Interview with Carol Tozer (pictured), director of adult social care at Cornwall Council
What steps are agencies concerned with adult protection in Cornwall going to take to ensure improvements in safeguarding people like Steven Hoskin?
The recent CSCI ratings report said Cornwall had made considerable improvement in safeguarding adults. Our joint multi-agency arrangements have improved from a poor starting point. Safeguarding adults is an area we continue to develop and we aim to give consistent responses to all service users.
We have worked incredibly hard to put safeguarding vulnerable adults on a strong platform, including investing in an independent adult protection unit, delivery of training and two separate administration teams to ensure progress is chased.
A lot of resources are going into adult protection – up to £600k per annum. Since the investigation into abuse of people with learning disabilties in Cornwall last year, 3,091 staff have received adult protection training across all services.
What needs to happen to prevent another Steven Hoskin case in Cornwall?
Steven and others involved in his case were prolific users of emergency services like the police and the NHS. We are looking at identifying vulnerable adults by such patterns of use of services, which in Steven’s case became increasingly intensive. We want to develop a similar system to child protection to identify adults at risk when they turn up to emergency services with injuries, for example, but do not make allegations.
Steven Hoskin was seen as involved in and surrounded by antisocial behaviour but the haunting, uncomfortable reality was that he should have been seen as a vulnerable adult by all agencies. There was nothing about Steven’s gait, speech or physical appearance that identified him as a person with learning disabilities. We need a multi-agency action plan to train agencies, including police, in identifying vulnerable adults like him.
We need better information-sharing, such as a single assessment process to go across health and social care.
There should also be a statutory duty for agencies to co-operate in safeguarding adults procedures as for children. It is a major weakness of the system that this does not exist.
While we must be seeking to deliver maximum choice and control to people like Steven Hoskin, we need to ask why he was not given a risk assessment when he chose to discontinue his service.
We will be meeting adult social care managers to have the system strengthened so no cases can be closed until a risk assessment has been done.
Why did it take so long for senior managers in social care, including you, to become aware of what was going on with Steven’s case – until the murder trial itself?
I am at a loss to understand why I was not informed of Steven’s death until almost a year after it occurred. We are in the midst of an internal personnel investigation to establish why staff failed to communicate, and why Steven was not given a risk assessment when he cancelled his service.
The serious case review says Steven’s murder “requires us to question why the ever-tightening criteria of services are rendering very vulnerable men and women so unprotected”. In the light of this case, does Cornwall Council intend to review its eligibility criteria to ensure that cases like Steven’s do not go “off the radar” of adult social care?
There will be no review of eligibility criteria, but there needs to be dedicated work supporting the voluntary and community sector to support people no longer eligible for services. We have been given an extra £500,000 to invest in the voluntary and community sector, bringing up our total resource for this to £4m. People like Steven Hoskin who are not eligible for adult social care services will be helped through schemes including befriending and mentoring.