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Part Two

Safeguarding Policy for Adults


1 Policy statement

We are dedicated to the comfort and safety of all our Elected Members, Staff, Volunteers and Service Users. We recognise our duty of care and want to make sure that we protect adults at risk while they visit our premises. The following safeguarding adults policy outlines the systems in place within the Council in order to achieve this aim. Its successful achievement requires co-operation and partnership between our staff/volunteers and our many users.

We are committed to creating and maintaining a safe and positive environment and accept our responsibility to safeguard the welfare of all adults involved in our activities in accordance with the Safeguarding Adults Operational Procedures (Sept 2016). [Footnote 1]

The safeguarding adults policy and procedures apply to all individuals over the age of 18 at risk of harm. We are is committed to the delivery of a quality service that also promotes good practice which protects adults at risk from harm.

It will also ensure procedures are in place to safeguard our staff and volunteers and the Council from potential or unfounded allegations.

These safeguarding adults policies and procedures are applicable to all Elected Members, Staff, Agency Workers, Casual Staff, and Volunteers indeed anyone associated with Belfast City Council who may have direct or indirect contact with adults at risk. It should also be noted that latest guidelines have moved from using the term 'Vulnerable Adults' in favour of the new terminology of ‘Adult at Risk’, the reason for this change is to standardise the language used in line with the new definitions and that we can all be vulnerable given the right life circumstances and/or personal characteristics.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that the council is a safe environment for all visitors who attend. Therefore, you should be vigilant and alert to possible safeguarding incidents at all times when the public are using the building. You must report all incidents in accordance with the procedures laid out in this document.

2 Legal background information

We accept the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Human Rights which states that everyone is entitled to

all rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as age, disability, gender, race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The practices and procedures within this policy are based on the principles contained within UK legislation and government guidance and have been developed to complement the Northern Ireland Adults Safeguarding Panel (NIASP) policy and procedures, which take into consideration the following:


  • The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012
  • Family Homes and Domestic Violence (NI) Order 1998
  • The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007
  • The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008
  • The Human Rights Act 1998
  • The Data Protection Act 2018 Inc. GDPR (replaced 1998 DPA)
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

Guidance Documents

  • Adult Safeguarding: Prevention and Protection in Partnership (July 2015)
  • Adult Safeguarding Operational Procedures (Sept 2016)

3    Aims of the safeguarding adults policy and procedures 

The aim of this document is to:

  • Demonstrate our commitment to providing and maintaining an organisation that protects adults from harm, and protects staff, agency workers, volunteers and the organisation itself from potential allegations.
  • Promote zero-tolerance of harm to all adults from abuse, exploitation, or neglect.
  • Influence the way our organisation thinks about harm to adults resulting from abuse, exploitation or neglect by embedding a culture which recognises every adult’s right to respect and dignity, honesty, humanity and compassion in every aspect of their life.
  • Prevent and reduce the risk of harm to adults, while supporting people’s right to maintain control over their lives and make informed choices free from coercion.
  • Encourage our staff, agency workers and volunteers to work collaboratively across sectors and on an inter-agency and multi-disciplinary basis, to introduce a range of preventative measures to promote an individual’s capacity to keep themselves safe and to prevent harm occurring.
  • Establish clear guidance for reporting concerns that an adult is, or may be, at risk of being harmed or in need of protection and how these will be responded to; including a Code of behaviour.
  • Promote access to justice for adults at risk who have been harmed as a result of abuse, exploitation or neglect.
  • Promote a continuous learning approach to adult safeguarding.
  • Make sure our staff are carefully selected, vetted and trained in issues of safeguarding adults.
  • Provide guidance on appropriate and relevant supervision; including the appointment of officers with delegated safeguarding responsibility within each of our business units.
  • Make sure staff are aware of the adults safeguarding policy and procedures within the council; their role within the policy and the consequence of not following these procedures.
  • Make sure appropriate action is always taken in the event of an incident, in line with best practice.
  • Provide clear procedures and guidance on how staff, agency workers, volunteers and contractors must deal with any safeguarding issues or concerns; (Code of Behaviour).
  • Provide guidelines on appropriate safeguarding training for staff, agency workers and volunteers.
  • Provide guidelines for staff, agency workers, volunteers when dealing with adults at risk; (Code of Behaviour).
  • Provide a Safeguarding Adults Code of Behaviour for staff and volunteers.
  • Provide a complaints procedure with guidance on how a complaint can be raised regarding a safeguarding issue.

We will ensure staff, agency workers, volunteers and contractors are aware of the safeguarding standards within the organisation, their role within the policy, and the consequences of not following our procedures.

We will make sure that appropriate training or awareness is given to staff, agency workers, and volunteers to ensure an understanding of their role in recognising abuse and to familiarise them with our safeguarding adults policies and procedures.

We are committed to reviewing our policies, procedures, practices and training in line with changes in legislation and best practice or at a minimum every three years.

4 Principles of safeguarding adults at risk

The guidance given in the policy and procedures is based on the following principles:

  • A rights-based approach: To promote and respect an adult’s right to be safe and secure; to freedom from harm and coercion; to equality of treatment; to the protection of the law; to privacy; to confidentiality; and freedom from discrimination.
  • An empowering approach: To empower adults to make informed choices about their lives, to maximise their opportunities to participate in wider society, to keep themselves safe and free from harm and enabled to manage their own decisions in respect of exposure to risk.
  • Person-centred approach: To promote and facilitate full participation of adults in all decisions affecting their lives taking full account of their views, wishes and feelings and, where appropriate, the views of others who have an interest in his or her safety and well-being.
  • A consent-driven approach: To make a presumption that the adult has the ability to give or withhold consent; to make informed choices; to help inform choice through the provision of information, and the identification of options and alternatives; to have particular regard to the needs of individuals who require support with communication, advocacy or who lack the capacity to consent; and intervening in the life of an adult against his or her wishes only in particular circumstances, for very specific purposes and always in accordance with the law.
  • A collaborative approach: To acknowledge that safeguarding adults will be most effective when it has the full support of the wider public and of safeguarding partners across the statutory, voluntary, community, independent and faith sectors. Working together in a way where roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability are clearly defined and understood. Working in partnership and a person-centred approach will work hand-in-hand.

All adults, regardless of age, ability or disability, gender, race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, marital or gender status have the right to be protected from abuse and poor practice and to participate in an enjoyable and safe environment. We will seek to make sure that the organisation is inclusive and make reasonable adjustments for any ability, disability or impairment, we will also commit to continuous development, monitoring, and review.

We will always respect the rights, dignity and worth of all adults.

We recognise that ability and disability can change over time, such that some adults may be additionally vulnerable to abuse, for example those who have a dependency on others or have different communication needs.

We recognise that an adult with an impairment or a disability may or may not identify themselves/be identified as an adult ‘at risk’ or vulnerable.

Working in partnership

The diversity of our functions and settings means there can be great variation in practice when it comes to safeguarding adults at risk. We will endeavour to work in partnership with a range of stakeholders to promote safeguarding.

Good communication is essential in promoting safeguarding, both to those we wish to protect, to everyone involved in working with adults at risk and to all those with whom we work in partnership. This safeguarding policy is just one means of promoting safeguarding.


We are committed to ensuring that equality is incorporated across all aspects of our development.

  • We respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person and will treat everyone equally within the context of their activity while on council premises, regardless of age, ability, gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, sexuality or social/economic status.
  • We are committed to everyone having the right to enjoy their activity in an environment free from threat of intimidation, harassment and abuse.
  • We have a responsibility to oppose discriminatory behaviour and promote equality of opportunity.
  • We will deal with any incidence of discriminatory behaviour seriously, according to the council’s disciplinary procedures.

5 Safeguarding definitions

In recent years there has been a marked shift away from using the term ‘vulnerable’ to describe adults potentially at risk from harm or abuse.

To help you work through and understand this policy, we have provided a number of key definitions:

  • Adult is anyone aged 18 or over.
  • Adult at risk of harm:
    Is a person aged 18 or over, whose exposure to harm through abuse, exploitation or neglect may be increased by their:

    a) Personal characteristics which may include, but are not limited to, age, disability, special educational needs, illness, mental or physical frailty or impairment of, or disturbance in, the functioning of the mind or brain.
    b) Life circumstances which may include, but are not limited to, isolation, socio-economic factors and environmental living conditions.
  • Adult in need of protection:

    Is a person aged 18 or over, whose exposure to harm through abuse, exploitation or neglect may be increased by their:

    a) Personal characteristics
    b) Life circumstances
    c) Who is unable to protect their own well-being, property, assets, rights or other interests
    d) Where the action or inaction of another person or persons is causing, or is likely to cause, him or her to be harmed

6 Categories of abuse

What is abuse?

Abuse is defined as:

Abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to another individual or violates their human or civil rights. Abuse is the misuse of power and control that one person has over another. It can involve direct and indirect contact and can include online abuse.

(Adult Safeguarding Operational Procedures 2016)*

Everyone who works with adults or comes into contact with adults through their work, should be able to recognise, and know how to act upon, indicators that an adult’s welfare or safety may be at risk. It is essential that you understand the different types of abuse that adults may suffer. Abuse is not always straightforward to identify and a person may experience more than one type of harm or significant harm. Harm can be caused by:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual violence and abuse
  • psychological or emotional abuse
  • financial abuse
  • institutional abuse
  • neglect
  • exploitation

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the use of physical force or mistreatment of one person by another which may or may not result in actual physical injury. This may include hitting, pushing, rough handling, exposure to heat or cold, force-feeding, improper administration of medication, denial of treatment, misuse or illegal use of restraint and deprivation of liberty. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is considered a form of physical and sexual abuse.

Sexual violence and abuse

Sexual abuse is ‘any behaviour (physical, psychological, verbal, virtual/online) perceived to be of a sexual nature which is controlling, coercive, exploitative, harmful, or unwanted that is inflicted on anyone (irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any form of disability)'. Sexual violence and abuse can take many forms and may include non-contact sexual activities, such as indecent exposure, stalking, grooming, being made to look at or be involved in the production of sexually abusive material, or being made to watch sexual activities. It may involve physical contact, including but not limited to non-consensual penetrative sexual activities or non-penetrative sexual activities, such as intentional touching (known as groping). Sexual violence can be found across all sections of society, irrelevant of gender, age, ability, religion, race, ethnicity, personal circumstances, financial background or sexual orientation.

Psychological or emotional abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse is behaviour that is psychologically harmful or inflicts mental distress by threat, humiliation or other verbal or non-verbal conduct. This may include threats, humiliation or ridicule, provoking fear of violence, shouting, yelling and swearing, blaming, controlling, intimidation and coercion.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is actual or attempted theft, fraud or burglary. It is the misappropriation or misuse of money, property, benefits, material goods or other asset transactions which the person did not or could not consent to, or which were invalidated by intimidation, coercion or deception. This may include exploitation, embezzlement, withholding pension or benefits or pressure exerted around wills, property or inheritance.

Institutional abuse

Institutional abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of an adult by a regime or individuals in settings which adults who may be at risk reside in or use. This can occur in any organisation, within and outside Health and Social Care (HSC) provision. Institutional abuse may occur when the routines, systems and regimes result in poor standards of care, poor practice and behaviours, inflexible regimes and rigid routines which violate the dignity and human rights of the adults and place them at risk of harm.

Institutional abuse may occur within a culture that denies, restricts or curtails privacy, dignity, choice and independence. It involves the collective failure of a service provider or an organisation to provide safe and appropriate services and includes a failure to ensure that the necessary preventative and/or protective measures are in place.


Neglect occurs when a person deliberately withholds, or fails to provide, appropriate and adequate care and support which is required by another adult. It may be through a lack of knowledge or awareness, or through a failure to take reasonable action given the information and facts available to them at the time.

It may include physical neglect to the extent that health or well-being is impaired, administering too much or too little medication, failure to provide access to appropriate health or social care, withholding the necessities of life, such as adequate nutrition, heating or clothing, or failure to intervene in situations that are dangerous to the person concerned or to others, particularly when the person lacks the capacity to assess risk.


Exploitation is the deliberate maltreatment, manipulation or abuse of power and control over another person; to take advantage of another person or situation usually, but not always, for personal gain from using them as a commodity. It may manifest itself in many forms including slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, domestic violence and abuse, sexual violence and abuse, or human trafficking.

This list of types of harmful conduct is neither exhaustive nor listed here in any order of priority. There are other indicators that we should not ignore. It is also possible that if a person is being harmed in one way, he/ she may very well be experiencing harm in other ways.

Adult Safeguarding Operational Procedures 2016*

Related definitions

Victims of domestic violence and abuse, sexual violence and abuse, human trafficking and hate crime are regarded as adults in need of protection. There are specific strategies and mechanisms in place designed to meet the particular care and protection needs of these adults and to promote access to justice through the criminal justice system. It is essential that we refer such safeguarding concerns to the appropriate services as outlined below.

Domestic violence and abuse

Domestic violence or abuse is ‘threatening, controlling, coercive behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, virtual, physical, verbal, sexual, financial or emotional) inflicted on anyone (irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any form of disability) by a current or former intimate partner or family member’. Domestic violence and abuse is essentially a pattern of behaviour which is characterised by the exercise of control and the misuse of power by one person over another. It is usually frequent and persistent. It can include violence by a son, daughter, mother, father, husband, wife, life partner or any other person who has a close relationship with the victim. It occurs right across society, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnic or religious group, sexual orientation, wealth, disability or geography.

The response to any adult facing this situation will usually require a referral to specialist services such as Women’s Aid or the Men’s Advisory Project. Specialist services will then decide if the case needs to be referred to a HSC Trust for action under the safeguarding procedures. If in doubt, anyone with a concern can ring the Domestic and Sexual Violence helpline (0808 802 1414) to receive advice and guidance about how best to proceed.

Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Human trafficking and modern slavery involves the acquisition and movement of people by improper means, such as force, threat or deception, for the purposes of exploiting them. It can take many forms, such as domestic servitude, forced criminality, forced labour, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting. Victims of human trafficking/ modern slavery can come from all walks of life; they can be male or female, children or adults, and they may come from migrant or indigenous communities. The response to adults at risk experiencing human trafficking/modern slavery will always be to report the incident to the PSNI.

Hate crime

Hate crime is any incident which constitutes a criminal offence perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice, discrimination or hate towards a person’s actual or perceived race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability, political opinion or gender identity. The response to adults at risk experiencing hate crime will usually be to report the incident to the PSNI.

Adult Safeguarding Operational Procedures 2016*

Self-neglect and Self harm

Is when a person seriously neglects their own care and welfare and putting themselves and/or others at serious risk. The seriousness of this issue lies in the recognition that self‐neglect in vulnerable persons is often not just a personal preference or a behavioural idiosyncrasy, but a spectrum of behaviours associated with increased morbidity, mortality and impairments in activities of daily living.

Therefore, we should view self‐neglect referrals as alerts to potentially serious underlying problems requiring evaluation and treatment (Naik et al, 2007).

Self-harm or self-neglect are not included within the definition of an ‘adult in need of protection’. Each case will require a professional Health and Social Care (HSC) assessment to determine the appropriate response and consider if any underlying factors require a protection response. For example, self-harm may be the manifestation of harm which has been perpetrated by a third party and which the adult feels unable to disclose.

People wish to respect autonomy and may not wish to be intrusive. However, if concerned or aware of a significant negative change in behaviour, staff must consider making contact or alerting statutory services.

Adult Safeguarding Operational Procedures 2016*

7 Recognising and dealing with abuse

Being alert to potential abuse plays a major role in ensuring that adults are safeguarded and it is important that we take all concerns about possible abuse seriously and take appropriate action.

There are a variety of ways that someone could alert you that an adult is suffering harm:

  • they may disclose to you
  • someone else may tell you of their concerns or something that causes you concern
  • they may show some signs of physical injury for which there does not appear to be a satisfactory or credible explanation
  • their demeanour or behaviour may lead you to suspect abuse or neglect
  • the behaviour of a person close to them makes you feel uncomfortable (this may include another staff member, volunteer, peer or family member); or through general good neighbourliness and social guardianship

Adult Safeguarding Operational Procedures 2016 (link opens in new window)

Recognising adult abuse is not easy. It is not our responsibility to decide whether or not adult abuse has taken place or if an adult is at significant risk of harm from someone. We do, however, have both a responsibility and duty, as set out in our adults safeguarding policy and procedures, to act in order that the appropriate agencies can investigate and take any necessary action to protect an adult.

Abuse can occur from:

  • parents / carers
  • intimate partners
  • friends
  • adults in a position of trust
  • people within the wider family circle or neighbourhood
  • strangers

In general, there are four possible situations where you may need to respond to a concern or case of alleged or suspected abuse:

a. responding to an adult disclosing abuse - an adult makes an allegation of abuse

b. responding to allegations or concerns against staff, agency, workers, volunteers, regular contractors

c. responding to allegations or concerns against any other person, for example parent, carer, other service user

d. raising concerns over incidents, observations, interactions and suspicion that they themselves have recognised

Abuse or harm occurs as much from omissions and lack of protection as from commission of actual acts of abuse. You should report any concerns you have for the welfare of adult in the council to your line manager or Safeguarding Compliance Manager using the safeguarding incident form.

Health and Social Care Trust (HSC) adult safeguarding teams should always be informed when there are reasonable grounds for concern that an adult may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse.

Dealing with disclosures

When dealing with a disclosure you should follow the procedures for reporting safeguarding concerns but there are some extra considerations for you to take:

  • Ensure the immediate safety of the person. If urgent medical or police help is required, call the emergency services.
  • Stay calm and listen attentively; avoid expressing your own views on the matter. A reaction of shock or disbelief could cause the person to 'shut down', retract or stop talking so try to stay calm.
  • Express concern and acknowledge what is being said; they’ve told you because they want help and trust you'll be the person to believe them and help them.
  • Tell them it's not their fault. Abuse is never the person's fault and they need to know this.
  • Tell the person that they did the right thing in telling you; reassurance can make a big impact to the person who may have been keeping the abuse secret.

It can be very hard for adults at risk to reveal abuse. Often, they fear there may be consequences. Some delay telling someone about abuse for a long time, while others never tell anyone, even if they want to. Adults at risk value being believed and it is vital that you act on what you've been told.


  • Say you believe them. An adult at risk could keep abuse secret in fear no one will believe them. They've told you because they want help and trust you'll be the person to believe them and help them.
  • Don't talk to the alleged abuser. Confronting the alleged abuser about what the adult at risk told you could make the situation a lot worse for the adult at risk.
  • Explain what you'll do next. Explain to the adult at risk you'll need to report the abuse to someone who will be able to help.
  • Let the person know that the information will be taken seriously and provide details about what will happen next, including the limits and boundaries of confidentiality.
  • Explain to them that it is your duty to share your concern with your Adult Safeguarding Champion, the Safeguarding Compliance Manager or Designated Safeguarding Officer unless to do so could increase their risk – for example, the Designated Safeguarding Officer is the subject of the allegations. In this case contact the Safeguarding Compliance Manager.
  • Reassure the person that they will be kept involved at every stage; explain that the Designated Safeguarding Officer will seek their consent before any referral is made to external agencies.
  • If you think a crime has occurred be aware that medical and forensic evidence might be needed. Consider the need for a timely referral to the police service and make sure nothing you do will contaminate it.
  • Complete a safeguarding incident form as soon as possible and report to the Safeguarding Compliance Manager immediately.

Do not:

  • Stop someone disclosing to you.
  • Promise to keep secrets.
  • Criticise the alleged perpetrator.
  • Make promises about the future.
  • Use leading questions or put words in the person’s mouth.
  • Press the person for more details or make them repeat the story.
  • Gossip about the disclosure or pass on the information to anyone who does not have a legitimate need to know.
  • Contact the alleged person to have caused the harm.
  • Attempt to investigate yourself.
  • Leave details of your concerns on a voicemail or by email.
  • Delay reporting the abuse. The sooner the abuse is reported after a disclosure the better.

Report immediately to the Safeguarding Compliance Manager. Complete a safeguarding incident form and pass to the Adult Safeguarding Champion or Safeguarding Compliance Manager as soon as possible. The Adult Safeguarding Campion or Designated Safeguarding Officer will take any immediate action required to make sure the adult at risk of harm is safe and make a decision as to when it is appropriate to speak with the adult at risk of harm about the concerns and any proposed actions.

How to record a disclosure

If someone discloses abuse to you, you must complete a safeguarding incident form and give it to your Designated Safeguarding Officer. If you have a literacy or language difficulties, the Designated Safeguarding Officer may assist you to complete the form but you must acknowledge this on the incident form.

The safeguarding incident form will be retained securely and confidentially by the Safeguarding Manager. We will retain Safeguarding records with protected status as per GDPR guidelines.

When recording the disclosure you must:

  • Make a note, as soon as practical, of what the adult has said, using their own words.
  • Describe the circumstances in which the disclosure came about. Take care to distinguish between fact, observation, allegation and opinion. It is important that the information you have is accurate; and,
  • be mindful of the need to be confidential at all times, this information must only be shared with your Designated Safeguarding Officer and others only on a need to know basis.

Depending on the individual circumstances, for example, the age of the adult or level of understanding, it may be necessary for an advocate to be present to enable the adult’s voice to be heard more effectively. This might be the adult’s group leader, carer or parent, unless she or he is the person of concern. If the supervising person is not available, you can ask another member of staff to assist in representing the voice of the adult if appropriate. If the adult at risk is part of an organised group the Designated Safeguarding Officer will inform the group’s leader and will make every effort to agree an appropriate course of action.

Responding to allegations of or concerns against a member of staff, agency worker, elected member or any other person.

Any staff member who receives allegations should follow the process below:

  • Take all allegations or concerns seriously.
  • Record in writing on a safeguarding incident form all the details that you are aware of as soon as possible.
  • Report to and inform the Safeguarding Manager or Designated Safeguarding Officer as soon as possible.
  • The Safeguarding manager or Designated Safeguarding Officer will inform the relevant persons, i.e. HR, AGRS (Whistleblowing) or external agencies social services and / or the Police if appropriate.
  • The Safeguarding manager or Designated Safeguarding Officer should inform the Head of HR as soon as possible.

Possible outcome:

  • Depending on the allegation, the individual may be asked to stand aside from duties or be temporarily suspended pending an investigation.

Safeguarding concerns or Allegations about a Designated Safeguarding Officer

If the concern or allegation is about a Designated Safeguarding Officer, you should refer such concerns to Council’s Safeguarding Manager and / or Head of Service who will follow the steps outlined above.

Concerns about failures to adhere to safeguarding policy and procedures

If you have concerns about a colleague not fulfilling the requirements of Council’s Safeguarding Policy and Procedures, these concerns should be taken to your line manager or any member of Council’s Designated Safeguarding Team. The line manager or Designated Safeguarding Officer should contact the Safeguarding Manager for advice and support.

Support for external service providers

If an external provider has any concerns regarding council staff, agency workers or volunteers, a visitor, or other contractor they should report their concerns immediately to one of our Designated Safeguarding Officers. There will always be a Designated Safeguarding Officer on duty in all areas, and they may be accessed via the Duty Manger.

If the concern is about a Designated Safeguarding Officer, external service providers should report their concerns to Safeguarding Manager.

Consent and capacity

It is important to include the adult at risk throughout the process and seek consent for any referral to social services or the PSNI unless the adult in need of protection is in imminent danger of harm. Designated Safeguarding Officers are not in the position to determine capacity of adults; if you are unsure if an adult is able to consent you should contact the HSC Trust Adult Safeguarding Team for advice and guidance. If an adult at risk does not want a referral made to the HSC Trust or PSNI, the Designated Safeguarding Officer must contact the Adult Safeguarding Team for advice and guidance about whether or not to make a referral. These factors will influence whether or not you should make a referral without consent:

  • Do they have capacity to make this decision?
  • Have you given them full and accurate information in a way which they understand?
  • Are they experiencing undue influence or coercion?
  • Is the person causing harm a member of staff, a volunteer or someone who only has contact with the adult at risk because they both use the service?
  • Is anyone else at risk from the person causing harm?
  • Do you suspect a crime has been committed?

The HSC may determine that a referral without consent should be made and you should follow their instructions for making the referral.

If it is determined that the concern(s) do not meet the definition of an adult at risk or an adult in need of protection and a referral cannot be made without consent, the concerns raised must be recorded, including any action taken, and the reasons for not referring to HSC. In situations where the adult in need of protection is in imminent danger it may not be possible to discuss their wishes with them and obtaining a valid consent may not be possible. Under these circumstances, you should take whatever action you feel is appropriate to protect the adult at risk, including seeking medical and/or PSNI intervention.

7.1 Record keeping, confidentiality and information sharing

While it is important that we adopt a partnership approach to ensure the safety and welfare of adults at risk, it is of equally important that all concerned are confident that the information they provide will only be disclosed where it is in the best interests of the adult at risk to do so. We have carefully constructed the council’s policy and procedures to ensure such confidentiality while protecting the interests of the adult at risk.

We have an Adult safeguarding champion and officers with designated responsibility due to the complex nature of operations.

Officers’ who have been specially trained in the area of safeguarding and are committed to the principle of confidentiality.

Information obtained by organisations in the exercise of their safeguarding duties may be of a personal nature about a particular adult at risk, and therefore is governed by the common law duty of confidentiality, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (the DPA).

The six principles state that Personal data should be:

  • processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
  • collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes
  • adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary
  • accurate and where necessary kept up to date
  • kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer that is necessary for the purposes for which those data are processed, and
  • processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data
  • accountability is central to GDPR

Data Controllers are responsible for compliance with the principles and must be able to demonstrate this to data subjects and the regulator.

8 Adult safeguarding champion (ASC)

The ASC provides strategic and operational leadership and oversight in relation to adult safeguarding for an organisation or group and is responsible for implementing its adult safeguarding policy statement. The ASC should ensure that, at a minimum, the organisation safeguards adults at risk by:

  • recognising that adult harm is wrong and that it should not be tolerated
  • being aware of the signs of harm from abuse, exploitation and neglect
  • reducing opportunities for harm from abuse, exploitation and neglect to occur, and
  • knowing how and when to report safeguarding concerns to HSC Trusts or the PSNI

The ASC role has both strategic and operational components.

Adult safeguarding: prevention and protection in partnership summarises the key responsibilities for the ASC as follows:

  • to provide information and support for staff on adult safeguarding within the organisation
  • to ensure that the organisation’s adult safeguarding policy is disseminated and support implementation throughout the organisation
  • to advise within the organisation regarding adult safeguarding training needs
  • to provide advice to staff or volunteers who have concerns about the signs of harm, and ensure a report is made to HSC Trusts where there is a safeguarding concern
  • to support staff to ensure that any actions take account of what the adult wishes to achieve – this should not prevent information about any risk of serious harm being passed to the relevant HSC Trust Adult Protection Gateway Service for assessment and decision-making
  • to establish contact with the HSC Trust Designated Adult Protection Officer (DAPO), PSNI and other agencies as appropriate
  • to ensure accurate and up-to-date records are maintained detailing all decisions made, the reasons for those decisions and any actions taken
  • to compile and analyse records of reported concerns to determine whether a number of low-level concerns are accumulating to become significant; and make records available for inspection

In larger or more complex organisations the ASC may delegate some of the operational tasks or activities as appropriate. For example, a provider with a number of Nursing Homes throughout Northern Ireland may choose to delegate some of the tasks of an ASC to a member of staff in each facility. They would then report to the ASC on adult safeguarding matters on a regular basis and assist in the compilation of reports, training needs analyses and data analysis.

For the purposes of this policy Belfast City Council’s nominated person is the Safeguarding Compliance Manager.

9 Safer recruitment

There are currently no roles in Belfast City Council that are categorised as regulated under the Adult safeguarding criteria.

Safer recruitment and selection procedures help to ensure a safe work place by deterring and screening out unsuitable individuals. We will endeavour to promote the safety of adults at all times and provide a safe environment, by following carefully the procedures for recruitment and selection of staff, agency workers and volunteers and by carrying out the appropriate vetting procedure for staff, agency workers and volunteers.

Recruitment and selection of employees

We implement transparent and clearly defined recruitment and selection procedures in accordance with legislative and statutory requirements as set out in the Local Government Staff Commission Code of Procedures for Recruitment and Selection. These procedures are in place to screen out those who are not suitable to work with adults at risk.

As part of our commitment to safeguarding adults at risk we undertake “safer recruitment” when recruiting to posts which are considered ‘regulated activity’.

Access NI

Access NI provides criminal history information to organisations and individuals on three levels of ‘Criminal Record Check’, basic, standard, enhanced disclosures.

We will determine the level of checks required at the beginning of the recruitment process and Corporate HR will manage the related procedures. An Access NI Enhanced Disclosure with Barred List Check is required for employees, agency workers and volunteers in posts designated as regulated activity that means, those posts which work with children and young people and Adults at risk (as defined under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007, as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012). Before commencing a selection process for an established post the line manager in consultation with the Safeguarding Compliance Manager, Departmental HR Officer and Corporate HR Officer will determine if the post is a ‘regulated post’. If it is new post the line manager, in consultation with the Safeguarding Compliance Manager and the continuous improvement team, will ensure that this assessment is included as part of the job design process.

During the selection process the preferred candidate must give consent for the relevant Access NI Disclosure Check. If the preferred candidate refuses to give consent for the check or if we find they have withheld information this will be sufficient grounds for the council to withdraw their conditional offer of employment. We will repeat the checks every three years for regulated posts. If in the course of their employment with BCC, an employee moves from a non-regulated post to a regulated post then that employee will be subject to Access NI checks prior to deployment and may be subject to further relevant reference or line management recommendation checks.


We require all applicants who have to complete the Access NI check to produce evidence of their identity for example, a long birth certificate. This is important as Access NI can only make checks if the person’s identify is confirmed.

Access NI Disclosures

If a Criminal Records check reveals details of convictions which may render the applicant unsuitable for the applied for post Departmental HR/Corporate HR will discuss the situation with the applicant in accordance with the guidance set out in the Councils Guidelines for Dealing with Applicants with Convictions.

It is an offence for a barred person to work, apply to work or offer to work in regulated activity with a group they are barred from working with. We will not employ candidates on the barred list in regulated activity. If the checks reveal that a candidate is on the barred list for regulated activity, we will make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service to notify them of the individuals attempt to apply for barred work.


The Council require two references from people who have employed you and who are not family members. Where a post involves work with children the Council may request references from any other previous employment, which involved working with children or young people.

If for legitimate reasons there is difficulty in sourcing suitable references, we reserve the right to seek alternatives as described in the referencing guidance document.

Agency workers

We will ensure that agency workers in Regulated Activity are required to complete the relevant Access NI checks before they commence work.


Where volunteers work in the council and they are carrying out work considered regulated activity, we will:

  • require the volunteer to complete a registration form
  • confirm their identify (e.g. provide a long birth certificate)
  • receive two written references
  • organise a meeting with the volunteer to review the details on the application form, review the volunteering role, ensure they are aware of the Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy and Procedures and the induction paperwork
  • give permission for Council to apply to Access NI for an Enhanced Disclosure

10 Training

We must not see learning and development as a one off event, but a continuous process which requires the investment of time and resources to create a learning environment and a competent workforce. Each organisation must take responsibility to develop both knowledge and expertise in safeguarding and protecting adults, and seek to identify the most appropriate and relevant opportunities to develop the confidence, abilities and competence of staff and volunteers.

We are committed to providing all staff, agency workers and volunteers with appropriate safeguarding awareness sessions or the relevant level of training in accordance with the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership Training Strategy 2013.

At each level, the training or awareness raising will identify:

  • required safeguarding knowledge and skills
  • key learning outcomes
  • target audience

Safeguarding Adults at Risk Training Schedule

Level 0: Safeguarding awareness

All staff, agency workers, and volunteers within the organisation. This will involve familiarising staff / agency workers / volunteers with the working environment, with Belfast City Council expectations and the requirements of the job. All staff / agency workers / volunteers will be provided with a corporate code of behaviour and a safeguarding code of behaviour, which they must read. The code of behaviour will draw particular attention to Belfast City Council’s Safeguarding policy and procedure. This will be part of the induction process for all new employees and volunteers.

Level 1: Safeguarding adults training (Face to face facilitated Learning)

All staff, agency workers and volunteers who have relevant contact with adults at risk, or with carers/parents of adults at risk and those who have regular contact with adults at risks, or adults known or suspected of posing a risk to adults at risk. This six-hour, face-to-face training session will enable managers, staff, agency workers and volunteers to understand their roles and responsibilities in relation to safeguarding adults at risk within the context of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

Level 2: Managers’ responsibilities and supervisory awareness training

Available to all managers, staff, agency workers and volunteers who have supervisory responsibilities. This six-hour, face-to-face training session will enable managers, staff, agency workers and volunteers to understand their roles and responsibilities in relation to safeguarding adults at risk within the context of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

Level 3: Adult safeguarding champion, or designated person training

All officers with designated responsibility. (delivered externally) This full-day, face-to-face training session will enable Adult safeguarding champion, or designated person to become familiar with the role and responsibilities of their role and to develop competence and confidence in carrying out this role. Completion of Level 0: Safeguarding awareness and attendance at all subsequent relevant training is a mandatory requirement and individual training records will be maintained by HR.

11 Governance, monitoring and reporting

In order to ensure compliance with the requirements of safeguarding legislation and expectation there are a number of procedures in place:

The Safeguarding Panel:

The Safeguarding Panel is a cross-departmental assurance and compliance group set up by the Council to oversee the practical implementation of this Policy and to develop, monitor and review safeguarding procedures.

Its role includes:

  • identifying safeguarding training needs within services
  • developing supplementary safeguarding procedures as they are required
  • promoting good practice within council services – to include procurement of services
  • discussing incidents and concerns raised in services to facilitate a council-wide response if necessary
  • setting internal reporting requirements
  • regularly review the internal reports, identify any actions needed and oversee implementation of these actions
  • review risks and emergent issues that may require action for the council

12 Third party contracts and interactions

Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, and safeguarding all ages is important to us. The Council recognises everyone has a fundamental right to be safe. Whatever the cause, or wherever it occurs, harm caused to children, young people or adults by abuse, exploitation or neglect is not acceptable.

This expectation extends to all third parties that work with or on behalf of the council, this includes third party Contracts such as Greenwich Leisure Limited (our delivery partners for leisure services), organisations who receive grant funding, supply contracts, funded projects, events and anyone hiring our venues. In line with this policy, we expect our contactors/partners to:

  • Have in place their own policy and procedures for safeguarding children, young people and adults at risk of harm consistent with current legislation and best practise.
  • In absence of their own policy, agree to use ours until such time as they can write/implement their own.
  • Ensure that all members of staff and volunteers who will be employed in the programme and fall into the regulated categories as per the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007 (as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012) have had the appropriate level of Access NI check carried out.


Safeguarding structure

Who is responsible for child safeguarding issues? Who is responsible for adult safeguarding issues?
Belfast City Council Elected Members Belfast City Council Elected Members
Chief Executive Chief Executive
Senior Officer Responsible - City Solicitor and Director of Legal and Civic Services Senior Officer Responsible (Adult Safeguarding Champion) - Strategic Director City and Neighbourhood Services
Portfolio Lead - Neighbourhood Services Manager Portfolio Lead - Neighbourhood Services Manager
Safeguarding Compliance Manager Safeguarding Compliance Manager
Designated Protection Officer All line managers
Deputy Designated Protection Officer All staff
Deputy Designated Protection Officer  
All line managers  
All staff  


[Footnote 1]

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