The No Secrets guidance was published in 2000. Councils are bound to follow it apart from in exceptional circumstances.
It requires areas to set up a multi-agency framework, led by adult social care but also including health and police, with each agency having a lead manager for the issue, and develop policies for responding to allegations, carrying out investigations and balancing confidentiality and information sharing.
Strong backing for adult protection legislation
Many organisations, including Action on Elder Abuse and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, want to see adult protection put on a legislative footing, like child protection, saying this is the only way it will receive equivalent priority.
Adass adult protection lead Dwayne Johnson says the lack of a legislative framework means councils are “working in a vacuum”. He says social workers need to have the right to enter homes and settings where abuse is suspected, seize incriminating material and if necessary bar alleged perpetrators or remove alleged victims from the place, even overriding the latter’s wishes if necessary.
When he announced the review of No Secrets last year, Lewis said he would consider the case for legislation.
No Secrets review can achieve much
However, FitzGerald says much can be achieved simply through revising the existing guidance. He says it can address the lack of engagement of the NHS in particular, in local adult protection arrangements. He also says some agencies are failing to co-operate in adult protection inquiries or in sharing information. A revised No Secrets should also specify timescales for responding to referrals and reporting on investigations.