In today’s society, private providers are playing an increasingly prominent part in the care of vulnerable people.
And as their role takes on greater significance, the spotlight on safeguarding issues becomes more and more focused.
Therefore, it is crucial that care organisations, managers and staff understand what safeguarding means, why it is important and how it works in practice.
What is safeguarding?
To give it its most basic definition, safeguarding is the protection of vulnerable people from abuse and harm.
But when we talk about safeguarding in relation to care providers and the people you care for, it has far wider significance.
In this context, it is also about you and your staff working together to prevent abuse taking place, recognise the signs and put procedures in place to report any instances.
Abuse and harm
Often, people only think of safeguarding in terms of physical abuse – e.g. when vulnerable people are assaulted, hit, pushed or restrained.
And while it is clearly an important aspect, there are many more examples, which include:
- Emotional or psychological – threatening to hurt, humiliating, controlling, harassing and intimidating
- Sexual – inappropriate touching, sexual innuendo, forced sexual activity
- Discrimination – unfair treatment on the grounds of age, race, religion, sex or sexuality
- Neglect – not providing the help and support for which you are responsible. This might including denying someone food and drink, and not helping them clean themselves or go to the toilet
- Financial – stealing or forcing someone to spend money against their will.
- Psychological – mental anguish, exclusion from favourite activities, restrictions on contacting friends and family or forcing individuals to perform inappropriate tasks.
- Discriminatory – causing offence to an individual because of their gender, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or their age.
- Organisational – examples could include enforcement of excessively rigid routines, lack of choice in everyday activities or change in accommodation without the individuals consent, to name a few.
- Domestic – psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse and so called ‘honour based’ violence.
- Female genital mutilation – is sometimes referred to as female circumcision and refers to procedures that alter female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
- Self-neglect – behaviour whereby an individual neglects their basic need for personal hygiene appropriate clothing, feeding or tending to medical conditions they may have.
- Modern slavery – general perception is that slavery was abolished, but it still occurs in today’s society and usually hidden from sight.
While it is fairly easy to see how each of these examples could cause distress – safeguarding also protects individuals independence and right to choose, which is more difficult to recognise.
This would include instances where you think you’re acting in someone’s best interest, but fail to take their wishes and beliefs into account – for example, forcing them to take part in activities or providing medication against their will.
Why is safeguarding important?
Safeguarding helps ensure people’s wellbeing. As we have seen, it protects them from physical pain and emotional harm, but also helps them retain independence, choice and the right to a happy, fulfilled life.
As a care provider, you also have a responsibility to support people to make the most of their life, and ensure they receive safe and empowering care.
How does safeguarding work in practice?
It is one thing understanding the theory behind safeguarding but another to make sure you and your staff recognise when abuse or neglect is taking place.
Often, people go to great lengths to make excuses or hide the fact they are being harmed – perhaps through fear or feelings of humiliation. It is also possible they don’t recognise when they are being abused.
That is why it is vital to look out for any changes in behaviour, or physical signs that something is wrong. For instance, when someone:
- Has cuts or bruises that cannot be explained
- Becomes quiet and withdraw, or aggressive and angry for no obvious reason
- Looks physically unwell, unkempt or thinner than normal
- Acts out of character – upset or depressed, or more light-hearted and jocular than normal
If you are suspicious that something might be wrong, you need to report it straight away, so it is equally important that your organisations has the appropriate policies and procedures in place.
All employees should also be familiar with relevant legislation around safeguarding. These include the Human Rights Act 1998, Data Protection Act 1998, Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Care Act 2014, which defines ways in which abuse may occur and provides guidelines on recognising and reporting incidents.
If you have any questions regarding Safeguarding please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01823 332200.
We have produced an article and PDF download on The Duty of Candour which is heavily linked to the subject of Safeguarding.
If you find yourself in a position whereby you feel the need to report a safeguarding issue, please refer to your internal policies procedures, or where applicable feel to contact Care Quality Commission (CQC) or alternatively your local police force.