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Publication, Part of

Safeguarding Adults England, 2019-20

Experimental statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Country, Local Authorities, Regions, Councils with Adult Social Services Responsibilities (CASSRs)
Date Range:
01 Apr 2019 to 31 Mar 2020


A note regarding these statistics

This publication provides the findings from the Safeguarding Adults Collection (SAC) for the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. Safeguarding Adults is a statutory duty for Councils with Adult Social Services Responsibilities (CASSRs) in England under the Care Act 2014, in order to safeguard adults from abuse or neglect. For ease of reading and consistency ‘local authority’ will be used subsequently in this report to refer to CASSRs.

This publication presents information about safeguarding concerns that were raised and where enquiries took place during the year. It also contains case details for safeguarding enquiries which concluded during the reporting period. A safeguarding concern is where a local authority is notified about a risk of abuse or neglect which could instigate an enquiry under local safeguarding procedures.

Chart 1 shows the timeseries data on the number of Concerns, Section 42 Enquiries and Other Enquiries reported by local authorities. 

Download the data for this chart Chart 1: Number of Safeguarding Concerns and Total Enquiries, 2016-17 to 2019-20, England

The data used in this publication were collated by NHS Digital from the SAC mandatory data collection of all 151 local authorities in England. Data was provided in aggregate form and therefore no individual’s details have been passed to NHS Digital.

The publication consists of:

  • data tables providing data at local authority, regional and national level
  • data quality assessment, including data completeness and integrity measures
  • supporting information
  • open data
  • the Adult Social Care Analytical Hub, an interactive business intelligence tool

In order to prevent the risk of disclosure of data about individuals, figures 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4 are displayed as a "*" (star symbol) in the data tables. All other figures have been rounded to the nearest multiple of 5. Proportions (percentages) are calculated on the unrounded figures.

Within the collection and this publication we distinguish between Section 42 part 2 enquiries that met the criteria under Section 42 part 1 of the Care Act 2014 (referred to in the report as ‘Section 42 enquiries’) and those where the adult did not meet all of the Section 42 part 1 criteria, but the local authority considered it necessary and proportionate to have a safeguarding enquiry. These are referred to in the report as Other enquiries.

Data on Section 42 enquiries is mandatory to collect except for the data on ‘Making Safeguarding Personal’, which is voluntary.

Data on Other enquiries is voluntary to collect and submit, except for one table, which captures the overall number of Other enquiries that commenced in the reporting period.

Similarly, data on safeguarding concerns is voluntary to collect and submit, except for one table, which captures the overall number of concerns received in the reporting period.

This publication is labelled as Experimental Statistics, in line with previous publications of adult safeguarding statistics. Within the time of the SAC collection (since 2016) there has been a degree of change. Furthermore, limitations remain around interpretation and usage of the data due to local variation in how safeguarding activity is defined and reported (this is explained further within the Data Quality Key Information section). In August 2019, the Local Government Association (LGA) published a framework to support local safeguarding decision making. The framework was  developed by the LGA and the Association for Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and it is hoped will help reduce local variation via alignment of the SAC to the framework. The framework was published halfway through the reporting year 2019-20.  The full impact of this framework will only be seen in 2020-21 because this will be the first full year in which the framework can influence practice and reporting.   At this stage, the Experimental Statistics label will be reviewed. LGA and ADASS have also recently developed a related framework around what constitutes a safeguarding concern which may also have an impact on figures captured in the SAC in future years.

These statistics have not been materially impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as the data period ended before the pandemic really took hold.  However, due to reduced capacity at local authorities to collate the data, the data quality assessment also includes a summary of the checks take to review the impact the pandemic has had on the data quality of the SAC. 

How can the data be used?

Image for infographic Do use this data:
Do use this data:
  • to understand trends in volumes of safeguarding concerns raised and enquiries conducted
  • to analyse the profile of people involved in safeguarding enquiries, and the nature of the risk of abuse or neglect involved
  • alongside other local data on safeguarding practice and outcomes
Image for infographic Do not use this data
Do not use this data
  • to make judgements about how effective local authorities are at keeping adults safe from abuse and neglect
  • to benchmark local authorities against each other, due to the different reporting and practices used to discharge their statutory duties


The Care Act 2014 came into effect on 1 April 2015. It reformed the way the adult social care system works in England, including how care is delivered. The changes included a range of new obligations for local authorities around the provision of information and advice, the integration of care and support with health-related services and eligibility assessments. It also strengthened the rights and recognition of carers in the social care system, and (relevant for this collection) provided a legal basis for safeguarding adults from abuse or neglect.

 Safeguarding Adults is a statutory duty of the Care Act, and must be seen within the context of broader Care Act reforms, which introduced a duty to promote wellbeing and to ‘adopt a flexible approach that allows for a focus on which aspects of wellbeing matter most to the individual concerned’. Application of the six statutory safeguarding principle and Making Safeguarding Personal supports practice capable of achieving a wide range of responses tailored to meet the needs of the individual.

Under the criteria set out in Section 42 part 1 of the Act:

Where a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult in its area (whether or not ordinarily resident there):

(a) has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs) and

(b) is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect and

(c) as a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it,

then the local authority must, as set out in Section 42 part 2 of the Act, make (or cause to be made) whatever enquiries it thinks necessary to enable it to decide whether any action should be taken in the adult’s case and, if so, what and by whom.

The SAC has been in place since 2015-16 and is an updated version of the Safeguarding Adults Return (SAR) which collected safeguarding data for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 reporting periods. Changes were made to bring the collection in line with the Care Act (2014). Some of the categories collected have remained the same but there are also some significant differences. The main change was in how cases opened in the reporting year are categorised. Previous reports used individuals “Known” and “Unknown” to the local authority, but this distinction has been removed. Previous reports recorded details of individuals with Safeguarding Referrals, but the SAC now records individuals with Safeguarding Enquiries. While these will be largely equivalent, they may not be directly comparable, and care will need to be taken when comparing recent publications with data prior to the 2015-16 reporting period contained in the two SAR reports.

The data collection has evolved since then in fairly minor ways, with any changes being signed-off by the appropriate governance boards. The approval process involves the SAC Working Group (comprising a cohort of local authority safeguarding leads and performance leads to advise on the data collection), the Adult Social Care Data Delivery Action Group (a national group overseeing adult social care data collections, publications and the working groups, and which consists of NHS Digital, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Local Government Association, Care Quality Commission and Department of Health and Social Care) and the Adult Social Care Data Outcomes Board (a strategic national group setting the priorities for adult social care national data collections, publications and associated developments).

Any changes to the collection have been communicated to local authorities via a Data Provision Notice and are also detailed in the annual ‘September Letter’ and the associated social care collection materials.

In the 2019-20 SAC data collection, two new tables were added that cross tabulate ‘Type of Risk’ and ‘Location of Risk’. Both of these data items were already captured in the SAC, but it was felt that the additional insight from this cross tabulation would be valuable. Data from these tables are included in the csv.

A new data table has been added for 2019-20. This is Table 9: Safeguarding Adult Reviews, which in previous years has only been included in the csv files.

In previous years there were 152 local authorities.  However, on the 1st April 2019 Bournemough and Poole merged to form the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) local authority.  The inclusion of Christchurch has also reduced the size of the Dorset local authority.  Therefore, care should be taken when making comparisons over time for Dorset due to such changes.

Also, for this year the Adult Social Care Analytical Hub has been developed to include historical data so that a timeseries can be seen for each local authority and each measure.

Who this publication is aimed at

This publication may be of interest to members of the public, policy officials and other stakeholders at local and national level, to support adult safeguarding policy development and reforms and to monitor services.

In particular, local authorities may find this data helpful in shaping services and making improvements, especially in terms of evaluating their services and comparing them with previous years or to share best practice with colleagues in other authorities. It is recommended that this data be used alongside local data and other forms of information (such as audits, peer reviews, feedback from adults themselves and staff) by Safeguarding Adults Boards and local authorities to ask questions and to seek necessary assurances about the effectiveness of safeguarding practice and outcomes.

Officials in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) can use the data contained within this publication to make decisions about national policy and practice.

Members of the public and other stakeholders, such as charity organisations, can also use this SAC publication to help to understand safeguarding procedures and their outcomes.  

Additional analysis

In 2018-19, following consultation with stakeholders, it was agreed to not include a report as part of the publication, all other data released remained the same.

This publication follows the same format as last years. 

Instead of providing analysis upfront, NHS Digital encourages any users wanting bespoke additional analysis to request this directly and we can work with you to understand your requirements and provide the data. We hope this will provide a more responsive and valuable service to meet your needs. Please send any such requests to

Please note that although the data released remains the same the data tables were reformatted last year.  The table below shows the previous years' annex tables and where they map to in the publication from 2018-19 onwards.

2018-19 onwards

  Up to and including 2017-18
Data Tables

Time series

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Table 4

Table 5

Table 6

Table 7

Table 8


Annex A

Annex B - Table 1

Annex B - Tables 2, 3 and 4

Annex B - Table 5

Annex C - Table 1

Annex C - Tables 2 and 3

Annex C - Tables 4 and 5

Annex D - Table 1

Annex D - Table 2

Annex F - Table 1

CSV   Annex G

Annex G from the 2017-18 publication has been reformatted to a csv file. The data in the csv is the full data set submitted by each local authority and the same data as included in Table 5 of the 2017-18 Annex G. The data has been reformatted into a csv to allow easier manipulation and processing of the data by users.

Data quality key information

There is a significant degree of variation between local authorities for certain measures. In many instances this variation will result from differing interpretations of the Care Act (2014) and different practices by local authorities, rather than from poor data quality per se. The framework to support local safeguarding decision making, mentioned previously, offers clarity on elements of reporting in the SAC around Section 42 enquiries and it is hoped this will reduce local variation. For 2019-20 data a small number of councils mentioned changes in policy due to the new framework, but there is still significant variation in the conversion rates from concerns to enquiries between local authorities.

In order to better understand local practice across England, NHS Digital undertook a voluntary survey of local authorities in 2018 to understand how they defined and recorded aspects of adult safeguarding within their SAC submission. Responses to the survey can be used to inform analysis of the data published in this release, in order to aid interpretation of the data submitted by local authorities and any differences between local authorities.

Additional care must be taken in particular when comparing the following areas:

Safeguarding concerns:

The data identify a wide variety in the numbers of concerns submitted by local authorities. Discussions with local authorities have identified that differing approaches to how concerns are addressed by the ‘front door’ services will vary between them. In some local authorities concerns are filtered out before they reach the safeguarding team and are not included in the submitted data. Where they exist, Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASHs) may have an impact on the numbers of concerns that are reported in the SAC.

Trigger for a safeguarding enquiry:  

A safeguarding enquiry starts when the initial information gathering has established that there is reasonable cause to suspect that all three of the Section 42 part 1 (S42(1)) criteria are met, or where the criteria are not met the decision has been made that it is necessary and proportionate to respond as a safeguarding enquiry (called Other enquiry).

At present we know there is variation in the point at which initial information gathering, following a concern being raised, then triggers a Section 42 part 2 enquiry (simply called a Section 42 enquiry in the SAC) or Other enquiry, according to explanations provided by data providers.

There is no fixed point during the early phase of an enquiry when a practitioner must determine how to report activity within the SAC return. It may be that this is determined, and therefore recorded and reported as a Section 42 enquiry, after the practitioner has already done part of it. Reporting and recording reflect practice decisions.

Section 42 and Other enquiries:

The methodology by which local authorities determine whether enquiries are undertaken under Section 42 part 2 of the Care Act (2014) or not varies, as can be seen from the counts of Other queries submitted in the SAC. As much of the data on Other enquiries is voluntary to submit, including demographics of the individuals involved and the nature of the risks faced, we are unable to reliably analyse this in further depth (59.0% of cells submitted in 2019-20). Therefore, care should be taken when comparing data as there may not be a complete picture of safeguarding in those authorities with high numbers or proportions of Other enquiries.  It should be noted that the distinction between Section 42 and Other enquiries only exists within the SAC; as part of the survey of local practice 43.6% of completed responses stated that the distinction between Section 42 and Other was not used for local operational or reporting purposes.

‘Conversion rate’ of concerns to enquiries:

There should be no logical conclusion drawn that the number of safeguarding concerns that lead to a Safeguarding enquiry is a reliable indicator of whether people are protected. This must not be used as a comparator for effectiveness and care must be taken in analysing conversion rates and they cannot be used to inferring ‘good’ or ‘bad’ safeguarding practice. Local information about those circumstances that do not warrant such a statutory enquiry will support a broader picture about the effectiveness of safeguarding support in a local area. Aspects of the data and other available information should be used as a ‘can opener’ to ask questions rather than attempting to draw generalised conclusions.

Current developments:

As we have acknowledged the Care Act (2014) is open to local interpretation, however attempts are being undertaken to help develop frameworks around elements of the Care Act to result in more consistent approach to defining these key elements and reduce variation. This is being led by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). In relation to safeguarding concerns, this aims to support consistent local authority decision making and achieve greater understanding across sectors of what constitutes a safeguarding concern so that people get a response that is right for them. This may have an impact on the data that is collected in the SAC from 2020-21 onwards and will be taken account of for future years.

In relation to safeguarding enquiries, the framework for Making Decisions on the duty to carry out Safeguarding Adults enquiries was published in August 2019 by LGA. Whilst this framework has been developed to support safeguarding practice it also offers clarity on elements of reporting in the SAC around Section 42 enquiries and we have refined the data collection guidance in order to improve consistency of reporting, in accordance with this new framework. The framework was published halfway through the reporting year 2019-20.  The full impact of this framework will only be seen in 2020-21 because this will be the first full year in which the framework can influence practice and reporting.   At this stage the Experimental Statistics label will be reviewed.  

The new framework emphasises that the SAC reports activity under Section 42 part 2 (S42(2)) as set out above. It does not reflect significant and effective early intervention and prevention in safeguarding people, which takes place within S42(1) information gathering, to find out whether there is reasonable cause to suspect that the three statutory criteria are met. The framework underlines the importance of generating and making available local information (to complement the data in the SAC) to give broader assurance of effectiveness of support outside of S42(2).

In addition to the above, discussions are also taking place with the Safeguarding Adults Collection Working Group on the definition of ‘Other Enquiries’. A paper has been produced on how to improve consistency of reporting and once a decision has been made, local authorities will be informed via the September letter and Data Provision Notice.

Other issues relating to 2019-20 data:

149 of the 151 local authorities, submitted a return for all mandatory cells by the mandated deadline.  A validation report was sent to each of the 149 local authorities following a successful upload.  The report includes a summary of measures of data integrity that identified logically inconsistent combinations of data, such as situations where table totals or total of rows within tables should be logically lower, higher or equal to other tables/rows within the submission template.  Local authorities were then given a further opportunity to make amendments to their submission.  The summary measures indicate that the data submitted was valid and complete to a high degree. Two local authorities did not make a submission by the first deadline and so did not receive a data quality validation report.  However, all local authorities made a valid submission by the final deadline and the final returns yielded a national completeness and validity score of 100%.

Making Safeguarding Personal information is voluntary to submit in the SAC. This year has seen a rise in the number of enquiries for which MSP data was provided, from just over 91,000 in 2018-19 to almost 114,000 in 2019-20, a 24.7% increase. A small number of local authorities have particularly contributed to this increase.

Some local authorities gave comments in their data return to explain errors or issues with their data. NHS Digital would like to thank these local authorities for their transparency. Specific key issues relating to local authorities are given below.

Local Authority Table Affected - reference Table Affected - details Local Authority Comment
210 - Calderdale SG1d, SG2a, SG2b, SG2c and SG2e Counts of individuals by Primary Support reason and Case Detail Tables

Calderdale council advised that the Primary Support Reasons 'Support with Memory & Cognition' and 'Learning Disability Support' are captured within the Physical and Mental Health categories.  Due to the constraints of their current system, Domestic Abuse cases were categorised under Neglect or Physical Abuse. A new system enhancement will ensure that this is captured more accurately in future.

There is also a high number of unknown source of risk due to not all source of risk categories being on the reporting system.

Calderdale also informed that their overall number of Section 42s were high for Care Home - Residential due to dual registered homes, a proportion of which should be Nursing.

215 - Kingston Upon Hull SG2a Counts of enquiries by type and source of risk

The council advised that there may be some under reporting. Due to Covid-19 pressures, the council was unable to allocate the required resources to resolve exceptions. These exceptions have not been included and affect some tables.

306 - Manchester All  All tables  Manchester council advised the council implemented a new recording system in July 2019, the change in system might result in the duplication of activity reported as well as changes in trend in comparison with previous years
503 - Lincolnshire SG2c and SG3a Risk Assessment Outcomes by source of risk and Risk Outcomes and Mental Capacity Table for Concluded Section 42 Safeguarding Enquiries Lincolnshire council advised they are now reporting all closed enquiries in year, rather than following a cohort through from concern to closure, this explains the difference between SG2c and SG3a
607 - Norfolk SG2a_b1 Counts of enquiries by type and location of risk Norfolk council contacted NHS Digital to inform that they are unable to link abuse location to type of abuse where there are multiple types in one enquiry. NHS Digital advised to only include enquiries with one abuse type and location in table SG2a_b1
607 - Norfolk SG2a Counts of enquiries by type and source of risk Norfolk council advised that domestic abuse will be slightly low due to workers missing it out when recording physical, psychological and sexual abuse by family members. This is being addressed and is improving.
615 - West Berkshire SG4a Making Safeguarding Personal The council informed that the in the SAC submitted for 2018-19, the figures in the SG4a table were transposed incorrectly for ‘Yes, were asked and expressed outcomes’ and ‘Yes, were asked and no outcomes expressed’ options. This causes issues with comparing to the 2019-20 data.
620 - Essex SG1a, SG1b, SG1c, SG1d and SG1e Counts of individuals by age band, gender, ethnicity, Primary Support Reason and Reported Heath Conditions

Essex council advised they detected an error in the 2018-19 Submission in relation to the total Concerns being received.

The number of Concerns should include the Number of Enquiries, however it only details the number of concerns that did not progress.

621 – Southend on Sea SG2a, SG2b, SG2c and SG2e Counts of enquires by type and source of risk, Counts of enquires by type and location of risk, Risk Assessment Outcome by source of risk and Risk Outcome by source of risk Southend on Sea advised that there were 72 of 1061 records where perpetrator was not recorded and 64 of 1061 records where Location of Risk was not recorded for concluded Section 42 enquiries, as these were not mandatory fields. This issue was resolved by the end of August 2019.
718 - Bexley SG1f and SG2a Counts of Safeguarding Activity and counts of enquiries by type and source of risk

As part of their submission of 2019-20 data Bexley council informed there were differences compared to their 2018-19 submission.

In 2018-19, concerns with alternative responses (e.g. carers assessment, signposted) were categorised as Other Enquiries. This year, as per the new Framework and flow chart in the guidance document, alternative responses are not counted as Other Enquiries.

In 2018-19, the risk type breakdown for concluded Section 42 enquiries was submitted incorrectly.

723 - Enfield SG1f Counts of Safeguarding Activity Enfield council informed that the total number of Section 42 Safeguarding Enquiries is lower than expected due to a mid-year change in system, lockdown due to Covid-19 and a change in guidance around the definitions of Section 42 which has impacted service processes.
817 - Wiltshire SG2a, SG2b, SG2a_b1, SG2c, SG2e, SG3a and SG3b Case detail tables and mental capacity tables Wiltshire advised in the case detail tables and the mental capacity tables, there was some data that was not recorded and so can’t be reported, this is because they weren’t mandatory fields in their previous care management system. Wiltshire also changed care management systems during the year which has caused some anomalies in the recorded data.
820 - Kent SG1e Counts of individuals by Reported Health Conditions Kent advised that, within the Reported Health Conditions field they do not currently capture Autism (excluding Asperger’s Syndrome / High Functioning Autism), therefore as this is a mandatory field the zero-figures recorded represent a zero return rather than zero cases.
911- South Gloucestershire           SG2c and SG3a Risk Assessment Outcomes by source of risk and Risk Outcomes and Mental Capacity Table for Concluded Section 42 Safeguarding Enquiries South Gloucestershire council advised that the total for SG2c should be 823. The extra 23 need to be checked to see which category they are, but they have not had the resource to do this during the COVID-19 Lockdown period.


Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19):

England went into national lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020. Although the majority of the data collected was pre lockdown, local authorities had to support the Covid-19 response and so may have had less resource to work on the national data collections. As mentioned below, the timelines for collecting the data was pushed back to give local authorities more time to complete the data returns.

A small number of councils mentioned the impact of Covid-19, in particular on resources. These comments are included in the summary table above.

We have also tried to look holistically across all local authorities at the possible impact dealing with the pandemic has had on data quality, in terms of reduced capacity to collate and review the data before sending it to NHS Digital. We have concluded that data quality has not been adversely affected at national level. As mentioned above, like in 2018-19, all local authorities made a valid submission by the final deadline and the final returns yielded a national completeness and validity score of 100%. The annex table that accompanies this publication also includes some data integrity checks. There are 13 data integrity checks that are carried out for each local authority return. In 2018-19, there were 32 checks that did not pass the validation rule, in 2019-20 there were 36. The largest increase was in data integrity check 7, SG2c total should be greater than or equal to SG3a total (for Section 42 enquiries). In addition, we have looked at whether there has been more of a propensity to return values of ‘not known’ for certain data items – this is true for a small number of local authorities but does not significantly impact on the national picture.

Please see the Data Quality Statement for more information on data quality.

Last edited: 9 November 2020 2:50 pm