Whistle Blowing

Introduction

Employees are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within Prostart. However they may not express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to Prostart. 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 code encourages employees to raise such concerns using the internal procedure set out below.

Prostart is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, honesty, integrity and accountability. In line with that commitment we expect employees, and others that we deal with, who have serious concerns about any aspect of Prostart’s work to come forward and voice those concerns. It is recognised that most cases will have to proceed on a confidential basis.

This code makes it clear that you can do so without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage. This Confidential Reporting Code is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns within Prostart rather than overlooking a problem or ‘blowing the whistle’ outside.

The Code applies to all employees and those contractors working for Prostart, on Prostart’s premises or premises that Prostart’s services are being carried out within. It includes transport that may be used for Prostart’s business.

 

Aims and Scope of This Code

This Code 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;
  • Ensure that you receive a response to your concerns and that you are aware of how to pursue them if you are not satisfied;
  • Provide reassurance 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.

The existing procedures are in place to enable you to lodge a grievance relating to your employment. The Confidential Reporting Code is intended to cover major concerns that fall outside the scope of these procedures. This includes:

  • Conduct which is an offence or breach of law;
  • Disclosures related to miscarriages of justice;

Health and safety risks, including to the Apprentices & learners and public as well as other employees;

  • Malpractice in relation to Prostart working practices and procedures including but not limited to assessment and verification;
  • Damage to the environment;
  • The unauthorised use of monies;
  • Possible intimidation or corruption of Apprentices & learners;
  • Safeguarding Risks including sexual, verbal, physical or emotional abuse of Apprentices & learners;
  • Data Protection Breach
  • Other unethical conduct;
  • Institutional racism;
  • Bribery or
  • Action to conceal any of the above.

Thus any serious concerns you have about any aspect of service provision or the conduct of employees or others acting on behalf of Prostart can be reported under the Confidential Reporting Code. This may be about something that:

  • Makes you feel uncomfortable in terms of known standards, your experience or standards you believe Prostart subscribes to; or
  • Is against Prostart’s policies; or
  • Falls below established standards of practice; or
  • Amounts to improper conduct

This Code does not replace the normal procedure for complaints.

Confidentiality   

All concerns will be treated in confidence and every effort will be made not to reveal your identity if you so wish. At the appropriate time, however, you may need to come forward as a witness.

Anonymous Allegations

This policy encourages you to put your name to your allegation whenever possible.

Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful but will be considered at the discretion of Prostart.

In exercising this discretion the factors to be taken into account would include:

  • The seriousness of the issues raised;
  • The credibility; and
  • The likelihood of confirming the allegations from attributable sources.

Untrue 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, disciplinary action may be taken against you.

How to Raise a Concern

As a first step you should normally raise concerns with your immediate manager or their supervisor (for safeguarding see next paragraph). This depends, however, on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved and who is suspected of the malpractice. For example, if you believe that management is involved, you could approach the Managing Director or Financial Director or the Quality & Contractual Manager.

Concerns around safeguarding or prevent issues must be immediately taken to the designated safeguarding officers. In their absence or if the concern involves a safeguarding officer the concerns can be reported to the Quality & Contractual Manager or the Managing Director.

Concerns may be raised verbally or in writing. Staff who wish to make a written report are invited to use the following format:

  • The background and history of the concern (giving relevant dates):
  • The reason why you are particularly concerned about the situation

The earlier you express the concern the easier it is to take action.

You may wish to obtain advice on how to pursue matters of concern. Advice can be obtained from the Managing Director, Financial Director or the Quality & Contractual Manager.

You may wish to consider discussing your concern with a colleague first and you may find it easier to raise the matter if there are two (or more) of you who have had the same experience or concerns.

Employees need to be aware that they themselves are bound to the same obligations relating to confidential information. If employees share confidential information with others they will need to be careful that confidential information is not used inappropriately. The Public Interest Disclosure Act gives protection where information is disclosed in the course of obtaining legal advice. Therefore when seeking such advice, employees should ensure that in seeking the advice confidential information is not passed on to third parties.

How Prostart Will Respond

Prostart will respond to your concerns. Do not forget that testing out your concerns is not the same as either accepting or rejecting them.

Where appropriate, the matter raised may:

  • Be investigated by management, internal audit, or through the disciplinary process;
  • Be referred to the police or other relevant authorities;
  • Be referred to the external auditor;
  • Form the subject of an independent inquiry.

In order to protect individuals and those accused of misdeeds or possible malpractice, initial enquires will be made to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so what form it should take. The overriding principle which Prostart will have in mind is the learner interest. Concerns or allegations which fall within the scope of specific procedures (for example, child protection or discrimination issues) will normally 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.

Within ten working days of a concern being raised, the responsible person will write to you:

  • Acknowledge that the concern has been received;
  • Indicating how we propose to deal with the matter
  • Giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response
  • Telling you whether any initial enquires have been made;
  • Supplying you with information on staff support procedures; and
  • Telling you whether further investigations will take place and if not, why not.

The amount of contact between the responsible person considering the issues and you will depend on the nature of the matters raised, the potential difficulties involved and the clarity of the information provided. If necessary, Prostart will seek further information from you.

Where any meeting is arranged, off-site if you so wish, you can be accompanied by a friend.

Prostart will take steps to minimise any difficulties which you may experience as a result of raising a concern, For instance, if you are required to give evidence in a criminal or disciplinary proceedings Prostart will arrange for you to receive advice about the procedure.

Prostart accepts that you need to be assured that the matter has been properly addressed. Thus, subject to legal constraints, we will inform you of the outcome of any investigation.

The Responsible Officer

The Managing Director has overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of this policy; and maintains a record of concerns raised and the outcomes (but in a form which does not endanger confidentiality).

How the Matter Can Be Taken Further

This policy is intended to provide you with a procedure within Prostart to raise concerns. Prostart hopes you will be satisfied with any action taken. If you are not, and if you feel it is right to take the matter outside Prostart, the following are possible contact points:

  • The designated independent person or organisation (ESFA – Education Skills Funding Agency)
  • Your local Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Relevant professional bodies or organisations
  • The police.

Prostart recognises the lawful right of employees to make disclosures to prescribed persons under the terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

If you do take this matter outside Prostart, you should ensure that you do not disclose confidential information. Check with the contact point about that. This procedure has been written taking into account the terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects a worker making disclosures about certain matters of concern where those disclosures are made in accordance with the Act’s provisions.

The scope of the procedure 1998 Act covers;

  • Criminal offences;
  • Failures to comply with legal obligations
  • Miscarriages of justice
  • Endangerment of health and safety

If an employee makes a disclosure, the Act protects him/her against dismissal for making the disclosure.

 

Related Documents

Compliments and Complaints Procedure

Data Protection GDPR Policy

This policy is reviewed annually by the Quality Manager

Version 3 January 2016 – Reviewed January 2019 with no changes