Skip to content

Are you worried about an adult? Please call 0344 800 8020

Report a concern

November 2021

How are you shaping your organisation’s safeguarding culture?

November gives us wintry weather, bonfires and a sense that the year is coming to an end. It also has the Ann Craft Trust (ACT) national Safeguarding Adults Week.

While the merits of an awareness day or week can be argued over, I do think they act as a focal point and provide a ‘hook’ for sharing key messages or building specific actions around. I would argue they are a good device for organisations to come together to raise awareness of important safeguarding issues. The aim is to facilitate conversations and to raise awareness of safeguarding best practice.

ACT has been building the Safeguarding Adults Week for a good number of years now. This year the theme is Creating Safer Cultures’ from 15- 21 November.

Organisational culture is the foundation on which strong and positive safeguarding practice is built: where anyone in, or impacted by, an organisation is empowered to report concerns wherever they may arise. It’s often said that culture is like an iceberg – some of it can been seen (behaviours, language, customs, traditions) but a much bigger part (nine-tenths) is hidden, which includes values, attitudes, beliefs, habits, perceptions, motives.

While strategy and tactics can be visible, the part of a culture that is not seen is just as critical (some would argue even more so) in how it works or does not work to protect individuals from abuse and harm.

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), an Austrian-American management consultant who is regarded by many as one of the most widely-known and influential thinkers on management, once said

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

Your organisation might have the most impressive adult safeguarding strategy going, but if its culture is out of sync the strategy will not work or at best its effectiveness is blunted. Culture is all the things that happen which are not part of the rules. It is how people behave when you are not looking. It’s the reaction to people who break the rules. Culture is not what you tell people to do but what actually happens. Who makes and shapes a safeguarding culture? We all do.

What do we mean by safer cultures?
Promoting safer cultures means individuals and organisations taking steps to minimise harm occurring in the first instance. It’s also simultaneously ensuring correct policies and procedures are in place so that when safeguarding concerns are raised, they are recognised and responded to effectively.

Safeguarding cultures are about

  • encouraging open conversations about safeguarding
  • readily reporting suspected or alleged abuse and neglect
  • training and learning opportunities being available right across the organisation with regular checks on awareness and compliance.

Here’s a question: how confident do you feel that you can report a safeguarding concern? If you hesitate on your answer, I encourage you to reflect on this more and speak with your manager or raise it at a team meeting.

Does the need to report issues, including safeguarding concerns (even lower-level ones), jump out at you the moment you step into a building or when visiting a service? Staff report because it is the right thing to do and are confident about the response. And the culture actively encourages and receives these reports.

The role of senior people in the organisation is important. Are they leading from the front - promoting regular open discussion and ongoing dialogue about safeguarding? Are people in a recognised leadership role (although I would argue all staff need to show safeguarding leadership) readily talking about safeguarding? Are they visibly engaged with safeguarding learning opportunities? Is there proactive discussion of vulnerability and a commitment to addressing it?

Perhaps we are more tuned to spot poor or damaging cultures than we are to pick up on cultures which are protective positive and safer.

Closed cultures
The flip side of a strong safeguarding culture is a culture which is 'closed'.
The abuse at Whorlton Hall, Winterbourne View, Mid Staffordshire Hospital, Cawston Park and other services tell us all we need to know about the extremely damaging effects and at times fatal outcomes of a service with a closed culture.

The idea of a closed culture in safeguarding is not a new one. We know it increases the risk of harm, including abuse and breaches of human rights. These are services where people, their families or staff are not able to speak up and people are more likely to be at risk of deliberate or unintentional harm.

CQC’s document How CQC identifies and responds to closed cultures (July 2021) sets out clearly the risk factors and warning signs we all need to be aware of.

The July 2021 CQC’s Insight report (12) draws from 29 inspections where CQC found evidence of closed cultures. The following six common features were identified:

  • incidents of abuse and restrictive practice
  • issues with staff competence and training
  • cover-up culture
  • lack of leadership and management oversight
  • poor-quality care generally
  • poor-quality reporting.

What can we do?

The short answer is … a lot. When we see any of the above features we can question and challenge. Here are some of the ways in which the NSAB is working to support all partners develop safe cultures:

  • Train the trainer events to ensure every workplace has a trained safeguarding trainer
  • Locality Safeguarding Adult Partnerships (LSAP) bringing expertise together (if you are reading this and think your organisation’s safeguarding work needs to be strengthened, here’s list of LSAPs, link into one near you)
  • Our online webinars to share best practice, see the website for details
  • Tricky Friends animation helping to start conversations about the topics of exploitation,

Let’s use #SafeguardingAdultsWeek to ask ourselves and ask our colleagues:

Does my organisation have a safeguarding culture? If not, what can I do to change this?

Also look out for the series of guest blogs NSAB will be running on the website. Why not take a few minutes each day to check these out. Let us not forget that culture is shaped by us. We have all shaped the culture of the organisations we work in. Just ask a question…

Thank you.

Walter Lloyd-Smith
NSAB Board Manager
Email: [email protected]
Tuesday 09 November 2021

Also see