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Protect’s pilot examining whistleblowing culture in the Third Sector has found key weak spots it believes are symptomatic across many of the 168,000 charities in England and Wales.

Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner said, “The room for improvement in the Third Sector is well documented following the Oxfam and Save the Children scandals. But in recent weeks we have once again been reminded how vital the work of charities is – and how vital speaking up about wrongdoing is to keep us all safe.

She added, “We know charities are very well aware of safeguarding, but we wanted to assess their whistleblowing culture.”

A cohort of 20 mid to large sized charities took part in the pilot between October and January this year to test their whistleblowing culture. Self-assessing using Protect’s Whistleblowing Benchmark, the charities scored themselves across governance, staff engagement and effective operations.

The results, documented in Time to Transform: Insights from Protect’s Third Sector pilot found:

  • Despite over 80% of charities claiming to have a zero tolerance approach to whistleblower victimisation –  none monitored the risk of victimisation through any aftercare process to monitor wellbeing of staff who had raised concerns
  • Only 52% of charities differentiated between whistleblowing and grievances – making it much harder for staff to know where to go with concerns and the impact on the concern being properly dealt with
  • 86% of charities failed to offer whistleblowing training to staff receiving and acting on whistleblowing concerns

“Our findings on attitudes to keeping whistleblowers’ names confidential and on victimisation are revealing.  If whistleblowers are not given assurances about confidentiality, and if no action is taken when victimisation occurs, others will not be encouraged to speak up” said Protect’s Liz Gardiner.

Stephanie Draper, CEO at international development body, BOND, said, “Whistleblowing is an essential component of safeguarding, so it’s encouraging to see organisations taking action to understand how effective their whistleblowing systems are. Many organisations have, or are in the process of appointing whistleblowing champions and teams to ensure the right arrangements are in place for staff to speak up. This will help make staff feel safe and confident that any complaints or concerns raised will be dealt with appropriately and they will not be victimised.

She added, “Getting whistleblowing right starts with having good governance and policies, but it has to go further than that and this means providing training so staff know their responsibilities and by creating a culture where speaking up is championed.”

Time to Transform was shared with ACEVO, who issued a report ‘In Plain Sight’ last year which highlighted bullying in the third sector, and who are calling on the Charity Commission to do more to investigate bullying.

ACEVO Head of Policy, Kristiana Wrixon, said, “I welcome any work that is undertaken to strengthen whistleblowing processes in charities. The findings of the pilot are interesting, however the report looks at a small group of the largest charities by income, representing a tiny percentage of the sector, so generalisations cannot be made from this information alone. I hope that this report leads to further work that will support charities of all sizes that want to strengthen their whistleblowing practice.”

Protect hope to maximise the pilot findings and work with participants to spread the word about their positive experience and benefits of the Benchmark process, but want a wider scale pilot to help raise awareness amongst the 168,000 charities in England and Wales. Protect is also hoping to work more with smaller charities helping them to adopt good whistleblowing processes.

Read the report Time to Transform

#TimeToTransform
#100charities


Survey findings of 150 health care staff by frontline lobbying group for doctors, The Doctors’ Association has highlighted the shocking treatment of NHS doctors who dared to blow the whistle on inadequate PPE supplies, which featured on BBC Newsnight this week.

The survey respondents were made up of 25% of nurses and just under 25% foundation doctors, 10% were middle grade and just under 10% were consultants. A smaller number of responses were from midwives, physiotherapist paramedics, radiographers and speech and language therapists as well as porters and security staff.

Doctors’ Association UK Law and Policy Lead, Dr Jenny Vaughan, told BBC Newsnight, “These are people who had tried the right channels. They hadn’t just gone and tried to put things on social media because they were trying to be negative. These were people genuinely raising concerns who went to the people who should have listened and felt that they either couldn’t raise a concern or weren’t listened to. So they had to find another outlet because people are putting their lives on the line.”

Just under 50% of respondents have been told not to raise concerns or speak to the press regarding COVID-19 all PPE by trust management and senior colleagues. The survey found 75% of responses had concerns about not having access to PPE as outlined in PHE guidance for the setting they working, whilst 55% reported that they had not been bullied for raising concerns – but about a third did report bullying. This was most commonly by managers, trust management, senior colleagues and in some cases the senior executive of the hospital.

The survey found 50% of our respondents did not feel confident about raising concerns locally without fear of reprisal and the same amount had this fear about raising their concerns  publicly.

Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, “The survey findings from the DAUK survey paint an extremely varied picture of the speak up culture across Trusts in the UK. We have had many calls to Protect’s Advice Line from NHS workers with concerns over PPE and some NHS staff have told us they do not feel safe speaking up, or are not aware of what support channels exist.

“It is disappointing to hear that 50% of DAUK’s survey respondents did not feel confident about raising concerns locally, and that some staff have reported bullying by senior managers.  Trust leaders need to hear when things are going wrong and what their Freedom to Speak Up Guardians say about the importance of speaking up.  Failing to listen up can undermine the whistleblowing culture of the trust and ultimately this may endanger the safety of staff and patients.”

If an NHS worker has a whistleblowing concern, NHS staff can raise the matter internally at the Trust, speak to their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (England only), or call the NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp for signposting information. For NHS workers in Scotland, they can call the Alert and Advice Line. For strategic advice on how and where they can raise their concerns further, in addition to legal advice as to what their rights are in doing so, they can call the Protect Advice Line.


Protect is calling on the HMRC to reinstate its fraud hotline for whistleblowers who are trying to raise public interest concerns about misuse of taxpayers’ money.

Protect, which handles around 3,000 whistleblowing cases to its Advice Line each year – has seen a spike in calls to its Advice Line in recent days on furlough fraud.  We are calling on HMRC to reopen its fraud line for whistleblowers who want to speak out on employers exploiting the Government’s furlough scheme.

HMRC have said its ‘telephone and postal contact are temporarily unavailable because of measures put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).’

Liz Gardiner, Chief Executive, Protect, said: “We are very disappointed HMRC has closed its fraud hotline for people to call and report furlough leave fraud: our experience is that this is a new emerging problem that needs to be tackled.

“Our Advice Line is taking many calls from people about furlough fraud – around 25% of our Covid-19 calls have been around this issue, and the trend is upwards. People have simply been told to work despite being furloughed and they obviously feel uncomfortable about this as its wrong – itis deceiving tax payers out of money. We appreciate the pressure HMRC are under but it may be shortsighted not to have an easy way for whistleblowers to report fraud.”

Information about furlough fraud can be reported via the HMRC online digital reporting service which is available by visiting www.gov.uk and searching ‘Report Fraud to HMRC’. HMRC is currently operating an online reporting tool designed to allow the public to disclose instances of any fraud for which HMRC is responsible, in this instance the Job Retention Scheme.

But Protect argue an online form is not ideal as many people are not comfortable using an online service which cannot give them reassurance about their confidentiality, and people cannot ask questions if they are unsure about something and need advice.

An HMRC spokesman said, “HMRC treats its duty of care to those who report fraud to us as a priority and we have a number of mechanisms set in place to ensure the safety of those individuals.”

HMRC have in place the following:

·Completion of this form (and under normal circumstances contacts made to our fraud reporting telephony service) is entirely anonymous unless the individual reporting wishes to provide contact details for further contact.

·Section 3 of the reporting form is designed to give insight into how widely known the information is and this is used in our assessments when reviewing any risk associated with acting upon information provided.

·All information sent to our fraud teams is sanitised before sharing with compliance/criminal intervention teams to remove any reference to a human source.

·HMRC operate a policy of “Neither Confirming Nor Denying” the existence of a human source in any of our activities.

Whistleblowing on furlough fraud is in the public interest and workers should not be deterred trying to do the right thing by speaking up to stop harm.

Protect’s recently published Principles for Recommended Practice: Better Regulators Guide recommends all regulators have in place a whistleblowing hotline.


The High Court has today handed down judgment and awarded whistleblower Amjad Rihan $10.8 m in damages against his former employer, Ernst and Young.

Protect Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner said: “We’re pleased to see this award to Amjad Rihan, who courageously blew the whistle on serious financial irregularities and who suffered career-long losses as a result. A whistleblower who had exhausted internal processes, he acted reasonably in bringing this global scandal to public attention via the media and the judge said he would have had a strong whistleblowing claim. His employer owed him a duty of care, and failed in that duty.

While this was not a claim under the whistleblowing law (The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 “PIDA”), nevertheless the judge took into account the principles of PIDA when assessing whether Amjad acted reasonably. We’re also pleased to see the judgment accepts that the public interest should not be constrained by what may be an offence in other jurisdictions. PIDA states that a disclosure is not protected if the whistleblower commits an offence in making it – but today’s judgment clarifies that should only apply to offences under the laws of Great Britain.


Protect is reassuring NHS workers it is just a phone call away.

Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, “Whistleblowing is the best early-warning system in the NHS and now more than ever staff need to feel safe and supported when they speak up and that issues are properly investigated and resolved.

“We want NHS workers who are working under extremely difficult circumstances to feel reassured that they can get independent and confidential advice about whistleblowing by calling Protect.”

Protect handles around 3,000 cases each year through its free, confidential Advice Line. In addition, it trains businesses and organisations on best practice speak up arrangements.

If an NHS worker has a whistleblowing concern, NHS staff can raise the matter internally at the Trust, speak to their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (England only), or call the NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp for signposting information. For NHS workers in Scotland, they can call the Alert and Advice Line. For strategic advice on how and where they can raise their concerns further, in addition to legal advice as to what their rights are in doing so, they can call the Protect Advice Line.

However, charity Protect says it has been approached by some NHS staff with concerns.

“Some NHS staff have told us they do not feel safe speaking up within their Trust and are not aware of what support channels exist. Our service at Protect is unique – we offer advice on how to raise concerns effectively, as well as explaining whistleblowers’ legal rights” said Protect’s Chief Executive Liz Gardiner.

Dr Jenny Vaughan, Learn Not Blame Lead, at Doctors Association UK, said, “Sadly the Doctors’ Association UK has been approached by many doctors who have been disciplined for raising concerns about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and been told not to speak to the press. Patient safety is never best served by driving staff concerns underground. Bullying of staff when they speak out about safety is completely unacceptable.”

She added, “Doctors and nurses on the frontline have a right to speak out if they or their families or patients could be at risk. Our health service, both private and public, will only benefit if we learn from each other’s experience and we have a Learn Not Blame culture.”

Protect has the support of a number of lawyers who have agreed to give further support to health and social care workers during the crisis.

Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner added, “We hope that employers will listen-up when concerns are raised – but we’re grateful to the many lawyers in our legal support network who have kindly agreed to help, including barristers Daniel Stilitz QC, Mukhtiar Singh, and Joseph England and solicitors Paul Daniels at Keystone Law, Leigh Day Solicitors and Slater & Gordon lawyers – but please call Protect in the first instance”.

If further law firms or Chambers wished to lend their support and advice during the Covid 19 crisis, Protect are co-ordinating whistleblowing support to key workers should it be needed.

Doctor Katie Sanderson, who works in acute medicine, said “Healthcare workers are practising in very challenging conditions. It is crucial that everybody working in the NHS feels able to voice concerns openly, and that they are aware of the appropriate channels to do so. It is important that doctors and others are aware that free, high quality legal advice is available if they need it.”

 

Protect
Protect Advice Line – Tel: 020 3117 2520
Email whistle@protect-advice.org.uk

SpeakUp
NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp: 08000 724 725. 

Alert & Advice Line – NHS Scotland
Tel: 0800 0086112
Email: alertline@protect-advice.org.uk

 


Protect has put its name to an international civil society letter:

The signatories to this letter call on all public authorities and institutions to protect those who report or expose the harms, abuses and serious wrongdoing that arise during this period of crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also encourage all citizens and workers to participate in ensuring our governments, corporate institutions and markets remain accountable, and in defending the human rights and freedoms of all people.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings into stark relief the importance of accountability and the need for regular and reliable information from our public institutions and our leaders. The people of every affected country need to know the truth about the spread of the disease both locally and internationally in order to respond effectively and help protect their communities. Fairness, transparency and cooperation are vital and never more so than during a pandemic.

We have already seen examples of wrongdoing and mismanagement in our public institutions, commercial markets and business as a result of COVID-19. Emerging areas of concern include health system capacity and delivery, public procurement, violations of health and safety and labour law, inequitable and ill-prepared global supply chains, unfair competition practices and market abuses, and significant violations of personal privacy rights at scale through the digital tracking of individuals.

Proper notification of risk to the public and to workers, fair and responsible conduct by all institutions, and transparent data collection are all critical to public confidence in our ability to overcome this crisis. This is even more important when the protections normally provided by the fundamental democratic pillars of our societies are curtailed or side-stepped. Parliaments and democratic assemblies are being suspended in many countries. The use of extraordinary powers by governments without proper public oversight and transparency creates a tangible risk of overreach and potential misuse.

When decisions are taken in emergency conditions, often away from democratic scrutiny, whistleblowers can play a vital early warning role. They are the corrective fail-safe mechanism in any society, especially in an international health crisis when the public’s right to know can have life-or-death implications. In this time of crisis and beyond, we encourage citizens and workers to participate in ensuring that proper accountability is maintained in our governments, corporate institutions and markets, and in defending the human rights and freedoms of all people.

During this pandemic we have already witnessed abuses. At various times, the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information have been restricted. The cost of these actions is most severely borne by the most vulnerable members of our communities: the elderly, the poor, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ communities, prisoners, the multitudes of precarious workers as well as frontline workers in the crisis.

Whistleblowing has proven to be a powerful tool to fight and prevent actions that undermine the public interest. Our organisations call on all public authorities and corporate institutions to protect those who expose harms, abuses and serious wrongdoing during the COVID-19 crisis, and beyond. Workers are taking risks daily to maintain the many essential services which we rely upon, especially in these times, our health services, care for elderly care and other social and public services, as well as food supply and logistics, just to name a few. The importance of these workers, their right to a safe working environment and to speak up about threats to public health and safety, corruption, and other abuses must be recognised and protected. Their disclosures, as well as those from all citizens, are vital to preventing major disasters and reducing the impacts of the crisis on us all, especially on the most vulnerable members of society and our democratic systems.

 

Access Info / ACREC / African Centre for Media & Information Literacy / APW-Fíltrala / Archiveros Españoles en la Función Pública / Article 19 / Atlatszo / Blueprint for Free Speech / Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University / Center for Independent Journalism Romania / CFDT Cadres / Cibervoluntarios / CREW – Greenwich University / Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation / Prof. David Lewis, Whistleblowing Research Unit, Middlesex University / ePanstwo Foundation / EPSU – European Public Service Union / Eurocadres – Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff / ETUC – European Trade Union Confederation / European Centre for Press and Media Freedom / European Federation of Journalists / European Organisation of Military Associations and Trade Unions   Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente / Fundación Internacional Baltasar Garzón (FIBGAR) / Funky Citizens / Government Accountability Project / Prof. AJ Brown, Griffith University / Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights / International Bar Association / Legal Legion Loyalty / Maison des Lanceurs D’Alerte / Media Development Center / Oživení / Pistaljka / Protect / Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER) / Reporters United / Stefan Batory Foundation / The Disruption Lab / The Ethicos Group / The good lobby / The Signals Network / Tom Mueller / Transparency International / Transparency International Australia / Transparency international Estonia / Transparency International Greece / Transparency International Ireland / Transparency International Italy / Transparency International Slovensko / Dr Vigjilenca Abazi, Maastricht University / Vouliwatch / WIN Whistleblowing International Network / Whistleblower-Network Germany / X-net

 

 


Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, “COVID-19 has drastically changed the way in which we work but whistleblowing and speak up remains vital if we are to keep patients, customers and colleagues safe. Our Advice Line has been receiving Covid 19 calls and we know some NHS staff are feeling unsupported by management over public interest concerns they have. The report,  in The Independent today that NHS staff are being “gagged” and warned not to speak about their concerns is a troubling state of affairs. While we understand the need to control media communications as part of national emergency incident planning, gagging or restraining staff from raising their concerns on public interest matters is short sighted.

Whistleblowing is the best early-warning system in the NHS and now more than ever organisations should ensure that staff feel safe and supported when they speak up and that issues are properly investigated and resolved. NHS staff are putting themselves in difficult and dangerous situations to save lives, and the long term future and resilience of the NHS depends on ongoing trust between staff and managers. We urge all NHS Chief Executives, Boards and senior management to listen to concerns raised by staff.”


Protect, has today (March 19)  announced the appointment of Liz Gardiner as its new Chief Executive.

Liz, who joined Protect as Legal Officer in July 2018, has been Acting Chief Executive at the charity since December last year when Francesca West stood down.

Liz said, “I am delighted and honoured to be working for such a great charity with such talented and committed staff. I am looking forward to acting as an ambassador for Protect and building on our work, to change whistleblowing culture for good across workplaces. I am passionate about Protect’s work and the impact we can have in encouraging speaking up to stop harm.”

Before joining Protect, Liz, who is a qualified employment solicitor, worked at charity Working Families on their legal helpline, advising parents and carers about discrimination and flexible working issues. Liz also has strong public affairs and communication skills; she has worked in both Houses of Parliament and as Parliamentary Officer for Working Families and the Royal College of Nursing.

Protect Chair, Paul Boyle said, “Firstly on behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Francesca for all her hard work and we all wish her well. The Board is delighted to appoint Liz who stood out head and shoulders amongst many applicants. She has impressed the Board and staff with her positivity, enthusiasm and ambition for the charity. I’d like to congratulate Liz on behalf of the Board on her appointment and offer any support if needed over the next few months, which will undoubtedly be challenging for CE’s up and down the country. The work of Protect is as vital as ever, if not more so.”


As part of a series of sector specific round tables, Protect, together with hosts Mayer Brown, brought together whistleblowing specialists from insurance firms large and small earlier this month.

The seminar, introduced by Pete Chapman of Baker Mackenzie and Chris Chapman of Mayer Brown, set out why whistleblowing matters to insurance firms.  Firms need to consider the extension of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority rules to the insurance sector, as well as the increase in regulators’ emphasis on non-financial misconduct in the post #Metoo era, and how they focus on diversity – and how effective whistleblowing can play a part in each area. Chris reminded the audience that the best way to avoid the FCA finding out first about a problem, is to make sure your internal whistleblowing arrangements are effective.

The panel posed questions to the room – how would you know if your arrangements were working well?

Mike Carpenter’s (former Legal and General Group Financial Crime Risk Director, and now a consultant) outlined the “Ps” that those responsible for whistleblowing should consider:  philosophy, principles, policies, procedures, people, and  performance.  He encouraged attendees to measure the success of their whistleblowing arrangements with diagnostic tools – is a viewpoint supported by Jon Cunningham of Protect who offered the solution of the charity’s 360⁰ Benchmark in measuring operations, governance and staff engagement.

Protect Chair and ex-Aviva Chief Internal Auditor Paul Boyle OBE asked if the insurance sector has a greater level of responsibility to ensure that individuals with concerns of public interest are encouraged to speak up?   Crucially, is it in insurers’ best interests to actively promote whistleblowing to their customers to reduce risks?  The majority of delegates agreed.  Both underwriters and brokers should be looking at the effectiveness of whistleblowing arrangements when assessing the risks of their customers –  not just to reduce the need for large payouts to firms and individuals when malpractice has taken place, but  – in the public interest – to avoid harm.

Finally delegates discussed the importance of trust in whistleblowing arrangements, and the need for senior buy-in if cultures are going to change.  More could be done by associations and markets to issue best practice guidance:  everyone should be involved in getting the message across.

 

By Business Support Manager Stella Sutcliffe


Protect is hosting a round table breakfast for the insurance sector at law firm Mayer Brown with Mike Carpenter (former Group Financial Crime Risk Director at Legal and General), Paul Boyle OBE (Chairman of Protect), and Chris Chapman (Compliance Partner at Mayer Brown).

Together, they will be discussing a number of topics around speak-up cultures, including the vital question of how to measure your programme’s effectiveness.

We would be delighted if you could attend and contribute your professional insight. Specific topics will include:

  • Measuring the effectiveness of whistleblowing
  • How to foster a positive speak-up culture
  • What the biggest challenges are to developing a whistleblowing programme
  • How to equip and train managers

If you are interested in attending this free round table,which takes place on March 4 between 830am-945.am at Mayer Brown’s Liverpool Street offices, please email Stella Sutcliffe, at stella@protect-advice.org.uk or call 20203 117 2520