The National Independent Safeguarding Board was set up under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. Specifically, the National Board has three primary duties. These are:
1. To provide support and advice to Safeguarding Boards with a view to ensuring that they are effective
2. To report on the adequacy and effectiveness of arrangements to safeguard children and adults in Wales
3. To make recommendations to the Welsh Ministers as to how those arrangements could be improved (S.132 (2)).
The regulations made under the 2014 Act set out the way in which the National Board must exercise its functions. An important function is the requirement to consult with those who may be affected by arrangements to safeguard children and adults in Wales.1
The National Board works on a part-time basis. Its six members are expected to work at least a day a month on National Board matters.
The 2014 Act provides the statutory objectives of the Safeguarding Boards, that is, in relation to children:
1. “To protect children within its area who are experiencing, or are at risk of, abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm, and
2. To prevent children from within its area becoming at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm” (S.135 (1))
and in relation to adults:
a. “To protect adults within its area who –
(i). Have needs for care and support (whether or not a local authority is meeting any of those needs), and
(ii). Are experiencing, or are at risk of, abuse or neglect, and
b. To prevent those adults within its area … from becoming at risk of abuse or neglect” (S.135 (2)).
The 2014 Act also states that a Safeguarding Board, “must seek to achieve its objectives by coordinating and ensuring the effectiveness of what is done by each person or body represented on the Board” (S.135 (3)); to set out its proposals for achieving its objectives at the beginning of each financial year (S.136 (1)); and “co-operate with the National Board and…supply the National Board with any information it requests” (S.139 (1)).
Each Safeguarding Board is expected to identify and benchmark the areas of practice which require improvement. The statutory guidance states that one of the functions of the Safeguarding Boards is “to review the training needs of those practitioners working in the area of the Board in order to identify training activities and to provide and to ensure training is provided on an interagency and individual organisational basis to assist in the protection and prevention of abuse and neglect of children and adults at risk of harm in the area of the Board” (para.113 (j)).
In relation to the Safeguarding Boards, the role of the National Board is advisory only. It is neither supervisory nor hierarchical. The National Board is however aware of the challenges facing Safeguarding Boards:
In due course the National Board’s Annual Reports will include information about the work and outcomes achieved by the Safeguarding Children Boards and the Safeguarding Adult Boards. However, since these Boards are not required to publish their Annual Reports until July 2017, the National Board will take the opportunity in the interim to highlight the implications of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 for safeguarding through the following:
a. definitions of abuse, neglect, harm and risk
b. the potential of safeguarding
c. the Social Services and Well-Being Act 2014, the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 and the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015
d. the interface of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and with (i) the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
This knowledge base will enhance the recommendations which the National Board will be able to make to Welsh Ministers on the adequacy and effectiveness of the safeguarding arrangements and whether or not these could be improved.
The 2014 Act identifies “protection from abuse and neglect” as an essential element of well-being (S.2). It defines abuse in S.197 as “physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial…(and includes abuse taking place in any setting, whether in a private dwelling, an institution or any other place), and ‘financial abuse’ includes –
a. Having money or other property stolen;
b. Being defrauded;
c. Being put under pressure in relation to money or other property;
d. Having money or other property misused.”
Examples of each type of abuse and neglect are set out in the statutory guidance (para. 26).
S.197 defines neglect as “a failure to meet a person’s basic physical, emotional, social or psychological needs, which is likely to result in an impairment of the person’s well-being (for example, an impairment of the person’s health, or in the case of a child, an impairment of the child’s development.”
The definitions of abuse and neglect apply to both children and adults.
The avoidance of harm is also crucial to the concept of safeguarding in relation to children:
“Harm” in relation to a child means abuse or the impairment of (a) physical or mental health or (b) physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development and where the question of whether “harm” is significant turns on the child’s health or development is to be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child (S.197).
A “child at risk” is “a child who (a) is experiencing or is at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm, and (b) has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs” (S.130 (4)).
Section 130 imposes a “duty to report” on partner agencies in relation to a “child at risk.”
The duty to make enquiries under S.47 of the Children Act 1989 remains in force and is unaltered by the 2014 Act (S.130 (6)).
Section 126 (2) of the 2014 Act requires a local authority to make enquiries and decide whether any action should be taken if it has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult within its area is at risk. An adult at risk is defined as one “who (a) is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect, (b) has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs) and, (c) as a result is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it” (S.126 (1)).
A “duty to report” is imposed on partner agencies where there is reasonable cause to suspect that an adult may be at risk (S.128).
The 2014 Act makes no reference to “eligibility criteria” or “thresholds” in relation to risk. This is deliberate. The varieties of abuse are so considerable it is possible that some examples would fall outside tightly prescribed criteria.
The National Board recognises that the requirement to prevent harm is one of the most difficult of all human activities. For example, research by Public Health Wales3 shows that abuse is associated with a spectrum of longer term disruption ranging from the milder symptoms of distress through to substance misuse problems, mental health challenges and suicide. It follows that the consequences of abuse reach beyond individual suffering and have considerable human and economic costs. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in public awareness of different types of abuse and more recently, child sexual exploitation, trafficking, scamming and coercive control are becoming part of our vocabulary. That is, as the public perception of these terms becomes greater so the expectations of safeguarding also increase and a realistic approach is required. The disclosure of individuals’ expressing concern, plus professional cooperation, are both essential to make safeguarding effective. Also essential is the gathering of data concerning people’s experience of harm – even though its significance and impact is limited to that which is known.
The media has made a considerable contribution in revealing the extent of different forms of abuse by promoting awareness of the context of abuse and neglect such as:
However, these are partial glimpses of the complete picture. We have to rely on professionals to provide the fuller context. The role of gathering and sieving facts and establishing their reliability must be for the police, lawyers, regulators, coroners, researchers, health professionals and social care professionals. Examples of valuable interventions which have had positive consequences include:
However, others have also made valuable contributions to the gathering and sieving of facts:
More recently in Wales:
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) chaired by Professor Alex Jay has now opened its Wales office. Through its Truth Project, Public Hearings Project and Research Project it will carry out an investigation into past and present failings by institutions to protect children from sexual abuse. It will hold those responsible to account, and make recommendations to protect future generations of children.
Such developments and shifts in the safeguarding landscape have more than curiosity value. They point to positive impacts for individuals and professional practice and they map very closely onto the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act.
The 2014 Act came into full force on 6 April 2016. It repealed or dis-applied the pre-existing community care legislation in Wales.10
The intention of the 2014 Act is to integrate social services to support people of all ages, and support people as part of families and communities – the “people” approach. It is intended to transform the way social services are delivered, primarily through promoting people’s independence to give them a stronger voice and control. It is expected that the integration and simplification of the law will provide greater consistency and clarity to people who use social services, their carers, local authority staff, their partner organisations, the court and the judiciary. The stated intention of the Act is to promote equality, improvements in the quality of services and the provision of information people receive. There is to be a shared focus on prevention and early intervention. The 2014 Act concentrates on delivering outcomes for individuals and improving the individual’s well-being. As part of that new scheme, the new duties to report adults and children at risk – S.126 and S.130 – are brought into being, as are the new Adult Protection and Support Orders – S.127. New Safeguarding Adult Boards and Safeguarding Children Boards are formed, the National Independent Safeguarding Board is introduced and new duties are imposed to ensure co-operation between agencies.11 Safeguarding is intended to be improved by the implementation of these sections. Nothing within the Act is intended to undermine or detract from duties and powers in other legislative schemes which are designed to protect children and adults.12
That is, the protective provisions of the Children Act 1989 remain in force and the remaining provisions of the Children Act 1989 co-exist with the 2014 Act.13 A child who is in need of protection under the Children Act 1989 may also be a child in need of care and support under Parts 3 and 4 of the 2014 Act. Equally the duties and functions of Welsh social services authorities to all looked after and accommodated children are prescribed by Part 6 of the 2014 Act.
In Wales strategic laws have been implemented which are intended to change the way we think as a Nation and to improve the well-being of the populace of Wales. The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 is now in force. It is intended that the 2015 Act will make the public bodies listed in the Act think more about the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and adopt a more joined-up approach. This will mean that public bodies must do what they do in a sustainable way. Public bodies when making decisions must take into account the impact they could have on people living their lives in Wales in the future. Hence when, for example, a local authority considers building new schools or recreation facilities or closing libraries, it must now consider not simply the immediate needs of the community it serves but its future needs. The intention is to ensure that the plans made by public bodies improve the future well-being of those who live in Wales.
How Wales responds to abuse and violence is legislated for in the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015. This Act does not alter the criminal law. However, the Act aims to improve the Public Sector response in Wales to abuse against women, and to improve arrangements to promote awareness of, and prevent, protect and support victims of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. It introduces a needs–based approach to developing strategies which aim to ensure strong strategic direction and strengthened accountability in relation to such acts through the appointment of a Ministerial Adviser whose role involves advising Welsh Ministers and improving joint working amongst agencies across this sector. Joined up service provision is intended to ensure consistency and quality of service provision throughout Wales.
This new Welsh legislation, together with the 2014 Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, emphasises a shift in Wales towards meeting the well-being outcomes of individuals and improving the well-being of the nation as a whole. Whether in terms of the well-being of the individual or when looking at the populace as a whole, at the heart of well-being is the need to safeguard adults and children.
1 Regulation 7 of The National Independent Safeguarding Board (Wales) (No.2) Regulations 2015
2 That is the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, and the Minister for Social Services and Public Health
3 http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/news/40000 (accessed 26 October 2016)
4 http://www.college.police.uk/News/Newsletter/January2015/Documents/CoP_AE_Guidance_report_final.pdf (accessed 12 August 2016)
5 www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ3Jkq8QlF8 (accessed 5 July)
6 www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx0-A6jqFWA&app=desktop (accessed 5 July 2016). In this interview, Gwyneth Swain, the mother of Kim Buckley (aged 46), the grandmother of Kayleigh (aged 17) and the great grandmother of Kimberley (age 6 months) explains that her granddaughter met her partner online and that the family knew nothing of his violent history. He controlled her granddaughter and became jealous of their baby. He set fire to their home and watched as efforts to save Kim, Kayleigh and Kimberley were unsuccessful. Gwyneth’s message to services was “Ask how you can help”
7 Bentley, H., O’Hagan, O, Raff, A. and Bhatti, I. (2016) How safe are our children? London: NSPCC
8 http://www.hafal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/A-report-by-young-people-on-their-well-being-and-mental-health.pdf (accessed 23 October 2016)
9 Professor Mark Bellis and colleagues
10 Parts 3 and 4 of the National Assistance Act 1948 • Section 3 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1958 • Section 45 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968 • Sections 1, 2 and 28A of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 • Section 17 of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 • Sections 3, 4 and 8 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 • Section 46 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 (NB section 47 of the 1990 Act is being amended so that it does not apply to assessing and meeting needs for community care services in so far as this is now provided for in the 2014 Act but it will continue to apply to assessing and meeting needs for services under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983) • Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 • Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 • Sections 49, 50, 54, 56 and 57 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 • Section 16 of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc) Act 2003 • Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 • Section 192 of and Schedule 15 to the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 • Personal Care at Home Act 2010 • Social Care Charges (Wales) Measure 2010 • Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010 (NB this is being repealed as a consequence of the provisions in section 14 of the 2014 Act which require local authorities and Local Health Boards to carry out assessments of the needs of their local population, including the needs of carers).
11 See S.167 “Resources for partnership arrangements” for example
12 The Regulations made under the 2014 Act repeal Sections 31 – 34 of the Children Act 2004. The 2014 Act repealed Part III and Schedule 2 of the Children Act 1989 in Wales (although they remain in force in England). Nothing within the 2014 Act has any significant impact on the remainder of the 1989 Act. In particular, nothing alters the protective provisions of the Children Act 1989 found principally in Parts IV and V of the 1989 Act. Section 47 Children Act remains in force – as do Sections 31 and 44 of the 1989 Act.
13 Part III of the Children Act 1989 no longer applies in Wales