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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 3rd December, 2012.

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Protection of Vulnerable Adults: Six-Monthly Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Scrutiny Committee about:

·         progress in implementing the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults;

·         the Vale of Glamorgan Area Adult Protection Committee (AAPC) Annual Report 2011-2012;

·         2011-2012 data for Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) referrals;

·         the need to make progress in delivering changes required by the new approach adopted by the Welsh Government in respect of the partnership arrangements for safeguarding and protecting people at risk.

Recommendations

1.             That Members note this report.

2.             That information about the work undertaken to protect vulnerable adults continues to be reported to the Scrutiny Committee on a six-monthly basis.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To increase awareness of the priorities, challenges and risks involved in this crucial area of work.

2.             To ensure effective scrutiny of a key function undertaken by Social Services on behalf of the Council.

Background

2.             The Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet approved the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults on 21st February 2011.  The procedures were put into effect on 1st April 2011 and progress with implementation is set out later in this report.

3.             Each year the Vale of Glamorgan AAPC produces an Annual Report bringing together contributions from member agencies, summarising the activity undertaken during the year and the challenges ahead.  The AAPC published the Annual Report for 2011-2012 in October and a copy of the report is attached at Appendix 1.

4.             On 18th October 2011, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services issued a written statement updating Members of the Welsh Government on progress in developing a new approach to safeguarding and protecting people in Wales, especially in respect of collaboration and multi-agency working.  A copy of the statement is attached at Appendix 2.  The Deputy Minister confirmed the administration's intention to bring forward a Social Services (Wales) Bill in 2012, to deliver a coherent Welsh legal framework for social services and provide a delivery mechanism for implementing key aspects of the Welsh Government's agenda for safeguarding and protection.  Exactly one year later, the Deputy Minister made a further written statement (see Appendix 3) in reply to consultation responses to the proposed legislation that specifically dealt with the safeguarding aspects.  She announced her intention that Safeguarding Adults Boards, with specific focus on adults at risk, would be established under the legislation and that a legal framework to protect adults at risk would be developed.  This will include placing legal duties on local authorities and others, such as those in the health service and the police, to protect adults at risk and providing practitioners with new intervention powers to ensure access to suspected victims of abuse while maintaining the principle that the adult's wishes form the basis of any support given.  It is intended that this framework will ensure, as with children, a consistent and effective multi-agency response to adult abuse.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             Very good progress has been made in implementing the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.  The Designated Lead Managers (DLMs) in the Vale of Glamorgan meet regularly to review the position.  The South Wales Safeguarding Adults Strategic Management Board has also maintained oversight of the procedures and worked across the South Wales area to support operational delivery of the procedures.

6.             The Vale of Glamorgan AAPC has continued to undertake regular audits of the procedural work undertaken by agencies.  These collaborative audits between Social Services, Health and Police have confirmed a good overall level of compliance and provided clear evidence of agencies working together to identify and reduce risk.  The audits have also identified where practice needs to improve and enabled agencies to respond swiftly in making the changes required.  Examples have included re-issuing the protection of vulnerable adults referral form to agencies reinforcing the need to ensure timely referrals are made, and identifying the merits of an audit to review the involvement of vulnerable adults and their families in the protection process.  Preparations for this audit are being made, again on a multi agency basis, with the intention to report findings to the AAPC in December.

7.             In its annual review and evaluation of social services performance in the Vale of Glamorgan for 2011/2012, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) reported that "the Council has strengthened its processes in relation to adult safeguarding….these are effective, supported by other agencies and communication between agencies is good."

8.             The AAPC has continued to work collaboratively in taking forward the multi-agency and multi-disciplinary agenda needed to protect vulnerable adults.  Its Annual Report for 2011-2012 includes commitment statements and summary reports from each member agency, an overview of local/regional/national developments and the referral data for 2011-2012. 

9.             The referral data highlighted that the number of POVA referrals received by the Vale of Glamorgan decreased from 288 in 2010-2011 to 223 in 2011-2012.  This reverses an established trend of year-on-year increases.  However, there is recorded evidence that the number of reported safeguarding concerns received by Social Services (which may include situations which pose a potential risk to vulnerable people or requests for assistance) have increased.  The reduction in POVA referrals may be partly the result of improved recording and earlier assessment of concerns, so that appropriate safeguarding action is taken quickly and the POVA process is used as the route for allegations of actual abuse only.  For example, there has been a practice change which involves recording medication errors as safeguarding concerns rather than POVA referrals.

10.        We have identified also a need for a means whereby advice on wider safeguarding issues and potential risks to vulnerable people can be offered outside the formal POVA arrangements, especially where people may not be known within social care systems or who refuse social care services.  Discussions are underway within Social Services to agree a process for this.

11.        Organisations that provide care to service users made the most referrals.  The highest number of referrals concerned allegations of neglect.  Of the 223 referrals received during the year, 12% were inappropriate for the POVA process and signposted elsewhere.

12.        Of those referrals which proceeded:

·         55% were proved, admitted or likely on balance to have occurred;

·         41% were considered to be unlikely or on balance disproved, or the investigation was inconclusive;

·         4% of all allegations were withdrawn.

13.        Current referral data for 2012-2013 is showing a similar picture in the number of POVA referrals, although this will be best considered over a full year and alongside evidence about the number of informal safeguarding concerns.  Referral figures for 2012-2013 will be reported to Scrutiny Committee in the next six-monthly update in June 2013.

14.        In advance of proposed legislation which will introduce an independent safeguarding body at a national level and a regional framework for local safeguarding bodies, the Deputy Minister has told Local Safeguarding Children Boards that she expects them to begin planning for the change and to move to a collaborative model as soon as possible.  This is not currently the case with the arrangements for vulnerable adults.  However, anticipating that regional partnership arrangements for safeguarding and protecting all people at risk will need to be put in place, the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and the AAPC have sought to adopt a common approach. 

15.        Dialogue with Cardiff LSCB has progressed to the point that this Scrutiny Committee has been presented with a report seeking agreement in principle to a merger between the two Boards, with an anticipated timescale of April 2013 for a joint Board.  Unlike LSCBs, AAPCs do not have a basis in statute, although this will be part of the proposed legislation.  Therefore, changes can be made in structures on the basis of agreement between the constituent agencies.  Discussion with regard to collaborative regional options for local AAPCs is scheduled to take place at the next meeting of the South Wales Safeguarding Adults Strategic Management Board and then at the Vale of Glamorgan AAPC in December.  The Council's representatives on these bodies will be engaged in considering any proposals that emerge from this process.  However, there appear to be strong merits in adopting the same regional footprint for both the LSCB and the AAPC, especially as it is likely that the two bodies may merge over time.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.        There are no direct financial implications arising from this report.  Social Services have absorbed within existing budgets the increased workload brought about by the more rigorous processes required under the new All-Wales Procedures.

17.        Both the LSCB and the AAPC in the Vale of Glamorgan depend heavily on the Council, especially the Social Services Directorate, for the resources and capacity required to operate effectively.  The proposed legislation is intended to clarify how other partners are expected to contribute to the resources needed to run proposed regional Boards.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.        There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising directly from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        The law regulating the protection from abuse of vulnerable adults derives from a miscellany of legislation, guidance and ad hoc court interventions.  The All Wales approach is aimed at promoting a consistent approach to adult protection in Wales.  This report demonstrates that the statutory responsibilities of the Social Services Directorate on behalf of the Council are being fulfilled.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.        The Protection of Vulnerable Adults arrangements include a responsibility for safeguarding people from abusive acts, which may require investigation as criminal offences.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.        All people in the Vale of Glamorgan have the right to live their lives free from violence and abuse.  This right is underpinned by the duty on public agencies under the Human Rights Acts (1988) to intervene proportionately to protect the rights of citizens.  Any adult at risk of abuse or neglect should be able to access public organisations for appropriate interventions which enable them to live a life free from violence and abuse.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.        In fulfilling responsibilities for safeguarding vulnerable adults, Social Services help to meet the following corporate objective:

·         "To make the Vale a safe, healthy and enjoyable place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full."

Policy Framework and Budget

23.        The report is in accordance with the Council's policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.        There are no matters in this report which relate to an individual Ward.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.        Social Care and Health

Background Papers

All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults

Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation

Officers Consulted

Officers who are members of the AAPC

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

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