Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults

All adults have the right to be safe and to live a life free from abuse.  All persons are entitled to this right, regardless of their circumstances. It is the responsibility of all service providers, statutory and non-statutory, to ensure that, service users are treated with respect and dignity, have their welfare promoted and receive support in an environment in which every effort is made to promote welfare and to prevent abuse.”  ‘Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse – National Policy and Procedures’ (2014).

The “Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse  - National Policy and Procedures”, which applies to all HSE and HSE funded services, outlines a number of principles to promote the welfare of vulnerable people and safeguard them from abuse.  These include a requirement that all services must have a publicly declared “No Tolerance” approach to any form of abuse and must promote a culture which supports this ethos.

Some of the principles underpinning the policy include:

  • Respect for human rights
  • A person centred approached to care and services
  • Promotion of advocacy.
  • Respect for confidentially
  • Empowerment of individuals
  • A collaborative approach. 

There are a number of different types of abuse.

  • Physical Abuse includes slapping, hitting, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.
  • Sexual Abuse includes rape and sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the vulnerable person has not consented, or could not consent, or into which he or she was compelled to consent.
  • Psychological Abuse includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation, or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.
  • Financial or Material Abuse includes theft, fraud, exploitation; pressure in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions; or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Institutional Abuse may occur within residential care and/or acute settings including nursing homes, acute hospitals, and any other in-patient settings and may involve, for example, poor standards of care, rigid routines or inadequate responses to complex needs.
  • Neglect and Acts of Omission include ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life such as medication, adequate nutrition and/or heating.
  • Discriminatory Abuse includes ageism, racism, sexism, that based on a person’s disability and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.
  • Institutional abuse may occur within residential care and acute settings including nursing homes, acute hospitals and any other inpatient settings, and may involve poor standards of care, rigid routines and inadequate responses to complex needs.

All vulnerable people have a right to be protected against abuse and to have any concerns regarding abusive experiences addressed.  They have a right to be treated with respect and to feel safe, regardless of the setting in which they live.  

If anyone has a concern about abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person in a HSE or HSE funded residential facility, they should report it to a health care professional (e.g. public health nurse, physiotherapist, GP etc.) or to the Safeguarding and Protection Teams (SPTs) in each of its nine Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs).

Confidential Recipient

The HSE has also appointed a confidential recipient who will receive and report concerns of abuse or neglect in complete confidence.  The confidential recipient is Ms. Leigh Gath and she can be contacted by email on leigh.gath@crhealth.ie or LoCall 1890 1000 14.  

National Safeguarding Office Logo

HSE National Safeguarding Office

A National Office was established in December 2015 in accordance with the HSE’s Social Care Division Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse National Policy & Procedures.  The core function of the office is to oversee the implementation, monitoring, review and ongoing evaluation of the Safeguarding Policy as well as coordinating development and roll out of safeguarding training. 

A recommendation at the time of the policy launch was that the policy would be subject to review within a short period. This was designed to take account of the impact of its application and any legislative or policy changes that could impact on its implementation. The Review was commenced in 2017 has been undertaken on a staged project plan basis.

Phase 1 – This initial phase undertook an analysis of the workings of the current policy including its strengths/weaknesses and considered the messages from a detailed international  literature review. This phase considered how the policy is experienced and working in practice for users.

Phase 2 – This phase was the listening phase undertaken with a wide range of stakeholder groups. We had excellent feedback via 173 formal submissions to the NSO and 33 roundtable focus group meetings held throughout the country. Importantly, service user and advocacy engagement was a central component of this phase. This phase considered key issues on areas such as scope, roles, operational models and potential use of thresholds in a revised policy. This phase has now completed and reports of the findings are being circulated to the subgroups.

Phase 3 - This is the current stage which involves revision and drafting of the document.

The HSE’s National Safeguarding Office publishes safeguarding data reported to the Safeguarding and Protection Teams (SPTs) in each of its nine Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs).

The full data report is available to download Safeguarding Data Report 2016 and Safeguarding Data Report 2017

To contact the National Safeguarding Office please e-mail: safeguarding.socialcare@hse.ie or Tel: 061 46 1165 (9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday) or the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850 (8.00am to 8.00pm Monday to Saturday).

National Safeguarding Committee

The HSE is one of the agencies involved in the National Safeguarding Committee which launched a Strategic Plan 2017-2021 to guide its work to safeguard vulnerable adults over the next five years. The Committee is a multi-agency and inter-sectoral body independently chaired by Patricia Rickard-Clarke, a solicitor and former Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission. The ongoing work of the committee can be viewed on its website Safeguarding Committee Website

Resources

Safeguarding Report 2017

Safeguarding Data Report 2016

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse’ – National Policy and Procedures’

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document about the policy

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons Procedure Flow chart.pdf (size 245.5 KB)

Safeguarding Easy Read Leaflet for Service Users

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons Community Referral Forms

Access our elder abuse resources

Information for Families on Safeguarding Policy