Thresholds for reporting safeguarding concerns

Guidance for housing managers

There is no national consensus on the point at which housing providers should report their safeguarding concerns to the local authority. Some local authorities prefer to know about all concerns, while others want housing providers to deal with minor concerns and make decisions about whether to refer more serious cases. This can create problems where a housing provider works in a number of local authority areas. You will need to be aware of multi-agency policies in each area and to work jointly to resolve any disagreements.

Housing staff report that in some cases social care do not accept referrals due to disagreements over eligibility. This may be due to resource issues that have resulted in rising eligibility criteria, and is sometimes due to inappropriate or unclear referrals. They also report that referrals sometimes ‘fall into a black hole’ with no feedback or response. In the review of ‘No secrets’, housing staff reported difficulties with ‘long arguments about whether someone had a genuine mental illness, which led to delays in assessment, support and treatment, and put people at risk’. [23] The report also found that some housing providers were taking a more proactive approach to safeguarding, with systems in place for monitoring problems and progress on safeguarding and vulnerability alerts. In supported housing, people may be more closely monitored by housing support workers.

Local authorities should work with partners to protect people with care and support needs who may be at risk of abuse, whether or not they meet the criteria for receiving social care support or are paying for their own care. Again, you should seek to develop good partnerships to resolve such issues.

People who self-neglect may not be considered eligible for social care support and the local authority may not consider self-neglect as a safeguarding issue. [20] Housing managers and social care staff should work jointly to agree appropriate support for people who self-neglect.

Social care professionals may argue that they cannot impose support on someone who is choosing to remain in an abusive situation or to neglect themselves. But it is important to assess the situation fully and try to make progress with persistent offers of support. For example, a person may be aware that the neighbour who collects their benefit and does their shopping is keeping some of the money, but they may choose not to address this for fear of losing much-needed support or alienating one of their few social contacts. Housing and social care staff should examine the situation carefully and consider whether the person has capacity to make the decision, whether they are being put under any pressure and whether others are at risk. Professionals should try to build trust over time and persuade the individual to accept support and to make safer choices. Decisions should be recorded and the situation regularly reviewed with renewed offers of support – it is not sufficient to simply say ‘it is their choice’ or that they are making a lifestyle choice. Mediation or family group conferencing may be helpful interventions where an individual has capacity and chooses to remain in an abusive situation. Professional services should be accessed to ensure careful consideration of risk.