Councils’ safeguarding duties under the Care Act, apply to an adult who: has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs); is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect.
Safeguarding is a responsibility without it being a duty to ensure that nobody is ever harmed by themselves or others; the essence of it is probing, gently, and in a person centred way, to see if all is well, as if one was doing an assessment of need, and sometimes even though one is not being permitted to intervene. So it is a function that runs parallel to assessment and care planning, and which sometimes have to be discharged separately.
A council in receipt of a referral can’t just ignore it; and neither they come to conclusions without taking the views of the person affected, into account. Councils’ staff need to explain what they’re worried about, and to do that, someone has to go out and engage, to see if the statutory threshold for even initiating any formal enquiry is even arguably met. There is no threshold of significant harm any longer: a s42 investigation can be a few minutes’ conversation or a full-blown and formal investigation. The only threshold is being a person with care and support needs which make the person unable to protect themselves and being thought to be someone who may be at risk of abuse or neglect – those words themselves, abuse and neglect, being important parameters for consideration. Not all harm signifies ‘neglect’, whereas a pattern of it may well do so; not all upset connotes ‘abuse’.
Few LGO reports provide compensation for mental or physical HARM, focusing on distress and inconvenience; however sometimes where the poor social work or commissioning has led to harm, the LGO considers it necessary to reflect that. This generally happens when a person did not receive the services that were intended to provide protection, or, if they received those services so late that harm resulted.
A deprivation of liberty occurs when: “The person is under continuous supervision and control and is not free to leave, and the person lacks capacity to consent to these arrangements” (P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and another and P and Q v Surrey County Council). Once there is, or is likely to be, a deprivation of liberty, it must be authorised under the DoLS scheme in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 or a community DoL order from the High Court, by consent or otherwise. There must be a request and an authorisation before a person is lawfully deprived of his or her liberty.
The LGO has recently started awarding compensation for poor delivery of the DoLS safeguards, especially where the council has misread the ADASS prioritisation guidance.