Burstow: Close serious case review loophole to protect adults at risk

Safeguarding adult boards must be able to compel organisations to submit information to serious case review panels, says report from former care services minister.

Paul Burstow

Plans to put adult safeguarding on a statutory footing will leave in place a loophole enabling organisations to avoid giving evidence to serious case review (SCR) panels, former care services minister Paul Burstow warned today.

The draft Care and Support Bill would not enable safeguarding adults boards to compel organisations, such as care providers, to supply information to them, undermining the effectiveness of reviews into adult abuse, said a report published by Burstow today. Local safeguarding children’s boards are able to compel the submission of information.

In a contribution to Burstow’s report, the authors of the Winterbourne View SCR, Margaret Flynn and Vic Citarella, explained how they received “a lack of financial transparency and co-operation” from Castlebeck, the provider that ran the learning disability hospital.

‘Undermines adult safeguarding’

“This was by no means the first instance of non-cooperation in an [adult serious case reviews],” said Burstow’s report. “In some instances, even public bodies and health officials have been reticent in ensuring full and unwavering cooperation. This poses a threat to the legitimacy and effectiveness of [reviews] and undermines the important role they play within the field of adult safeguarding.”

While this can be explained by the fact that safeguarding adults boards (SAB), and the serious case reviews they commission, are non-statutory, and based on voluntary participation, the draft Care and Support Bill would only partially fill the gap.

Under its provisions, only members of the SAB are required to co-operate in the production of safeguarding adults reviews, as SCRs will be called under the new legislation; and, currently, the only organisations required to be members of the SAB are the relevant local authority, clinical commissioning group and chief police officer. SABs will have no such powers in relation to non-members.

Stronger powers for children’s safeguarding boards

This is in contrast to the legislation governing local safeguarding children’s boards (LSCBs), which can compel organisations or individuals to submit information to it or to a serious case review panel so long as the information is relevant and would help the LSCB carry out its functions, such as commissioning an SCRs.

Burstow’s report said the draft Care and Support Bill should be amended to mirror the equivalent legislation governing LSCBs, section 14 (b) of the Children Act 2004.

“This would go some way to increasing the safeguarding protections around vulnerable adults,” it said.

Burstow is chairing the parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft bill, which will make recommendations to the government on how the bill should be amended.

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