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VoiceAbility appoints Whorlton Hall reviewer as independent expert committee member for safeguarding

9 August 2023

Keeping safe is a basic right, and one of the most important parts of VoiceAbility’s work.

As part of our ongoing intense focus on our safeguarding practice, we’ve appointed Dr Sheila Fish in the role of independent expert committee member for safeguarding.

Dr Fish led the safeguarding audit and case review programme of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) for 18 years. She pioneered a unique learning together’ approach to conducting incident/​practice reviews and audits in child and adult safeguarding, designed to get to the heart of what is helping or hindering good safeguarding. 

She has overseen many safeguarding audits of a wide range of independent charities, supporting improvement plans that are rooted in a solid understanding of the wider system and factors at play. She’s also been the independent reviewer for complex, high-profile statutory safeguarding reviews, including Whorlton Hall, which includes concerns raised about the illusion of advocacy’.

VoiceAbility Chief Executive Jonathan Senker said:

We work to support people to lead the life they choose free from abuse. Given how important this is to get right, we must work continually to test and improve our practice.

Central to this is improving the consistent effectiveness of our safeguarding practice. The abuse of people at Whorlton Hall, where we provided one of the advocacy services, reinforced to us the importance and urgency of this work.

Sheila’s track record in bringing insightful and forthright challenge, together with her safeguarding expertise, make her the ideal person to bring robust oversight. 

I’m delighted that she has agreed to become an independent member of our Safeguarding Governance Committee.”

Speaking about her new role, Dr Fish said: 

Safeguarding must be a governance priority for all charities, so I’m really pleased to support VoiceAbility with fresh eyes and challenge.

VoiceAbility would like to thank Deborah Kitson, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ann Craft Trust (previously known as NAPSAC – National Association for the Protection from Sexual Abuse of Adults and Children with Learning Disabilities), who held this role for a number of years. 

We’re profoundly grateful for her depth of knowledge and insight.

Safeguarding at VoiceAbility

VoiceAbility strives for improvement in every aspect of our safeguarding practice. 

We work with many people who would find it hard or impossible to raise the fact that they don’t feel safe, many with no one else to support them. We work to ensure that our advocates have the training and management support to do this well.

During our recent Quality Performance Mark audit carried out by the National Development Team for Inclusion, assessors referred to our safeguarding practice as a golden thread’ running through the organisation, and that safeguarding shone’ as an area of strength.

However, these clear positives exist in part because we’ve been open to seeing and facing challenges, and working constructively with teams to support the development of effective safeguarding practice.

This includes:

  • proactively addressing safeguarding practice issues via large-scale case file audits
  • ensuring that the findings of audits result in clear actions to support staff
  • developing training aimed specifically at working preventatively in safeguarding
  • providing context for staff across the organisation to work through and discuss safeguarding issues
  • increasing awareness of less obvious environmental risks and reporting of lower-level concerns
  • an organisation-wide research study, enabling us to identify key issues impacting on the protection and empowerment of people at risk of abuse

VoiceAbility’s safeguarding work also owes a deep debt of gratitude to our Director of Practice, Sarah Iveson, who sadly died in February 2023. Sarah leaves a legacy which we will continue to strive to live up to.