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Agenda Item No. 11

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 1st September 2014

 

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:

·         The adult safeguarding duties on the local authority introduced in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014;

·         the Vale of Glamorgan Area Adult Protection Committee (AAPC) Annual Report 2013-2014;

·         2013-2014 data for Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) referrals;

·         consultation with vulnerable adults who have been subject of POVA processes; 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.

3.         That information about the work of the Cardiff and Vale Adult Safeguarding Board be reported to Scrutiny 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.& 3.To ensure effective scrutiny of a key function undertaken by Social Services on behalf of the Council.

Background

2.         The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act received Royal Assent and became law on 1 May 2014.  The Act introduces new statutory duties for local authorities and other agencies such as the NHS and the police to make enquiries if adults with care and support needs are experiencing or are at risk of abuse or neglect and are unable to protect themselves against the abuse or neglect.  The Act also provides 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.

3.         The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act also introduces a statutory duty on local authorities to have Adult Safeguarding Boards.  On 4th March this year, the inaugural meeting of the joint Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Adult Safeguarding Board took place.  This Board supersedes the Vale of Glamorgan Adult Area Protection Committee (AAPC) which each year has produced an Annual Report that brings together contributions from member agencies, summarises the activity undertaken during the year and the challenges ahead. 

4.         The Vale of Glamorgan Council has implemented the All Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.  Processes for responding to referrals about adults who are believed to have experienced harm have been consolidated within Social Services.  The Designated Lead Managers (DLMs) in the Vale of Glamorgan continue to meet regularly to review the position.  The multi-agency South Wales Safeguarding Adults Strategic Management Board has also maintained oversight of the procedures and worked across the police force region to support consistent operational delivery.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         Good progress continues to be made in consolidating the work undertaken to ensure compliance with the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.  The Vale of Glamorgan AAPC has maintained a strong commitment to auditing as a means of monitoring compliance and identifying areas for improvement.  Regular collaborative audits with Health and the 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.  Examples include:

·         the timely completion of records to evidence the actions being taken to safeguard vulnerable adults;

·         ensuring that, where appropriate, information is available electronically and on a paper file; and

·         including the views of family members/carers in the POVA process. 

6.         The Vale of Glamorgan AAPC Annual Report for 2013-2014 is attached at Appendix 1.  It includes commitment statements and summary reports from each member agency, an overview of local/regional/national developments and the referral data for 2013-2014. 

7.         The referral data highlights that the number of POVA referrals received by the Vale of Glamorgan increased from 232 in 2012/2013 to 296 in 2013/2014.  This 27% rise may be attributable in part to greater awareness about adult safeguarding concerns and an improved understanding of what to do if concerned about a vulnerable adult at risk.  It should act as an ongoing reminder of the need for vigilance in ensuring that vulnerable adults receive proper care and protection.  The increase has added considerably to the workload of the Central Designated Lead Manager who screens all Protection of Vulnerable Adults referrals before allocating them for enquiries and investigation.  We must be mindful of the potential for further increases in referrals of adult safeguarding concerns as a result of the legislative changes. 

8.         As in the previous year, nearly 21% of the 296 referrals received during 2013/14 were assessed against the threshold and found inappropriate for the POVA process because of the criteria which have to be applied.  These referrals were signposted for safeguarding action through an alternative route.

9.         The increase in 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) continues.  During 2013-14, there were 69 safeguarding calls recorded by the POVA team that required safeguarding action (80 in 2012/13) but did not trigger the threshold for procedural action, plus a further 66 referrals (VA1s) that did not require any safeguarding intervention.  This demonstrates 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.  Work to address the issue is ongoing.

10.      Organisations that directly provide care to service users made most referrals, with 27% coming from providers themselves (which represents a 20% decrease from the previous year).  20% of referrals came from the vulnerable adults, carer or relative which is a 122% increase compared to 2012/13.  This is positive and probably reflects greater public awareness about adult safeguarding and the need to report concerns about vulnerable adults at risk.

11.      Figures for 2013/2014 indicate that the majority of abuse (45%) occurred in people's own homes, compared to 58% in 2012-13 and 48% in 2011/12.  This is followed by care homes, including residential, respite and nursing (35% compared to 25% in 2012-13 but consistent with the 2011-12 rate.  

12.      Where the alleged perpetrator of abuse is identified, the highest percentage (37%) were relatives or friends/acquaintances.  24% were paid staff working in regulated settings such as social services, domiciliary, residential, nursing home and supported living environments.  Other service users were identified as alleged perpetrators in 4% of cases.  In 32% of cases, the perpetrator is unknown.

13.      From the cases concluded during 2013-2014, we know the risk was removed or reduced as a consequence of the intervention in 100% of closed cases.

14.      As part of our quality assurance framework, Social Services have consulted with vulnerable adults who are subject of POVA procedures.  Beginning with a pilot exercise, the Directorate has now completed its first annual exercise.  The 2013 consultation sample was taken from all POVA referrals received during 2012 and focused on cases in which the vulnerable adult was aware of the referral and had the capacity to respond to questions.  To ensure the process would not cause distress, social workers played a key role in ensuring that the contact with the adult was appropriate and that they were willing to be interviewed.  The final sample was predictably small in part due to the selection criteria. 

15.      Although we should not generalise too much from the small number of consultation responses, it is worth noting that overall respondents appeared to be satisfied with their experience during investigations.  However, we need to improve the dissemination of information about the service and the quality of information received.  This includes a recommendation to improve general awareness of the POVA process.  While respondents did not always feel involved and informed during the process, they felt believed and taken seriously.  This suggests that staff are effectively reassuring vulnerable adults about their concerns.  Agencies involved in the POVA process appear to be providing a good level of support and most respondents felt that their views had been taken into account and felt safer as a result.  No one was dissatisfied with the protection service they received.

16.      The 2014 consultation process has started.  It includes the additional objective of understanding the views of family members/carers and these adults will be offered the opportunity to be included in the consultation.  The findings will be provided to the Cardiff and Vale Adult Safeguarding Board, to agree upon any remedial actions needed. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

17.      Social Services have absorbed within existing budgets the increased workload brought about by the increased number of POVA referrals during 2013/2014.  Meeting the anticipated rise in referrals of broader safeguarding issues concerning vulnerable adults may not be possible within the existing staffing arrangements for POVA.  A review is underway and proposed changes will be reported later in the year.

18.      Social Services will support the new regional Safeguarding Adults Board within existing resources, although discussions are taking place about the need for dedicated business management support in line with the arrangements already in place for the Safeguarding Children Board. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

20.      This report demonstrates that the statutory responsibilities of the Social Services Directorate on behalf of the Council are being fulfilled.

Crime and Disorder Implications

21.      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)

22.      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

23.      In fulfilling responsibilities for safeguarding vulnerable adults, Social Services help to meet the following corporate outcome and objectives:

·         "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.

Objectives:

 

·         "Prevent abuse by professionals working in social care settings by ensuring the voice of the vulnerable adult is heard and staff are empowered to report concerns".

·         "Consult annually with vulnerable adults involved in formal protection arrangements (Protection of Vulnerable Adults) and use the information to bring about improvements".

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

26.      Social Care and Health

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation

 

Officers Consulted

Officers who are members of the former AAPC

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services