Friday, November 27, 2009

Protection or Safeguards

Nottingham, UK
Before I left Australia for this trip I was in Hobart for a meeting on safeguards and restrictive practice (which I subsequently blogged on this site).  While it was good to meet with folk with shared concerns about restrictive practices and their impact on vulnerable people, I was surprised and disappointed that there was not a greater contextual focus on getting a good life as active citizens.  After all, the more you're involved with things going on in your local community, then the more visible you will be, the more good people you will have in your life, and the less likely you will be to be exploited.

Well, I've just experienced a similar disappointment.  I've just participated in an all-day symposium (a jumped-up word for 'meeting') on Safeguarding.  It was held at the National College for School Leadership ( and hosted by the Ann Craft Trust, a national organisation working to protect vulnerable children and adults from abuse (

The event explored recent UK initiatives designed to offer greater protection for vulnerable people.  Included there was a speaker from the Independent Safeguards Authority (  I was particularly looking forward to hearing about how they were building better practice in disability support by steering support agencies away from restrictive practices and by upholding the importance of people living valued lives in local communities.  However, they don't do any of that (Robbi, please do your research of such things properly).  The ISA was instead set up to make sure that 'unsuitable' people don't get to work with vulnerable children or adults.  Basically, ICA is like a much much bigger version of police-checking.

That's all very well, and valuable, but as with the Hobart meeting, I felt this event lacked a focus on how best to support people to get a good life.  As with the rest of us, vulnerable people are most likely to be safeguarded if they are firmly embedded in the rich associational life of their local community.  In other words, if good people are in your life, they look out for you.

It is therefore ironic that that this does not tend to happen in the same way when vulnerable people are placed in traditional 'safe places' such as institutions and other group arrangements, when the only people in the vulnerable person's life are paid to be there and where such group arrangements create separateness from the wider community and the relationships therein.  Basically, a person is more at risk in such 'safe' places.

Nowhere in this symposium was the 'get a good life' issue really unpacked, and the issue of support agency restrictive practices was silent.

However, as a result of a spirited conversation right at the end of the day, the participants generated the following list of useful things that can help keep people safe AND get them a good life:

  • intentional networking to bring good people into the life of a vulnerable person
  • bringing positive role models into the life of the vulnerable person
  • assisting people to grow skills that can help their decision-making so they stay safe
  • a legislative and regulatory framework that stamps out neglect and abuse
 Add to this list is the need for an overall genuine thoughtfulness that comes from a deeply felt regard for the person's right, whatever the extent of their vulnerability, to live a rich life characterised by genuine choice and active citizenship.  In other words, being truly part of what's going on.

Along with others, Julia Farr Association is currently exploring the topic of Safeguards and Restrictive Practices.  If you'd like to be involved, get in touch.


  1. "So what happens?..... Instead, its a numbers game, involving a quick look and a quick response".

    On ABC Radio National last week (24th Nov)there was a very interesting interview with Phillip Bond (Director & founder of the think tank, ResPublica) on what he titles 'The Ownership state'. The basic tennent of his argument is that, improving the effectiveness of public services will depend on getting frontline service providers and their clients working together in a new ownership model.

    Although his ideas are given much promotion by the Tory opposition in the UK, and labelled "Red Toryism" in media commentry, I would argue they are not of themselves conservative ideas. ABC interviewer Phillip Adams (not known for his 'conservative credentials) was keen to impress that such ideas could also be informative ti any 'renewal' also of the left of politics.

    Although Philip Bond did not disagree with this proposition, he went on the outline te problems of state economic control (obsessed with planning and meeting targets) often practiced by centre-left governments and the over emphasis on the individual as the nexus of social being, without a neccessarly context with the community. On the right his criticism focused on the adandonment (and dislocation) of whole communities by the polity (and the state) for the expressed rights of individual economic and social freedom.

    What is interesting from Robbi's comments in the UK is that the persuit of individualised supports for people with disability (to lead lives in the community) has wider applicastion as a political social movement for change in the way we all essentially think about all communities.

    The web site is
    And the interview is at.



  2. I am a very firm believer in networking not only good people Robbi but good people with disabilities also. I think this allows people with disabilities to learn from one another.

    I also agree that people with disabilities should be part of the community or neighbourhood they live in. I do employ paid support workers which I rely on BUT I also rely on the neighbourhood network I have set up around the house and suburb I live in. I do not have paid support workers of the night-time after 11 PM any more as I have no less than five telephone numbers programmed into a phone I can use (with the switch because I have no use of my arms or legs) to contact neighbours who will assist me if a mini crisis occurs. (E.g. my heater died right in the middle of winter at 2:30 AM in the morning. I telephoned a neighbour who was very happy to remove the offending heater and replaced with another 1I had in another room.)
    Neighbourhood networks are part of the safeguards we need to make Australian State and Federal governments aware of. Not only how to set up a neighbourhood network but the benefits it also has to the quality of life of people with disability.

  3. Hi
    I have not read the whole of your blog robbi just the latest two posts. I am a person with a disability and I will contact the SIB with my thoughts about what they are doing. I have newly acquired disabilities but a couple of years ago I was a support worker for People with disabiltiies. Basically I have worked out how difficult it is to get ANY kind of help WHATSOEVER because the SA government does not fund disability adequately and for reasons I will not go into here I originally (and currently) was not able to placed under disability SA but Dom care all your comments about "reform" I know exactly what you mean they amalgamated the two agencies to be under the departmnet of families and communities but dom care dont seem to understand disabilty nor be adequately funded to meet anyones needs they say something like oh we used to only help people over 65 and now we help people your age (28) as well and your carer should be able to do x y z . But they nor disability SA (from what I have heard) have the funds to help people with disabiltiies nor people who are elderly adequately and carers (like my husband) who work full time are forced with no training or anything to do personal care, shopping, cleaning, cooking on top of their 6 days at work. This is totally unfair but if something IS going to be done it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Its godd that the SIB is trying to do something but how long do we have to wait??