Too many people with mental distress are at risk of abuse - in their home, in the community or in hospital.
"I was abused by mental health staff over 13 years. Stolen from, assaulted, denied food, water and medical attention, bullied, threatened, intimidated, and now repeatedly rejected and denied any support."
The Government introduced guidance called 'No Secrets' in 2000, which sets out how the authorities - including health and social care professionals, the police and criminal justice agencies - should work together to reduce the risk of abuse occurring, and to intervene to protect people when abuse does happen.
What's the issue?
Mind conducted research in January 2009 which shows that these adult safeguarding policies are failing. We sent a survey to our networks of people with experience of mental distress and held two focus groups to find out how people would like the authorities respond when they are at risk of abuse.
I have bipolar disorder and my stepbrother bullies me at home. The bullying got so bad that I tried to kill myself, but Mind helped me and I'm coping better now.
Eighty-four per cent of respondents to our survey said they felt vulnerable or at risk of abuse some or all of the time. At the same time, 86 per cent felt they were responsible for their own safety, in partnership with other people like health professionals, social workers or the police. A clear message from our research was that people want to have a say in decisions that are made about their safety.
Your experiences were crucial in making the Government listen to Mind's concerns on this issue - so thank you to everyone who took part!
What Mind is calling for
No Secrets review
We have been calling for the Government to introduce a revised 'No Secrets' guidance which sets out a new approach to adult safeguarding, with a focus on:
User involvement - service users should be encouraged to identify what they would like to happen if they are at risk of abuse and write this into their care plan or advance directives.
Social inclusion - people should be given more access to services like daycentres or community activities so they are not left isolated and at an increased risk of abuse.
Duties on healthcare professionals - to reduce disturbing levels of abuse in hospitals, there must be strengthened legal duties on staff to act upon abuse and report it as a crime, not simply write it off as an internal incident.
A right to advocacy - victims of abuse should have a right to an independent advocate, to support them in reporting the incident and ensuring that it is handled through the appropriate channels.
Government announces review of No Secrets!
After a year of Mind lobbying on the issue, in January 2010 the Government announced measures to prevent abuse of adults and to bring abusers to justice, including a review of existing guidance to begin immediately. There will also be a group of five Ministers to meet regularly to set and coordinate policy on safeguarding issues at the highest level, and local safeguarding boards that bring together health, care, housing and criminal justice agencies to share information will be made a legal requirement in every area of the country.
Find out more
- Department of Health press release - better protection for vulnerable adults
No Secrets Guidance - on the Department of Health website.
Abuse by health and social care workers - Mind factsheet
Press release - Mind says no more coercion to 'No Secrets' consultation
- Mind's article 'Safeguarding and mental health: towards a rights-based approach'. First published in the Journal of Adult Protection, Volume 11, Issue 4, November 2009.