“Safeguarding” – beware the dirty tricks as published in Healthcare Business May 2018

Topics covered: adult safeguarding, CQC, Healthcare Business, local authority, Paul Ridout

There is a growing belief within the social care public sector that commissioners should control both the nature, and, the infrastructure, and, the day to day delivery of services. The independent sector, upon which the very possibility of service depends, is seen as an unwelcome player at the table to be squeezed, bullied and blamed. Those who lead this argument seem truly to believe that all problems would be resolved by a universal public sector offering.

The CQC is the body established by law to regulate the operations of health and social care providers. Emboldened by the belief that it is dominant, it encourages its foot soldiers to the mantra that they can do no wrong. It eschews accountability and abhors, on any basis, being held to account. However the CQC does operate under a relatively strict code of legal rules whereby the regulated can follow paths to achieve that accountability. As the great Lord Denning once said: “Be ye never so mighty, you are not more mighty than the law”.

The danger that is emerging is from those who would be regulators but are not endorsed with the relevant statutory powers. We have a regulator (CQC). By and large it does a good job and that is largely because it has to remember the constraints of the law.

Local authorities, through social services departments, have taken encouragement for being enjoined by the Care Act 2014 to both manage and shape the social care market. They would prefer to be regulators, unconstrained by the law.

Their tool to achieve this is the misuse of the Safeguarding process. The sector does not need a second regulator and the regulator (CQC) does not need to feel the heat of unregulated local authority actions under the guise of advancing so called public perception of, often unparticularised, expressions of lack of public safety. Now we are seeing this behemoth extend its talons, where it has no business into the realms of voluntary and independent care provision.

Those who seek corrupting absolute power have often sheltered behind the “brand” that their actions are necessary to protect public safety, by which they mean that section of society which they perceive to be their public constitution. Often history shows that the goal is achieved by means that cannot possibly be considered based on principles of safety for the public as viewed holistically.

The short-term leaders of the French Revolution cut off heads from those who challenged their views, through judgments of public safety. The fascists around Europe have sought to extinguish sections of society whose customs and behaviours were perceived alien (i.e. unsafe) with unconstructed propaganda that such groups put public safety in jeopardy. Trade unions argued against the rule of law on the basis that legal constraint would somehow damage the safety of the wider public. All were tamed and brought within the umbrella of legal constraint.

So it is, in social care, as we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century. The mantra of public safety survives but, in the context, that is absurd to justify completely unaccountable actions armed to undermine or even destroy those who are already very well regulated in the public interest.

Safeguarding teams, with very little power other than that created by their own manifestos, force to entry, trade reputations, restrict earning power and denounce without trial or even evidence.

There is a real need for all stakeholders, public voluntary and independent to be brought together to consider whether or not concerns, when investigated, reveal real risks of harm to the vulnerable. However, those risks may manifest within all sections of the care sector. How often does one ever see such issues brought to bear against anyone other than a provider, independent or voluntary?

How many alerts as to risks of harm caused by insufficient funding or a failure to react to whistle-blowers a quaint public commissioners, regulator or safeguarding are processed with any vigour let above the enthusiasms in confrontation in respect of relatively minor provider issues.

The sad truth is that public sector bodies have come to believe their own propaganda and the apparent justification for that propaganda.

Thus, aroused these latter-day crusaders believe that any moral or legal restraints on their actions to pursue the propaganda aim and “out” those whom they believe, with or without justification, to be worthy of public shames without any need for objective justification.

Hence, we see a catalogue of “dirty tricks” designed to undermine, destroy market and public confidence and establish as true that for which there is often not even the slightest evidence save the decision of the propagandist to denounce.

Do these ring any bells?

  • Whistle-blowers are always objective and truthful
  • An alert as to risk is effectively an admission of finding of guilt even before the commencement of enquiry
  • Overbearing and repetitive so-called inspections without obvious purpose and little justification
  • Abuse of media by press statement which are wholly one sided and often demonstratively false
  • Support for complainants even where such complaints are transparently without merit
  • Unnecessary reference to activity as criminal and misuse of police interventions to bolster public belief in an atmosphere of wrongdoing
  • Implicitly coercing police to investigate matters where there is rarely an outcome. This does however respectable the naming and shaming which went before
  • Encouraging family member to seek to move loved ones to alternative accommodation. Would you take the risk?

These are but a small selection of “safeguarding” behaviours which we observe on a daily basis. Most are usually unlawful, all are likely to be viewed as malicious by objective observers.

All these actions are extremely difficult and costly to resist. Hence we see emerging the concept of being punished where no crime is proven.

All absolutely undermine the viability and sustainability of good and effective businesses which for some reason, usually unknown, have offended those who perceive the power as absolute.

Naturally providers wish to cooperate. We would certainly not encourage anything less than transparency and support for those genuinely engaged in investigating, not by predetermined denouncement, issues involving safety of the vulnerable.

However public “safeguardings” and those whose propaganda they serve, go far beyond this.

The answer is to take a firm stance of holding the bully to account. Only do this once it is clear that the concerns go beyond a specific investigable issue.  Do not be intimidated or bullied. Do not accept that you have to accept this treatment.

Constructive and supportive engagement with objective concern is right and proper appeasement to the bully never works and must be confronted or else it will escalate to ever greater heights.

Remember Winston Churchill

“A appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile in the hope that it will eat him last”.


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