News articles and updates

The below captures some of the latest articles, research and news that is relevant to Adult Safeguarding.

Why all charities need a policy on safeguarding:

Why all charities need a policy on safeguarding

29 September 2016 by Rebecca Cooney

The Charity Commission is producing guidance that is likely to advise every charity to establish how it comes into contact with vulnerable people.

Protecting children and vulnerable adults is high on the agenda in the UK, as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse rumbles on. It's also of import within the sector, with the Charity Commission announcing in August that it will be making safeguarding a priority in the next year.

The regulator is drawing up new guidance on safeguarding and revising its strategy with the help of an external advisory panel of charities, statutory bodies and umbrella groups working on education and vulnerable beneficiaries.

One of the strongest messages to emerge from the panel, according to its chair Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the commission, is that all charities, even those not working directly with vulnerable groups, need safeguarding policies. "Many charities don't think safeguarding applies to them," says Atkinson. "But even grant-making bodies, when they're visiting programmes they've funded or might fund, can come into contact with vulnerable people. It's important to be open-minded about the extent to which you need to consider safeguarding."

Cate Meredith, senior consultant for the voluntary and community sector at the NSPCC, often advises charities on safeguarding and says a good safeguarding policy should be the product of collaboration between those within the organisation and those using it. "One of the common mistakes people make is to think it's about giving one person that job and expecting them to sit by themselves and just keep typing until they've got a policy," she says.

Instead, she recommends that trustees, management and stakeholders get together and begin by mapping out what contact they might have with vulnerable people, directly and indirectly, and if they are already doing anything that could be considered safeguarding - notifying parents what time they are expected to collect children from an event, for example.

Charities will often find they are doing more than they realise, she says, but this process will also highlight and allow them to focus on any gaps. But Meredith says a policy document is only the beginning of a process that will take time. "You can't file it away in a folder somewhere and hope it weaves its magic from there - it has to be a lived reality for the organisation," she says.

Safeguarding has to become embedded as part of a normal conversation within the organisation, she says, so staff can spot situations and know how to respond. Ideally, she says, one trustee should lead on safeguarding, but all trustees need to be familiar enough with safeguarding issues and the charity's policy to be able to challenge and scrutinise the charity's work effectively.

And, although it sounds obvious, the policy must be followed, says Atkinson. She says it is common for the commission to find charities that have ignored their own policies, often through lack of awareness.

The policy also needs to be shared with people who use the charity's services, Meredith says, so that if they have concerns they know who to turn to and what response to expect. Atkinson agrees, saying one of the first things the regulator looks for when assessing a charity's safeguarding is whether the policy has been made public.

"Knowing how you would handle the problem isn't the same as making clear to users and workers in your charity what the expectations placed on them are and the consequences if expectations aren't met," she says.

And, where issues do arise, they should be reported to the commission as soon as possible, which will give the commission confidence the charity is dealing with it effectively, she says. "Ultimately, for most organisations, the key is that it's mostly about common sense - it doesn't have to be scary," she says.

Perpetrators of adult abuse ‘getting derisory sentences’

Legal expert Alison Brammer told social workers there was a 'continuing dissatisfaction' with the judicial process in adult abuse cases

Legal expert Alison Brammer told social workers there was a 'continuing dissatisfaction' with the judicial process in adult abuse cases

Perpetrators of abuse against vulnerable adults are being handed ‘derisory’ sentences, a legal expert has warned.

Alison Brammer, head of Keele University’s law school, said many convictions under the ill-treatment and wilful neglect offence included in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 resulted in a fine, unpaid work or suspended sentence. The maximum sentence for the offence is five years in prison.

Brammer, a former local authority lawyer, was speaking to social workers at a Care Act conference run by ADASS North West, Bury council, and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The first case prosecuted under the offence involved a care manager and care worker who had left three men with severe learning disabilities left locked in a hot car for three hours while the pair went into a betting shop. The care staff received a fine for wilful neglect “because they just hadn’t noticed the time,” Brammer said.

The only exception, she added, has been the case of three care workers who took mobile phone footage of ‘inhuman and degrading abuse’ against an 86-year-old man and 99-year-old woman. The care workers received jail sentences of 12, 18, and 21 months.

Brammer said there was “a continuing dissatisfaction with the judicial process” and pointed to the ongoing campaign for a new criminal offence for abuse against vulnerable adults, which is being led by charity Action on Elder Abuse.

But “without a very real commitment and understanding from the judiciary of the seriousness of cases being brought to court”, she said she remained sceptical that a new offence would be a solution to safeguarding cases.

‘Mandatory reporting’

Brammer also discussed the current consultation on the possible introduction of mandatory reporting in child abuse and neglect cases, or a duty to act. The consultation applies to England only and was launched in response to high profile cases, most notably the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.

“You may be thinking well I work in adult social care so that’s why I’m not aware of it, but the consultation document also states that it will consider views on whether any changes should be applied to vulnerable adults – it’s hidden away,” Brammer told the audience.

The consultation document outlines a number of different options for mandatory reporting, as well as the possible extension of the wilful neglect offences that were added to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act last year. Brammer urged adult social care professionals to respond.

Speaking to Community Care after the event, she said: “Short sentences may be a reflection of the way society views offences against vulnerable adults.

“In some of the cases I researched, account was also taken of the fact that conviction could lead to the individual being barred from working in the sector.

“Mandatory reporting has the potential to draw out more cases of adult abuse and raise the profile and societal awareness. It is difficult to say without any certainty what proportion of cases would lead to any criminal law intervention or whether cases that are reported would be investigated and a safeguarding plan would provide further support to the individual.

“This is really part of a bigger question about the range of approaches to adult abuse, the role of the law and the impact that criminal prosecution of perpetrators of abuse may have.”

She added: “The current philosophy of the Care Act is very much about promoting wellbeing and following the wishes of the individual concerned. The criminal law does however have a distinct role in clearly indicating behaviour which is unacceptable to society.”

ELDER ABUSE IS A CRIME: A report from Action against Elder Abuse

Action against Elder Abuse Report

Elder abuse is a crime - now let’s make it one.

Foreword

Elder abuse is a major problem across the World. In the UK alone between 500,000 and 800,000 older people are abused in their own homes each year.

Too many old people are suffering and dying, or losing their life savings due to abuse. Too many relatives are disgusted with the lack of justice, the lack of fairness, the lack of any deterrence.

This must stop.

The UK recognises the special needs of children for protection, the special needs of those who are victims of Hate Crime, the special needs of those who experience domestic abuse, and even the special needs of animals. But there is a point blank refusal to recognise the special needs of older people.

AEA hears arguments against the need to introduce specific legislation to prevent elder abuse, all of which are intended to avoid having the debate about the appalling treatment of too many of our older people, while perpetrators get away with their crimes.

The debate about the need for legislation to protect older people from abuse is long overdue.

(You can read the full report here)

Elder abuse is a crime. Now, let’s make it one.

Gary FitzGerald D.Sc. (h.c)., M.A

Chief Executive

Action on Elder Abuse