Prevention, mediation and more staff traininig are the key messages from the latest Scie research on adult safeguarding
John’s story, which is featured in a new Social Care TV film, Safeguarding Adults: a community case study, highlights the central role played by social care in protecting vulnerable adults from harm.
New guidance from Scie is based on the need to ensure that services and support are delivered in ways that are high-quality and safe.
When abuse does take place, it needs to be dealt with swiftly, effectively and in ways that are proportionate to the issues and where the adult in need of protection stays as much in control of the decision-making as is possible.
The rights of the individual to be heard throughout this process are a critical element of the drive towards more personalised care and support.
Scie provides a range of information and resources on adult safeguarding, based on five key categories:
● Policy and procedures
A recent report, Protecting adults at risk, focuses on multi-agency policy and procedures to safeguard adults from abuse in London.
The report was produced by local councils, the police and NHS organisations. In London, as elsewhere, these main statutory agencies need to work together both to promote safer communities to prevent harm and abuse and to deal with suspected or actual cases.
There are many forms of abuse – sexual, physical, psychological or emotional – and the way that a social work professional responds to a case of abuse or neglect will depend on the situation. John’s case highlights the importance of multi-agency working within the community to avoid these situations going undetected, and to ensure they do not reoccur.
Safeguarding in practice
The success of this approach is very much dependent on social workers’ knowledge of local services and how they can work together to safeguard adults.
Sean Oliver, a social worker at Croydon Council’s adult social work team, receives safeguarding referrals such as John’s from the adult services contact centre.
Referrals in the borough have increased significantly over the past three years due to successful awareness campaigns, and the adult social work team was set up specifically to respond to this growth.
Oliver agrees that a multi-agency approach, as recommended in the Scie report, is extremely effective. He says: “The majority of our referrals come from care agencies, the police, district nurses and friends or relatives of the service user, so we have to work together with everyone in the community to make sure people don’t fall through the net.”
Once Oliver has received a referral, his job is to manage the safeguarding investigation process. This involves checking facts, gathering information from those who know the client such as their family members, carers or GP, and piecing together a timeline of events to provide a chronological structure to the investigation.
In John’s case the social worker had safeguarding meetings with the local police, John himself, his mother, his boss and the local authority.
As John has capacity to make his own decisions he was involved in the meetings and the intervention involved small changes, such as changing John’s work number so that the girls could no longer contact him, and giving him reassurance that the police were there to help. This protected and empowered John.
As the allocated social worker says in Scie’s new Social Care TV film featuring the case: “They are not always big interventions, they might be small, but they work wonders.”
However, this approach may not work for all vulnerable adults, especially if someone does not have capacity to make their own decisions. It is therefore important for everyone involved in safeguarding adults to be prepared to provide a personalised service that will meet the needs of the individual.
In its Protecting adults at risk report, SCIE gives details of each individual’s role in safeguarding adults, from directors of adult social services through to GPs (see box).
Brian Clarke, safeguarding adults manager at South Gloucestershire Council, agrees that a personalised multi-agency approach is the way forward to safeguard adults.
“As services get more personalised, and we see more people living in community settings, the community needs to have higher ownership of safeguarding issues and we need to turn the rhetoric into reality about it being everyone’s business,” he says.
John* is a 50 year-old man with Asperger’s syndrome.
One day, on his way to work, he met a girl who asked him to buy her cigarettes.
After that chance meeting, the girl and her friends waited for him every day and asked him to buy them things and give them money, which he did.
John has the capacity to make decisions for himself and clearly felt he was getting something from his relationship with one of the girls, saying: “She is the closest thing I’ll have to having a girlfriend.”
One day, one of John’s work colleagues saw him giving the girls money and, concerned for him, spoke to his carer – John’s mum. She had always felt he told her everything, but John had never mentioned the girl.
Feeling angry and confused, she spoke to a social worker for the first time. The social worker worked with John’s mother, the local police, his employer and John himself to ensure he was able to stop giving money to the girls.
They were warned off by the police, and his phone number at work was changed so they could no longer call him.
In this situation John did not understand his relationship with the girl – he liked her and still really misses her.
* Name has been changed to protect identity.
Key Scie gudiance messages
Here is a list of key messages and practice points for adult service managers and social workers to remember when they are working with vulnerable adults to ensure a personalised service is provided
● Staff and volunteers should be familiar with policies relating to safeguarding adults and know how to recognise abuse, report it and respond to it.
● Organisations working to safeguard adults at risk should make the dignity, safety and well-being of the individual a priority in their actions.
● The rights of the person causing harm should be respected as far as possible; if that person is an adult at risk they must also receive support.
● Staff and volunteers should have access to training that is appropriate to their level of responsibility, and receive clinical and management supervision that allows them to reflect on their practice and the impact of their actions on others.
● Services should be appropriate to the adult at risk and not discriminate because of disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, culture or lifestyle.
● There is a presumption that adults have mental capacity to make informed decisions about their lives; if someone has been assessed as not having mental capacity, decisions will be made in their best interests as set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the accompanying code of practice.
● Adults at risk should be given information, advice and support in a form that they can understand and have their views included in all forums that are making decisions about their lives.