SAFEGUARDING VULNERABLE ADULTS ESSEX
Most people have heard of children’s safeguarding Boards, less will know about adult safeguarding boards in Essex. There is one for Essex County and one each in Thurrock and Southend. Although they have been around for some years, the new Care Act 2014 will put Safeguarding Adult Boards (SAB) onto a statutory legal footing for the first time. It will also introduce certain duties and obligations for the SAB.
So what is adult safeguarding and how does it differ from children’s safeguarding?
The biggest difference between children’s and adult’s safeguarding is that, unlike children’s, adult safeguarding is not there to protect or support all adults. It is there to support only those adults who are considered to be particularly vulnerable or at risk. Generally speaking this includes adults with learning disabilities, mental health issues, elderly and frail people who perhaps lack personal resources, adults in care homes or hospitals and others who receive or should receive some form of support or care from the local authority. Broadly speaking if someone is particularly dependent on other people to help them live out their normal life, they are probably more vulnerable than most of us. Adults are people who are 18 or over and people can and do move in and out of vulnerability depending on their personal circumstances. In common sense terms, if you think that an adult is particularly vulnerable or at risk and doesn’t have the means to protect themselves, then they probably are a vulnerable adult.
The sort of things that social services and their partners tend to get involved in are physical assaults and domestic violence; financial abuse, scams and theft, or people being coerced or bullied into parting with money or property; sexual abuse; psychological abuse or bullying; and people receiving poor or dangerous care or health services. Adult safeguarding teams will also get involved in cases of neglect or self neglect. There is much publicity when this sort of abuse, harm or mistreatment takes place in a care home or a hospital setting but it is a fact that much of this takes place behind closed doors and within family settings.
Another important difference is that the adult concerned, generally speaking, has to agree to being helped or supported by the safeguarding team. However there are exceptions for people who may lack the mental capacity to be able to make that decision or when the abuse or harm is so serious that the state just can’t and shouldn’t ignore it. Unlike children, all adults are entitled to take risks, do dangerous or risky things or make decisions that most of us would think are unwise. It is only when an adult is considered at risk or vulnerable that the state believes it has a part to play in protecting people who may not be able to protect themselves.
Another important part of adult safeguarding is that the adult at the centre of it should have the greatest say in how the particular matter being looked into should be resolved, provided they are able to. It has been said that adult safeguarding is about resolution not prosecution and as much of this concerns families and carers, it is understandable that a lot of adults just want a problem to be resolved or to stop and don’t particularly want the police involved. There are obviously some exceptions to this when the matter is so serious that it cannot be ignored.
So what should you do if you think that a vulnerable or at risk adult that you know or have met might be suffering abuse, harm or neglect?
The obvious people to report it to are your local adult social services; it is after all, them who have lead responsibility for dealing with adult safeguarding reports. Make sure that you tell them, that you want to report an adult safeguarding concern and get the name of the person who you spoke to. You can do this by phone, in person or by email and you can do it anonymously if you wish.
Some people are not at all happy to have social services involved in their lives so, if you choose, you can report it to health practitioners, GPs, housing staff or the police. You can even report it via local charities like Age Concern or Mind.
The important thing is that you tell someone and someone from the authorities at least looks into it.
You can report it on the dedicated adult safeguarding line in Essex called ASK SAL – telephone 08452 66 66 63 and this can be anonymously or
Crimestoppers – telephone 0800 555 111 – although it is a national line so make sure you say which area in the country you’re talking about.
It is easy not to get involved and you can comfort yourself by believing that someone else will report it. You are that someone else. Please report any concerns that you have.
For further information on adult safeguarding in Essex.
Thurrock Adult Safeguarding Partnership: May 2014