Ofsted whistleblowing hotline branded ‘toothless’

Social workers have no faith in Ofsted’s whistleblowing hotline and say they do not feel safe using it to report concerns about poor practice, Community Care has learnt.

Social workers have little faith in Ofsted’s whistleblowing hotline and say they do not feel safe using it to report concerns about poor practice, Community Care has learnt.

Several practitioners told Community Care the hotline was “pointless”, claiming their complaints had been dismissed by inspectors, or had never led to any action or help.

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said the perception among many BASW members is that the facility is “toothless” and does not offer enough protection for social workers who want to blow the whistle.

“Members are, in the main, disinclined from using it as they are not confident it will provide them with sufficient protection from their employer,” Mansuri said.

“There is a perception that concerns will get back to employers. Some members say this has been their experience.”

During a live debate about inspection last week, Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector John Goldup said the facility had been effective and influential in a number of inspections.

Mansuri said this did not reflect most BASW members’ experiences and invited the watchdog to share evidence of the hotline’s efficacy.

“Whistleblowing is really important in social work, but the hotline has not established itself among social workers. If there is an evidence base, Ofsted should share it with us. We would welcome suitably anonymised case studies as examples,” she said. 

Although Ofsted does not have the power to investigate complaints against local authorities, it takes whistleblowing very seriously, a spokesperson said, stressing the hotline is for people to report dangerous or illegal activity, or systemic failure, rather than individual grievances.

“Since 2009, the whistleblowing hotline has dealt with 260 cases covering over 100 councils. Whistleblowing makes a real difference and helps to protect children,” the spokesperson said.

“We consider it very carefully when we are determining which authorities are to be inspected when and issues raised may become key lines of inquiry for inspection.

“Sometime concerns shared with [directors] have meant information is brought to the attention of senior managers which they were previously unaware, and which they can and do take action on.

“Anyone who reports their concerns to Ofsted’s whistleblowing hotline can be confident the information received will be taken seriously and followed up rigorously, with every care taken to protect the individual’s identity if that is their wish.

“We have received no reports from anyone using our hotline that they feel they have been victimised in any way as a result.”

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