Tips and advice designed to help simplify staff protection and allow your team to continue day to day operations, minus the worry of false accusation.
Organisations where staff work in positions of responsibility and trust are increasingly promoting safeguarding practices and using technology such as CCTV to protect their employees from false accusations of abuse or misconduct of children or vulnerable people.
While society now rightly recognises and abhors the abuse of children and adults – whether sexual, physical or emotional – there is a growing awareness and evidence of false accusations, and the lasting harm they can cause to those who have been accused.
The need for senior managers and team leaders such as head teachers or senior healthcare professionals to reduce the risks for their staff has never been greater.
And while that protection might start with programmes aimed at prevention – staff education; detailed guidance to avoid situations of risk; and robust procedures for investigating complaints fairly – there is no doubt that CCTV technology from security systems experts like JMH Technology has a growing part to play in providing invaluable evidence in false accusation cases.
A growing risk of false accusations
Voluntary organisation FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) states that many people whose work regularly brings them into contact with children, or vulnerable or dependent adults, do not realise how vulnerable they are to being falsely accused of abuse or misconduct.
The Education Support Partnership define an accusation as a claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong – and one that is typically made without proof.
FACT offer support to those who, while working in positions of trust, are victims of wrongful allegations of abuse. What defines a wrongful allegation, and how common they are are difficult to quantify.
Certainly not all false accusations are malicious, some wrongful allegations are made in error, and there are plenty of external factors that can lead to a false accusation being made. But the risks are increasing and becoming a serious problem for some organisations.
FACT cite a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in 2015 which found that 38% of staff said a colleague in their school or college had a false allegation made against them by a pupil. And over a fifth (23%) said a false allegation had been made by a pupil’s parent or family member.
ATL reported that around 50% of allegations of wrongful behaviour towards pupils were dismissed after investigation by their place of work, without being reported to the police.
The ATL survey also revealed that more than a one in five (22%) school and college staff had had a false allegation made against them by a pupil; and one in seven (14%) by a parent or family member.
Unsurprisingly, false allegations are becoming a major reason for teachers leaving the profession. And the experience is repeated across the healthcare professions too.
Faced with such an accusation, the employee can endure ongoing trauma. The welfare of pupils or vulnerable adults is understandably given a very high priority, but the human cost of false allegations can be high too.
Those falsely accused are victims too
People falsely accused face increased stress, physical and mental health problems, seeing their reputations tarnished, their finances adversely affected and their careers blighted.
The feeling of isolation and the stigma attached, combined with the loss of vocation and harm to future employment prospects, can be devastating.
There has been a progressive shift in society in the past decade towards increasing openness and for allegations of sexual or physical abuse of the vulnerable to be largely believed, the general climate reinforced by the thrust of media coverage.
Victims are trusted, their stories widely published, and those guilty of abuse rightly brought to justice. But those on the wrong end of false accusations are being increasingly seen as victims too.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) Truth Project has made it clear it will be hearing testimony from members of society that have been falsely accused.
Even where a police investigation does not lead to a caution let alone a prosecution, the harm has already be done to an employee falsely accused, remaining on their record.
Systems to check on potential employees wishing to work with vulnerable populations in risk-averse environments – such as Disclosure and Barring Service checks – can penalise those who have fallen under a cloud of suspicion even if they are not found guilty of any criminal offence.
Enhanced disclosures from the DBS, which for example most teachers will undergo when applying for a new job, can include information about police investigations, even if they did not result in a prosecution or caution.
The falsely accused therefore suffer again, with damaged reputations and ruined careers – innocent men and women left without a career, and their institutions stripped of skilled employees.
What can employers do to protect their staff?
As a senior manager, you will no doubt want your team to continue day to day operations, minus the worry of false accusation.
As a head teacher you can make sure all your staff are fully aware of best-practice guidance from teaching bodies like ATL, to help with avoiding circumstances that could expose them to the risk of false allegations of impropriety.
There are also common-sense guidelines with regards to physical contact, for example if comforting a distressed student; and Department for Education protocols for the use of reasonable force to control or restrain pupils.
As there are statutory rules for the use of force in healthcare to restrain adult patients who due to their behaviour are endangering themselves or others.
HR departments in any organisation at risk of false accusations have an important role to play in drafting safeguarding practices for the workplace and giving employees confidence in how you will handle any complaints received, investigating them without any perceived bias.
The 2015 ATL survey found that staff complained that their school or college had not been as supportive as they could have been. Only 43% of staff were largely or totally happy with how their school or college dealt with a false allegation against them.
FACT say that a clearly wrongful allegation could be defined as being one where innocence is completely proven, perhaps by a cast iron alibi or video evidence.
So there is clearly a role for CCTV to play in providing that indisputable evidence.
The role smart CCTV has to play
For more than 15 years MPs have been making the case that CCTV cameras be introduced into classrooms as a way of helping teachers accused of abuse prove their innocence.
CCTV systems, like those installed by JMH Technology, are a useful tool in disproving some false allegations, as they capture actual events, and are not influenced by interpretation.
While there were initially complaints from teachers’ unions when schools originally planned to introduce CCTV cameras within classrooms – believing them to be an unfair intrusion into their workplace – there is far more support now, with the realisation that using cameras gives teachers protection against false allegations from pupils.
There is a similar picture at other types of at-risk organisations. Once you show your staff how the installation of CCTV can help them in dire circumstances, then using a CCTV system could be an effective way to protect employees, and your organisation, when integrated with HR best-practice.
CCTV systems can be customised by JMH Technology to provide solutions suitable for small schools through to large healthcare sites, providing extremely high-quality recordings – with a wide range of different equipment to provide a simple monitoring solution tailored to suit each individual site.