Safeguarding / Homelessness

If you work with vulnerable adults, you will probably have done adult safeguarding training as part of your induction, and you probably have to demonstrate an understanding of how to recognise and respond to reports of abuse to even get your job in the first place. Many organisational polices state they take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to abuse. This is a good thing. We do it because as a society we have collectively decided we will not tolerate abuse, whether it concerns children or adults.

If, as a professional, you become aware that an adult who may be vulnerable is being abused and might not be able to protect themselves, you can alert the council. In fact, multi-agency safeguarding policies dictate that you must do so. These multi-agency policies have, in part, resulted from high profile cases like Winterbourne View.

Alerting the council obliges it to carry out enquiries into whether any action is needed to respond to the apparent abuse. The fancy term is Section 42 enquiries, the section number refers to the Care Act 2014, and it means councils have an obligation to carry out the enquiries and issue a written decision about the council’s response to the abuse. In our experience, councils do this all the time. We’ve never seen a council not do this.

So far, this hopefully shouldn’t be too controversial. Professionals make safeguarding referrals regularly, and it often results in risk to vulnerable people reducing. It’s become part of our everyday practice, and it can have a powerfully positive effect.

Now…

If, as a professional, you become aware that someone is homeless and wants help, you can alert the council. Sadly though, there is no multi-agency policy dictating that you must – perhaps people suffering serious harm and even dying whilst homeless doesn’t seem to become high profile enough to spark change.

Alerting the council obliges it to carry out enquiries into whether any action is needed to respond to the apparent homelessness. The fancy term is Section 184 enquiries, the section number refers to the Housing Act 1996, and it means councils have an obligation to carry out the enquiries and issue a written decision about the council’s response to the homelessness. In our experience, in stark contrast to s.42 safeguarding enquiries, it can require significant effort to ensure the s.184 homelessness enquiries are even undertaken, let alone result in the action that it should, yet both concern symmetrical legal obligations.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if we, as a collection of professionals, or even just as a society, tolerated homelessness like we tolerate abuse – that is to say, have zero tolerance.

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