Principles of safeguarding

Safeguarding adults is about reducing or, ideally, preventing the risk of significant harm from abuse and exploitation, and simultaneously supporting people to take control of their own lives by making informed choices. We all have a part to play in securing this for the adults in our care, particularly for those who are especially vulnerable.

The UK Government has set out some principles of safeguarding in health and social care that help us to understand how we can act to protect people. The principles are:

  • empowerment – people should be supported to make their own decisions based on the best possible information
  • prevention – it is better to take action before harm occurs
  • proportionality – what we do should be proportionate to the risk: we don’t want to be over-protective if the risk is low, as this in itself can disadvantage people and deprive of them of the opportunity to make their own decisions
  • protection – those in greatest need require our support and protection
  • partnership – safeguarding is about different people, professions, groups and communities working together to cover all the angles in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse
  • accountability – as in all our activities as health care assistants, we need to be accountable for what we do in safeguarding.

You should receive training from your employer on safeguarding that will allow you to explore these principles more fully. If you haven’t been able to get such training, speak to your manager or supervisor.

All staff who come into contact with children and young people have a responsibility to safeguard and promote their welfare and should know what to do if they have concerns about safeguarding issues, including child protection. As a health care assistant, you should receive training from your employer that will help you to identify possible harm and who to contact and seek advice from if you have concerns. This training should help you to:

  • recognise possible signs of child maltreatment, such as physical abuse and illness, emotional or sexual abuse, and neglect (including child trafficking and female genital mutilation)
  • understand how parents’ or carers’ physical and mental health affects the child’s well-being and development
  • understand the impact of domestic violence and risks associated with the internet and online social networking
  • understand the importance of children’s rights
  • have a basic knowledge of relevant legislation
  • know how to take appropriate action if you have concerns, including reporting your concerns safely and seeking advice.

Again, if you haven’t been able to get such training, speak to your manager or supervisor.

Safeguarding is now considered such an important subject that it has been reflected in national legislation. Examples include:

Mental Capacity Act 2005 (England and Wales)

Adults with Incapacity Act 2000 (Scotland)

Mental Capacity Act 2016 (Northern Ireland).

No one would expect you to know all the details of the legislation that applies to your country, but a basic understanding of what these acts set out to achieve in terms of safeguarding vulnerable people will stand you in good stead in your work as a health care assistant.

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