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Why our role in safeguarding the vulnerable is more important than ever

Asking the right questions gives service users more chances to admit they are at risk

Lockdowns and social distancing have made safeguarding and child protection even more important and nurses need to ask service users the right questions and pick up early signs if they are at risk

For most, home is a place of kindness and safety. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have been making the most of working from home, homeschooling, and enjoying prolonged family time.

However, imagine a scenario where working and schooling at home has taken place in an environment of fear and violence, where someone has no way of escaping their perpetrator and is unable to access help. This is likely to have been the reality for some of your service users whether you know it or not.

Lockdowns and social distancing have made safeguarding and child protection even more important and nurses need to ask service users the right questions and pick up early signs if they are at risk

Lockdowns and social distancing have made safeguarding and child protection even more important and nurses need to ask service users the right questions and pick up early signs if they are at risk
Picture: iStock

For most, home is a place of kindness and safety. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have been making the most of working from home, homeschooling, and enjoying prolonged family time.

However, imagine a scenario where working and schooling at home has taken place in an environment of fear and violence, where someone has no way of escaping their perpetrator and is unable to access help. This is likely to have been the reality for some of your service users – whether you know it or not.

It is estimated that, on average, it takes seven disclosure opportunities for someone to admit they are at risk – and this was before COVID-19, when care contacts were face to face and reasonably accessible.

Recognising the need for a holistic approach to care contacts

How long will it take now, when initial primary care contact is by phone and the professional involved cannot see how someone is presenting physically? How do you see the unexplained bruising that was not there yesterday, how do you sense the despair of self-neglect?

‘Lockdowns and social distancing mean we must be extra vigilant to pick up early any signs that something is not right’

The answer lies in recognising the need for a holistic approach to care contacts and the development of protocols that support clinicians to deploy ‘professional curiosity’ and ask the right questions. Sometimes it is not ‘how is your headache’ but ‘who is your headache’?

As a safeguarding lead, I recently took a call from a colleague who had had a phone consultation with a patient who said, in passing, that they could ‘only afford the electricity half the month’. Follow-up revealed a patient in circumstances of financial abuse, coercive control and grateful that a health professional caught a throwaway comment and acted on it.

Safeguarding adults and child protection are as important now as they have ever been. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have meant we must be extra vigilant and try to pick up early any signs that something is not right. Believe me when I say that lives depend on it.


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