- Safeguarding Adults
Safeguarding Adults is now the most widely accepted term for what is sometimes called "Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults" ("SOVA") or the "Protection of Vulnerable Adults" ("POVA").
Whatever term you use, it all means the same thing, which is the way in which "vulnerable adults" (the more accepted term now is "adults at risk") can be protected from abuse.
"Adults at risk" are people over the age of 18 who may find it difficult to speak up for or protect themselves if they are being abused. Typically this would include adults with mental health issues, adults with learning disabilities, adults with physical disabilities, adults with drug and alcohol issues and adults who are elderly and/or frail.
The types of abuse that they may encounter could include physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, financial abuse, discriminatory abuse, sexual abuse, institutional/organisational abuse, neglect, self-neglect, domestic violence or modern slavery.
Every organisation that works with adults at risk should have a clear policy on how to spot the possible signs of abuse, and what to do if it is suspected. Every local authority must have in place procedures for investigating allegations of abuse.
Regular issues that we cover on the training include:
- Is it abuse if a consensual sexual relationship develops between two adults, only one of whom has dementia?
- Is it abuse if a worker takes an adult with learning disabilities shopping in Tesco's and then keeps the ClubCard points for him/herself?
- What, if anything, should a worker do if s/he suspects that these things are happening?
What do you think are the answers to these questions?
Here are our answers, which must of course be treated with some caution as every situation is unique:
- Answer: this is going to depend on whether either adult has the mental capacity to consent to (or engage in) the sexual relationship. It depends on the relative levels of ability (disability) between the two people. The greater the gap in their respective abilities then the more certain it is that this is abuse. The greater the level of dementia the less likely it is that the person will be able to make an informed decision about consenting to or engaging in the sexual relationship.
- Answer: yes, this is also abuse - especially if the adult is unaware that it is happening, or is unable to understand that it is happening. It may not be the worst crime in the world, but why can't the adult have his/her own ClubCard?
- Answer: if you suspect that these things are happening you should tell someone, and your organisation should have a very clear policy on whom to tell, how and when.
- In August 2023 the Government announced it would review whether social workers in England should have the power of entry to check on the welfare of an individual. This power already exists in Wales and (separately) in Scotland
- The Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board website has a helpful page on professional curiosity, and so does the Rochdale Safeguarding Adults Board.
- The Office of the Public Guardian has its own policy on protecting adults who are at risk of abuse or neglect.
- Safeguarding Adults in England is covered by the Care Act 2014. The Statutory Guidance for the Care Act is regularly updated - click here to see the latest version.
- Safeguarding Adults in Wales is covered by the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014. There are various codes of practice - click here to see them.
- Every area of England and Wales has a Safeguarding Adults Board which is responsible for policy and strategy in relation to Safeguarding in that area. All organisations within that Safeguarding Adults Board area must follow its guidance. Here are links to just a few of the SAB websites:
- In September 2021 Alcohol Change UK produced some helpful guidance on How to Use Legal Powers to Safeguard Highly Vulnerable Dependent Drinkers.
- In 2020 the Local Gvernment Association produced an Analysis of 44 Safeguarding Adults Reviews across England covering April 2017 - March 2019
- If the abuse is serious enough to constitute a criminal offence, there are various pieces of legislation that might be used, which are summarised here.
- In July 2017 the London ADASS published a review of 27 Safeguarding Adults Reviews, looking at themes and issues
- In 2014 Halton Borough Council reviewed a range of short video clips about Safeguarding - click here for links to the clips themselves, and what the reveiwers thought of those clips.