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Safeguarding Adults Week: a year of learning

21 November 2022

We’re taking the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned, and the actions we’ve taken as a result.

This time last year, VoiceAbility shared a series of articles about advocacy and safeguarding. We highlighted the terrible abuse exposed by the BBC at Winterbourne View in 2011 and Whorlton Hall in 2019, and the challenges facing those working to create safer cultures. We also shared the crucial ways that independent advocacy can address power imbalances to create change. 

As an organisation, we used this awareness week to develop a clear plan of what we needed to do next to help promote good safeguarding practice within our advocacy services. 

Safeguarding and advocacy

Effective safeguarding is central to good quality advocacy.

Advocates don’t work for care providers, hospitals or local authorities. They are there to support the person, to be on their side and ensure that they are listened to. As independent observers, advocates are ideally placed to identify abusive practices. That includes when the person is not able to complain or doesn’t know they are being abused, and when the person is fully aware but not listened to or empowered to have their rights upheld.

This September, the BBC again showed us an endemic culture of abuse at the Edenfield Centre in Manchester. We must continue to learn from these painful high-profile examples.

Safeguarding developments at VoiceAbility in 2022

Through auditing our practice as advocates in the course of this year, we’ve continued to ask ourselves: are we doing all we can? 

Do we look beyond the level of risk to individuals in hospitals and care homes, to understand the culture of practice in local authorities, and challenge that when we should?

How can we be better, as individual advocates, and as an organisation that empowers staff and raises the quality of our practice?

This Safeguarding Adults Week, we’ll be sharing the work that goes on within VoiceAbility that you don’t usually see. 

Across the week, we’ll talk about the new support all VoiceAbility advocates receive to challenge closed cultures, and to avoid becoming part of them. We’ll tell you about work to improve our support for people who find it difficult to express their wishes, and how we promote professional curiosity. We’ll also share the new support we’ve put in place to empower our teams.

We know that advocacy is just one part of the safeguarding picture, and that there are systemic changes needed in our health and social care provision. We’ll keep working to influence policy, and push for meaningful improvements via Mental Health Act reform and beyond. We’ll also keep championing high-quality practice, asking difficult questions, and striving for better – from the services that provide care and support, and from ourselves too.