9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Hospital Safety and Health Surveillance II Building I, 2E2

Reducing the risk? The operation of a barring and vetting scheme in care services in England and Wales

Reducing the risks of mistreatment and neglect among people who use social care services has been a prominent policy goal in the UK throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The paper explores the implementation and operation of the Protection of Vulnerable Adults List (POVA) in England and Wales. The POVA List is a statutory instrument to bar unsuitable staff from working in social care services, which carries criminal penalties for businesses and staff that fail to follow its provisions. While the scheme is unique to the United Kingdom (UK), safeguarding is an international theme in policy in this field.

Methods and materials
The paper will contextualise the POVA List within the complex context of social care in England and Wales, in which multiple and highly varied commercial companies provide the bulk of services. It draws on a study comprising analysis of POVA List referral data; interviews, using a vignette method, with civil servants administering the POVA List and discussion groups of older people, staff and managers.

The overall schema for decision making resulting from the analysis, portrayed the process as an interplay between emotional and moral responses to individuals referred to the scheme and evidence about the alleged misconduct. Initial emotional and moral reactions to information accompanying referrals direct further requests for evidence and are moderated by further details that subsequently emerge. A final construction of an 'unsuitable' or a 'suitable' person coalesces from the interplay of these factors, which leads to recommendations about whether to bar the referred person.

Establishing people as suitable or unsuitable to work in social care, because they have caused harm or have placed users of social care services at risk of harm, rests on construction of and concern about risk. The POVA research illustrates how a policy based on the management of future risk is operationalised through individual decisions. Such a policy tends to emphasise an individualistic response to risk (ie the locus of concern is the individual worker), possibly at the expense of more collective approaches, which chimes with themes identifiable in other policies in the field.