Francesca West of Public Concern at Work offers some tips on how to blow the whistle on bad practice while minimising the risk of reprisals
Whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work receives hundreds of calls from social care staff every year. In half of cases, other staff knew about the risk but were too scared or felt unable to speak up.
The General Social Care Council’s code of practice requires registered social workers to let their employer know whether there is a risk to standards or delivery of care. But even for those workers unbound by a professional code, it is vital to voice concerns at an early stage. Here are some tips on how to raise a concern.
● Find out your options. Is there a trusted colleague, manager or trade union representative you could speak to? Does anyone else share your concern? Every employer should have a whistleblowing policy. Do you know yours?
● Be a witness, not a complainant. As a whistleblower you are a witness. You are communicating a concern about the welfare or practice of others. If you are aggrieved about your personal position, use the appropriate grievance procedure and keep this separate to any whistleblowing concerns.
● Let the facts speak for themselves. Communicate the concern in a professional, calm and factual manner. If you know how to resolve the problem, suggest a solution. As a witness you do not have to prove your concern, and it is important you do not delay by acting as a private detective.
● Going outside the organisation. If you have raised your concern and believe it has not been addressed, or the matter is serious and you are unable to raise it internally, you can contact the local safeguarding team or a regulator such as the Care Quality Commission or General Social Care Council.
● Get advice. If you are in any doubt about what to do at any stage, seek confidential advice from BASW – The College of Social Work, a union or Public Concern at Work.
● Legal protection. If you raise a genuine concern in an honest and reasonable way and you suffer reprisals, you are likely to be protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The law protects you for raising a concern with your employer, and sometimes for going to a regulator as well. It may also protect you if you raise a concern to the media or an MP, but consider seeking advice before doing so.
Francesca West is a senior policy officer for Public Concern at Work
Public Concern at Work has launched a campaign to better encourage, support and protect those that speak up in the care sector. As part of this project they need social care professionals’ views on what might stop someone from speaking up. Take part in the survey
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