Ensuring your staff understand safeguarding

Guidance for housing managers

The word ‘vulnerable’ is frequently used to refer to older or disabled adults. It also appears in some legislation, including that for housing. It is, however no longer thought to be appropriate as a label as it may suggest that all older or disabled people are vulnerable and that this defines them. The Care Act refers to ‘people with care and support needs’. [3]

The national eligibility criteria set a minimum threshold for adult care and support needs and carer support needs which local authorities must meet. Local authority statutory adult safeguarding duties apply equally to all adults with care and support needs regardless of whether their needs are being met by the local authority.

Local safeguarding arrangements should be set out in a local multi-agency agreement that are easily accessible on the local authority website. Problems may arise where multiple agencies, using different arrangements, are involved. Housing organisations should try to align the terminology they use, and their practice, with that set out in local arrangements.

All staff that come into contact with people who may be vulnerable to abuse and neglect should understand that safeguarding procedures apply to people with care and support needs. This applies even if they are not eligible for care services, or if they are paying for their own care and support. This is clarified in the Care Act: [22]

Where a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult in its area (whether or not ordinarily resident there)

  1. has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs),
  2. is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, and
  3. as a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it, it must make (or cause to be made) whatever enquiries it thinks necessary to enable it to decide whether any action should be taken in the adult’s case (whether under this Part or otherwise) and, if so, what and by whom.

There are often local disagreements about who should be protected by adult safeguarding procedures. Senior managers from housing and social care should work jointly to resolve such issues. Front-line housing staff should be supported if they have concerns that are not addressed by local authority social care staff.

Housing and vulnerability

The ‘No secrets’ consultation report [23] found that there was confusion concerning definitions of ‘vulnerability’ in housing: ‘The term vulnerability had a specific meaning in relation to housing law and had another meaning in relation to “duty of care”. Whether or not individuals were “statutorily vulnerable” affected their housing rights and housing options’.

Under Section 167 of the Housing Act 1996, local authorities must prioritise vulnerable people, including those with medical and welfare needs, for housing allocation. The Regulatory Framework for Social Housing in England requires registered housing providers to publish their policy on how they will take the needs of households who are vulnerable by reason of age, disability or illness, into account in tenancy management . [5]

Mandelstam [13] clarifies that in relation to level of risk, the test is whether the person ‘when homeless, [is] less able to fend for himself than an ordinary homeless person, so that injury or detriment to him will result when a less vulnerable man would be able to cope without harmful effects’.