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2014 Conference Presentation

Care modelsSafeguarding EnglandUnited Kingdom

3 September 2014

A question of specialism? Adult safeguarding and models of social work practice in England

Katherine Graham, King's College London, United Kingdom
Martin Stevens, King's College London, United Kingdom
Caroline Norrie, King's College London, United Kingdom
Jo Moriarty, King's College London, United Kingdom
Jill Manthorpe, King's College London, United Kingdom
Shereen Hussein, King's College London, United Kingdom


Objective: The practice of responding to concerns that adults, who may be in need of social care assistance, may be at risk of abuse or neglect is subject to increasing attention in England. The Care Act (2014) places aspects of adult safeguarding on a statutory footing with a new duty to enquire into concerns regarding ‘adults at risk’ of abuse. Developing sound models of adult safeguarding practice is therefore critical for local authorities to ensure that attempts to protect people thought to be at risk of abuse and neglect are effective but do not over-protect them or deprive them of their human rights. Although No Secrets named local authorities as the lead agency and responses to concerns required a multi-agency response, it did not prescribe how local authorities might organise these responsibilities. The overall aim of the research upon which this paper draws is to explore the implications of different organisational models of safeguarding.

Data and methods: This paper reports on one element of a national study involving semistructured interviews with 23 local authority adult safeguarding managers in England in 2013/14. The interviews sought to understand how local authorities arrange their social work practice to respond to reports, from a variety of sources, of suspicions that an adult is at risk of being abused or neglected.

Results: Several key variations in the arrangements were identified including the extent and nature of specialism within safeguarding practice. Specialisation could involve the centralisation of safeguarding decision-making, investigation and coordination, although there were dispersed specialist arrangements as well. The role of specialist safeguarding practitioners was found in some areas to be linked to an analysis of risk or location of the concern. Others emphasised the importance of safeguarding work as the core of mainstream social work practice.

Policy implications: These findings do not offer an evaluation of different models of practice, however they offer a basis for analysis and decision-making about the implications of different models of adult safeguarding organisation that may be relevant not only to the future organisational planning, but also the future of the social work profession in adult services.


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