The role of the voluntary and community sector in safeguarding in Lewisham

Guest blog: Martin Crow, Business Manager for Lewisham Safeguarding Adults Board        

The word safeguarding is still most commonly used to describe when something has happened to an adult at risk of abuse and neglect, referring to the ‘duties’ to stop abuse, which  has a legal effect on a range of organisations, including the Local Authority, Police and the NHS. 
The safeguarding duties 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
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.
Of course the principle of protection is a crucial part of the overall adult safeguarding framework, but it is arguably not the most important. When the Care Act came into force on the 1st April 2015 it was designed to ensure that prevention had a greater influence on the overall continuum of adult safeguarding practice, which is captured in this section of the  Care Act statutory Guidance (14.7): 
Adult safeguarding – what it is and why it matters    
It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is promoted including, where appropriate, having regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action.
I think this is where the voluntary and community sector can play a significant role across Lewisham and although the criteria around the safeguarding duties should still be born in mind to help prioritise our efforts, the audience for prevention initiatives should be as broad as possible, including under 18’s where this is suitable and applicable. 
What can staff and volunteers in the voluntary and community sector (as well as members of the general public) proactively do to help prevent adult abuse and neglect?
1. Work together in partnership. No single agency or person can obviously hope to make a difference in isolation. We must continue to build the ‘whole community approach’ towards preventing abuse and neglect, and collectively pool our efforts for the common good. The Lewisham Safeguarding Adults Board has a pivotal role to play in facilitating this approach.   
2. Help eliminate loneliness and isolation. This can affect any person of any age and is likely to be a significant underpinning cause of many forms of adult abuse, including self-neglect, which can result in some of the most serious cases. We must build capacity and services around this subject, inspire local communities to seek out the most isolated, and encourage individuals to broaden their networks of support. 
3. Signpost and promote support services. There are some invaluable services in Lewisham, across London and nationally that offer help to adults linked to all kinds of different issues. Early help can make a big difference, but all too often adults don’t know of services that are sometimes literally on their doorsteps.
4. Have a voice. Talk, network, generate debate, share and build resources, be a Safeguarding Champion. 
5. Think family. By helping to prevent adult abuse in households this will also help to prevent children from being victims, and vice versa. Don’t see safeguarding in age related separate domains, ‘think family’.    
The voluntary sector is integrated with and connected to people across Lewisham in many different ways, and as such should and does play such an integral role in the safeguarding agenda. By helping to develop the ‘whole community approach’ to prevention, the sector can demonstrate real leadership and make a difference to the lives of people in the Borough. 
Martin Crow: Business Manager, Lewisham Safeguarding Adults Board        

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