Inventory clerks and letting agency staff have been warned to put safety first when lone working or entering tenants’ properties for mid-term inspections or rental term check-outs and check ins.
At a webinar organised by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC), safeguarding expert and former police officer, David Powell, outlined the legal framework that protects vulnerable persons and explained how lone workers can protect themselves when keeping out-of-office appointments. And he outlined the obligations of all professionals who encounter any signs of abuse to children or vulnerable adults through the course of their day-to-day work.
Powell began the session by looking at the dangers to lone workers in the lettings/estate agency sector - particularly those involved in undertaking inventory checks and assessments and provided some important advice, including:
· Survey the outside of the premises before you enter;
· Look at the surrounding area. Could you get help if needed?
· Is someone aware of your destination?
· Has the person you are visiting been validated?
· Has an agent or landlord carried out checks in advance of the meeting?
· Consider the body language of the person you are meeting. Trust your gut instinct.
· Are you using a lone worker alert app?
· Always ask to see ID
· Ask if anyone not included on the tenancy is present in the building
He also highlighted the responsibilities of employers with regard to health and safety.
“Employers must protect workers and others from any risks associated with work activities,” said Powell.
“This means they must assess risks, promote information about risks, consult with employees and provide health and safety information.”
He then went on to describe the obligations of professionals should they encounter anything concerning in the course of a property visit or in their work life generally.
“It’s important to remember that Safeguarding Law overrides GDPR,” he said.
“Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and protect the safety of individuals.
“Safeguarding provides a lawful ground for the processing of special category personal data without consent if the circumstances justify it - where it is in the substantial public interest and necessary for the purposes of protecting an individual from harm and protecting their well-being.”
Need to be aware
Powell then went on to describe the various types of child abuse including inappropriate online material and neglect and explained that any concerns could be reported to 999, 101, local authority social services departments or the NSPCC.
Daniel Evans, chairman of specialist inventory company, AIIC, said of the webinar: “David gave us a fascinating and, at times, chastening, insight into the world of safeguarding.
“It was a wide-ranging seminar that covered everything from Child Protection and modern slavery to self-protection and domestic abuse.
“As an industry we need to be aware of these things. Obviously, we have to take the necessary precautions to make sure we are as safe as possible when we visit people in their homes, but it is equally important that we remain vigilant and be aware of signs that some other vulnerable person might need additional support or an intervention of some kind.
“We’re very grateful to David for taking the time to cover this really important subject so comprehensively for us.”
*Daniel Evans is Managing Director at Home Inventories and Chairman of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks.