Freedom of information requests have uncovered ‘substantial shortcomings’ when it comes to the use of safeguarding guidance by county councils.
The requests, made by Panlogic, a digital engineering consultancy specialising in the public sector, found that 22 out of 37 respondents reported incidents regarding the safeguarding of vulnerable adults and children in the last three calendar years.
They also revealed that 14 councils had to take disciplinary action against staff not following safeguarding issues correctly. 16 refused to answer this question and only seven councils said no disciplinary action was required from 2015 to 2018.
Panlogic also discovered that guidance in some councils can often remain untouched even after major updates and incidents occur. Two councils admitted they could have a three-yearly cycle for the question, ‘How often are safeguarding guidance standards updated?’
‘Guidance, especially for local authorities, is an incredibly important resource for employees and contractors that must be kept up-to-date and not cut back due to budget or other constraints,’ said William Makower, CEO, Panlogic.
‘The fact that we're seeing a high level of incidents and disciplinary issues is a real concern for public sector workers. This must be addressed so that mandatory services can be delivered without question.’
Mr Makower also stressed the importance of the accessibility of guidance, after five councils admitted that guidance could not be accessed via mobile devices.
‘Just as vital as the contents of any guidance is the accessibility of it to staff; it can be the most up-to-date and detailed guidance possible, but unless it can be put in the hands of staff in critical situations it is worthless,’ he said.
‘There are still councils that are both not embracing appropriate technology or are creating unnecessary hurdles to view the guidance (unnecessary password protection and/or permitted access only being available via council hardware, for instance).’
The length of guidance is also something that needs addressing, according to Panlogic. Several councils reported upwards of a hundred pages of safeguarding guidance.