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Whistleblowing

Medway Council is committed to tackling acts of fraud, corruption, unethical conduct and malpractice, regardless of who commits them or where in the council they are committed. This way, councillors, staff and the people of Medway can be sure that the services the council provides are used in the best interests of the local community.

The council wants its staff to feel confident about raising a concern about any such conduct or action and that this will be properly dealt with at the earliest opportunity and not overlooked or ignored.

To encourage and enable them to do this, the council ensures that anyone who uses its whistleblowing policy to raise a concern will be protected from any form of detriment, harassment or victimisation regardless of:

  • its content
  • the person with whom it is raised
  • the outcome of raising the concern.

There are several individuals or specialist teams within the council with whom staff can raise a concern. The whistleblowing policy provides an opportunity for their concerns to be dealt with internally. Many of the solutions will be found within the council but they may also be dealt with through an agreed external body.

Although staff may be tempted to take a concern directly to the media, airing a concern through the media does not always mean that the issues raised are appropriately addressed and often fails to protect innocent parties. Council staff have a duty of confidence to their employer and unauthorised disclosure of information may be a disciplinary offence. They should therefore not contact the media unless they have exhausted all the options available to them through the policy. Instead, they should seek the advice of their line manager or one of the specialist Whistleblowing Teams.

Download Medway Council's Whistleblowing Policy (pdf 123KB).

Who can raise a concern?

If you undertake work for the council, whether you are an employee, a contractor or a paid or unpaid volunteer, you can use this procedure to raise a concern.

Who can concerns be raised about?

The people listed above can raise a concern about the practice of anyone who works for or on behalf of the council. This includes employees of the council, contractors, councillors or volunteers.

School-based staff

In a school, staff would normally raise a concern with their direct line manager. If this is inappropriate, their headteacher or chair of governors should be contacted, who may involve the nominated whistleblowing officer.

Is there anything that should not be raised through the whistleblowing policy?

The policy should not be used to raise a concern about terms and conditions of employment which would be covered by the council's grievance procedure or matters that can be dealt with through another procedure. It is also possible that after raising a concern, an employee might be advised about other agreed council policies or procedures which are more appropriate to the nature of the concern. If in any doubt, however, this policy can be used as a starting point for staff concerns.

Misuse of the whistleblowing policy

Raising a concern unreasonably, with malicious intent or for personal gain or the gain of others is not acceptable and may lead to disciplinary action under the council’s disciplinary policy.

Confidentiality

The council accepts that, wherever possible, the confidentiality of anyone wishing to raise a concern will be protected. There might, however, be occasions where confidentiality cannot be protected, for example where the police need to be involved. If there is any possibility that someone's confidentiality cannot be protected, they will be told why this is the case and will be offered appropriate advice and support.

Concerns raised anonymously

Concerns expressed anonymously will be investigated. An investigation may be hampered by the inability to gain further information, however, so the council encourages staff who raise concerns to provide some method of contacting them in case further information is needed.

The scope of the policy

A concern can relate to any unethical or unprofessional conduct within the council. The policy not only covers acts that have actually occurred but also conduct which is potentially unethical or unprofessional . Below are some examples but please remember, this list is by no means exhaustive:

  1. an actual or potential breach of the law
  2. possible or actual miscarriages of justice
  3. the actual or possible abuse (sexual or physical) of clients in the council’s care
  4. potential or actual acts causing damage to the environment
  5. acts or potential acts of fraud and corruption or the misuse of public funds
  6. acts that could have a detrimental affect on the health and safety of employees and/or the public
  7. actual or potential acts of harassment or bullying of or by someone working for the council
  8. actual or potential acts of racial or sexual discrimination
  9. any unethical conduct that causes concern or brings the reputation of the council into disrepute
  10. the deliberate concealment of information that would indicate any of the things above.

If staff are in any doubt as to whether or not to raise a concern, they can seek confidential advice from the council's Human Resources Services or their trade union representative.

What to consider when expressing a concern

To enable concerns to be dealt with in a proper and effective manner, staff have some guidelines to consider:

  • Be as clear as possible about what the concern is and who and what it relates to. You may also want to discuss the concern with others to see if it is shared
  • Be as clear as possible about who maybe involved, when and where actions may have taken place etc. Make sure the facts are recorded, for example, record the dates and times of events in a diary. This way you can be clear about what has actually been heard or seen and when, rather than relying on memory or hearsay
  • Make sure you ask for your concerns to be dealt with under this procedure.

How to raise a concern

No matter whom staff raise their concern with, it will be dealt with under this procedure. If the person with whom an employee raises the concern feels it necessary, they may want to refer the concern on to either a specialist team or a more senior council officer, whichever is appropriate. If this is the case, the person who raised it will be contacted first and have the opportunity to discuss any further issues they may have.

The first point of contact

A concern would normally be raised initially with an employee's line manager or supervisor. The nature of the concern and the people involved may mean that this is not possible, however.

Alternatively

  • If an employee feels unable to raise the matter with their line manager or supervisor, they may wish to contact their director of service or the director of the service to which their concern relates, if it is different
  • The employee may wish to refer their concern directly to one of the council’s specialist whistleblowing teams:

Financial and Audit

Fraud, corruption or misappropriation of council assets or resources

Community Services

The care and welfare of adults and community issues, for example issues concerning the conduct of care staff, housing managers and others

Children’s Services

The care and welfare of children. If someone suspects that a child is being neglected or abused by a member of staff, they should contact the Local Authority Designated Officer

Human Resources

The conduct of employees in general and specific issues of discrimination, harassment etc

Information Technology

The misuse of information technology, such as email and the internet

Regeneration and Development

Environmental issues, for example building control, planning etc

All the teams and the service directors have received specialist training in dealing with concerns and will follow the procedure set out below.

The procedure to be followed

To ensure that all concerns raised are taken seriously and are fully investigated, the council has agreed a procedure to be followed in all cases.

If, at any stage of the procedure, you are asked or wish to meet with someone addressing the concerns you have raised, you have the option to be accompanied by a work place colleague, trade union representative or representative from a professional body.

When you first raise a concern:

However you wish to express your concern, by telephone or in person, you will receive an acknowledgement of your concerns from the person to whom you have expressed them. This will be sent to you within five working days of being notified of your concern and if you wish, can be sent to your home address.

The person to whom you have reported your concern will then decide how to progress. This may mean undertaking an investigation. This does not mean that the concern is either true or untrue but will help to assess the gravity of the complaint and establish the facts. It could be possible that the concern may be the result of a misunderstanding or an authorised change in practice.

Within 10 working days of making your concern known you will either:

  • have a confidential meeting with the relevant person to further discuss your concern or
  • have received, in writing, an outline of how the relevant person intends to deal with the concern raised.

Depending on the nature of the concern, you may have subsequent meetings with the relevant investigating persons. These can be held off-site if desired.

The outcome of your concern

Having raised the concern, the council recognises that you will need to be assured that the issues have been dealt with. You will be kept informed on a regular basis of what actions are being taken and the final results of any investigations.

In some situations, such as referrals to external bodies, it may not be appropriate (or legally possible) to supply you with the full information discovered. The reasons for this will be explained at that time, however.

Taking your concern further

If you have gone through all these channels and you still have a concern or feel that the issues have not been fully or appropriately addressed, you can contact the Chief Executive or have him contacted on your behalf, to discuss your concern in confidence.

You should not refer the matter outside the organisation, however, without first ensuring that all other possible avenues have been exhausted.

Finally

If you have a concern about the conduct of the council or the actions of anyone who provides work for the council, whether they be employees, councillors, contractors or volunteers, Medway Council wants you to feel confident that you can bring it to the attention of others.

Only when people are prepared and feel able to report such concerns without the fear of reprisals can we all have confidence in the integrity and honesty of the council.