Health Minister announces Adult Safeguarding Bill for Northern Ireland

On the 10 of September, the Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed his intention to bring forward a new Adult Safeguarding Bill for Northern Ireland, to help protect care home residents and other vulnerable members of society.

This commitment is in response to the first report from an independent review commissioned to examine the health and social care system’s response to care failings at Dunmurry Manor Care Home which had previously been identified.

This Review found that adult safeguarding practice ‘did not actively contribute’ to keeping residents safe at Dunmurry Manor and that families’ voices were repeatedly unheard.

It also noted there was significant divergence in safeguarding practices across the HSC Trusts.

The report proposes eight actions which are as follows:-

  1. Establish an Adult Safeguarding/Adult Protection Change Programme and in the next 12 months the work of that programmes should include the following:-
    • Drafting an Adult Safeguarding/Protection Bill and consulting on this
    • Setting out and consulting on the contents of statutory guidance – clarity is sought on thresholds, decision-making, timely support and intervention and use of joint protocols/memoranda of understanding for example
    • Developing adult safeguarding training and leadership plans
    • Introducing accessible and regionally consistent safeguarding documentation.
  2. Assert adult safeguarding/adult protection principles which make it clear what the purpose of adult safeguarding is. These principles should be effective, balanced and should not be intrusive or interfere with the rights that people already have.
  3. Set out a Human Rights based framework which makes it clear that human rights have a direct bearing on care and support.
  4. Draft and consult on an Adult Safeguarding/Protection Bill.
  5. Identify and publicise what organisations have the legal powers to do now until these powers are implemented into law.
  6. Practice collective and pragmatic leadership which makes it clear that safeguarding is “everyone’s responsibility.”
  7. Introduce action learning, research and training renewal.
  8. Detect what matters and use data and information to make a difference

Minister Robin Swann said: that he is “… committed to making lasting improvements in adult safeguarding” and that his department will start work immediately in order to deliver on the recommendations set out in this report.

Minister Swan has asked the Chief Social Worker, Sean Holland, to chair a new Adult Safeguarding Transformation Board to oversee this work and to strengthen the governance around adult safeguarding to achieve a more accountable, regional approach.

In line with the review’s recommendations, the Minister confirmed that plans include standing down the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP) in a move towards the establishment of an Independent Adult Safeguarding Board at arms-length from the department.

In its conclusions the review said that it is the implementation of the eight proposed actions recommend in its report that will be crucial in managing and mitigating the high risks of harm, which prevailed at Dunmurry Manor Care Home, from becoming neglectful and abusive as it was clear that the existing Adult safeguarding practice has not been effective in keeping Dunmurry Manor Care Home residents safe.

Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM

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