For the purposes of this guide and in order to deliver the Care Act 2014, Section 42 obligations: duties apply to any adult who:

  • Has care and support needs
  • Is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect
  • and because of the above-mentioned care & support needs, Is unable to protect themselves.

Adults to whom safeguarding duties apply are referred to as “Adult at Risk” or a “Vulnerable Adult” in this guidance.

There are 6 linked stages in the safeguarding process, but it will not always be appropriate to go through these in an ordered sequence. A table summarising what is included in the stages is given below.  Click on the links in the left-hand column to get more details about each stage.

Stages Actions Responsibility Suggested timescale
Stage 1

Identification of a safeguarding concern

Ensure the wellbeing and safety of the Adult

Consider whether the Adult has capacity to consent to the concern being raised

Consider the Adult’s desired outcome

Consider the need to inform the Police if a crime has been committed

Consider the need for medical treatment

Take appropriate steps to preserve any evidence

Report concerns to the organisation’s Responsible Person or Safeguarding Lead

Make a written account of what happened, as soon as possible, remembering to record facts and not make assumptions

Everyone – ‘The Alerter’ Immediately if it is an emergency, (once emergency services notified) or as soon as practicably possible – preferably the same working day
Stage 2

Completion of the Safeguarding Adults Concern (SAC) form on the Safeguarding Portal and submit it to Safeguarding Adults Team

Receive and review information provided by the Alerter

Apply the ADASS SSAB Threshold Guidance Tool to determine level of harm

Complete the Safeguarding Adults Concern (SAC) form on the Safeguarding Portal and submit it securely to Safeguarding Adults Team

Review any action taken by the Alerter, including any immediate safeguarding actions and any additional measures that need to be taken to lower the risk level

Ensure appropriate support is given to the Alerter, including support to complete a written account if necessary

Ensure any written accounts are stored correctly

Consider any relevant organisational procedures:

·     Complaints

·     Serious Incident

·     Disciplinary

Notify the CQC if necessary / applicable

Organisation’s Responsible Person or Safeguarding Lead The same working day as the concern was identified where practicable
Stage 3

Commencement of The Section 42 enquiry / investigation

(fact finding and information gathering process)

Review and evaluate any completed actions and outcomes and any information or other associated documentation linked with the safeguarding concern

The Safeguarding Adults Enquiry will end if the following are achieved:

·     There is low level harm, and remedial or supportive actions have been taken

·     The Adult’s desired outcomes have been met as far as possible

·     The Adult’s desired outcome is not to apply safeguarding procedures and there are no other Adults at risk, or wider public interest

·     There is no additional information held to indicate a further concern/ pattern/ alert

Where the outcomes are not achieved and/or the Adult is deemed to be at continuing risk the section 42 enquiry should continue

Consider whether the Adult requires an independent advocate to represent and support them during the enquiry

Gather information and clarify facts

Determine the Adult’s views and wished and seek consent

Make decisions as to what follow-up action should be taken with regard to the perpetrator

Notify CQC if necessary

Safeguarding Adults Team, supported by relevant partner organisations Dependent on the complexity of the case, who needs to be involved (relatives, professionals) and the level of risk & harm determined.
Stage 4

Analysis of the enquiry process

Stage 5

Agree outcome decision from the enquiry

Determine whether all actions have been undertaken and enquiries have concluded

Agree final outcome of any investigation or enquiries

Confirm whether allegation(s) are substantiated or not.

Otherwise evaluate risk and whether this has been reduced to an acceptable level or removed

Establish Adult’s desired outcomes, in line with MSP (Making Safeguarding Personal) have been achieved

Determine the need for longer-term safeguarding arrangements to be in place, this may include:

·     Continued liaison with the Adult and/or their representative

·     A long-term safeguarding plan in conjunction with other professionals. with clear professional responsibility and accountability

Safeguarding Adults Team, supported by relevant partner organisations Dependent on the complexity of the case, who needs to be involved (relatives, professionals) and the level of risk & harm determined.
Stage 6

Decision to close the Safeguarding Adults Concern, as this might be another professional’s “Core Business”, or progress to further safeguarding activity.

All actions, evidence and decisions should be completed

All records should be completed

The Adult (or their nominated representative, if they lack capacity) should be made aware that the process is concluded, and provided with information as to how to make appropriate contact again should it be required, or there are any future concerns about abuse or neglect

Referrals should be made to appropriate agencies where necessary

All relevant partner organisations should be notified of the closure

Any ‘lessons learnt’ are clearly documented

Consideration is given as to whether case should be nominated for a Safeguarding Adults Review (SAR)

Safeguarding Adults Team, supported by relevant partner organisations

Stage 1: Identification of a Safeguarding Concern

A concern is a suspicion, allegation or disclosure that an Adult is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect. It must always be taken seriously, even if the person raising the concern remains anonymous.

The first priority should always be to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the Adult in question and, when the Adult has capacity to make their own decisions, to aim for any action to be in line with their wishes as far as appropriate. The safeguarding process should be empowering and supportive – not controlling and disempowering.

Practitioners must always seek the consent of the individual before taking action or sharing personal information. However, consent is not required where the best interests of the individual or others at risk demand action – in circumstances where there is a risk to others, reasonable suspicion of a crime, in the public interest, being coerced or controlled, or the Adult has mental health issues affecting their choices; there may also be circumstances where consent cannot be obtained because the person lacks capacity to give it.

It is important to remember that a concern can be made without an incident of abuse taking place or alleged to have taken place. If there are concerns that someone is at risk, then a concern should be raised. By raising a concern, risks can be assessed, addressed and managed, and the likelihood of abuse or neglect may be reduced or prevented from occurring.

The Alerter

An Alerter is the person who raises a concern about abuse or neglect or uncovers abuse or neglect. Anyone can be an Alerter. Abuse may be identified in a wide range of contexts and therefore concerns can be expressed by a variety of different people. For example (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Paid staff or volunteers within:
    • The Local Authority
    • Health Services/agencies/hospital settings
    • Partnership agencies
    • Voluntary services/agencies
    • Educational services
  • Police
  • Care staff (paid and volunteers), nursing staff, agency staff and managers within independent care homes and domiciliary care agencies
  • Students on placement within services where adults may be vulnerable and at risk of abuse or neglect
  • Probation staff
  • Staff from housing services, including sheltered housing schemes and supported living schemes
  • Carers, friends, family/relatives, neighbours, members of the public/community
  • Service users, patients or other adults at risk

An Alerter may find out about abuse or neglect in a number of ways, such as (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Be told about abuse by the Adult at risk
  • Be told by someone else who knows or works with the Adult at risk
  • They might observe signs and symptoms that would indicate the person being abused or neglected
  • They may witness the abuse themselves
  • They may hear something that concerns them
  • They may be told by another worker that something is wrong

It may be that there are repeated instances or patterns of abuse and consideration should be given to looking beyond single instances as patterns can indicate more serious problems or care concerns.

An Alerter may not be reporting that abuse or neglect has occurred (unless personally witnessed). They are passing over information that someone has told them or providing information on what they suspect to be abuse or neglect. As such, an Alerter does not have to have evidence or provide any ‘proof’. An Alerter acting in good faith should not be criticised or disciplined in any way should the outcome be that there is no cause for concern. They will be deemed to have acted in their Duty of Care or moral responsibility.

An Alerter plays an important role in the safeguarding process. Alerters may be the person involved in supporting the Adult at risk throughout all stages of the safeguarding process or be asked to undertake specific tasks, particularly if they are a member of staff or volunteer in a partner agency.

Any Alerter providing support who is not a member of staff in a volunteer or partner agency can seek advice from the Safeguarding Adults Team.

Guidance when someone is about to disclose

If you become aware that someone is about to make a safeguarding disclosure you should inform them that depending on what is disclosed, the information may need to be passed on. While this may stop the person from disclosing it is important to be clear and transparent about what your responsibilities are to allow the Adult to make an informed decision about whether they want to disclose. If they then choose not to disclose and you are a member of a partner or voluntary organisation you need to inform your line manager and maintain a written record.

You need to reassure the Adult that if they subsequently need to speak to you or anyone else about anything, they can do so.

If an Adult discloses that they are experiencing abuse and/or neglect and have needs for care and support, and as a result of those needs are unable to protect themselves from abuse and/or neglect, you should ask them what their preferred outcome is so that it is clear from the point of disclosure.

An Alerter should:

  • Remain calm and try not to show shock or disbelief;
  • Listen carefully to what is being said and demonstrate that they are actively listening;
  • Reassure the person that by disclosing they are doing the right thing;
  • Confirm that the information disclosed will be treated seriously;
  • Give the person the information about the next steps that will be taken

If someone discloses that they have experienced or are experiencing abuse or neglect the Alerter should not:

  • Press the Adult for details. Alerters are not investigators, if there is a need to clarify something that has been said, open-ended questions should be used, such as “what did you mean by that?”
  • Stop someone who is freely recalling significant events, as they may not speak about it again;
  • Promise to keep secrets. Even if the Adult asks the Alerter not to tell anyone, it must be explained, in a way that the person can understand, that they have a duty of care to pass on the information. It may help to explain that the information is only being passed to those who ‘need to know’ and that this is being done because of the concerns about them or about others who may be at risk;
  • Give unrealistic expectations or guarantees regarding confidentiality or safety
  • Be judgmental;
  • Tell anybody that doesn’t need to know;
  • Contact the alleged perpetrator or anyone who might be in contact with them

Guidance when abuse and neglect is uncovered

As guidance the following is useful for anyone when abuse or neglect has been uncovered but particularly important for anyone who is a member of staff or volunteer within a partner organisation where abuse or neglect is uncovered.

You should:

  1. Assess whether anyone is at risk or is in immediate danger and take any reasonable steps within their role to protect any person who may be at immediate risk or harm, for example:
    • Call the Police without delay if a crime is taking place or is believed to have just taken place;
    • Call an ambulance or GP if someone requires medical attention;
    • Separate the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator, only if it safe to do so;
    • Any other immediate action to ensure people are safe;
    • Consider the need for referral to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) where there are concerns involving rape or sexual assault (the Police will usually arrange this if they are undertaking an investigation). In all other cases professionals can make a direct referral to the SARC;
    • Where concerns relate to an unexplained injury/non-accidental injury, which do not include allegations of rape or sexual assault, the need for an appropriate medical examination should be made via the Adult’s GP, or Accident and Emergency services (if this is the place that the person has presented at).
  1. Take reasonable steps to preserve any evidence, if at a potential crime scene, and avoid contamination of forensic evidence:
  • Disturb the scene as little as possible, sealing off areas if possible;
  • Where appropriate and possible, remove the person’s clothing and bag each item separately;
  • Discourage washing/bathing/eating/drinking/smoking and use of the toilet in cases of sexual assault;
  • Do not clean or allow further use by others of a toilet used by the victim since the alleged incident of sexual assault;
  • Do not handle items that may hold DNA evidence;
  • Put any bedding, clothing that has been removed, or any other significant items that have been given to you (weapons etc) in a safe dry place in bags if practical
  1. Report concerns, verbally, to their line manager (or person identified in their own Individual Agency Guidance) as soon as is practicably possible and where this is appropriate;
  2. Make a written account of what has happened, or of what has been noticed or said, as soon as possible, remembering to record facts and not to make assumptions.

You should not:

  • Approach, confront or interview the alleged perpetrator, unless it is within your role and it is necessary to do so to ensure the safety or wellbeing of others. If necessary, the Alerter should seek advice (preferably from the Police) before doing so
  • Interview the victim or potential witnesses beyond the initial seeking of information to establish basic facts. This is the responsibility of the Police or other persons/agencies making the enquiry;
  • Alert the alleged perpetrator;
  • Put yourself at risk.

Guidance on producing written accounts

As guidance the following is useful for anyone when abuse or neglect has been uncovered but particularly important for anyone who is a member of staff or volunteer within a partner agency where abuse or neglect is uncovered.

For those who have a responsibility to produce and submit a written account, the following is useful guidance:

  • Write it as soon as possible to ensure that detailed information, events or facts are not forgotten;
  • Only include factual information including dates/times. Do not include your own personal views or feelings or make any personal judgments or assumptions. If it is felt necessary to include this ensure that this is clearly indicated in the account and state the reason(s) why;
  • If recounting a disclosure, try to write down exactly what the person said, using their words;
  • Be aware that any written account may be required later as part of a legal action or disciplinary procedure;
  • Include any views of the adult concerned and what they want or expect to happen. It is essential that the adult is fully involved and it should be clear in written records when there is likely to be or has been any deviation from this. Any reason for this should be clearly communicated to the adult and a written record detailing this should be kept;
  • Write down the setting and whether anyone else was present;
  • If writing by hand, ensure that the handwriting is legible (although it is advisable to encourage electronic means to record events);
  • Sign the account, date and time it;
  • Give the written account to the person to whom the concerns need to be reported (do not ask anyone else to do this).

Written accounts about concerns and disclosures of abuse are strictly confidential.

Such information should only be entered into a record book or file (electronic or otherwise) which is inaccessible to the alleged perpetrator or to those who do not need or have right to the information. It is the responsibility of the person receiving the written account to file it appropriately and in line with Data Protection, taking into account individual agency confidentiality and filing procedures.

Please see Recording Information Practice Guidance for further information.

Action where a crime has been committed or suspected

Where a crime is being or has been committed, the Police should be notified. Where the Adult concerned does not want the Police to be notified or a safeguarding concern to be made, any responsibilities in respect of duty of care or moral responsibility should be clearly explained when it is appropriate to do so. Whether or not a criminal act has been committed does not depend on the consent of the victim, where there is a wider public interest, or concern that others may be a risk, a Police prosecution should still be taken forward. Criminal investigation by the Police takes priority over all other enquiries but not over the adult’s wellbeing. Close cooperation and coordination among the relevant agencies is critical to ensure safety and wellbeing is promoted during any criminal process. Where a crime is suspected and reported the Police will be under a duty to investigate. This may be in circumstances when the individual does not want this.

Anonymous Alerts or Safeguarding Concerns

All Alerts will be taken seriously, even if the Alerter remains anonymous.

All requests for anonymity by the Alerter will be fully respected. It cannot, however, be guaranteed, especially if the Alerter’s information becomes an essential element in any subsequent legal proceedings. In addition, The Data Protection Act 1998 and the updated Act of 2018 removed the blanket confidentiality of third-party information.

If someone does decide to remain anonymous, they must consider that, by doing so, they may impede or delay the safeguarding process. If they do not give sufficient details or information, it may be difficult to proceed and in some instances to safeguard. The person must also understand that they will not be given any feedback or outcomes in relation to their concern and may not know if their concerns have been looked into appropriately. Also it would not be possible to provide the person with any support, if required.

False or Malicious Allegations

Whilst all allegations are taken seriously on occasions an allegation may be identified as false or malicious. On these occasions appropriate action will be taken. This will include for example notification to police, employer or relevant person or disciplinary action. In some instances this may include providing guidance or support to a person.