Not all adults who go through the safeguarding process are receptive to engaging with services. Complex dilemmas do arise particularly when people appear to rationally or intentionally choose to remain in risky situations including self-neglect.

Such situations, if they are to be resolved successfully and safely, will need sensitive handling.

Lack of engagement may be due to:

  • a lack of trust of authority;
  • fear they may be removed from the home;
  • third party coercion and control e.g. domestic, financial abuse;
  • the impact of drug / alcohol use;
  • people with different needs (including learning disabilities, mental ill health) who are already struggling may find it difficult to accept help and support.

As with other aspects of social care, the wellbeing of the person is of central importance throughout the safeguarding process. This includes control over their day-to-day life and recognising the person is best placed to understand their own wellbeing requirements. In safeguarding cases, there can be a difficult balance for professionals to strike between empowering people to make their own choices and remain in control of their lives and carrying out agency responsibilities in relation to safeguarding adults and children, care standards and health and safety legislation.

All attempts to resolve the situation should begin with negotiation, persuasion and the building of trust. In developing engagement, the following things should be considered:

  • the nature of the presenting issue and or needs;
  • any expressed views by the individual;
  • whether any individual and or service has been able to successfully engage with the individual previously;
  • the skill mix within the services, including practitioners’ previous experience and knowledge that might offer a different approach;
  • identifying, others who may be able to gain access, formal or informal e.g. housing officer, neighbours, shopkeeper, family and friends;
  • meeting outside of the home in a place where the adult concerned may feel safe/comfortable e.g. café, housing office, GP surgery, library;
  • using alternative safe communication methods (Skype, email, text);
  • what small steps can be taken to make the adult feel in control;
  • using a strengths-based approach (building on positive behaviour / strategies exhibited);
  • maintaining continuity of relationship, where possible, by not passing the adult between practitioners or changing workers.

By encouraging and embedding best practice in this area into multi-agency safeguarding adults work, practitioners can increase their chances of building positive relationships with people who use services.