Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Duty to co-operate to protect

A case where a mentally impaired couple and their family living in council accommodation were harassed, bullied and exploited by local teenagers and young criminals may turn out to have significance for schools and colleges.

During the relevant period, more than a dozen people from three local authority departments and the police had dealings with the family but communication was so poor that the urgency of the situation was not conveyed to the Housing Department and their request for re-housing was effectively ignored.

The court found the council liable as a body. The argument that only individual departments were answerable was rejected because of the duty they had to co-operate to protect vulnerable adults. Although this case is about vulnerable adults, the principle of cooperation and communication applies equally to children.

Schools and colleges may well be held answerable in their own right if they fail to co-operate with other agencies, at the lowest level by passing relevant information on, and a child suffers harm.

This may apply very widely, including failing to act on absences that indicate the possibility of forced marriage.

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