During September 2017 we will be launching our newest course in our suite of safeguarding courses, An Introduction to Whistle-Blowing. We thought it would be a good idea this month to look at what whistle-blowing is and why it is so important.

What is whistle-blowing?

Whistle-blowing is a process of a person, usually an employee in a government agency or private enterprise, disclosing to the public or to those in authority, mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other wrongdoing. In the Early Years sector, this could be anything from not meeting the Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage through to a suspicion of a colleague abusing a child in their care.

The whistle-blower is described as someone who works in or for an organisation who wishes to raise concerns about malpractice, wrongdoing, illegality or risk in the organisation. The whistle-blower has an important role to play, in ensuring that organisations are behaving in a manner that regulations and good practice would require.

The principle of whistle-blowing was inserted into legislation in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. This piece of legislation also provides provision for the protection of a whistle-blower, providing they disclose information to either their employer or regulatory body with good intentions, and have a genuine concern.

When is whistle-blowing used?

Anyone can blow the whistle on practice that they see that does not meet required standards. There is a whole lot of reasons and incidence where this may be the case. During the next section of this blog we will look at some famous cases where whistle-blowing has been used and has made a difference in some way.

If we look at the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) we can see that there is a clear set of standards and procedures that need to be followed by people who are working in the Early Years sector. Anyone who witnesses working behaviour which is contrary to these requirements should be actively encouraged by their employer and the regulatory body (Ofsted) to report this malpractice to them. Of course, it is not just the Early Years Foundation Stage that dictates to people when they should whistle-blow on a situation that they feel is not best practice. What they have witnessed may be a breach of Health and Safety legislation and best practice, which puts them, visitors, service users and contractors at risk of harm. Another major use of whistle-blowing would be if somebody felt that a practitioner was abusing a child or adult in their care. This is not just a legal requirement, but very much a moral requirement as well.

Although we have focused a lot on the Early Years sector, it is important to point out that whistle-blowing is used across all walks of life. UK legislation, as we mentioned above, ensures that a genuine concern will ensure the protection of the whistle-blower.

Famous Whistle-Blowing Cases

Mark Felt

William Mark Felt was instrumental in disclosing information around the events of Watergate in America which ultimately ended the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

Felt worked for the FBI and in May 1972 until his retirement was the Associate Director, which is the second highest position within the FBI. During this time, he served as an anonymous informant for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. He was nicknamed ‘Deep Throat’. Although, the true identity of Deep Throat was suspected by many within Washington, including President Nixon himself, the true identity remained a secret for the next 30 years. In 2005, he finally acknowledged that he was Deep Throat having been encouraged by his family.

As Associate Director, all reports came through Felt before going off to the Acting Director, and therefore he was able to pass the information on to the Washington Post as well as up the chain to the Acting Director. Many agents were surprised to be reading in the papers verbatim interviews that they had had only days or weeks earlier.

What was Watergate?

Watergate is an American Political Scandal, that occurred in the 1970s, following a break-in to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington on June 17th, 1972, and the following attempts to cover it up by President Nixon’s Administration.

The whole episode, finally ended the 37th US President’s term in office, when he became the first, and to date the only, US President to resign from office on August 9th, 1974.

Linda Tripp

Linda Tripp was a US Civil Servant, who figured in the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1994-95 which affected the Presidency of Bill Clinton, which came to light in 1998.

Linda Tripp’s role in this scandal was the secret recording of Monica Lewinsky’s telephone calls about her affair with the President. In doing so and releasing the details, she caused a sensation in the United States, especially with the links to a previous case, Jones vs Clinton, as well as releasing intimate details of the alleged affair.

So how did Tripp get in a position to tape Lewinsky?

While working in the Pentagon’s Public Affairs office, Tripp became a close confidante of Lewinsky, having known each other for a year and a half when Lewinsky revealed to Tripp that she had been in a physical relationship with the President.

In August 1997, Tripp is reported to have said that she saw another employee leave the Oval Office looking dishevelled, with her face red and lipstick off. It is reported that this employee claimed that Clinton had groped her, however the Clinton Lawyer Robert S. Bennett stated that Tripp is not to be believed.

It was in January 1998, when Tripp handed her tapes into the then Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in return for immunity of prosecution. She explained to Starr that she believed Clinton and Lewinsky had been in an affair and that Lewinsky had filed a false affidavit denying the relationship.

Famously, Bill Clinton went on US television to deny his relationship with Lewinsky saying, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’. Having both appeared in front of a Washington D.C. Grand Jury, he by CCTV and her in person, she was asked if she wanted to add anything to her evidence and simply replied, ‘I hate Linda Tripp’.

Linda Tripp claimed that her motives for releasing the details were purely patriotic, and she was able to avoid a wiretap charge in exchange for handing in the tapes. She was removed from her post at the end of the Clinton Administration, which she claims was vindictive, but the administration claimed it was standard routine.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange is famous as the creator, with others, of the website WikiLeaks in 2006. Assange is a member of the organisation’s Advisory Board and calls himself the Editor-in-Chief.

WikiLeaks has published secret information, leaked news and classified information from anonymous sources. By 2015, WikiLeaks had published somewhere in the region of 10 million different documents, and was described by Assange as ‘the world’s greatest library of persecuted documents’.

Between 2006 and 2009, the material that was released through the WikiLeaks website was received with varying degrees of publicity. It was only when it started to publish documents and information that were received by Chelsea Manning, a former United States of America Army Soldier, that WikiLeaks was turned into a household name. Manning was court-martialled and sentenced to 35 years’ confinement in 2013 for violations of the Espionage Act.

The information that Manning passed onto to WikiLeaks included:

  • A video entitled Collateral Murder video (showing 18 people killed by US soldiers in a helicopter in Iraq).
  • The Afghanistan War logs.
  • The Iraq War logs.
  • 250,000 diplomatic cables.
  • The Guantánamo Files.

Buttons/Just Learning Nurseries

These 2 nurseries found themselves at the centre of a Panorama investigation in 2008. The investigation began when an Ofsted inspector contacted a journalist working on the Panorama programme and detailed issues with nursery care within England.

The inspector told the reporter that of 700 nurseries inspected that year by her and her colleagues, she would only send her children to 5 of them, and said that the Ofsted reports, all that parents have to go on, aren’t worth the paper they are written on. The reporter was told that the inspectors had been told, ‘if you don’t see a problem, don’t look for one’ and ‘take a quick look and get out.’

The Panorama reporter had had a tip off about Buttons, Hanwell, West London. The reporter found:

  • A cursory interview = given job as Nursery Assistant.
  • No one checked her references in the 5 weeks that she was there.
  • Never received the all clear from the Criminal Records Bureau.
  • No one noticed her inexperience and she was one of the eldest there.
  • Many were trainees with no idea what they were doing.
  • No on the job training was being given.
  • Was left on her own with 13 children, (without a cleared CRB).
  • Found herself having to remove dangerous objects from the children.
  • Bad staff practice was witnessed.

You can read the BBC Whistle-blower write up here.

Also we have included the link to the Nursery World page where the nurseries respond to the allegations made, here.

Winterbourne View

The Winterbourne View case also came to light in a Panorama documentary investigation in 2011.

Winterbourne View was a privately-owned hospital in Hambrook, South Gloucestershire. The hospital was owned by Castlebeck.

The Panorama investigation highlighted both physical and psychological abuse to the residents at the care home. The residents were all suffering from learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. Local Social Services and the regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) had received various warnings about the goings on in the care home; one senior nurse had reported his concerns to the management of Winterbourne View and the CQC, but sadly his report was never taken up.

Undercover footage showed a whole host of treatment meted out to the residents that a clinical psychologist concluded amounted to nothing less than torture!

The treatment witnessed in the footage included:

  • Staff repeatedly assaulting and harshly restraining residents under chairs.
  • Cold punishment showers.
  • Left outside in near zero degrees temperatures.
  • Mouthwash poured into a resident’s eyes.
  • Pulling of patient’s hair.
  • Forcing medication into their mouths.
  • Being constantly poked in the eyes.

One patient was seen trying to jump out of a second-floor window trying to escape the treatment, but was being mocked throughout by the staff. Patients were seen screaming and shaking at the treatment meted out by people who claimed to be their ‘carers’.

11 people pleaded guilty to criminal offences of neglect and abuse as a result of the undercover footage. 6 of them were jailed. Immediately after the 11th person pleaded guilty a Serious Case Review was published which highlighted hundreds of previous incidents and missed warnings.

Panorama, and their footage, helped to ensure that the torment these patients were experiencing came to an end and also helped with the closing of Winterbourne View.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden became famous in 2013, when he copied and therefore disclosed classified information from the American National Security Agency. The disclosures that Snowden made revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many that were run by the National Security Agency and Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the co-operation of telecommunications companies and European Governments. The exact number of documents that Snowden released is not known and only estimates have been made by the National Security Agency, British Government and the Australian Government.

The disclosure that Snowden made was around previously unknown details of global surveillance apparatus run by the National Security Agency. It was thought in November 2013 that only 1% of the documents had been released and a lot worse was to come.

2 main surveillance programs were disclosed:

  • Tempora.

PRISM allowed direct court-approved access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts.

Tempora is a black ops surveillance program run by the US National Security Agency’s British partner GCHQ, based in Cheltenham.

These programs are the tip of the iceberg, but shocked the world that they were in existence.

Edward Snowden came to international attention when stories around the documents he had released were published in The Guardian and the Washington Post.

Snowden’s motivation for this disclosure, it could be said, is summed up by a quote he gave in June 2013, which was, ‘All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.’

What you can do next

Hopefully, you have enjoyed this brief look through some famous whistle-blowing cases. If you would like to know more, then you could look out for updates on our website for the launch of our new course and book a place; we will also update in the comments below when we have launched this course.

Alternatively, if you feel that you need to whistle-blow and you work in the Early Years, here are some numbers you need:

Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO):
(01452) 426994/
(01452) 425017
Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO):
0300 456 0100
Ofsted Complaints number: 0300 123 1231

No comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *