Agenda item

SBC Safeguarding Concerns - Analysis (including DoLS activity)


A briefing report was presented by the Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (SBC) Assistant Director – Adult Social Care / PSW giving some background to changes in the Council’s safeguarding performance reporting and aiming to contextualise the increase in the number of safeguarding concerns this year.


Reference was made to concerns raised by the Committee about the lower number of safeguarding concerns being reported by Stockton-on-Tees compared to other Tees Valley Local Authorities during the January 2023 presentation of the Teeswide Safeguarding Adults Board (TSAB) Annual Report 2021-2022.  It was explained that, in Stockton-on-Tees, all safeguarding concerns were triaged by the SBC First Contact Team, and concerns not requiring any further action were dealt with.  The SBC Safeguarding Team took responsibility for cases where more investigation was needed or where the Section 42 enquiry threshold was met.  The SBC Safeguarding Team captured data for the Council’s safeguarding returns; any work undertaken by SBC First Contact was not being measured and there was therefore under-reporting of the total number of safeguarding concerns.


Since this time, performance recording had now been changed and all safeguarding concerns reported to SBC were now being measured (in alignment with the other Local Authorities involved with TSAB).  This led to an anticipated increase in the number of concerns for the 2022-2023 year, though it was noted that the triaging of concerns had not changed.  An assurance audit of safeguarding concerns triaged at SBC First Contact as ‘No Further Action’ was completed, showing effective and consistent decision-making.  All referrals and decisions were recorded on the LAS system for Adult Social Care.  The number of safeguarding concerns being reported should remain high from now, as data previously held only at SBC First Contact was being captured.


Specific analysis was included on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding (DoLS) activity, with national, regional and local data incorporated into the report for comparison.  In 2022-2023, per 100,000 population, the number of individuals with a DoLS application, the number of applications, and the number of completed applications, were all higher than the national average – this was viewed as positive because it meant that the relevant people were afforded protection, and deprivations of liberty were lawful.


From a Stockton-on-Tees perspective, there were 10% more DoLS applications in 2022-2023 compared to the previous year – this appeared to be largely due to the Discharge to Assess process.  Completed DoLS applications (per 100,000 population) during this period was the highest regionally and among Local Authority peers in England (and much higher than the national average).  70 DoLS applications were not yet signed off at the end of the reporting period (nationally, this was 126,000, indicating backlogs in the system), though were in the process of completion.  There was no waiting list for DoLS in Stockton-on-Tees, and the average time between receipt of application and completion was 11 days across urgent and standard authorisations (significantly lower than the national average of 156 days) – this evidenced SBCs continued compliance with the DoLS framework.  Any objections / challenges were also addressed in a timely fashion.


The Committee welcomed this briefing, particularly given the concerns raised in the past regarding the Council’s DoLS data when compared to neighbouring Local Authorities.  Members went on to ask whether difficulties were being encountered when trying to recruit Relevant Persons Representatives (RPRs) (an appointed friend or relative of a person who is subject to a DoLS authorisation), and whether those that fulfil the role were receiving appropriate support / training.  In response, the Committee was informed that a family member would always be prioritised in the first instance for this position, and that three-monthly sessions for RPRs were available to assist people in the role (though it was acknowledged that only very small numbers attend).


Furthermore, SBC had recently changed the commissioning process around advocacy, and there was currently no waiting list for those requiring representation since the new contract had been put in place.  It was noted that Local Authorities can face challenges trying to fill RPR (as well as Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCA) and Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)) roles, and that whilst families remained the first port-of-call, this can be quite a daunting proposition for relatives.


AGREED that the contents of the SBC Safeguarding Concerns - Analysis (including DoLS activity) report be noted.

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