A high impact campaign calling for members of the public to help keep vulnerable adults safe has resulted in Buckinghamshire County Council expanding and developing its social work team.
The safeguarding vulnerable adults awareness campaign has been so successful in encouraging people to report concerns about harm or abuse that the council is recruiting additional senior practitioners specialising in the safeguarding of vulnerable adults to investigate allegations.
“The council has recently appointed a new strategic director for adults and there are exciting times ahead,” says Sonia Kerrison, Buckinghamshire’s interim safeguarding manager for adults and family wellbeing. “When it comes to safeguarding vulnerable people, there’s no room for complacency.
“That’s why our highly regarded safeguarding vulnerable adults (SVA) team is constantly striving to improve the service and raise standards even higher. In this key role, staff have the chance to drive progress, creating a practice that’s nothing less than outstanding.”
In the wake of the campaign, which included a poster campaign and roadshows to raise awareness with the public and care providers, Buckinghamshire’s recruitment drive shows its ongoing commitment to developing this area of social work.
“Successful candidates will join a committed group of like-minded professionals who will develop the safeguarding standardisation group,” Kerrison explains.
“The role involves leading practice, chairing strategy meetings and case conferences, as well as supporting practitioner colleagues, co-ordinating incoming referrals, undertaking investigations and supporting the development of processes for the analysis of abuse trends.”
She adds: “Those appointed will have a key role in working with our partner agencies and developing the excellent relationships that already exist. We are also looking at how we can develop preventive services.”
Full induction programme
There is a full induction programme and candidates who complete it continue to receive ongoing training to develop specialist skills.
An investigator can have a major impact on the lives of those at risk of harm or abuse and requires considerable resilience to deal with upsetting cases, looking into allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults by paid carers, family members or adults in a position of trust.
It is a challenging role that requires the ability to multi-task and co-ordinate strategy with other agencies such as care providers and the police, as well as keeping meticulous records.
Adults who are vulnerable may be elderly and frail, with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. Abuse can happen anywhere and take many forms: physical, sexual, emotional, financial or neglect.
“Every day is different – I have no idea what the day will bring and what referrals will come through the door,” Kerrison says. “But the variety is also what makes the job interesting.”
Kim Davies, 45, is a qualified social worker and a safeguarding vulnerable adults investigating officer, who has been working for the council for nine years.
“One of the huge positives about working here is that we work in a person-centred way,” she says.
“When we receive an allegation of abuse and begin the investigation, our first port of call is always to seek the views and feelings of the vulnerable adult.”
Davies began her career in child protection work before moving into adult social care, where she was able to transfer and develop the investigation skills she acquired working with children.
“Safeguarding the most vulnerable members of our society is highly important work that is paramount in adult social care. I have a real verve for safeguarding and I’m particularly interested in this area because the work is fast-paced and I enjoy the multi-disciplinary environment, where you learn new skills and become aware of how other professionals work.”
Strong safeguarding team
As a key member of the safeguarding vulnerable adults team, Davies welcomes the council’s commitment to this developing area of adult social work.
“I know from my previous work that legislation around the safeguarding of children is strong and firm,” Davies says. “Around adults, the legislation is scarce but it is now developing. Buckinghamshire County Council acknowledges the need for a strong safeguarding team and we are up there with other local authorities that are championing the development of safeguarding vulnerable adults.”
Davies admits the work she undertakes can be challenging, but welcomes the support she receives from both her colleagues and the Buckinghamshire safeguarding vulnerable adults board, a group of statutory, private, voluntary, and independent organizations across the county who work together to empower and protect some of the most vulnerable members of the community. The board oversees the SVA, looks at best practice and develops safeguarding policies and procedures.
“Some of the cases can be distressing and you can feel upset by what you are hearing. But the work is never boring – it’s always varied and interesting,” Davies says.
“What helps enormously is to be part of an excellent team with good team spirit and support from managers. You are never on your own.”