3.1 How responses to safeguarding concerns are managed
All responses should be underpinned by the six principles outlined in the Care Act, and a Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP) approach.
How responses to safeguarding concerns are managed
This part of the procedures sets out clear expectations regarding the standards, roles and responsibilities of agencies and organisations, and practice of staff and managers when responding to a safeguarding concern and undertaking enquiries.
The local authority has a duty to undertake enquiries or cause an enquiry to be made where the three key tests are met. These are:
- an adult who has needs for care and support (whether or not any of those needs are being met);
- may be experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and
- as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of, abuse or neglect.
Skilled and knowledgeable supervision focused on outcomes for adults is critical in safeguarding work. Managers have a central role in ensuring high standards of practice and that practitioners are properly equipped and supported. It is important to recognise that dealing with situations involving abuse and neglect can be stressful and distressing for staff, and workplace support should be available.
Responding to individual safeguarding concerns (enquiries under Section 42 of the Care Act)
What is a ‘safeguarding concern’?
A ‘safeguarding concern’ is when any person has a reasonable cause to think that an adult with care and support needs, who is unable to protect themselves because of those needs, is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect.
Note The local authority is required to provide information regarding the number of ‘safeguarding concerns’ it has received and in this context a ‘safeguarding concern’ is defined as the first contact between a person concerned about abuse or neglect of an adult and the local authority.
When should information be treated as a ‘safeguarding concern’?
Local authority staff receiving or identifying information that could indicate there is a ‘safeguarding concern’ will undertake basic checks with reference to any pre-existing relevant information, as they would for any other information or referral received.
If the information received and / or identified through this initial basic checks stage appears to indicate the adult affected meets the three key tests then the information should be treated as a ‘safeguarding concern’ and the local authority’s duty to undertake an enquiry under Section 42 of the Care Act is triggered.
Local authorities may choose to undertake safeguarding enquiries for people where there is not a section 42 enquiry duty, if the local authority believes it is proportionate to do so, and will enable the local authority to promote the person’s wellbeing and support a preventative agenda. (14.14 Care and Support Statutory Guidance March 2016).
The action that local authority staff take to respond to this information constitutes an ‘enquiry’ including where that involves:
- A conversation with the adult or their representative (which should always happen at the earliest opportunity that it is safe to do so).
- Gathering any additional information to assist in determining what is the most appropriate response to the information received.
If the action undertaken through the ‘enquiry’ at this point results in it being established that:
- this is not a ‘safeguarding concern’, or
- the safeguarding concern has been resolved, and
- the adult is no longer at risk of abuse or neglect (real or suspected)
then the local authority’s duty under Section 42 will have been discharged and the enquiry is concluded at this point.
When information should not be treated as a ‘safeguarding concern’
If the initial basic checks undertaken by the local authority at the point of receiving, or identifying, the information do not indicate the adult to whom it relates meets the three key tests then the information should not be treated as a ‘safeguarding concern’ and the local authority’s duty to undertake an enquiry under Section 42 of the Care Act is not triggered.
The local authority will determine the most appropriate response to address the issues involved in the same way as it would for any other contact requesting its action or assistance.
Role of the Enquiry Manager
At the point where the local authority’s duty of enquiry is triggered ie. the three key tests are met, an Enquiry Manager will be appointed by the local authority.
Every enquiry undertaken under Section 42 will have an Enquiry Manager appointed. Their overall role is to have responsibility for co-ordinating responses and decision making, and to ensure the local authority’s duty under Section 42 of the Care Act is discharged appropriately. There may be an Enquiry Officer to support the Enquiry Manager.
All Enquiry Managers must have appropriate training.
What happens when the local authority becomes aware of a safeguarding concern?
Where the local authority has reasonable cause to think the three key tests have been met, it has a legal duty under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014 to make enquiries, or cause enquiries to be made by other agencies or organisations.
The local authority may decide to undertake informal enquiries if it decides this would be appropriate given the nature of the concerns and circumstances of the adult, and where it is unclear whether the adult meets the three key tests or not.
At the point at which it appears the three key tests have been met, the local authority’s Section 42 duty is triggered and an Enquiry Manager must be identified.
Where a local authority practitioner decides that the information received does not indicate that the local authority’s Section 42 duty is triggered, this decision must be ratified by another local authority member of staff with appropriate training, skills and experience.
What the local authority must do
The decision to carry out a safeguarding enquiry does not depend on the person’s eligibility to receive local authority services but should be taken wherever there is reasonable cause to think that the person is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect.
Where this is the case, a local authority must carry out (or request others to carry out) whatever enquiries it thinks are necessary in order to decide, in consultation with the adult, whether any further action is necessary, and what that action should be.
It is important the local authority acts swiftly to make an effective response.
Deciding what action the local authority needs to take at this point
The local authority will take account of the information it already has, does not have, or requires, in order to determine the most appropriate response to the safeguarding concern. This must include consideration of:
- Any immediate risk to the adult or others.
- The adult’s wishes.
- The adult’s capacity, representation and advocacy issues.
- Any risks and protective factors for the adult.
- Any risks and protective factors for others.
Whatever the subsequent action, after it has received a safeguarding concern the local authority must record:
- The safeguarding concern.
- The adult’s views and wishes.
- Any immediate action it takes and the reasons for those actions.
Where it is unclear if the adult is covered by the criteria in the Care Act
If the local authority decides it is appropriate to undertake an enquiry but it is unclear whether the adult meets the criteria for an enquiry under the Care Act, it should be assumed the adult meets the criteria until further information is available to inform this decision, or until the safeguarding concern is addressed.
Principles and approach underpinning all responses to safeguarding concerns
All responses to safeguarding concerns by the local authority, or other agency or organisation, must always be underpinned and informed by the six key principles outlined in the Care Act, and by Making Safeguarding Personal.
All responses to safeguarding concerns should involve a conversation with the adult or their representative at the earliest opportunity and throughout the process.
The nature and circumstances of abuse or neglect the adult may be experiencing
When a safeguarding concern is identified, the local authority should establish as far as possible the nature of abuse or neglect that the adult appears to be at risk of, or experiencing.
The type and pattern of the abuse or neglect, and the different circumstances in which it may take place, will inform and influence decisions regarding the most appropriate approach and response to the safeguarding concern including: making initial contact with the adult, the assessment of risk for the adult and others, and possible responses that should be considered to support the adult, including which, if any, other agencies or organisations might need to be involved.