CQC Quality Statements

Theme 3 – How the local authority ensures safety in the system: Safeguarding

We statement

We work with people to understand what being safe means to them as well as our partners on the best way to achieve this. We concentrate on improving people’s lives while protecting their right to live in safety, free from bullying harassment, abuse, discrimination, avoidable harm and neglect. We make sure we share concerns quickly and appropriately.

What people expect

I feel safe and supported to understand and manage any risks.


Knowsley Safeguarding Adults Procedures

1. Introduction

Each local authority must set up a Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB). The SAB’s overarching purpose is to help and safeguard adults with care and support needs by assuring itself that local safeguarding arrangements are in place, and partners are working well together to help prevent abuse and where possible providing a timely and proportionate response where abuse has occurred.

The SAB has a strategic role and oversees and leads adult safeguarding locally. It has an interest in a range of matters that contribute to the prevention of abuse and neglect, including:

  • oversees and leads adult safeguarding across the locality and will be interested in a range of matters that contribute to the prevention of abuse and neglect;
  • the safety of patients in its local health services;
  • the quality of local care and support services;
  • the effectiveness of prisons and approved premises in safeguarding offenders;
  • the awareness and responsiveness of further education services.

The SAB will need intelligence on safeguarding from all providers of health and social care in its locality (not just those with whom its members commission or contract). It is important that SAB partners feel able to challenge each other and other organisations where it believes that their actions or inactions are increasing the risk of abuse or neglect. This will include commissioners, as well as providers of services.

The SAB can be an important source of advice and assistance, for example in helping others improve their safeguarding mechanisms and practice. It is important that the SAB has effective links with other key partnerships in the locality and share relevant information and work plans. The SAB should consciously cooperate to reduce any duplication and maximise any efficiency, particularly as objectives and membership is likely to overlap.

An effective SAB will:

  • assure itself that safeguarding approaches in their area support the principles of personalisation;
  • work with partners and citizens to prevent abuse and neglect where possible;
  • ensure agencies and practitioners respond in a timely and proportionate manner when people raise safeguarding concerns;
  • learn from respond to safeguarding trends within their area;
  • ensure that individuals and organisations are competent in their delivery of safeguarding practice;
  • assure itself that safeguarding practice is continuously reviewed to ensure good quality and responsive practice, enhancing the quality of life for adults in its area. (Revisiting Safeguarding Practice, DHSC)

2. Core Duties of the Safeguarding Adults Board

A SAB has three core duties:

  • it must publish a strategic plan for each financial year that sets how it will meet its main objective and what the members will do to achieve this. The plan must be developed with local community involvement, and the SAB must consult the local Healthwatch organisation. The plan should be evidence based and make use of all available evidence and intelligence from partners to form and develop its plan;
  • it must publish an annual report detailing what the SAB has done during the year to achieve its main objective and implement its strategic plan, and what each member has done to implement the strategy as well as detailing the findings of any safeguarding adults reviews and subsequent action;
  • it must conduct any safeguarding adults review (see Section 5, Safeguarding Adults Reviews).

Safeguarding requires collaboration between partners in order to create a framework of inter-agency arrangements. Local authorities and their relevant partners must collaborate and work together as set out in the cooperation duties in the Care Act 2014 and, in doing so, must, where appropriate, also consider the wishes and feelings of the adult on whose behalf they are working.

Local authorities may cooperate with any other body they consider appropriate where it is relevant to their care and support functions. The lead agency with responsibility for coordinating adult safeguarding arrangements is the local authority, but all the members of the SAB should each designate a lead officer. Other agencies should also consider the benefits of having a lead for adult safeguarding.

Each SAB should:

  • identify the role, responsibility, authority and accountability with regard to the action each agency and professional group should take to ensure the protection of adults;
  • establish ways of analysing and interrogating data on safeguarding notifications that increase the SAB’s understanding of prevalence of abuse and neglect locally that builds up a picture over time;
  • establish how it will hold partners to account and gain assurance of the effectiveness of its arrangements;
  • determine its arrangements for peer review and self-audit;
  • establish mechanisms for developing policies and strategies for protecting adults which should be formulated, not only in collaboration and consultation with all relevant agencies but also take account of the views of adults who have needs for care and support, their families, advocates and carer representatives;
  • develop preventative strategies that aim to reduce instances of abuse and neglect in its area;
  • identify types of circumstances giving grounds for concern and when they should be considered as a referral to the local authority as an enquiry;
  • formulate guidance about the arrangements for managing adult safeguarding, and dealing with complaints, grievances and professional and administrative malpractice in relation to safeguarding adults;
  • develop strategies to deal with the impact of issues of race, ethnicity, religion, gender and gender orientation, sexual orientation, age, disadvantage and disability on abuse and neglect;
  • balance the requirements of confidentiality with the consideration that, to protect adults, it may be necessary to share information on a ‘need to know basis’ (see Case Recording Standards and Information Sharing chapter);
  • identify mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing the implementation and impact of policy and training;
  • carry out safeguarding adult reviews and determine any publication arrangements;
  • produce a strategic plan and an annual report;
  • evidence how SAB members have challenged one another and held other boards to account
  • promote multi-agency training and consider any specialist training that may be required. Consider any scope to jointly commission some training with other partnerships, such as the Community Safety Partnership.

See Care and Support Statutory Guidance paragraphs 14.133-14.161 for further information about Safeguarding Adults Boards.

3. Provision of Local Adult Safeguarding Procedures

See also Knowsley Safeguarding Adults Procedures

In order to respond appropriately where abuse or neglect may be taking place, anyone in contact with the adult, whether as a volunteer or in a paid role, must understand their own role and responsibility and have access to practical and legal guidance, advice and support. This will include understanding local inter-agency policies and procedures.

In any organisation, there should be adult safeguarding policies and procedures. These should reflect the Care and Support statutory guidance and the Decision Making Tree diagram 1B (see Section 4, Information Gathering, Safeguarding Procedures for Responding in Individual Cases) and are for use locally to support the reduction or removal of safeguarding risks, as well as to secure any support to protect the adult and, where necessary, to help the adult recover and develop resilience. Such policies and procedures should assist those working with adults know how to develop swift and personalised safeguarding responses and how to involve adults in this decision making. This, in turn, should encourage proportionate responses and improve outcomes for the people concerned. Procedures may include:

  • a statement of purpose relating to promoting wellbeing, preventing harm and responding effectively if concerns are raised;
  • a statement of roles and responsibility, authority and accountability sufficiently specific to ensure that all staff and volunteers understand their role and limitations
  • a statement of the procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse, including those for dealing with emergencies by ensuring immediate safety, the processes for initially assessing abuse and neglect and deciding when intervention is appropriate, and the arrangements for reporting to the police, urgently when necessary;
  • a full list of points of referral indicating how to access support and advice at all times, whether in normal working hours or outside them, with a comprehensive list of contact addresses and telephone numbers, including relevant national and local voluntary bodies;
  • an indication of how to record allegations of abuse and neglect, any enquiry and all subsequent action;
  • a list of sources of expert advice;
  • a full description of channels of inter-agency communication and procedures for information sharing and for decision making;
  • a list of all services which might offer access to support or redress;
  • how professional disagreements are resolved especially with regard to whether decisions should be made, enquiries undertaken for example.

The SAB should keep policies and procedures under review and report on these in the annual report as necessary. Procedures should be updated to incorporate learning from published research, peer reviews, case law and lessons from recent cases and Safeguarding Adults Reviews. The procedures should also include the provisions of the law – criminal, civil and statutory – relevant to adult safeguarding. This should include local or agency specific information about obtaining legal advice and access to appropriate remedies.

The Care Act requires that each local authority must arrange for an independent advocate to represent and support an adult who is the subject of a safeguarding enquiry or Safeguarding Adult Review where the adult has ‘substantial difficulty’ in being involved in the process and where there is no other suitable person to represent and support them (see Independent Advocacy chapter).

4. Responding to Abuse and Neglect in a Regulated Care Setting

It is important that all partners are clear where responsibility lies when abuse or neglect is carried out by employees or in a regulated setting, such as a care home, hospital, or college. The first responsibility to act must be with the employing organisation as provider of the service. However, social workers or counsellors may need to be involved in order to support the adult to recover.

When an employer is aware of abuse or neglect in their organisation, then they are under a duty to correct this and protect the adult from harm as soon as possible and inform the local authority, CQC and Integrated Care Board (ICB) where the latter is the commissioner.

Where a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult may be experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect, then it is still has a duty to make (or cause to be made) whatever enquiries it thinks necessary to decide what if any action needs to be taken and by whom. The local authority may be reassured by the employer’s response so that no further action is required. However, a local authority would have to satisfy itself that an employer’s response has been sufficient to deal with the safeguarding issue and, if not, to undertake any enquiry of its own and any appropriate follow up action (for example referral to CQC, professional regulators).

The employer should investigate any concern (and provide any additional support that the adult may need) unless there is compelling reason why it is inappropriate or unsafe to do this. For example, this could be a serious conflict of interest on the part of the employer, concerns having been raised about non-effective past enquiries or serious, multiple concerns, or a matter that requires investigation by the police.

An example of a conflict of interest where it is better for an external person to be appointed to investigate may be the case of a family run business where institutional abuse is alleged, or where the manager or owner of the service is implicated. The circumstances where an external person would be required should be agreed locally. All those carrying out such enquiries should have received appropriate training.

There should be a clear understanding between partners at a local level when other agencies such as the local authority, CQC or ICB need to be notified or involved and what role they have. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), Care Quality Commission, Local Government Association, National Police Chiefs Council and NHS England have jointly produced a high level guide on these roles and responsibilities: Safeguarding Adults Roles. The focus should be on promoting the wellbeing of those adults at risk.

Commissioners of care or other professionals should only use safeguarding procedures in a way that reflects the principles above not as a means of intimidating providers or families. Transparency, open mindedness and timeliness are important features of fair and effective safeguarding enquiries. CQC and commissioners have alternative means of raising standards of service, including support for staff training, contract compliance and, in the case of CQC; enforcement powers may be used.

Commissioners should encourage an open culture around safeguarding, working in partnership with providers to ensure the best outcome for the adult. A disciplinary investigation, and potentially a hearing, may result in the employer taking informal or formal measures which may include dismissal and possibly referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (see Disclosure and Barring chapter).

If someone is removed by being either dismissed or redeployed to a non-regulated activity, from their role providing regulated activity following a safeguarding incident, or a person leaves their role (resignation, retirement) to avoid a disciplinary hearing following a safeguarding incident and the employer/volunteer organisation feels they would have dismissed the person based on the information they hold, the regulated activity provider has a legal duty to refer to the Disclosure and Barring Service. If an agency or personnel supplier has provided the person, the legal duty sits with that agency. In circumstances where these actions are not undertaken then the local authority can make such a referral.

5. Safeguarding Adults Reviews

There are different types of Safeguarding Adults Review:

  • SABs must arrange a Safeguarding Adults Review (SAR) when an adult in its area dies as a result of abuse or neglect, whether known or suspected, and there is concern that partner agencies could have worked more effectively to protect the adult;
  • SABs must also arrange a SAR if an adult in its area has not died, but the SAB knows or suspects that the adult has experienced serious abuse or neglect. In the context of SARs, something can be considered serious abuse or neglect where:
    • the individual would have been likely to have died but for an intervention;
    • has suffered permanent harm;
    • has reduced capacity or quality of life (whether because of physical or psychological effects) as a result of the abuse or neglect;
  • SABs are free to arrange for a SAR in any other situations involving an adult in its area with needs for care and support.

The SAB should be primarily concerned with weighing up what type of ‘review’ process will promote effective learning and improvement action to prevent future deaths or serious harm occurring again. This may be where a case can provide useful insights into the way organisations are working together to prevent and reduce abuse and neglect of adults.

Early discussions need to take place with the adult, family and friends to agree how they wish to be involved. The adult who is the subject of any SAR need not have been in receipt of care and support services for the SAB to arrange a review in relation to them.

See Care and Support Statutory Guidance paragraphs 14.162-179 and local Safeguarding Adults Boards procedures for further information.

6. Providing and Disseminating Information

6.1 People with care and support needs and their carers

Information should be produced in a range of different ways and in user friendly formats for people with care and support needs and their carers. Information should explain clearly:

  • what abuse is;
  • how to share any concerns;
  • how to make a complaint;
  • that their concerns or complaints will be taken seriously;
  • that concerns will be dealt with independently;
  • that they will be kept involved in the process to the degree that they wish to be;
  • that they will receive help and support in taking action on their own behalf;
  • that they can nominate an advocate or representative to speak and act on their behalf if they wish.

If an adult has no appropriate person to support them and has substantial difficulty in being involved in the local authority processes, they must be informed of their right to an independent advocate (see Independent Advocacy chapter). Where appropriate local authorities should provide information on access to appropriate services such as, for example, how to obtain independent legal advice or counselling services. The involvement of adults at risk in developing such communication is sensible.

6.2 Commissioners, providers and other staff

All commissioners or providers of services in the public, voluntary or private sectors should disseminate information about the multi-agency safeguarding adults policies and procedures.

Staff should be made aware through internal guidelines of what to do when they suspect or encounter abuse of adults in vulnerable situations.

This should be incorporated in staff manuals or handbooks detailing terms and conditions of appointment and other employment procedures so that individual staff members will be aware of their responsibilities in relation to safeguarding adults.

This information should emphasise that all those who express concern will be treated seriously and will receive a positive response from managers.

6.3 Local roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities should be clear and collaboration should take place at all the following levels:

  • operational;
  • supervisory line management;
  • practice leadership;
  • strategic leadership within the senior management team;
  • corporate / cross authority;
  • chief officers / chief executives;
  • local authority members and local police and crime commissioners;
  • commissioners;
  • providers of services;
  • voluntary organisations;
  • regulated professionals.

6.3.1 Front line staff

Operational front line staff are responsible for identifying and responding to allegations of abuse and poor practice. Staff at operational level need to share a common view of what types of behaviour may be abuse or neglect and what to do as an initial response to a suspicion or allegation that it is or has occurred. This includes GPs. It is employers’ and commissioners’ duty to set these out clearly and reinforce regularly.

It is not for front line staff to second guess the outcome of an enquiry in deciding whether or not to share their concerns. There should be effective and well publicised ways of escalating concerns if immediate line managers do not take action in response to the concern being raised.

Concerns about abuse or neglect must be reported, regardless of the alleged source. It is imperative that poor or neglectful care is brought to the immediate attention of managers and responded to swiftly, including ensuring immediate safety and wellbeing of the adult. Where the source of abuse or neglect is a member of staff it is for the employer to take immediate action and record what they have done and why (similarly for volunteers and or students).

There should be clear arrangements in place covering what each agency should contribute at this level. These will cover approaches to enquiries and subsequent courses of action. The local authority is responsible for ensuring effective coordination at this level.

6.3.2  Supervision

Skilful and knowledgeable supervision focused on outcomes for adults is critically important in safeguarding work. Managers have a central role in ensuring high standards of practice and that practitioners are properly equipped and supported. It is important to recognise that dealing with situations involving abuse and neglect can be stressful and distressing for staff and workplace support should be available.

Managers need to develop effective working relationships with their counterparts in other agencies to improve cooperation locally and swiftly address any differences or difficulties that arise between front line staff or managers.

They should have access to legal advice when proposed interventions, such as the proposed stopping of contact between family members, or if it is unclear whether proposed serious and/or invasive medical treatment is likely to be in the best interests of the adult who lacks capacity to consent, require applications to the Court of Protection.

7. Senior Strategic Response

7.1 Practice leadership

All social workers undertaking work with adults should have access to a source of additional advice and guidance particularly in complex and contentious situations. Principal social workers are often well placed to perform this role or to ensure that appropriate practice supervision is available.

Principal social workers in the local authority are responsible for providing professional leadership for social work practice in their organisation and organisations undertaking statutory responsibilities on behalf of the local authority. Practice leaders / principal social workers should ensure that practice is in line with the Care and Support Statutory Guidance.

All providers of healthcare should have in place named professionals, who are a source of additional advice and support in complex and contentious cases within their organisation. There should be a designated professional lead in the Integrated Care Board (ICB), who is a source of advice and support to the governing body in relation to the safeguarding of individuals and is able to act as the lead in the management of complex cases.

All commissioners and providers of healthcare should ensure that staff have the necessary competences and that training in place to ensure that their staff are able to deliver the service in relation to the safeguarding of individuals. This is strengthened by the development of the Safeguarding Adults: Roles and Competences for Health Care Staff – Intercollegiate Document (RCN), which details the levels of training and competencies required for the different groups of staff in the organisations.

Many of the police investigators involved in safeguarding investigations have received specialist training in designated units. Each of those units has a set of arrangements to help provide advice and guidance to ensure that a thorough investigation takes place in order to achieve successful outcomes for the individual.

The police service itself has identified ways that enable non specialist officers to seek advice from supervisors at every stage of the safeguarding process, even when specialist departments are unavailable.

7.2 Strategic leadership within the senior management team

Each SAB member agency – local authority, ICB and police – should identify a senior manager to take a lead role in the organisational and in inter-agency arrangements, including the SAB. In order for the Board to be an effective decision making body providing leadership and accountability, members need to be sufficiently senior within their organisation and have the authority to commit the required resources and able to make strategic decisions. To achieve effective working relationships, based on trust and transparency, the members will need to understand the contexts and restraints within which their counterparts work.

All police forces in England and Wales have a head of public protection that has strategic management responsibility for all aspects of protecting people in vulnerable situations, including adults at risk. The role of the head of public protection is to build an effective working team and develop a multi-agency approach into alleged offences involving people in vulnerable circumstances. They will also have responsibility for managing and developing policy that ensures standardised processes of investigation and working practice throughout each force. The police and ICBs are now represented at a strategic level on every local safeguarding adults board and contact details for the individuals concerned will be available to the Board and all Board members.

7.3 Corporate / cross authority roles

To ensure effective partnership working, each organisation must recognise and accept its role and functions in relation to adult safeguarding. These should be set out in the SAB’s strategic plan as well as its own communication channels. They should also have protocols for mediation and family group conferences and for various forms of dispute resolution.

7.4 Chief Officers and Chief Executives

As chief officer for the leading adult safeguarding agency, the Director of Adult Social Services (DASS) has a particularly important leadership and challenge role to play in adult safeguarding.

Responsible for promoting prevention, early intervention and partnership working is a key part of a DASS’s role and also critical in the development of effective safeguarding. Taking a personalised approach to adult safeguarding requires a DASS promoting a culture that is person centred, supports choice and control and aims to tackle inequalities.

However, all officers, including the chief executive of the local authority, NHS executives and police chief officers should lead and promote the development of initiatives to improve the prevention, identification and response to abuse and neglect. They need to be aware of and able to respond to national developments and ask searching questions within their own organisations to assure themselves that their systems and practices are effective in recognising and preventing abuse and neglect. The chief officers must sign off their organisation’s contributions to the strategic plan.

7.5 Local authority elected members

Local authority elected members need to have a good understanding of the range of abuse and neglect issues that can affect adults and of the importance of balancing safeguarding with empowerment. Local authority members need to understand prevention, proportionate interventions, and the dangers of risk adverse practice and the importance of upholding human rights. Some SABs include elected members and this is one way of increasing awareness of members and ownership at a political level. Others take the view that members are more able to hold their officers to account if they have not been party to Board decision making, though they should always be aware of the work of the SAB. Managers must ensure that members are aware of any critical local issues, whether of an individual nature, matters affecting a service or a particular part of the community.

In addition, Local Authority Health Scrutiny Functions, such as the Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) and Community Safety Partnerships can play a valuable role in assuring local safeguarding measures, and ensuring that SABs are accountable to local communities. Similarly, local Health and Wellbeing Boards provide leadership to the local health and wellbeing system; ensure strong partnership working between local government and the local NHS; and ensure that the needs and views of local communities are represented. HWBs can therefore play a key role in assurance and accountability of SABs and local safeguarding measures. Equally SABs may on occasion challenge the decisions of HWBs from that perspective.

7.7 Commissioners

Commissioners from the local authority, NHS and ICBs are all vital to promoting adult safeguarding. Commissioners have a responsibility to assure themselves of the quality and safety of the organisations they place contracts with and ensure that those contracts have explicit clauses that holds the providers to account for preventing and dealing promptly and appropriately with any example of abuse and neglect.

7.8 Providers of services

All service providers, including housing and housing support providers, should have clear operational policies and procedures that reflect the framework set by the SABs in consultation with them. This should include what circumstances would lead to the need to report outside their own chain of line management, including outside their organisation to the local authority. They need to share information with relevant partners such as the local authority even where they are taking action themselves. Providers should be informed of any allegation against them or their staff and treated with courtesy and openness at all times. It is of critical importance that allegations are handled sensitively and in a timely way both to stop any abuse and neglect but also to ensure a fair and transparent process. It is in no one’s interests to unnecessarily prolong enquiries. However some complex issues may take time to resolve.

7.9 Voluntary organisations

Voluntary organisations need to work with commissioners and the SAB to agree how their role fits alongside the statutory agencies and how they should work together. This will be of particular importance where they are offering information and advice, independent advocacy, and support or counselling services in safeguarding situations. This will include telephone or online services. Additionally, many voluntary organisations also provide care and support services, including personal care. All voluntary organisations that work with adults need to have safeguarding procedures and lead officers.

Regulated professionals

Staff governed by professional regulation (for example, social workers, doctors, allied health professionals and nurses) should understand how their professional standards and requirements underpin their organisational roles to prevent, recognise and respond to abuse and neglect.

8. Further Reading

8.1 Related chapters

Adult Safeguarding

Safeguarding Procedures in Individual Cases

Information Sharing and Confidentiality

8.2 Related information

Chapter 14, Safeguarding, Care and Support Statutory Guidance (Department of Health and Social Care)

Was this helpful?
Thanks for your feedback!