At Happy Futures we support vulnerable individuals every day and we all have a responsibility to ensure that they are safe and happy. Therefore, understanding what safeguarding is, how to recognise possible signs of abuse and what our responsibilities are is essential.
What is Safeguarding?
Safeguarding refers to “protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect”. It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and the experiences of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure that the individual’s wellbeing is promoted, including where appropriate, giving regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action to be taken. This must however recognise that adults sometimes have complex relationships and may be hesitant, unclear or unrealistic about their personal circumstances.
Put simply, safeguarding is everything we do to protect vulnerable individuals who are in need of our care and support.
Who could be at risk of abuse, and why?
The answer is simple: anyone could be at risk of abuse. However, children and adults with care and support needs are more likely to be at risk of abuse because they are more vulnerable.
These are some of the reasons why adults might find themselves at risk:
- The are more vulnerable (the term ‘vulnerable adults’ has changed to ‘adults at risk)
- Lack of capacity
- Physical disabilities
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Sensory impairment
- Mental health issues
- Language barriers
Abuse and neglect can occur anywhere, including:
- In their own home
- In a public place
- Whilst they are in hospital
- In a support service
- In a day centre
- In school
- In college
- In a care home
The perpetrator of abuse can be anyone, including:
- A stranger
- A family member
- A friend
- A neighbour
- A colleague
- A paid carer, support worker or volunteer
- Another individual
- A doctor, nurse or other health professionals
- It could be anyone – anyone can cause significant harm to others.
Whilst we use the term ‘significant harm’, there is no absolute criteria on which to rely on when judging what constitutes significant harm and it is up to personal consideration of the severity of the ill-treatment. This may include the degree and the extent of physical harm, the duration and frequency of abuse and/or neglect, the extent of which it was premeditated, the degree of threat, coercion, sadism, and bizarre or unusual elements in sexual abuse.
Significant harm is defined as any physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, accident or injury that is sufficiently serious to adversely affect the progress and enjoyment of life.
Significant harm includes:
- A potentially life-threatening injury.
- A serious and/or likely long-term impairment of physical, mental health, intellectual, emotional, social, or behavioural development.
Adult abuse is defined as a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate actions, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to a vulnerable person. Safeguarding adults is about protecting those at risk of harm.
Child abuse or child maltreatment is physical, sexual, or psychological maltreatment or neglect of a child or children, especially by a parent or other caregiver. Child abuse may include any act or failure to act by a parent or other caregiver that results in actual or potential harm to a child, and can occur in a child’s home.
Common types of abuse includes:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional/psychological abuse
- Neglect and acts of omission
- Financial abuse
- Discriminatory abuse
- Institutional abuse
The types of abuse listed in the Care Act (2014) includes:
- Physical abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Financial or material abuse
- Discriminatory abuse
- Organisational abuse
- Neglect and acts of omission
- Modern slavery
- Gas lighting
How can we recognise signs of possible abuse?
Once or more of the following signs and symptoms could be a sign of possible abuse:
- Unexplained bruising, cuts, burns, marks on the body, hair loss
- Becoming quiet and withdrawn
- Being aggressive or angry for no apparent reason
- Looking unkempt or dirty
- Unexplained weight loss
- Sudden changes in character or behaviour
- Unexplained mood swings
- Frequent injuries or reoccurring injuries
- Not wanting to be left alone or with particular people
- Being unusually happy or loud and insisting there’s nothing wrong
- Bleeding, pain or itching in genital area
- Missing personal possessions
- Change in finances and being unable to pay bills or buy shopping
- Low self esteem
- Being tearful or anxious
- Showing signs of fear or someone talking about not feeling safe
- Being hungry or dehydrated
- They start communicating differently or stop communicating altogether
- Their needs and or skills change
- Limited access to money or unpaid bills
- Poor concentration, withdrawal, and sleep disturbance
What you should do if you suspect abuse
If you have suspicions or concerns that someone is being abused, you have a duty of care to act on your suspicions. You would do this by reporting your concerns, also known as ‘whistle blowing’. You should follow the Happy Futures Support Specialist policies and procedures relating to safeguarding and the reporting thereof.
Depending on who your concerns are relating to, you should report your concerns to either an Active Responder, the Registered Manager, Assistant Director, the COO or the CEO. If you feel that reporting to the above people is not appropriate, you can report it to NYCC safeguarding team, the Police or the CQC.
If an individual informs you that they are being abused, what should you do?
Firstly, if an individual tells you that they need to tell you something but you need to promise them that you won’t tell anyone else, you must be open and honest with them. You must explain that you cannot promise you will be able to keep it a secret, and that depending on what it is they are going to tell you, you may need to inform a manager.
If the individual then says that they are not going to tell you, you must inform the management team immediately as this could be undisclosed abuse and a cry for help.
If the individual starts talking to you about any abuse that they are experiencing, you must :
- stay calm – do not look or act upset, even if what you are hearing is upsetting for you
- listen carefully to what they are telling you
- write down what they are saying in their words, not yours, and keep the notes safe as it may be used at a later stage
- provide support, comfort and reassurance
- make sure that they are ok and report it immediately
A Manager will then report it to the NYCC Safeguarding Team and/or the police and complete the appropriate paperwork. This can then lead to a full safeguarding investigation.
- press the individual for more information
- put words in their mouths or make suggestions
- rush them – you must give them the time that they need
- contact the alleged abuser
- tell any of your colleagues or other people about what the individual has told you. You must only speak about this to the manager you have reported it to and the people investigating the safeguarding issue
If you are in apposition where an individual has disclosed something to you, you may find this very emotional, and it may affect your mental health. If this does occur, please ask for help at your GP, a specialist mental health services or from Happy Futures, as we will support you through it and support you to seek out appropriate help.
These case studies were found on the Warwickshire Safeguarding Adults website and there are further video clips and stories to look at here. This section also includes links to YouTube video clips, so please take a little time to watch them all.
Mr H’s Story: “A year ago I had a stroke, which left me partially paralysed. I was lucky enough to have carers who came to my home three times a day, and my wife cared for me the rest of the time. Unfortunately, after a while, my wife became increasingly aggressive and impatient with me. One night, when I had asked her to help me to the toilet, she pushed me and I fell and hit my head. She then helped me up, but then slapped me across the face.
I didn’t want to call Social Services; I didn’t want my wife to get into trouble as I knew she was only lashing out because she was so stressed. I contacted Action on Elder Abuse helpline instead, and they advised me to work out a schedule with family and friends so my wife would get some free time and feel less isolated. With the help of my family and friends I was able to develop the schedule and my life at home with my wife improved significantly.”
Mrs B’s Story: “I have been living on my own ever since my husband died in 2008. I am 83 and they tell me I’m quite frail. I have two sons, the eldest, Michael, is my primary care giver and keen businessman, and Stuart, a teacher who lives down south with his wife and two children. Stuart is a good boy and calls me every day to see how I am. Due to his location, he cannot visit me as often as he would like. Michael doesn’t come and visit me much, and when he does he is very impatient with me, calling me stupid, laughing at me for not being able get to bathroom quick enough, then becoming very reluctant to help me change when I do not get there on time.
Michael told me that because of his job being long hours, he may not be able to visit me as often, so to keep me from doing anything “stupid” or “embarrassing”, he took away my keys so I couldn’t leave the house on my own, and took my mobile phone so I couldn’t “bother anyone with my nonsense.” I felt so helpless! I was worried Stuart would find out and get Michael into trouble, I didn’t want them to argue, I love both of my boys very much and I never wanted to be a burden. Luckily, only a day had passed when I heard the door open, thinking it was Michael I was relieved that he had changed his mind about keeping me inside all the while. But it was Stuart! Stuart had driven 100 miles to come and make sure I was alright, as I wasn’t answering his calls and Michael was ignoring him too. He told me how worried he was about me, and when I told Stuart what had happened he got ever so angry. I told him I didn’t want anything to happen to Michael, as he was just overwhelmed with trying to provide for my care needs as well as working a fulltime job. Stuart agreed that he would not get the police involved. He said, “You cannot carry on like this mother, if Michael is unable to give you the care that you need then we must get Social Services involved to see if a care plan can be put in place instead.” I couldn’t help but agree.
I was surprised when social services visited us that afternoon. They were kind to me, very respectful of my wishes of not getting Michael into trouble. They listened to my needs and wants, and didn’t boss me around. They arranged for trained care workers to visit me twice a day, and to review my progress in a few months to see how I’m coping. Stuart is much happier and visits me once a fortnight now and even Michael is a lot more relaxed and pleasant to me, now the pressure if off of him.”
Mrs R’s Story – At her son’s request, Mrs R, an older woman, sold her property, gave her son the profits, and moved into a ‘granny annex’ attached to his house. After a year though, the son said they could no longer afford the house and moved to a smaller one with no space for his mother, so Mrs R ended up living in their dining room. Eight months later, the son said the house was too crowded and contacted social services to discuss putting her into a residential home.
Mrs R contacted the Citizens Advice Bureau for advice. As a result, a solicitor wrote to the son about the situation. The son then agreed to give his mother a lump sum which meant that she was able to move out of his home and into sheltered housing.
Mike’s Story: “The financial crisis cost me my job. I slept rough. Two men approached me. They offered me work near London. I shared an old dirty shed with a tin roof with another man.
Every day we were picked up by a van at 7am and then knocked on people’s doors asking if they wanted any work doing, digging patios or making driveways. We were picked up at 9pm and if we didn’t get back in time, we’d get beaten. Everyone was afraid. Some got beaten up often, punched in the head or kicked. We worked 6 days a week unpaid. Someone tried to escape, but was beaten with a spanner.
One Sunday the police raided. I had never heard of trafficking before. When I looked around, I saw how ill everyone looked, skinny and unwell, as if we had all been in a concentration camp. For the first time in my life I am now being cared for, thanks to the Salvation Army. I am still nervous of going out alone.”
QUALITY ASSURANCE COORDINATOR
I am the Happy Futures Quality Assurance Coordinator, responsible for developing systems and monitoring and improving quality of support within the company. I complete audits, compile reports and I am constantly implementing improvements to enhance the quality of support offered by Happy Futures.