by Caroline Norrie, Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. (952 words)
Professionals working in the adult social care field gathered at Friends House in Euston, London, on 30 June 2014 to share knowledge and experiences of Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP). MSP was initiated by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the Local Government Association (LGA) as a sector-led response to concerns that adults at risk are not being involved in investigations and decisions when councils have concerns about abuse or neglect (adult safeguarding).
Supported by funding from Department of Health (DH) and the LGA, this improvement programme started in 2011/12 with the development of a toolkit. In 2012/13 five pilot councils signed up to the scheme and this year 53 councils participated. The programme has been given increased funding to continue next year across further English councils.
The conference was co-ordinated by Making Research Count, together with ADASS, the LGA, the University of Bedfordshire and the University of East Anglia.
Dr Adi Cooper, Safeguarding Adults Policy Lead for ADASS, introduced the day highlighting the ‘irony’ that in an era of personalisation across social services, adults at risk do not seem to be in the driving seat in their own safeguarding cases. MSP therefore aims to encourage councils ‘to develop an outcomes focus to safeguarding work, and a range of responses to support people to improve or resolve their circumstances.’ This approach involves adults at risk being encouraged to define their own meaningful improvements to change their circumstances and then to be involved throughout the safeguarding investigation, support planning and response.
Under the MSP programme councils focus on an area of their choice. Some sites chose ambitious whole council approaches involving staff training or IT, others focused on small developmental work with one service user group. Councils could also chose their level of involvement—bronze, silver or gold depending on the level of evaluation involved. Bronze was awarded to councils which returned an impact statement, whereas gold was given to councils which undertook robust evaluation of their initiatives involving outside partners such as universities. Most of the councils undertook to work at a bronze level and 47 impact statements have been returned.
Conference Chair, Bridget Penhale, Reader in Mental Health, School of Nursing Sciences at the University of East Anglia, introduced presenters from nine councils who discussed how MSP had worked in their local context. Different approaches were taken depending on local priorities.
A representative from Kent County Council, for example, discussed how outcome focused practice in safeguarding supports the integration of good practice when assessing the decision making capacity of adults at risk. The Safeguarding Adults Manager from Somerset described their work with three teams to identify what they were doing well and what needed to be changed. They had concluded that sharper focus was needed on ‘what outcomes the service users wanted’ and then checking outcomes were actually achieved.
A representative from Central Bedfordshire council described how they had developed an outcomes approach to family group conferencing in the first round of MSP and then evaluated if people felt safer as a result of the intervention using a before and after survey.
A Development Manager from the Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB) in Birmingham described how they had commissioned two advocacy services to seek people’s views of their adult safeguarding process. They asked practitioners to record three service user agreed outcomes (at different points in the investigation) and then record if they were met. They then asked adults at risk to provide feedback on this experience. Focus groups were also held with practitioners; positive comments included, ‘It was good to get back to social work principles, we were very task oriented and had lost the person’ and, ‘it reminded me that I should have more confidence in my professional judgement.’
The Head of Professional Services from Croydon Adult Social Services discussed how the borough thought it had been tied to the Pan-London Adult Safeguarding Policy and Procedures, but MSP brought the opportunity to break away and practice in a different way.
Common themes from the day were that professionals had the impression they were already working well with adults at risk (and their friends, family and carers), but after starting MSP, they realised they needed to become more person-centred. Social workers welcomed the opportunity to work in a more autonomous way, incorporating their social work skills and they reported their practice had changed. Many observed, however, that there were many valid reasons for adults at risk not engaging substantially in safeguarding feedback, such as poor health, severe illness or disabilities, still being in risky situations; in other cases the people concerned died during the investigation.
One of the big, unanswered questions of the day was whether the MSP approach saves councils money? Dr Adi Cooper discussed how, initially, MSP may seem to be more expensive as it involves intensive work with individuals; but it may be money-saving in the long-term because decisions are made with adults at risk, and this may mean adults at risk are less likely to re-enter the system.
Finally, Claire Crawley, Senior Policy Manager for Adult Safeguarding at the Department of Health congratulated councils on their work and celebrated the positive changes described by the council representatives. Questions were raised from the audience about implications of the Care Act 2014 and how this would interact with MSP; the introduction of national safeguarding outcome measures; and should self-neglect and hoarding become part of the safeguarding remit? Claire discussed how she was considering safeguarding outcomes measures; and how if self-neglect and hoarding concerns were transferred to safeguarding teams, there might be little work for other teams to do.
Caroline Norrie is Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit which is part of The Policy Institute @ King’s. Caroline is working on Models of safeguarding: a study comparing specialist and non-specialist safeguarding teams for adults.
The Social Care Workforce Research Unit works with the MSP initiative in several ways, including membership of the Project Board. See: Manthorpe, J., Klee, D., Williams, C. & Cooper, A. (2014) ‘Making Safeguarding Personal: developing responses and enhancing skills’, Journal of Adult Protection, 16(2): 96-103.