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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

'All housing organisations need adult safeguarding specialists'


Independent consultant and trainer Imogen Parry looks at the complex issue of adult safeguarding in the latest in our series of blogs on the skills the housing industry needs to be fit for the future.

Imogen ParryMy recent studies on the two year part-time MA degree in Safeguarding adults: law, policy and practice at Keele University have brought home to me just how complex adult safeguarding is.   As I said in my article in the CIH skills anthology ‘Learning today, leading tomorrow’, this relatively new phenomenon raises a range of ethical, legal, political, policy and practice issues that defy over-simplification. 

I have just submitted my MA dissertation research on ‘Adult serious case reviews: lessons for housing providers’.  Adult Serious Case Reviews (SCRs - to be renamed Safeguarding Adults Reviews under the Care Bill) are commissioned by Safeguarding Adults Boards when there are concerns about adult protection failures resulting in people not being adequately protected.  Their primary aim is to enable lessons to be learnt.  However, there is little evidence that many housing staff are aware of SCRs, let alone learn lessons from them.  That problem was the incentive for choosing the topic for my  research.   

From all 70 publically available SCRs, I identified 21 in which the vulnerable adults lived in social housing, split equally between specialist and  general needs accommodation, reinforcing the argument that safeguarding training should extended to ALL housing staff, not just sheltered and supported housing staff.

Nearly all of the housing-related SCRs illustrated poor adult social care (ASC) assessments of risk and capacity, contributing to the death or harm of the individuals concerned.  Housing providers were responsible in twelve cases for failing to refer abuse or hate crime into safeguarding procedures.

The reasons for this failure to refer included: a narrow, uninformed focus by the housing provider; different definitions of vulnerability; erroneous belief that consent by the victim is always necessary; incorrect assumption that evidence is needed before making an alert or referral; inadequate policies regarding service refusal and insufficient understanding of the Mental Capacity Act 2005; and poor practice in offering accommodation to victims rather than addressing the abuse through safeguarding procedures.

As a result of these and my other research findings, I now believe that housing providers should not  continue to rely on their general housing staff or on the expertise and leadership of ASC, but should appoint their own specialist safeguarding leads.  These leads would be responsible for the development and review of policies, procedures and training for all levels of staff and Board members.

The leads could ensure that national and local lessons from SCRs are disseminated via training and could also act as specialist advisors on cases, monitor referrals and assist managers and front-line staff with multi-agency working difficulties.  There are without doubt parallels with the arguments for the appointment of dementia advisors within housing organisations.

Learning today, leading tomorrow

CIH has worked with East Midlands Housing Group to produce a skills anthology called Learning today, leading tomorrow, which features contributions from experts across the industry including Imogen.  Download the anthology in full or read individual chapters

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