By Jonathan Cox, chair of the HQN Safeguarding in Housing group

Safeguarding is a complicated issue and one which is rightly in the spotlight. At its heart is the urge to keep people safe and protect them from harm.

If you ask any professional in the industry with knowledge of safeguarding, they’ll tell you one thing. As pressures on household finances increase, we’re likely to see a commensurate rise in safeguarding issues – for example, domestic abuse, financial abuse, neglect and self-neglect.

So, with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, it’s imperative that we all step up our efforts to ensure that people who need our support don’t lose out.

We’re a responsible landlord and we know that our job is to speak up and do all we can to support our most vulnerable customers. But our work doesn’t stop there. We work in partnership with other housing associations and third parties so that we can all benefit and understand which approaches and techniques are the most effective.

Types of abuse

The Care Act 2014 highlights the following as particular areas of concern for vulnerable adults:

  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic violence or abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Financial or material abuse
  • Modern slavery (we are also concerned with other forms of exploitation including cuckooing and radicalisation)
  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Organisational or institutional abuse
  • Neglect or acts of omission
  • Self-neglect.

As a housing association with over 61,000 properties, our frontline teams are trained to report any concerns they may have about a resident’s welfare. These concerns are logged and passed to a local authority trained professional to investigate and make their own assessment.

To make sure that our approach is progressive, two years ago we established an industry best practice group to support other housing associations dealing with those at risk of abuse and neglect. The group started with seven members and now has 17

Now in its third year, the group is gearing up to share information which will help the sector respond more effectively to safeguarding concerns.

Working collaboratively, the group will share benchmarking data. Members will also study the lessons learnt from different types of safeguarding reviews and what’s needed to support a culture of healthy challenge internally, and between partner organisations.

These reviews are set to highlight good practice within the sector. But they’ll also help to drive greater consistency in approach and underline why housing providers must have a seat at the safeguarding table.

As housing providers, we’re also using the network to think about how we can increase reporting from tradespersons. As our ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground this is so important. We rely heavily on our tradespeople to say when something doesn’t feel right. And with the cost-of-living crisis putting greater pressure on households, we’re clear that safeguarding is becoming more important, and we need to look at what else can do to keep our customers safe.