With the rate of deaths in hospital beginning to fall, we are rightly becoming equally or even more concerned about the number of deaths in care homes. Methodist Homes have featured strongly in media coverage so far. Some of the most vulnerable members of our churches and communities are therefore amongst those most at risk.
Every local authority has a Safeguarding Adults Board which draws together a wide range health and social care agencies, as well as the police and fire services. Their aim is to ensure that there is a coherent, comprehensive and high quality adult safeguarding service in their areas. You would be right to assume that they are particularly concerned just now that adults who may be at risk because of age, disability, poor mental health or other circumstance are properly protected.
One southwest London Safeguarding Adults Board met last week and provided some insight into what is happening locally during the lockdown. Here is what board members heard:
In the first 4 weeks of lockdown:
15% increase in contacts made to the Domestic Abuse hub.
33% drop in referrals to children’s services so people engaging with families where there is primarily an adult focus are reminded to ‘Think Family’.
An emerging concern about non Covid 19 late presentations to hospital or other services which may put vulnerable adults, children and young people at risk through fear of infection and not seeking appropriate and timely treatment.
Self-neglect is an emerging concern linking with late presentation or failure to seek help or treatment.
An inability by partner agencies to contact some people who require shielding, especially those with complex needs.
District nursing service under pressure to help provide end of life care at home to Covid and non-Covid patients.
Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs remain the best places to raise safeguarding concerns and they will generally have a Covid safeguarding-related reporting line.
For churches the bullet points (in bold) about late presentation, self-neglect and failure to connect with the most vulnerable perhaps have some relevance as our online, telephone and other types of pastoral support services begin to take off. These concerns could be usefully turned into informal prompts and questions for people making inquiries about an individual’s welfare. So asking about general health and how people are coping with other conditions; or checking that people are looking after themselves if you sense they don’t to make a fuss or are finding it all too overwhelming; or asking someone who seems to meet the critical shielding criteria if they have heard from the government or council for example.
Better to ask the right questions than wait to find out before it’s too late!