What happens after you make a safeguarding referral

This section contains guidance and information on what happens after you make a safeguarding referral for an adult broken down in to different stages

If a safeguarding intervention is required, a planning discussion will be held.  A referrer may be asked to participate in the discussion to share information.  The purpose of the discussion is to share and consider information across agencies, assess the level of risk, agree what tasks are needed to safeguard the person from harm, who will undertake them and by when.

If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the adult is being abused, or is at risk of being abused or neglected, the Local Authority, Somerset County Council, must make enquiries or cause others to do so under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014 (often referred to as a Section 42 enquiry). The Police may decide to initiate a criminal investigation which would take precedent over a Section 42 enquiry.

If the individual at risk of abuse is likely to have substantial difficulty being involved in the process, an independent advocate must be appointed.  Somerset County Council currently contracts with Swan Advocacy for the provision of statutory advocacy services in Somerset.

A decision to hold a strategy/planning meeting or discussion will be based on the following factors:

  • The risk to the adult allegedly being harmed
  • The risk to others from the person causing harm or alleged to have caused harm
  • Whether several organisations have concerns and need to share information
  • Whether there may be a number of investigations by different organisations
  • Whether there may be legal or regulatory actions
  • Whether the allegation involves a member or staff / volunteer, or the safety of a service
  • Whether the situation could attract media attention
  • Where a crime may have been committed
  • Where institutional abuse is suspected or alleged

This list is not exhaustive

In an emergency (life threatening) and urgent (potentially at risk of physical harm) case, a Multi-Agency Strategy meeting/discussion would be convened within 1 working day. In emergencies, or when there are time constraints, a strategy discussion may be held by phone to all relevant parties.

The Adult Social Care Safeguarding Team will identify an investigating officer who will undertake the enquiry as required. For more complex or serious situations this will be led by a safeguarding lead but where appropriate will be the most relevant professional. All investigating officers will receive support and supervision relating to the investigation from the relevant member of the Adult Social Care Safeguarding Team.

A decision not to hold a Strategy meeting/discussion may be made by the Adult Social Care Safeguarding Team because there is sufficient information to indicate that the person is not at risk of abuse and neglect, and there is no need to investigate or take further action under these procedures. The decision will be recorded with the reasons and an alternative plan formulated if necessary.

All adults who are being safeguarded should involved in decisions that are being made about them. Depending on the circumstances this might also include involving people who are important to them. All safeguarding work should seek to achieve:

  • A personalised approach that enables safeguarding to be done with, not to, people
  • Practice that focuses on achieving meaningful improvement to people’s circumstances rather than just on ‘investigation’ and ‘conclusion’
  • An approach that utilises professionals skills rather than just ‘putting people through a process’
  • An approach that enables the person, people who are important to them, providers and professionals to know what difference has been made

This approach is sometimes called “Making Safeguarding Personal

If a safeguarding referral includes an allegation of abuse by a person or persons employed by the organisation providing services or care to the person who is the subject of the referral, consideration must be given to ‘suspension without prejudice’.

The decision will be the responsibility of the employer, following an internal risk assessment and according to the organisation’s disciplinary policy.

Suspension may be used when necessary, such as where the employee’s presence may hinder an investigation.

It is important that any performance or disciplinary processes that an organisation undertakes with an employee is robust and can be evidenced when required.

The Care Act Statutory Guidance states that if someone is removed by being either dismissed or redeployed to a non-regulated activity, from their role providing regulated activity following a safeguarding incident, or a person leaves their role (for example they resign or retire) to avoid a disciplinary hearing following a safeguarding incident and the employer/volunteer organisation feels they would have dismissed the person based on the information they hold, the regulated activity provider has a legal duty to refer to the Disclosure and Barring Service. If an agency or personnel supplier has provided the person, then the legal duty sits with that agency. Where appropriate, employers should report workers to the statutory and other bodies responsible for professional regulation such as the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

A strategy/planning meeting must be held within 5-10 working days of the decision that one is required. The meeting will include:

  • Any outcomes that the person being safeguarded wants to achieve
  • Action to be taken to ensure that known risks to, and the future safety of, the person(s) at risk of abuse or neglect are shared and recorded, including actions regarding the alleged perpetrator
  • Details of who is taking responsibility for which task
  • Exact nature of each task
  • Agreed completion dates for each task
  • Each participant’s contact details (i.e. phone, mobile and email address)
  • Analysis of the level of risk, including consideration of the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005
  • How ongoing and potential risks will be managed, including the consideration of referrals to the Multi-agency Risk Assessment Committee (MARAC), Multi-Agency Public Protection Agency (MAPPA) and Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).
  • Consideration of the acceptable level of risk
  • Identify monitoring and review details
  • Identify who will share the outcomes of the meeting with the adult at risk of abuse or neglect, if appropriate
  • Identify who will share the outcomes of the meeting with the referring agency or individual
  • Chair to determine the scope of information sharing with internal and external agencies in regard to commissioned services
  • Consideration of a referral to the Disclosure & Barring Service regarding the alleged abuser

Meetings will be minuted and the minutes shared with the attendees at the meeting. The minutes are confidential to the meeting and can only be shared by anyone other than the adult themselves with the permission of the Chair.

Minutes of any meeting will be retained by agencies within secure agency files.

A safeguarding enquiry (often referred to as a Section 42 enquiry) may range from a conversation with the adult at risk of abuse, or a representative or advocate if they lack capacity or have substantial difficulty, through to a formal multi-agency plan of action.  All enquires should be person centred in line with the principles of Making Safeguarding Personal.

Somerset County Council (SCC) is the lead organisation for safeguarding enquiries.

The purpose of the enquiry is to decide whether or not SCC, or others, should do something to help and protect the adult. If SCC believes that another organisation should make the enquiry, for example a care provider or health organisation, then SCC will instruct the other organisation to do so.

SCC should be clear about timescales, the outcome of the enquiry (including the outcomes the person wants to achieve), who needs to take action and who needs to know as well as what will happen if the required actions are not undertaken. If SCC has asked another organisation to carry out the enquiry, SCC has the duty to challenge the organisation making the enquiry if it considers the process or outcome unsatisfactory.

Whatever the result of the enquiry, the outcome should reflect the adult’s wishes wherever possible as stated by them, or their advocate or representative. If they lack capacity, decisions and actions should be made in their best interests and be proportionate to the level of concern.

Where a Police investigation takes precedence over a Section 42 enquiry, the following should be agreed between the relevant organisations:

  • A communication/liaison strategy, to ensure that the provider receives timely and appropriate updates. (in cases where a major Investigation is on-going, this will be in line with national multi-agency policy) ;
  • What aspects, if any, a provider can investigate, with the purpose of gathering information and taking relevant action to ensure the ongoing safety of the adults it supports.

The objectives of an enquiry into abuse or neglect are to:

  • Establish facts
  • Ascertain the adult’s views and wishes
  • Assess the needs of the adult for protection, support and redress and how this might be met
  • Protect from abuse and neglect in accordance with the wishes of the adult
  • Make decisions as to what follow-up actions should be taken in regard to the person or organisation responsible for abuse or neglect
  • Enable the adult to achieve resolution and recovery.

The first priority should always be to ensure the safety and well-being of the adult. The adult should experience the safeguarding process as empowering and supportive and in line with the principles of Making Safeguarding Personal.

Professionals should wherever possible seek the consent of the adult before taking action. There may be circumstances where consent cannot be sought because the adult lacks capacity to give it but it is in their best interests to undertake an enquiry. Action may be taken regardless of consent, if others are at risk or it is in the public interest to undertake an enquiry because a criminal offence has occurred.

Discussions should always take place with the adult to enable them to understand the options and how their wishes may be best realised.

Following the conclusion of an enquiry Somerset County Council must determine what further action is necessary and make a safeguarding plan.

If the adult has capacity to make decisions about arrangements and declines assistance, this must be respected and the focus should be on harm reduction and/or public protection. If the person is thought to be refusing intervention on the grounds of duress or coercive control, then action must be taken.

The protection plan will be the responsibility of the relevant agencies to implement.

A protection plan should set out:

  • Steps necessary to assure future safety
  • The provision of any support, treatment or therapy, including ongoing advocacy
  • Any modifications needed in the way of services provided (e.g. same sex care or placement, appointment of an Office of the Public Guardian Deputy)
  • How best to support the adult through any action they take to seek justice or redress
  • Any ongoing risk management strategy as appropriate
  • Any action taken in relation to the person or organisation that has caused the concern

If the outcome of the safeguarding enquiry is that no further safeguarding intervention is required, consideration must be given to what other advice or action the person needs to promote their welfare.

If the outcome of the enquiry is that further safeguarding intervention is required, a number of actions may be taken. This may include disciplinary, complaint or criminal investigations regarding individuals, or improving care standards by contracts managers and Care Quality Commission (CQC) regarding organisations.  Professionals must be able to set out both the civil and criminal justice approaches as well approaches to promote well-being, such as therapeutic or family work, mediation and conflict resolution, peer or circles of support or a full needs assessment as outlined by the Care Act (2014).

National Adult Safeguarding procedures do not set definitive timescales for each element of the process; however target timescales have been indicated within the table below.

Guidance on timescales reflect the ethos of Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP).  MSP approaches ensure that safeguarding is person-led and outcome-focused. Responses to safeguarding concerns must always be proportionate to the concern. Wherever possible a safeguarding concern should be resolved at the earliest point through actions agreed with the adult at the start of the enquiry. The adult is engaged in a conversation about how best to respond to their safeguarding situation in a way that enhances involvement, choice and control as well as improving quality of life, wellbeing and safety. Discussions with the adult will inform the process and to some extent the timescale of response.

It is important that timely action is taken, whilst respecting the principle that the views of the adult at risk are paramount. It is the responsibility of all agencies to proactively monitor concerns to ensure that drift does not prevent timely action and place people at further risk.

Divergence from the target timescales may be justified where:

  • Adherence to agreed timescales would jeopardise achieving the outcome that the adult at risk wants
  • It would not be in the best interests of the adult at risk
  • Significant changes in risk are identified that need to be addressed
  • Supported decision making may require an appropriate resource not immediately available
  • The person’s physical, mental and/or emotional wellbeing may be temporarily compromised
  • There is a Police investigation

We will monitor cases that are taking longer than 30 days to complete Section 42 enquiries and we will instigate our enquiry escalation process at 60 working days. We will agree and communicate revised deadlines with all relevant people.

There should be clear recording of the reasons for decisions regarding the timescales for enquiries and, if the timescales need to be reviewed, the reasons for this, the adult’s views regarding this, and the measures in place to ensure the timescales will be achieved.

The purpose of a review is to:

  • Consider the outcomes that the person wanted to achieve
  • Consider feedback from actions / investigations and the safeguarding plan
  • Consider the evidence and, if substantiated, plan what action is required
  • Plan further action if the allegation is not substantiated
  • Plan further action if the enquiry is inconclusive; consider what legal or statutory action or redress is indicated
  • Make a decision about the levels of current risks and a judgement about any likely future risks
  • Agree how the actions/protection plan will be reviewed and monitored

The Safeguarding Adult Procedures can be closed when:

  • All actions have been completed: risks are eradicated or are safely managed within care planning or risk management procedures
  • The adult has capacity and is declining interventions which would promote their wellbeing and safety, and no other person is at risk and/or it is not in the public interest
Don’t know what something means?  Click below open a list of common terms and definitions:

Common terms and definitions