Introduction to Safeguarding Adult Review Quality Markers

A new cycle of development (April 2022)

SCIE is pleased to relaunch the Safeguarding Adult Review (SAR) Quality Markers. First published in 2018, they have now been refreshed and updated.

The revisions have drawn on:
  • feedback from some Safeguarding Adult Boards (SABs) and regional SAR Quality Champions since the first iteration
  • key messages from the national analysis of SARs 2017-2019 (
  • the evidence base and innovations related to effective incident reviews, sometimes referred to as ‘safety science’
  • good practice related to enabling change and development in organisations
  • common methods and tools for evaluating impact.
  • input from a workshop held to share SAB experiences of SAR publication and dissemination, improvement action and evaluating impact.

With their launch, we start a six-month schedule for feedback and review.

The work is supported by a Reference Group made up of representatives of the key networks: SAB Chairs, SAB Business Manager and SAR Quality Champions, as well as from the CHIP Programme. Reference group members bring a cross-section of regional representation and include reviewers. Members will play a key role in helping:

  • facilitate engagement of the relevant networks in the process
  • negotiate an agreed consensus on any amendments and additions.
Over the coming months, as the refreshed SAR QMs are used, SCIE will be seeking feedback via relevant networks.

What are Safeguarding Adult Review Quality Markers?

SAR Quality Markers are a tool to support people involved in commissioning, conducting and quality-assuring SARs to know what good looks like. Covering the whole process, they provide a consistent and robust approach to SARs.

The Quality Markers are based on statutory requirements, established principles of effective reviews and incident investigations, as well as practice experience and ethical considerations.

The SAR Quality Markers assume the principles of Making Safeguarding Personal, as well as the Six Principles of Safeguarding that underpin all adult safeguarding work (Empowerment; Prevention; Proportionate; Protection; Partnership; Accountable). These principles therefore permeate the Quality Markers explicitly and implicitly.

How can Safeguarding Adult Review Quality Markers be used?

The SAR Quality Markers can be used flexibly and in a variety of different ways. They are not a burdensome imposition; they can be used them according to your needs. For example:

  • Is there a particular area of SAR activity that as a SAR subgroup or a reviewer, you feel less confident about? Find the relevant Quality Marker and use it to update your understanding of what good looks like and the issues involved.
  • Have you had your fingers burned before, due to misunderstandings of expectations between SAB commissioner and independent reviewer commissionee? Use the whole suite of SAR Quality Markers to inform the scoping process and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • As a SAB Chair, SAB and Subgroup members, do you find yourselves stuck in a one-size-fits-all approach to SARs? Use the SAR Quality Markers on commissioning to build confidence in designing SARs that are proportionate in order to gain maximum value from each SAR.
  • Are you a new SAB Chair or new reviewer? Use the SAR Quality Markers as part of your induction, to make sure you are working to the best available evidence base.
  • Are your SAB quality assurance processes for SARs working effectively? Use relevant SAR Quality Markers to check you are prioritising the right things.
  • Is your role to support the practical planning of the SAR? Use the Quality Markers to check that you have anticipated all the relevant needs.

How do Safeguarding Adult Review Quality Markers help?

The SAR Quality Markers are intended to support commissioners and lead reviewers to commission and conduct high-quality reviews. They capture principles of good practice and pose questions to help commissioners and reviewers consider how they might best achieve them.

SCRs are a complex field of activity where simple rules rarely apply, so judgement is often needed. The Quality Markers are therefore designed to stimulate discussion and support informed judgements. They are not a ‘how to’ handbook because there are a variety of ways in which they can be achieved.

The quality markers do not presume or promote any particular model or approach for how to achieve them. They support variety, innovation and proportionality in approaches to case reviews.

The markers should not be treated as a process map, because while the three clusters in which they are structured are broadly sequential, the components within them are not.

This document

The SAR Quality Markers are going to take the form of a range of different forms and tools, in order to meet the needs and preferences of different audiences. This document is the complete ‘checklist’ version. SCIE is in the process of developing the SAR Quality Markers ‘handbook’. There will also be role-specific checklists.

How the Quality Markers are structured

The SAR Quality Markers are arranged in three sections:

The Quality Markers are numbered sequentially. Each has a quality statement, which is a summary description of the mark of quality. A list of questions are then provided to help people consider how they will know if they are on track to meet the marker. We have differentiated the questions per function, and colour-coded them accordingly. The aim is to allow people in different roles to readily identify the questions relevant to them.

Roles and functions

In different SABs, the SAR process and roles are arranged in a variety of different ways, and in different locations. In order to present the Quality Markers in a way that does not preference some arrangements over others, we have attempted to distinguish functions. The table below distinguishes four different functions related to SARs. We give an indication of the possible role with responsibilities for that function, but there will be other ways that the functions are accomplished.

1. Who is ultimately accountable? Including:
  • decision to commission a SAR
  • sign-off of the SAR
  • providing transparency and accountability via the SAB response and annual report
  • seeking assurance of effective responses by agencies and/or Board

Possible roles: SAB Chair and Board

2. Who has delegated responsibility for managing the SAR? Including:
  • initial information gathering
  • recommendation to proceed or not
  • scoping the review
  • identifying and commissioning reviewers
  • agreeing and publishing the Terms of Reference
  • agreeing the methodology / model to be used
  • providing quality assurance and challenge
  • decide on publication
  • deciding/leading on immediate action in response to findings
  • providing evidence of responses
  • monitoring the longer-term sustainability of changes and evaluating what difference, if any, has been made

Possible role: SAB SAR sub-group

3. Who conducts the review and provides independent leadership? (This may be the same or different roles, depending on whether Panel and Panel Chair is used)
  • providing independent challenge
  • ensuring individuals and families are included
  • ensuring the review is informed through engagement with front line practitioners and managers
  • ensuring an accessible report is produced
  • ensuring reviews are conducted in a timely manner.

Possible roles: Reviewer(s) and Independent Panel Chair

4. Who provides practical day-to-day support for the review? Including:
  • providing administrative support
  • project management support
  • means of access to data
  • links with staff
  • liaison with the Chair

Possible roles: SAB Business manager or Adult Safeguarding Lead