Submission by NLN to IICSA regarding Residential Schools





Witness Statement of Stephen James Hall




I, Stephen James Hall, will say as follows:-


I hold the Certificate of Qualification in Social work and am a registered social worker. I have been a qualified and practicing social worker in Children’s Services at a variety of practitioner and managerial levels for the last 40 years. I am employed as a Local Authority Designated officer for a London Borough and currently am joint Chair of the National LADO Network. This statement is submitted on behalf of the National LADO Network in my capacity of Joint Chair of that Forum.

Each Local Authority is required to identify a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) oversee allegations against adults who work with children. This is set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) Chapter 2 Paragraph 4. and is governed by Local Authorities’ duties under section 11 of the Children Act 2004. In addition, Keeping Children Safe in Education Part 4 relates specifically to allegations made within school settings and confirms the role of the LADO.

The role of the LADO is to provide advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations, who employ and manage individuals who work with children where allegations or complaints are made against adults working with children. Such adults include professionals, and volunteers in all parts of services to children where it is alleged that children have been or are at risk of being harmed. . This involves liaison with the police and other agencies, monitoring the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, and ensuring investigations are consistent with a thorough and fair process. The LADO does not conduct investigations into such allegations but rather oversees investigations conducted by police, employers, and professional regulatory bodies. This allows the LADO to retain an independence and impartiality which ensure fairness and consistency. Once investigations are concluded, the LADO coordinates the multi-agency decision making process as to any conclusions, outcomes, or further actions.

The National LADO Network (NLN) was formed following the third National LADO Conference which took place in Bristol in 2016. This followed two previous annual conferences arranged by North West and London regions. At the 2016 conference, attended by LADOs nationally, which was hosted by the south West of LADOs, it was recognised by attendees that there needed to be a forum for LADOs to consider LADO practice issues, develop national guidelines and consider future developments of the LADO role and services. The NLN aims to support LADO’s in developing robust systems for managing allegations against people who work with children and young people. Its aims are

  • To promote the role of the LADO in external agencies and ensure multi agency working at a national level particularly in the development of policy and guidance.
  • To share and promote good practice and to encourage a learning environment.
  • To provide a forum for support and networking,
    • To share information on local, regional and national developments
    • To discuss emerging practice using case material
  • To identify and resolve cross boundary issues.
  • To Identify common training needs and consider how best to address these needs.
  • To identify policy issues that can be shared with the DfE, OFSTED and others to improve quality and consistency nationally.
  • To influence related regional developments via the regional LADO groups. To ensure that when making allegations, the voice of the child is heard and responded to.

The NLN holds two monthly meetings, attended by representatives of each regional group of LADOs. All LADOs have access to the work of the NLN and are considered members. Invitations to partner organisations to attend these meetings to foster cooperation have ensured that the Network is able to form positive working relationships with a number of National Organisations including, Police, Health, sports governing bodies, faith groups and Government Bodies. In addition, each year a National Conference is arranged, by rotating regions, where external speakers offer LADOs an opportunity to keep up with current trends and research in managing allegations. The conference is also an opportunity to meet, network and share ideas and challenges.

The NLN has developed a series of principles governing LADO services and has developed benchmarking data as well as a series of proposed standards to support LADOs locally. Currently the NLN chair is held by the London Region and, as part of its action plan for 2019/20, it is drawing together a plan for a training outline for LADOs. Within the invitation to complete this statement, the NLN has been asked to consider a number of questions and I will address each in turn;

LADOs should be required to respond to requests for information from OFSTED, the Independent Schools Inspectorate or other bodies regulating the schools sector in respect of safeguarding allegations and concerns reported to them;

LADOs routinely respond to requests for information from these bodies regarding our observations on schools responsiveness to allegations, and more general safeguarding issues. These requests are often sought in advance or during inspections of schools but also occur following notifications to Ofsted via their whistleblowing line, of concerns around specific incidents or complaints. As part of the LADO’s role of evaluating allegations and complaints, LADOs seek to create positive working relationships with all regulators of services to children. This requires the effective sharing of information proportionate to safeguarding children and young people. The NLN would therefore support this proposal

LADOs should take responsibility for investigating allegations of harmful sexual behaviour between peers in schools;

As outlined above, the LADO’s role is to manage and support the investigation of allegations against adults who work with children. LADOs do not conduct investigations directly but rather oversee the investigations by the police and employers. Moreover, the LADO’s expertise centres upon harmful behaviour by adults and those in particular holding positions of trust towards children. It would therefore be a significant change in the role of the LADO to consider investigating allegations directly and to do so in relation to allegations of harmful behaviour between peers in schools. Where there are concerns regarding organisational factors, the LADO may have expertise which could be of assistance to understanding the context and organisational responses to such allegations, but such input would centre upon adult and organisational elements.

Keeping children Safe in Education 2019 provides guidance to schools in managing peer on peer abuse, including immediate, short term and long term considerations. In addition, appropriate arrangements already exist under Sect 47 of the Children’s Act 1989 for the management of assessments and investigations regarding peer on peer abuse allow for appropriate management and cooperation by. At this stage, the NLN can see no additional benefits to LADOs investigating or overseeing allegations of peer on peer abuse.

LADOs should be required to send data to the Department for Education on an annual basis about the number and nature of safeguarding concerns reported to them;

 Previously Local Authorities were required to submit a data set to Department of Education regarding the work of LADOs. This provided helpful benchmarking information for LADOs locally and provided LADOs with nationally agreed indicators. Since this requirement was ended, the NLN has been developing a dataset for LADOs. However, this approach is voluntary and whilst many LADOs have responded positively, not all have provided data. The re-establishment of a minimum dataset would enable LADOs nationally to benchmark their activities and identify national trends. However, the work over the last twelve months within the NLN has identified the need for a clear understanding of what information is collected and how it is defined. As such the NLN would welcome the opportunity to work with The Department to identify what annual data is returned. This data would of course address all allegations irrespective of the setting in which they are alleged to have occurred. On this basis the NLN would support such a proposal.

LADOs should be required to report all allegations of child sexual abuse made against staff members or pupils in schools to the Department for Education or OFSTED and if so, how such a system could work.

 Over recent years, as LADO services nationally have developed it has become clear that information is held by local LADOs regarding allegations against adults and those who may potentially pose a sexual risk to children. Research clearly demonstrates that understanding and identifying patterns of behaviour is a critical tool in identifying adults who pose risk to children. Unfortunately, LADO records are held by individual LADOs and are not easily and routinely accessible across Local Authority boundaries. LADOS do, of course share information where there are safeguarding concerns but this is dependent on knowing which LADO to approach for information.

A notifiable system of allegations centrally would assist in reviewing patterns where an adult working with children poses a risk. However, there would need to be clear criteria and thresholds as to when information would be reported centrally and how that information would be held, as well as who would have access to it. It would also need to specify what information was held and how, and on what basis that information would be shared centrally. Moreover, given LADOs experience that perpetrators can work across settings, such information would need to include adults working with children across all settings and not merely schools or residential schools for it to be fully effective.

However, as mentioned in point b. above, currently LADOs are not engaged in managing allegations of peer on peer abuse and are therefore not advised or aware of such allegations abuse and as such would not hold data on such referrals.

In conclusion, the NLN is keen to develop effective working relationships with national partners in managing allegations against adults who work with children. Given the experience and expertise available from LADOs, the Network members are eager to use this knowledge to support the development of safeguarding services in the future.

Statement of Truth

I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.

Signed:                    Stephen Hall

Dated:                       24th February 2020