See it, Recognise it, Report it – keeping Suffolk’s residents safe from harm
Published on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 by Anthony Douglas
Today's article in the East Anglian Daily Times features our Independent Chair, Anthony Douglas, giving an update on what the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership are doing during the Pandemic and how you can do your bit to support the Safeguarding effort in the County.
I would like to thank Suffolk County Council for the opportunity to use this space to discuss the work of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership (SSP) during this challenging time. The Partnership includes Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Police, local clinical commissioning groups and local community and voluntary organisations with the statutory responsibility to ‘keep people safe from harm’. At the moment the number one safeguarding priority is to keep people healthy and prevent them from catching Covid-19 but with the majority of the population rightly staying at home, this presents other risks.
The responsibility of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership is to shine a light on the other risks people continue to face, mostly at home but sometimes in the community. For example, abuse and neglect at home has not been paused until Covid-19 is over, nor have county lines shut up shop as non-essential services. Some abuse and neglect will have gone even further underground, with the worry that vulnerable children and adults are now behind doors that are even more firmly closed.
Some of the concerns around the country are about a rise in the financial abuse of older people, through scams and doorstep crimes; a rise in teenage suicides; a rise in family violence; a worry about children with clear educational, health and care needs who are not in school, despite the offer of a place; and a worry that people with other urgent health needs are not going to hospital. Delays in going to hospital if you have a potentially serious condition like cancer, diabetes or sepsis, whatever your age, can be just as fatal as coronavirus. More people will die because of not going to hospital early enough, other serious health conditions are not politely waiting for Covid-19 to run its course. I should emphasise these are national concerns, but we are continuing to monitor the situation in Suffolk. As yet no clear trends have emerged, but it is early days and we are no different to anywhere else when it comes to risk.
The truth is we don’t know how individuals and families in Suffolk will react to an extended lockdown. During this challenging time, it will be even harder for children and adults who are already vulnerable to tell us what is happening to them. We know from other countries in lockdown that domestic abuse, self-neglect and the use of drugs and alcohol has increased.
One major concern is that referrals to statutory organisations like the police and social care have dropped considerably, especially referrals from the community, family, friends and local organisations. This is inevitable in a lockdown where people are not interacting as they usually would, and it is one reason why the lockdown should be for the shortest possible period. Staying at home keeps you away from Covid-19 but it is not necessarily the safest place for everyone. This is one of the great dilemmas about the prospect of long-term social distancing.
We are all responsible for safeguarding and now more than ever, it is important that we are extra alert to the signs of abuse and neglect. This is about community curiosity matching professional curiosity. It is not about snitching.
Right now, it is important that volunteers, delivery drivers and immediate neighbours who may get a glimpse of what is going on in communities, see themselves as important safe guarders. It is their role to be the eyes and ears and report anything that concerns them.
If you are concerned about someone’s welfare, then please report it on 0808 800 4005. Please don’t hold back, your concern will be followed up, and this can be done anonymously.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to all the safeguarding agencies in Suffolk who have worked around the clock to make sure vulnerable people are safe during this unprecedented time. I have seen the commitment and determination of staff and volunteers which I know will continue for as long as the threat from Covid-19 remains, whether this is weeks or months. It is also important to acknowledge the major contribution of carers in Suffolk who are looking after relatives with challenging behaviour behind closed doors. There are many other groups involved with maintaining our civic society in secret, who all need acknowledging and praising.
Let us all play our part in keeping people safe from all the other threats they face, if you see something concerning, recognise it and report it.
Anthony Douglas CBE
Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership