Protection of Vulnerable Adults Policy
Aim of Policy
Luton Irish Forum is committed to safeguarding vulnerable adults. The aim of this policy is to ensure the safety of vulnerable adults by outlining clear procedures and ensuring that all staff members are clear about their own and the organisations responsibilities. We plan our work and encourage staff so as to reduce to a minimum the situations and possibilities for vulnerable persons to be abused and to promote their protection.
This policy defines abuse and vulnerability and outlines our approach to the prevention and investigation of abuse.
A Vulnerable Adult is defined as a person aged 18 years and 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 is unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation’ (Government No Secrets Paper 2000).
Abuse is defined as:
- ‘A violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons’ (Government No Secrets Paper 2000).
Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it.
Categories of abuse
- Including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, and misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.
Signs of physical abuse might include:
- Serious, sustained or regular unexplained bruising;
- Burns, especially in areas where it would be difficult for them to have been accidental;
- Injuries that look as though they may have been caused by a recognisable object;
- Unexplained fractures or cuts;
- Including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the vulnerable person has not consented, or could not consent or was pressurised into consenting
Signs of sexual abuse might include:
- Difficulty maintaining usual physical posture whilst walking or sitting (due to the above injuries);
- Uncharacteristic change in the person’s sexual behaviour or attitude towards sex;
Psychological/emotional abuse includes:
- Including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.
Signs of Psychological/emotional abuse might include:
- Uncharacteristic and possibly dramatic changes in mood or behaviour;
- Depression, withdrawal, anxiety, aggression, agitation;
- Service user demonstrates excessive effort to please or appease;
- Service user demonstrates reluctance to be supported by certain member of staff or apprehension at being visited by a certain friend, relative or other person;
- Service user disengages from day to day routine and withdraws;
Financial or material abuse
- Including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
Signs of Financial or material abuse might include:
- Unpaid bills or debts which the client should have the resources to meet.
- Unexplained shortage of money.
- Basic material needs not being met.
- Withdrawing from activities which require payment/cost.
Neglect or acts of omission
- Including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
Signs of neglect might include:
- Weight loss;
- Poor standard of hygiene, physical appearance and unsanitary living conditions;
- Insufficient or physically or culturally inappropriate food or drink. Food that has not been properly cooked, stored or reheated;
- Where a service user is ignored, discriminated against or punished by staff or other service users for whatever reason;
- Evidence of physical and psychological abuse not acted upon;
- Including racist, sexist, based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.
Prevention of Abuse
Steps can be taken proactively by staff to deter the occurrence of abuse. One of the fundamentals of our work is the ability of staff to form valuable relationships with the service users with whom they work. The greater the level of trust and understanding between a service user and a member of staff the more likely that a service user will choose to go to that staff member when feeling anxious or in need of support.
Staff should maintain an awareness of what is going on around them, especially in relation to the needs of the service users. Suspicious, unexplained or sudden changes in a service user should be recorded. Any suggestion or sign of abuse should be noted, raised with a line manager and corroborating facts identified if possible.
Staff members need to be aware of Luton Irish Forum’s procedures in relation to abuse and confidentiality and to follow them carefully. In particular, staff should not promise a service user a level of confidentiality that, in the circumstances, cannot be guaranteed. A breach of such confidentiality, albeit in the interests of halting abusive activity, may constitute a breach of trust to the service user who may already be extremely vulnerable by virtue of abuse.
Staff should be aware of their own professional limitations and need for further professional development. Working with vulnerable people is demanding and requires self-awareness. Where staff feel uncertain about an issue, advice should be taken from their Line Manager and staff should never work unsupervised in a context where abuse is known or suspected. In the event that a member of staff identifies a training or development need, they should raise this with their Line Manager.
Staff members need to be in touch with their own feelings about the job they do and the people they provide a service to. This is especially so when the job is hard and perhaps the member of staff has been badly treated by a service user. In such circumstances, staff should seek to talk through the situation with colleagues or a manager. Staff should always feel able to respond positively to the service users they serve. In the event that they can’t, they should try and analyse why and seek advice from their manager.
Familiarity with Luton Irish Forum’s policy on abuse should aid staff in their work with service users, particularly in challenging unsatisfactory practice, should it occur, within the organisation.
A constant awareness on the part of staff about the nature of their professional role is important. Staff should identify with the concept of maximising the independence of the service users with whom they work to prevent dependence.
Recruitment and Selection of Staff
When recruiting and using staff and volunteers we will:
- Explore all applicants’ experience of working with vulnerable persons in an appropriately drafted application form
- Explore all short-listed candidates’ experience of working with vulnerable persons in an appropriately conducted interview prior to appointment
- Where appropriate and permitted, find out whether any candidate has a relevant criminal conviction
- Ensure that the DBS, in accordance with their guidelines, checks all staff and volunteers.
- Whilst awaiting this disclosure, all staff and volunteers who have access to or work with Vulnerable Adults, will work alongside/shadow existing staff of whom all checks have been carried out and are up to date.
- Get two professional references before employing anyone or in the case of volunteering at least one professional and the other may be a personal reference
- Give all paid staff and volunteers clear roles
- Use supervision as a means of protecting vulnerable persons
- Plan our work so as to minimise situations where the abuse of vulnerable persons may occur
- Make all paid appointments conditional on the successful completion of a probationary period and make volunteers aware that their continued volunteering is subject to adherence to LIF policies and procedures.
- Train paid staff, the management committee and volunteers in the promotion of the protection of vulnerable persons.
A risk assessment is carried out for initial visits to the welfare service, this can be a thought exercise where possible risks are identified. There is also an organisation wide Risk Assessment and Lone Working Policy.
Reporting Abuse/Suspected Abuse
Staff members who become aware of possible abuse should:
- Try to ensure the immediate safety of the service user
- In situations where immediate danger is present, take urgent action by contacting the relevant emergency services (e.g. Police, Ambulance, G.P)
- If physical or sexual abuse has occurred inform the Police immediately
- Ensure that any evidence of abuse is kept safe and free from contamination
- Inform their Line Manager (or the Chief Officer in their absence) so that the matter can be reported in accordance with the organisations policies and procedures
- If their Line Manager is suspected of abuse, inform the Chief Officer
- Clarify issues of confidentiality, ensuring the Service User is aware that any allegations must not be kept secret and any information may be shared with relevant agencies including relevant dates.
- Record all details of the abuse concerns clearly and factually as soon as possible. When recording any disclosure, record the actual words used by the person.
Where suspected abuse or an allegation of abuse has been made, there is an adult protection concern. All adult protection concerns must be reported to the Adults Safeguarding Team via the local Social Services area office, or the Police, on the same day. It is the responsibility of the Line Manager to do this. It is the responsibility of the Adults Safeguarding Team to decide whether or not to carry out an adult protection investigation.
In the event that suspicion falls on a staff member or volunteer, the concerns will again be reported to the Adults Safeguarding Team who will carry out the necessary enquires. We will also follow our own disciplinary procedure in carrying out an investigation. On completion of an investigation a written response will be issued to all parties concerned.
Where abuse or neglect is suspected ongoing support will be offered by us or an appropriate external agency.
Luton Irish Forum has a Whistle Blowing Policy which gives clear guidance for staff who wish to raise issues which may also fall under this policy. The Whistle Blowing Policy should be consulted in cases where the staff member does not feel their Safeguarding concern was dealt with appropriately or the allegation is against their Line Manager.
Staff Discipline in Relation to Abusive Situations
Staff should refer to their Staff Handbook, Luton Irish Forum’s Personnel Guidelines and their contracts of employment for full information about disciplinary procedures, their scope and potential outcomes and the circumstances under which they can be involved. This section is concerned about elements of the Disciplinary Procedure that are relevant to cases or allegation of abuse involving staff.
Abuse by staff against service users is a serious matter on principle. There is,
however, a difference between, for example, an inappropriate verbal response by a member of staff to constant pressure from a service user on the one hand, and physical or sexual abuse on the other. Accordingly, whilst recognising that abuse is always serious, the response by Luton Irish Forum should be graduated.
In any instance where abuse is alleged or proven the member(s) of staff concerned should be suspended in order to allow for a full investigation to take place. Staff in such circumstances will be informed of the allegations against them, the investigation process, and their right to respond to the allegations and to be accompanied by a representative of their choice.
No disciplinary action will be taken against any staff member until a full investigation has been undertaken and has reported. Suspension, in this context, is not a disciplinary sanction. It is a necessary step in management terms to guard against any potential risk and to enable the proper conduct of an investigation.
Where the investigation finds no evidence to support the allegation, the member(s) of staff will need to return to work in a planned way in order for them to be supported properly and manage their reintegration into the workplace given the context of their suspension.
In the event the staff member concerned admits responsibility for abuse or an investigation reasonably concludes that the staff member concerned was responsible for it, the issue would be whether or not it constituted gross misconduct. Gross misconduct is defined within Luton Irish Forum Personnel and Disciplinary Procedures and will result in summary dismissal if proven or admitted.
In the event that abuse is proved that does not constitute gross misconduct a variety of responses are available to Luton Irish Forum. These include formal warnings, retraining or suspension and will be a matter for the Chief Officer in consultation with relevant colleagues.
Support for those who report abuse/suspected abuse
All those making a complaint or allegation or expressing concern, whether they are staff, service users, carers or members of the general public will be reassured that:
- They will be taken seriously
- Their comments will usually be treated confidentially, but their concerns may be shared if they or others are at significant risk
- If service users, they will be given immediate protection from the risk of reprisals or intimidation
- If Staff, they will be given support and afforded protection if necessary, in line with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. They will be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner; and they will be kept informed of action that has been taken and its outcome
Rights of the Vulnerable Person
Any person thought to be the victim of abuse has the right:
- To be made aware of this policy
- To have alleged incidents recognised and taken seriously
- To receive fair and respectful treatment throughout
- To be involved in any process as appropriate
- To receive information about the outcome
- To support and where possible secure the safety of individuals and ensure that all referrals to services have full information in relation to identified risk and vulnerability
Whenever a complaint or allegation of abuse is made, we will keep clear and accurate records and we will make these available to service commissioners and local inspection units.
- Records should be kept in such a way that they create statistical information as a result.
- We will make arrangements consistent with principles of fairness and current data protection law for making records available to those affected by and subject to investigation.
- If the alleged abuser is a Service User then information about their involvement in an Adult Protection investigation, including the outcome, should be included in their file. If it is assessed that the individual continues to pose a threat to other Service Users, then this should be included in any information that is passed onto Service Providers.
Whilst the service deals in the main with vulnerable adults over the age of 18 years, there may be instances of children under the age of eighteen attend with relatives who are supported by Luton Irish Forum. In these circumstances the child’s safety and protection is of importance to Luton Irish Forum at all times. Luton Irish Forum has a separate Child Protection Policy which should be considered in conjunction with this policy.
Training and development
All staff receive training for them to identify both the potential abuse of vulnerable service users and the indicators of abuse in young people and children under the age of eighteen. This is given to staff at induction and during subsequent training and information is updated through Staff Meetings. They are made aware that all staff, both paid and unpaid, within the organisation have a responsibility to report directly to the Line Manager any instance of concern. They are informed at induction and again throughout ongoing training that their concerns on any vulnerable adult or child or young person’s care and safety whilst in Luton Irish Forum’s environment is of paramount importance.
Luton Irish Forum adheres to the local authorities’ definition of adult and child abuse and have a policy in place where any concerns of either abuse of vulnerable adults or children are shared with appropriate personnel within Social Services. This procedure and all training states clearly that Luton Irish Forum expect accurate recording of all incidents and concerns by staff.
All staff are trained to put the service user at the centre of their work and know the appropriate steps to take if they have any concerns of abuse. We have a policy that encompasses the care and support needs of all of our service users during any time of alleged abuse. We recognise the needs of the victim, other service users and the alleged perpetrator at such a time and aim to give appropriate care and support.
Service users are encouraged to voice their concerns and ideas for improvement both through one to ones with staff and feedback surveys/questionnaires with the option to remain anonymous.
Changes to policy
We will review this policy in line with the introduction of or changes to relevant legislation. In the event of internal investigations, the policy may be subject to further review.
Last Review Date: October 2019
Next Review Date: October 2020