The Care Act 2014: a new legal framework for Safeguarding Adults in Civil Society

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences


Interventions to promote people's well-being and to safeguard adults at risk of abuse and harm are framed and driven by complex and contested policy mandates and legal rules. These have recently been the subject of detailed review and debate. The new legal rules for England are contained in the Care Act 2014. The rules differ significantly from those already in existence in Scotland, and those being introduced in Wales. Adult safeguarding law and policy in Northern Ireland remains the subject of policy debate.

The new legal rules must now be interpreted and applied in professional practice that involves lawyers, social workers, uniform officers and healthcare practitioners, working alongside advocates and third sector organisations in civil society. The changes are far-reaching and will be introduced with little preparatory lead-in time. This makes the seminar series particularly timely. New statutory principles and a shift of focus to outcomes and personalisation require fresh consideration of service structures and approaches to professional practice.

The aim of the proposed seminar series is, therefore, to explore how the new legal rules emerged through a policy process, the challenges of interpretation that emerge and how practitioners and their organisations can be supported to deliver the intentions and requirements of the Care Act 2014 and keep people safe from abuse and harm.

The series will comprise nine seminars across three years, bringing together researchers, educators, students, practitioners, policy-makers, service users and carers to consider how the Care Act 2014 has been made, how it is being and should be interpreted and how different stakeholders can learn about its provisions. A key focus will be on whether in practice the Act is delivering the outcomes that have been anticipated for people at risk of abuse and harm, namely that the adult safeguarding process is made personal for those at risk of abuse and harm, and whether the outcomes that matter for them are realised.

The first three seminars will focus on how previous adult safeguarding arrangements in England Wales were evaluated, pressure for reform and the status given to different forms of evidence in the policy and legal development debate. Comparisons will be made with a similar process in Scotland resulting in new legislation in 2007 and on how and why the new legal rules in England and Wales have diverged. The focus here is on how the new law has been made.

The second three seminars will focus on how the new law is being interpreted and on how the implementation of adult safeguarding law is connected with human rights and equality legislation, which form additional mandates for promoting people's dignity and well-being. A key focus here also will be on emerging evidence on whether the intentions of the Care Act 2014 are being realised in practice.

The final three seminars will reflect on how existing practitioners and their managers, and students undergoing professional education, are learning about adult safeguarding law, including learning from Safeguarding Adults Reviews and the challenges faced in implementing their knowledge of law in practice. The focus will also be in whether, in a highly contested area of law, touching on adult autonomy and self-determination, there is a case for further change.

There will be opportunities for debate in large and small groups. Outputs will include published papers and a book, video recordings of presentations, and other materials for a range of audiences, professionals and service user groups. The series will create a strong network of people and organisations concerned with adult safeguarding and with the capacity to engage in further collaborative research, policy and practice development, and conferences. The original contributions in this series will have significant impacts for law and policy-makers, service providers, professional practitioners, service users and carers.

Planned Impact

Beyond the academic community the series will provide impact across the full range of stakeholders including public, charitable, policy, service user and civil society groups as:
1.Direct participants at the seminars, via interaction with the web site and social media offerings (Twitter feed, facebook) and,
2. Shaping and developing policy and practice initiatives, highlighting factors likely to maximise successful impact of the legislation on safeguarding adults.
There will be open access to the website and we expect practitioners, professionals, academics, end users and civil society groups to engage with materials posted and continue debate between seminar events. The website will continue beyond the life of the seminar series. Groups anticipated to have an interest in the series are detailed in the pathways to Impact document. The extensive range of organisations listed is indicative of the breadth of impact the series will have. It is not exhaustive and dissemination and debate via publications and the website are likely to encourage further interest and collaborations at strategic and operational levels.

The Act provides a duty to establish Local Safeguarding Adult Boards (LSABs) with responsibility to coordinate and ensure the effectiveness of adult safeguarding in their area and to commission safeguarding adult reviews. The purpose of such reviews is to enable appropriate learning and relevant change to take place at organisational and individual professional/practitioner levels in order to prevent such events from occurring in future. The seminar series will allow for some early, but much needed consideration of the nature and impact (potential and real) of early Safeguarding Adult Reviews undertaken within the framework of the Care Act.

This will allow for identification of the key themes that emerge, and the organisational and individual learning mechanisms used to embed lessons in future practice, together with links into the legislative sphere.

We are committed to working to disseminate and promote learning from examples of good practice brought to the seminars and so to maximise impact for and involvement of service users and carers
There will be short, medium and long term impact.
In the short term the seminars provide the opportunity to examine emerging practice, and promote development of links between policy, practice and research communities.
In the medium term a more nuanced understanding of terms of the legislation and their application will emerge and the process of dissemination will include inter disciplinary publications. Each year the seminar findings will be tracked in a Special editions of the Journal of Adult Protection, the specialist journal for academics and practitioners in the field of safeguarding adults, guest edited by members of the core team.
In the long term the seminars will build a national network of parties interested and engaged in safeguarding adults. New research collaborations will emerge and make substantial contribution to future policy development.


10 25 50

publication icon
Craig G (2017) Who is vulnerable? Adult social care and modern slavery in The Journal of Adult Protection

publication icon
Montgomery L (2017) Adult safeguarding in Northern Ireland: prevention, protection, partnership in The Journal of Adult Protection

publication icon
Penhale B (2017) The Care Act 2014: a new legal framework for safeguarding adults in civil society in The Journal of Adult Protection

publication icon
Pritchard Jones, L (2018) "Adults at Risk": "Vulnerability" by any other name? in Journal of Adult Protection

publication icon
Williams J (2017) Adult safeguarding in Wales: one step in the right direction in The Journal of Adult Protection

Description The seminar series enabled the team to engage with a multi disciplinary audience of academics and (largely) practitioners to examine and evaluate the new legislative framework for adult safeguarding and emphasis on legal literacy of practitioners.
A multi disciplinary network has been established and will continue to meet at further seminars to examine future developments in understanding of the act and the implications for adult safeguarding work with users of acre and support services.
There is a lack of opportunity for this community of practice to meet and exchange ideas and further understanding to empower and skill practitioners.
Exploitation Route Website to support the series includes summaries, handouts and videos of presentations and social media discussion.
Our objective is to maintain the website as a live depository for further relevant updates and presentations for the adult safeguarding community.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

URL http://safeguardingadults.wordpress
Description Non academic seminar attendees have consistently indicated that the knowledge and insight gained from attending seminars has impacted their professional development and skills for direct work in adult safeguarding.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Submission to Law Commission call for recommendations for Thirteenth Programme of Law Reform - vulnerable adults Bill, selected for further consideration
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Description ESRC CASE studentship -NWSSDTP Pathway. Assessing the impact of the VOICES Care Act Toolkit on needs assessments for people experiencing Multiple Exclusion Homelessness.
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Organisation NorthWest ESRC Doctoral Training Centre 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2023