Key to effective safeguarding

SAW 23 Questioning and challenging

Pete Morgan is the ‘Independent Scrutineer’ on Advance’s Safeguarding Panel. He is a registered social worker who has been specialising in adult safeguarding for the past 20 years. His role on the Panel is all about making sure the way we safeguard our customers is as effective as it can be.

We asked him to share his views on Safeguarding customers at Advance.


Pete, can you tell us what your understanding of safeguarding is?

P: I think one of the problems with safeguarding as a term is it can be seen in a very broad way.  Yes, safeguarding is about making sure that people are safe.  But the focus of safeguarding the Care Act is actually responding to situations of possible or actual abuse or neglect of people.

So as part of dealing with possible abuse or neglect, we have to make sure that the services we provide are safe and that people are kept safe, but safeguarding as a process actually comes in when something goes wrong with that and you have to put special actions into place to prevent abuse or neglect carrying on.

It is also about supporting people who have been abused or neglected long-term, to deal with the effects of what has happened to them. This could often be about helping someone come to terms with the fact that somebody they knew and trusted – loved even – has done this to them.  That brings up all kinds of complex issues, and our approach to safeguarding has to build in processes to manage and support people with this.


What is the focus of Safeguarding week this year?

Safeguarding this week is slightly different from previous years: it’s all about how you can prioritise the welfare and well-being of yourself and others. And I think that's important because it actually puts some of the emphasis on staff as well as customers.

If we want staff to support our customers, they need to have the support they need to do safeguarding well.  It’s also important to recognise that staff who have had to deal with a safeguarding incident may well be adversely affected by the experience and may also need longer-term support to come to terms with what has happened.

The whole point, it seems to me, of social care provision, is about enabling people with social care needs to have as much control as possible over their lives.  To make decisions about how they live and where they live, and ultimately to take risks.  Because you and I will take risks: whether that’s going on a ride at Alton Towers, or telling someone you love them… it’s part of the human experience.

If we're going to enable people to take managed risks, then we need to give staff the confidence and firm foundations so they feel empowered to make those decisions at an individual customer level.

And that's got to mean that you can't operate purely by procedure. You’ve got to have procedures and practises which set parameters, but allow flexibility to make decisions about what is in the best interest – what best safeguards and what best enables – the person they are working with.

OK, so how does Advance as an organisation help staff to do that?

Firstly, if we are going to do things in an individual way for the customer, we have to make sure we have policies and procedures that give some leeway.

Then we need to provide the appropriate support and training to staff to enable them to do that in a way which they feel comfortable with, because this approach exposes staff to an element of risk.

A really important part of this is being able to reflect on your practise.  It’s giving staff the tools and confidence to be able to stop and consider, “When I did this, what I was I doing?, why?, and could I do it better or different?”   It’s easy to get into a rut and end up doing things because ‘that’s how we always do it.’ But that will not produce the best outcome for customers. So being able to challenge ourselves, challenge others and challenge the way things are done is so important.

Ultimately, it's about creating the right culture, where bringing a challenge or asking questions is not frowned upon but actively encouraged.