Safeguarding is protecting vulnerable adults or children from abuse or neglect. It means making sure people are supported to get good access to health care. It also means making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is supported and their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs are respected when agreeing on any action.
The Care Act statutory guidance defines adult safeguarding as
‘Protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organizations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is promoted including, where appropriate, having regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action. This must recognize that adults sometimes have complex interpersonal relationships and may be ambivalent, unclear or unrealistic about their personal circumstances.’
A vulnerable adult is defined as an individual aged 18 or over who depends on other for assistance by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of him/herself, or unable to protect him/herself against significant harm or serious exploitation.
The Protection of Vulnerable Adults – POVA
The Protection of Vulnerable Adults – (POVA) Prior to the Care Act 2014 coming in to play, there used to be no protection legalisation, however, the Department of Health Policy documents ‘no secrets’ offered guidance of how to help and protect vulnerable adults or adults at risk. It acts as a workforce ban on those professionals who have harmed vulnerable adults in their care. It will add an extra layer of protection to the pre-employment processes, including Criminal Records Bureau checks (CRB), which already take place and stop known abusers from entering the care workforce.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides criminal records checks to help organisations make safer recruitment decisions particularly for roles within client organisations working with vulnerable groups such as Care and Education. The DBS search police records and, in relevant cases, barred list information, and then issue a DBS certificate to the applicant and employer to help them make an informed recruitment decision.
No Secrets no more
So what ‘No Secrets’ provided was guidance for local authorities. It recommended that local area safeguarding boards be set up to ensure agencies such as police and social services work together to protect people. Though this was statutory guidance, it wasn’t the law itself. What that has meant is that other legislation would need to be relied upon to provide legal clout for any actions decided on. So, for example, in terms of assessment of someone’s needs to see if they fell in to the definition of a vulnerable adult, then someone would need to be eligible for an assessment under the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. If someone was suspected of an offence involving abuse of a vulnerable adult, the police would consider use of the criminal law. Most significantly since the ‘No Secrets’ guidance was issued we have had the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which provides for decisions to be made in the interest of people who lack the capacity to make those decisions themselves, including decisions about how to protect themselves from abuse. As part of the introduction of the new Care Act, the ‘No Secrets’ guidance will be cancelled.
The main difference between the two concepts is that is that protection implies decisions are made by care professionals rather than allowing individuals to safeguarding them self and make choices as to the risks they take.
Six Key principles underpin all adults safeguarding work
Empowerment- being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consents.
Prevention- It is better to take action before harm occurs.
Proportionality- The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
Protection – Support and representation for those in greatest need.
Partnership-Communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
Accountability- Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.