Dealing with adult abuse is the one area of my work that I find difficult and frustrating. Despite having strong inter-agency procedures and good partnership working, I often find that situations cannot be resolved because of a lack of supportive legislation.
I was thankful, then, to read that the government is considering putting the arrangements for safeguarding adults on the same footing as those for safeguarding children. I appreciate that we are dealing with adults who can make their own choices, but in some cases these choices can leave them vulnerable.
Previously, I wrote about Julie-Ann Jones,* a 21-year-old vulnerable woman who was being financially abused and exploited for sexual favours by her mother’s partner. Despite all efforts, the investigation deemed her as consenting. I was left frustrated, knowing we would be re-visiting the vulnerable adult procedure again in the future. If at that time we had some legislation to use, we may have prevented what happened next.
My fears were confirmed last October when Julie-Ann disclosed that her mother and now stepfather, George, were taking her money as George had lost his job. Again we contacted her social worker who along with the keyworker from the day service went out to speak to the family.
Everything seemed to be going well: mother accepted that Julie-Ann should have her own money, but George became agitated and collapsed. Then he jumped up and threatened two staff with a knife who were seeking help for him.
The swift action of the social worker saw Julie-Ann, her mother, the keyworker and herself leave the flat unharmed.
The police were called and arrested George. After a long afternoon of statement-making and emotional trauma for the staff, we were told that George was being released with just a caution.
Julie-Ann in the meantime had been offered a respite bed, and I believed that this time she would understand that she did not have to stay at home; surely this was her passport out. But she refused the bed and went home to her family and we have not seen her since. She rang to say she no longer wanted to attend the day service as George was going to help her get a job.
An urgent strategy meeting decided to carry out a joint visit by police and social services. Julie-Ann appeared OK, although her appearance and cleanliness had deteriorated. She has not got a job yet and still refuses to attend the day service.
Those involved will meet again to discuss the next steps. George’s actions reinforce to me that things are not right and perhaps we were close to proving it. I can only imagine what is happening to her and I live in hope yet again that one day she will free herself from the situation.
*Not her real name
Nichola Glover-Edge manages a day service in Staffordshire for people with learning difficulties.