Whilst growing up until they reach the age of 18, children are protected by the Children’s Act 2004. This legislation ensures that children and young people are protected from all forms of abuse and mistreatment. The Care Act 2014 sets out how adults must also be protected from similar abuse and neglect. It specifically applies to vulnerable adults.
In all circumstances, the individual is unable to protect themselves from harm and neglect. The Care Act outlines 6 principles which apply to all sectors and settings which provide care, education, healthcare, housing and welfare benefits, social work and criminal justice systems to vulnerable adults. The principles form the foundation of ways professionals should engage and work with vulnerable adults.
Six key principles are:
People being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consent.
For example, a decision may need to be made regarding where a vulnerable individual will live. The individual will be fully involved in this process, asked where they wish to live and the outcome they want from the situation. Realistic options will be presented and explained in full so the individual can make informed decisions about what is best for them. This will be central to the outcome and professionals will work with the individual to achieve this.
It is better to take action before harm occurs.
In this instance, it is vital that vulnerable individuals receive clear and simple information about what abuse is, how to recognise the signs and what to do to seek help. For example, an elderly lady with mobility issues may rely on the help of others to get her weekly shopping. The lady should be informed and assisted to communicate an agreement of when and how she is assisted. If they are paid to do so the fee should be set and agreed by both parties and should not exceed the agreed amount.
The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
This is a reassurance that professionals will only become involved in an individuals life no more than is required and only in the individual’s interest. For an individual, having professional involved in their lives may feel intrusive and uncomfortable. The purpose of the help is to protect the person but this can be unwelcome. Likewise, it is not in the best interests of the individual to become involved more than is necessary as this can lead to dependency issues which will not promote independence.
Support and representation for those in greatest need.
This ensures that individuals know they are able to report instances of abuse and neglect and they are supported to be part of the safeguarding process to an extent which is suitable for them. As an example, the elderly lady described in ‘prevention’ should feel comfortable and confident that if she is unhappy with a care arrangement she has, she knows exactly to whom and how to report it, knowing it will be dealt with in confidence and in her best interest.
Local solutions through services working with their communities. Communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
As mentioned above this reinforces reassurance that personal information will be handled in confidence and that professionals will work collaboratively to achieve the best result for the individual.
Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.
Everyone understands the role they play. This ensures smooth communication and planning and encourages solid foundations for partnerships.
Issues of adult safeguarding are complex and can be subtle and difficult to identify. It is therefore vital that training is undertaken by anyone working with vulnerable adults or working in an environment where vulnerable adults are present.