Safeguarding people sleeping rough: developing practice from lessons learned
Blog posted by: Jo Prestidge, Tuesday, 16 November 2021.
During Safeguarding Adult’s Week 2021, we are pleased to share a new resource based on the learning and recommendations from Safeguarding Adults Reviews, and refreshed resources on the legal frameworks to protect those at risk, so that we can work together to reduce serious harm and death of those sleeping rough.
Although I left frontline homelessness services several years ago, I still remember the feelings of worry, frustration and sadness that came with trying to support people living in unsafe situations and experiencing significant risk. Supporting individuals who had spent many years sleeping rough, I witnessed the suffering that comes with neglect and self-neglect, impaired capacity and exclusion from services.
Maybe I am not alone in feeling that, as a homelessness practitioner, my observations and experiences of working with individuals in these circumstances were not taken seriously by other services. Referrals sometimes went unanswered and misunderstandings about homelessness and complex needs could often blur how behaviours were understood by those with less experience of working with our client group. The phrase “lifestyle choice” was something I heard too often.
Although some of those I supported did pass away, I was never involved in a formal review of what had happened and what could have been done to reduce the risk of serious harm or death. And this isn’t surprising. Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SARs) were only introduced through the Care Act in 2014, and the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy (2018), describes how they were rarely used in cases of people who slept rough. Learning about what statutory and voluntary sector agencies could do to prevent harm and death of people sleeping rough, and the lessons and examples of good practice, were being missed.
The Strategy set an intention to work with Safeguarding Adults Boards to ensure that SARs were used in circumstances of people sleeping rough who met the criteria. 48 reviews are known to have been undertaken providing the best evidence we have to drive positive practice. Our new resource summarises the learning from the reviews and recommendations for improved practice, and was discussed in more detail by the author in a recent webinar.
However looking back at my experiences as a frontline worker, I now also realise how ill equipped I was to effectively make referrals and advocate for those that needed more support than I could provide. Despite having safeguarding training, I don’t think I had the skills and knowledge to frame my concerns in a way that could be fully understood by busy colleagues in statutory services. And I certainly didn’t know enough about the legislation, guidelines and evidence base to draw upon when my attempts to make referrals were rebuffed. I’ve come to learn that this is called ‘legal literacy’; the knowledge and understanding about
the duties and powers of adult social care provision.
So whilst I may have been frustrated with my failed attempts to bring in statutory support, I now know that there was more I could have done to present the important information I had in a way that was connected to the legislation there to protect people. There are now fantastic tools to help homelessness practitioners, and those they support, present their needs and wishes in a way that can be understood clearly by Adult Social Care.
So although as I write this blog in sadness, remembering those I worked with who were sadly lost, I am filled with hope that the increased use of SARs and the potential to upskill the homelessness workforce to not only understand social care legislation and duties, but to be strong advocates using it, will mean that across the country there are less cases of serious harm and death due to abuse or neglect amongst people sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness. Please read and share our resources on the Care Act, Safeguarding and SARs – so we allhave as much knowledge as possible to get this right.
Latest News from
Coming soon: A desperately needed roadmap22/06/2022 15:10:00
Meaningful solutions to homelessness for people facing immigration-based restrictions on public funds have long felt like missing pieces of the puzzle in national plans to end rough sleeping.
Introducing specialist roles to Housing First services: new learning report published today20/06/2022 12:25:00
Despite the growth of Housing First in England since 2010, we still have a lot to learn about how to deliver the most effective services.
How you can help someone sleeping rough as temperatures soar17/06/2022 13:25:00
People working in homelessness services, or supporting people who are homeless in other ways, need to be aware of the risks to health that hot weather brings. Temperatures around 25°C and over are associated with excess summer deaths.
Excellence Awards shortlist announced!14/06/2022 12:15:00
Our annual awards celebrate the best of the homelessness sector. The awards are open exclusively to Homeless Link members, highlighting the innovative and impactful work our members do.
Homeless Link on the steering group for major new research into rural homelessness06/06/2022 11:10:00
Homeless Link is sitting on the steering board for a major new research project into rural homelessness.
Homeless Link joins Renters Reform Coalition31/05/2022 11:10:00
Homeless Link yesterday (30th May 2022) joined the Renters Reform Coalition.
Homelessness Workforce Survey 2022 launched31/05/2022 09:20:00
We have just launched a new annual survey on workforce challenges in the homelessness sector.
Replacing the Vagrancy Act?30/05/2022 09:15:00
As you will probably know, following years of campaigning by Crisis and many other Homeless Link members, the Government has agreed to scrap the Vagrancy Act. They committed to repealing the Act in full through the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act that finally went through Parliament in April.