Experiences of adult social work addressing self-neglect during the Covid-19 pandemic

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Internationally there has been much interest in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the care and support of older people including those with needs arising from self-neglect and/or hoarding. During the pandemic English local authorities’ legal duties remained to respond to concerns about harm about people with care and support needs living in the community. This paper reports interviews with 44 participants working for adult safeguarding/adult protective services (APS) in 31 local authorities recruited from all English regions. Interviews took place online in November-December 2020 as the pandemic's second UK wave was emerging. Analytic induction methods were used to develop themes.
Participants reported some of the variations in referrals to their services with more contact being received from community sources concerned about their neighbours’ welfare. Participants provided accounts of the local organisation of adult safeguarding services during the pandemic, including in some areas the potential for offering early help to older people at risk of harm from self-neglect or hoarding behaviour. Online inter-agency meetings were positively received but were acknowledged to potentially exclude some older people.
This article reports observations from adult safeguarding practitioners about their services which may be of interest internationally and in renewing services that can sustain public interest in the welfare of their older citizens and in developing early help. The findings reflect those from children's services where online meetings are also predicted to enhance professional communications post-pandemic but similarly need to ensure effective engagement with service users and their families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1240
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date19 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • social work
  • safeguarding
  • adult care
  • risk
  • health and social care
  • ageing


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