Local Authority Safeguarding Investigations can be expensive for care providers

Due to multiple safeguarding enquiries, the Swift Management Team often work with providers that are under their local authorities' spotlights.   Not all safeguarding issues should be subject to the Care Act 2014 section 42 enquiries. The investigation of multiple safeguarding issues places the provider under greater scrutiny from the local authorities and regulators. Whilst safeguarding vulnerable people is essential, the process must be proportionate. As multiple safeguards are investigated, there is greater scrutiny on a service, which can raise even more safeguarding issues. Quickly a provider finds the local authority has stopped funded placements, and the regulators are looking closely for breaches in regulations.

The situation can escalate to a large-scale enquiry being convened by the local authority to review cases and actions together. Often the provider is the last to know about the large-scale enquiry starting. Supporting multiple resident reviews and contract monitoring visits can be time-consuming as each visitor has a slightly different agenda. A provider under a large-scale enquiry investigation can expect the process to go on for a long time. The cost to the provider can be high, both financially and reputationally.

As a result of a safeguarding concern, we often find that a client has been moved to a different provider. If this is the case, the enquiry should no longer be investigated under section 42 of the Care Act as this relates to vulnerable people who are perceived to be at risk of abuse or neglect. Given that the vulnerable person has been relocated, they are no longer at risk. Getting this investigation downgraded from a section 42 investigation is rarely easy, but this can be achieved with support.

If a provider is invited to attend a large-scale enquiry, it is useful to take an independent representative, as the process can feel very intimidating and sometimes even threatening. The best way to manage the enquiry meeting is to be prepared, demonstrate transparency, accept what you believe to be correct and speak up when you consider the information incorrect. Being open and receptive whilst standing strong on other points can be difficult for the provider. On the positive side, this is the opportunity to demonstrate transparency and a willingness to address issues and work with the local authority. An excellent way to achieve this is to have a really detailed action plan and evidence to support improvement. Developing a detailed document and gathering evidence can be time-consuming, and that is where we can assist.

The sooner the large-scale enquiry is closed, the sooner the local authority will recommence purchasing services. Whilst no one would want to ignore serious concerns, the process can take, in some instances, up to a year to close. The timescales of the local authority can take a toll on the provider's pocket. Investing time and money into getting the service operating again is crucial.

The local authority will not have the same urgency to conclude investigations as the provider. However, a protracted investigation has a negative impact on the provider and their staff, especially if they are under suspension. We have worked on cases where despite the staff member being cleared of blame, they decide not to return to the care sector. In a world where recruitment is difficult, any provider losing staff unnecessarily adds to the burden.

We would advise seeking advice and support from a consultant as soon as a provider feels there is increased scrutiny from the local authority regardless of the reason, but especially when it is due to several safeguarding concerns being raised in rapid succession. The Swift Management Team can practically support the changes needed to stabilise the service. More importantly, we will work with you to build and gain the trust of the local authority to speed up the process and, in many instances, assist in opening the service again in a reasonable timeframe.

If you are a provider who would like to discuss your issues confidentially. We offer a one-hour free consultation via MS Teams, Zoom or Telephone. Please email us at info@swiftmangement.org.uk for more information.