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Wednesday, 09 November 2016

Amendment agreed to protect whistleblowers seeking work in children's services

Written by The Press Association

Whistleblowers applying for work in children's social care will get protection against discrimination following a Government concession.

The move comes amid concerns of a "critical gap" in existing legislation, which meant those seeking work, who had previously raised the alarm, were not covered by safeguards and so could be vulnerable to being blacklisted.

The protection for whistleblowers seeking work in children's services, proposed by Labour peer Lord Wills, was agreed to by ministers at the report stage of the Children and Social Work Bill.

Supporting the measure, Labour peer Baroness Wheeler said job applicants were not considered workers and so were not covered by existing whistleblowing protections.

She said: "If an individual is labelled as a whistleblower, it can be difficult for them to get work because they can find themselves blacklisted, not through a formal centralised database but informally."

Responding for the Government, Viscount Younger of Leckie said: "I agree that those working with the most vulnerable children in society need to be able to report concerns about what is happening in their organisation.

"Importantly, when they make a protected disclosure they should have no fear of being effectively blacklisted and unable to find a new role."

He agreed to the amendment put forward by Lord Wills "that protections will apply to those seeking employment with specified public bodies in roles relating to local authorities' children's social care functions".

Those safeguards would apply to the whole of Great Britain in line with other employment legislation, he said.

However, Lord Younger did not back calls for a statutory code of practice on whistleblowing arrangements in relation to children's services, arguing it was "premature" in the light of action already taken by the Government.

Speaking outside the chamber, business minister Margot James said: "Those working with the most vulnerable children in society need to be able to blow the whistle about concerns they have within their organisation, and when they make a protected disclosure they should have no fear of being blacklisted and unable to find a new role.

"That is why I am pleased to have been able to work with Lord Wills and take action to extend employment protections for these workers.

"This will put more emphasis on employers to follow best practice and provides greater protection for their workers."

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