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What is Safeguarding Adults?

Anyone over the age of 18 that, for any reason, is unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm or abuse, is classed as a vulnerable adult that needs safeguarding. This guide from DeltaNet International explains what an ‘adult at risk’ is, the principles of safeguarding adults, and the legislation in place to protect them.

Safeguarding Adults policies and procedures are intended to protect ‘adults at risk’. An adult at risk is someone aged 18 years or over who is (or may be) in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness, and who is (or may be) unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation, according to the Department of Health.

Adults can be the victims of a number of different types of abuse. These include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Discriminatory abuse

Key principles of adult safeguarding

There are six principles that are focused on when it comes to safeguarding vulnerable adults:

Empowerment: People are supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consent.
Prevention: It is better to take action before harm occurs.
Proportionality: The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
Protection: Support and representation for those in greatest need.
Partnership: Services offer local solutions through working closely with their communities. Communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
Accountability: Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.

Legislation in place

There are many structures in place to protect these vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect.

1. The Care Act 2014 requires that each local authority must:

• Lead a multi-agency local adult safeguarding system that seeks to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place, and stop it quickly when it does occur
• Make enquiries when they suspect a vulnerable adult may be at risk of abuse or neglect and they need to find out what action may be needed to support and protect them
• Establish safeguarding adults boards. This means the local authorities, the NHS and the police, who will work together to develop, share and implement a safeguarding strategy
• Carry out safeguarding adults reviews when someone dies as a result of neglect or abuse and there is a concern that the local authority could have done more to protect them
• Arrange for an independent advocate to represent and support a person who is the subject of a safeguarding enquiry or review

2. The Sexual Offenses Act 2003 attempts to make the prosecution of rape easier by clarifying what the term ‘consent’ actually means. The Act details that someone consents to a sexual act if, and only if, he or she agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

3. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 was passed to help avoid harm, or risk of harm, by preventing people who are deemed unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable adults from gaining access to them through their work in the first place. The Independent Safeguarding Authority was created as a result of this act.

4. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 promotes that dignity ensures a working environment that encourages people to challenge practices in their own workplace. The law offers some protection from victimisation to people who blow the whistle under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

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