What is this about?
Safeguarding is the practice of identifying and minimising the risk of abuse to vulnerable adults and is about protecting those who cannot protect themselves, without reducing their independence. The residents at 18 Hope Street, as well as some of the people they come into contact with, fall into the category of vulnerable adults and therefore may be at risk of abuse. It is important for you as a staff member to be aware of this and have clear guidelines on how to minimise or remove these risks as they arise.
This policy aims to provide staff with clear definitions of “Abuse” and “Vulnerable Adult”, how to spot the “Signs and Symptoms of Abuse”, as well as what to do when encountering suspected abuse. It will also discuss some best practice advice to help ensure the abuse can be identified as quickly and as easily as possible and also ensure that safeguarding does not unnecessarily affect service users’ independence.
Why should I bother?
As a service provider for people with mental illness, we have a duty of care towards our residents and part of that legal, and moral, responsibility is to protect our service users from abuse. The residents at 18 Hope Street are, like all vulnerable adults, at risk from abuse, from people outside the home, other residents and even members of staff. Abuse can take many forms and can be very difficult to spot if you do not know what you are looking for and even if you do spot it, knowing what to do about it can be even more difficult. By following the guidance given in this policy we can hopefully minimise the risk of abuse, spot it in a timely manner and deal with it in a way that has the least negative impact on the service users’ lives. It will also explain how to record incidents of abuse (and suspected abuse), not only to help with formal investigations but also to ensure best practice can be shared with the full staff team.
So is this policy just about avoiding abuse? Not entirely. Although the majority of safeguarding work is removing or minimising the risk of abuse, it is just as important that we recognise and uphold the service users’ human rights. It is not good enough to say “this service user cannot leave the house because there is a risk of them being abused by a stranger”. Every effort must be made to ensure any safeguarding measure does not impact negatively on the service user’s ability to make “Informed Choices” regarding their lives. For this reason, safeguarding is always a balancing act, balancing the severity of the risks of abuse against the impact of removing that potential risk from their lives.
It is also important to remember that even with the best intentions in the world, we as support workers are capable of abuse, all be it accidentally. Working in a home such as 18 Hope Street, it is easy to get into routines and habits that, although may be appropriate for nine of our residents, fall short for the tenth. One resident may need to have the amount of snacks they eat restricted as they do not have the capacity to decide how much they eat themselves; however, it would be considered abuse if we were to put the same restrictions on a resident who DOES have capacity to make that decision for themselves. Whenever possible, service users should be educated and supported so that they are capable of avoiding abuse for themselves and are in control of their own lives rather than restrictive measures being put in place to “wrap them in cotton wool”. It is vitally important that we have safeguarding at the back of our minds at all times during our working life, but that we only implement it when necessary.