What is Safeguarding Adults

Section 42 of the Care Act 2014 requires that each local authority must make enquiries (or cause others to do so) if it believes an adult is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect.

This applies where a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult in its area (whether or not ordinarily resident there)

  • has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs),
  • is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, and
  • as a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it (Care Act 2014, section 42)

When an allegation about abuse or neglect has been made, enquiries are led by a qualified social worker to find out what, if anything, has happened. The enquiry will seek to establish whether any action needs to be taken to prevent or stop abuse or neglect, and if so, by whom.

The social worker will usually work with a range of different partners such as health professionals, police and care providers to gather information and where appropriate work collaboratively to safeguard the individual and prevent a reoccurrence. The findings from the enquiry are used to decide whether abuse has taken place and whether the adult at risk needs a Safeguarding Plan. A Safeguarding Plan is a list of arrangements developed with input from partners that are required to keep the person safe and to prevent a reoccurrence of the circumstances which led to harm.

Purpose of a safeguarding enquiry

The core purpose of a safeguarding enquiry is to decide what action is needed to help and protect the vulnerable adult at risk of abuse or neglect.

Its aims are to:

  • establish the key facts about an incident(s)/allegation
  • establish the adult’s views, wishes and desires for the outcome of the enquiry
  • assess the needs of the vulnerable and support how these are to protect them
  • protect the adult from the abuse and neglect
  • establish if others are at risk of harm
  • establish actions to be undertaken with regard to the person or organisation responsible for the abuse or neglect
  • support the adult in feeling safe and achieving the outcomes of resolution

An enquiry can involve a range of activities appropriate to the circumstances presented. An enquiry can involve interviews with people as witnesses or involved in the incident. It will also involve a review of records, policies and procedures.

In some circumstances, other enquiries are also required under other procedures. If a criminal offence is suspected, the police may also undertake an investigation and this would take priority.

In circumstances where the person accused of abuse or neglect is an employee, the organisation's disciplinary or Person in a Position of Trust (PIPOT) process is likely to be required. Additionally, this may also require the need for an internal incident investigation.

Who can raise a safeguarding concern

Anyone can raise a concern about a vulnerable adult with care and support needs who is at risk of abuse or neglect.

This may be family or friend, a carer, a professional working with adults with care and support needs or somebody who thinks they have been abused. It may even be a tradesperson or a member of the public seeing something in a health/care setting or home.

Alternatively, if a person has contacted other professionals (such as the police, health services or voluntary organisations) and there is concern that abuse is taking place, those agencies will also raise a concern.