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Health Minister announces plans for Adult Safeguarding Bill for Northern Ireland

Health Minister Robin Swann has pledged to bring forward a new Adult Safeguarding Bill for Northern Ireland, to help protect care home residents and other vulnerable members of society. The Minister made the commitment in response to the first report from an independent review commissioned to examine the health and social care system’s response to care failings at Dunmurry Manor Care Home This review, by social care experts CPEA, was commissioned by the Department of Health following the Commissioner for Older People’s 2018 ‘Home Truths’ report on Dunmurry Manor. CPEA concluded that adult safeguarding practice ‘did not actively contribute’ to keeping residents safe at Dunmurry Manor and that families’ voices were repeatedly unheard. It also found divergent safeguarding practices across the HSC Trusts.

The report proposes eight actions, including establishing an Adult Safeguarding / Adult Protection Change programme and an Adult Safeguarding / Protection Bill. 

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I want to thank the independent review team for the diligence and thoroughness of their review. I am committed to making lasting improvements in adult safeguarding and my Department will begin immediately to deliver on the recommendations set out in this report.

“I can confirm that this will include legislative reform. I intend to consult on a range of legislative options before Christmas to inform the development of an Adult Safeguarding Bill.

“I have asked the Chief Social Worker, Sean Holland, to chair a new Adult Safeguarding Transformation Board to oversee this work and to strengthen the governance around adult safeguarding to achieve a more accountable, regional approach.

“I would also like to thank the team from CPEA for their work and expertise in delivering this report.

“I am determined to lead social care into a better place in Northern Ireland, and an Adult Safeguarding Bill will help achieve that goal.”

In line with the Review’s recommendations, the Minister confirmed that plans include standing down the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP) in a move towards the establishment of an Independent Adult Safeguarding Board at arms-length from the Department.

The Minister added: “I want to thank the individuals and agencies who have contributed to NIASP over the years. I recognise the value of that engagement and I believe the plans that I am announcing today set the way forward for us to continue working together across the different sectors.”

CPEA’s review work for the Department of Health continues and its findings on regulation and complaints handling are due to be published in the near future.