Consent case studies

These case studies provide examples of situations where a practitioner feels that someone is experiencing exploitation and would benefit from being referred into safeguarding services, but has been unable to gain the person’s consent.

A supported housing manager notices that Alan, one of their residents, regularly disappears from the property, sometimes for a number of days at a time. Alan appears unkempt and has seems to have an injury affecting his walking.

People known to be involved in selling drugs often congregate round the property and Alan has been known to communicate with them. The housing manager finds Alan with a large amount of money and in a worried state of mind. Alan tells them that he was given the money after being forced to travel to another town with drugs given to him by a ‘gang’. He says that if the gang knew he’d told someone they would hurt him.

The manager tells Alan they are concerned about his welfare and safety and would like to make a safeguarding referral so that he can receive support and protection. Alan asks that the manager does not make a safeguarding referral as the gang will find out and threaten him, and he feels fine to cope on his own.

Given the risks to Alan’s safety and wellbeing, and the basis on which he is declining consent – fear of harm from the gang if they find out, the decision should be made to make a safeguarding referral without informing him.

Carl, a restaurant worker, becomes known to the neighbourhood policing team following reports of antisocial behaviour at the restaurant.

Carl appears to have had an altercation with the restaurant owner. Carl accuses the owner of stealing his money and possessions. He discloses that he has experienced physical abuse from the owner when refusing to work longer than his original contract stated. Carl says all staff in the restaurant are afraid of the owner and receive abuse if they try to take a break or leave before the owner tells them to. The owner is also known to the police for a previous assault.

If the policing team tell Carl that they intend to make a safeguarding referral there is a risk that the owner of restaurant will find out and act abusively towards Carl and the other staff. The decision is made to refer Carl into safeguarding services without telling him or asking him to provide consent.

A drug and alcohol outreach worker visits Stacey, a client with mental health needs and alcohol dependence. Stacey’s day-to-day living arrangements and finances are heavily supported by her partner Darren.

Stacey discloses that Darren has made unwanted sexual advances and has invited friends round to take part in sexual activities which she is forced to participate in. She says she is sometimes frightened and intimidated by Darren but also feels that they have a very close bond. She says that Darren’s monitoring where she goes, who she talks to and what she spends money on his way of keeping her safe.

As Stacey’s movements and communications are so closely controlled by Darren there is a risk that he will find out that the support worker has referred her into safeguarding services. If Darren finds out it is likely that they will seek to harm Stacey or make her life difficult. The support worker makes the decision to make a safeguarding referral without asking for Stacey’s consent.