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Safeguarding Adults: What constitutes a concern?

The safeguarding concerns multi-agency framework proposes a cross sector understanding of what constitutes a safeguarding concern. Its purpose is to support effective multi-agency outcomes that address risks to wellbeing and safety whether through a safeguarding response or another pathway. It promotes collaborative decision making and support, and joint accountability.

Networks across all sectors were engaged in producing the framework: scoping, attending four national workshops and through a group of critical readers who advised on drafts. The views and input of service users are reflected in it.

It aims to support:

  • the whole range of sectors and organisations in making appropriate referrals of concerns to adult social care, by promoting a consistent and shared understanding of what constitutes a safeguarding adults concern
  • a consistent response by adult social care to safeguarding concerns referred to them
  • a shared responsibility across all organisations for addressing risks to wellbeing and safety, whether as a safeguarding concern, or outside of safeguarding responses, by jointly agreeing alternative pathways for support.
  • a shared understanding of what to report as a safeguarding concern in the Safeguarding Adults Collection (SAC)1 
  • current wide variation in practice and decision-making is reflected in the NHS Digital Safeguarding Adults Collection data.

This framework is not intended as guidance prescribing exactly what must be done. Its intention is to empower practitioners across all sectors, supporting consistent, confident decision-making about safeguarding concerns, which are rooted in the legal framework and statutory guidance. That confidence and consistency can in turn support individuals and communities to understand what kinds of concerns need to be discussed and reported. Consistent data recording and reporting flows from these decisions.

This framework connects with a framework (published August 2019 by LGA/ADASS) on Making decisions on the duty to carry out safeguarding adults enquiries. Together these offer robust support across the entire decision-making pathway. Both were prompted by wide variation in practice and decision-making, reflected in the NHS Digital Safeguarding Adults Collection (SAC) data on reporting of concerns and safeguarding enquiries under Section 42, Care Act (2014). They address a potential lack of equal access to adult safeguarding support, dependent on how safeguarding concerns are defined and addressed.


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