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2.2 Safeguarding Adults Process: Introduction

Principles and Themes

These procedures are governed by a set of key principles and themes, so as to ensure that people who are subject to abuse, neglect and exploitation experience the process in such a way that it is sensitive to individual circumstances, is person centred and is outcome focused. It is vital for successful safeguarding that the procedures in this section are understood and applied consistently by all organisations.

Although the responsibility for the co-ordination of safeguarding adults arrangements lies with local authorities, the implementation of these procedures is a collaborative responsibility and effective work must be based on a multi-agency approach.

The key principles which govern this procedure are set out in Chapter 14, Care and Support Statutory Guidance (Department of Health):

  • empowerment: presumption of person-led decisions and informed consent; consulting the person about their desired outcome throughout the safeguarding process
  • protection: ensuring that people are safe and that they have support and representation as necessary during the process
  • prevention: minimising the likelihood of repeated abuse and recognising the person’s contribution to this in safeguarding plans
  • proportionality: the ways in which the safeguarding procedure is used are proportionate, as un-intrusive as possible and appropriate to the risk presented
  • partnership: people can be satisfied that agencies are working constructively to make them safe
  • accountability: the way in which the safeguarding process is conducted should be transparent and consistent; it should always be borne in mind that safeguarding procedures may be subject to external scrutiny (e.g. the courts).

These procedures are a framework. Safeguarding adults is a dynamic process that must be undertaken with people and not to people. The following key themes run throughout the safeguarding adults process:

  • user outcomes: at the beginning and at every stage of the process what the individual wants to achieve must be identified and revisited. To what extent these wants/wishes have been met must be reviewed at the end of the safeguarding process regardless of at what stage it is concluded;
  • risk assessment and management: these are central to the Safeguarding Adults process. Assessments of risk should be carried out with the individual at each stage of the process so that adjustments can be made in response to changes in the levels and nature of risk. Risks to others must also be considered;
  • mental capacity: the Mental Capacity Act 2005 requires an assumption that an adult (aged 16 or over) has full legal capacity to make decisions unless it can be shown that they lack capacity to make a decision for themselves at the time the decision needs to be made. Individuals must be given all appropriate help and support to enable them to make their own decisions or to maximise their participation in any decision-making process. Unwise decisions do not necessarily indicate lack of capacity. Any decision made, or action taken, on behalf of someone who lacks the capacity to make the decision or act for themselves must be made in their best interests. It is important that an individual’s mental capacity is considered at each stage of the safeguarding adults process;
  • protection planning: in response to identified risks a protection plan can be developed and implemented at any time in the safeguarding adults process. The multi-agency plan aims to:
    • prevent further abuse or neglect;
    • keep the risk of abuse or neglect at a level that is acceptable to the person being abused or neglected and the agencies supporting them;
    • support the individual to continue in the risky situation if that is their choice and they have the capacity to make that decision.

Protection planning also involves supporting anyone who has been abused or neglected to recover from that experience.

  • Information sharing: this is key to delivering better and more efficient services that are coordinated around the needs of the individual. It is essential to enable early intervention and preventative work, for safeguarding, for promoting welfare and for wider public protection. Information sharing is a vital element in improving outcomes for all. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that most people want to be confident that their personal information is kept safe and secure and that practitioners maintain their privacy, while sharing appropriate information to deliver better services.
  • Recording: good record-keeping is an essential part of the accountability of organisations to those who use their services. Maintaining proper records is vital to individuals’ care and safety. If records are inaccurate, future decisions may be wrong and harm may be caused to the individual. Where an allegation of abuse is made all agencies have a responsibility to keep clear and accurate records. It is fundamental to ensure that evidence is protected and to show what action has been taken and what decisions have been made and why.
  • Feedback: at each stage of the safeguarding adults process it is important to ensure feedback is given to the adult, alerter and partners. Alerters are entitled to be given appropriate information regarding the status of the alert they have made. The extent of this feedback will depend on various things (for example the relationship they have with the victim, confidentiality issues and the risk of compromising an enquiry). At the very least it should be possible to advise the alerter whether their alert has led to an enquiry. Partners in provider organisations require feedback to allow them to continue to provide appropriate support and make staffing decisions.
  • Closing: the safeguarding adults process may be closed at any stage if it is agreed that an ongoing enquiry is not needed or if the enquiry has been completed and a protection plan agreed and put in place, or protection plan is no longer required.

Finally, it is equally important that these procedures are managed and administered in such a way as to comply with all the articles of the Human Rights Act 1998. What this means is that both the process and the outcome must be the least restrictive, proportionate and enable risk where appropriate. In addition, any actions falling under these procedures should be consistent with current legislation as it relates to social care, health, housing and education.

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