When you apply for a job in health and social care, your role will involve safeguarding. From your application and the interview stage to when you start in post, safeguarding will be integral. With that in mind, it’s vital to understand what it is and its importance in care settings.
Let’s take a look at safeguarding as a concept as well as looking at its core principles. We’ll also explore what safeguarding looks like in a care setting and the particular issues that those working in the sector should be aware of.
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Safeguarding is about protecting people’s human rights, well-being and health. Safeguarding means enabling people to live free from the risk of abuse, the risk of harm and neglect.
It applies in various settings, which means it can cover contact with children as well as adults. Safeguarding is part of many tasks. We’ve listed a few examples to help you understand the concept.
Identifying a vulnerable person to ensure the appropriate protections are in place
Referring issues to the appropriate body, such as the local authority or the police
Ensuring people’s well-being is a priority and taking their views, beliefs and feelings into account
Taking steps to keep people from harm, including performing DBS checks (this is why you need one before working in care)
Working with other organisations to ensure there are no gaps in the delivery of care
Continued development in understanding promoting well-being
Raising awareness so that all staff and the community can recognise and avoid abuse and neglect
It’s useful to understand safeguarding on a day-to-day level and from a legal standpoint. There are local and national policies that address how to protect children and set out the principles for safeguarding vulnerable adults.
The Care Act 2014 sets out the safeguarding process, including six principles that apply in health and social care settings. The six principles are:
Empowerment - By showing appreciation and valuing opinions, you can empower the people you support. When you allow people to be heard, it gives them the power to make their own decisions
Prevention - A key aim is to prevent harm. That involves assessing for risks, such as abuse. There are different types of abuse to be aware of beyond physical abuse, including emotional and financial vulnerabilities.
Proportionality - You need to act proportionally after assessing the danger. Don’t take away people’s power by being overprotective, but take issues seriously so that people aren’t at risk or feeling ignored
Protection - Although prevention measures are in place, you still need to know how to handle harm that people are experiencing, including involving the appropriate authorities.
Partnership - Several individuals and organisations have roles to play in safeguarding, including GPs and hospitals, police and the local community. To be successful, communication and cooperation are necessary
Accountability - Knowing what your responsibilities are, owning them and being open about your role and the steps you take are essential.
Care is all about supporting vulnerable individuals. While the focus is often on practical duties, such as monitoring vitals and assisting with personal care, there are several aspects to a role in care. It also involves providing company and emotional support plus you will have safeguarding responsibilities.
To deliver the best care for someone, you need to protect them from harm. That means assessing risks, spotting any signs of abuse and ensuring that they don’t experience neglect. People who need care are considered adults at risk, which means they need support from the people who care for them to keep them safe.
Recognising problems, reacting proportionately and reporting and recording what is occurring means that dangerous situations are dealt with and not made worse. Safeguarding training in care ensures that people working in these settings can handle situations with confidence.
To know what to look out for when assessing risk, it’s beneficial to know the main safeguarding issues. The particular types to be aware of can differ depending on if you work with children or adults. It is important to have an understanding of these issues although care providers will ensure you have all the relevant training - so don’t worry too much if this concept is new to you.
The five main safeguarding issues for adults are:
Physical abuse - signs include unexplained injuries
Organisational abuse - signs include bed sores, fear and bullying comments from people in the organisation
Neglect - signs include an unhygienic environment and an unkempt appearance
Financial abuse - signs include changes in behaviour, confusion over finances and lack of access to funds or accounts
Sexual abuse - signs include changes in behaviour and unexplained bruising
Many of these issues also apply to children, although instead of financial abuse, emotional or psychological abuse is a key area.
While safeguarding might seem like a box to be ticked or a buzzword, it’s integral to providing high-quality care. Keeping someone safe from harm involves awareness of the issues someone could face. It also requires people who work in care to understand the principles of safeguarding and their responsibilities.
It starts with spotting the signs but relies on prevention and people knowing how to respond effectively. Crucially, incorporating empowerment into day-to-day care activities can give the person being supported the ability to make their own decisions. Feeling they are capable gives them confidence and reduces how vulnerable they feel.
Safeguarding is a good area to have a basic understanding of as part of your job application process - but don’t worry about knowing everything now. Care and support providers focus mainly on your values and motivations during a recruitment process - and they can deliver the right training once you’ve got the job.