Carers have a wealth of information and knowledge about the person that they support. As well as raising concerns, carers are able to support safeguarding enquiries by sharing information and are valued partners in such enquiries. Their views may hold the key to protecting people. If a carer speaks up about abuse or neglect, it is essential that they are listened to and appropriate enquiries are made. Carers may identify and mitigate risk and act as advocates.
Where the adult lacks capacity, carers may reasonably provide professionals with the outcome they consider the adult would want, as they know the person’s likes and dislikes, what relationships are important to them and what relationships they may find difficult. However, any assessment may need to take into account conflicting views, and the need for independent advocacy, as carers may not want the same outcome as the adult they are supporting.
In respect of young carers, Section 1 of the Care Act 2014, alongside Section 96 and Section 97 of the Children and Families Act 2014, provides a legal framework to identify young carers and parent carers and their support needs. Both Acts have a strong emphasis on outcomes and wellbeing.
Carers play a significant role in preventing the need for services and it is important that professionals consider preventing carers from developing needs for care and support themselves. Strategies that support carers to continue to care should take carer resilience into account. Partnership working between, health, social care and carers groups is one way of working effectively to ensure that prevention strategies reduce the incidents of safeguarding and support carers to carry out their duties safely.
Information and Advice
Carers need to know how they can find support and services available in their area and be able to access advice and information. This access to information and advice should be in a way that is meaningful to them and they may themselves be in need of care and support and need to know how they can access services.
“If a carer experiences intentional or unintentional harm from the adult they are supporting, or if a carer unintentionally or intentionally harms or neglects the adult they support, consideration should be given to whether, as part of the assessment and support planning process for the carer and, or, the adult they care for, support can be provided that removes or mitigates the risk of abuse.” (Statutory Guidance 14.35). One way of assessing individual need is a carer’s assessment, which is distinct from a needs assessment.
Carers also need to know that they can raise a concern in a safe environment and be confident that their concerns will be acted upon.
It might be that people are unaware that the actions that they take could be perceived by others as abusive. For example, someone with a learning disability entitled to state benefits to meet their living expenses, and to have money as part of their access to leisure and other personal requirements may have this controlled by a family member. Families who view individual benefits as part of the family income may not view their actions as abusive, but where the adult they are supporting has little or no choice about how their money is spent, this could be seen as financial abuse by others.
Where carers may have acted in a way that constitutes abuse staff should respond according to adult safeguarding procedures so that the adult is safeguarded appropriately. Whilst there may be mitigating circumstances to take into consideration, the wellbeing and safety of the adult should be paramount. Professionals need to be candid with carers about the risks that a carer’s assessment may identify for either preventing the need for safeguarding to them, or preventing the risk of the carer abusing the person that they are caring for
Whole family assessments might also be considered using the framework of ‘Think Family’.
In some instances, the most appropriate person to support the adult at risk and act as an advocate is the primary carer. Where the carer is acting in the role of advocate, they may need support to do so, therefore professionals need to provide information and ensure that it is understood. The carer themselves may be in need of an advocate. Assumptions should not be made about carers acting as advocates or being in need of advocacy, and each case should take account of the personal circumstances.
The Role of Carers in Strategic Planning
There are two key areas that should take account of carers in safeguarding strategic plans. First, SABs should ensure their policies, procedures and practice recognise the need to support carers and also to work with carers who are experiencing or causing harm or abuse. Second, SABs should engage with carers and local stakeholders and work together for better safeguarding practice.