Whilst growing up, until they reach the age of 18, children are protected by the Children’s Act 2004. The Children’s Act 2004 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.
The definition of a vulnerable adult is broad:
- The individual must be over 18.
- They could have a disability, either physical or mental.
- They could be elderly or have an illness which has caused them to struggle to be able to look after themselves independently.
- They may be homeless or at risk of homelessness.
- They may be in or fleeing an abusive relationship.
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 responsibilities professionals have and outline how they should engage and work with vulnerable adults.
Six key principles are:
Empowerment – Individuals are supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and give informed consent.
Prevention – Individuals receive clear and simple information about what abuse is, how to recognise the signs and what to do to seek help.
Proportionality – This is a reassurance that professionals will only become involved in an individuals life no more than is required and only in the individuals interest.
Protection – 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.
Partnership – This ensures individuals have reassurance that their personal information will be handled in confidence and that professionals will work collaboratively to achieve the best result for them.
Accountability – Everyone’s role is clearly defined and everyone understands the role they play.
The key principles apply to professionals working directly with vulnerable adults. However, it is vital that everyone is aware of their Duty of Care.
Duty of Care is about individual wellbeing, welfare, compliance and good practice.
Every individual associated with a business or establishment, either using the building or engaging in business or activities relating to the establishment, is fully protected from any harm, both emotional and/or physical. All workplaces have a moral and a legal obligation to ensure this.
Responsibility for all staff and professionals involves being aware, as outlined above, of the ways in which an adult could be vulnerable. They need to be alert to the threat and possibility of abuse, which can happen anywhere, at any time in numerous different ways. It is vital that staff and professionals learn to spot signs of this and are able to react appropriately to prevent/ stop it.
Workplace policies and procedures should be in place for safeguarding which will provide information on the steps to follow in reporting concerns of abuse. 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.