Safeguarding Children And Vulnerable Adults


Safeguarding in the UK is a term that denotes measures to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals. This allows especially children, young people and vulnerable adults to live free from abuse, harm and neglect.

Adult safeguarding is defined under the Care Act 2014 which was the most significant change in social law for 60 years when it was implemented. Abuse, harm or neglect in any shape or form must be identified and managed appropriately to ensure it can be stopped or reduce the likelihood of it occurring again.

Safeguarding is everyone’s business and healthcare professionals have a responsibility to report concerns to the right authority. It’s important that all business leaders and industry stakeholders understand the importance of safeguarding and work together to ensure a safer tomorrow.

Statistics For Abuse And Safeguarding

According to the Safeguarding Adults report from NHS Digital, between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, there were 394,655 concerns of abuse. This number includes concerns about suspected abuse or neglect against adults which has increased from 364,605 in 2016-17.

During that time period, the most common risk in Section 42 enquiries was ‘Neglect’ and ‘Acts of Omission’. They actually accounted for 32.1% of risks where the most common location of the abuse was their own homes with 43.5%. They identified a risk in 68.5% of Section 42 enquiries and subsequently took appropriate action.

A Section 42 Safeguarding enquiry is often much more likely to occur with older people. In fact, the difference is significant; one in every 43 adults older than 85 and one in every 862 adults aged 18-64. All of this information is based on data collected from councils responsible for adult social services.

Read the full report here

Care And Support From Local Authorities

It is essential that laws explain when local authorities will provide people with care and support to ensure that it happens fairly and consistently. Local authorities should be more involved as they play a vital role in offering care and support. Read more about the Care Act 2014.

The Government’s document ‘Working Together To Safeguard Children’ define what safeguarding for children looks like and reminds us that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. In the UK alone, there are some notable statistics from 2018 including:

  • more police-recorded child sexual offences
  • an increase in child cruelty and neglect offences across the UK except for Scotland
  • increased number of children on child protection plans and registers

NSPCC And Child Protection Laws

With the Government’s commitment to implement online child protection laws in 2018, the NSPCC wants the legislation to include the following:

  • social media companies should follow a consistent set of minimum safeguarding standards
  • ensure that social media platforms report how they keep children safe
  • implement consequences if social platforms don’t follow the set of safeguarding rules
  • ensure that social media platforms take proactive steps in preventing exposure to illegal content and behaviour

For more information on the 2018 policy, you can download the PDF.

Child Abuse

Because abuse often takes place hidden from plain sight, it cab be difficult to spot. As a result, it is very hard to accurately determine how many children actually suffer from abuse. In many cases, adults in the child’s life don’t recognise the signs and sometimes the child is too young, too scared or too ashamed to tell anyone. Many children don’t say anything as they are afraid of the consequences or because they don’t know who to speak to or how to tell someone.

In 2018 there was a 16% rise in the number of police recorded child sexual offences across the UK. Worryingly, offences of this nature have been steadily increasing over the last five years. In addition, there were more than 3,000 reported crimes of people contacting children indecently since April 2017. Fact is, nearly a quarter of young people who are active online were contacted by an adult they did not know.

Source: Bentley, H. et al (2018) How safe are our children? The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK 2018. London: NSPCC.

Types Of Abuse

Abuse can happen to men, women or children ranging from physical, emotional and sexual abuse to neglect and financial abuse. Some types of abuse include honour-based violence, slavery, radicalisation, child sexual exploitation, institutional and organisational abuse. Female genital mutilation also falls under the umbrella of abuse.

All social care and healthcare workers, including pharmacy teams, have a legal obligation to contact the police if they see any signs of FGM in a girl under 18 or if a child or young person tells them they have had FGM. Here is a detailed guide on female genital mutilation (FGM) for all individuals and organisations involved in England and Wales.

Doing nothing is never an option and you should always say something if you see something. It is important to remember that no single person has the whole picture and that your observations, together with those of others, will enable a more complete picture. Such combined efforts may help prevent abuse of a child or a vulnerable adult.

Social Responsibility Of Healthcare Professionals

The regulatory body for all pharmacists, technicians and pharmacies in the UK is the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). They set the standards for registered pharmacies which cover a wide range of topics and important guidelines. Here is a downloadable PDF about the 5 Principles: ‘Standards For Registered Pharmacies June 2018

Training For Safeguarding

As a healthcare professional you need to understand your responsibilities and what actions you should take if you suspect anything. Every pharmacy should have a safeguarding lead and all team members should receive appropriate training.

Pharmacists and Technicians should complete level 2 training in ‘Safeguarding Children And Vulnerable Adults’ while the rest of the team need to do level 1. These training courses are available from CPPE to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. It also helps team members become aware of what constitutes abuse and what to do if they suspect anything.

To provide further support, VirtualOutcomes monthly training released on 1st of June also covers level 1 safeguarding. If you’d like to keep informed on all the latest news, keep reading our blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.