Adult safeguarding. SCIE's new 'highlights' report

Featured article - 06 October 2017
By Hugh Constant, SCIE Practice Development Manager

Head-shot of the author, Hugh Constant, SCIE Practice Development Manager

Apart from occasional Hollywood imaginings - Freaky Friday, or Big, for example - the question of whether someone is a child – and therefore seen as vulnerable - is usually fairly simple, and indeed is often the only straightforward aspect of safeguarding children work.

Adults, unlike children, are not deemed to be inherently vulnerable. One of the first complexities in safeguarding adults, therefore, is judging which adults are at risk of abuse or neglect, and what lies behind that risk.

When SCIE set about collating the learning we’ve gleaned from our safeguarding adults training and consultancy work – learning that we’ve summarised in our new SCIE Highlights report – this issue of who is at risk, of what, and why came up many times over. If someone is experiencing or at risk of abuse because they have care and support needs, the established protocols of section 42 of the Care Act kick in. An enquiry takes place, and – hopefully – the person is kept safe in whatever way best works for them.

But a lot of individuals are vulnerable to harm, without having care and support needs. Many people who self-neglect, or are homeless, or are experiencing domestic abuse are coming into contact with community services like GPs, charities, and faith groups with evident risks to their wellbeing, but yet unlikely to be supported by social services safeguarding teams. We’re hearing that many of these community services struggle, beyond providing whatever support they can themselves, to point people in the right direction for help, or to pull together multi-disciplinary efforts to keep such vulnerable people safe.

We have heard of effective responses – using other social services teams, specialist charities, the police, and local communities themselves – that have protected people at risk, even where safeguarding teams do not get involved. But there is a sense that care providers and community groups are worried that people will fall through the gaps as statutory services are forced to define their thresholds tightly.

So a difficult issue is rendered more complex by our challenging times. The Highlights report doesn’t pretend to provide all the answers, but it may help provoke a conversation about how we can start to think about ways forward.

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