All of the decisions made during the case management process should be informed by the principle that the child’s welfare is of paramount importance.
Making decisions during case management
Decisions about cases are made at a number of stages in the process. These may include:
- initial decisions on receiving a safeguarding concern
- case management groups can make decisions at various stages depending on the procedures of the organisation. They may determine the route a case takes, whether further investigation is required or whether to begin disciplinary processes
- referrals involving statutory agencies will include the guidance of those agencies in making decisions
- disciplinary action and sanctions may be made at lead officer, case management group or human resources level within an organisation
Organisations should seek to make defensible decisions which would withstand subsequent scrutiny.
A defensible decision is when:
- all reasonable steps have been taken to gather as much relevant information as possible
- a reliable assessment model has been used which addresses both static and dynamic risk factors
- information is collected from within and outside the organisation and evaluated
- decisions and rationale are recorded
- there are transparent and consistent processes
Initial decisions will consider risk, threshold and progress of the case. These decisions are usually made by the safeguarding lead officer or team to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Lead officers are encouraged to seek support with this to avoid decisions sitting with one person.
Some of the key questions to consider in the initial stages of the case management process include:
- Are there risks posed to children or young people? If yes, how can these be immediately managed? An interim suspension of someone potentially posing a risk should be considered.
- Where does this fall on the scale between small breaches of the code of conduct or low-level poor practice through to serious, persistent poor practice and abuse? Using threshold guidance to assist in determining next steps is helpful here. Cases involving concerns about abuse should be referred to the statutory authorities. Low-level poor practice cases are more likely to be managed within the sports organisation.
- Who will undertake an investigation? This could be a lead officer, a case officer or an independent external investigator.
- Is a referral to the case management group appropriate? This will depend on the terms and reference of your case management group.
- How will these concerns be managed both in the short and longer term? This could include consideration of disciplinary sanctions, mentoring and education and support for all concerned. This could also include plans for further assessments following a period of suspension or education to determine whether an individual should return to their role within the organisation.
Important considerations for decision making across all stages of the case management process include:
- the nature of the concerning behaviour
- the impact on the child or young people involved and their views
- the probability of continuing concerns
- balancing an assessment of ‘static’ factors that are known to increase risk – such as age at conviction, previous convictions, concerns, alcohol or substance misuse – with an assessment of ‘dynamic’ factors that are also known to increase risk – such as lack of victim empathy, escalation in angry behaviour, cognitive distortions and rationalising for behaviour and impulsivity.
Burden of proof
Decisions should be reached ‘on the balance of probability.’ This is a threshold applied in civil cases, care proceedings and disciplinary processes. It is a lower burden of proof than the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ level required for criminal cases.
Organisations have a duty to undertake this process regardless of the outcomes of any statutory agency investigations or other action. For example, regardless of whether a conviction has been secured, although reports from these agencies should inform the process.