Using Care Act Advocacy to protect people at risk of harm and abuse

Claire Rowntree

Senior Advocacy Coordinator for Statutory Advocacy and Hate Crime

National Safeguarding Adults Week 2020

National Safeguarding Adults Week logo

During National Safeguarding Awareness Week (16-22 November) we want to focus on the support our Independent Advocates provide under the Care Act 2014.

Under the Care Act a person is legally entitled to have an Advocate to support and represent them to take part in a safeguarding enquiry or a safeguarding adult review. They must be viewed by the Local Authority as having care and support needs, have substantial difficulty in being involved in the safeguarding processes and have no one to support them. One of our Independent Care Act Advocates supported Annabelle though safeguarding procedures. Claire Rowntree, one of our two Senior Advocacy Coordinators,  tells her story.

Annabelle’s Story

Annabelle is an elderly woman who has a diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She was living with her husband in residential care. Following a safeguarding report, Annabelle was moved to another care home and separated from her husband.

The safeguarding report concerned her sexual relationship with her husband and whether she had the capacity to consent to a sexual relationship with him. A capacity assessment therefore needed to be carried out at the same time as ensuring that Annabelle’s fundamental rights were protected. The Advocate worked with Annabelle to find out her views and wishes and her understanding of the issues and supported her during the capacity assessment.

The Advocate challenged the outcome of the capacity assessment on the grounds that the thresholds were based on new sexual relationships and transmission of Sexually Transmitted Disease and did not take into account Annabelle’s individual circumstances. The Advocate argued that a lack of understanding around these issues did not equate to a lack of capacity and that Annabelle’s capacity should be assessed in the context of her generation and a marriage of over 60 years. The challenge was upheld by the Local Authority solicitor and Annabelle was viewed to have capacity to make decisions about having a sexual relationship with her husband. Annabelle and her husband were able to reunite.

This case highlights the complex issue of couples continuing to have relationships in care homes and ensuring that those involved are fully able to consent and are not at risk of abuse.

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