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Whistleblowing policy

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What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is a way for employees of an organisation to raise reasonably and honestly, held concerns they may have about serious matters that could put the council and/or the wider public at risk. Whistleblowing usually involves bringing forward concerns that it is in the public interest to investigate and resolve. Examples are crime, fraud, the giving or taking of bribes, financial malpractice or practices that might endanger individuals or the environment.

What is the council’s approach to whistleblowers?

As a council and as an employer we are committed to being honest and transparent.

We know that this is important if we want to develop and maintain relationships based on trust with our residents, customers and staff. Although we try our best to get things right, sometimes that doesn’t work. Crime, fraud, neglect, and malpractice are damaging and serious matters that need to be addressed. If a member of staff suspects that one of their colleagues or a contractor is engaged in such practice, we would encourage them to voice their concerns so that we can address them.

Whistleblowers are protecting the community that the council exists to serve, and we wish to support and protect employees who raise their concerns through this procedure.

When to blow the whistle

If you see something being done wrong, can you tackle it yourself, there and then? A firm, polite challenge is sometimes all that is needed.

It will often be appropriate to raise a concern with your line manager in the first instance. However, sometimes this will not be possible (for example, if you think your line manager may be involved in the issue). If, for whatever reason, you do not feel able to raise your concern through your line management, or if you have done so and no appropriate action has been taken, we encourage you to blow the whistle.

Please don’t hesitate to bring the matter forward to us at an early stage. You are not expected to conduct your own investigation or prove your concern. It is enough that you have a reasonable suspicion.

How to blow the whistle internally

We have a dedicated whistleblowing hot-line number, which is:

01225 718020

A member of staff will take your call, which will be in complete confidence. It is always helpful if you can give a little background information, but if you are not comfortable doing so, please just leave your contact details. You can leave a home or mobile number if you don’t want to be contacted at work, but please let the hot-line staff know when it would be convenient for you to be called back.

After you make your initial contact, the hotline staff will pass a message on to the Head of Governance, who is the council’s designated officer for receiving whistleblowing concerns. If the Head of Governance is not available, your call may be passed to the Solicitor to the Council, who also known as the ‘Monitoring Officer or the Head of Internal Audit.

One of these officers will get in touch with you and ask for more information about your concerns. We try to respond to all initial calls within 48 hours. They will then decide what action should be taken. It is often necessary to undertake an investigation. Investigations are undertaken by people who have the technical and professional skills relevant to each particular case.

Alternatively, you may prefer to write outlining your concerns, in which case you should address your letter to the Head of Governance, Wiltshire Council, County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire BA14 8JN.

Confidentiality and the protection of whistleblowers

People who raise concerns through the whistleblowing procedure are understandably sometimes concerned about their position, and wish to maintain confidentiality. We encourage people to let us know their names and contact details when they raise their concern, because it is often difficult to conduct an effective investigation without being able to discuss it fully with the person who first brought the issue forward. In practice, it is often desirable for the identity of the whistleblower to be known as the investigation progresses.

However, we understand that some individuals may not be comfortable with what is known as ‘open whistleblowing’, so we will offer the option of keeping your identity confidential unless we are required to disclose it by law, or unless we have your permission. If you wish us to maintain confidentiality, we will always seek to do so.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 provides legal protection, in certain circumstances, to workers making disclosures in good faith about malpractice. The Act makes it unlawful for the council to dismiss anyone or allow them to be victimised on the basis that they have made an appropriate lawful disclosure in accordance with the Act.

Essentially, under PIDA, employees who act honestly and reasonably are given automatic protection for raising a matter internally. Protection is also available to people who report a disclosure to a ‘prescribed person/body’. Examples of such prescribed bodies are the Care Quality Commission, Foods Standards Agency (FSA) and HM Revenue & Customs, with the full list being available on the gov.uk website.

PIDA covers all employees including temporary agency staff, people on training courses and self-employed staff who are working for and supervised by the council.

We always seek to protect whistleblowers from reprisals taken as a result of raising their concerns, provided that those concerns were raised in good faith and without malicious intent. Taking reprisals against an employee who has raised a concern in good faith is unacceptable, and may give rise to disciplinary proceedings. If you have raised a concern and feel at any stage subsequently that you are suffering as a result of doing so, please let the Head of Governance or the Solicitor to the Council know so that appropriate action can be taken.

Anonymous allegations

Confidentiality is not the same as anonymity. It is unlikely that we will be able to conduct a whistleblowing investigation from an anonymous source. Anonymity will often present a barrier to effective investigation because it is impossible to contact the whistleblowers to check information received, ask for more details, or give feedback. We do not rule out the possibility of conducting such investigations, but in practice we are unlikely to be able to proceed in the majority of such cases because off the practical difficulties that arise.

Whistleblowing and grievances

The whistleblowing procedure cannot be used as an alternative to the council’s grievance or safeguarding policy and procedures. Whistleblowing usually has an element of public interest attached to it. Typically, the matter involved presents a risk to others, such as customers, tax payers, or the environment. A concern about your own employment situation is more properly addressed by means of the council’s grievance procedure.

You’ve told me you’ll investigate - what happens next?

The Head of Governance and the Solicitor to the Council will decide who would be the most appropriate person to conduct an investigation. This might be a finance officer, an internal auditor, or a governance officer, or the investigation may require more specialised skills. It may occasionally be necessary to refer the matter straight to the police, in which case you will be notified and the matter will transfer to the police.

When an investigator has been appointed we will let you know who it is. They will then contact you to make sure they have all the information they need to do their investigation. After the investigation is complete they will write a report that may contain recommendations. The report will go to the head of governance and the monitoring officer, as well as to the appropriate corporate director, who will be responsible for taking any remedial action identified.

You will be told the outcome of the investigation in broad terms. If possible, we will provide you with a copy of the report. However, it may not always be possible to give details of the findings if that would involve breaching the rights of individuals afforded by the Data Protection Act 1998, or for other significant reasons.

What if I wish to raise my concern outside the council?

Public Concern at Work offers a free, confidential advice line which can give you access to advice on how to raise a concern safely and effectively.

The advice line can be contacted on 020 7404 6609 or by emailing helpline@pcaw.co.uk

We hope that you feel reassured that you can raise concerns safely by using this procedure, and that your concerns will be taken seriously. However, you do have the right to raise concerns externally if you feel that to be appropriate. We would always prefer you to raise your concerns, if necessary to an appropriate external regulator, rather than remain silent.

Below is a list of some of the prescribed people and bodies to whom you can make a disclosure and whose functions have particular relevance to the council’s work:

Regulator

Activities covered by the regulator

The Audit Commission for England (including auditors appointed by the commission)

The Audit Commission
3rd Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Whistleblowing hotline: 0303 444 8346

Email: public-enquiries@audit-commission.gsi.gov.uk

www.audit-commission.gov.uk

The proper conduct of public business, value for money, fraud and corruption in local government, and health service, bodies.

The Audit Commission is a ‘prescribed person’ under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and provides a confidential public interest disclosure line for employees of councils and NHS bodies when they are unable, or unwilling, to report internally.

The Certification Officer

22nd Floor
Euston Tower

286 Euston Road
London
NW1 3JJ
Tel: 020 7210 3734
Fax: 020 7210 3612

Email: info@certoffice.org

www.certoffice.org

Fraud, and other irregularities, relating to the financial affairs of trade unions and employers’ associations.

The Care Quality Commission

CQC National Customer Service Centre
Citygate
Gallowgate
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE1 4PA

Tel: 03000 616161

Email: enquiries@cqc.org.uk

www.cqc.org.uk

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

CQC regulates health and adult social care services, whether provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies or voluntary organisation and protects the rights of people detained under the Mental Health Act.

Ofsted

Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester
M1 2WD

General helpline: 0300 123 1231

Whistleblower hotline: 0300 123 3155

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

Ofsted report directly to Parliament and they are independent and impartial.

Ofsted inspect and regulate services which care for children and young people, and those providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner

33GreycoatStreet
London
SW1P 2QF

Tel: 02077838330

Email: info.request@childrenscommissioner.gsi.gov.uk

www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

Matters relating to the rights and welfare of children.

The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

HM Revenue and Customs
PAYE & Self Assessment
PO Box 1970
Liverpool
L75 1WX

Tax helpline: 0300 200 3300

www.hmrc.gov.uk

Value added tax, insurance premium tax, excise duties and landfill tax. The import and export of prohibited or restricted goods.

Income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, petroleum revenue tax, inheritance tax, stamp duties, national insurance contributions, statutory maternity pay, statutory sick pay, tax credits, child benefits, collection of student loans and the enforcement of the national minimum wage.

SFO Confidential

Serious Fraud Office
2-4 Cockspur Street
London
SW1Y 5BS

Provide information in confidence at the SFO confidential website

www.sfo.gov.uk

Serious or complex fraud.

SFO CONFIDENTIAL is a service for people wishing to give information about fraud or corruption. It is not intended for the victims of fraud.

SFO CONFIDENTIAL is for people who want to tell us about serious or complex fraud or corruption on the understanding that we will not disclose their identity inappropriately.

The SFO does not take reports of fraud over the telephone.

The Environment Agency

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 54
Rotherham
S60 1BY

General enquiries: 03708 506 506

Email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Acts or omissions which have an actual or potential effect on the environment or the management or regulation of the environment including those relating to pollution, abstraction of water, flooding, the flow of rivers, inland fisheries and migratory salmon or trout.

Food Standards Agency

Aviation House
125 Kingsway
London
WC2B 6NH

General Enquiries: 020 7276 8829

Food Fraud Hotline: 020 7276 8527

Email: helpline@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

www.food.gov.uk

Matters which may affect the health of any member of the public in relation to the consumption of food and other matters concerning the protection of the interests of consumers in relation to food

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

Park House
184 Kennington Park Road
London
SE11 4BU

Fitness to Practise Department
0800 328 4218 (freephone number)

Telephone: 44 (0)20 7840 9814

Fax: 44 (0)20 7582 4874

Email: ftp@hcpc-uk.org

www.hpc-uk.org

Matters relating to the registration of social care workers under the Care Standards Act 2000.

Fitness to Practise Department:

For raising a concern about the fitness to practise of a registrant.

Health and Safety Executive

4th Floor, The Pithay
All Saints Street
Bristol
BS1 2ND

Concerns Team Tel: 0300 0031647

Fax: 01179 262998

Out-of-hours duty officer:

0151 922 9235

Email: concerns@hse.gsi.gov.uk

www.hse.gov.uk

Matters which may affect the health or safety of any individual at work; matters which may affect the health or safety of any member of the public, arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work.

The type of circumstances where HSE may need to respond out of hours are:

  • following a work-related death;
  • following a serious incident where there have been multiple casualties;
  • following an incident which has caused major disruption such as evacuation of people, closure of roads, large numbers of people going to hospital etc.

Homes and Communities Agency (HCA)

Bristol
2 Rivergate
Temple Quay
Bristol
BS1 6EH

Tel: 0300 1234 500

Email: mail@homesandcommunities.co.uk

www.homesandcommunities.co.uk

The registration and operation of registered social landlords, including their administration of public and private funds and management of their housing stock.

Information Commissioner

Head office
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Tel: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

Fax: 01625 524510

www.ico.org.uk

Compliance with the requirements of legislation relating to data protection and to freedom of information*.

(*Data protection legislation regulates the processing of information relating to individuals, including the obtaining, holding, use or disclosure of such information)

(*Freedom of information legislation provides for the disclosure by public authorities of the information that they hold).

KPMG

100 Temple Street
Bristol
BS1 6AG

Tel: (0117) 905 4000
Fax: (0117) 905 4001

Wiltshire Council’s external auditors

Contact Details (LiveLink)

Multiple Contacts:
eMail:
Telephone: 01225 718020
Out of hours:
Fax:
Postal Address: Head of Governance
Wiltshire Council
County Hall
Bythesea Road
Trowbridge
Wiltshire
BA14 8JN
In Person:
DX:

Last updated: 5 November 2013

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