No one should be afraid to report concerns about failures in child protection.’
Data from the types of calls will be gathered to build a picture of where more work is needed and the current funding lasts a year.
The minister said a 2013 proposal for mandatory reporting of child abuse had not been shelved and that a 12-week public consultation was expected in the near future.