Models of safeguarding in England: Identifying important models and variables influencing the operation of adult safeguarding

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Summary: Greater priority is now being given to improving responses to concerns that adults may be at risk of abuse or neglect in England and internationally. In England, the Care Act 2014 placed ‘adult safeguarding’ on a firmer statutory footing. Although local authorities were given the lead responsibility for adult safeguarding over a decade ago, little is known about how they organised their responses. This article reports one element of a national study in which semi-structured interviews with 23 local authority adult safeguarding managers in 2013–14 were conducted. The interviews sought to understand how local authorities arrange their responses to adult safeguarding concerns. Findings: Several models of practice were identified. Confirming a central theme reported in the literature, the extent and nature of specialism within safeguarding practice varied. Safeguarding specialists were reported to be based in centralised teams or were located as specialists in locality social work teams. In some areas, the role of specialist safeguarding practitioners was linked to an analysis of risk severity or location of concern. Other areas emphasised the importance of safeguarding work as the core of mainstream social work practice. Applications: These findings offer a basis for analysis and managerial considerations about the implications of different organisational models of adult safeguarding. These may be relevant to option appraisals and decision-making about future organisational planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-276
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date4 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • adult abuse
  • adult safeguarding
  • organisational structure
  • risk
  • Social work
  • social work practice


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