Members of Church personnel have a responsibility to bring matters of concern about any aspects of the conduct of anyone acting on behalf of the organisation to the attention of: a relevant manager or group leader; PSR; PP; the DLP; and/ or relevant agencies.
Although this can be difficult to do, it is particularly important where the welfare of children may be at risk. You may be the first to recognise that something is wrong, but you may not feel able to express your concerns out of a feeling that this would be disloyal to colleagues, or you may fear harassment or victimisation. These feelings, however natural, must never result in a child continuing to be unnecessarily at risk. Remember, it is often the most vulnerable children who are targeted. These children need an advocate to safeguard their welfare. Don’t think, ‘what if I’m wrong?’ Think, ‘what if I’m right!’
Reasons for whistle-blowing:
• Each individual has a responsibility to raise concerns about unacceptable practice or behaviour.
• To prevent the problem worsening or widening.
• To protect or reduce risks to others.
• To prevent you from becoming implicated.
What stops people from whistle-blowing:
• Fear of starting a chain of events that spirals out of control.
• Disrupting the work or project.
• Fear of getting it wrong.
• Fear of repercussions or damaging careers.
• Fear of not being believed.
What the law says:
There is legislation in both jurisdictions in Ireland related to whistleblowing. This applies to employees of Church bodies, as well as to agency workers in certain circumstances; to contractors and consultants engaged on contract by the Diocese; and to trainees, temporary workers and those on work experience with the Diocese. It does not apply to volunteers.
In the Republic of Ireland the legislation is the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, a guide to which can be accessed electronically at www.raiseaconcern.com/legislation/raiseaconcern-easy-guideto-pdpia#accept
How to raise a concern:
Whistle-blowing can be about a range of concerns, not just child safeguarding. It is important to:
• Voice any concerns, suspicions or uneasiness as soon as possible. The earlier a concern is expressed the sooner and easier action can be taken;
• Try to pinpoint exactly what practice is concerning and why;
• Approach your immediate superior/supervisor/manager;
• If your concern is about your immediate superior/supervisor/manager, please contact your DLP, the statutory services or the NBSCCCI;
• Make sure a satisfactory response is secured – do not let matters rest;
• Ideally, concerns should be placed in writing, outlining the background and history, giving names, dates, locations and any other relevant information;
• You are not expected to prove the truth of your complaint, but you need to demonstrate sufficient grounds for concern.
What happens next:
• You should be given information on the nature and progress of any enquiries resulting from your concern.
• Your supervisor/superior/manager has a responsibility to protect you from harassment or victimisation.
• No action will be taken against you if the concern proves to be unfounded and was raised in good faith.
• Malicious allegations will be considered a disciplinary offence.
• Follow up if the person to whom you reported has not responded within a reasonable period of time, and if that follow up is not acted upon, report the matter to the relevant statutory authorities.
There may be occasions when a member of staff or a volunteer has a personal difficulty, perhaps a physical or mental health problem, which they know to be impinging on their professional competence. Staff and volunteers have a responsibility to discuss such a situation with their line supervisor/superior/manager so that professional and personal support can be offered to the member concerned. Whilst reporting will remain confidential, in most instances this cannot be guaranteed where personal difficulties raise concerns about the welfare or safety of children.
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 was commenced on the 15 of July 2014 (whole Act)