Research into practice

As a social issue, the wider recognition of abuse of vulnerable
adults is new in the UK. The need to address it in a coherent
manner led to the development of No

In a recent article,2 Dinah Mathew and colleagues
reported on the results of a survey carried out in 2001 that looked
at the progress English councils had made on implementing the
No Secrets guidance. The response to the survey was good.
Out of the 150 councils with “social services responsibilities”,
121 (80 per cent) participated.

The survey revealed that – in line with No Secrets
nearly all local authorities had completed or drafted multi-agency
policies for the protection of vulnerable adults. It also revealed
that more than 90 per cent of responding authorities had a relevant
staff training strategy or were developing one. These are
encouraging signs.

Interestingly, however, in the development of multi-agency
policies, the survey revealed a generally low level of consultation
with area child protection committees. This could be seen as a
“missed opportunity”, in terms of learning from the ACPC
multi-agency protection experience. The issue of adult protection
(in relation to older people) learning from the child protection
experience has previously been discussed.3

With regard to multi-agency management committees for adult
protection, Mathew found that more than 90 per cent of respondents
either had, or were planning to have, such a committee. Once again,
this is an encouraging sign.

Less encouraging, however, is that the survey shows only 16 of
the 52 multi-agency management committees had service user or carer
groups represented on them. This is surprising, considering the
relative lack of established knowledge about the abuse of
vulnerable adults, and the potential positive benefits of involving
service users and carers in planning and developing services.

Perhaps most worryingly, regarding the need to effectively
translate No Secrets into practice, the survey found that less than
a quarter of responding authorities reported having “a designated
budget for adult protection”, and of those that existed few
expected them to be maintained in the future. In addition, only
half the local authorities that responded reported having, or were
planning to have, “a post dedicated to adult protection work”. Some
dedicated posts were reported not to be permanent.

Clearly frameworks and policies alone will not effectively meet
the challenge of No Secrets. There also has to be a
realistic commitment to the investment of time, effort and

In an attempt to help drive practice development, the
Practitioner Alliance Against Abuse of Vulnerable Adults (Pava) is
running a project that focuses on progress in England, in relation
to practice around No Secrets, and the protection of
vulnerable adults. Results from the project should give some
indication as to how effectively the translation from policies to
practice is occurring around the country. It will also promote
nationally good and innovative local practice.

Hopefully the project’s work will complement that of Mathew and
her colleagues and help No Secrets achieve improve the
protection of vulnerable adults.

Andy Foskett is the project worker for Pava, and can be
contacted at PO Box 4670, Bournemouth, BH6 3BL.

1 Department of Health, No Secrets:
Guidance on Developing and implementing Multi-agency Policies and
Procedures to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Abuse
, DoH/Home
Office, 2000

2 D Mathew, H Brown, P Kingston, C McCreadie,
J Askham, “The response to No Secrets”, The Journal of Adult
, Vol 4, 1, 2002

3 O Stevenson, Elder Protection in
Residential Care: What Can We Learn from Child Protection?
Department of Health, 1999

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