1. Introduction

Prevention is a key principle of adult safeguarding:

‘It is better to take action before harm occurs. “I receive clear and simple information about what abuse is, how to recognise the signs and what I can do to seek help” Care and Support Statutory Guidance).

Agencies must emphasise to all their staff the need for preventing abuse and neglect, wherever possible.

Observant professionals and other staff making early, positive interventions with individuals and families can make a huge difference to the lives of adults who are experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect, which may prevent the deterioration of a situation or breakdown of a support network.

Agencies should implement robust risk management processes in order to prevent concerns escalating to a crisis point and requiring intervention under safeguarding adult procedures.

2. What does Prevention mean?

Effective prevention in safeguarding should be defined broadly and should include all adults with care and support needs and services. However, it should not mean adopting an overly-protective or risk-averse approach.

Prevention needs to take place in the context of person-centred support, with individuals empowered to make choices and supported to manage risks.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing abuse and neglect; including the adult themselves and their carers, staff, professionals and volunteers, and the local community / general public.

3. Prevention Interventions

Key to the successful prevention of abuse is an open culture with a genuinely person-centred approach to care underpinned by a zero tolerance policy towards abuse and neglect.

Some of the most common prevention interventions include:

  • supporting adults to safeguard themselves;
  • training and education for staff and volunteers;
  • awareness-raising;
  • providing information and advice;
  • advocacy;
  • policies and procedures;
  • community links;
  • legislation and regulation.

3.1 Supporting adults to safeguard themselves

One of the most effective ways to safeguard adults who may be vulnerable to abuse or neglect is to enable them to safeguard themselves. Empowerment and choice need to be at the core of adult safeguarding and practice, working with and supporting adults to recognise and protect themselves from abuse. It also means taking a risk-enabling approach within services and ensuring that people who use services have genuine choice.

If people are to protect themselves from abuse, staff need to support them to:

  • be aware of what abuse is;
  • be aware of who might potentially exploit or harm them;
  • be informed about their rights and have the skills and resources to be able to deal with it;
  • have the information, knowledge and confidence to take action;
  • be supported to be aware of how they can reduce the risks of being harmed or exploited (for example, avoiding potentially risky situations).

3.2 Training and education

Some of the most common prevention interventions are training and education for staff and volunteers.

The SAB should ensure that relevant partners provide training for staff and volunteers on the policy, procedures and professional practices that are in place locally, which reflects their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding adult arrangements.

Training should take place at all levels in an organisation and be updated regularly to reflect best practice. To ensure that practice is consistent, no staff group should be excluded.

3.3. Awareness raising

The public has a vital role in safeguarding adults through the prevention and recognition of abuse.  It is the responsibility of all agencies and organisations to ensure that there is a good level of public awareness of adult abuse and how concerns should be reported.

Public awareness campaigns can make a significant contribution to the prevention of abuse. They are more effective if backed up by information and advice about where to get help and training for staff and services to respond.

3.4. Information and advice

See also Information and Advice

Accessible information and advice are essential building blocks for prevention of abuse and for backing up public awareness campaigns. Information should be made available in a range of media and produced in different, user friendly formats for people with care and support needs and their carers.

Under the Care Act 2014, the local authority must provide information and advice to:

  • the public about how to raise concerns about the safety or wellbeing of an adult who has care and support needs;
  • support public knowledge and awareness of different types of abuse and neglect;
  • cover how to keep oneself physically, sexually, financially and emotionally safe;
  • support people to keep safe;
  • cover who to tell when there are concerns about abuse or neglect and what will happen when such concerns are raised;
  • provide information about the local Safeguarding Adults Board;

3.5 Advocacy

See also Independent Advocacy

Advocacy can make a significant contribution to prevention of abuse through enabling adults at risk to become more aware of their rights and able to express their concerns.

Advocacy services may be preventative as they can enable adults at risk to express themselves in potential or actual abusive situations. Equally, their presence in enabling people to express themselves in other situations (for example when their needs are being assessed or at times of transition from children’s to adult services) may contribute to building confidence more generally and hence be preventative.

3.6 Policies, procedures and processes

Having robust, effective adult safeguarding procedures in place which are well-advertised and accessible and which all staff are trained in, is key to preventing abuse and neglect. There are, however, particular policies and procedures that can support the prevention of adult abuse. These include:

Effective planning in the context of person-centred care is a core element of good quality care and support, in conjunction with conducting a risk assessment. Effective care and support planning should consider any potential risks of abuse. Staff should understand the role of the care and support plan as being one facet in a strategy aimed at preventing abuse or neglect.

3.7 Community links

Both services and individuals benefit from having contact with a range of people in the community. Adults may be more vulnerable to abuse or neglect if they are isolated and cut off from families and friends. Reducing isolation through links with the community can mean there are more people who can be alert to the possibility of abuse, as well as providing links to potential sources of support for adults and their carers.

It is particularly important that carers are informed about existing services and sources of support in order to support their caring role and reduce stress, thus reducing the risk of abuse. See also Carers and Adult Safeguarding.

3.8 Regulation and legislation

Regulation and legislation both can play a role in the prevention of abuse.

The Care Act 2014 introduces new duties and requirements of local authorities in a number of areas, including safeguarding adults.  It provides, for the first time, a legislative framework for those working in adult safeguarding.

Regulators have a key role to play in safeguarding – they can raise concerns about abusive practice and identify gaps in how standards are applied or interpreted, particularly in relation to workforce training, qualifications and skills and the effect of standards on safeguarding practice. See Care Quality Commission.

4. Safeguarding Adults Board

See also Section 3, Multi-agency Working: Preventing Abuse and Neglect, Integration, Cooperation and Partnerships

Strategies for the prevention of abuse and neglect are a core responsibility of the Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB).  The SAB should have an overview of how this should take place in their area and how this work ties in with other local boards and partnerships, such as the Health and Wellbeing Board.

There are a range of strategies the SAB could employ. It may involve commissioners and the Care Quality Commission, together with providers, acting to address poor quality care. This includes responding to intelligence that indicates the care and support services provided may be deteriorating, and abuse or neglect is a concern. It could also involve local communities, by addressing hate crime or anti-social behaviour in a particular neighbourhood.

The SAB should have effective communication and links across a number of networks in order to ensure their work is effective.