Adult Safeguarding - personal or political?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Social and Policy Sciences


This cross disciplinary research proposal aims to explore the views of mental health service users and practitioners towards risk in adult safeguarding practice. It is now unquestionably clear that risk has come to take a prominent place within health and social care practice, shaping the way services and interventions are organized.

Within adult social care, the introduction of the Care Act 2014 brought this issue into prominence by introducing a legal obligation on local authorities to carry our safeguarding investigations in cases where there is reasonable cause to suspect an adult is experiencing or is at risk of abuse and neglect and is unable to protect themselves due to their care or support needs.

Since the introduction of the Care Act 2014, there has been a substantial rise in investigations by local authorities, year-on-year. It is unclear why these increases have occurred, although previous studies within adult care have highlighted that practitioners struggle in balancing their duties to protect 'vulnerable' adults against the adults' own desire to live autonomously. The majority of such studies have relied on practitioner reports of service user views rather than collecting such data directly. Furthermore, there are few studies which help us to understand how safeguarding practices are being applied to adults with mental health problems.

My research will take an original approach through using a cross disciplinary methodology to analyse safeguarding law, policy and practice. A comprehensive analysis of the debates leading up to the Care Act 2014 will be undertaken in order to assess the Act's impact on the service design in local authorities. The research will also explore with practitioners the impact of the safeguarding procedures and the way in which risk is assessed and evaluated. Finally, the research will seek to collect service users' views of safeguarding investigations. The study will adopt an interpretivist approach relying on critical interpretivist synthesis to scrutinize the underlying assumptions within safeguarding legal and policy documents whilst data from practitioners and service users will be collected through semi structured interviews before applying thematic analysis.

A vital part of social work research is co-production where service users are seen as partners in the production of knowledge. To achieve this, the study will work in partnership with users, carers and professionals in Avon and Wiltshire Partnership throughout the research process. A steering group will be formed consisting of service users, carers and professionals to contribute to research design as well as dissemination of findings.

This is an important area of study with relevance to the wider world. As a developed society, we must pay careful attention to how the vulnerable members of our society are treated. Does our modern society enable individuals to see risk in their own terms? What support do they need? What rights should they enjoy? The research findings will be presented to the Avon and Wiltshire Partnership, in professional practice conferences as well as in the professional press in the form of written articles. My hope is that this research will contribute to greater knowledge about safeguarding practices and to the improvement of current services.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2223285 Studentship ES/P000630/1 30/09/2019 17/09/2023 Gitau Gakuo