Adult safeguarding concerns rise by 61 per cent in Devon – as powerful stories highlight work being done to keep people safe

‘It is often the simple things we need to do which make the difference’.

That is the message from a report outlining how the Devon Safeguarding Adults Board is acting to prevent people experiencing abuse, neglect and harm.

Over the last year, there has been a 61 per cent increase in safeguarding concerns raised in Devon – with more than 3,500 reports made in 2018/19.

The number of enquiries undertaken also rose by around 40 per cent, but the annual report of Siân Walker, independent chairman of the Devon Safeguarding Adults Board (DSAB), says that the level of concerns and enquiries is at a lower level than the national average.

The report reveals:

  • 61 per cent of individuals involved in safeguarding concerns in 2018-19 were female;
  • 87 per cent of individuals involved in safeguarding concerns in 2018-19 recorded their ethnicity as white;
  • 53 per cent of enquiries of abuse or neglect pursued in 2018-19 took place within the person’s own home;
  • A lower proportion of enquiries were recorded in care homes in 2018-19 than the previous year and significantly below the national picture in 2017-18;
  • A higher proportion of enquiries were recorded in hospital settings in 2018-19 than the previous year and bringing in line with the national picture in 2017-18.

The report goes before the Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee on Monday.

Introducing the report, Mrs Walker says: “I continue to believe in the power of personal stories which help us all to understand the impact of what we do, supporting those with care and support needs who suffer abuse, neglect and harm.

“At every DSAB meeting, we listen to a personal story, often presented by the person with lived experience.

“This gives us many learning opportunities which are cascaded by partners through into their organisations.

“A Safeguarding Adults Board has a duty to act to prevent people experiencing abuse, neglect and harm and these powerful stories show us that it is often the simple things we need to do which make the difference.

“These experiences add to the learning from Safeguarding Adult Reviews and all this plays its part in continuously improving services.”

The report outlines two stories – that of Greg and Tom – which explains the safeguarding concerns and how the board tackled them to get a positive outcome.

She added that the strategic priorities for the next year include finding the right solution at the right time for the most at-risk people, increasing the public awareness of safeguarding, improving the experience of children transitioning to adult services, working together to ensure they remain safe and increasing our staff understanding of the law in relation to safeguarding adults.

The goals to enable these aims to be achieved include support the development of a unanimous understanding of what vulnerability and exploitation is, increasing public knowledge regarding the recognition of abuse and/or exploitation and promoting the reporting of abuse from the public.

They also include encouraging a sense of community responsibility for safeguarding within all communities, ensuring early intervention systems are in place and that professionals have a current, working understanding of legislation and are competent at putting it into practice.

The committee will be given the opportunity to make any comments they wish on it.


In March 2018, concerns were raised about Greg’s support in respect of emotional and physical neglect.

The safeguarding enquiry found that there were some key themes, including a lack of communication with him and his family, an absence of consideration that Greg’s support was being delivered in his own home, a need to ensure that Greg received continuity of care which was uninterrupted and overall that there needed to be consideration of what Greg would like to achieve.

The way Greg’s support had been organised meant that sometimes Greg did not receive the necessary support and his support hours were sometimes used for other people.

A change of culture and attitude was needed by the support provider.

Greg was given the option to move into other accommodation while the investigation was under way.

Greg stated that he was happy to stay where he was and he gave the social worker permission to inform his parents of any issues he had, as they knew what the problems were and could give their side of the story.

With the support of his parents, the social worker and his mental health worker, Greg felt confident to speak openly and honestly in the first formal safeguarding meeting.

Greg was allocated his own full-time key worker which offered him more stability and control. It was agreed that Greg and his staff would be open and honest about their day during the hand over period to ensure that any issues were dealt with.

Initially Greg found it difficult to be more assertive, but he is growing in confidence with support. Greg now choses his own support team and he raises any issues straight away.

The outcome of the enquiry is that Greg is now ‘the boss’ and feels in control.

He is leading a busy life which requires extensive diary management. The activities Greg wants to do are matched by the support from staff. Greg reported that the service he receives now is better than it ever was.


Tom is a 37-year-old man who is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar affective disorder, alcohol and substance dependence, and psychosis.

He has children from a previous relationship and his parents have custody of them.

Tom has contact with his children on a regular basis, supervised by his parents who provide support to him wherever possible.

Safeguarding concerns were originally raised in August 2018 by Tom’s care coordinator who was concerned about Tom’s chaotic lifestyle, drug and alcohol intake and his blood-letting.

During the safeguarding enquiry, Tom described being involved in the distribution of drugs – know as ‘County Lines’ activity.

He was being targeted on his journey to obtain methadone from the pharmacy.

He alluded to owing people money and was open about selling his body sexually for money to pay his rent.

Tom also described other people staying at his property. He was clear that he could not say no to these people as they were violent – he described them as ‘weaponed-up’ and he described the gang of people as coming from Manchester.

A safety plan was agreed with Tom, that he would continue to work with together re his drug use, consider rehab/detox outside of his current location, that he would have a sexual health screen to support his physical health and his GP (present at the meeting) would monitor Tom’s blood to ensure his blood-letting was not impacting on him physically.

Tom agreed that the threats of violence from the Manchester gang would be discreetly escalated to the police.

The local policing team have opened a criminal inquiry in response to Tom’s disclosures.

Tom has been supported to address his accommodation and has set up a payment plan with the council who have paid his rent arrears to enable him time to source alternative accommodation.

The Devon Partnership Trust (DPT) worked quickly with Tom in a way that meant that he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the increase in professionals scrutinising his lifestyle.

He was supported to participate in the investigation and all the meetings to express his views, wishes and anxieties at this time.

Tom wanted and received support in liaising with the police, about his concerns about being targeted; he also requested that police only attend his address in plain clothes.

Tom received the support he wanted in attending appointments, managing paperwork and forms.

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