A website is about to be launched that could radically improve professionals’ access to information when handling adult protection cases. Mithran Samuel reports
There are very tight timescales within which a safeguarding referral has to be processed. Within that you don’t always have time to look up information on Google.”
This comment from Deborah Hanlon, adult safeguarding specialist at the Western Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, sums up a key dilemma facing practitioners in adult protection.
Responding to a referral about abuse or neglect requires rapid access to evidence about interventions, legal information and practice examples but tracking this evidence down can be time-consuming and difficult.
Next week sees the launch of a proposed solution to this problem: the Safeguarding Adults at Risk Information Hub or SAaRIH.
It will bring together information on research, law, guidance, practice and policy on safeguarding adults across the four UK countries and the Republic of Ireland on one site, with access based on subscriptions by organisation.
Northern Ireland roots
The project’s roots are in Northern Ireland. It was commissioned by the country’s Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to complement the development of a new adult safeguarding strategy and draws on the experience of the North South Child Protection Hub, launched last year for child protection professionals on both sides of the border in Ireland.
The company running SAaRIH, Capacity Builder, is Belfast-based and also operates the child protection hub. However, SAaRIH is targeted at all UK and Ireland adult safeguarding professionals.
The project to develop the site, funded by grants body The Atlantic Philanthropies, was managed by the UK-wide Social Care Institute for Excellence while SAaRIH has individual homepages for each of the five countries’ users.
Cross-border learning is also integral to SAaRIH’s purpose. For instance, the site has a section on serious case reviews into the deaths of adults at risk, which are due to be introduced in Northern Ireland under the new safeguarding strategy.
“It’s useful for me as a practitioner to know what the outcomes and learning are about types of abuse [through SCRs] so I can think about my own practice and whether any cases would have reached an SCR threshold,” says Hanlon, who served on an advisory group to develop the site.
Mick Collins, senior manager at Powys Council with responsibility for adult protection and Welsh representative on the advisory group, adds: “Inter-country learning is very important as adult protection is a relatively new field.”
The development work for the site involved an initial questionnaire sent out to safeguarding practitioners, professional bodies and charities across all five countries; this was followed by focus groups; and then a second questionnaire on emerging issues. Throughout, the advisory group had its say on content, design and navigation.
The feedback confirmed the need for a resource such as SAaRIH, says Bernie Gibbins, who was hired by Scie to manage the project. “Lots of people were saying that because it was so difficult to source information all they were looking at were their local policies and procedures,” says Gibbins, learning and development manager at supported housing provider Triangle Housing.
Respondents said there needed to be a single point of access for information on the topic, and wanted it to include a discussion forum for practitioners to share information and concerns, and practice examples.
Hanlon says the site should lead to better decision-making on safeguarding by practitioners, particularly in response to adult protection referrals. “In those initial few days there’s a preliminary amount of information that you need to gather to bring to the initial meeting and if that’s speedy that can lead to better decision-making.”
One concern that has been raised is the cost of access. Hanlon says: “The big organisations will subscribe. My hesitancy will be around smaller voluntary organisations. We need to make sure that we get this information accessible to everyone.”
However, John Quinliven, managing director at Capacity Builder, says subscriptions are affordable – ranging from £100 a year for a small charity to £800 for a local authority for an unlimited number of users – and he sees the site as a “low cost, high volume” resource.
Scie head of transforming social care Robert Templeton adds: “Subscription rates are not going to be high next to the costs of paying for someone to leave their home and some of the other things you need to put in place when something goes wrong in safeguarding.”
How safeguarding adults information hub works
SAaRIH aims to provide adult safeguarding practitioners across the UK and Republic of Ireland with “the widest possible range of published information” on the issue in order to shape policy and practice.
The site’s homepage provides links to the latest news and documents as well as a menu of topics, which includes court judgements, inspection and inquiry reports, policies, standards and practice guides, serious case reviews, training resources and toolkits.
Each publication reference has a short abstract describing it, a link to the document itself and a list of similar publications.
Publications are selected by four researchers at Capacity Builder, the social care information company that runs the site, from a selection of sources. They are then sent to the site’s editorial board of experts for approval.
Users are provided with details of the last 10 documents accessed by people in a similar role to themselves to help them make a judgement about which publications they should look at. Users are also taken to a specific homepage for their country after logging on so they can access relevant information. They can also request documents not on the site and receive email alerts with information on new publications in their fields of interest.
The team behind SAaRIH is also seeking experts to volunteer to answer questions from users on any issues they have with practice.
There are also plans to set up a forum for users to share perspectives. Subscriptions are available on a 30-day trial.
The practitioner’s perspective
Deborah Hanlon (pictured, top right), adult safeguarding specialist, Western Health and Social Care Trust
The easy and immediate access to resources was simply not there in the past and practically I simply didn’t have the time to explore university libraries and trawl endless references on Google.
As a practitioner adhering to the timeframes for investigation is important, therefore being able to quickly view the website to search for information on the impact of a type of abuse on a particular vulnerable group has been invaluable.
My only comment about the site is that sometimes the abstracts from articles are linked to subscribing sites, which can be a bit frustrating. But on the whole, the information I need to improve practice is now more readily available and hopefully will improve the quality of processes and outcomes for all in adult safeguarding, whether they be in the statutory, community and voluntary or independent sectors.
The commissioner’s perspective
Joyce McKee (pictured), regional adult safeguarding officer for Northern Ireland
It is vital that I am as up-to-date as possible with developments in adult safeguarding locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Sharing learning from all these sources can be a daunting task, and the prospect of trawling through acres of text or hundreds of references to find the relevant information can be off-putting. With SAaRIH, I am able to access information from all the sources I had accessed previously, but it is so much easier to go to one place rather than trawling through several sites to find a key document or piece of information.
Pictured: safeguarding specialists Joyce McKee (left) and Deborah Hanlon
Published in Community Care magazine 22 September 2011 under heading ‘One-stop shop for safeguarding’
For the latest policy and practice on supporting adults at risk, attend Community Care’s conference on the issue on 2 November.
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