The Queen's speech promised an overhaul of adult safeguarding. This is the latest stage in a process of policy development which started with an excellent report by the Law Commission in 2011, followed by a draft Care and Support Bill which gave effect to many of its recommendations, and now we have an announcement in the Queen's speech. Much of the attention has rightly focused on the feasibility of improving the service to vulnerable adults at a time when local authority budgets are being considerably reduced and also on the effect of the Dilnot proposals on the funding of residential care which in reduced form are also in the Bill and the announcement.
But I want to point to another part of the changes. This is to make Local Adult Safeguarding Boards (LASBs) a statutory function. These Boards bring together statutory and voluntary providers in a single body within a local authority area. The local authority is responsible for setting them up but they are independent. It has been an anomaly that Local Safeguarding Children Boards have been a statutory function since 2004 but the same was not done for adults. There are LASBs in most if not all local authority areas already, but they are not statutory, so they cannot compel membership and command resources in the way that LSCBs can.
This mirrors the history of adult safeguarding. The multi-agency system for managing children's safeguarding goes back to 1974 and has been reviewed and strengthened several times over the years, with the 2004 legisation putting this on a statutory footing. Government guidance is revised every few years. But there was no equivalent government guidance on adult safeguarding until No Secrets came out in 2000 and a promised revision was lost with the change of government in 2010.
The issues in adult safeguarding are just as complicated as those for children - in some ways more so, since adults have legal rights and statutory action may not be available, even if professionals consider it in the best interests of the person. The LASBs will be able to pool expertise, challenge each agency and conduct Serious Case Reviews in the same way and to the same standard as is already in place for children. This is a welcome development and we most hope that it does indeed become law.