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Safeguarding adults

What it is and why it matters

Safeguarding means protecting adults' rights to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risk and experience of abuse and neglect.


What are abuse and neglect?

There are many forms of abuse and neglect which can include:

  • physical abuse: for example, being hit, slapped or punched
  • psychological or emotional abuse: for example, intimidation, threats of harm or controlling behaviour
  • sexual abuse: for example, indecent exposure, rape, sexual harassment or sexual acts where an adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting
  • financial or material abuse: for example, misuse of someone's money, possessions or property
  • domestic abuse: can include some or all of the above and also includes so called honour-based violence
  • neglect: for example, not providing necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical care
  • self-neglect: for example, someone neglecting their own personal hygiene, health and surroundings
  • discriminatory abuse: for example, harassment because of race, gender, age, disability, sexuality or religion
  • modern slavery: for example, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude
  • organisational abuse: for example, neglect and poor practice within a setting such as a care home or hospital, or in relation to care provided at home


Signs of abuse and neglect

There may be many signs of abuse but some of the common ones are:

  • unexplained injuries
  • unusual bruising
  • weight loss
  • fearfulness and anxiety
  • lack of money, food or clothing or unexplained debt
  • unusually disturbed behaviour
  • inappropriately sexualised behaviour
  • bullying
  • lack of choice in how to live day to day life


Where does abuse or neglect happen?

Abuse can happen anywhere. For example it can happen in someone's own home, in a public place, in hospital, in a care home or in college, it can take place when an adult lives alone or with others. It is far more likely that the person responsible for the abuse is known to the adult and is in a position of trust and power.

Anyone can carry out abuse or neglect, including spouses or partners, other family members, neighbours, friends, acquaintances, local residents, people who deliberately exploit adults they perceive as vulnerable to abuse, paid staff, professionals, volunteers and strangers.


What should I do?

If you feel uncomfortable about something, contact us and discuss it. Feeling something is not right often means it isn't.

Adult protection procedures have been set up to safeguard adults against abuse and neglect. Any concern or allegation will be taken seriously.

In an emergency contact the police on 999, alternatively contact 101 if you think a crime has been committed in relation to abuse and neglect.

If you are still worried about something that has happened, but you don't think this is a crime and want to report this, then contact our First Contact Team:

All other times contact the Emergency Duty Team: 01642 524552. 


What to expect if a concern is reported

Step 1 - safeguarding enquiry

Once a safeguarding concern has been raised our Adult Safeguarding Team will undertake an enquiry to decide whether or not the local authority, another organisation, or person, should do something to help and protect the adult.

If it is deemed there is a concern, a social worker from the Adult Safeguarding Team will be allocated to gather further information from the concerned person and the adult.

An enquiry is the action taken or instigated by the local authority in responding to a concern that abuse or neglect may be taking place. An enquiry could be a conversation with the adult. If the adult lacks capacity, the conversation could be with their representative such as a family member or advocate.

The adult will always be involved from the beginning of the enquiry unless there are exceptional circumstances that would increase the risk of abuse. If they have substantial difficulty in being involved, and there is no one appropriate to represent and support them, then the local authority must arrange for an independent advocate to represent them for the purpose of facilitating their involvement.


Step 2- strategy meeting

What happens as a result of an enquiry should reflect the adult's wishes wherever possible, as stated by them, their representative or advocate. If they lack capacity or they are not able to make the decision, a decision will be made in their best interests and be proportionate to the level of concern.

A Social Worker will respond to the safeguarding concern in a way that enhances involvement, choice and control of the adult. The Social Worker will work with the adult to meet desired outcomes and improve their quality of life, wellbeing and safety. The allocated social worker may also speak to other people who have information and will decide whether a meeting needs to take place. This is called a strategy meeting.

Confidentiality and sharing of information will be explained and discussed with those providing information. In the case of serious crimes, information will always be shared with the police and other agencies to protect the individual and others who may be at risk.

A strategy meeting is a formal meeting chaired by a Senior Social Worker within the Adult Safeguarding Team. The meeting will decide:

  • the degree of risk
  • whether any further investigation needs to be carried out
  • if a protection plan is needed

A Social Worker from the Adult Safeguarding Team will speak with the adult before the meeting and find out their views and wishes are. The meeting will consider the views and wishes of the adult and share information from professionals who have been asked to contribute.


Who attends a strategy meeting?

The safeguarding Social Worker will identify the people involved closely with the adult who will need to attend the meeting, these might include medical staff, care staff, police and a social worker from one of the community teams. The adult can attend the meeting and have a family member or friend with them to give support. If it is not possible for the adult to attend they may wish to nominate a family member or friend to attend on their behalf with their consent.

If the adult does not have a nominated person who can attend an independent advocate can be arranged in advance of the meeting to represent the adult or support them throughout the safeguarding process.

Everyone in the meeting has the right to share information and opinions relevant to the concern. All are expected to do so honestly and with courtesy and respect to others. No one's opinions are valued more than the individual who should feel free to take part fully in the meeting. The meeting will be confidential and no information will be shared outside the meeting unless it is agreed.


What happens next?

The enquiry can end after the first meeting if it is felt that there is no risk to the adult or others. If further enquiries are needed to gather further information, review meetings will be arranged, to gather and consider any further information.

A copy of the meeting minutes will be taken and sent to those in attendance at the meeting. An opportunity to discuss the meeting and the notes received can be arranged with the adult safeguarding Social Worker. The Adult Safeguarding Team will not end their involvement until they are satisfied that everything has been done to address any identified risks and to ensure that the adult is safe.



Independent advocacy

The Care Act 2014 requires us to arrange an independent advocate for adults who have substantial difficulty in being involved in assessments, care planning and care reviews, where the adult does not have someone appropriate to support them.

Visit the Independent Advocates page to find out more.


For more information about safeguarding you can:

Teeswide Safeguarding Adults Board

Working across local boroughs to effectively prevent and respond to adult abuse.

HourGlass (formerly Action on Elder Abuse)

Offering advice and support to victims and witnesses of elder abuse

The Herbert Protocol

Do you care for someone who has dementia and worry that they might go missing? The Herbert Protocol is here to help find them if they do.