How the OPG investigate abuse and deal with it.
The Office of the Public Guardian will look at a range of ways to put things right where abuse has been discovered. They may:
- apply to the court for a deputy to be suspended, discharged or replaced.
- apply to the court for an order to be varied or for a deputy’s security bond to be called in or varied.
- apply to the court for a power of attorney to be revoked.
- inform the police, if we think a crime has been committed.
- tell a deputy they must provide a final report where the person he or she was acting for has died or the deputy has been discharged. If the deputy has died, the Public Guardian can require the deputy’s personal representatives to submit a final report.
- continue to closely monitor the situation through ongoing supervision of the case.
- tell external agencies. This includes notifying any professional body where the person who has committed abuse is a member.
- The Public Guardian also has power to make referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service, which may mean the abuser is put on the ‘barred list’ so they can no longer work with other adults at risk or with children.
Getting other agencies involved.
Local authority adult social services take the lead in co-coordinating the multi-agency approach to safeguard adults at risk. Initial investigations can be undertaken by any agency, however the agency most closely involved with the client may be best placed to lead this investigation at first, with action, information sharing and advice from adult social services at all stages of an investigation.
After discussion with a line manager or senior colleague, any suspected abuse can be referred by OPG to the appropriate adult social services by making a Safeguarding Adults At Risk referral (SAAR).
The way local authorities work varies, but each adult social services’ response will be within a framework based on the Care Act/ Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act guidance. The local authority will agree any investigation through its strategy meeting and discussion process so that initial enquiries don’t put any police investigation at risk.
The role OPG will take in any investigation will be decided on a case-by-case basis. They may:
- investigate the case themselves. This happens when the Public Guardian has statutory powers under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to investigate the actions of an attorney or deputy. In these cases, adult social services and/or the police can still be informed that we have received a report of suspected abuse. The OPG don’t have to prove that abuse has taken place before telling other agencies about it.
- refer straight to adult social services and/ or the police if the Public Guardian doesn’t have the authority to investigate.
- work with other agencies (in particular adult social services) to investigate and deal with an allegation relating to an OPG client.
The OPG will discuss and agree the need to involve other agencies with the local authority or the lead agency in any investigation.
Reporting abuse to the police
If an incident of abuse is thought to be a criminal offence, OPG will refer it to the police. Examples of action that may be criminal include: physical assault, psychological assault, sexual assault and rape, theft, fraud or other forms of financial exploitation, and certain forms of discrimination on the grounds of race or gender.
Added to this, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 states that a deputy or attorney is guilty of an offence if he or she ill treats or wilfully neglects the client.
Because deciding whether a case should be referred to the police is not always clear, decisions to involve the police will be taken by the compliance manager, with support from the OPG legal advisor, if needed.