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Safeguarding adults is fundamental in all care settings. All adults who use care services have the right to live free from neglect, abuse and harm.
The Care Act sets out six principles that should underpin all adult safeguarding in care homes. The principles are designed to aid care providers in better protecting the adults they work with.
Read on to find out more about safeguarding adults and the six principles.
What is adult safeguarding?
Safeguarding adults means protecting their health, wellbeing and human rights, enabling them to live in safety without abuse, harm or neglect.
The aims of adult safeguarding are:
- To prevent abuse, neglect and harm
- To reduce the risk of abuse and neglect
- To focus on improving life for the person in question
- To address the cause of any abuse or neglect that occurs
- To support adults in making their own choices and having control in how they live
- To increase public understanding so communities can play a role in safeguarding alongside professionals
- To provide advice, information and support about how to stay safe and how to raise a safeguarding concern
Adult safeguarding seeks to protect those who:
- Have care and support needs
- Are experiencing, or are at risk of, abuse or neglect
- Are unable to protect themselves from the experience or risk of abuse or neglect due to their care and support needs
The six principles of safeguarding
The six principles of safeguarding were first introduced in 2011 by the Department of Health, and are now embedded in the Care Act 2014.
The principles act as a guide for all health and care providers, and should be at the centre of all safeguarding procedures and policies.
Below, we’ll look at the six principles and explain a bit about how they work in practice.
1. Empowerment: People should be encouraged and supported to make decisions for themselves and give informed consent.
Empowerment is one of the most important aspects of safeguarding adults. Empowerment means giving people as much independence and power over decisions that relate to them as is reasonably possible.
It’s vital that all adults in care homes are empowered to have freedom and agency in how they live their lives.
This includes making sure they’ve given their consent for actions taken in relation to them, and giving them choices about how they would like to deal with a situation or approach their future safeguarding needs.
However, it’s not just about giving a person choices - empowerment also means instilling them with the confidence to make decisions for themselves.
Care providers can do this by offering solid support, encouragement and reassurance, and making sure people have all the information they need to make an informed choice.
2. Prevention: It’s better to take action before harm occurs.
The prevention of harm, abuse and neglect is at the core of adult safeguarding.
This principle centres around the idea that it’s much better to take action to prevent harm, abuse or neglect occurring than to deal with it after it does.
Careful planning and foresight are essential in achieving this principle. Having a solid safeguarding policy in place, and ensuring all staff understand it, can help organisations identify risks and take action before they escalate.
In a care home, for example, it’s important to have robust security measures in place to prevent unauthorised entry or exit from the premises, as this would present a risk to residents.
Keeping records of visitors, issuing visitor passes and having locks on doors would be preventative safeguarding measures in this context.
3. Proportionality: Aim for the least intrusive response that is appropriate to the risk presented.
When safeguarding adults, issues or concerns can occur in a huge variety of contexts, and the appropriate response will depend on the person involved and the specific circumstances.
It’s absolutely vital that issues are dealt with on a case-by-case basis - there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Because of this, it’s important to consider proportionality when deciding how to respond to a safeguarding issue. Organisations should take all the facts into account and choose the least disruptive response that is appropriate in the circumstances.
This applies to both preventative measures and responding to incidents that have already occurred.
4. Protection: Provide support and representation for those in greatest need.
The principle of protection refers to the act of providing support and care to people when they are vulnerable. Those involved with safeguarding adults should be prepared to provide this protection whenever it’s needed.
It’s very important that care home staff understand what the appropriate protective response is to any given situation.
Anyone who works with vulnerable adults should know how to protect the people they work with from neglect and abuse, or which authority they should approach for support in this.
5. Partnership: Services should work with their communities to provide local solutions. Communities have a role to play in identifying, preventing and reporting abuse and neglect.
Safeguarding is more effective if it occurs communally, rather than being the sole responsibility of a few individuals.
Where communities are involved in safeguarding, neglect and abuse are more likely to be identified, and those in safeguarding roles will work more constructively.
It’s important for those working in care to build relationships and partnerships with people who may come into contact with the adults they work with.
This will help form a ‘safety net’ for the adults involved, providing more opportunity for risk to be identified and enabling care services to work more effectively.
Partnerships between services are crucial to successful safeguarding too.
Care homes should work closely with other services their clients use, like healthcare services and social workers, so that information can be shared and coordinated to achieve the best results.
6. Accountability: Practices in safeguarding adults should be accountable and transparent.
Anyone involved in safeguarding adults should be accountable for the role they play and the actions they take.
In serious safeguarding cases where abuse, harm or neglect has happened, the authorities may be involved.
In these cases it’s vital that all processes have been documented clearly and transparently. A lack of accountability can prevent the authorities from doing their jobs effectively.
All safeguarding actions and processes should also be made clear to the people involved in the case. While it’s important to manage sensitive information carefully, it should be accessible to those who need it.
Safeguarding adults in care homes
Safeguarding enables adults who use care services to live safer, happier lives, and should be at the heart of any care home.
For more information on safeguarding adults, see the guidance and resources provided by the Social Care Institute for Excellence.
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