The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which provides legal protections for employees who whistleblow.
Table of contents
What sort of whistleblowing does the Commissioner handle?
The Commissioner handles cases where people have a genuine concern about malpractice or wrongdoing in their workplace that relates to promoting and safeguarding the rights of children and young people in Scotland. If you contact the Commissioner to whistleblow, that’s called making a disclosure.
What are the laws around disclosing information to the Commissioner?
There are certain things that must be true for a disclosure to be protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
A whisteblower must reasonably believe they’re acting both in good faith and in the public interest when they pass information on. That means the issue you’re disclosing has to affect others, not just yourself.
When contacting a Prescribed Person, whistleblowers must meet certain legal criteria for their disclosure to be covered under the Act.
When a whistleblower passes on information they must reasonably believe that they are acting both in good faith and in the public interest. This means it has to affect others, not just yourself: personal grievances and complaints aren’t covered by the Act.
You must also believe your disclosure is about one of the following:
- criminal offences (including financial improprieties, such as fraud),
- failure to comply with duties set out in law,
- miscarriages of justice,
- endangering someone’s health and safety,
- damage to the environment, or
- covering up any of the above.
The Commissioner cannot give you legal advice, and they also can’t advise you as to whether your disclosure will be protected under the Act. You should seek independent advice about whether your disclosure may be protected. You can get free advice about this from Protect:
7-14 Great Dover Street
London SE1 4YR
Whistleblowing Advice Line: 020 7404 6609
UK advice email: email@example.com
UK advice site: https://www.protect-advice.org.uk/
How can I raise a whistleblowing concern?
Your organisation should have an internal policy that explains how you can safely raise whistleblowing concerns. You should follow this policy before contacting the Commissioner unless:
- you believe you may be victimised for doing so,
- you believe the thing you’re concerned about might be covered up,
- you believe your concern was not dealt with properly through your employer’s whistleblowing policy.
Any whistleblowing disclosure made to the Commissioner should be about the rights, interests and well-being of children in Scotland.
How will we respond to your whistleblowing concern?
We respond to whistleblowing concerns as we do to other enquiries. We will let you know if we can take any action and what that action will be. If we are unable to help, we will advise you as to someone else who may be able to assist you.
We aim to acknowledge enquiries within two working days and to provide an initial response within five working days.
Our Advice and Investigations Service is confidential and you can contact us anonymously if you wish.
We will only collect or share information about you if:
- you have given us your permission, or
- we are worried about your or someone else’s safety.
You should be aware that if the Commissioner raises your concern with an organisation – although every effort will be made to protect your identity – there is a risk that the organisation may be able to guess who you are.
If you want to make a whistleblowing disclosure to the Commissioner, please contact the Advice and Investigations Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or at:
Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
99 McDonald Road
0131 346 5350
If you need any assistance communicating with us, please let us know and we will do our best to help.
How we report whistleblowing
The Commissioner is required to report on an annual basis the number of disclosures made to him under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
The Commissioner’s statutory function is to promote and safeguard the rights of children and young people. This is set out in the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003. The Commissioner’s approach to whistleblowing disclosures is informed by that role and by the Commissioner’s statutory powers as set out in the same Act. The range of responses open to the Commissioner is the same as with any other enquiry received by the office and is subject to the same decision-making process on the most appropriate course of action.
In the year ending March 2022, we received two whistleblowing disclosures, both linked to one local authority. Both were stark illustrations of not just the importance of the right to complain, but of the need for robust, rights-based, transparent complaints procedures to ensure that children and young people and their parents/carers can make well-informed decisions.
The Commissioner received two enquiries from individuals describing themselves as whistleblowers in the year ending 31 March 2021. In the first we were contacted by an individual with a complaint about a decision taken by a school not to inform pupils and parents about a teacher testing positive for Covid-19. As this was a public health issue we made contact with Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) as a relevant prescribed person. Health Improvement Scotland agreed that they were the body best placed to respond and advised that the concern would be raised directly with the Director of Public Health for the local health board area. All communication thereafter was between the enquirer and Health Improvement Scotland.
We were also contacted by a local employee raising concerns about the family of a child with complex additional support needs not receiving sufficient support during the first Covid-19 lockdown. We provided the enquirer with information about whistleblowing legislation, the role of the Commissioner as a Prescribed Person and contact details for ‘Protect’ (the advice service for whistleblowers). The enquirer expressed concerns about the risk of identification and possible repercussions as a result of the disclosure of details about the concerns raised. We explained what actions we might take should the enquirer wish to proceed, as well as alternative actions they could take/suggest to the family affected. We received no further contact from the enquirer.
Between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 the Commissioner received one enquiry from an employee who had made a whistleblowing disclosure to their employer regarding incidents involving a senior manager and young people. An investigation had taken place but the enquirer was concerned that, because they would not know the outcome of the investigation there could be a ‘cover-up’. The enquirer wanted the two incidents investigated independently.
We provided information about whistleblowing legislation, where the individual could obtain information and support and what action the Commissioner could take. Having no information about where or when the incidents had taken place or who the employer was and with no further contact from enquirer, there was no scope for further action.