Sunday, 5 February 2023

Blowing The Whistle

I'm not aware we've ever discussed 'whistleblowing' on here and I have to confess I know almost nothing about the process. Of course the Ch4News scoop last week by a 'whistleblower' regarding pressure being applied by mangers to alter risk assessments for resource reasons has now brought the issue to the fore. 

Here is the MoJ guidance document, but I'm not at all sure it helps a great deal and indeed even if it covers the risk 'manipulation' issue? What about allegations I've heard from time to time that electronic records have been known to be 'doctored' during various investigation processes such as SFO's? 

It's noteworthy that 'bullying' is not covered and this from the Mirror recently reminds us that the staff survey found the MoJ had a higher incidence at 11% than the average of 7%. 


Whistleblowing advice questions for civil servants

1. What is Whistleblowing?

‘Blowing the whistle’ occurs when a person raises a concern about past, present or imminent wrongdoing, or an attempt to cover up wrongdoing, in an organisation or a body of people. The information that they disclose should be in the public interest, i.e. the issue must affect others, for example the organisation, work colleagues or the general public. Further information on whistleblowing can be found on the GOV.Uk site See the Whistleblowing intranet page.

2. What is the Civil Service Code?

The Civil Service Code (the Code) forms part of the terms and conditions of employment for all civil servants and sets out their duties and responsibilities. Civil servants are expected to carry out their role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its four core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. The Code can be accessed online on the GOV.UK website (see the external sites on the whistleblowing intranet pages). Links to the relevant codes for Welsh and Scottish civil servants can be found on the CS Commission website.

3. What can I raise under the Whistleblowing Procedure?

If you are asked to do something which conflicts with the values in the Code, or are aware that another civil servant is acting in conflict with the values, you should raise a concern as soon as possible, using this procedure. The whistleblowing procedure does not cover HR related issues which can be raised using existing departmental policies.

Below is a list of examples of concerns which fall under the Code:
  • misuse of official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of one’s official duties to further one’s private interests or those of others
  • deceiving or knowingly misleading Ministers, Parliament, or others
  • being influenced by improper pressure from others or the prospect of personal gain
  • ignoring inconvenient facts or relevant considerations when providing advice or making decisions
  • frustrating the implementation of policies once decisions are taken by declining to take, or abstaining from, actions which flow from those decisions
  • acting in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests
  • acting in a way that is determined by partly political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes
  • allowing one’s personal political views to determine any advice you give or your actions
You may find that your concern relates to general wrongdoing and does not fall under the Code but would be considered under the whistleblowing procedure, for example:

A threat to National Security:
  • failure to follow security vetting procedure
  • falsifying incident reports
Failure to comply with legal policy obligations:
  • not protecting personal data as required by the Data Protection Act 1998, Gender Recognition Act 2004, Health and Safety regulations or any other relevant legislation.
Danger to the environment:
  • improper disposal of hazardous materials
  • failure to put in place proportionate controls to manage environmental risks that could cause harm to individual(s) or the environment
The above lists are not exhaustive. Nominated Officers can provide further advice if you are unsure whether your concern is covered by the whistleblowing policy. It is important that any concerns you may have, are raised as soon as possible.

4. What is the Civil Service Commission and what type of concern can I raise with them?

The Civil Service Commission (the Commission) have been helping to uphold the standards of the Civil Service since their original appointment in 1854. The current Commission was established as an executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Commissioners are appointed by the Crown following open competition. The Commission and its Commissioners are therefore independent of the Civil Service.

The Commission has powers under the Act to hear and decide on complaints raised by civil servants under the Code specifically. It does not hear complaints on issues outside of the Code, for example personnel grievances. The code can be accessed via the link on the whistleblowing intranet pages.

5. How can I contact the Commission?

Further information on how to raise a concern with the Commission is available from:

Civil Service Commission
G/8 1 Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ

E-mail : Tel: 020 7271 0831

6. Can I take my concern straight to the Commission?

You may take a concern direct to the Commission, however, in most instances the Commission will expect you to have raised the concern within your own department first. If you raise a concern directly with the Commission, without the issue being raised within the department the Commission will ask why it was not appropriate to raise the matter internally first. The Commission they will inform you directly about whether they are prepared to investigate the concern. Information on raising a concern directly with Civil Service Commission can be found on their website (see the whistleblowing contact list).

7. What is not covered by the Whistleblowing Procedure?

Issues around your treatment as a member of staff or personal complaints about your employment, for example: complaints about your terms and conditions; promotion or selection procedure are not covered by the whistleblowing procedure. Any other complaints connected to your working conditions, including harassment, bullying and discrimination are also not covered by the whistleblowing procedure. These would normally be dealt with by your line manager through day-to-day management action, or through appropriate departmental procedures.

8. What is the difference between whistleblowing and a personal grievance?

Concerns raised under the whistleblowing policy should address wider issues that concern your department, colleagues or public in general, rather than personal complaints that you may raise under other policies. For civil servants, they will usually relate to the Civil Service values, as outlined in the Code.

Personal grievances and complaints, including complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination will not be accepted under the whistleblowing policy and should be raised under the department’s appropriate policy.

9. Is a ‘crisis of conscience’ complaint the same as blowing the whistle?

A ‘crisis of conscience’ may occur when you are asked to do work which conflicts with your faith or personal beliefs. This is not the same as whistleblowing where there is suspicion of wrongdoing, or a breach of the values in the Code, by the department. If you have a crisis of conscience you should discuss this with your line manager in the first instance.

10. Do I need to formally raise every concern under the Whistleblowing Procedure?

No. You and your line manager should engage in regular, open discussion about your work and working environment. If something is on your mind, you may wish to discuss this informally with your line manager before raising more formally under the whistleblowing procedure.

11. I don’t have any proof of my concern yet. What should I do?

You do not need to wait for proof when reporting a concern. When raising a concern with your line manager or Nominated Officer, you only need to have a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. It is not for you to investigate or prove that your concerns are justified, as that is the responsibility of the department.

12. Why should I follow the Whistleblowing Procedure?

The whistleblowing policy and procedure have been designed to:
  • offer you protection when raising a concern that is accepted under the policy
  • ensure that your concerns are addressed and resolved at the right level and as quickly and effectively possible
13. What are the benefits of raising Whistleblowing concerns?

A positive whistleblowing culture has numerous advantages. For example, it can:
  • encourage an open culture where employees feel confident that concerns can be raised and dealt with quickly and that they will be protected for doing so
  • detect and deter wrongdoing
  • provide managers with the information they need to make decisions and control risk
  • save lives, the environment, property, jobs, money and both personal and organisational reputations
  • reduce the chance of anonymous or malicious leaks (including to the media)
  • reduce the chance of legal claims against the organisation
14. Will there be repercussions if I blow the whistle?

The department’s whistleblowing procedure, if correctly followed, will afford you protection from any detrimental treatment or victimisation on the grounds of raising your concern. See question 29 regarding the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).

15. What would happen if an employee raise malicious, vexatious or knowingly untrue concerns?

If an employee raises malicious or vexatious concerns other than in the public interest or raises knowingly untrue concerns in order to harm colleagues or their department, they will face disciplinary action. This could result in dismissal, unless, they can demonstrate a reasonable belief that the concern was both true and in the public interest.

16. What happens if an employee is treated badly by a co-worker because they raised a concern?

It is the responsibility of the employer to stop any bad treatment and take reasonable steps to prevent any further issues arising. If an employee feels they are being treated badly because they have raised a concern, they should report this to their line manager or someone else in their line management chain, or they should seek advice from a Nominated Officer.

Where an employee has been victimised for raising a concern, the department will take appropriate action against those responsible, in line with the Disciplinary Policy and Procedures.

17. I am a non-civil servant seconded into the Civil Service. What procedure should I use?

If you are seconded into the Civil Service, you are a civil servant for the duration of your secondment. You will therefore be subject to the Civil Service Code and Civil Service Management Code and should use the Whistleblowing Procedure for Civil Servants. You will have access to the Civil Service Commission.

18. I am a civil servant who has been seconded out of the Civil Service and I want to raise a concern about a departmental matter, what procedure should I use?

If you are a civil servant seconded out of the Civil Service, you retain your status as a civil servant. This means you will continue to be bound by your Civil Service terms and conditions, the Civil Service Code and the Civil Service Management Code. If your concern relates to the actions of another civil servant, you may use the Whistleblowing and Raising a Concern Procedure and will have access to the Civil Service Commission. If your concern relates to matters within the non-Civil Service organisation you have been seconded to, you should use the organisation’s own whistleblowing policy and the matter cannot be brought to the Civil Service Commission (this may depend on the terms of the particular secondment.)

19. I am a civil servant on loan to another department and I want to raise a concern. What procedure should I use?

As a civil servant you are bound by the provisions applicable to all civil servants, including the Code and the Civil Service Management Code. You should therefore, depending on the terms of your loan, either use the whistleblowing procedure of your parent department or the department you are seconded to. You will have access to the Civil Service Commission.

20. I am a service provider i.e. contractor, working within a government department and I want to raise a concern, What procedure should I use?

As you are not a civil servant you are not subject to the Civil Service Management Code, nor the Code. However, service providers will normally be dealt with under the procedure of their host department and so the principles of the whistleblowing procedure for employees will still apply and you should follow this to raise a concern. As a non-civil servant, you will not be able to raise a concern with the Civil Service Commission.

21. I am an employee working for a non-Crown non-departmental public body (NDPB) and I want to raise a concern. What procedure should I use?

As you are not a civil servant, you are not subject to the Civil Service Management Code, nor the Code. Please refer to the Whistleblowing Procedure for Employees of a NDPB.

22. Where can I go for support during this process?

We recognise that you may experience anxiety when raising or considering whether to raise a concern. There are various channels of support available to you throughout the process:
  • the Integrity Line: 0800 917 6877 Monday to Friday
  • your line manager, or another locally based manager and a Nominated Officer can advise you on available support. More information can be found in the contact list on the whistleblowing intranet l pages.
  • you can contact the MOJ employee assistance programme, HELP: 0800 019 8988. They may provide counselling to whistleblowers.
  • trade union members can seek advice from their representatives. DTUS contact details can be found in the contact list on the whistleblowing intranet pages.
  • The department may also provide legal representation or cover legal costs if you are involved in legal proceedings as a result of blowing the whistle, this only applies in very particular circumstances as outlined in Section 12.2 of the Civil Service Management Code. This will be decided on a case by case basis. A link to the management code can be found on the whistleblowing pages on the intranet.
  • The ACAS Helpline 0300 123 1100 provides free and impartial advice for employees on a range of issues, including whistleblowing in the workplace
  • Public Concern At Work is a whistleblowing charity which advises individuals on whistleblowing matters at work. The website can be accessed via the intranet pages.
Please note however that these sources of support (excl. line managers and Nominated Officers) are not themselves bodies to whom you can raise your concern. They can only provide help and advice and you should not divulge details of the matter itself to them.

23. What is a Nominated Officer and how might I contact them?

Nominated Officers are employees, Band B/SEO and above, who can offer impartial support and advice, outside of the management chain, to those who have potential whistleblowing concerns.

They are able to provide advice on:
  • the Civil Service Code
  • whether your concern falls under the whistleblowing policy
  • the appropriate channels available for you to raise your concerns
  • the alternative channels to follow where your concern falls outside of the Whistleblowing and Raising a Concern Policy
  • whether the Permanent Secretary needs to be consulted / informed
  • what the next steps should be.
Contact details for Nominated Officers can be found in the contact list on the whistleblowing intranet page.

24. Will my identity remain confidential?

The best way to raise a concern is to do so openly, as this makes it easier for the department to investigate and provide feedback. You can however request that the department keeps your identity confidential and they will respect this request as far as possible. If requested, your identity will be restricted to a ‘need to know basis’. However, a situation may arise where it is not possible to resolve the concern and guarantee confidentiality (for example, in matters of criminal law). If this is the case, the department will advise you of this before proceeding.

25. Can I raise a concern anonymously?

If you raise your concern openly, this makes it easier for the department to investigate your concern and provide feedback. You may choose to raise concerns anonymously, i.e. without providing your name at all. However, the investigation itself may serve to reveal the source of information. Employees are therefore encouraged, where possible, to put their names to concerns raised, but raising a concern anonymously is preferred to silence about potential serious wrongdoing.

26. Will I be able to find out the outcome of the investigation?

Whilst the department will try to keep you informed of progress, and where possible provide you with an update within 28 days. You will be advised when the matter has been concluded. However it cannot be guaranteed that you will be given all the details of the investigation and the final outcome will be disclosed. Security and confidentiality must be maintained for all parties.

27. I am not happy with the outcome of the investigation, what now?

If you have raised the concern with your line manager, someone else in your management chain or a Nominated Officer in accordance with the whistleblowing procedure, and you do not think that you have received a satisfactory outcome, you may raise your concern with the Permanent Secretary and from here, the independent Civil Service Commission. Although the Department / Commission cannot guarantee that the outcome would be as you may wish, it will seek to handle the matter fairly and correctly.

28. Can I go straight to my Permanent Secretary with a concern?

You may raise a concern directly with the Permanent Secretary if you feel your concern is of such a serious nature that you would be justified in doing so. If you are unable to raise the concern with your manager or a senior manager then you should consider raising your concern with a Nominated Officer if possible.

29. What is PIDA and how does it link with the department’s Whistleblowing Procedure?

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) is more commonly known as ‘whistleblowing legislation’ and forms part of employment legislation. The department’s whistleblowing procedure primarily focuses on breaches of the Civil Service Code. However in some cases, PIDA legislation may also be relevant. PIDA serves to protect ‘workers’ who make a ‘qualifying disclosure’ in one of the permissible ways set out in the Act. Having made a ‘protected disclosure’ they are entitled to the protection set out in the Act.

By law, the employer has a duty to protect that worker from suffering any detriment as a result of making a protected disclosure. Any dismissal of an employee as a result of the disclosure would be automatically unfair. Whilst not permitted under the Whistleblowing and Raising a Concern Policy, disclosures to certain regulatory bodies, known as ‘prescribed persons’ can be permitted by PIDA in certain circumstances. See GOV.UK for information on prescribed persons.

In order to be protected, an employee will need to follow the procedure set out in the Act. If you wish to raise a concern in this way, it is advisable to seek legal advice.


  1. They should start with the National Security Division

  2. In response to the recent debate - I have been asked to reduce RoSH on cases I have assessed on the basis “we have nobody to give them to” ( they were high and not enough PO’s) I have repeatedly in recent years had PJC’s deleted from records or removed from my OASys because they make managers look stupid when s it hits the fan. I raised this with a PDU head and was told to shut up - so I now send an email with all relevant details and keep it in a special folder in my inbox. The current issue as I see it having worked in both CRC and NPS is that cases are too often assessed as medium which is a hangover from the split.. but it’s also worth noting that whilst all the resources are being put into cases that are High or V High - there is a tendency to forget that the majority of SFO/ come from cases who are categorised as low / medium- this doesn’t mean they are incorrectly assessed - in recent times I would suggest they are incorrectly managed - the current expectation is Medium risk seen once a month - given the complexity of some of these cases this is frankly ridiculous. I have been pushed repeatedly not to see medium risk cases as often by managers who haven’t managed medium cases for over 10 years which is in my opinion where the issue of workload comes in and staffing issues- doing this job “properly” is utterly exhausting when there is no staff and if the torrent of abuse and blame culture continues there is no way anyone will stay.

    1. From Twitter:-

      "Send the info to a secure email outside the system &/or print them off & keep hard copies off site. If/as/when the poop hits the spinner, you'll be frog-marched off the premises & locked out of all comms. That's when any & all incriminating info disappears. Forever."

    2. Excellent advice above.

      Remember, you might be suspended & out of the game for days, weeks or even months depending on the nature of the investigation. Worse yet it will most likely be those responsible for instructing you to do C or D who have immediate access to *your* records before they're secured; & believe me they will ensure *they* are not implicated. Timelines on databases can be & are amended; due diligence isn't infallible if senior manager X asks tech specialist Y to delete all traces; & audit trails can be & are regularly fabricated or corrupted. In my experiences both as a rep & on the receiving end of unfounded allegations, hard paper copies that are time/date stamped seem to be the only means of persuading the grand inquisitors that electronic records might have been tampered with.

    3. Print screen safest way . Or snap it. They don't allow external e mails.these days it's all disciplinary.

  3. Wow, it strikes-me the civil service have created a whistleblowers policy that allows employees to be taken down in a manner similar to “sniper fire”.
    If you are an “open whistleblower” you had better make sure you have nailed every tick box, got through every countersigning, hit every competency and held that standard for years. Could also help not to have the word “no” in your vocabulary.
    Also be prepared for serious scrutiny for the rest of your career.
    Despite events, the NAPO website does not recognise the word whistleblower in it’ search bar...

  4. As ever, missing context translated often changes the narrative or as the Queen once said “recollections vary”. If what you say is is factually correct with no missing context then follow the policy however your interpretation will be professionally challenged. As the recent sad SFO’s demonstrate under risk assessing can have catastrophic consequences however over risk assessing is not free of risk. Unfortunately there is a pattern emerging post Bendall & Sweeny to push everything up to high of very high on the assumptions that is what is expected. MRoSH cases are complex and unpredictable and require additional work which may require any amount of appointments inside the minimum of one a month stated by National Standards. That said, the case guidance or MRoSH is clear in that appointments are aligned to the amount needed to manage the risk and/or interventions so long as it never goes beyond one month. This then becomes the OMs professional judgement as to how many are needed. Some will need more at the start of an order while some won’t based upon identified, or not, needs. Not all MRoSH are in need of weekly appointments and the OMs professional judgement decides who does and doesn’t which often becomes the root of the problem. To some degree we need to ensure OM’s are not disproportionately supervising offenders with limited or no needs at the detriment to those who have multiple and complex needs. The more you give to a MRoSH cases that don’t t require that level of intervention then the less you have for those that do. Risk assessment is about constant review and it needs to be considered that some cases over time with the correct intervention and support or changing circumstances likely to increase risk are removed then it stands to reason the nature of the risk should reduce. This is where again professional judgment comes in and unfortunately another source of wider organisational problems. Context is King and reducing risk is never solely about resource management however if your a PO holding someone at HRoSH with no justifiable reason for doing so then it’s only right your SPO questions why the risk level is set at what it is. Unfortunately we do still have cases of lifers almost 10 years post-release with entirely stable lives and no offending behaviour needs demonstrated being held at HRoSH which conflict with what rehabilitation and social integration is all about.

    1. "professional judgement comes in ". Oh yawn what is that exactly. It is a best hope and guess. No more . A really dangerous heavy end offender is just the obvious . The middle stuff where the leapers in dangerous is not manageable because it will always happen no matter what we do. Face up.

    2. For context ; this was not one of the cases you are referring to… it was a case whereby I had undertaken a risk assessment prior to the case being allocated to other staff in the team and was told to reduce the risk level because - quote SPO - “a pso can’t hold high risk and I have no PO’s to give this to”. I’m thankful it is your experience that risk isn’t based upon resource management (where you are located), however, it is very sadly my experience that it has been. I don’t blame SPO’s as believe that in some way when they make such statements they are trying to reduce the burden of cases but sadly this is just ONE example that I have encountered- there are many more. I think all the comments and evidence at hand as a collective demonstrates that should the worst happen - nobody wins

    3. Risk assesment a series a prescribed questions collectively the indicators determine a risk category. Seems to me to be simply a matter of outcomes within a defined area. Judgment not required professionalism hardly. Not a doctor a skilled engineer a psychologist a number of different counselors
      Have a wider choice to act. Where is this elusive professional judgement what does it hinge when all other papers are done then.

  5. What a world... nations are prepared to bait each other over a balloon at the risk of starting yet another war & put the global population at risk, governments are stuffed with obscenely wealthy bullies prepared to sacrifice everyone for profit, greedy bureaucrats will readily obfuscate & vandalise public services in order to protect their powerbase ...

    Meantime, Israeli soldiers shoot journalists & paramedics with impunity as part of their "security exercises", Palestinians are crushed in their homes with their belongings, Russians torture & murder Ukrainians while destroying city after city...

    Then the planet breaks wind & thousands die in Syria & Turkyie.

    I don't really want to go to the office tomorrow. It'll just be some shithead shouting on email about something pointless that someone - me, perhaps - hasn't done.

  6. Just saw this from the Ministry of Defence concerning Russian army "Senior commanders likely making plans requiring undermanned, inexperienced units to achieve unrealistic objectives due to political and profession pressure." where else have I come across this sort of thing..

  7. 10:01 I also seen that on huffigton post, if had also said “and with no regard for the well being of front line troops” it would also have fitted. Maybe the Kremlin also dums down risk assessments too

  8. Im sure the Kremlin is much grander but the notion of the great leaders, scoffing canopies whilst they count their gold coins has a parallel in London