The details of resourcing to be allocated to the adult safeguarding and protection team (SPT) in Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow (DSKWW) remain under consideration, the Medical Independent (MI) has been informed. The resource commitment was made by the National Director of Community Operations in the context of longstanding under-resourcing of the SPT, which receives the highest number of adult safeguarding cases nationally.
The situation previously led to the accumulation of a large backlog of safeguarding concerns, which have since been reviewed. As of May 2022, however, there were also over 1,500 “historic” safeguarding plans from disability and older persons services that awaited review due to under-staffing.
According to internal documentation from November 2021, obtained under Freedom of Information law, the team’s Principal Social Worker considered that 16 funded social worker posts were required to ensure the SPT could operate without accruing a backlog of concerns awaiting review. As of June, the team had 10 funded social work posts. Two further posts funded under the HSE National Service Plan 2022 are currently in recruitment, according to DSKWW, which did not provide details of the number of social work posts that are filled.
In May, a DSKWW spokesperson told MI the National Director of Community Operations had committed to the provision of a “senior resource to address the backlog and provide a future needs analysis”. In an update this week, its spokesperson said the details, including grade and responsibilities, are currently under consideration “based on our understanding of what is likely to be most effective”.
The spokesperson said DSKWW is “committed to addressing identified deficits within the limits of available resources”.
A DSKWW safeguarding operations report in November 2021, prepared at the request of the National Director of Community Operations, had outlined: “There is little doubt that the current resources of the safeguarding team will not allow them to address the backlog. Additionally, it would seem that recent attempts to provide time limited funding hasn’t resolved the longstanding issues. The team need to fill all of their funded posts urgently and it would seem that additional funded posts are now needed to ensure the team can match demand and capacity going forward.”
An internal risk register from November 2021 referred to “risk of harm” to adults at risk of abuse “due to inadequate number of safeguarding social workers per CHO population” to provide timely access to appropriately trained professionals to case manage, investigate allegations, and deliver training, etc.
Under the HSE’s Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse policy (2014), HSE and HSE-funded disability and older persons services are required to submit safeguarding concerns (‘preliminary screenings’) to their regional SPT for specialist review and support. It remains the responsibility of all staff and services “to take action to ensure the protection and welfare of vulnerable people”.
SPTs review safeguarding plans and directly manage complex cases and community referrals, as well as providing training on safeguarding issues. They continue to operate in the absence of primary adult safeguarding legislation.
Nationally, safeguarding operations “remain under resourced to fully meet the increasing demand for adult safeguarding in social care, and a requirement to extend safeguarding operations to all HSE provided and funded services”, according to the HSE National Service Plan 2022. “In 2022, the risk will be mitigated by the provision of a case management system and increasing the capability of all staff to recognise and respond to risk of abuse of adults in order to maximise the effectiveness of current capacity.
“The future of safeguarding operations will need to be considered in the context of the operating model of community healthcare networks and the design of integrated healthcare areas during 2022.”