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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 2nd September, 2013

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Protection of Vulnerable Adults: Six-Monthly Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Scrutiny Committee about the following issues:

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

·               the Vale of Glamorgan Area Adult Protection Committee (AAPC) Annual Report 2012-2013;

·               2012-2013 data for Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) referrals;

·               consultation with vulnerable adults who have been subject of the POVA process; and

·               progress in delivering changes required 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 consolidating changes in procedures is set out later in this report.

3.             Each year, the Vale of Glamorgan Adult Area Protection Committee (AAPC) produces an Annual Report which brings together contributions from member agencies, summarises the activity undertaken during the year and the challenges ahead.  The AAPC ratified the Annual Report for 2012-2013 in June 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.  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 in reply to consultation responses to the proposed legislation that specifically dealt with the safeguarding aspects.  She announced her intention to establish under the legislation Safeguarding Adults Boards, with specific focus on adults at risk, 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.             Good progress has been made in consolidating 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 continues to undertake regular audits of the procedural work undertaken by the relevant agencies.  These collaborative audits between Social Services, Health and Police have confirmed a good overall level of compliance and provided 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.  For example, it was agreed to focus on completion of agreed tracking tools as a means of evidencing actions taken to safeguard vulnerable adults.  The AAPC then requested a re-audit of these processes so it could assure itself that, where improvements were required, staff from all agencies had responded.  A report was presented to the AAPC in June which confirmed that progress was being sustained.

7.             The AAPC itself continues to work collaboratively in taking forward the multi-agency and multi-disciplinary agenda needed to protect vulnerable adults.  Its Annual Report for 2012-2013 includes commitment statements and summary reports from each member agency, an overview of local/regional/national developments and the referral data for 2012-2013.   

8.             The referral data highlighted that the number of POVA referrals received by the Vale of Glamorgan increased from 223 in 2011-2012 to 232 in 2012-2013.  There is also 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) has increased.  During 2012-13, there were over 80 safeguarding calls recorded by the POVA team that required safeguarding action but did not trigger the threshold for procedural action, plus a further 17 referrals (VA1s) that did not require any safeguarding intervention.

9.             The reduction in POVA referrals from 288 in 2010-2011 may be partly the result of improved recording but there has been a drive also for 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.  Of the 232 referrals received during the year, nearly 20% were assessed against the threshold and found inappropriate for the POVA process and signposted for safeguarding action through an alternative route.

10.        We have identified also the 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 may refuse social care services.  Discussions are underway within Social Services to agree a process for this.

11.        Organisations that provide or commission care made the most referrals, with 34% coming from direct service providers themselves.  Nine percent came from the vulnerable adults, carers or relatives.  The highest number of referrals concerned allegations of physical abuse, though the proportions of physical abuse, neglect and financial abuse were very similar. 

12.        Of those referrals which proceeded:

·               nearly 40% were proved, admitted or likely on balance to have occurred;

·               nearly 55% were considered to be unlikely or on balance disproved, or the   investigation was inconclusive;

·               6% were withdrawn.

13.        As part of our quality assurance framework, the Directorate has implemented a consultation process with vulnerable adults who have been subject of POVA procedures.  A pilot exercise has been undertaken.  The potentially sensitive issues surrounding the POVA process meant that the process of sample selection was complicated.  The sample was based on all POVA referrals received in 2012 where the vulnerable adult was aware of the referral.  The relevant social workers were contacted to ascertain:

·               the current status of the case;

·               that the vulnerable adult had sufficient capacity; and

·               whether contacting the vulnerable adult would cause them any harm/distress and if they would be willing to be interviewed.  

14.        The initial enquiries made by the Policy and Quality Assurance Officer resulted in a sample of five vulnerable adults being contacted, of whom three responded.  Although a predictably low sample size, having the opportunity to hear directly from vulnerable adults about their experiences is invaluable in helping to inform improvements.

15.        Findings confirm that no one was dissatisfied with the protection service they received and provided reassurances that vulnerable adults felt believed and taken seriously.  People generally felt their views had been taken into account and noted they felt safer as a result of their experience.  Respondents did offer suggestions about the need to improve the information given to them about the process and to involve them more fully.  There was also a view expressed that more could be done to improve general awareness of the POVA process.  The findings of the consultation were shared with the AAPC in June 2013 and actions agreed.

16.        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. 

17.        Unlike LSCBs, AAPCs do not have a basis in statute, although this will be part of the proposed legislation.  Changes in structures can be made, therefore, on the basis of agreement between the constituent agencies.  Discussion with regard to collaborative regional options for local AAPCs has taken place at the South Wales Safeguarding Adults Strategic Management Board and at the Vale of Glamorgan AAPC.  These discussions have acknowledged the strong merits in adopting the same regional footprint for both the LSCB and the AAPC, especially as it is possible that the two bodies may be required to merge over time.  It was agreed at the last AAPC to develop the principle of establishing a Joint Cardiff and Vale Safeguarding Adults Board with a suggested timescale of September 2013.  In response to the proposal, an independent audit of the AAPC has been commissioned to identify perceived strengths, weaknesses and priorities for future development.  It is anticipated the findings of the audit will help develop the form and function of the new Board.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

18.        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.

19.        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 legislation currently passing through the Assembly 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

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.        The law regulating the protection from abuse of vulnerable adults currently 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

22.        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)

23.        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

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

"Citizens of the Vale of Glamorgan are healthy and have equality of outcomes and, through appropriate support and safeguards, the most vulnerable members of our community maximise their life opportunities."

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.        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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