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 and 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.