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.
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:
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 (58.4% of cells submitted in 2018-19). 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.
As we have acknowledged the Care Act (2014) is open to local interpretation, however attempts are being undertaken to help develop a framework 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 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).
Other issues relating to 2018-19 data:
All local authorities submitted a return for all mandatory cells by the mandated deadline; the returns yielded a national completeness and validity score of 100%. A new validation report was sent to each local authority following a successful upload. This 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.
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
||Table Affected - reference
||Table Affected - details
||Local Authority Comment
|209 - Bradford
||SG2c and SG2e
||Risk Assessment Outcomes by source of risk and Risk Outcomes by source of risk
||Bradford informed they do not routinely collect data needed for tables SG2c and SG2e.
|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.
|218 – North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire advised that while they can identify S42(part 1) and S42(part 2) correctly, their current practice does not progress all S42(part 2) concerns into an enquiry. So their enquiry data is considerably lower than the number of people that can be identified as S42(part 2). New procedures are being implemented to resolve this.
|306 - Manchester
Manchester council advised their Mental Health provider was unable provide data for the last 4 months of the year due to a new system. Manchester council scaled up the activity using a linear projection.
|318 – St Helens
||SG2b, SG2c and SG3a
||Counts of enquiries by location and source of risk, Risk Assessment Outcome by source of risk and Mental Capacity Table for concluded Section 42 enquiries
||St Helens advised in their data return that there were some errors, inconsistencies and gaps in recording and inputting onto their system which has resulted in discrepancies in tables SG2b, SG2c and SG3a.
|410 - Solihull
||Counts of enquires by type and source of risk
||After the final deadline, Solihull informed NHS Digital that they had made a mistake with their data return. The source of risk information had not been correctly entered for table SG2a. Service Provider had been coded under Other – Unknown to Individual, Other – Known to Individual had been coded under Service Provider and Other – Unknown to Individual had been coded under Other – Known to Individual.
|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 migrated to a new social care management system which does not allow source or location of risk to be mandatory. Therefore, there are records where source and location of risk was not recorded for concluded section 42 enquiries. The council are working with the provider to resolve this issue.
|735 – Waltham Forest
||SG2c and SG2e
||Risk Assessment Outcomes by source of risk and Risk Outcomes by source of risk
||Waltham Forest informed that they only have data on risk outcomes for 65% of closed cases.
|810 - Bournemouth
||Bournemouth informed that they migrated to a new Case Management System (MOSAIC) mid-year (October 2018) and therefore data quality will be turbulent around this date as old and new systems collide.
|817 - Wiltshire
||SG3a, SG3b, SG4a and SG4b
||Mental Capacity and Making Safeguarding Personal tables
||Wiltshire advised they have identified a recording error for cases where Mental Capacity or Making Safeguarding Personal was not recorded
|820 - Kent
||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.
|821 - Medway
||SG5a and SG5b
||Safeguarding Adult Review tables
||Medway informed that their councils Safeguarding Adult Reviews are reported via Kent County Council.
Please see the Data Quality Statement for more information on data quality.