1. Making Enquiries, or Causing Enquiries to be made
Local authorities must make enquiries, or cause others to do so, if they reasonably suspect an adult who meets the definition of an Adult at Risk (see The National Context, the Personalisation Agenda and Underlying Values and Principles) has needs for care and support, and is experiencing or at risk of abuse and neglect; and as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect.
An enquiry is the action taken or instigated by the Local Authority in response to a concern that abuse or neglect may be taking place. The objectives of an enquiry into abuse and neglect are to:
- Establish facts;
- Ascertain the individual’s views and wishes and seek consent;
- Assess the needs of the adult for protection, support and redress; and
- Make decisions as to what follow-up action should be taken with regard to the person responsible, or the organisation, for the abuse or neglect.
Making safeguarding personal means that safeguarding should be person led and outcome focused engaging people in determining how best to respond to their safeguarding situation. This involves a move away from process driven models of safeguarding. An enquiry can therefore be taken or instigated in a number of ways and should establish whether any further action needs to be taken to prevent or stop abuse or neglect and if so by whom. An enquiry could be:
- Conversation/communication with the adult;
- Contact with a representative or advocate;
- Contact with a relative, service provider, professional;
- A formal multi-agency meeting, plan or similar course of action;
- A meeting of key individuals (formal and informal);
- An action delegated to a partner agency in light of their expertise, involvement or any duty they may have to act.
Central to the enquiry and what happens as a result of an enquiry should be the views of the adult concerned. If the adult has substantial difficulty in being involved, and where there is no one appropriate to support them, then the Local Authority must arrange for an independent advocate (see Advocacy in Safeguarding Procedure) to represent them for the purpose of facilitating their involvement.
The focus of an enquiry must be on improving the adult’s wellbeing and all those involved in an enquiry should work together to achieve that aim. This may include where appropriate consideration of other services that are available to Adults at Risk of abuse or neglect such as voluntary and community/charitable services.
The scope of an enquiry, who leads and its nature, and how long it takes will depend upon the particular circumstances. The adult should always be involved from the beginning of the enquiry unless there are exceptional circumstances that increase the risk of abuse.
The purpose of the enquiry is to decide whether or not the Local Authority or another organisation, or person, should do something to help and protect the adult. Where the Local Authority decide that another organisation should make the enquiry the Local Authority should be clear about timescales, the need to know the outcomes of the enquiry and what action will follow if this is not done. An escalation process has been introduced so that any enquirers not responded to can be raised at an appropriate level within individual partner agencies. The process is outlined in the Table (see Section 2 Stages in the Safeguarding Process).
There are implications for all partners involved in safeguarding and not just the Local Authority. Local authorities must cooperate with each of their relevant partners, and those partners must cooperate with the Local Authority, in order to protect adults with care and support needs experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect. Relevant partners of a Local Authority include any other Local Authority with which they agree it would be appropriate to cooperate (e.g. neighbouring councils with whom they provide joint shared services) and the following agencies or bodies who operate within the Local Authority’s area including (this list is not exhaustive):
- NHS England;
- Clinical Commissioning Groups;
- NHS trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts;
- Job centres;
- The Police;
- Probation services;
- Local Authority functions;
- Service providers (independent, voluntary and private);
- Department for Work & Pensions;
- North East Ambulance Service;
- Fire services.
External agencies and partners who receive requests to make an enquiry will have a duty and/or moral responsibility to cooperate with the Local Authority.
Professionals and other staff need to handle enquiries in a sensitive and skilled way to ensure distress to individuals is minimised. The Key Values and Principles of All Those Working with Adults at Risk (see point 5: Application of these Procedures on The National Context, the Personalisation Agenda and Underlying Values and Principles) should inform the ways in which professionals and other staff work with adults including when carrying out enquiries. The key principles apply to all sectors and settings. When requested to undertake enquiries this will need to be done when requested and within timescales. The Care Act 2014 requires that the Local Authority must make this clear. They will need to report back any outcomes as requested. There may be a number of ways partners are contacted in order to make enquiries. The Local Authority is also required to know the outcomes of the enquiry.
It is likely that many enquiries will require the input and supervision of a social worker. This will be the case in more complex situations, particularly where the dynamics or personal and family relationships are difficult to judge and rebalance, where abuse or neglect is suspected within a family or informal relationship and in supporting the adult to realise the outcomes they want to reach a resolution or recovery.
Whilst work with adults may frequently require the input of a social worker, there are other aspects of enquiries which will be best undertaken by others with more appropriate skills and knowledge. Examples of this include health professionals for enquiries linked to treatment plans relating to medicines management or pressure sores or other areas of clinical practice; or housing officers, where the issues relate to the environment in which the person is living.
External Agencies who undertake enquiries on behalf of the Local Authority must do so in an appropriate agreed timescale and should report the outcome of these enquiries to the Local Authority Safeguarding Adults Team, including any subsequent Safeguarding Plan (see 2.6) which has been agreed and implemented to protect/support the Adult at Risk.