Quality and safeguarding: best foot forward for Safeguarding Adult Boards

Detecting, preventing and responding effectively to cases of abuse and neglect is a fundamental tenet of the White Paper and already a guiding principle for all responsible colleagues working in social care. But more needs to be done to protect the vulnerable.

In 2011, Government announced its intention to place Safeguarding Adults Boards on a statutory footing in its statement of government policy on adult safeguarding. That statement also set out the key principles that local authorities and their partners should use to establish and evaluate their adult safeguarding policies and practice locally.

The White Paper and draft Bill reaffirms the intention to legislate in the critical area of adult safeguarding. It is expected that existing Boards and multi-agency partnerships will make sure they are using current resources to deliver clear and effective local safeguarding arrangements.

Meanwhile, local authorities should be working in partnership with police, NHS organisations, housing bodies and others to improve the safety of those in vulnerable situations. In anticipation of the legislation, local authorities and partners should take action to make sure everyone involved in local adult safeguarding is clear about their role and accountability.

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One Response to Quality and safeguarding: best foot forward for Safeguarding Adult Boards

  1. Tom Cooper says:

    Nobody could argue that improved protection for vulnerable people would be wrong.

    However, having placed Safeguarding Adults Boards on a statutory footing, are the various practitioners involved going to act even-handedly when they receive referrals or otherwise learn of concerns? Having attended a large number of safeguarding strategy meetings over the past ten years I have frequently observed supposedly highly trained social and healthcare “professionals” exceeding their authority (I am sure it will come as a surprise to many working in the care industry that SABs are not already underpinned by statute as those running safeguarding proceedings certainly have not been shy to tell participants that they must do as they are told) and acting as judge, jury and executioner, with scant regard for the rights and reputations of individuals (usually members of staff in care settings) and organisations at the centre of the concerns being investigated or indeed the inconvenient absence of evidence to substantiate them. I have gained the impression that a significant and growing number of safeguarding personnel believe that all care establishments are hotbeds of Winterbourne View style abuse or worse, staffed by pathological liars and social misfits whose only motivation for working in care is to pick on service users who cannot fight back. This Kafkaesque attitude results all too often in a severe overreaction to referrals received so that rather than using the process to establish in a rational way what has occurred (if anything) and whether any further action needs to be taken or lessons learned, the emphasis is placed on finding a perpetrator and giving the care provider a jolly good kicking. In a couple of cases in which I was involved as a care standards consultant the only actual abuse committed was done by the members of the safeguarding panel as they recklessly steamrollered the rights of service users and staff caught in the net of suspicion and knee-jerk overreaction.

    Let us hope that when SABs are set up on a formal statutory basis those involved in safeguarding procedures act more impartially with due consideration for the principles of natural justice (which should of course be extended to staff as well as service users) and at least some recognition of one of the fundamental tenets of English law, namely that a person (even a lowly member of care staff) is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A rational and balanced approach would not prevent a proper and thorough prosecution of the safeguarding process, would reduce the number of unjustly wrecked careers, reputations and businesses strewn in the wake of safeguarding processes throughout the land and would undoubtedly help to restore the care industry’s confidence, now at an all time low, in the fairness of the system. Of course, ultimately the system will only be as good as the people operating it so there needs to be a serious re-training programme to ensure that in future all safeguarding practitioners understand that they have a duty to act even-handedly and impartially. This will be even more important when safeguarding managers will be able to state correctly for the first time that the process has a statutory basis.

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