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As featured in Sanctuary Social Work News, Service Manager Andy Hill writes about overcoming the challenges of safeguarding adults under the Care Act 2014. 

"At the heart of safeguarding adults lie the core values of social work; to challenge injustice and enable people to live safely. Within the service I manage, this is a continuous juggling act to ensure resources are where they need to be at any given time. 

Working towards social justice within the safeguarding and mental capacity act team means being at the forefront of challenging oppression and discriminatory practices. Therefore, as a team, we require time to reflect and be mindful about our own emotional health; to be grounded in our values; and sure of our information and knowledge when promoting the rights of others. 

It would be easy to take a risk-averse course of action in many cases, however this would also be inappropriate if the service user didn’t want that particular action. This leads into Making Safeguarding Personal; not a new concept, but one that enables a shift from an organisational process driven approach to a more sensitive one of a person-centred model. In social work it coexists and contributes to anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice.

Challenges arising from investigations, where abuse has been alleged on a larger scale, can drain small teams and detract them away from other business such as managing Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). Following the Supreme Court judgement in March 2014, the number of DoLS assessments significantly increased from 30 to over 600, and this year we are looking at over 700 – with no budget!

No budget doesn’t mean we can’t defend people’s rights to liberty and keep them safe when they don’t have the capacity to recognise risk and harm. Justifying a budget overspend can be a challenge, but the challenge is more about ensuring the council know why we have to do it; it’s called the law. Although a drop in the ocean, the Department of Health gave local authorities £25 million, which when shared out didn’t amount to much. It has meant employing agency Best Interest Assessors (BIAs) instead of commissioning independent BIAs.

Overseeing a robust quality assurance process is essential to give guarantees to the Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB). Vulnerable adults, especially older people, don’t seem to be valued as much as they should be by society. However, I hope that, with SABs now on a statutory footing as children’s have been for years, adult safeguarding can make inroads into redressing this covert discrimination. 

We are seeing positive outcomes. An example is of a care home which, once a number of serious allegations had been made by bodies such as Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the police, became fully engaged with the safeguarding team’s investigations. They worked through the issues, appointed new staff, including a new manager, and eventually emerged with a clean bill of health from our commissioners and CQC. That said, not all go according to plan and the order of the day tends to be frustrating negotiations with providers who fail to accept responsibility. 

I am keen to encourage further engagement with care homes, offering briefings and working closely with management to prevent issues arising. 

I believe that services should be the best they can possibly be, being mindful that one day they could safeguard a family member or friend. We should ask ourselves – would they be good enough?"

Read Andy Hill’s full article in the January to March 2016 issue of Sanctuary Social Work News.

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