Background on the BBC's internal reviews into child protection and whistleblowing policies
Director of BBC People
At the BBC we engage with around six million children and young people in the UK every year, through the content and services we provide, as well as a significant number who directly interact with us as audience members, performers and visitors to our buildings. Engaging children and young people is at the very heart of our remit as a public service broadcaster.
However, it also comes with responsibilities.
In all that we do the BBC has a legal duty to ensure that children and young people do not suffer harm whilst interacting with the BBC – an obligation we take very seriously.
The BBC has a comprehensive framework in place to ensure children’s welfare. Our current child protection policy dates from 2002, when CRB checking became law, and was drafted with input from experts from the NSPCC. Since then we have reviewed our policy whenever relevant changes to the law or new guidelines have been introduced. This year, following the allegations about Jimmy Saville and others, and at the request of the Chairman, Lord Patten, we have chosen to look again at the policies we have in place.
The review has found that the BBC’s child protection policies are compliant with current legislation and in line with international good practice. No child is left alone with an adult on BBC premises without a parent, guardian or chaperone, as is best practice. Additionally the BBC has been improving the operation of its current child protection policies by consolidating the existing guidance and policies in one place and by strengthening the network of nominated managers who are able to advise operational staff on practical policy operation.
Nonetheless, the review also makes some recommendations on further improvements to the recording and overview of any incidents so that if an incident is recorded in one part of the BBC, all the other areas of the BBC will be aware. Consolidating overall responsibility for child protection is another common-sense move and I am honoured to have been chosen to take on that responsibility.
These improvements, together with the cultural reinforcement of BBC values pointed to in the Respect at Work review, will help us ensure we are confident that our child protection arrangements represent a gold standard for the future.
Separately a review of the BBC’s whistleblowing policies was also conducted.
The BBC is firmly committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics, honesty, openness and accountability and recognises that all of its employees have an important role to play in achieving that goal. While there is no legal requirement for employers to have a whistleblowing policy, the BBC has had the ‘Protected Disclosure Policy – Whistleblowing’ in place since the late 1990s.
This review found that the BBC’s whistleblowing policy is complaint with law and demonstrates best practice. It is readily accessible, used on a regular basis and applies to BBC staff worldwide as well as anyone who work for the BBC including freelancers, contractors and agency workers.
The review makes some recommendations on improving monitoring, clarity and staff awareness as well as identifying the need for a central system to follow up complaints, in order to identify risk areas or trends.
The review also recommends that although editorial concerns are already covered by the policy, awareness amongst staff could be raised to ensure this is more widely known.
However, in terms of fulfilling its core aims of outlining how an individual makes a 'qualifying disclosure' and is thereafter protected, the policy works well.
Although both reviews found the BBC’s policies were compliant, it is possible the Dame Janet Smith Review will make some recommendations to further improve the policies and they will be incorporated if that is the case.
Lucy Adams is Director, HR