Support for community organisations who are working with "Adults at Risk"​

In the last number of weeks, I have noticed an increase in requests from community organisations for support to implement their Adult Safeguarding Policy and provide Safeguarding Training for staff in their organisation. I believe this increase is directly related to the fact that Ireland, and specifically community groups in rural parts of Ireland, are now supporting large numbers of persons who have come here to flee War be it in Ukraine, the Middle East, or Africa.

Traditionally Adult Safeguarding has always been recognised as an essential elment of working with the elderly, persons with an intellectual disability and those who have limited capacity. The term “vulnerable” adult is the most commonly referred to term to identify those at most risk of abuse. According to the HSE 2014’s Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons At Risk of Abuse National Policy described vulnerable persons as:

“an adult who may be restricted in capacity to guard himself / herself against harm or exploitation or to report such harm or exploitation. Restriction of capacity may arise as a result of physical or intellectual impairment. Vulnerability to abuse is influenced by both context and individual circumstances”.

However according to the Governments discussion paper on Safeguarding there is a growing consensus both in Ireland and internationally that the use of the term vulnerable is insensitive and may stigmatise those affected. It also implies that the persons characteristics cause them to be at risk of being harmed, rather than those who cause harm. There is now a move towards the term "Adult at Risk" rather than focusing on their vulnerablility. The HSE are currently working on a revised definition of adult at risk in their new safeguarding policy (unpublished) which is as follows:

“an adult aged 18 years or over, who is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation by a third party and lacks mental or physical capacity to protect themselves from harm at this time in their lives”

This shows a better understanding of both the situational nature of being “at risk” as well as demonstrating that it is the actions of a 3rd party rather than an inherent “vulnerability” due to the individuals characteristics and circumstances which cause the person to be at risk of abuse.

If you are working with Adults at Risk and are beginning to observe that they are experiencing vulnerability at this time in their lives and are concerned that your organisation needs to implement a robust safeguarding policy and procedure or revise your existing policies and procedures then please do get in touch at to discuss further.

In 2021 I partnered with Best Practice Healthcare Ltd. to deliver an online training course in "Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults at Risk of Abuse". For further information see

Why is the reporting of accidents, incidents and near misses so important for Safeguarding?

Across all sections in society, those involved in the provision of care can learn from any near miss, incident, complaint or accident. Any one of these can be a learning experience for all involved, particularly if there are certain situations that are recurring. It can unfortunately also be an indicator of abuse, including risk to safeguarding in the organisation, a situation that needs to be examined immediately.

A poor or toxic culture in an organisation may manifest itself in a culture of fear; fear of speaking out about issues like understaffing or the lack of necessary resources for the safe provision of care. This can increase the chances of safeguarding risks and the likelihood of abuse occurring. Every person working within an organisation contributes to the culture in that organisation, but if there is a systemic problem within the leadership of the organisation, it can be difficult for a positive and proactive safeguarding culture to exist. Those of us who are most vulnerable rely on those who are supporting us to be constantly aware of our safety and raise the alarm if they believe we are unsafe or are participating in activities which could put us in harms way. They also rely on us to report to those in authority if they suspect we are being ill treated.

What is safeguarding?

All adults have a right to be safe and to live a life free from abuse. According to the HSE, safeguarding means putting in place measures that promote and protect people’s human rights, their health and well-being whilst empowering people to protect themselves. Most adults can protect themselves and may only require advice or guidance from the people who support them. Others may require support to protect themselves and may in some cases require a health or care plan to help them feel safe. A minority of people cannot protect themselves adequately from abuse and will require additional protection. Safeguarding should also be viewed as responding to concerns to prevent abuse across a continuum of care.

Safeguarding focuses on the:

  • Prevention of abuse.
  • Identification of abuse.
  • Identification and implementation of measures that reduce/eliminate the risk of recurrence of abuse.

A Safeguarding Ireland Survey Found…

  • 1 in 2 Irish adults claim experience of vulnerable adult abuse.
  • Physical abuse of vulnerable adults has been witnessed, or suspected, by 1 in 3 adults.
  • Emotional abuse is the most common type with over 1 in 3 having experienced it.
  • More than 10,000 cases of alleged abuse are reported to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams each year.

Ireland's first Adult Safeguarding Day public awareness event takes place on Friday November 19, 2021. The event is being coordinated by Safeguarding Ireland – in partnership with organisations across the health, social, financial and justice sectors. The aim is to raise a greater awareness and understanding of safeguarding with respect to

  1. Rights
  2. Services and
  3. Empowerment.

In celebration of Ireland's 1st ever Adult Safeguarding Day we will be giving away 5 vouchers (worth €50 each) to attend our Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults at Risk of Abuse training course. Designed for Healthcare Workers, Social Care Workers, Residential Service Providers, Home Care and Disability Sector employees. Our online Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults at Risk of Abuse course helps you clearly identify safeguarding risks, and understand when and how to report a safeguarding concern including allegations or concerns of abuse.

If you would like to be in with a chance to get a voucher the first 5 people to email me will get their free training voucher

Why is Culture so important to Adult Safeguarding in Ireland?

In Ireland, most adults live independent lives which are free from abuse or the harm which can be caused by abuse. Unfortunately, there are some adults who may have been abused or are at risk of being abused. Within the social care and health care sector "safeguarding" is often only considered when responding to abuse concerns or allegations of abuse. However safeguarding actually means much more than this. In its broadest meaning safeguarding has a significant preventative component and means protecting people's health, well being, and human rights. It is about enabling people to live free from harm, abuse, and neglect (HSE, 2020). However, organisational culture and power relationships within care settings can work against a culture of raising concerns and protecting adults from abuse (Calcraft, 2005).

But what do we mean when we talk about the Culture within an organisation?

Workplace Culture is the character and personality of an organisation. It's made up of the organisation's leadership, values, traditions and beliefs, and the behaviours and attitudes of the people who work there. Having a positive workplace culture in a social care or healthcare setting is vital when delivering high quality care and support. Culture can also be hard to define and measure but embedded in culture are the hidden assumptions about the generally accepted ‘way we do things around here’. Culture can also be observed in the way staff behave and what they expect of each other. Establishing relationships with colleagues can be difficult for new staff, particularly if the culture of a team is a close knit one. Strong relationships within a team are often regarded as being a positive factor in delivering good care to service users, but this is not necessarily the case – it can also make challenging bad practice very difficult, particularly if powerful individuals are allowed to dominate a team (Calcraft, 2005).

In their ‘Driving improvement: case studies from nine adult social care services’, the UK Care Quality Commission (CQC, 2018) found that failing organisations tend to have cultures where staff are afraid to speak out, don’t feel they have a voice and aren’t listened to. The report went on to identify a number of services which had shown significant improvements in their overall inspection rating because they prioritised the development of a open and positive workplace culture.

The culture and leadership within organisations and the way staff are treated have an impact on front line practice. By working towards having a positive staff culture not only benefits and improves the lives of those living in our social care and health care services, but it will also be beneficial for the staff team who work there. A positive workplace culture gives everyone within it a sense of identity. This is important because it gives everyone a feeling of belonging and unity which can go towards ensuring the workforce and people who live in the service are loyal and proud to be part of the organisation. It also makes people feel part of a team which encourages them to be tolerant and respectful of each other’s views, strengths, and differences, and recognise the contributions and skills that everyone brings.

The building of a positive safeguarding culture is not just the responsibility of the organisation or employer, it is the responsibility of everyone. Culture is powerful and is key to safeguarding. By having an open and positive culture whereby every employee is constantly vigilant to the signs of what constitutes abuse, can speak freely and openly if they witness something which is of concern and is trained and qualified to be able to identify what constitutes the potential for abuse to occur, you are lowering the risk of the abuse occurring in the first place.

Maighréad Kelly Consultancy offers a range of supports for employers in the area of Safeguarding. Maighréad is an experienced safeguarding investigator and trainer. For more information on the services that Maighréad Kelly Consultancy provide go to