(1) The Network is committed to the highest standards of integrity, probity and accountability. It seeks to conduct its affairs in a responsible manner taking into account the proper use of public funds, and the standards required in public life.
(2) The aim of this policy is to enable and encourage individuals to raise matters of concern (referred to in this Policy as “disclosures”) that are in the public interest (often referred to as “whistleblowing”) at a high level within the Network, so that they may be investigated and, where appropriate, acted upon. All concerns raised by an individual will be treated fairly and properly and no individual will suffer any detriment for raising concerns under this Policy in good faith.
(3) It is a reasonable expectation of the Network that any disclosures will be raised internally and this Policy exhausted in the first instance.1
(4) When this Policy Applies
(4.1) Disclosures under this Policy may be an honest belief of alleged wrongful conduct of the Network, or about the conduct of a fellow employee, service user, or any third party. The individual making a disclosure is often not directly, personally, affected by the concern which they raise, although they may be.
(4.2) This Policy applies to all employees and those who are engaged to work in the Network and includes apprentices, interns, atypical workers and those with honorary contracts. The Policy also applies to any Parishioner undertaking work in the Network [and extends to Parishioners, and members of Network bodies such as members of working groups and committees].
(4.3) This Policy cannot be used by individuals to challenge financial and business decisions properly taken by the Network or seek reconsideration of any matter already addressed under other internal procedures, for example, disciplinary and grievance procedures. Furthermore, any disclosure under this Policy should be raised in the ‘public interest’ rather than matters relating to an individual’s situation, for example, a complainant about an individual’s contract of employment. Any disclosure made under this Policy must be made in good faith and should not be made for personal gain.
(4.4) The Network also has in place a set of Financial Regulations covering a wide range of areas including the delegation of financial authorities, purchasing, and general systems of audit and internal financial control. In the case of concerns regarding financial irregularities/concerns, these may be addressed under the Network’s relevant Finance processes.
(5) Qualifying Disclosures
(5.1) Disclosures which qualify to be considered under this Policy are those where the individual making the disclosure reasonably believes that one of the following issues is happening in the Network, took place in the recent past or is likely to happen in the future:
(5.1.1) criminal activity;
(5.1.2) a failure to comply with any legal obligation;
(5.1.3) a miscarriage of justice;
(5.1.4) endangering the health or safety of any individual (including risk to colleagues, students or any third party or member of the public engaging with the Network or using Network premises);
(5.1.5) financial or non-financial maladministration, malpractice or fraud where issues are not adequately addressed by measures listed at 4.4;
(5.1.6) damage to the environment; or
(5.1.7) deliberately concealing information demonstrating that one or more of the above taking place.
(5.2) Should the Network consider that issue raised could be more appropriately considered under an alternative Network policy or informally, the Network may, at its discretion, consider the issue under that alternative process.
All disclosures under this Policy will be treated in a sensitive and, where possible, confidential manner. If required, the identity of the individual making the disclosure will be kept confidential for as long as possible, provided that this is compatible with an effective investigation. The investigation process may have to reveal the identity of the individual making the disclosure and that individual may be asked to make a statement or attend an investigatory meeting as part of the process.
(7) Anonymous Disclosures
(7.1) Individuals making a disclosure are expected to identify themselves; as disclosures raised anonymously can be significantly more difficult to address effectively. The Network will not normally consider anonymous disclosures. The Network may investigate anonymous disclosures taking into account the seriousness of the issue, the credibility of the concern, any prejudice to those named in an anonymous disclosure and the likelihood of being able to investigate the matter and confirm the allegation from alternative sources.
(7.2) It should be noted that that the ability to provide relevant feedback and protect against detriment will depend on the Network knowing the identity of the individual making a disclosure.
Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Procedure
(8) Raising a Concern
(8.1) It is expected that the majority of concerns will be raised openly with the Clerk of Network as part of the day-to-day good practice of the Network. Any concerns should be raised promptly so that they can be considered in a timely manner.
(8.2) It is only when an individual considers that their concerns (which meet the criteria in 5.1 above) have not been appropriately dealt with as part of day-to-day management or the concern is about the Clerk of Network, or the concern is so serious that it should be considered at the most senior level in the Network, that a concern may be raised under this Policy.
(8.3) Where an individual considers that it may be necessary to make a disclosure under this Policy and that disclosure fulfils the criteria at 5.1 above, disclosure should be made in writing to the Network’s Chair or Vice Chair. The Network Chair may designate an alternative member of the Network to deal with any disclosures made under this Policy. The Network member considering a disclosure is referred to as the “Designated Person”. If a disclosure involves or implicates the Designated Person, the disclosure should be made to any alternative member of the Network.
(8.4) An individual raising a concern raised under this Policy should make it clear that they are raising their concern under this Policy and they should provide sufficient information and detail to allow the concern to be meaningfully considered by the Designated Person.
(9) The Network’s Response to a Disclosure
(9.1) The Designated Person will acknowledge receipt of the disclosure and will consider whether the matters disclosed provide sufficient grounds for proceeding further. The Designated Person may bring the disclosure to the attention of the Chair, Vice Chair, or other members of Network.
(9.2) If the Designated Person does not have sufficient information to determine whether or how the matter should proceed, they may undertake a brief preliminary investigation to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case to be considered further under this Policy. The brief investigation will normally be conducted within 21 days.
(9.3) Following consideration of the disclosure (and any preliminary investigation which may have been conducted), the Designated Person may:
(9.3.1) Determine that a substantive investigation should be conducted in accordance with the process outlined below.
(9.3.2) Decide that the matter should be considered under a different Network policy. The individual will be advised of this decision and the disclosure will be referred to an appropriate Network member to take any relevant further action.
(9.3.3) Refer the matter to an appropriate body external to the Network, for example, the police.
(9.3.4) Determine that no further action should be taken and the Designated Person will inform the individual of this decision.
(10.1) Should the Designated Person consider that the disclosure should be investigated (excluding any preliminary investigation), the Designated Person will appoint a member of the Executive Committee to conduct an investigation (the “Investigating Member”).
(10.2) The Investigating Member will be chosen based on the nature of the disclosure. The Investigating Member must not be a person who would make decisions based on the outcomes of the investigation or who may be involved in other processes which may be invoked as an outcome of any investigation under this Policy.
(10.3) The scope of the investigation will be determined by the Investigating Member.
(10.4) Investigations will be conducted as quickly as possible, whilst having regard to the nature and complexity of the disclosure.
(10.5) When an allegation is made against a “named individual”, the named individual will normally be informed of the allegation and any supporting evidence and they may be given a right to respond to any allegations. The point at which this may occur will depend on the specific nature of the case.
(10.6) The Investigating Member may interview and/or seek a written statement from the individual who made the disclosure and any other individuals who they consider to be relevant to the investigation including anyone named in the disclosure. Any individual being interviewed under this Policy may be accompanied to an investigatory meeting by a colleague or trade union representative. A refusal to participate in an investigatory meeting may lead to disciplinary action.
(10.7) When the Investigating Member has concluded the investigation they will provide a report with their findings to the Designated Person. Thereafter the Designated Person will determine what action, if any, should be taken in the circumstances. This may include the initiation of alternative Network procedures, reference to an external third party or no further action.
(10.8) The outcome of any investigation may be reported, as appropriate, to the Chair of Network, the Vice Chair of Network, Members of Network. The individual who made the disclosure may be told the outcome of an investigation but the investigation report may not be shared with them.
An individual making a disclosure or an individual named in a disclosure has no right of appeal under this Policy about the outcome of any investigation undertaken or any decisions of the Designated Person.
(12) Protection Against Detriment
An individual will not be subjected to a detriment because they have made a disclosure in good faith and based on an honest belief under this Policy. Anyone causing an individual a detriment because of any disclosure which they have made under this Policy could be subject to potential disciplinary action.
(13) False Allegations
A disclosure that is not pursued further or confirmed by an investigation, will not lead to any action, penalty or detriment against the individual making the disclosure. However, individuals who, on the balance of probability, knowingly making false allegations/misusing this Policy may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action, notably if the individual persists in raising the allegations after the Designated person has taken action.
All concerns raised and action taken in response to any disclosures under this Policy, including a copy of any investigation reports, will be retained by the Designated Person for 5 years. An annual report of disclosures which have been made under this Policy will be compiled by the Designated Person and submitted to Network.