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Discriminatory abuse self-assessment tool: safeguarding adults

The discriminatory abuse self-assessment tool is intended to support councils, Safeguarding Adult Boards (SABs), practitioners from all sectors, staff responsible for reporting adult social care (ASC) performance; safeguarding leads and commissioners.

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This tool aims to better identify, report and analyse activity; be aware of any bias and challenge discriminatory abuse in their practice; develop processes and policies on tackling discriminatory abuse; and embed good practice to deliver good equality outcomes for people who have care and support needs.  In attempting to understand discriminatory abuse, all partners and professionals also need to understand the underlying principles and practice of equity, equality, diversity and inclusion.  

Discriminatory abuse is described in the Care and Support Statutory Guidance in terms of ‘forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment because of race, gender and gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion’ (Section 14.17). Beyond this, there is very little guidance on what discriminatory abuse looks like, especially as this was a new addition to the abuse type.

This requires a local authority and its partners to be able to:

  • recognise discrimination and discriminatory abuse
  • identify discriminatory practice, structural and institutional discrimination, both intentional or unintentional
  • identify areas of activity that local authorities and their partners need to address to deliver better outcomes for people across all the equality strands.

Additionally, those public sector partners are expected to demonstrate ‘due regard' to the Public Sector Equality Duty as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

This self-assessment tool attempts to be a practical tool to promote the making of connections between the experiences of discriminatory abuse and adult safeguarding so that safeguarding teams, ASC, SABs and their partners can be the change and generate understanding. Regardless of methodologies or tools employed there is an urgency to address an overlooked abuse type in adult safeguarding.

This tool sets out what local authorities are required to do and allows them to measure their progress against three levels: developing; achieving; and excelling.

The levels are progressive and cumulative so an organisation can build, design and map their progress against different priorities. Organisations can be at different levels of the self-assessment tool for different categories.

The categories for the self-assessment tool are: SABs; practitioners; staff responsible for reporting on ASC performance; safeguarding adults leads; and commissioners.

This tool builds on a roundtable event on 14 July 2022, and our subsequent paper, which was developed from summaries of discussions from the breakout rooms and the presentations.

The discussions were structured in response to three questions:

  • What do you understand by the terms: discrimination and discriminatory abuse?
  • What do you know about discriminatory abuse in your area and how do you know it? (What don’t you know and what do you need to find out? What are the gaps and challenges?)
  • Is the safeguarding adults’ system discriminatory in of itself and what can we do to change this? What are the blocks and barriers (for example, culture terminology, reporting systems, and the like)?

The roundtable discussions recognised that discrimination was much broader than discriminatory abuse. Discriminatory abuse was specific to those with care and support needs, which was understood to be defined within the Care Act 2014 and related to the protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act 2010. There was also a recognition that there were groups of people that may experience discrimination, such as those who were experiencing homelessness or substance misuse, who may not be considered under the discriminatory abuse category.

It might be helpful to consider having some discussions to prompt action:

  • What are the blocks and barriers to recognition of discriminatory abuse across the different protected characteristics? Is there better understanding of some equality groups than others and why? How is assurance sought?
  • How can discriminatory practices be addressed in safeguarding adults’ strategies, policy practice and procedures?
  • What level of understanding do practitioners and managers have on discriminatory abuse and discriminatory practice?
  • How are SABs assured differences in languages and cultural difference (real or perceived) are broached?
  • How can professional curiosity, unconscious bias and equality and diversity be addressed in discriminatory abuse?
  • Are older people considered for domestic abuse services and resources such as refuge information? Are there other groups who are likewise not considered for domestic abuse services and resources?
  • Do you have a clear implementation plan to support teams to embed the work?

This self-assessment tool was created by Dr Anusree Biswas Sasidharan, Programme Adviser at Partners in Care and Health. Partners in Care and Health LGA and ADASS are Partners in Care and Health, supporting councils to improve the way they deliver adult social care and public health services; and helping Government understand the challenges faced by the sector.

Additional resource:

Discriminatory abuse - developing practice responses | Research in Practice