The report-taker requires enough information to:
establish whether immediate action may be necessary to ensure that the adult at risk, other adults and/or children at risk are safe from harm;
identify whether there is a possible criminal offence which requires the involvement of the police;
identify with the report-maker how and why concerns have arisen and the nature of any other concerns;
establish whether the adult at risk has care and support needs;
clarify whether consent has been obtained and if not why not;
consider the mental capacity of the adult at risk.
If the report is being made by a member of the public then they may not have much information. However, it is important to elicit as much detail as possible regarding:
the cause for concern and the nature of the evidence to support these concerns;
any factual information they may have about the adult at risk. For example, name, address.
The initial checks should consist of:
ensuring information provided by the report-maker has been recorded accurately;
consideration of information held in any existing social services records on the adult at risk, the carers and past involvement by services. (Where a report is received about an adult at risk already known to social services, a great deal of information may already be available);
establishing whether other adults or children are at risk;
confirming that consent to the report has been obtained and if not why not; (See obtaining consent for a report)
clarifying with the report-maker if police have been informed if a crime is suspected.
Repeated reports may be received, for example from the adult at risk, family members, friends or neighbours. In these situations:
each report should be responded to in line with these procedures without prejudice;
enquiries should be undertaken to establish whether the adult at risk and/or others are at risk of abuse or neglect and the measures required to protect them from further abuse;
every report must be recorded alongside the outcome.
On occasion repeated unfounded reports may be made and further enquiries may not be in the best interests of the adult at risk. When this occurs the decision not to make further enquiries and the reasons for this should be recorded after discussion with the line-manager.
For example, an adult with physical disabilities has a large family, and is being cared for by a relative. The adult is repeatedly being reported to social services by the other members of the family who regard the care he receives as neglectful. The adult is deemed to have capacity, and regularly advises his social worker that the allegations about his carer are malicious and made by family members who do not get on with him and the carer. Moreover, there is no evidence of neglect. Regular meetings have been held between the adult considered to be at risk, the social worker and his family. The adult with physical disabilities finds the process distressing and tedious. Consequently, when a further report is made a decision is taken by social services not to make any further enquiries.
At the end of any discussion about an adult at risk, both the social services report-taker and the practitioner making the report should be clear about:
proposed initial action;
who will be taking this action/roles and responsibilities;
what the adult at risk and others will be told about the report, when and by which agency.
All decisions should be recorded by social services using locally agreed formats.
Where a report is made to social services by telephone, the person making the report should confirm the report in writing within 24 hours. Once the written report has been received by social services, the person making the report should receive an acknowledgement within 7 working days. If they do not receive this, they should always contact social services again.
Anyone making a report of abuse or neglect about an adult at risk should be made aware that any subsequent enquiries might be conducted either jointly by the police and social services or as single agency (social services) enquiries.
Where social services decide not to take further action under s.126(2)(b) of the Social Services and Well-being Act (Wales) 2014 or re-directs the case to other sources of support that is more suitable, information, advice and assistance, feedback on the decision and the reasons for making it should be provided to the practitioner making the report.
Contacting the police following a report
The report-taker should contact the police immediately if the case reported constitutes, or may constitute, a criminal offence against an adult at risk. Examples when this should be considered include possible:
Physical or sexual assault
Unlawful imprisonment and trafficking
Theft and fraud
Certain types of discrimination
Neglect or abuse by a paid professional working in regulated settings
(This is not an exhaustive list)
If in doubt as to whether a criminal offence has been committed, contact the police for clarification regarding police involvement.
Outside usual office hours, reports can be made to the social services out of hours service emergency duty team (EDT) or to the police.
All reports made to social services must be communicated by the out of hours staff (in writing and if possible also orally) to the relevant social services team the following day, together with the action taken.
In receiving the out of office hours report, the social worker or police officer must:
be alert to any indications of immediate risk to the adult at risk, other adults at risk or children and must be prepared to take urgent action to ensure their safety. This may include medical attention
make a joint decision as to what action, if any, is necessary to secure the immediate safety of the adult at risk. This should include a strategy discussion that records the agreed actions and the person responsible for carrying them out. The strategy discussion out of hours may need to be undertaken by the emergency duty team social worker and a senior police officer. The practitioners should complete the relevant documentation in accordance with local protocols.
The emergency duty team social worker should check for information on the adult at risk held by the local authority social services and make any other checks possible out of hours but recognise these may be limited.
Being unable to make other checks should not prevent taking any necessary action to safeguard the adult at risk.
Arrangements should be in place for social workers to access legal advice out of hours.
Some reports will indicate that immediate protection and urgent action is required because the reported information identifies that an adult at risk, and potentially other adults and children, are at risk and need immediate protection. In these circumstances, agencies with the relevant protection powers (social services or the police) or with service responsibility (health or emergency services) must act quickly to secure the individual’s and others’ immediate safety.
For example: a woman with dementia is receiving support from her husband. Her husband has previously refused external support for his wife, but it has been acknowledged that he is suffering extreme stress in caring for her. Today, neighbours have heard him shouting at his wife and making statements that he will have to end things for both of them. He has tried to commit suicide previously, in his 60s when he suffered from depression after retiring. He has refused to allow the neighbours access to the house and merely shouts out that everything is ok when they call at the door. Bearing in mind his history and the extreme stress he is under currently, immediate action is required to protect the adult at risk and secure her immediate safety.