Safeguarding and how we can get it right

Adult safeguarding is a complex area requiring all our judgement and compassion

Adult safeguarding is a complex area requiring all our judgement and compassion

Picture: Alamy

As services and staff are put under pressure, we can find it difficult to meet everyone’s needs. But safeguarding is one need we cannot allow to go unmet. 

Safeguarding people is complex and therefore can be difficult to do well. So, what is safeguarding all about? 

Personal autonomy

First, it is about autonomy and ensuring people have a say in what happens to them. I’m not talking merely about consent, but about giving people control. It is not your care, it’s theirs: it is their right, and their responsibility, to be in control.  

Second, safeguarding is about boundaries – physical, emotional, sexual, financial – and making sure certain people are not exploited, neglected or abused. We must stand between the person and harm or risk through vigilance, support and education. We must remember our role is to promote holistic physical, mental and social health.  

When not to turn a blind eye

Safeguarding requires us to use what we know in an appropriate way. We learn a lot not just about people’s health, but about their homes, their lives, and their families. We shouldn’t judge, but nor should we turn a blind eye. We all know ‘that’ home, the one that’s cluttered and smelly. Do we ignore it? Well, maybe we can get some help if the person wants it.

We must also remember we not only give care ourselves but oversee the care that others give. For example, if a person has social or informal carers, we have an obligation as nurses to notice and become involved if there are problems. When a home, a situation, person or carer presents a risk, or is harmful, we must address this. Sometimes we have to say, ‘This is not okay, I have to act’. 

Yes, it is difficult, but safeguarding means we not only care for people, but about them. 

 Bethann Siviter is an independent nurse consultant in Birmingham

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