Department of Health No Secrets Policy

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No secrets:
Guidance on developing and implementing
multi-agency policies and procedures to protect
vulnerable adults from abuse

There can be no secrets and no hiding place when it comes to exposing the abuse of vulnerable adults. The Government’s White Paper, ‘Modernising Social Services’, published at the end of 1998, signalled our intention to provide better protection for individuals needing care and support. This is being taken up through the Care Standards Bill.

We are also committed to providing greater protection to victims and witnesses, and the Government is actively implementing the measures proposed in ‘Speaking Up for Justice’, the report on the treatment of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses in the criminal justice system. That report recognised that there were concerns about both the identification and reporting of crime against vulnerable adults in care settings, and endorsed the proposals made by the Association of Directors of Social Services, and others, that a national policy should be developed for the protection of vulnerable adults. It was agreed that local multi-agency codes of practice would be the best way forward.

The development of these codes of practice should be co-ordinated locally by each local authority social services department. To support this process this guidance is being issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970. Government departments have worked closely together on the preparation of this guidance and we commend it to local authority social services departments, the police service, and the health service. It will also be of interest to the independent sector, as well as users and carers.

John Hutton
Department of Health

John Denham
Department of Health

Charles Clarke
Home Office


1. Introduction

Structure of this document

2. Defining who is at risk and in what way



Which adults are vulnerable?
What constitutes abuse?
Forms of abuse/abusing
Who may be the abuser?
In what circumstances may abuse occur?
Patterns of abuse
What degree of abuse justifies intervention?

3. Setting up an inter-agency framework

Elements of an inter-agency administrative framework
A multi-agency management committee
Roles and responsibilities within and between agencies
Operational level
Supervisory line management level
Senior management level
Corporate/cross authority level
Chief officer and chief executive level
Local authority member level
Policy and service audit
Learning from experience

4. Developing inter-agency policy
4.1 Policies
4.3 Principles

5. Main elements of strategy
5.2 Training for staff and volunteers
5.4 Commissioning of services and contract monitoring
5.5 Confidentiality

6. Procedures for responding in individual cases
6.3 The objectives of an investigation
6.5 Content of procedures
6.7 Management and co-ordination of the response to the allegation of adult abuse
6.10 Investigation
6.14 Record keeping
6.19 Assessment
6.22 Person alleged to be responsible for abuse or poor practice 6.25 Staff discipline and criminal proceedings
6.27 Disciplinary procedures
6.31 Suspension from duty
6.32 Role of advocates
6.33 Decision making

7. Getting the message across
7.2 Rigorous recruitment practices
7.3 References
7.4 Volunteers
7.5 Internal guidelines for all staff
7.7 Information for users, carers and the general public
7.9 Direct payments


Project Steering Group membership
References and suggested further reading
Relevant statutes


This guidance has been produced by a Steering Group, led by Peter Dunn of the Department of Health (DH) Social Care Group, which included representatives from a wide range of organisations. Membership of the steering group is given in Appendix...
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