News Opinion

Safety First?

The safety of care home residents is the top priority for care providers. Many people move into care settings because of concerns over their health and safety, they are lonely, isolated and unable to care for themselves in their own homes.

It is sometimes very difficult to ensure that people have the correct balance between maximising independence and autonomy and maintaining safety. This is a challenge that care providers have to struggle with daily. In the vast majority of cases, they get it absolutely right and nobody makes any mention of their successes. However, in the few cases where something goes wrong, there is a tendency to judge people with the benefit of hindsight, rather than to forensically examine how things could have been different.

In recent years there has been an enormous bureaucracy developed around safeguarding and this has led to a huge amount of work with little or no clarity about how this improves the lives of residents. In some cases, I have seen safeguarding being used as another weapon in the armoury of commissioners, who are more interested in maintaining power and control than in the safety of residents.

The Government has come to realise that the current system is unsustainable and is bringing forward proposals to shift the burden of responsibility and administration away from local government and onto the shoulders of the care provider.

If these proposals are implemented in their current form, they will place enormous burdens on the care provider, as always with Government initiatives of this kind, there will be next to no recognition of the increased work or the resources required delivering it. This is in sharp contrast to the way in which the government always manages to pad local authorities with extra money when they are required to change the way they operate. The examples of this are legion, there was the extra money put into local authorities to help them develop Market Position Statements, and we all know what little impact these have had. Similarly, when safeguarding was first introduced, local authorities were given lots of money to ensure they had the system in place and the development of safeguarding units was evidence they have got more money into their system.

There are many issues for care providers arising from these proposed changes. There will be a need for ongoing training in safeguarding which will have enormous cost and capacity implications for the care provider and I have concerns about whether or not there is capacity in the system to manage such an incredibly difficult, complex and bureaucratic process.

The current system is no longer sustainable and this is partly because local authorities err on the side of caution, and in some areas are asking for every single incident that could have implications for safeguarding to be reported. Over the years I have seen some ridiculous nonsense, such as somebody being told they should have referred the fact that their curtains had one hook missing to the safeguarding team. My concern with all this is that in the blizzard of minor and irrelevant safeguarding notifications, something important will get lost and vulnerable people will not be protected.

The way in which safeguarding has developed over the years is a really good example of how not to do something; it has become a process, rather than something that delivers an outcome.

There is an urgent need to review this process, but I hope the Government will be sensible in how it does this and not just think that the current system, which is unsustainable and expensive, needs to be taken out of the local authority and shunted onto the care provider without any extra resources. The important thing to remember is that this process should be about protecting vulnerable people not watching the back of the system and reducing the costs to the Government.


Edel Harris





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