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Whistleblowing - encouraging people to speak out

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What is whistleblowing?

Sometimes whistleblowing is called ‘speaking up’ or ‘raising a concern’. It’s about making sure if you or someone else sees something wrong, it’s reported to the right people. Whistleblowing policies protect your organisation, everyone within it and people you work with.

This is why you must have a whistleblowing policy, so harm can be identified early, action can be taken and everyone can be safer. 

There are the five key principles for setting up, running and reviewing effective whistleblowing arrangements.

Leadership

You must make it clear you’re committed to encouraging staff and volunteers to raise concerns. Leaders should take action to build a culture where safeguarding is taken seriously and people are respected for taking action to keep people safe. They must not tolerate bullying or harassment against those who speak up. Whatever the size of your organisation, senior managers and trustees must discuss how to make those arrangements effective – alongside other work on safeguarding. They need to be sensitive to the power dynamics of your organisation, especially between staff and volunteers. 

Example
GetLoud is a small organisation working with marginalised groups to access music opportunities. They have one full time member of staff, a series of freelancers and a team of volunteers. The Chair and at least one other trustee meets with the whole team twice a year with updates; they always have a space for people to raise issues. The Chair shares contact details and reminds people to contact them individually if they wish to raise something. The Board has a designated lead safeguarding trustee and the Vice Chair is identified as a point of contact for raising concerns. 

Your policy

You can either have a standalone policy or include whistleblowing in your general safeguarding policy. It should be written in plain English so all staff can understand the policy and raise concerns as soon as they are worried. 

The document should cover:

  • How to raise whistleblowing concerns internally and externally
  • Protection and confidentiality
  • How internally raised concerns will be investigated, recorded and dealt with
  • How you will let people who raised a concern know the outcome

 

Example 
Better Hearts is a small national charity aiding professionals and people affected by congenital heart conditions. They have a small staff team and a range of volunteer roles. They have had a Whistleblowing Policy for a number of years developed by their HR provider and is focussed on their staff. Following a review of their safeguarding arrangements, they revise their Whistleblowing Policy to explicitly highlight how they manage disclosures from volunteers and how this dovetails with their safeguarding procedures. 

 

Briefing and training managers

When you have good safeguarding policies, procedures and training, many concerns will be raised openly as part of day-to-day practice.  

Whistleblowing is for when those procedures have gone wrong and people feel that their concerns are not being taken seriously. Whistleblowing allows people to escalate their concerns. Escalating means reporting to someone more senior – and in a small organisation, to a different trustee - and eventually outside the organisation. Managers need to understand their responsibilities around the investigation process, maintaining the confidentiality of the whistleblowing and feeding back to the person raising the concern. 

Example 
Action for Accountants is a small charity supporting finance professionals. After rolling out new safeguarding training for all staff and volunteers, managers highlight that they are confused about their responsibilities for whistleblowing. The Charity organises a follow up session for managers and trustees to be reminded about what is whistleblowing, their responsibilities and managing confidentiality. 

Effective communications

You must communicate your whistleblowing arrangements to everyone.

Good examples of how to do this include:

  • posters
  • screensavers
  • team briefings
  • a piece written by the chief executive or chair for a newsletter or blog 
  • staff surveys.

 

Example
Plains Women’s Refuge provides support for women and children facing domestic abuse. They have a rolling programme of awareness raising to staff and volunteers of their approach to whistleblowing. This includes reference in inductions and posters at both of their sites. 

Review of arrangements

You should regularly review how well your arrangements are working. 

You could review 

  • The number of whistleblowing concerns raised
  • Types of concern
  • Staff survey results
  • Feedback from staff briefings
  • Incidents that are known about but were not properly reported internally to the safeguarding lead, managers or trustees
  • Incidents that people you work with reported outside your organisation before they told anyone inside the organisation
Example
HeritageFirst is a national charity which aims to protect spaces for future generations. They undertake an annual staff survey which asks people if they are aware of different mechanisms of being heard. The results are shared with all staff and feeds into their annual business plan process. They include a short summary on their annual report of significant trends and any whistleblowing to an external body, such as the Charity Commission. 

 

  • Read the tricky issues in whistleblowing page to understand more about how it works.
  • Consider using our deciding to whistleblow page to create information to share in your organisation. You can also use this if you are thinking about whistleblowing  yourself. It contains links to whistleblowing helplines as well as information.
Page last edited Oct 03, 2019

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