Training on thresholds has helped stabilise adult safeguarding caseloads, say councils

Almost half of councils saw safeguarding referral numbers decrease in 2012-13, official figures show

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Training for practitioners in applying safeguarding thresholds has helped stabilise adult protection caseloads following substantial increases, say councils.

The number of safeguarding referrals rose by 2% to 109,000 from 2011-12 to 2012-13, while almost half of England’s 152 councils (43%) reported a decrease in referrals, defined as safeguarding alerts that meet thresholds and are subject to investigation.

While referral numbers rose slightly, there was a 20% rise in the proportion of safeguarding alerts – defined as allegations of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult reported to councils – among the 119 councils that submitted data for both years.

The 2% rise in referrals nationally – set out in official statistics released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) – represents a stabilising of caseloads following an 11% increase in referrals the previous year.

Some councils attributed this to providing training for practitioners in safeguarding thresholds, reducing the number of alerts progressing to referrals, reported the HSCIC.

However, changes in recording practices also played a part. Previously, several councils recorded all alerts as referrals meaning they overstated the number of cases that met the safeguarding threshold, but the number of these councils has reduced this year, said the HSCIC. However, there are still 11 councils that record all alerts as referrals and hence overstate case numbers.

The HSCIC found significant variations in the proportion of alerts that progressed to referrals between councils. While overall, 54% of alerts met safeguarding thresholds, 26 councils had a rate greater than 75% and 13 a rate less than 25%.

“The wide range of ratios might suggest that some councils have misunderstood the intended definitions of alerts and referrals or that their process for dealing with safeguarding concerns is different to others,” said the HSCIC.

Alleged victims of abuse or neglect were known to social services in 66% of cases for which this information was recorded, while there were 19,200 repeat referral for adults who had already been the subject of a safeguarding investigation earlier in the year.

Two-thirds of referrals were made by social care (44%) or health staff (22%), with 8% made by family members, 4% by the police and 2% by the vulnerable adult themselves.

All allegations were substantiated in 32% of completed cases, while in a further 11% of cases allegations were partially substantiated. Thirty per cent of cases were not substantiated whereas in 27% of cases no conclusion was reached.

The most common outcomes of investigations for both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators was “no further action”, which applied in 29% of cases for alleged victims and 35% for alleged perpetrators. The next most common outcome for alleged victims was “increased monitoring” (in 28% of cases), while for alleged perpetrators it was “continued monitoring”.

The HSCIC also reported an 11% rise in the number of serious case reviews undertaken in 2012-13, with 151 commissioned by safeguarding adults boards.

This year sees significant changes in the way social workers must record safeguarding cases for submission to the HSCIC, with a greater focus on outcomes over processes. From now on, practitioners will have to record whether their interventions resulted in reduced, removed or unchanged risks to the alleged victim, rather than recording the specific processes they used, such as increased monitoring or commissioning a care package.

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2 Responses to Training on thresholds has helped stabilise adult safeguarding caseloads, say councils

  1. Stephen James February 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    These statistics, whilst offering a helpful indication of the overall direction of travel with alerts and referrals, still needs to be treated with extreme caution. Until such time that we can all be satisfied that there is absolute consistency in the application of definitions and the ever growing number of threshold agreements, these figures are unsafe. I could quote many examples of how definitions of adult abuse/safeguarding vary across the country, but when some areas are defining all pressure sores as adult safeguarding alerts, and others have not conducted a single serious case review, it shows how far we have to go yet to achieve that consistency.

    • Norman Sterling-Baxter February 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

      As a Training and Development Officer in a Safeguading Adults Partnership Unit I would love to be able to claim my share of the glory for this but, as Stephen James has said, the headline and figures should be viewed with caution.

      Applying thresholds, training in applying thresholds, changes in recording practice, variationin recording practice,variations in thresholds and the variation in rates of referrals are all factors that affect the statistics (positively or negatively) and with so many attributive factors, I would be wary of drawing any conclusions from the statistics.