The Simon Heng column

As a result of the publication of the No Secrets guidance,
my local area set up its own vulnerable adults protection
committee. I was privileged to be invited to participate, to
represent the service user perspective.

I think of myself as potentially vulnerable: in the past, one or
two of my personal assistants have concerned me. I wondered if they
had my best interests at heart. At times, I have even thought that
their attitude threatened abuse. Up until now, luckily, I have felt
able to deal with this situation, either by discussing it with the
person concerned or actually getting rid of them. I’ve also
experienced residential care, and I have seen institutional neglect
and questionable behaviour by care staff. I have also seen how
service users’ complaints can be brushed aside, and dismissed as
“demanding behaviour”, or “over-sensitivity”.

In talking with other service users, we often talk about quality of
care, discrimination and abuse. I thought people were more likely
to be abused in their own homes than in residential care. So I
thought I had some personal experience, as well as some anecdotal
evidence to bring to the table. But nothing prepared me for the
breadth, scope and potential levels of abuse that our local
vulnerable adults protection committee needed to address. I wasn’t
prepared for the variety and intensity of abuse that has been meted
out to those who could not speak out for themselves, particularly
older people and those with learning difficulties.

To tackle each area of potential abuse effectively is, in itself, a
huge task. Take financial abuse: to deal with just this area, we
need the understanding and involvement of many people in the
community – police, care agencies, social services, district
nurses, front-line post office and banking staff (this list is not

This means education, policy change and perhaps training for each
group of workers. And each time the issue of vulnerable adults
abuse is raised, a flood of suspected abuses are reported.

I wonder how many other people would have realised what a can of
worms had been opened?

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