All staff, Volunteers and Trustees working on behalf of RMBF have a duty to promote the welfare and safety of vulnerable adults and children, and these procedures must be followed in the event of either of the following:

  • An applicant or beneficiary making a disclosure of abuse
  • Suspicion by a member of staff or volunteer that a vulnerable adult and/or child has been or is being abused

For the purpose of these procedures ‘safeguarding’ means the safeguarding of both children and vulnerable adults.

1. Definition of a vulnerable adult

A vulnerable adult is someone who is aged 18 or over and “is or may be in need of community care services by reasons of mental health or other disability, age or illness” and “is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation”.

(From Who decides: making decisions on behalf of mentally incapacitated adults, Lord Chancellor’s Department, 1997)

2. Safeguarding children

As the RMBF sometimes provides assistance to applicants with young families, staff and volunteers should also be aware of their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and to report any concerns.  The following procedures will therefore also apply if a member of staff or volunteer has concerns about a child.  Should such an incident arise the following will apply:

  • In place of “adult” or “vulnerable adult” read “child”
  • In place of “adult social care” read “children’s social care”

3. Procedures for staff or volunteers raising concerns

If the member of staff or volunteer believes that an adult is at immediate risk of harm or abuse, they will take immediate and reasonable steps to protect the adult. This could include contacting the emergency services on 999 if the person is considered to be in imminent danger.  However, such situations are very rare and in most circumstances staff or volunteers will raise a concern following the process below.

  • Any safeguarding concerns should be reported directly and without delay to the RMBF Safeguarding Officer – the Volunteer Programme Manager Kate Sheppard on 020 3255 3003 or, in her absence, to the CEO Steve Crone on 020 8545 8449. If neither is available, contact the Casework Manager on 020 8545 8446 who will attempt to make contact with the VPM/CEO.
  • Immediately after raising a concern, the staff member or volunteer will write a detailed account of what they have seen, observed or heard. Social Care Services or the police may wish to speak to the person who has reported the safeguarding incident at some point.

The keeping of accurate and prompt recording is fundamental to effective safeguarding and all staff and volunteers have a responsibility to ensure all concerns are recorded appropriately.  This requires those who raise concerns to make a written record within 48 hours of raising any concerns. Please use the RMBF Safeguarding Incident Report Form, which is available from the RMBF Safeguarding Officer.

4. Responding to disclosure

Vulnerable adults are more likely to disclose details of abuse to someone they trust and with whom they feel safe. By listening and taking seriously what the vulnerable adult is saying you are already helping the situation. The following points are a guide to help you respond appropriately.

Actions to be taken by the person being disclosed to:

  • React calmly so as not to frighten them
  • Take what the person says seriously, recognising the difficulties inherent in interpreting what is being said by a person who has a speech impairment or differences in language
  • Avoid asking direct questions other than those seeking to clarify your understanding of what the person has said. They may be subsequently formally interviewed by the police or social care services and they should not have to repeat their account on several occasions
  • Inappropriate and excessive questioning at an early stage may also impede the conduct of a subsequent criminal investigation
  • Reassure the vulnerable adult but do not make promises of confidentiality which will not be feasible in the light of subsequent developments
  • Explain to them that you will have to share your concerns with the RMBF Safeguarding Officer who has the authority to act
  • When applicable tell them they were not to blame and that they were right to tell
  • Record in writing on the RMBF Safeguarding Incident Report Form all the details that you are aware of and what was said using the vulnerable adult’s own words, immediately

5. Support for volunteer/staff member

5.1 It is important to remember that the person who first encounters a case of alleged abuse is not responsible for deciding whether abuse has occurred.  This is a task for the professional adult protection agencies, following a referral from the RMBF Safeguarding Officer

5.2 It is acknowledged that dealing with safeguarding issues can be distressing.  Staff members should be supported in the process by their line manager (or other appropriate manager) and be given the opportunity to talk through their feelings about the incident as appropriate.  Similarly volunteers should be offered this support by the Volunteer Programme Manager.

6. Confidentiality with vulnerable adults

It is extremely important that allegations or concerns are not discussed, as any breach of confidentiality could be damaging to the vulnerable adult, their family and any vulnerable adult protection investigations that may follow.

Where a vulnerable adult expresses a wish for concerns not to be reported to the relevant authorities then this should be respected wherever possible. However decisions about whether to respect the persons’ wishes must have regard to the level of risk to the individual and/or others and their capacity to understand the decision in questions and to make decisions relating to it. In some circumstances the persons’ wishes may be overridden in favour of consideration of safety for the person and other vulnerable adults.

Forward to Part 6: Answering tricky questions

Handbook for All Volunteers index