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Hello lovely forum members!

It's been brought to my attention tonight by a friend and staff member at the playgroup where I am a committee member that a complaint was filed with our supervisor last week (I haven't been informed yet, hoping the Chair has or there will be problems tomorrow...)

Anyway, it's NOT a complaint about the playgroup and the fist time I've ever come across this issue, which is why I am posting on here.

The complaint is from a parent who witnessed a carer smacking a child in the cloakroom at collection time. (According to my friend) the complainant told the supervisor as soon as it happened and was asked to put it in writing, which she duly did, citing another mum as a witness to the smack. The supervisor spoke to the other mum who said she didn't see anything!

Now, I'm wondering what would you do? It was on our premises, but technically, the child had been handed over to the carer so not our responsibility.

My thinking is:

  • that the supervisor collects any other written statements if there are any;
  • speaks to the Chair/Committee to get a clear course of action;
  • raises the issue with the child's mum (with another member of staff/committee present) to make her aware of what happened and to give the carer the right to respond as to the circumstances that lead to the smack (to make matters more complicated, the carer in question is the mum of the child's mums new boyfriend);
  • respond in writing to the complainant to say that the matter has been investigated and parents have been informed and whilst we appreciate her concerns, the matter is a personal one between the child's family?

I've had a quick look at the legal side and smacking is unlawful but takes into consideration the age of the child and the nature of the smack and only accounts to real trouble if it is GBH or with intent to injure.

Thoughts? Thanks!!


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I think the priority here is to try to get some support for the family (and therefore the child) about better ways to manage the child's behaviour. Usually a family is more likely to accept this if it is kept 'low key' and they do not feel judged. An investigation would be likely to put the family in a very difficult position and make them feel singled out, and therefore they would be less likely to engage with any support agencies.

If I was in this position, I think I would approach the parent quietly, say that another parent has reported the smacking to me and I was wondering if they were finding it difficult to manage the child's behaviour at home. I would then hope this would lead to discussing a referral to your Children's Centre who are there to support families struggling with just these sort of issues. I would need to say that it is not acceptable to smack, especially on our premises.

The fewer people who know about this, the better. The complaint is not against the group, but is a private issue for the family. I would not expect to tell our trustees about something like this as it is about the support for the family, and so I don't think your committee should expect to be told. I also think the supervisor should thank the parent who reported it and say they followed it up but obviously can't say how for confidentiality.

Finally, I would record the event in the child's confidential file - in case there are further concerns later on.

I hope I have interpreted the situation correctly. Good luck!

I hope that helps

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Thank you!

I think what you have said makes a lot of sense. I would definitely try and keep it low key and say on the lines of "this has been reported and is there anything we can help you with..." I think 'investigate' is probably too strong a word! I wouldn't advocate an official investigation and involving any agencies at this stage as it could well have been a one off.

Can I ask why you wouldn't tell your trustees? Do you work in a playgroup and are committee-run? Our complaints procedure states that the Chair and committee should be informed of any complaints made in writing (classed as stage 2) We do have a management committee which is made up of the Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and Supervisor so perhaps we could amend to this? I wouldn't want the Supervisor dealing with this on her own.

We also have to respond in writing as it is a class 2 complaint, but as you say, we don't have to disclose how the matter has been dealt with to comply with confidentiality.


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This is a safeguarding issue not a complaint. The only people that should have been informed are the designated safeguarding officers. Unless you and the staff member that told you of the situation are both named safeguarding officers then I would say that the confidentiality line has already been broken. Even then in all honesty committee safeguarding only normally comes in to play when it is a safeguarding issue/complaint against a member of staff. It is down to the staff member with safeguarding responsibility (and their deputy) to deal with the situation. I would speak to the parent first as she may be unaware that her child is being smacked. I would also make the parent aware of our policy on smacking and that is prohibited on our premises. All of this should be recorded as a concern on the child's personal file.

Edited by Jeany
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