Did you know that 80% of carer prosecutions for abuse of vulnerable people come in homes that have never seen or experienced criminal abuse before?
However, many of these prosecutions could have been prevented by one simple change. We are two ex-police detectives who have worked in the field of vulnerable children and adults for many years, all from safeguarding and investigation standpoint coupled to which we have a passion to make a difference that would keep more vulnerable people safe.
Over a coffee one day in 2016 we discussed our considerable joint experience which highlighted our frustration that many of the cases that we had investigated could have been prevented - something that regulators, recommendations, guidance and even legislation had failed to do.
Our experience was supported by evidence in published research and reports (See www.say-so.co.uk/research-source-information/ for research and information) that after serious care failures or abuse events subsequent investigations often found that staff had some concerns or suspicions that things were going wrong but did not report it.
This represents many missed opportunities to prevent care failures or incidents of abuse and demonstrates that there is still much information concerning risk that owners and senior care managers are not accessing.
Staff are at the operational point of service!
Delivery Continuously - They know what happens, what goes on, what risks exist.
From poorly maintained equipment to a staff member who is easily 'stressed' by the challenging behaviour of a service user and on to information concerning the most serious risks or failures.
Most of the homes did have their own internal in-house reporting process however in most of the cases we investigated it was the usual story that care staff did not use the in-house reporting process because they:
- Did not have confidence that their details would be kept secure
- Feared detrimental action by their employer for speaking up
- Feared bullying/intimidation/victimisation from (some) colleagues
- Did not want to be a witness at a court/tribunal
- Faced other pressures emanating from family, relationships or financial circumstances to stay quiet to avoid bringing on problems at work
- Felt they were battling a culture of suppression of information rather than more open internal discussion about things going wrong
Additionally, in these unprecedented times of uncertainty over Brexit, many migrant care workers are also more fearful than ever of speaking up. There is a perception at least, that they are specifically vulnerable of vicitimisation.
Taking into account all of these factors we realised the magnitude of key information capable of improving services and preventing serious care failures that is not being collected.
We set about creating a solution that would overcome all the above barriers to speaking up becuase without this we are missing a huge opportunity to identify abuse early.
The most important factor is 'independence'. So many care staff have told us that they did not trust their employer to treat their information securely and carefully enough but they would be willing to report if the system stood aside from their employer.
The independent reporting service would need to employ safeguarding professionals who are skilled and experienced at managing information securely (up to government 'Top Secret' level). Techniques would be required to enable reports given anonymously or confidentially to be passed to care providers without the reporter being identified through deduction or through detailed knowledge of the operations of the care company. All of this would be behind a secure website that offers online reporting in addition to telephone reporting where people can take time to explain their concerns.
On top of this, building confidence of care staff in the service was key - so the need for visiting each care facility and engaging with staff to familiarise/train and build trust would be a vital element of the service.
It was with all the above in mind we formed our company Say So that would provide an independent out-sourced facility for a care operator's staff to report any concern that they felt they could not report in the normal way.
Important risk information is now being accessed that would not have been available before and gradually the message is getting out there to care providers. This is not rocket science! - It makes really good business sense , potentially saving care providers significant unnecessary costs through fines or claims settlements and by decreasing staff turnover! It also attracts positive assessment from CQC.
Ultimately, care providers must ask 'are we doing enough to raise standards and prevent or deter abuse of the vulnerable?'
The one simple change of employing an independent reporting solution can therefore, help care providers identify issues early, give additional confidence to all staff and help demonstrate to the regulator the importance an operator gives to this key issue.
We would be grateful for any feedback from care professionals and care service owners on this topic to firstname.lastname@example.org
Shaun Keep and Paul Adams - Founding Directors - Say So Ltd
And here we are receiving our award for 'Inspirational in Care' from Care Campaign for the Vulnerable