This week, with my Hope Projects hat on, I’ve been thinking about safeguarding, and I’ve been left with a question. Anyone who works with people should think about safeguarding. A lot. If you have any responsibility for people then you should work hard to make sure they’re safe. Not the most controversial start to a blog post, I know, but bear with me.
A lot of safeguarding is focused on children, quite rightly, but Hope Projects doesn’t work with children. The law doesn’t permit a child to be street homeless. Social services must step in to ensure the child is supported. When we come across a child in destitution We work with partners to make sure social services live up to their responsibilities. If that requires legal action were very happy to oblige. It may be more comfortable to step in to replace them but Hope Housing isn’t designed for children and we don’t think that is generally in the child’s best interest.
Our work is with adults without dependent children. And safeguarding also focuses on vulnerable adults. This is a bit more complicated. A lot of safeguarding assumes vulnerability in adults is due to old age, or mental incapacity, or the inability to manage your own affairs. People who are in the care of a local authority or health body. The people we work with are rarely vulnerable in this way. They are able, resourceful people; people capable of travelling half the world. They are resilient survivors. They are not inherently vulnerable, but the asylum system has put them at such risk that they have been made vulnerable. And so we recognise a duty of care.
Principally that duty of care is to prevent abuse. We must not do it, and if we find out that someone else has done it we must raise it as a concern, we must notify the statutory authorities. It is a big deal and so it should be. So what constitutes abuse? There are lists.
• Physical abuse;
• Domestic violence;
• Sexual abuse;
• Psychological abuse;
• Financial or material abuse;
• Modern slavery;
• Discriminatory abuse;
• Organisational abuse;
• Neglect and acts of omission;
Hang on. Can we stop there? ‘Neglect and acts of omission’ constitutes abuse?
Of course it does. To leave a vulnerable person without food or shelter is pretty much as abusive as you can get. And yet this is common to every person we work with; mainly asylum seekers who are gathering evidence to challenge an asylum refusal. While they work towards their legal right to make further representations they are evicted from their housing; all income is stopped and they are not permitted to work. That is neglect to the most extreme degree. That is abuse. That is a safeguarding risk.
So here my question. Who in authority should I notify?