Whistleblowing is a process that enables employed staff or volunteers to raise serious concerns in the workplace and to have these concerns properly addressed.

There may be allegations or concerns of abuse which implicate a member or members of staff. A member of staff may have concerns about the conduct or behaviour of a colleague. Despite working closely together or even socialising outside of work, the duty of care necessitates the matter being raised, in accordance with the Safeguarding Adults Procedures.

Front-line staff are often the first to see or suspect misconduct but are often worried about raising concerns. They may worry that they are being disloyal to their colleagues or are worried about the consequences of coming forward. It is recognised that whistleblowing is often seen in a negative light and that this negativity has been perpetuated for many years. Consequently, it is difficult for staff to see the positives, but this needs to be encouraged. A good starting point is to ensure open, honest and effective communication amongst staff teams and within services. Where this is the case, staff should begin to feel more confident and positive about coming forward with ideas, thoughts, suggestions and concerns. All managers must ensure that they listen to their staff and support them in this.

Each agency should have in place their own Whistleblowing Policy, which should outline the process for support in such instances. All workers need to be aware of any whistleblowing policies within their own agency. The Policy should be effective in supporting staff to come forward with their concerns, and relay confidence that they will be supported throughout the process.

The quality function of the Commissioning Team (Local Authority) can provide guidance and support to agencies to assist in developing and implementing effective whistleblowing policies.

Most staff put the interests of service users at the heart of what they do and understand they – as much as their employers – are responsible for ensuring the health and wellbeing of all those who use their service.

In practice, therefore, it is vitally important that staff are able to raise a concern within their teams or with their line manager when they think that the safety or wellbeing of service users, the organisation or the public is at risk. However, where a member of staff is uncertain about whether to raise a concern or is worried that their colleagues or their manager will react badly to the news, there is a risk that they will remain silent or wait until it is too late to avoid or remedy the problem.

All agencies whether statutory, voluntary or private should have their own policies to encourage staff to speak up and to provide a safe alternative where the normal route – through line management – is not possible for whatever reason. These may be called “whistleblowing”, “speak up” or “raising concerns” policies and are often linked to codes of conduct/practice. There may also be separate anti-fraud policies to deal specifically with matters of financial impropriety.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 came into force on 2nd July 1999 and has been amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. This legislation gives legal protection to employees against being dismissed or penalised by their employers for publicly disclosing serious concerns falling in certain specified categories. The Act applies across the private and voluntary sectors as well as to public bodies. The charity Protect produces a useful guide to the Act – see Protect – a Guide to PIDA

Staff who are not confident about raising a concern locally or using other internal or external routes – whether in a whistle-blowing policy or not – should contact Adult Social Care Services or the Care Quality Commission for information or advice.