Safeguarding is the responsibility of all staff, volunteers and trustees, who should speak up if they have any concerns.
All staff, Volunteers and Trustees working on behalf of RMBF have a duty to promote the welfare and safety of everyone associated with the organisation.
In October 2018 the Charity Commission updated its guidance and broadened the duties of all trustees to ensure charities take responsible steps to protect people who come into contact with their organisation from harm.
There are clear procedures that must be followed in the event of a safeguarding issue. Please see below for the RMBF step by step safeguarding procedures.
The RMBF is committed to protecting beneficiaries, volunteers, staff and everyone who is associated with the charity from harm and has clear policies and procedures on:
- bullying and harassment
Please note the RMBF does not provide direct care to vulnerable applicants and beneficiaries. The help it provides is primarily in the form of financial support, emotional support and advice, as well as arranging specialist advice through appropriately accredited organisations.
RMBF safeguarding procedures
For the purposes of these procedures ‘safeguarding’ means the safeguarding or both children and vulnerable adults.
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)
A vulnerable adult may be a person who:
- is elderly or frail
- has learning disabilities
- suffers from mental illness (e.g. dementia, personality disorder)
- has physical disability
- is a substance misuser
- is in an abusive relationship
- is homeless
It should be noted that disability or age alone does not signify that an adult is vulnerable.
As the RMBF sometimes helps 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”
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 Officers – Head of Volunteering Kate Bresler-Jones on 020 3255 3003 or the Head of Casework Liz Gagiano on 020 8545 8446, in their absence, to the CEO Steve Crone on 020 8545 8449
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 Officers or downloadable from the RMBF website.
Please note one important difference between safeguarding adults and safeguarding children is an adult’s right to self-determination. Adults may choose not to act to protect themselves. It is only in extreme circumstances that the law intervenes.
Often, this will only happen when an adult is assessed as lacking capacity in that area (please see below The Mental Capacity Act 2015), or where the concerns may extend to children, such as when they are living in the same household.
This can make the matter of safeguarding adults even more complex.
The Mental Capacity Act 2015
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides procedures to protect and support people who do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves. It also provides guidance to support people who need to make decisions on behalf of someone else.
The Act covers important decisions relating to an individual’s property, financial affairs, health and social care. It also applies to everyday decisions, such as personal care, what to wear and what to eat. It also allows us to plan ahead for a time when we are unable to make these decisions for ourselves.
From time to time, we all have problems making decisions; the Mental Capacity Act is about more than that. It is there for situations where someone is unable to decide because of the way their brain works. This could be due to illness, brain injury, learning disability, mental health problems, or the effects of drugs or alcohol
People who cannot decide for themselves, are said to ‘lack capacity’. In law, a person is said to lack capacity if they cannot do one or more of the following things:
- Understand the information given to them
- Retain that information long enough to be able to decide
- Weigh up the information available to decide
- Communicate their decision
Someone may have capacity to make some decisions and not others. If they do lack mental capacity to make a particular decision, then it must be made in their ‘best interests’, considering the person’s wishes, feelings, beliefs and values.
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
Support for volunteer/staff member
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 Officers
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 Head of Volunteering.
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.