Section 46 of the Act states that:
The convener of an Adult Protection Committee must, as soon as practical after such date as the council may direct biennially-
prepare a general report on the exercise of the Committee's functions during the 2 years ending on that date, and, after securing the Committee's approval of the report, send a copy of it to:
i. each of the public bodies and office-holders represented on the Adult Protection Committee by virtue of section 43(4),
ii. the Scottish Ministers,
iii. the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland,
iv. the Public Guardian,
v. the Care Commission (where it is not represented on the Committee), and
vi. any other public body or office-holder as the Scottish Ministers may by order specify.
In practice the Scottish Government requested that the first Biennial Report should be submitted by the end of October 2010, two years after the implementation of the Act. Biennial reports have been submitted every two years thereafter.
Expectations for the content of the first report were set out in the Scottish Government's original guidance for APCs, which expected that the report would summarise the work of the APC, analyse achievements, identify current issues with services, practice and performance, and set out the required improvements and proposals for the APC programme for the next two year period.
In doing so it was expected that the report would analyse, review and comment on APC functions, and would therefore likely address:
- management information on activity, trends, inputs and outcomes in relation to the protection of adults at risk;
- details of support provided;
- the use of protection orders;
- public information;
- the management of services and staff;
- communication and cooperation between agencies;
- workforce issues; and
- progress with training.
This has broadly remained the same expectation for subsequent Biennial Reports, with amendments being made from time to time through deliberations between key stakeholders and the Scottish Government.
The Biennial Reports are prepared by the independent convener who, after approval by the APC, is expected to submit the report to the bodies named above. The report now serves two main functions. The first is to provide information to the bodies listed above. In practice, submission of Biennial Reports has been limited to formal submission to the Scottish Government, and sharing amongst partners at a local level. Submission of reports to the bodies named in Section 46(b), including the Care Inspectorate, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and the Office of the Public Guardian must occur as per Section 46 of the Act. As noted above, the APC must send a copy of the Biennial Report as part of the exercise of its functions. It is up to each APC as to whether it publishes its Biennial Report.
The other main function is to provide the means by which APCs reflect on past performance and identify areas (both locally and nationally) for improvement that are incorporated into development or business plans for the APC over the coming two years. In essence this requires the report to reflect a commitment to continuous improvement. As a reflection of this, many APCs now produce reports every year with the intervening reports being for governance and accountability within their own areas. In such cases, business plans become rolling programmes that are added to as new actions and improvements are identified.
At a local level, the reports should be shared with members of Chief Officer Groups (COGs) and then other Boards as appropriate for the individual partnerships. Biennial Reports are frequently also used as the basis for more public facing information on adult protection work in the committee's area, and to provide a means to promote the work of adult support and protection across agencies.
Good practice dictates that this commitment by APCs to continuous improvement should be reflected in their Terms of Reference, and that all Biennial Reports should contain a Development or Business Plan for the next reporting period.
This guidance recognises that in conjunction with the statutory requirement for the submission of Biennial Reports, they provide maximum benefit to APCs and local partnerships themselves in reviewing their past work and planning their future work.
Since the implementation of the Act the governance arrangements for public protection at a local level have become much more strongly established. APCs are now firmly located within these local public protection governance structures that in all areas include reporting arrangements to Chief Officer Groups, and then variously through Integration Authorities and/or Community Planning Partnerships.
Chief Officer Groups (COGs) in the context of adult protection are the Chief Executives of Local Authorities, the Chief Executives of Health Boards and Police Scotland Divisional Commanders. Chief Officers, both individually and collectively, are responsible for the leadership, direction and scrutiny of adult protection services and public protection more broadly. Ownership and accountability by Chief Officers is required to ensure that protecting adults at risk of harm remains a priority within and across agencies.
In addition, there are senior officers from a range of agencies and organisations, including the Chief Social Work Officer, who will advise and assist local authorities and their partners in relation to governance and fulfilment of statutory responsibilities, including adult protection. The Convener of Adult and Child Protection Committees will also be members of COGs. Many COGs also include representatives from MAPPA, Violence Against Women partnerships, alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs), community safety and other areas.
Adult Protection Committees and Chief Officer Groups
In 2019 the Scottish Government published updated guidance Protecting Children and Young People, Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer Responsibilities. This concentrated on matters to do with child protection but has direct relevance to adult protection. This section of the Guidance for APCs therefore reflects the content of this document as it applies to Adult Support and Protection.
Working within the accountability structures of their respective organisations, members of the Chief Officer Group in each local authority area must work collectively to identify and commission inter-agency activity for public protection. Included in this within all partnerships is the protection of adults at risk of harm. Chief Officers are ultimately responsible and accountable for improving the experience of and outcomes for adults who may need protection and for having assurance reporting frameworks in place to ensure that all staff within their organisations are competent in discharging their adult protection responsibilities. The local APC is the statutorily mandated inter-agency mechanism to take forward this work.
The Act does not specifically reference governance matters other than to require that each council must establish an APC, must appoint an independent convener who must not be an officer or member of the council, and must also appoint all other members of the APC. An APC must meet its statutory functions, regardless of its design.
Current practice and a commitment to strong inter-agency working has moved beyond these expectations in relation to processes for appointing conveners, and the independence of the convener. Good governance now expects that:
- Conveners should be appointed after an open recruitment process involving an interview with the three Chief Officers or their nominees;
- Conveners should not be an officer or member of the council and should also be independent of the NHS and Police Scotland;
- Conveners should be appointed for fixed terms, with the option for renewal if agreed by Chief Officers, and based on ongoing appraisal, at a frequency to be determined locally;
- The appointment of other members to APCs can be delegated to the convener and the APC.
Unlike in Child Protection, APCs are a statutory requirement, and the convener is responsible for, among other things, producing a Biennial Report that after approval by the APC, should be submitted to the Scottish Government and other named bodies. The general practice now is that the report is shared with the Chief Officers' Group and any agreed amendments are made prior to final submission to the Scottish Government and other named bodies.
Case reviews and large-scale investigations
Paragraphs 43 – 48 above make reference to case reviews and large-scale investigations, and highlight the role of Chief Officers in these. Minimally the APC should report initial case reviews to Chief Officer Groups, and recommendations from significant case reviews should be agreed between the APC and the COG. The APC should notify the COG of the outcome of large scale investigations.
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