Insights

Mark Denton: 6.45 minute read

One in five of us was failed by safeguarding procedures and suffered abuse as a child new figures suggest

Across England and Wales, one in five adults has suffered some form of child abuse. This equates to millions of us who have suffered through a safeguarding failure. It is a staggering statistic and one that was revealed in January via the Guardian*. The headline grabbed our attention for the staggering facts and figures behind it.

*The article quoted the follows statistics:

  • There were 19,847 counselling sessions given to children by Childline in the UK where abuse was the primary concern in the year to March
  • At the end of March, 49,570 children in England and 4,810 children in Wales were looked after by their local authority because of experience or risk of abuse or neglect
  • About half of adults (52%) who experienced abuse before the age of 16 also experienced domestic abuse later in life, compared with 13% of those who did not experience abuse before the age of 16.

 

Regardless of how you read these figures, they spell out one undeniable fact, safeguarding children across the UK is a priority and it’s a much bigger issue than we all thought it was. As the stats show, around one in seven adults who phoned the helpline said they had never spoken of it before and therefore, the figure may be much higher.

Safeguarding

Safeguarding is a consideration in all walks of life. Whether you are in the office, at a hotel, out for a meal, working in a youth organisation or simply walking the dog. Whatever the situation, safeguarding is an essential area to consider. We need to assess potential dangers and mitigate against them, from the expected to the unexpected. As much as we want to believe the best in the world, we need to prepare for any eventuality.  

We produced a guide last year for charities, entitled, ‘Safeguarding good practice for Charities’. We wrote this on the back of the controversial revelations from the ongoing Oxfam scandal. It was a desire to look at the situation and create an approach that could be used to safeguard within the charity realm.

A lot of the learnings that we laid out are universal. Safeguarding is for everyone. The right systems and governance will support good practice and protect people who come into contact with an organisation. For us it is something that goes beyond being merely a tick-box exercise, it’s about culture, behaviour and having appropriate systems in place.

It is something that can be controlled within an organisational basis when you set the tone from when you arrive but at home, it is more difficult to control. With figures as a high as they are regarding historical abuse you look at the homestead and ask what policies can be applied which will safeguard lives. Safeguarding needs to be considered in all walks of life.

What can be done about the situation?

As much as we all understand the importance of safeguarding, we understand that barriers exist. From parents neglecting to feed their child at home to the monitoring of staff when they are out of the office as what happened with Oxfam. It could also be the forgetting of an evening pill for a resident living in a care home environment. Safeguarding is defined as;

In terms of a direct definition, safeguarding is …protecting vulnerable adults or children from abuse or neglect.

We all need to be safeguarded and this makes it a full-time consideration with different forms of abuse that can take place.

  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic violence or abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Financial or material abuse
  • Modern slavery
  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Organisational or institutional abuse
  • Neglect or acts of omission
  • self-neglect
  • exploitive use of technology
  • Spiritual abuse.

 

With such a wide range of abuse that can happen to anyone, anywhere it is a near-impossible task to protect everyone but we need to try. With more than seven billion people worldwide, safeguarding is a priority. But we don’t have the technology to predict crimes before they happen and so what can we do?

We can wallow and look to the ground, being tempted to give up, or we can look at solutions that bind together the best organisations with the best technical solutions. Often times those who have committed offences in the past slip through the net from a misdemeanour that took place at another site or place. Sharing of data could have prevented a re-offence and so being open to sharing and working together in the first place is the best place in which to start.

Working together to create a better future

It sounds like the simplest of considerations but in reality, it is something that is incredibly difficult to implement. This can be down to workplace politics and the sensitive nature of the data contained within case management systems. That was of course before the advent of the Cloud and more importantly, Cloud Native technology. Our ECLIPSE software and services platform is the personification of this development, created to work alongside processes to provide multi-agency access.

Views can be easily restricted based on the level of access required. This is relational and so if you are involved in only one case that needs your input, then the connection can be made in this manner. If on the other hand you are involved in multiple cases, then the strands can be connected in this manner. This means that organisations can quickly and easily share records across different services and this is a key challenger to the data sharing breaks that get applied.

By using a software solution such as ECLIPSE you can ensure that all organisations are consulted and involved, whilst also protecting the data of the client. Using a technology solution such as ECLIPSE to be at the heart of the organisation you can ensure that all of the veins and arteries out of it are connected effectively. Multi-agency has been talked about for years but in reality, very few organisations use it in an effective manner.

Multi-agency thinking. We cannot solve these issues alone

No organisation is an island. By starting with a piece of technology that can be integrated and utilised across different teams and locations, you can create the frame and then you add the processes. These form the day-to-day actions that define how employees at the heart of the system operate. From when to raise an issue on the system and who to send it to.

Having a clear process from when people walk through that door to the hour in which they leave ensures that people are safeguarded. A zero-tolerance culture with clear individuals for whom you can raise concerns with is key to an organisation who can say that they understand safeguarding.

The quicker that an issue can be placed on the system, the quicker that assistance can be provided. Information from the crime survey quoted within the Guardian raises the question that the one in five figure could be worse today. The figures from the survey that were quoted were from those who experienced abuse before the age of 16 but it does not measure the current level of child abuse in the country.

This sobering thought re-enforces the need for a multi-agency approach. If a report of domestic abuse is recorded at an address then it can be cross-checked against the system and information from other frontline services. Abuse is not always obvious but with as many pieces of the puzzle as possible, you can ensure the most complete picture is available. Technology is key to the process. It is the best and most efficient way in which agencies can communicate and share their information. Quicker is famously not always better but when it comes to safeguarding, time can mean lives.

Will Brexit increase the number of those who fall through the cracks?

We hope not. The funding cuts and reports of EU citizens returning home to leave Care Homes in disarray as their staff numbers, already low, have halved overnight is frightening. It’s enough to thaw and worry even the coldest of hearts. It is a potential scenario that many are worried about as with an already staggering number of vacancies on a daily basis, adult social care is understaffed. The last thing that it needs is for half of its already low staff number to quit.

If this happens then it will put additional strain on the system and force homes to have fewer people on shift at a time than they need. This will increase the potential risk of a safeguarding incident occurring. It is something that we pray does not happen as it’s a scenario that would not be limited to adult social care.

With social workers juggling more cases than the average lawyer, they are already overstretched as it is. The last thing that the system needs is to lose a grand number of those in the role. It would then force the hand of managers to reassign cases to others in the team, increasing stress and reducing the time that can be spent with each service user. No matter what technology solution you add to the heart of your operation, there is a human limit to the workload you can handle.

Safeguarding is of paramount importance and should be beholden by all, it is not something to be traded away for votes. Brexit is here and it is not leaving anytime soon. We pray that those in Westminster know what they are doing and they will consider those who are most vulnerable before proceeding with negotiations.  

To conclude

Safeguarding is of paramount importance. It should be an underlying principle of life, whether in the office, in the park or at home, it doesn’t matter. Society needs to pay attention and acknowledge the real risks that are out there and mitigate against them as much as humanly possible. We have a responsibility to take care of those unable to take care of themselves.

THE TRUE MEASURE OF ANY SOCIETY CAN BE FOUND IN HOW IT TREATS ITS MOST VULNERABLE MEMBERS’

This most famous of quotes from Mahatma Gandhi is the verbal measuring stick from where we should all view our actions. We need to do better and protect those who are deemed at risk. By utilising technology with organisational processes we can help to safeguard those most vulnerable. This is the future and what we need to act upon today to reverse the one in five trends discovered earlier this year.

We want to ensure that Brexit does not have a knock-on effect on those who are most vulnerable. Those living in a home or supported accommodating, those working through the system and those who are just looking for a helping hand. We need to work with the government and organisations responsible for caring for those in danger and ensure that they are effectively safeguarded.

*Figures taken from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/14/fifth-of-adults-in-england-and-wales-abused-as-children-figures-suggest?CMP=share_btn_tw