Agenda item

Teeswide Safeguarding Adults Board (TSAB) - Annual Report 2022-2023


The Committee was presented with the latest TSAB Annual Report for 2022-2023 (full report and Strategic Business Plan for 2022-2025 was provided in advance) by the current TSAB Independent Chair.  Supported by the Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (SBC) Assistant Director – Adult Social Care / PSW, the following key elements were highlighted:


           Context: TSAB was a partnership of four Local Authorities, not an organisation.  It remained vital that Local Authorities understood their role with regards safeguarding (a statutory responsibility that sits with Councils) – namely that they have an adult safeguarding Board, and that this produces an Annual Report and conducts safeguarding reviews in relation to serious incidents.


TSAB was a unique set-up as no other area had four Local Authorities coming together to form a Board (with SBC hosting the TSAB Business Unit).  This was seen as a positive arrangement as it allowed for economies of scale in terms of resource costs (bolstered by contributions from health and police), and also fostered in-built independence with involved Local Authorities scrutinising each other as well as the input of key partners.  The Independent Chair would be leaving in April 2024 after four years in the role.


           Partnerships: The work of the six statutory Board partners (four Local Authorities plus Cleveland Police and the NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board) was supported by 23 non-statutory organisations across Teesside and beyond.  The involvement of prison / probation services and housing providers were particularly important elements, something which other parts of the country did not benefit from.


The Board’s sub-groups led on key pieces of work in order to achieve the aims and objectives set out in the Board’s Strategic Business Plan, with all Local Authorities playing their part in chairing and supporting one.  A number of Task and Finish Groups had also convened during 2022-2023 to look at specific workstreams.


           Safeguarding Data: There had been a 10% increase in safeguarding concerns received, and a 6% increase in Section 42 enquiries carried out, during 2022-2023 compared to the previous year (2021-2022).  Regarding the enquiries undertaken, the most common location of risk across Teesside remained a person’s own home (46%), followed by care homes (36%).  The top four areas of abuse were neglect and acts of omission (28%), physical (20%), self-neglect (12%), and financial and material abuse (12%), all of which had increased in comparison to 2021-2022 along with cases of sexual abuse and modern slavery.


As reflected within the appendix to the TSAB Annual Report, the anomalies highlighted during consideration of the previous report (2021-2022) in relation to the recording of Stockton-on-Tees safeguarding data had now been resolved (which accounted for the large jump in the number of safeguarding concerns reported for the Borough).


           Performance Indicators: All four of the Board’s 2022-2023 performance indicators (PIs) were achieved.  It was noted that there used to be a further PI around the conversion rate for the number of safeguarding concerns that led to a Section 42 enquiry – however, whilst it was previously deemed that a higher rate was positive, local partners felt that this figure could be interpreted in conflicting ways and may lead to the unnecessary initiation of Section 42 enquiries merely to increase the overall rate.  That said, the conversion rate across Teesside was higher than the national average, a situation which presented resource challenges for the Board’s statutory and non-statutory organisations.


           Joint Working: One of the Board’s priorities was the development of a whole system approach to safeguarding adults which was responsive to individual needs, views and wishes.  An element of how this was being addressed was engagement and collaboration with the Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships, an area of required focus which the Committee had previously felt was lacking.  It was reported that progress in relation to adults and children’s joint working continued to be slow, though a new protocol had now been developed reaffirming the commitment between these two areas to ensure individuals did not fall between any gaps.


           Safeguarding Adult Reviews (SARs): Eight SAR notifications were considered during 2022-2023, six of which met the criteria for a SAR (the highest number since TSAB began).  One of the published reports (‘Molly’) found the individual was significantly let-down by the criminal justice system, a situation which the Chair highlighted to the national safeguarding forum (though there had been little progress since).  Whilst emphasising the importance of learning lessons, the cost and resources / time required to undertake SARs was stressed.


           Summary: Increasing volume and complexity of cases continued to be key elements within adult safeguarding, with partners trying to resolve significant issues within a system that was not always supporting this adequately.  As explained in previous years, an increasing number of recorded cases could be seen both ways – concerning that there appeared to be more safeguarding issues, or encouraging that more people recognised, and then reported, these concerns.  In an effort to seek coherent narrative around the statistics / data, Teesside would start using Power BI (a data visualisation tool that pulls together information to produce high quality performance reports) next year.


Expressing thanks for this latest Annual Report, the Committee wished the TSAB Independent Chair well for the future upon leaving his role in the coming weeks.  Noting that the safeguarding concerns / Section 42 enquiries conversion rate was still being referenced within the report despite being dropped as a performance indicator, Members asked how this compared to similar national data.  In response, it was stated that the national conversion rate was around 38% (lower than Teesside’s 46%), and that whilst TSAB did want this as a target, it was still considered important to monitor – questions would be asked if there was suddenly a big drop in the rate.  The Committee was reminded that decisions to undertake Section 42 enquiries had resource implications for already stretched Councils.


The significant presence and contributions of Stockton-on-Tees organisations throughout TSAB-related activity was commended by the Committee, and the developments in strengthening co-operation between adults and children’s services was welcomed given the assurances that Members received last year.  The TSAB Independent Chair commented that challenges remained in achieving progress on a joint basis.


Reference was made to the Stockton News article regarding self-neglect (key achievements over the past year: April – June 2022), with Members querying if this stimulated an increase in the reporting of such cases.  The Committee heard that, whilst it was difficult to ascertain if such communication was the reason for people reporting concerns, an increase in self-neglect cases during 2022-2023 may indicate a greater awareness of the signs to look out for.  Continuing the theme of communication, the Committee was pleased to see the number of TSAB annual survey responses (priority 3), particularly the large increase in ‘Easy Read’ returns.  The need to ensure methods for gaining feedback on safeguarding matters were not long-winded (and therefore off-putting) was emphasised.  


Returning to the safeguarding concerns / Section 42 enquiries conversion rate, the Committee asked if a higher rate was a positive development.  Members were reminded that increases in safeguarding data could be interpreted in different ways, but noted that 90% of people were getting the outcome they wanted (though this did not always mean that the individual was wholly protected).  Importantly, TSAB and its various partners was improving its understanding of the legal framework in which to deal with cases and provide support.


Mindful of the comments about ongoing pressures on Local Authorities (as well as other partners), Members questioned if there were the required resources available to address the level of safeguarding issues prevalent across Teesside (which was not necessarily the same as what affected individuals wanted to happen).  It was stated that SBC had increased its capacity within the Safeguarding Team this year (though would always like more), and that having a dedicated team such as this was not always replicated within other Local Authorities.  Whilst the present resourcing situation was felt comfortable, it was also stressed that dealing with safeguarding matters was not the sole preserve of Councils and could / should be assisted by its partners.


Staying with staffing considerations, Members asked how TSAB and its various organisations supported personnel who were involved in often difficult cases.  The Committee was assured that this was taken very seriously and that, as far as SBC was concerned, there was a positive open culture which included the option for staff to rotate roles if they needed relief following a challenging period of time dealing with safeguarding-related issues (the award won by SBC for efforts to support social workers was also noted).  The TSAB Independent Chair commended the Committee’s focus on protecting staff and agreed that it was critical to look after and support the safeguarding workforce.


Bringing this item to a close, the Committee observed TSABs offer of a training course on abuse related to beliefs in witchcraft, and queried if this was an area of concern.  The TSAB Independent Chair was not aware that this was a significant issue across Teesside but was part of a robust training offer for safeguarding practitioners.


AGREED that the Teeswide Safeguarding Adults Board (TSAB) – Annual Report 2022-2023 be noted.



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