Safeguarding for care providers
Local authorities have a duty for safeguarding vulnerable adults and children within their area. Dedicated safeguarding teams are responsible for investigating where it is believed that a vulnerable adult or child is at risk of abuse or neglect, most often as part of a multi-agency investigation process. This may involve the police, CCG, GPs, District Nurses, CQC and others, depending on the nature of the allegation. Investigations of safeguarding in health and social care typically consider allegations of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse; domestic violence; organisational abuse; neglect; or self-neglect. In a care setting, this can often involve allegations against members of staff.
Safeguarding vulnerable adults and children investigations can cause a number of difficulties for providers. Not only are they the cause of a lot of stress, but they can also result in significant financial loss if the local safeguarding authority imposes an embargo on admissions. In addition, there is often a conflict between the demands made by a safeguarding team, e.g. to suspend or dismiss staff, and your obligations as an employer. Safeguarding investigations are also frequently a cause of adverse publicity.
You should always seek early advice on any safeguarding investigation which results in an embargo. Early intervention is often important to prevent the situation from escalating and in order to protect your interests as the care provider.
How can our safeguarding solicitors help?
We regularly act for care providers facing such investigations. We are able to provide strategic advice and representation to help reduce any damage to your business and to ensure that, if an embargo or suspension on placements is put into place, it is lifted as soon as possible. We are also able to advise you on the employment law implications of the investigation or its findings, and how you can ensure compliance with your obligations as an employer.
What is the process?
Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities now have a statutory duty to conduct a safeguarding enquiry or arrange for someone to undertake an enquiry whenever abuse or neglect are suspected and the local authority thinks it is necessary to undertake an enquiry to decide what (if any) action is needed to protect the vulnerable person. Precisely how a safeguarding matter is dealt with and who takes the lead in investigating the matter will depend on the nature of the allegation or suspected abuse or neglect. However, where a criminal offence, such as wilful neglect or ill treatment or physical abuse, is suspected the police will usually take the lead in investigating the matter.
It is now increasingly common for safeguarding matters to be investigated by the police, which can involve PACE interviews under caution. Both care providers and their staff can find a police investigation an intimidating and worrying experience. Our safeguarding solicitors are experienced in dealing with such matters and will guide you through the process and provide you with advice and representation, as required.