Summary of gaining access to an adult suspected of being at risk of neglect or abuse: a guide for social workers and their managers in England

Published: October 2014

This guide aims to clarify the different types of legal powers that can be called upon when access to an adult who is suspected to be at risk of neglect or abuse is required but, for whatever reason, is being denied or restricted. In this guide, such an access requirement is triggered by a local authority’s enquiry duty under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014. Although there is no express legal power of entry or right of access contained in this Act, other existing powers can be drawn upon.  Which existing power is most appropriate depends on the circumstances of the case. Therefore, knowledge of the relevant sections of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), along with an understanding of the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court and the common law powers of the police are essential tools for social workers. However, it is strongly advised that advice and confirmation be sought from senior managers or legal teams before any action is taken, unless it is clear that the situation is an emergency (‘saving life or limb’). In such emergency cases, the matter should be referred to the police for immediate action under Section 17(1)(e) of PACE.

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