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Improving safeguarding for people in high-risk settings

24 November 2022

Independent advocacy should be an essential safeguarding tool for people in high-risk settings.

At VocieAbility, we’ve listened to advocates and undertaken practice audits on settings which are particularly high risk’ for the person living there. We’ve learned that these situations present unique challenges to effective advocacy.

What is a high-risk setting?

When we talk about high-risk settings, we mean any setting where a person is at risk because they are in that setting. 

For example, we might provide support for a person who is noise sensitive living in a very noisy environment. We might advocate for someone who needs to have support staff who know and understand them, but who is frequently supported by people who don’t. A mental health ward or a care home might be a safe place for one person, but pose a genuine risk to the health and wellbeing of another. 

Local authorities and providers tend to view a setting as a whole, and assess it as a whole. However, we know a setting will be experienced differently by different people. 

A wide range of environmental factors could constitute abuse, because of the impact of the environment on that person. To effectively safeguard people in these settings, as advocates we have to understand and recognise when that happens, and then take action.

Kathryn Holland, Safeguarding Lead at VoiceAbility:

My own experiences as an advocate are powerful evidence of the need for robust safeguarding for people in these settings – but also the need for support for those providing it. 

If advocates are not well supported to recognize and challenge poor practice and abuse, this can increase the risk of becoming part of the care home or hospital culture. It can increase the risk of accepting the narrative of the setting, rather than standing firmly with the person they support.

Supporting VoiceAbility’s advocates

It can be challenging to be an effective advocate in these settings. 

VoiceAbility now offers monthly drop-in sessions to all advocates and volunteers who work in high-risk settings with people who are at risk of abuse due where they’ve been placed. It’s a chance for experienced staff to share good practice, and for advocates to gain support and feel empowered.

The drop-in is one part of our work to ensure VoiceAbility advocates remain independent and effective.